Remaining in Him

Sunday 12/19/21

Message –  Remaining in Him

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Remaining in Him

Why are we not talking about Christmas?

Ok, You may think I’m unaware that many times my teaching builds on multiple themes simultaneously but I’m not…it’s just the way my mind works. I’ve tried to simplify my thoughts, but when I go back over my notes to do so, I wind up lengthening them. 

For example, I started out with this message last week, and in a few hours I had 31 pages of notes which I condensed as I was teaching. Teri told me I should have been a writer. I don’t think I’ve ever truly experienced writer’s block. 

On the table of our notes so far are the sudden, unannounced return of Jesus for His church, maintaining a desirous expectation of His return which promotes purity in our lives AND ongoing communion with the Holy Spirit Who works all of this in us and without Whose help we would surely fail.

We are barely into John 15 having only covered the first 2 verses and in fact are camping on verse 2 a little longer even still.

And if you are wanting a Christmas message there are many ways in which John the 15th chapter could not be more in step with that desire.

For even in the songs we sang this morning. What were the angel’s rejoicing over at His Noel or birth but that Light and Life eternal had come to mankind in the form of a baby – and THAT WAS the good news!

Also that this baby was born to be the everlasting King of the kingdom in which we are a part. We stepped into this kingdom by defecting from the one of our birth – namely the kingdom of this world. We bowed the knee NOT to a Savior but to a Lord Who then saved.

And what Hope were we looking for to come and save us when love came down? Were we simply looking for safety or did we long for connectedness and acceptance…even love and union with the God Who made us?

Well that is all Jesus is talking about in this chapter and remember, He is speaking this to men who left their former lives to pursue becoming like Him and so even though they had and would still fail Him He encouraged them by describing their relationship with Him as branches in a Vine.

What we’ve covered so far

So we spent some time last week establishing what seems like it should be obvious and that is that the words “in Me” are to be taken literally.

You may recall that the reason I am pressing this is because many people jump through all kinds of doctrinal hoops in order to make the words “in Me” apply pretty much to both genuine believers and those who only professed Jesus, but do not really know Him.

They do this in order to avoid the obvious truth that one can forsake Christ even after having come to Him.

They hold SO tightly to the idea of eternal security under all circumstances, that they are willing to ignore large portions of scriptures warning people about this possibility as well as twisting scriptures like this one to say what they clearly DO NOT SAY.

One a personal note I find that most of the time, when your theological assumptions are off – it will tell on you in other areas. 

In this case, overwhelmingly, people claim that once we are in relationship with God we can never be out of relationship. However, such reveals that they do not understand the nature of relationships at all. 

In all reality, the opposite is true. 

If one CANNOT leave a relationship, then it is not relationship it is bondage, control and even rape since the kind of relationship God claims to have with His Own is compared to intimate love in a marriage. 

If our relationship is not consensual but rather forced, I know of no other word for it but rape. 

Specifically what they are trying to avoid are perceived implications in both verse 2 and verse 6 and we will deal with both today.

In verse 2 Jesus said,

John 5:2, “Every branch IN ME that does not bear fruit He removes; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 

We concluded that the words He taketh away or He removes (which is number 142 in your Greek concordance) means lifts up.

This is for multiple reasons…

1st – lifts up is literally one of the possible meanings, but it is only a “possible” meaning and needs more to prove that this is what Jesus intended by His choice of words.

2nd – if because in the husbandry of vinekeeping, there is the time honored practice of “lifting up low hanging branches”, so as to give them greater sun exposure so that they might begin to bear fruit and prove to be a productive member of the Vine.

3rd – If this verse is read in context, we see that in the same sentence Jesus reveals the goal He has in mind when He does what He does with the branches and that is “that it may bear more fruit. 

So bearing increasing yields of fruit is the very subject of the sentence here… so it is NOT a theological overreach to assume that such is the objective and therefore the meaning of the word “taken away”. 

It most likely means to lift up.

