One of the most disturbing tendencies of
modern believers is the ease with which they can be shaken by
the mere appearance of what looks like
an argument against their position.
Rather than examining the arguments of unbelievers in
the context of the calm assurance that comes from a thorough
knowledge of the faith, many today have drunk deeply at the
well of modernism, and secretly believe that “no one can
really know” the truth in the realm of “religious
recent series of e-mail articles/arguments by one of
Jehovah’s Witnesses, Martin Smart, illustrates this problem
with great clarity. Mr.
Smart, like most Internet apologists for the Watchtower, fills
his posts with citations from recognized, scholarly sources.
This alone is enough to shut down the critical thinking
skills of many post-modern Christians, for the idea is,
“Well, if it cites scholarship, it must be right.”
The great possibility that 1) scholarly sources can be
misused, or 2) you can cite scholarship to prove points that
are utterly irrelevant
to the actual debate, does not seem to present itself to the
thinking of many today.
Recently Mr. Smart began promoting his understanding of
John 15:2 as decisively refuting the Reformed understanding of
is not, in itself, unusual, as Arminians have been using John
15 to deny the perfection of Christ’s work of salvation for
it is the way he has gone about it that provides us with a
useful example of why we must think clearly about apologetic
issues and arguments.
We first present a basic, brief, but hopefully helpful
discussion and exegesis of the passage, focusing upon the
essential elements of Jesus’ words.
Then we will provide links to Mr. Smart’s messages.
am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.
 "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He
takes away; and every branch
that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more
fruit.  "You
are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to
you.  "Abide
in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself
unless it abides in the vine, so neither can
you unless you abide in Me.
 "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who
abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from
Me you can do nothing.
 "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown
away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast
them into the fire and they are burned.
 "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you,
ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
 "My Father is glorified by this, that you bear
much fruit, and so prove
to be My disciples.
The most important element of any meaningful exegesis
comes from recognizing the context and purpose of the passage.
Ignoring context is the chief reason for errors of
lists, as Mr. Smart did, of a phrase and then assuming the
phrase is not impacted by its context is a good example of
this kind of error.
John 15 comes in the heart of Jesus’ ministry to the
Apostles on the night of His betrayal.
It likewise is sandwiched in the middle of an extensive
dialogue that, importantly, discusses the role of the Spirit
in the Christian life. Jesus
is preparing the disciples for the crucifixion, resurrection,
and His ascension into heaven, and the coming period of the
Spirit’s work amongst them.
In these particular verses the Lord uses a common means
of illustration: horticulture.
It is obvious this was one of His favorite means of
communicating great truths, as his audience would surely be
able to relate personally to the application.
There are many parallels, as we shall note, between
Jesus words to His disciples here in John 15 and the parable
of the soils (Mark 4:2-20) and other Synoptic passages (Mark
11:12-14, 19-21). The
same points Jesus made there to the crowds are made in this
passage to His disciples in an even more intimate and vital
Finally, it should be noted that Jesus intended His
words to bring joy to the heart of the disciples.
He said, “These things I have spoken to you so that
My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”
The intention of the passage is to bring joy to the
disciples, especially in light of the events they were about
to witness, the sorrow they were about to bear.
breaks naturally into two sections: 1-3, the introduction of
the analogy to be used, that of the Vine, the Vinedresser, and
the Branches, and 4-8, the discussion of abiding in Christ and
bearing fruit. With
these things in mind, let us look closely at Jesus’ words.
First: The Vine, the Vinedresser, the Work of the Vinedresser
am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.”
first words from the Lord’s mouth remind us of the
prevalence of the “I am” sayings in the Gospel of John.
I am the light, I am the bread of life, and here, I am
the true vine. John
15 flows naturally with the rest of the gospel, repeating in a
fresh way themes struck throughout.
the Lord claims to be the true vine. There have
always been false Messiahs and pretenders.
But there is only one true vine, one true source of
spiritual life and nourishment.
allegory of a vine and a vineyard was not unknown.
Isaiah recorded just such an illustration seven
Let me sing now for my well-beloved A song of my
beloved concerning His vineyard. My well-beloved had a
vineyard on a fertile hill.
He dug it all around, removed its stones, And planted it with
the choicest vine. And He built a tower in the middle of it
And also hewed out a wine vat in it; Then He expected it to produce good grapes,
But it produced only worthless
"And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah,
Judge between Me and My vineyard.
"What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have
not done in it? Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes
did it produce worthless ones?
"So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My
vineyard: I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed; I
will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground.
"I will lay it waste; It will not be pruned or hoed, But
briars and thorns will come up. I will also charge the clouds
to rain no rain on it."
For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel
And the men of Judah His delightful plant. Thus He looked for
justice, but behold, bloodshed; For righteousness, but behold,
a cry of distress.
The next issue, often overlooked (except by those who
spend a lot of time speaking to Oneness Pentecostals!) is the
clear distinction of the Father and the Son here, both as to
identity and function. The
Son is the Vine to whom the disciples are joined in vital
union. The Father
is the Vinedresser, the one who lovingly cares for the
branches and assures growth and purity.
