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Abiding Fruit

The Burning of Branches

Matthew 18:8
If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire.
NASB

John 15:6
If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.

Galatians 2:19-20
19 For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

Here, again, Jesus repeats the need to abide in Him. But He finally describes what it means to be removed by the Father (v2). Those who are removed are those who do not abide in Jesus. These are the people who have no relationship with Christ. These branches wither and are thrown into the fire and burned. Nowhere in Scripture is a Christian ever described as burning. God may chastise us when we drift and allow us to suffer the consequences of our sins, but this is the application of tough love to help us grow into spiritual maturity.

Hebrews 12:5-11
5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; 6 For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives." 7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Admittedly, from our perspective, this chastising may be very painful and feel like punishment. Illness, domestic problems, arguments with loved ones, losing a job or a friend or material belongs, or a host of other events all bring pain. This is but the pain of the surgeon's knife. It hurts for a moment, but then we are blessed with something better and greater than when we started. But this pain is why we do not like the process of growing in the Lord. We shy away from wanting to allow the Master surgeon to cut out our unproductive branches.

On the other hand, the unbelievers suffer the fate of burning.

Matthew 25:41
Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels

For this reason, since Scripture should be interpreted by Scripture, I believe that here, in John 15, those branches cast into the fire and removed are unbelievers who infiltrate the church. They are the Judas of the world, the apostate church members of today. This is not to say that God does not ultimately remove unproductive Christians when their testimonies become detriments to His kingdom. It merely means that within the context of these verses, the distinction is between saved branches that are part of Christ, and the unsaved which are ultimately removed. There are, and have always been, a lot of people in the church body as we view it who are not part of the body of Christ.

1 John 2:19
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.

 

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December 7, 2019

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