The verse would therefore read like this

Verse 2 says, “Every branch IN ME that does not bear fruit He lifts up; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 

Can you see why many wish to change ‘in Me’ to mean, anyone who simply professes to know Me but doesn’t – does not bear fruit and so He removes them?

This however, does not take the entire potential of one being in Christ and yet being cast off as a branch off of the table, since it is brought up in another context in verse 6. 

That however, both logically and theologically MUST be treated as an entirely different subject which we will look at in a moment.

Pruning and abiding

John 15:3-5, 

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

(4)  Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.  (5)  “I am The Vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”

So the disciples (and by extension we) are all clean (or rather pruned) by the word He has spoken to us.

Again, notice the focus of the relationship – FRUIT BEARING!!!!

Now one thing should be clear. Judas had just left before this discussion. So, these words applied to Judas as well. All the words He had spoken to the disciples up to this point in His ministry were spoken to, over and concerning all of them. 

So wasn’t Judas also pruned? Well, perhaps at some point he was, but he, like the devil who entered him, came to a place of disbelief.

Is that possible for one who has truly come to believe. Of course it is!

This is why Paul and the writer of Hebrews places so much importance on those who remain steadfast in their faith TO THE END.

NOW we have another phrase which is very important mentioned here –  ABIDE IN ME!

The word “ABIDE” means – to remain!

Used in so close a connection with the words “IN HIM”, it becomes inescapable that these words work in concert to talk about both being in union and continuing to remain in union.

Let me suggest to you the obvious. You cannot remain in a state you were never in.

You cannot remain in a room you never entered.

So what is this inadvertently saying?

It is possible for a child of God to STOP abiding in Him!

How? Well, logically it would be by doing the opposite of what makes one abide.

So what makes us abide? Good question!

NOW THAT is an intelligent and useful question!

We have to skip a bit ahead to see it, but in John 15:10, it says,

“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.”

Now this is not a superficial “keeping”. It is not a keeping in word or principle only – but true and continued obedience.

It is the word tēréō and means to watch, observe attentively, keep the eyes fixed upon, to obey, keep, fulfill a duty, to perform watchfully and with vigilance.

In other words it means to not treat His commands lightly to take them to your heart and own them as your own views.

In practice it means to be sincere, with all the heart and to disdain every notion in the heart which ever entertains the thought, “oh well, I can always be forgiven.”

Marriage as an example

Now is a GREAT time to introduce how this is like a marriage – at least like the kind of marriage God created us for before the fall.

The fact that all marriage partners are different in one way or another has always been true and is true BY DESIGN.

We were designed in the likeness of Three eternal beings whose core character is the same, but Whose personalities differ. We already know this since time and again we have pointed out the differences between the Father, the Son and the Spirit. Again – Their core character is 100% the same, but They are very much individuals. 

As such, They differ to One Another. This is called the Perichoresis. The perimeter dance the Godhead enjoys among Each other and into which They have graciously invited us – Their Creation!

What does it mean or how does it play out so that we can understand it as it applies to “remaining in Him”?

Well, we see it most profoundly in marriage because the differences between a human husband and wife are more pronounced than those between the Father, Son and Spirit.

When my wife and I got married, our choices in music, furniture, social activities and such were different. We were aware of many of our common interests but once we were married, we began to notice areas of difference.

I was interested in Theology, Science, computers and plants. She was interested in elementary education, educational crafts, children’s books and lesson plans. In other words we could easily have bored each other to death!

I noticed one day that she was talking about something that interested her and I had tuned out long enough ago that I didn’t even know how she have arrived at this point in the conversation. I stopped her and made a decision I have never regretted. I told her…I think, if I’m not careful I’ll become like my dad’s generation. They did not really listen to their wives but largely just nodded and said the occasional u-hu to get through the drudgery of another long winded dissertation from their wife. I immediately saw the distance this would create in us over the years and so I told her – I want you to back up to (whatever place I last remembered what she said) and start from there. I am really sorry, but I completely tuned you out and I don’t want to be that guy.

