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John 15:2 KJV

Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

The above metaphor seemingly refers to two branches one an unfruitful one which is cut off and thrown away and the other a fruitful one which is purged.

I am interested in the fruitful branch and how the father goes about purging it.

How does the father purge the fruitful branch?

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    This is simple viticulture - fruitful branches must be pruned of old wood to make them more productive!
    – Dottard
    Aug 19 at 9:42
  • @Dottard,agreed this a metaphor which uses to viticulture to convey a certain message.What im interested in is how the father literally prunes/purges the fruitful one to produce more Aug 19 at 11:10
  • @Dottard,dead wood in our characters Aug 19 at 12:59

6 Answers 6

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Through trials.

As Hebrews 12 says:

5 And have you forgotten the exhortation which addresses you as sons?— “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” 7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time at their pleasure, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

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Jesus, in John 15, is using a well-known metaphor; of simple viticulture - fruitful vine branches must be pruned of old wood to make them more productive!

  • John 15:2 - He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit, and every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes to make it even more fruitful.

We find similar teaching in other places as well:

  • Rev 3:19 - Those I love, I rebuke and discipline. Therefore be earnest and repent.
  • Heb 12:5, 6 - And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not take lightly the discipline of the Lord, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you. For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and He chastises every son He receives.”
  • Heb 12:10, 11 - Our fathers disciplined us for a short time as they thought best, but God disciplines us for our good, so that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields a harvest of righteousness and peace to those who have been trained by it.
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The pruning of the vines is a never ending task. The branches, along with the leaves and grape clusters are all pruned back from time to time.

While this is certainly true of modern viticulture, it is also true of ancient viticulture practices as well. For example, there is an interesting article on John 15 from a journal called, Bibliotheca Sacra. The 1996 article summarizes the vineyard practices by Pliny (23-79 A.D.) and other Roman and Greek writers from the first century. The author draws upon Pliny’s observations:

Pruning of the vineyards occurred at two principal times during the year. Immediately following the harvest the grapes were pruned severely in the fall and all leaves were stripped from the plants to induce dormancy. Spring trimming of vines was practiced before blooming as well as after (Natural History 17:35)

An emphasis on continual periodic leaf removal is also noted in this quote from Pliny:

This is better for the wine, as the vine so grown does not overshadow itself and is ripened by constant sunshine, and is more exposed to currents of the air and so gets rid of dew more quickly, and also is easier for trimming and for harrowing the soil and all operations; and above all it sheds its blossoms in a more beneficial manner.

So what are the spiritual analogies that can be brought out in relationship to grape growing and John 15? Well, the most important thing to consider is that we are like vines; God is continually calling us to be pruned. Sometimes what is pruned back is not all dead wood, but is in fact green fruit bearing shoots. All of this can be especially painful and hard to understand at the time.

Only after a fruitful harvest can we sometimes understand why a particular pruning was all that important. While outside events can give us no choice but to force us to cut back in life; at other times, we can be motivated to do some self-pruning as well. It is a never ending, yet necessary, process.

The writer of Ecclesiastes remarks, “There is a time and season for everything under heaven.” What is it that God is calling you to prune in your life and how is he calling you to abide with your roots down deep tapping into his grace?

Just as there appears to be a natural time of pruning, dormancy and rebirth in natural life, so there also appears to be a time of pruning, dormancy and rebirth in other aspects of life as well.

When you think about it, in a way, we are like Narnia trees (vines) that can position ourselves to draw upon God’s grace! With this in mind, it is good to be aligned with God’s rhythm of grace to discern when and where pruning needs to take place. This is all especially good to think about when we look at grape vines getting ready to yield their harvest for the summer.

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Jesus said, "I am the vine; you are the branches" (John 15:5). So we are the branches but branches are attached to each other while attached to the roots. Branches are taking the same nutrient from the roots, and if one branch did not produce fruit, then it is better to be purged, so its nutrient can be taken by branches that bear fruits.

The Lord did not mean to purge branches that bear fruit. He meant to purge the unfruitful branches that attached to the fruitful branches, so more nutrient can be shared by fruitful branches to bear more fruits.