There is no room for modalistic confusion here!
The vinedresser, in the ancient context, was
responsible for the care of the vine, always seeking to
produce maximum fruitfulness.
This involved the examination of the branches, pruning,
cleaning, etc. The
duties of the vinedresser are laid out in the next verse.
branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and
every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more
This verse describes the standard work of the
vinedresser, in this case, the Father.
What is described would be known to anyone who had ever
stopped for even a moment to observe the worker in the
vinedresser engages in his work so as to increase the
productivity of the vine.
Without the vinedresser, the vine would become wild,
and its productivity would decrease greatly.
There is a purpose
in the work of the vinedresser that is paramount.
The Vinedresser attends to only one vine, the true
vine. Because of
this singularity and particularity, the only branches to which
the Vinedresser’s attention is turned are those related to
this one vine. The
Vinedresser does not tend to many
vines, but just one.
The Vinedresser engages in two activities here.
First, fruitless branches are removed.
Fruitful branches are pruned or cleansed, and that for
a purpose: more fruit-bearing.
Both actions, in reality, promote more fruit-bearing,
as a fruitless branch is, by definition, worthless and
have suggested that “take away” may simply mean “to lift
up,” so that it may have more opportunity to bear fruit. But
this is not the meaning of the text.
The issue is the work of the Vinedresser, and the
Vinedresser removes “deadwood” from the vine for the
betterment of the vine and branches.
Throughout Jesus’ parables a branch or plant or tree
that is without fruit is abnormal, defective, and does not
indicate spiritual life.
Note, for example:
11:12-14, 19-21) On
the next day, when they had left Bethany, He became hungry.
 Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to
see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He
came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the
season for figs.  He
said to it, "May no one ever eat fruit from you
again!" And His disciples were listening....When evening
came, they would go out of the city.
 As they were passing by in the morning, they saw the
fig tree withered from the roots up.
 Being reminded, Peter said^ to Him, "Rabbi,
look, the fig tree which You cursed has withered."
4:2-20) And He
was teaching them many things in parables, and was saying to
them in His teaching,  "Listen to this! Behold,
the sower went out to sow;
 as he was sowing, some seed
fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate it up.
 "Other seed
fell on the rocky ground
where it did not have much soil; and immediately it sprang
up because it had no depth of soil.
 "And after the sun had risen, it was scorched;
and because it had no root, it withered away.
 "Other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it,
and it yielded no crop.
 "Other seeds
fell into the good soil, and as they grew up and
increased, they yielded a crop and produced thirty, sixty, and
a hundredfold." 
And He was saying, "He who has ears to hear, let him
hear."  As soon as He was alone, His followers, along with the twelve,
began asking Him about the parables.  And
He was saying to them, "To you has been given the mystery
of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get
everything in parables,
 so that WHILE SEEING, THEY MAY SEE AND NOT PERCEIVE,
AND WHILE HEARING, THEY MAY HEAR AND NOT UNDERSTAND, OTHERWISE
THEY MIGHT RETURN AND BE FORGIVEN."  And He said^ to them, "Do you not understand this
parable? How will you understand all the parables?  "The sower sows the word.  "These are the ones who are beside the road where the
word is sown; and when they hear, immediately Satan comes and
takes away the word which has been sown in them.
 "In a similar way these are the ones on whom
seed was sown on the rocky places,
who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with
joy;  and they
have no firm root in
themselves, but are only
temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises
because of the word, immediately they fall away.
 "And others are the ones on whom seed was sown
among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word,
 but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness
of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke
the word, and it becomes unfruitful.  "And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good
soil; and they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit,
thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold."
In both parables, the plants that appeared to have life but had no
fruit are consistently shown to be false, and those
represented by these plants, to be false professors.
The parable quoted above explains to the apostles why
they saw so many who would follow for
a while, but then would fall away.
These were the seeds that fell upon ground that would
not produce living
plants that produce fruit.
The fact that the Lord Jesus utilized this kind of
imagery cannot be ignored in interpreting John 15.
There is a very
important play on words in verses 2 and 3 that cannot be
brought into English with clarity.
In verse 2 the unfruitful branches are ai[rei;
the fruitful branches are kaqaivrei; that is “pruned” with the root
meaning of “cleansed,” and then in verse 3 Jesus says to
the disciples that they are already kaqaroiv because of the word He has spoken to them.
We will see that this is a vital element of the
interpretation, giving us a key interpretational element.
are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to
At this point Jesus steps out of the language of a
parable for just a moment, using the play on words just noted
specifically applies the parable to the disciples, and in
doing so, makes it clear that he is addressing only
those who are truly disciples indeed, those who are
“clean,” i.e., the fruitful branches the Vinedresser
prunes to make more fruitful.
“You” is plural. “Clean” means “pure” as in “blessed are the pure in
heart” (Matthew 5:8). This
is the same term Jesus used earlier in John 13:10-11.
