Friday, April 01, 2016

Gospel of John, Part 3

Part 1
Part 2

Read John 15:1 - 8. What does this passage teach about salvation? Discipleship? Eternal security?


Beginning with the seventh “I AM” statement, John 15 opens with Jesus’ words “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.” In using this allegory, Jesus was identifying with a common Jewish symbol and sight in Israel.[1] Vineyards populated the land, because wine was the main beverage in the ancient Near East culture, so this comparison would have immediately brought to mind the plants, vines, and fruit that grew over the countryside.[2] Also in using the reference to the “vine”, Jesus was pulling from Old Testament passages which described Israel as a vine though which the Messiah would bless the nations.[3] Using this imagery, Jesus teaches about salvation, discipleship, and eternal security in John 15:1-8.

Salvation is evidenced by good works or a lack thereof, so in this passage, when the Vinedresser prunes the vines, this demonstrates the true faith of a believer. The Vinedresser, the Father, does not prune the branches that do not bear fruit (evidence of a lack of salvation); instead, He cuts them down, throws them away, and burns them with fire. In pruning the branches (those who are truly saved), He causes the vine to bear more fruit, just as chastisement and suffering conform us more to the image of Christ.[4] Those who do not bear fruit are not merely imperfect believers, but those who reject Christ’s salvation.[5] Bearing fruit does not produce salvation, but proves the genuineness of salvation in Jesus’ disciples.[6]

Discipleship is described in a similar manner. Though the vine may have numerous branches, the Vinedresser can tell them apart distinguishing the true and false disciples. The disciples who abide in Christ, bear fruit through obedience, and continue in Christ’s love are representative of the true disciples, and the Vinedresser continually prunes them so that they bring forth more fruit.[7] The unregenerate branches on the vine have a different ending: that of complete destruction by fire. This does not refer to believers losing their salvation, because Jesus promises never to cast away those who come to Him in true saving faith.[8] For the human eye, it may be difficult to tell the state of heart in a person, for unbelievers can—for a time—act as genuine Christians, but the Vinedresser knows those who abide in Him, and in the end the lifeless branches will be cast into eternal torment.[9]

R.C. Sproul said “If you have salvation—if you are truly reborn and have saving faith in your soul—you will have it forever, because if you have it, you never can lose it, and if you seemingly lose it, you never really had it.”[10] Here is a description of the doctrine of eternal security found in John 15. Those who abide in Christ demonstrating their salvation and walking in obedience to Christ’s commands as disciples will be eternally secure in the Father’s hand. If a believer’s security were to fail, then God’s covenant would be broken and Christ’s sacrifice on the cross would be nothing.[11] There would be no reason for Christ to die, to offer salvation, or to grant eternal life if eternal security were based on man’s ability to remain faithful to Christ. In Jesus, the saved are secure in their salvation forever; they need not fear “falling away” or “losing” their salvation. That is not to mean that believers never sin, for they will, but those who abide in Christ, evidencing works of salvation and repentance, will never be plucked out of the Father’s hand.

In conclusion, abiding in Christ, bearing the fruit of obedience, and living with eternal security in view is all to be done for the glory of God, proving our salvation by our works and demonstrating that we are true disciples of the True Vine.[12] When we glorify God through our willing obedience and demonstrate true discipleship by abiding in Christ, then our joy will be full.[13]

[1] Elmer Towns, The Gospel of John, 150.
[2] John MacArthur, The New Testament Commentary, John 1-11, 79.
[3] Psalm 80:8, Isaiah 5:2, Jeremiah 2:21
[4] Hebrews 12:5-11
[5] Leon Morris, Jesus is the Christ, 137.
[6] John 15:8
[7] John MacArthur, The New Testament Commentary, John 1-11, 146.
[8] John 6:37, John 10:28-29
[9] John MacArthur, The New Testament Commentary, John 1-11, 152.
[10] R.C. Sproul, John (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary), Chapter 46.
[11] Lewis Sperry Chafer, The Calvinistic doctrine of security, 14-15.
[12] John 15:8
[13] John 5:10-11

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