So I began learning how to listen. As I did I found that just listening wasn’t enough. It would be a forever chore unless I allowed my heart to begin to include her interests into my own. In other words to start liking what she liked – not just feign an insincere interest. In other words – love her with ALL of my heart, not just those parts I found easy and convenient.

Over the years I’ve found that I am still not nearly as “into” elementary education as she is, but something has changed. I honestly find joy in how she lights up when she talks about something that really means something to her and I am now genuinely able to enter into her excitement with her and even make some insightful and intelligent comments regarding it as well and she has done the same with me.

So it MUST be in our relationship with the Father.

He loves justice. He loves what is right. He loves devotion and hates disloyalty. It is from all of these as well as other attributes that we get the 10 commandments and the 613 ways the scriptures reveal to us that they are lived out in everyday life.

So long as they remain God’s interests alone – they will always appear legalistic and boring to us. When we begin to open our hearts to Him and love what He loves, we find that all of this changes and we begin a life-long journey of becoming more and more like Him by sharing His interests and character.

So, how do we maintain such a devotion towards God and His ways? BY THE HOLY SPIRIT.

The Holy Spirit

It would be one thing if God had just left us here with a manual, but we have NOT been left orphans – He has come to us in the person of the Holy Spirit which John refers to as the anointing oil from God.

1Jn. 2:27, “But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.” 

I am reminded of a segment from the book, ‘Sacred Romance’ and I think it wonderfully portrays this truth with an illustration which at first hits us as silly until we turn it around and realize that we have often treated God as if He had done this to us.

The illustration is taken from Chapter 11: Desert Communion: Learning to live on Heaven’s Shores

“Every courtship, at least every healthy one, is moving toward a deeper heart intimacy that is the ground for the consummation of the relationship spiritually, emotionally, and physically. The first question in the orthodox confessions of faith tests our awareness of this wonderful truth when it asks, “What is the chief end and purpose of man?” And the answer: “To know God and enjoy knowing Him forever.” If we hear that answer as creatures of the Enlightenment, that is to say, the Age of Reason, the answer does not take our breath away. The word know has been captured in service of the intellect and so when we think of knowing God, images of learning more about him immediately come to mind. With a sigh, we consider what book we might buy or what Bible study we might attend to understand more clearly God’s attributes. But what if we were sitting in a sidewalk café overhearing the following exchange between a fiancée and her betrothed?

She says: “I’m so looking forward to our wedding day. I do love you so much. I really wish I could see more of you. There’s so much about you I want to know better.”

He replies: “Yes, dear, I know. I’m going to send you a book that describes more about my life. I’m sure you’ll get a lot out of it.”

She says: “I’ll be glad to read it. But I just want to hold your hand. [She continues somewhat mischievously.] I just want to kiss you.”

He says: “I’m sure you do, beloved. Let me send you a tape describing the role of physical affection at different stages of courtship. You’ll find it worthwhile, I’m sure.”

She replies: (Somewhat disappointed) “That’s wonderful, darling. It’s just that I so look forward to our wedding day. I want to be with you so badly. I think of us being, you know, ‘together,’ day and night.”

He says: “Yes, intimacy is important. I’d like to send you to a weekend seminar that really should be quite helpful.”

About this time, most of us would say, “What a stiff. This guy doesn’t have a clue how to love this woman. Why doesn’t she dump him for somebody who’s still breathing?” Yet, this is very much the way we often carry on our love affair with God. We picture Him as being much like the man in the café, and so we sigh, try to push down our disappointment, and go on being good Christians. But listen with me to excerpts from another conversation between two lovers:

He says: “How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes are doves.”

She replies: “How handsome you are, my lover! Oh, how charming! And our bed is verdant.”

He says: “Show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely. . . . Your mouth is like the best wine.”

She says: “May the wine go straight to my lover, flowing gently over lips and teeth. I belong to my lover, and [your] desire is for me. Come, my lover, let us go to the countryside, let us spend the night in the villages. . . .”

