John 15:1-8 teaches that Jesus is the true vine, the only source of eternal salvation. The metaphor of the vine has appeared before in the Old Testament as a reference to Israel (Psalm 80). Jesus assertion that He is the true vine contrasts Himself with Israel. The Law failed to bring final cleansing from sin, the Temple was not the ultimate dwelling place of the Spirit of God, and the Feasts of Israel only looked forward to events to be completed in Jesus. John Calvin said, “we are, by nature, barren and dry, except in so far as we have been engrafted into Christ, and draw from him a power which is new, and which does not proceed from ourselves.”
In regards to discipleship, Jesus is teaching us to abide in Him. In John 14, Jesus introduces us to the “mutual indwelling” of Jesus and the believer. The vine illustrates that reality. Jesus is the vine, and His disciples are the branches. “The branches derive their life from the vine; the vine produces its fruit through the branches” (Carson 514). This passage also calls the Father the “gardener.” Jesus says He (the Father) prunes the branches to make them more fruitful. It only makes sense that as the disciple submits to leadership of Christ and begins to abide in Him, the Father begins to cut away the dead parts, or the sin in the life of the believer.
Verse two of John 15 states, “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away.” This is often taken to mean that a believer can lose their salvation if they are not obedient. This misses the point of this verse, and it is not consistent with the overall teaching of Jesus. Earlier in John, Jesus taught that it was the will of the Father that He lose none of those He has been given (John 6:39). The point of this verse is, “there are no true Christians without some measure of fruit. Fruitfulness is an infallible mark of true Christianity” (Carson 515). The truth is that outworking of the salvation of a believer is fruit in the life of the believer. Abiding in Christ is evidence of inner transformation that cannot be reversed. There have always been, and will always be those who outwardly profess allegiance to Christ, but are truly never converted. Those are the branches that will be cut away.
Carson, D. A. The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids, Mich: Inter-Varsity Press,
1991. Print. Nov. 26, 2012.
Calvin, John. Calvin's Commentary. Christian Classics Etherial Library. Biblos.com. Web. Nov. 16, 2012.23