Here, though, he says not all of them are “clean”
because Judas was still present.
Judas was an unfruitful branch...lots of leaves, no
fruit. He was
“taken away” by the Father.
Obviously, the “son of perdition” was a pretender,
not a true disciple. It
follows, then, that all the fruitful branches are “clean,” and only the fruitful branches are “clean.” That means only fruitful branches are Christians, for the
means of the cleansing is the speaking of the Word, which is
the very means of regeneration and salvation (John 17:17).
“because of the word which I have spoken to you.”
The means of the cleansing of the apostles was the
preaching of the Word of God by the Lord Jesus.
Paul spoke of the same concept in Ephesians 5:26,
where, speaking of the Church, he wrote, “so that He might
sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing
of water with the word.”
Jesus therefore identifies the Apostles as clean,
fruitful branches, but they are so because of what Jesus
has done for them, not because of what they have done in and
of themselves. The
“word” which the Lord Jesus spoke to them was not His own,
but was the Father’s (John 12:49, 14:10).
Hence, the Father has, through the Word, “pruned”
these branches, making them fruitful.
In the same way, the Father has “taken away” the
unfruitful branch, Judas.
So at this point we can already see in the words of the
Lord Jesus that the issue of the fruitless branches has been
decided: they are not Christians at all, for they were never
“cleaned” by the Word.
They are false professors, surface-level disciples, the
shallow or rocky or thorny soil of Mark chapter four.
in Christ, Bearing Fruit
"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot
bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither
can you unless you abide in Me.”
“Abide” is in the imperative mode.
It is a command, not a suggestion. Yet, the verb would
be carried into the second half of the clause, “and I in
you.” How can
the normal meaning of the imperative follow here?
Is this a command to do
Daniel Wallace notes the use of the Aorist Imperative,
Constative (Wallace, pp. 720-721).
This use of the aorist imperative emphasizes the importance,
urgency, and priority of the command, which is a general
the sense is, “It is vital and fundamental that you abide in
Me and I in you, for apart from me, you can do nothing.”
Jesus is not saying, “I command you to exercise your
greatest effort to abide in me, and if you don’t, you’re
dead meat.” We are in Christ Jesus only because of the work
of God in placing us in Him (1 Cor 1:30).
ability to do what
it is designed to do (bear fruit) is completely and totally
contingent upon another, that being the vine. The life-giving sap flows from the
vine to the branch, resulting in the creation of fruit.
In the same way, the believer who bears fruit never
does so on “his own,” but only as grace flows from Christ
into his or her life.
To be able to
“do” anything as a Christian requires intimate union with
fruit--not just foliage without fruit--comes only from the
life that is in close intimate union with Christ.
Only as God’s grace produces fruit do we truly
15:5) “I am the
vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him,
he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
summarizes the preceding verses and makes the clear
is the Vine, we the branches.
A promise is given here that determines the categories
in which verse 6 must be read.
Jesus specifically asserts that the person in whom He
abides, and who abides in Him, bears
much fruit. This is the positive assertion: if you are in
Christ, fruit is the inevitable result.
Hence, unfruitfulness indicates not being in Christ in
the first place, unless this promise is null and void!
aspect is found in the last clause: apart from Christ, there
is no fruit. Nothing. We can
do nothing apart
from Him. Obviously,
therefore, any work that is done to the glory of God is done
through the grace and power of Christ.
We can take no credit, no glory, for it is all done in
Him, through Him, and for Him.
anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and
dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire
and they are burned.
If there is no
vital union with Christ (which is what abiding
means, note the absence of the term in verse 2) there is no
spiritual life. The
term translated “dries up” is the exact same term found in
the parable of the soils in Mark 4:5-6:
4:5-6) “Other seed
fell on the rocky ground
where it did not have much soil; and immediately it sprang
up because it had no depth of soil.
 And after the sun had risen, it was scorched; and
because it had no root, it withered away.”
In the parable in Mark this term is used
by the Lord of the growth found in the “rocky soil.”
Jesus’ own interpretation of His words is, “and
they have no firm root
in themselves, but are only
temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises
because of the word, immediately they fall away.”
Hence, the Lord indicates two things about these
people: they have no “root” and they do not “abide in
the vine.” These,
therefore, have not been “pruned” by the Father, they bear
no fruit, and are hence those described by John in 1 John
John 2:19) They
went out from us, but they were not really
of us; for if they had been of us, they would have
remained with us; but they
went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not
The doom of the false professors, while
not in any way supporting the idea that salvation is
contingent upon what we do rather than upon what Christ has done, is not by this
consideration lessened in the slightest.
It is vital that we examine ourselves and not ever
engage in haughty pride, but in humility of mind serve the
15:7) “If you
abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish,
and it will be done for you.”
This is a conditional sentence, with the
conditions being expressed in the first two clauses. The first
condition is abiding in Christ, the second having His words
abiding in us as well.
It is not
insignificant that Jesus here introduces the element of
doctrine, subsumed under the term “words.”
