Abiding in Christ: What Does it Mean? part 8 of 9: Exposition of John 15:6-11
6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
The one who does not, as a summary of his life, abide (aorist tense), or continue faithful to Christ, is cast into hell fire, where he will be continually burned (present tense) for all eternity. The branch without genuine connection to the Lord pictures an unregenerate person with only an outward profession of Christianity. John 15:6 does not picture a loss of reward for a disobedient believer. Other than John 15:6, the verbs “cast forth” (ballo) and “burned” (kaio) are found together only in Revelation 8:8 and 19:20. Neither reference speaks of believers being cast forth or burned. Revelation 19:20 (cf. 20:11-15; 21:8, “the lake which burneth (kaio) with fire and brimstone”), however, demonstrates that the lost will be “cast (ballo) . . . into a lake of fire burning (kaio) with brimstone.” Furthermore, out of 125 instances of the verb “cast forth” (ballo) in the New Testament, believers are never once said to be cast forth by God, but the lost are, over and over again, said to be cast (ballo) into the fires of hell (note Matthew 3:10; 5:13, 25, 29-30; 7:19; 13:42, 48; 18:8-9; Mark 9:42 (cf. vv. 41-48), 45, 47; Luke 3:9; 12:58; 14:35; Revelation 2:22; 12:4, 9, 13; 14:19; 18:21; 19:20; 20:3, 10, 14-15). Thus, the verse indicates that a lack of fruit is evidence of a non-living connection to the vine. The present tense of ballo, in “cast” them into the fire, refers vividly (cf. the present tenses in Matthew 3:10; 7:19; Luke 3:9; Revelation 2:22) to the unconverted being cast into eternal torment. The judgment of the lost in hellfire is associated with a similar plant and fruit-bearing image in John 15 as in Matthew 3:10; 7:19; Luke 3:9. These unregenerate, apostate, “withered” and fruitless branches (cf. Jude 12; Job 8:11-13; James 1:11), of which Judas is the contextual example, are often “cast forth” (also ballo, here aorist, as in Mark 9:45, 47; Revelation 20:15) in a certain sense in this life, through outward apostasy from the church, to which they had been outwardly united (cf. Matthew 13:47), whether voluntarily or through church discipline, but their ultimate rejection and separation from the elect will take place at the day of judgment. At that time the wheat and chaff, the branches truly united to Christ and those only professedly so, will be “gathered” (sunago, cf. Matthew 3:12; 13:30; 25:32; Luke 3:17) to their respective destinies of eternal joy or torment. The branches without union to Christ will glorify God’s justice in their miserable damnation; they will not glorify God here by good works, but they will glorify His justice by their being burned eternally (Ezekiel 15:2-5; Romans 9:22).
Christ in this verse says “if a man” abide not, rather than “if ye abide not,” for, Judas having been separated from them, the remaining disciples were all genuine believers.
7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
This verse helps provide an understanding of the character of abiding in Christ; it is related to Christ’s words abiding in one. Christ’s own receive His words (John 17:8). Here again the aorist verb tenses represent the characteristic of a whole life. The promise, “ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done,” shows that the Lord will answer the prayers of His children, as their prayers are directed by His Word. Consider as well that while all believers have Christ’s words abiding in them, there can be different degrees of this abiding. All believers have received the Word, as Christ prayed for them (John 17:8), but they continue in it to different degrees, resulting in different degrees of fruitfulness.
8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
They already were His disciples, having become such at the moment of their conversion, but their bearing much fruit would evidence this. Fruit bearing is not an uncertain event; by bearing fruit, they “shall” certainly be His disciples in the future, as they certainly were at that time. The Father is certain to receive such glory from them, because the ones He has chosen unto life He has also chosen unto fruitfulness, v. 16. All believers bring forth fruit, and “every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire” (Matthew 3:10). This is the consistent teaching of the entire Bible (Matthew 3:8, 10; 7:16-20; 12:33; 13:8, 26, 21:19, 34, 41, 43; Mark 4:7-8, 29; 11:14; 12:2; Luke 3:8-9; 6:43-44; 8:8; 13:6-7, 9; 20:10; John 4:36; 12:24; 15:2, 4-5, 8, 16; Romans 6:21-22; Galatians 5:22 (contrast 5:19-21); Ephesians 5:9; Philippians 1:11; Hebrews 12:11; 13:15; James 3:17-18). For this purpose of fruit-bearing the Father prunes His saints, v. 2. Since they were good trees, with living connection to Christ, they would bear good fruit as evidence thereof (Luke 6:43-45). Those who are “disciples indeed” will abide, persevere, or continue in His Word, John 8:31.
9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
They were to abide or continue faithful, continue to love Christ, for “if any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha” (1 Corinthians 16:22). That the aorist of meno in this pericope represents a characteristic of what is true in general and at all times, rather than the simple action of a particular point in time, is evidenced in this verse. The Father’s love for His Son is certainly something true always, not something restricted to a particular moment, but it receives an aorist in this verse, as does Christ’s love for His elect, which is likewise unrestricted temporally; so we would expect the same sort of aorist for “continue/abide” here in relation to the action of the disciples.
10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
Genuine converts will keep Christ’s commandments, and thus evidence their continuing love for Christ, just as He continues to love them, John 14:21, 23. Christ’s obedience manifested His love for the Father (cf. 14:31) and His Father’s love for Him as the sinless Messiah and Mediator, and His eternal Son. The Savior showed He loved the Father by persevering or abiding obedience; so do the saints show their love. Saints abide in Christ (v. 4), in His love (v. 9), and keep His commandments (v. 10). Although these propositions are not strict equivalents, as the tense differentiations in vv. 9-10 between the keeping of the commandments and abiding in Christ’s love, and the differentiation between the tenses for Christ’s abiding in the Father’s love and keeping His commandments demonstrate, they all go together. They are a package deal (cf. 1 John 3:24).
11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
This symbol of the vine was revealed by the Lord so that His joy might remain, continue, or abide in His saints, and they might have full joy. Both things are certain for the saint as a characteristic of life, for the aorist verbs are of the same sort as those earlier in the passage (cf. John 17:13; 16:24). Their abiding obedience and fellowship with their Lord would take place through the Comforter Christ would send upon leaving them, and as the Spirit would abide in them, He would bring them joy (Acts 13:52; Galatians 5:22).
See the complete study on meno or "abiding," which includes the passages not only in the KJV but also in the Greek NT (not present in this series of blog posts), by clicking here.