Is this not a conversation that truly does begin to take our breath away? Do we not find ourselves wanting to follow these lovers to the country just to be close to such passion? This is not a conversation from the latest dime-store romance but from the Song of Solomon. God does not give us this look through the bedroom window at the love affair between Solomon and the Queen of Sheba just to be voyeuristic. As we turn from the window and look into his eyes, we realize that this is the kind of passion he feels for us and desires from us in return—an intimacy much more sensuous, much more exotic than sex itself.

Many of us would run to meet God in such a way if we only knew where to find him. But where . . . how is he to be found with this kind of intimacy? And, too, we don’t go from being strangers to lovers in an instant. There are the conversations between a father and son or daughter to be held first, and the platonic intimacy of good friends. Some of us have had our hearts seared by the tainted desire of those who should have loved us platonically but rather used our desire for love to violate us emotionally and sexually. Our hearts shrink back from such imagery, as they will until we have received healing. Yet, the intimacy represented by married love is what God desires with each of us and so the imagery of courtship is what we must consider.”

So this statement of Jesus is saying if you continue to believe my words and regulate your life by obedience to them you will abide in Me and become like Me (bear fruit), but if you treat My word lightly and walk in continual disobedience to My commands you will cease to abide in Me and therefore cease to bear fruit.

It really is that simple.

Let’s read verses 3-5 again with the underpinning of that framework…

John 15:3-5, 

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

(4)  Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.  (5)  “I am The Vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”

NEXT Jesus addresses the outcome of the one who decides to forsake abiding.

To walk away

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.”


Unlike the former statement in verse 2 of this chapter, these words “cast out” are very clearly INTO THE FIRE and away from Him.

What is the difference? 

Well as we have already learned, the first clause is often translated as “He removes” and it is regarding someone who isIN HIM”, and for that and the other reasons already given the words most certainly mean “He lifts up”. 

This second mention is referring to one who no longer abides in Him – or said another way, for someone who has forsaken Him.

Let me say that the way we treat uncomfortable passages is one reason why some people reject Christian beliefs. SO often, we wind up protecting our faith rather than letting our faith protect us.

Faith doesn’t need a shield, it IS one! 

So if your theology is so weak and unsupported that it needs mental gymnastics and special pleading to force theological square pegs into  round holes – you may be less honest in your treatment of scripture than you want to believe.

Let me say with some compassion that these words in John 15:6 tend to strike fear in many believer’s hearts. 

You see, many Christians are dissatisfied with their Christian walk and can see all too clearly that they are not super fruitful.

Being who we are, rather than press into Christ with faith, believing He is able to accomplish this through us so long as we live lives of passionate devotion to Him – we look for ways to make our lukewarm state appear safer than it really is.

MUCH of this comes from a misteaching of the gospel. 

As I have said and will continue to say so long as I am alive – the gospel in our day is presented as a means of escaping hell and gaining heaven. Presenting like this, it isn’t about relationship…not really. It is about being thankful to a God Who loves and saves – but only so far as it saves us from hell. 

The Gospel is not typically presented as something for which you will suffer, and which finds its highest fulfillment in union with God in the midst of suffering. Which is strange – because it IS taught that way in Scripture.

One of the most beloved passages in the New Testament is where Paul said,

“(7) But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.  (8)  Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ  (9)  and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;  (10)  that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,  (11)  if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” ~ Php. 3:7-11  

Christians often LOVE these verses and for good reason, if they truly are believers it resonates with what is IN THEM. The LONG to be fully committed to Christ. But tell me, where is there even a hint at a gospel which is all about my happiness now and assurance that I will not go to hell regardless of how I live my life?

Paul mentions neither one!

It isn’t that heaven isn’t the future reality of the true Child of God – it is, but such is not the focus of the gospel, but are only peripheral truths which are more results of the gospel, rather than the center most purpose of the gospel. 

The whole idea here in John 15 is being IN HIM and ABIDING IN HIM.

Do you see the connection we truly have with Him…WE ARE the TABERNACLEWE ARE THE MENORAH!

Oneness AND communion… koinonia all at the same time.

No wonder, if one truly is in Him but is not producing fruit God is not quick to lob them off!