He speaks of the indwelling of God’s truth within our
very words are the means of our cleansing, as seen in verse 3,
and they are “spirit and life.”
The believer who
does not feast upon the words of Christ has no basis upon
which to claim the promise of this verse.
What we “wish” for will be conditioned upon our
continuously abiding in Christ, and upon the impact His word
has in changing our hearts, our minds, and our priorities.
John the Apostle, who recorded for us these words in
John 15, provides us with his understanding of them when he
writes in 1 John 5:14, “This is the confidence which we have
before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He
hears us.” We
know the will of Christ by abiding in Him and having His word
abiding in us.
But the promise then is, if we are
abiding in Him, and His word abides in us, He shall grant the
desires of our hearts! This
is not a blank check with which we force God to do this or
that. Instead, it
is a promise that God will fulfill His work within us.
That is, if we ask, “God, make me holy” He will do
just that. If we
pray “God, make me like Christ,” and that is our desire,
He will do it. To
even consider the idea that this means we can say, “God,
give me more of the things of the world so I can be happier”
is to completely miss the context in which these words were
Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so
prove to be My disciples.”
Here we learn
how to glorify the Father: bear much fruit.
It is often the prayer of Christians to live in such a
manner as to glorify God.
Here we are given direct teaching as to how
to do this. Bearing
fruit is the means of proving
or displaying discipleship. There
is no meaningful way of demonstrating the reality of
discipleship outside of our manner of life.
This is exactly the point of James in James 2:14-24:
the demonstration of said
faith by consistent actions.
“Who are the
disciples of Christ?” They
are those who bear the fruit of righteousness to the glory of
the Father. Obviously, then, we observe again the fact that fruitless
branches are not, by definition, disciples.
This is why they are taken away.
So what can we say regarding the teaching of the Lord
Jesus in John 15? And
specifically, why should any Bible-believing person reject the
idea that the words of the Lord, especially regarding
fruitless, rejected, and burnt branches, lead us to believe
that salvation is anything less than the perfect, infallible
work of a Perfect, Infallible Savior (John 6:37-39)?
The words of the Lord Jesus do not lead us to believe
the branches which are taken away (v. 2) and burned (v. 6) are
fact, one cannot maintain such an interpretation in light of
the following considerations:
differentiates between those who are “clean” by the Word
which is spoken to them and the branches that are taken away:
there is no such thing as a true disciple who is not cleansed
by the Word;
2) The Lord
limits the realm of true discipleship to those who abide
in Him. The
branches taken away in v. 2 and burned in v. 6 do not abide in
Christ and hence are not disciples;
3) Jesus gives
no indication that there is a major exception to verse 5,
where there are those who abide in Him and yet do not bear
fruit (reinforcing the distinction inherent in the entirety of
4) the Lord
defines fruit bearing as the only
evidence of discipleship (v. 8).
Since the branches that are taken away and burned bore
no fruit, it follows inevitably that they are not,
by Jesus’ own definition, disciples;
5) Jesus spoke
these words not to cause His disciples sorrow but to give them
joy (15:11). The
centrality of the Father and Son in bringing out the
fruitfulness of the Vine brings joy; interpreting these words
so as to refer to true disciples losing their salvation does
6) the focus
upon Christ as the source of all spiritual life picks up the
same theme found in John 6 (as the Bread of Life).
It is completely backwards to take a passage that
presents the work of the Father in glorifying Himself in
bringing forth fruit in Christ’s people and see it as a
passage teaching the opposite,
that is, the Father’s failure
to bring forth fruit and hence lose one-time true believers.
Now, with these things in mind, let’s
turn to the writings of Martin Smart on this passage.
His attempt to turn John 15 against the truth of the
perfection of the work of Christ as Savior is a wonderful
example of how Jehovah’s Witnesses, and especially their
unofficial apologists, can twist and distort the Scriptures,
and especially, in his second installment, how they will often
attempt to present themselves as masters of scholarly
material, when in reality, they are using it to prove what is
not in dispute:
You answered the question about eternal
salvation and being in Christ the same way that James White
answered it when I brought it up in his chat room (my nick was
Arminian at the time.) When he found out who I was he was mad
and thought I had mis-represented myself but I replied by
asking just how my views differed from the Arminian position.
I am interested in what you have to say on this. I think he
was a bit peeved at me at the time because I had set him up
with the same question that I asked you with regards to being
"in Christ" and eternally saved and he did not have
an answer for this.
Now I will fill you in with where I am
going with this. An examination of all of the
instances of EN
EMOI with respect to being "in Christ" is
EN EMOI with respects to union with
10:32 "Everyone, then, that confesses union with me [EN EMOI] before men, I
will also confess union with him before my Father who is in
14:6 But Jesus said: "Let her alone. Why do YOU try
to make trouble for her? She did a fine deed toward me [EN
"I say, then, to YOU, Everyone that confesses union with
me [EN EMOI] before men, the
Son of man will also confess union with him before the angels
6:56 He that feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood remains
in union with me [EN
EMOI MENEI], and I in union with him.