This metaphor has two other similar parables.

In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus said in Matthew 13:12 NIV.

Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.

and the Parable of the Bags of God. Matthew 25:29 NIV

For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.

Both express a situation that those who has (fruits) will be given more. Those does not have will be purged.


Paul had adapted the metaphor using olive tree and its branches applied to the Gentiles, in Romans chapter 11:11-24. In his metaphor, the grafted branches were the Gentiles. Now its grown branches (Jews) and grafted branches (Gentiles) were both on the same root (Jesus or His Church). Both kind of branches were undergoing the same criterion, that they would be purged if unfruitful.

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The answer while expressed in various ways throughout the Bible, this verse itself is giving a comparison. John 15:2 [He taketh away]

So the dead wood is taken out of the way, therefore the producing vines can be more productive.

It draws on another analogy in the scriptures with God trimming a wick so it burns brighter.

Isaiah 42

2 He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street. 3 A bruised reed shall He not break, and the smoking flax shall He not quench: He shall bring forth judgment unto truth.

A bruised reed is fragile. God can handle it without causing it to break. A smoking flax is used for wicks. As a wick burned it began to darken and produce smoke. But if you trim it, it could brighten the light, without putting it out ( God can do this ).

As the analogy implies with gentleness, the pruning of the bad could be with sternness. You get an idea of this, throughout the scriptures.

People are blessed, others punished. Based on their actions. And for His plans.

Proverbs 24:20

For there shall be no reward to the evil man; the candle of the wicked shall be put out.

This chapter comes to mind, and the vision of the olive Trees and two olive branches concerning The Two Witnesses and The Truth [ Oil ] Which God provides. His Holy Spirit.

Zechariah 4:6 King James Version

Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.

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This is a metaphor revealing the mystery of the divine activity: Father cannot purge anything unless this is on the Vine - Christ: if a branch falls from the Vine/Christ, Father is totally impotent to vivify this branch by Himself alone, outside the Vine, but can nourish the branch only through the Vine/Christ. This means, that the salvific divine activity of the Father and the Son (Jesus Christ) is and can be conducted only together and jointly, which is a clearest and irrefutable proof of divinity of the Son/Logos, called since Incarnation also Jesus Christ.

Now, the question "how the Father purges branches", is the same as to keep in mind that a branch is, although essentially also Vine (in the sense that the Vine/Christ has fulness of the human essence after the Incarnation), still branches denote and stand for created personalities, whereas the Person of the Vine/Christ is uncreated, born from the Father in Eternity, possessing the same alwaysness as possessed by the Father, being the co-God with the Latter (John 1:1), thus even if the branches can fall, the Vine always remains unfallen and faithful, possessing the same divine immunity from fall as possessed by the Father, for God does not and ontologically cannot deny His God-ness (cf. 2 Tim. 2:13). Thus, the Vine/Christ is Perfect as the Father is Perfect, while we, branches are not perfect, but in a position of a constant growth in perfection, as commanded by Christ (Matthew 5:48). If the Lord finds faults, that is to say, imperfections even in His holy bodiless angels (Job 15:15), what can be said of us who have so many imperfections, "as many, exactly, as are the waves in the ocean", as St John Chyrsostom puts it.

Vine is a symbol of the Incarnate God, - God who adopted human nature. Could God save humanity without His being incarnated or inhumanated? No way! Because salvation means ultimately that human being enters divine life, life of God, and unless God provides humans this level of intimacy by Himself becoming human (cf “vine”) no such access to divine life would be possible to humans, not even to the greatest prophets. Thus Father necessitates His Son’s Incarnation for fulfilling His love towards humans (cf. John 3:16).

Exactly this is when the branches are purged: they abandon their imperfection and embrace greater and greater degree of perfection through a joint graceful action of the Father and the Son (and Holy Ghost for that matter, but for parsimony of this discourse I do not talk more about the Holy Ghost) and the co-action or synergy of the branch, and this process has no end, for we never end growing in perfection, always stretching out to the yet unknown degrees of glory (Philippians 3:13-14); and thus branch differ from branch with regard of the degree of the glory achieved (cf. 1 Cor. 15:41).

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