Jesus taught on this whole truth and it is recorded in Luke 13:6-9,

“(6) And He told this parable: “A man had a fig tree that was planted in his vineyard. He came looking for fruit on it and found none. (7) He told the vineyard worker, ‘Listen, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it even waste the soil?’ (8) “But he replied to him, ‘Sir, leave it this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. (9) Perhaps it will bear fruit next year, but if not, you can cut it down.’”

But if the opposite is true, we see a piercing example of it in Hebrews 6:1-9, which is again another place where people try to claim the readers were non-regenerate Jews and NOT true Christians. But even a first year Bible student in reading the opening chapters of Hebrews can readily tell these are TRUE CHRISTIANS.

So what does Hebrews have to say about this that we read about in John 15:6?

Heb 6:1-9,  “(1) Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,  (2)  of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.  (3)  And this we will do if God permits.  (4)  For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit,  (5)  and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come,  (6)  if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.  

(7)  For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God;  

(8)  but if it only bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.  

(9)  But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner.”

Or Jude & 2Peter 2

2Peter 2:1-22, “(1) But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.  (2)  And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.  (3)  By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.  (4)  For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment;  (5)  and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly;  (6)  and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly;  (7)  and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked  (8)  (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)— (9)  then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment,  (10)  and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries,  (11)  whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring a reviling accusation against them before the Lord.  (12)  But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption,  (13)  and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime. They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you,  (14)  having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children.  (15)  They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;  (16)  but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man’s voice restrained the madness of the prophet.  (17)  These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.  (18)  For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error.  (19)  While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.  (20)  For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.  (21)  For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.  (22)  But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A DOG RETURNS TO HIS OWN VOMIT,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”

So what is this verse in John 15 saying?

Are their true believers who lack fruit? 

Apparently… but this is more than likely referring to young and immature Christians who though backslidden and somewhat carnal are in no way forsaking Him.

Consider the Corinthian church who not only allowed GROSS sin in their church, according to Paul they actually took pride in it!

1Cor. 5:1-2 HCSB “(1) It is widely reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and the kind of sexual immorality that is not even condoned among the Gentiles–a man is living with his father’s wife. (2) And you are inflated with pride, instead of filled with grief so that he who has committed this act might be removed from among you.”

– and Paul called them “carnal” when he said, “I, brethren could not speak to you as spiritual but as to carnal, like babies in Christ…for where there is envy, strife and divisions among you are you not carnal and act as mere unchanged men?”

Or using James’ words who speaking to Jewish believers called them Adultresses and sinners in chapter 4 of his letter to them.

The man in 1 Cor. 5 we just referenced was living with his mother-in-law and would not repent at first…what sort of fruit was he likely bearing?

Sticking close to the analogy – no natural branch in a grapevine even bears fruit in the first year anyway. Though even baby Christians do bear some fruit.

So, I believe we are on good theological ground to say that this first group who is bearing no fruit in verse 2 but remains connected to the Vine – He lifts up.

Similar wording is used for young – immature physical grapevine branches in today’s world. They are attempting to train these branches and get them closer to the sun for productivity.

To me these passages are not hard, nor harsh…in fact they speak the beauty of true relationship. The only ones who do not like this are those who harbor some fear largely due to a largely fruitless life.

Now, in closing I am going to offer you a real life example of the kind of thinking that could lead you to misinterpreting scripture. 

I am quite disheartened that I didn’t have to look far for this example since it was in the footnotes of the NET translation. I honestly expected more from them given the superior scholarship of many who contributed to it, but they fell into the same theological trap as so many others do. Also,  they did so, honestly admitting that it otherwise created a problem in theology so they enforce the meaning that makes that little problem disappear.

Now they do so by appealing to other passages within the Gospel of John, which is good practice but then they take those examples further than Jesus actually said. 

It is with some trepidation that I take you into these deeper waters, but if you aren’t mature enough for them by now, I harbor little hope that you ever will be.

We MUST become students of the word and one thing that is true of all good students – THEY STUDY!