10:38 But if I am doing them, even though YOU do not
believe me, believe the works, in order that YOU may come to
know and may continue knowing that the Father is in union with
me [EN EMOI] and I am in union with the Father."
14:10 Do you not believe that I am in union with the
Father and the Father is in union with me [EN
EMOI]? The things I say to YOU men I do not speak of
my own originality; but the Father who remains in union with
me [EN EMOI MENWN] is doing
14:11 Believe me that I am in union with the Father and
the Father is in union with me [EN
EMOI]; otherwise, believe on account of the works
14:20 In that day YOU will know that I am in union with my
Father and YOU are in union with me [EN EMOI] and I am in union with YOU.
15:2 Every branch in me [EN EMOI] not bearing fruit he takes away, and every one bearing
fruit he cleans, that it may bear more fruit.
15:4 Remain in union with me [MEINATE EN EMOI], and I in union with YOU. Just as the branch
cannot bear fruit of itself unless it remains in the vine, in
the same way neither can YOU, unless YOU remain in union with
15:5 I am the vine, YOU are the branches. He that remains
in union with me [hO
MENWN EN EMOI], and I in union with him, this one
bears much fruit; because apart from me YOU can do nothing at
15:6 If anyone does not remain in union with me [MENH
EN EMOI], he is cast out as a branch and is dried up;
and men gather those branches up and pitch them into the fire
and they are burned.
15:7 If YOU remain in union with me [MEINHTE
EN EMOI] and my sayings remain in YOU, ask whatever
YOU wish and it will take place for YOU.
16:33 I have said these things to YOU [EN
EMOI] that by means of me YOU may have peace. In the
world YOU are having tribulation, but take courage! I have
conquered the world."
17:21 in order that they may all be one [hEN
WSIN], just as you, Father, are in union with me [EN EMOI] and I am in
union with you, that they also may be in union with us, in
order that the world may believe that you sent me forth.
17:23 I in union with them and you in union with me [EN
EMOI], in order that they may be perfected into one [EIS hEN], that the
world may have the knowledge that you sent me forth and that
you loved them just as you loved me.
The on I wish to focus on and which
appears to be inconsistent with the views of 5-point Calvinism
is the usage in John chapter 15.
Every branch in Me that does
not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch
that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more
EN EMOI MH FERON KARPON AIREI AUTO KAI PAN TO
KARPON FERON KAQAIREI AUTO INA KARPON PLEIONA FERH (GNT)
Please note that these ones to not merely
claim to be "in Christ" but it is the Christ himself
who claims they are EN
EN EMOI is in apposition
to KLHMA is
obvious when the whole section
John 15:1-17 is taken into consideration. There are TA
remain and there are TA KLHMATA who are taken away.
Before this sorting out takes place both classes of TA KLHMATA
The damage this does to the Calvinist
position should now be obvious.
After posting this, Mr. Smart likewise
forwarded a much expanded presentation to the same list,
replying to an orthodox list user who replied to the above.
The reader will notice a proliferation of “scholarly
references.” But notice one thing in particular: rarely are the references actually relevant to the topic at hand.
This is a hallmark of the JW apologists on the
Internet: they glory
in providing reference after reference as
if the possession of such resources means they are using them
in a relevant fashion.
As we shall see, Mr. Smart does not make his case.
I understand that there are some
commentators that take your view on this passage. I
think I can provide convincing evidence that their views are
not based on the natural sense of the Greek language or the
context of Jesus' parable but is purely driven by their
theology. Because of this I will not merely provide the
opinions of commentators, but will also give the reasons why
the Greek language cannot be interpreted the way you interpret
John 15:2 by using
leading Lexical and
and also prove that the elements of the parable should not be
interpreted the way you interpret them. In short I believe
these arguments are "special pleading."
I had said:
Every branch in Me
that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that
bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. (NASB)
PAN KLHMA EN EMOI MH FERON KARPON AIREI AUTO KAI PAN TO KARPON
FERON KAQAIREI AUTO INA KARPON PLEIONA FERH (GNT)
Please note that
these ones to not merely claim to be "in Christ" but
it is the Christ himself who claims they are EN EMOI.
Both the Greek of John 15:2 and the imagery of the vine prohibit the understanding
that the branch that does not produce fruit was never "in
Christ" to begin with.
Part of your
analysis was to assume that the vine in Jesus' illustration
was similar to a bean plant you encountered in Botany. This is
not a good comparison; For more detail on this see the quotes
below from the Translator's
Handbook of the Gospel of John by Nida. It is likely that
this vine is a grape vine because Jesus and his disciples had
just finished with the Passover and also because a grapevine
is pruned every season and produces fruit. However, even
if it was some other type of vine that fits the agricultural
profile of Israel in Jesus' day it is clear that a branch by
definition is part of (or in) the vine as a whole.
