Friday, March 02, 2007

Day Four: The Fate of the Fruitless

“Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:2).

As I mentioned yesterday, the phrase “every branch of mine” literally reads “every branch in me.” Is this passage teaching, then, that a person can lose their salvation? Is it saying that when someone is rightly connected to Jesus and then fails to bear fruit, the Father will cut them off, take their salvation from them, and send them to hell? Simply put, the answer is “no,” and here’s why.

It is possible to name the name of Jesus and seem to be rightly connected to him but all the while drawing life from false vines, and thus over time, failing to bear the fruit of the vine. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:21-23; see also the parables of the sower and the wheat and weeds in Matthew 13:3-9 and 13:24-30).

So, to be rightly connected to Jesus is to be submitted to God the Father along with Jesus; and to be submitted to God the Father is to do his will; and to do his will is to be in the Son; and to be in the Son is to bear the fruit of the vine. It is impossible to be rightly connected to Jesus and fail to bear the fruit of the vine.

And thus, the fate of the fruitless is that God the Father will cut them off. He will remove all vestiges of their hypocrisy from the vine. He will reveal them for what they are, and punish them in hell for their sins (see v. 6). Brothers and sisters, this should strike an appropriate fear into all of our hearts. For, on the one hand, our God is long-suffering and merciful and patient and steadfast and his love endures forever: “a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench,” and from the words of a parable, “Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down” (Matthew 12:20; Luke 13:8-9).

But, on the other hand, he will not tolerate imposters forever. He will punish the wicked. He will pull up the weeds. He will cut off every fruitless branch. He will declare, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” And those are words we never want to hear.

“Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off” (Romans 11:22).

Prayer Focus: Oh brothers and sisters, pray earnestly that God will reveal to us the true state of our relation to him, and give us eyes to see whether or not we are bearing the fruit of the vine. For even if the answer is, “No, you are not,” he may yet be gracious and grant us repentance.

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