Finding loopholes or seeking truth

So I am going to show you the logic the translators of the NET translation used when creatively interpreting the meaning of these words in John 15 verses 2 & 6 and then shine light on where they went wrong.

NOTES from the NET translation:

In context (theological presuppositions aside for the moment) the meaning “remove” does seem more natural and less forced (particularly in light of v. John 15:6, where worthless branches are described as being “thrown out” – an image that seems incompatible with restoration). 

One option, therefore, would be to understand the branches which are taken away (v. John 15:2) and thrown out (v. John 15:6) as believers who forfeit their salvation because of unfruitfulness. 

Hopefully you already see where they have begun to get off track. John 15:2 and John 15:6 are talking about two different kinds of people. The former are still IN CHRIST, the latter have chosen through continued and unrepentant disobedience to no longer abide in Him. So, they are starting their doctrinal study with the wrong presuppositions. By assuming they are the same people, they are doomed to come to the wrong conclusions.  As I’ve said by way of example many times, if you start off with the wrong coordinates on a journey across the ocean, you are destined to miss your intended landing on the other side. Even a quarter of 1 degree if followed for any length of time and distance will graduate into miles off course by the time you land.

The notes continue like this…

However, many see this interpretation as encountering problems with the Johannine teaching on the security of the believer, especially John 10:28-29

So what does John 10:28-29 say that conflicts with the idea that a believer can be cast out as a branch if they remain unfruitful?

Let’s read it… Jesus is speaking and He says,

John 10:28-29, “(28) And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.  (29)  My Father, Who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.”

So is this saying that whoever comes to Christ can never leave Him or is it saying anyone who comes to Christ and abides in that life cannot perish or be forcibly removed from Christ? The latter!

The people Jesus is talking about in John 15:2 & 6, are not being presented as people who were able to be forced out of the Vine Keeper’s hand, but people who either chose to abide or chose to forsake. 

So I see no contradiction with this passage in John 10:28-29.

Like we’ve said many times, any relationship you cannot leave – isn’t a relationship it is forced bondage. You tell me, if a woman marries a man and then decides to leave him, but he wont let her go, is that truly a relationship or is it bondage?

The translators have more to say…but I want you to notice in their development of beliefs regarding these verses, their assumptions limit their options of what they will entertain as possible. 

They have already eliminated the possibility of a true believer ever becoming finally lost, due to their assumptions regarding the meaning of  what both John 15 and John 10 actually say. 

Therefore everything they conclude AFTER this is doomed to be at least a little off. Their coordinates are wrong so their destination will be as well.

They go on to say…

This leaves two basic ways of understanding Jesus’ statements about removal of branches in John 15:2 and John 15:6

(1) These statements may refer to an unfaithful (disobedient) Christian, who is judged at the judgment seat of Christ “through fire” (cf. 1Cor. 3:11-15). 

In this case the “removal” of John 15:2 may refer (in an extreme case) to the physical death of a disobedient Christian. 

(2) These statements may refer to someone who was never a genuine believer in the first place (e.g., Judas and the Jews who withdrew after Jesus’ difficult teaching in John 6:66), in which case John 15:6 refers to eternal judgment. 

In either instance it is clear that John 15:6 refers to the fires of judgment (cf. OT imagery in Psa. 80:16 and Ezek. 15:1-8). 

But view (1) requires us to understand this in terms of the judgment of believers at the judgment seat of Christ. This concept does not appear in the Fourth Gospel because from the perspective of the author the believer does not come under judgment; note especially John 3:18, John 5:24, John 5:29

The first reference (John 3:18) is especially important because it occurs in the context of John 3:16-21, the section which is key to the framework of the entire Fourth Gospel and which is repeatedly alluded to throughout.

Now they say much more, but it doesn’t get any better. 

They cite John 3:18; John 5:24 and John 5:29, so let’s examine these three in their given contexts before we conclude.

John 3:18 says,

“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

What about this verse says it is impossible for someone to fall away from or stop believing in the Son of God? It simply says IF they believe there is no condemnation – if they do not there is condemnation. It does NOT address whether a person who believes, could ever stop believing.

