This Sunday’s gospel today gives us one of the most striking images of the NT. Jesus is speaking to his disciples. He says, “I am the true Vine and you are the branches, my Father is the Vine grower, remain in me as I remain in you.” But he also tells us that there are unfruitful branches. They are taken away, cut off. Note that these are attached branches. They differ from the unattached branches (vv. 4-6). Jesus said that they are “in me,” but they have a problem: they bear no fruit.
The unfruitful branches did become attached to Christ. They did have some organic relationship to Him. There was a time, a point, when they began to bud and sprout. They even grew into branches. They… listened to Jesus and the gospel, opened their ears, made a profession, were baptized, seem capable of bearing fruit, appeared to be fruitful branches.
The branches are unfruitful. They are “in” the vine, a part of it, but they simply bear no fruit. What does this mean? An unfruitful branch does not relate enough to Christ; they do not draw enough nourishment from Him, to draw life, to bear fruit, to continue in the Vine. Unfruitful branches are not genuine enough to bear fruit. Their profession is… more profession than possession, more pretending than being, more deception than truth, more counterfeit than real. Unfruitful branches become apostate and deserters – men and women who abandon the faith.
God will “cut off” the unfruitful branches. The word cut off means to take away and to remove. In relation to the vine, the branch is pruned removed, and taken away. This is a severe warning to every branch, “in” the vine, to make sure his profession is genuine enough to bear fruit.
Scripture says at least two things about the judgment of unfruitful branches that sin. First, the unfruitful branches that sin are cut off and removed from the Vine and destroyed by fire. Secondly, the unfruitful branches that sin are chastened and disciplined by being cut off and removed through spiritual death.
The point must be heeded; for Scripture gives severe warnings to believers, that is, to the branches “in’ the Vine. The branches must make sure they are bearing fruit or else face severe judgment.