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In John 15, Jesus uses the image of a vine to discuss his relationship to his Father and to the disciples. But suddenly in verse 3 he says "Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you." Then he goes on talking about the vine. Verse 3 seems like an interruption in the main thrust of the passage.

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    Why did you not tell us which Bible you're working with? Why did you not trouble to Post the whole relevant passage? Feb 21 at 22:29

5 Answers 5

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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. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.- John 15:2-3

From Thayers Greek Lexicon:

  1. to cleanse, of filth impurity, etc 1a) to prune trees and vines from useless shoots 1b) metaphorically from guilt, to expiate

The word translated "clean" in the next verse is from the same root as purge. Jesus might just as easily have said, "Now ye are purged through the word that I have spoken unto you."

It is a matter of translation word choice. The lesser metaphor, pruning a branch for the health of the vine, pointing to the greater metaphor, cleansing a soul for the building of the Church.

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  • Nice. I'm marking it as the answer.
    – blearyeye
    Feb 19 at 16:38
  • I upvoted this answer but also included my own, which I had already composed for the duplicate question. Feb 19 at 20:32
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NIV and other translations tell us that the Greek for "he prunes" also means "he cleans." If we consider the context, it seems to be the case that Jesus is not speaking about "cleaning" in the sense of washing or purification but in the sense of creating a clean vine, which has been properly pruned to ensure more efficient fruiting. Thus, many translators render "cleaned" as "pruned" here, and this does make good sense.

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The above comparison of an unpruned vs. a pruned grape vine demonstrates the sense in which Jesus spoke here.

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  • So, from both verses that would be: and every branch that bears fruit, He cleans it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. The words are very similar in Greek!
    – Jesse
    Feb 19 at 21:59
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Consider a grape vine: the grapes of the vine must be harvested (purgeth, from verse 2) in order for more grapes to be able to grow. He is telling His disciples that they too have been harvested "through the word which I have spoken unto you", and unless they follow what He has spoken to them, they will not be able to produce any additional "fruit". Out with the old to make room for the new, so to speak.

John 15:1-5

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 2 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. 3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

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    +1 for introducing harvesting; I've never seen that from any others before. IMHO "clean" is about the "take", not the "prune". But, "harvesting" is relevant and very much implied, even while not direct. Great insight!
    – Jesse
    Feb 19 at 21:55
  • @Jesse Thanks very much! I had to double check after other answers appeared, but "expiate" (or, 'purge' as is also a definition) does make it qualify I believe. Thanks again for the kind words! Feb 19 at 23:43
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    Yeah, glad to have you join our site! The issue with finding which definition is to ask what context the word is used in. That is part of careful, objective hermeneutics that we never perfect.
    – Jesse
    Feb 20 at 3:33
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    @Jesse Your encouragement is most refreshing! Feb 20 at 5:52
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This is a likely reference back to both "He takes away" and "prune" from v2. So, both verses in context:

John 15:2-3 (NASB emphasis added)

2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.

Prunes & Clean

...We could be looking at a translation inconsistency with prune and clean:

If we translated both as "clean", we would get this...

2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He cleans it so that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.

...or...

2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already pruned because of the word which I have spoken to you.

...while different to us in English, to the disciples in Greek, both English translations would have both sounded much the same and carried almost the same meaning.

Takes & Clean

If clean (v3) points to prune (v2), then the next question is whether takes (v2) implies punishment. But, that is not addressed until v6...

John 15:6 (NASB)

If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.

..."branches" not abiding in the vine are not vine branches at all! They are invasive weeds, which Jesus talks about elsewhere in the parable of weeds (Mt 13:24-43).

"Branches not abiding in the vine [because they are weeds]" could actually explain the debated meaning of the wedding guest who arrived without wedding clothes and was thus cast out (Mt 22:11-13). What on earth is a non-grape-vine branch doing on top of a real grape vine!? Probably the same thing a so-called "wedding guest" is doing at a wedding without the free clothes provided by the wedding: burglary or such mischief.

Clean: Taken & Pruned

This gives us three types of branches:

  1. Vine branches not bearing fruit: taken (v2, for health)
  2. Vine branches bearing fruit: pruned (v2, for more growth)
  3. Non-vine branches: gathered and burned (v6, for burning)

1 & 2 from v2 become clean in v3.

Number 3 is not a reference to number 1, as we could think reading in English. So, "burning" of v6 is not "clean" of v3 contrasting in v2. No, "clean" in v3 is discussing something good about v2, which has no burning.

So, in all likelihood, v3 "you are already clean" probably means the disciples had already gone through any stages of "take" or "prune" from v2.

From the Believer's Bible Commentary1

John 15:2 ...Exactly what the Lord does to the unfruitful branch depends on how the Greek verb airo is translated. It can mean “takes away” as in the King James tradition (also translated that way in John 1:29). Then it would refer to the discipline of physical death (1 Cor. 11:30). However, the same word may mean “lifts up” (as in John 8:59). Then it would be the positive ministry of encouraging the fruitless branch by making it easier to get light and air, and hopefully, to bear fruit.

...Even such vines need to be pruned or cleansed. Just as a real vine must be cleaned from insects, mildew, and fungus, so a Christian must be cleansed from worldly things that cling to him.

John 15:3 ...Just as the Savior had been talking to them, His Word had had a purifying effect on their lives. Thus, this verse may refer to justification and sanctification.

Since "takes" (airó/αἴρω, Strong's 142) can mean have either a positive or destructive meaning, v3 clarifies that "takes" carries the positive "for cleansing purposes" variety of meaning.

That's why we have "clean" (katharos/καθαρός, Strong's 2513) in v3.

This is another commentary giving teaching this as encouragement and good thing...

From BibleRef.com:

Jesus inserts this comment to clarify the "dead branches" reference: it is not to Christians somehow losing salvation or falling into damnation. Jesus is explicitly reassuring the disciples that they are not among the dead branches.


1. MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments (A. Farstad, Ed.; p. 1549). Thomas Nelson.

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Verse 3 may seem like a detour from the conversation about the vine and branches, but it's actually very much connected (like the branches).

Jesus uses the metaphor of the vine and branches to illustrate intimate relationship between himself (the vine) and his disciples (the branches). Jesus focused on what the disciples needed which was to remain connected to Himself to bear fruit.

3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.

These words are not an interruption but rather an integral part of the message.

Jesus is not speaking about physical hygiene. That would be rather funny here. Rather, He was talking about spiritual purity. Jesus is saying that the disciples have already been cleansed through His teaching (the word) and the truth He has imparted to them.

Later in John 17:17 we read: New King James Version

17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.

We also read in Ephesians 5:26 New King James Version

26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word,

The idea of spiritual cleansing through the word of God is consistent with other teachings in the New Testament. By abiding in Jesus's words, the disciples are made spiritually clean and equipped for fruitful service in God's kingdom.

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