The branch that
does not produce fruit is as much a part of the vine as the
branch that does produce fruit. Consider the Greek of John
15:2. The first mention of branch (PAN
KLHMA) is the one that does not produce. The second
mention is actually an anaphoric
reference to the first. KLHMA
is not repeated in the verse. Therefore the first occurrence
of KLHMA applies to
both types of branches. The branches are identical except for
their productivity. The very definition of a branch of a
vine militates against the interpretation that it is not
attached to the vine. Since Jesus Christ is the one who
says that both productive and non-productive branches are
"in me" (EN
EMOI) the natural and normal reading of this passage
proves that these branches are not counterfeit branches.
The vine is a real vine and this includes the branches.
This is supported by the leading grammatical
resources for Koine Greek, see below.
KG: Your previous
posting (of the other verses using en emoi) was indeed
educational. As I figured, en emoi ('in me') changes meaning
with context. En is a primary preposition which can carry
several conntations depending on the context. I've included
some extra scriptural occurences of En Emoi (which do not
match your preconceived notions) in order to expand on the
Mt. 10:32 Then
everyone who shall confess Me (i.e. a state of oneness 'in' or
'in relation to') before men, I will also confess him before
My Father in Heaven. Usage: in (positional)
Mt 11:6 And blessed
is the [one], whoever shall not be offended in Me. Usage:
because of (instrumental)
Mark 14:6 But Jesus
said: "Let her alone. Why do YOU try to make trouble for
her? She did a fine deed toward me [EN EMOI]. Usage: toward
Lu 22:37 For I say
to you that this that has been written must yet be fulfilled
in Me: "And He was numbered with the lawless." [Isa.
53:12] For the things concerning Me also have an end. Usage:
in relation to (relational) *note: 'for the things concerning
Me' actually clarify the meaning of 'in me' in this passage.
Joh 6:56 The [one]
partaking of My flesh and drinking of My blood abides in Me,
and I in him. Usage: in (relational)
After the comments I received from the
first poster I went back and re-compiled the list and this
time focused on just the gospel of John. This does not mean
that I do not consider then as signifying unity. It just means
that I will focus on John's usages. John used the phrase EN
EMOI 14 times in his gospel. In 13
of the occasions he uses it with reference to believers (Jn 6:56; 10:38; 14:10,11,20; 15:2,4,5,6,7; 16:33; 17:21,23) and in
one instance he uses it of Satan with the negative particle OUK.
(Jn 14:30) The leading lexical and grammatical sources view the
instances in question differently than you do. BDAG further notes that John and Paul both use EN EMOI or EN XRISTWi in
a consistently "technical" sense which has a
different meaning that the one that you posit for John
15. These sources also specifically
mention John 15 as
having this meaning which is different that the one you
most of the examples are from John, it seems reasonable to
focus on John because Bauer-Danker-Arndt-Gingrich
Greek Lexicon (BDAG,3rd edition, 2000) states in the entry for EN,
on page 327 that it has a particular sense in both John and Paul. See
the entry below.
You categorize EN EMOI in John 6:56 as
"relational" with a different sense than does BDAG. BDAG
considers this sort of "relation" to be a category
of being "in Christ" which is indeed a "close
BDAG, page 327C defines the
major category #4 as a "marker
of close association with a limit, in." Therefore all
the categories below are examples of in
something defined by what follows EN.
Underneath entry number 4
fig., of pers. to indicate the state of being filled or gripped by somth:
in someone = in one's innermost being ... abides J 6:56
of the whole, w. which the parts are closely joined. MENEIN
EV TH AMPELW remain in the vine J
Esp. in Paul or Joh usage, to designate a close personal relation
in which the referent of the EV-term
is viewed as the controlling influence... and of Christians 1J
3:24; 4:13 15f; .. be or abide in Christ J14:20; 15:4f
... 1J 2:24 - in Paul ... EV
There are other
categories of EN
listed in BDAG, however one cannot accurately exegete a text by taking the
smorgasbord approach and selecting the definition that fits
one's theology. BDAG
has a category (#8)
that appears to be how you interpret John
6:56 and the examples in John
15 which they call "in
connection with." I am willing to consider
any reputable Lexical source which supports your view, however
until you supply the reference I will assume that none exists.
If you wish to employ your lexical definitions, the
burden of proof is upon you to provide them.
Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, page 175, 4. Dative After Certain Prepositions - b. Significance states: "When
a dative follows a preposition, you should not attempt to
identify the dative's function by case usage alone. Rather,
consult BAGD for
the specific usage of that case with that preposition."
Therefore Wallace supports the views I quoted with
respect to EN EMOI
In addition, A Translator's Handbook of the
Gospel of John (Barclay
M. Newman and Eugene M. Nida) page 481
Nida takes John 6:56
as "in union with." In addition on page 479 it says regarding John
Some scholars contend that the Greek term
translated vine really means "vine stalk," and that
the vine stalk must be clearly distinguished from the
branches. However, most exegetes understand this term to
include both stalk and branches, since the branches can be
regarded as part of the vine, in the same way that believers
may be regarded as part of Christ; that is, they are in him
even as he is in them.
