DEALING WITH FRUITLESSNESS
Superficially John 15:2 indicates that the divine vine dresser immediately removes or “cuts off” the fruitless branch (tendril), but a deeper look and common sense show that this cannot be the case – “You (Christ’s followers) are the branches” – verse 5. There is always a process – often tedious, trying and sometimes tempestuous – in our becoming a part of Christ i.e. a Christian. Just recall your own testimony! It is unthinkable that all that patient dealing with us would be set aside on account of there being NO FRUIT. Also what must be taken into account is that the branch (tendril) does not produce fruit; it simply “bears” the fruit. It’s the work of the vine to produce fruit. FRUITLESSNESS must be examined in that context and with a deep consideration of Christ’s teaching in John chapter 15. The Greek rendition helps us more than the English.
There are three distinct and different Greek words used, each conveying a definite act in the process of removing fruitlessness, which is what Jesus indicated by the expression, “He takes away”.
AIRO = to lift up i.e. to remove from the dust, dirt and earthy encumbrances, which tend to prevent the growth and/or development of fruit. The human vine dresser does this by supporting the “branch” from below with a rock or from above with string or wire. The application to the “husbandman” of John 15 is obvious – Christ is both our Saviour and our Support – “Rock of ages cleft for me …”.
BALLO = to blast i.e. give the branch a shake designed to make the sap flow. Fruit is the product of Christ’s life not of ours. The emphasis and initial implication of Christ’s teaching is the removal of the state and condition of the branch and NOT of the branch itself. If it is not bearing fruit there is a reason – the sap is not flowing. So the “husbandman” applies what is required to the disciple – discipline, correction, chastisement and even pain and suffering – these are, hard to accept, ongoing treatments throughout life.
EXO = to cut off. The removal of the tendril is a last resort. “If a man abide not in ME he is cut off as a branch and is withered” – verse 6. “For without (i.e. severed from) ME you can do NOTHING (at all)” – verse 5. Personally I do not see that as a threat of losing salvation, but rather a warning about becoming useless – as Paul suggests, “Lest after I have preached to others I myself should be cast aside” i.e. thrown on the rubbish heap as useless.
On a personal note and by way of explanation I am learning as I go with these short Face Book meditations, which eventually I hope to also post to my blog. I trust my musings prove helpful – Philip L. Powell.