Far-Fetched: John 15:2

For some reason, faithalone.org sent me a magazine in the mail. I’ve been to that site before, so I knew the magazine would be good fodder for a blog. It did not disappoint.

I can’t find the magazine now, which is fine. It’s the principle that matters, not the source.

The magazine and the web site don’t like the idea that God would cut anyone off, so John 15:2 is a problem to them.

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. (NASB)

The magazine argues that “takes away” should be “lifts up.” It then explains that vinedressers will take a fruitless branch and set it up on a rock or some other support so it can get more sun. Along with special care, this is supposed to allow the branch to produce fruit.

Great. No problem yet. I’m not a Greek expert. When I suggest an alternate translation, I consult authorities and make sure at least a couple translations agree with me. I’ll give this guy the benefit of the doubt.

There are two problems with his theory, however. One is minor, the other warrants this far-fetched post.

1. No translations agree.

  • KJV: “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away.”
  • HCSB: “Every branch in me that does not produce fruit he removes.”
  • NIV: “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit.”
  • Amplified: “Any branch in me that does not bear fruit [that stops bearing] he cuts away (trims off, takes away).”
  • Catholic Public Doman Version: “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit, he will take away.”
  • WEB: “Every branch in me that doesn’t bear fruit, he takes away.”

You get the idea.

The Holman Christian Standard Bible is produced by the Southern Baptists, a large safe haven for the eternal security doctrine. One would think that if there were an alternative to “he removes,” the translators would have gone for it.

2. It ignores a nearby verse.

I have to ask. Could you, dear reader, try to explain away a verse while ignoring one just four verses later that says exactly what you are trying to deny?

I hope not, but this magazine did. Look at John 15:6:

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. (NASB, with punctuation corrected)

I don’t think it takes a theologian to see that the two verses are related. Even if John 15:2 should be translated as “lifted up,” which no translator appears to agree with, the author should have dealt with John 15:6 as well.

The Far-Fetched Mine Field

I’m not sure exactly what someone gets out of refuting one verse while ignoring another right next to it. I saw a book once, back in the 80’s, arguing for the absolute equality of men and women in the church. It spent a lot of time on Ephesians 5:21-33, analyzing each verse. To this day, I still shake my head in wonderment that the authors had the audacity to simply leave out verse 24. An entire book! They simply never mentioned the verse existed while analyzing every other verse in the passage!

I don’t know what dishonest people like this get out of their deceit, but I do know what the rest of us get. We get a minefield.

Here’s how it works. We are given a teaching. We are told that it is true and that if we deviate from it, our souls are on the line. We will be led astray, wind up in a cult, and eventually burn in hell if we deviate. Our mission? To get to the end of our journey with that teaching still intact.

There are land mines strewn across the path in front of us. One of provisions, however, is a teacher to disable the land mines.

We begin the journey. There is John 15:2 trying to steal eternal security from us! Our bomb tech jumps to the rescue! Whew, it means “lifted up,” not “taken away.”

We take four more steps forward and KABOOM! We lose our right leg up to the knee.

“Hang on!” the bomb tech cries.

“Hang on? What is wrong with you? Why didn’t you disable the mine?”

“I didn’t know how, so I figured I’d just not tell you about it. I was hoping maybe you’d just step over it without noticing.”

Don’t get your leg blown off to the knee.

About Paul Pavao

I am married, the father of six, and currently the grandfather of two. I run a business, live in a Christian community, teach, and I am learning to disciple others better than I have ever been able to before. I believe God has gifted me to restore proper foundations to the Christian faith. In order to ensure that I do not become a heretic, I read the early church fathers from the second and third centuries. They were around when all the churches founded by the apostles were in unity. I also try to stay honest and open. I argue and discuss these foundational doctrines with others to make sure my teaching really lines up with Scripture. I am encouraged by the fact that the several missionaries and pastors that I know well and admire as holy men love the things I teach. I hope you will be encouraged too. I am indeed tearing up old foundations created by tradition in order to re-establish the foundations found in Scripture and lived on by the churches during their 300 years of unity.
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