Every branch in me must be rendered in some
languages "every branch that is
a part of me" or "every branch that is
attached to me." However if it is necessary to
explain the relation of in me by a separate clause, the
structure may become relatively complex, for example, "He
breaks off every branch that is a
part of me that does not bear fruit." (e.a)
I place commentary in the last position on purpose.
It is the least valuable and most theological driven
evidence that one can use in exegesis.
The Gospel of ST John,
BF Westcott, page 217
Every branch in
me* that beareth not fruit he taketh away. [*in me - Even
the unfruitful branches are true branches. They also are
"in Christ" though they draw life in him only to
bear leaves (Matt. xxi. 19)]
KG: Now we deal
with John 15:2. You write:
That EN EMOI is in apposition to KLHMA
is obvious when the whole section John
15:1-17 is taken into consideration. There are TA KLHMATA
which remain and there are TA KLHMATA who are taken away.
Before this sorting out takes place both classes of TA KLHMATA
are EN EMOI.
KG: 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in
you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the
vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5
"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in
me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you
can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like
a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are
picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.
KG: John 15:4-6's usage of the passage
clarify John 15:2. The meaning is relational, not positional.
To expand on Jesus' parable- the branches must, by their
nature, stay 'in relation' to Christ. Even non-believers who
keep a 'Christ centered life' (playing church) talk the talk
about being blessed and actually ARE- usually by nature of the
fact that the principles of the Christian life 'work'.
Nida quotes John 15:4 as "Remain united to me, and I will remain united to
you" and goes on to say:
And I will remain united in you may
also be understood as a comparison "as I remain united
with you," since the Greek conjunction kai may mean
either "and" or "as." If the clause
is interpreted as a comparison, then the first clause is most
appropriately understood as an imperative, for example,
"continue to be a part of me even as I am a part of
you" or "continue to be joined to me even as I will
remain joined to you." However if the second clause
is not to be considered a type of comparison, in most
languages a conditional relation would be more appropriate,
for example, "If you remain joined to me, I will remain
joined to you."
Most translations are literal,
maintaining the imagery either of "living in" or
"abiding in." This meaning is essentially that
of 6.56 ("to live in fellowship/union with"). Since the
spatial concept of one person living in another person may be
difficult, it is better to follow TEV and translate
"remain united with me." (Nida
states unequivocally that "living in" is the literal
rendering and that this is equivalent to "union
view is also supported by BDAG.
KG: Your assumption that en emoi is used
in a strictly soteriological instead of relational sense here
is unwarranted by the context and in light of other passages.
The parable employs the phrase EIS
PUR (into the fire). Every instance of EIS PUR in the GNT
has the sense of the destruction (consumed by fire) of the
wicked. The use of PUR with KAIW
at John 15:6 proves that the fire is not for the purpose of refining
but for destruction. This can also be seen by the use of
(related to KAIW)
at Hebrews 6:8
where the unrepentant former Christians are consumed by fire.
The lexical evidence supports this view. Note that BDAG speaks of the fire at John
15:6 as one that consumes the branches. This is not
a cleansing, but a complete destruction.
KAUSIS - BDAG <file:///D:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Administrator/My%20Documents/My%20Webs/Lexicon/references.html#BDAG>
536A (s. KAIW ) ...
burning h`j to. te,loj eivj
kau/sin its (the land's) end is to be burned over Hb
KAIW - BDAG 499C 2 to cause someth. to burn so as to be
consumed, burn (up) ... Mt
13:40 v.l. (for KATAKAIETAI, s. KATAKAIW)
This is completely different that when
the preposition DIA
(through) is used with PUROS
as in 1 Co. 3:15 and 1 Pet. 1:7 where
fire is used for the refining of the Christian for the DOKIMION THS TISTEWS. Here DIA
is used as opposed to
Therefore, this complete destruction (EIS
PUR) can only mean the final complete judgment at the end.
KG: This is further buttressed by the
remaining context of the passage:
"If you remain in me and my words
remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given
you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit,
showing yourselves to be my disciples. "As the Father has
loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you
obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have
obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I
have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your
joy may be complete." (v. 7-11)
The usage of "remain in me"
cannot be ignored and the lexical
evidence for MENW
also strongly refutes your position. BDAG,
page 630 gives two basic meanings to MENW.
One is "Remain, stay, intr a.
a pers or thing remains where he, she, or it is. (...) EN
TWi AMPELW remain on the vine, i.e. not be cut off 15:4b
... b. intransf.
sense, of someone who does not leave a certain realm or
sphere" remain, continue, abide ... of Christians in
their relation to Christ J J6:56;
15:4 ac, 5-7 ... of Christ relating to Christians Jn 15:4a,5
Thus, the second use of MENW lexically has the sense that Christians choose to remain in
Christ. This applies to 15:4a
Nida, in the quote I provided above concurs.
If the clause is comparative it is an imperative. If
it is not comparative it is conditional. What you quote
above is translated as conditional because of the word
"if" in "If you remain in me." This
proves that it is not a given or predestined in any way that
the branch that is in Christ will stay. The conditional
is also repeated in "If you obey my commands."