So what if someone stops believing – stops abiding? I imagine condemnation happens.

What is a sign of not believing? Well if we just keep reading to the next two verses it tells us… 

John 3:19-20, “(19) And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  (20)  For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.”

This reminds me of some of those who used to be in ministry with Paul, but who forsook him due to their love of this world. – 2Tim. 4:9-18 & Phil. 2:19-23.

John 5:24,  “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him Who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”

John 5:28-29, “(28) Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice  (29)  and come forth— those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.”

So a sign of not truly believing is not doing – or rather not producing fruit.

Gal. 5:22-24 says as much…

“(22)But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  (23)  gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.  (24)  And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

So when I dutifully consider the passages the commentators of the NET translation put forth, I see no disagreement. 

Both John 15, John 3 and John 5 all predicate eternal life with those who hear His words, believe in Him and do good works or produce fruit. 

The opposite would be those who refuse His words, do not continue to abide in Him and do not maintain good works (or do not bear fruit) will be condemned.

I see no disagreement whatsoever. In fact, John 15, John 3 and John 5 couldn’t agree more!

The whole tripping point is upon the idea that once one comes into relationship with God through faith in Christ, can never remove their faith in Christ and leave God. In other words, their free will is permanently suspended.

One could argue – NO! The truth is no one who comes to know God would ever want to. 

Really? Did Adam and Eve not know God? 

Did Lucifer who was the chief of God’s works and who walked amid the fires stones and stood in God’s very presence not know Him? 

That is a stretch! 

Jesus said regarding the pharisees of His day, that if they had not known the truth it would not have been sin to them, but now they have seen Him and their sin remains. So I cannot buy into that delusion.

Now, lest we end on a bitter note, I want you to consider what we are really studying which the passage we just read in Galatians highlighted very well.

We are learning about our relationship with the Holy Spirit WHO has been given to us – the one who teaches us to abide.

Gal. 5:22-24 says…

“(22)But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  (23)  gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.  (24)  And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

Also, the Holy Spirit is not just referred to as the Spirit of Truth, but also the Spirit of Grace in Heb. 10:29

So what does grace teach us?

Titus 2:11-15, “(11) For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,  (12)  teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,  (13)  looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,  (14)  who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.  (15)  Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.”

So if we will do as Jesus says in John 15, we will never come to such a place of hardness so as to deny Him in heart or works.

So let’s end on a positive note…Jesus continues His instructions after this verse by saying,

John 15:7-10, “(7) If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.  (8)  By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.  (9)  “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.  (10)  If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.”


Hi my name is Mark and though I am opposed to titles, I am currently the only Pastor (shepherd/elder) serving our assembly right now.

I have been Pastoring in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years now, though never quite like I am today.

Early in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our assembly (church) was not scriptural in that it was out of sync with what Paul modeled for us in the New Testament. In truth, I (like many pastors I am sure) never even gave this fundamental issue of church structure the first thought. I had always assumed that church structure was largely the same everywhere and had been so from the beginning. While I knew Paul had some very stringent things to say about the local assembly of believers, the point of our gatherings together and who may or may not lead, I never even considered studying these issues but assumed we were all pretty much doing it in numbers right?! Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong!

So needless to say, my discovery that we had been doing it wrong for nearly two decades was a bit of a shock to me! Now, this "revelation" did not come about all at once but over the course of a few weeks. We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until following 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We now understand and believe that the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keeps authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provide teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

For a while we had two co-pastors (elders) (myself and one other man) who led the church with equal authority, but different giftings. We both taught in our own ways and styles, and our leadership skills were quite different, but complimentary. We were in complete submission to each other and worked side-by-side in the labor of shepherding the flock.

Our other Pastor has since moved on to other ministry which has left us with just myself. While we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers.

As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my closest friend and most trusted ally.

As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught.

I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled).

Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then, "If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling." ~ Fredrick Buechner

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me.

I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!