Thus Nida's grammatical analysis which is to be used as
a guide for translators agrees with the lexical entry for BDAG.
It is clear that Jesus does not teach
the doctrine of predestination here, in fact he refutes it!
KG: The love of Christ and of the Father
can be described as the daily nurturing and blessings a
believer receives as a result of sustained contact with Christ
and other believers. There are some professed believers who
also receive these blessings, but do not bear any fruit.
Instead, they try to soak up all they can get (i.e.- the Love
of the Father). They will be pruned. The love of the Father in
this passage has to do with the joy in the believer being
complete, not with salvation.
As we have seen, this is no mere
"contact." Both branches are equally in the
vine and given the same opportunity to produce fruit. There
are no branches that are not a part of the body of the vine
which is the body of Christ.
KG: Further, in light of the parable of
the sower, these 'branches' which get broken off are simply an
example of the ground Christ spoke of which '...received the
seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word
and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no
root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution
comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. The one who
received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who
hears the word, but the worries of this life and the
deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.'
(Matthew 13:20-22, NIV)
You are mixing your parables. Seeds
are not branches.
KG: They have a professed faith in
Christ and receive similar blessings because of their
relationship to the church (via other Christians around them-
remember, it was told to the servant not to remove the weeds
yet because in doing so, he may also accidentally remove the
wheat!). The wheat and tares all continue alongside each
other, but which is which is made evident in the end (Matt.
13). Weeds and chaff all grow alongside each other until the
end. The Father prunes them from each other- and please note-
the chaff 'wasn't once considered wheat' nor was the wheat
'wheat then chaff, then wheat'.
The true vine which is the Christ does
not grow "weeds" mixed in with real branches. They
are all legitimate branches. You are mixing your
KG: In like fashion, there are branches
which continue alongside those which are true branches that
will be pruned because they will NOT produce fruit. Those
branches that are not a part of the The True Vine will 'go
out' from them (1John 2:19). If they were part of the True
Vine, not just on 'out on a limb' (I made a funny! HA!), they
would continue and abide.
The distinction between those who were not of the same
sort as the loyal Christians is because they did not continue
or remain with them. The entries from Nida and BDAG show
that in this sense it is the choice of the individual to
remain or not. This does not mean that they were not
producing fruit in fellowship with Christ and the other
believers when they first became a part of the body of Christ
as a branch is to the vine.
[I also snipped your example of kidney bean, as it does not
fit the profile of the vine in John
15] Nida, page 480 emphasizes that it is important to have the correct imagery when
exegeting this passage.
There are several serious complications
in translating vine. Some translators make the mistake of
selecting a term which indicates merely a vining plant; for
example, in one language the term selected identified a sweet
potato vine, and in another the term identified a kind of
rattan vine which grows in the jungle but does not produce
edible fruit. In yet another language the term for vine simply
meant a squash vine. Obviously what is necessary is an
expression which will identify a plant which produces fruit
and continues year after year.
I have given some reasons why I believe
that this vining plant is a grape vine. There is more
evidence that what I have given and it is certainly impossible
that Jesus was speaking about a bean plant. Bean plants
are not cultivated by having their branches pruned. Grape
vines, however, are very much a part of the Jewish life.
MS: The damage this does to the
Calvinist position should now be obvious.
KG: No damage done, actually. Just a little extra work for me
to track down some commentaries/do my own personal work on the
topic. Thanks for the research opprotunity! More learned men
than you have came past John 15:2 with no problem. John Gill's
commentary and Matthew Henry's are two examples. For you to
think that you can overturn a host of other verses with one
passage of scripture is the height of arrogance.
I briefly looked at Matthew Henry but not John Gill.
Matthew Henry did not go into the Greek at all and to me
seemed to be very theologically driven. Also, I consider
commentary to be inferior to lexical and grammatical sources,
In conclusion, the details of the parable, the relationship of
the branch as part of the vine, the lexical meaning of EN EMOI,
the grammar of EN EMOI and MENW, all combine to refute the
Calvinist position on John 15.
Without any undue disrespect, Mr.
Smart’s presentation is 98% smoke, and 2% dust.
In essence, proving that EN EMOI means EN EMOI (“in
Me”) proves nothing. The translation
of the phrase is not at issue at all.
You can cite lexicons forever and never get to the
point: that phrases
appear in sentences
which then form paragraphs,
and the meaning of the passage is determined in context, not by isolating a
phrase and insisting it must
mean what you want it to mean.
Nothing in Mr. Smart’s presentation even begins to
take Jesus’ words as a total teaching. Instead,
it breaks the text up into small sections and ignores how they
are related to each other.
This kind of eisegetical procedure is the
hallmark of JW apologists.
They are so accustomed to focusing upon such things as
John 1:1 and “a god” that they are oblivious to the need
to read the language outside of mere words or short phrases.
Syntax and then exegesis are unknown areas to those who
engage in the study of the text solely to defend something like the NWT.