Abiding in Christ: The Real Meaning Confronts an Error of Calvinism John 15:1-8

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by Alex Quackenbush, Dec 9, 2007.

  1. Alex Quackenbush

    Alex Quackenbush
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    Abiding in Christ: The Real Meaning Confronts an Error of Calvinism

    John 15:1-8

    The confusion of Calvinism brings to many, misguided ends regarding the proper understanding of Bible texts. One well known and often cited text that is claimed by a “Dominant Majority” (DM and from here on in the post I refer to the DM and not every single Calvinist) of Calvinists to purportedly support their doctrine of “Perseverance” is John 15, the True Vine and Branches passage.

    The Calvinist takes the position that the branches that do not bear fruit and are “aken away” (v1) and/or “cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned” (v6) were never “really” believers or those belonging to Christ (the true vine) in the first place.

    Their contention is that only true believers will be fruit bearing branches and evidence that branches that do not bear fruit aren’t really believers stems (no pun intended) from:

    A. They didn’t bear fruit because they didn’t abide in Christ.
    B. They are removed and described as branches good for only burning.

    The Calvinist appeals to the idea that if a believer is truly one of Christ’s then he will abide in Christ and bear fruit because no true believer would be removed and treated as that which is only good to be burned as kindling wood. Right?

    John MacArthur’s thoughts reflect this view:
    But since this is not a treatment of the erring Calvinist view but of the text, let’s look at the text and find the problems and solutions regarding what it says:
    John 15:1-8
    The context of this lesson by our Lord is a post-seasonable dressing of the vineyard, right before the dormant season when the most severe pruning occurs (determined by the reference to withered branches use for burning that were cut off during this time).

    ______________
    1. Verse 1 is without dispute among Calvinist and non-Calvinist as to its meaning. Hence its treatment is minimal. God the Son is the means of life and fruit for the branches and God the Father is the one that keeps the vineyard.

    2. Verse 2 begins with “every branch in me that beareth not fruit”. Obviously to the undistracted observer the first problem for the Calvinist view is a branch being in Christ and then being determined to not have actually been in Christ but “superficially attached”. To claim the attachment was not real but superficial violates the claim of Christ Himself, which the branch “is” in Him. And any branch that is in any vine, especially here, begins its life directly from that vine as a sprout unless it is grafted and here NOTHING about grafting is presented (and even the Calvinist argument doesn’t present a grafting debate).

    A branch begins its life IN THE VINE and grows from the vine as a sprout. It does not become a branch until it has grown to some extent. And from that vine it did gain sustenance and life. If indeed this branch really was never “truly” attached then how did it sprout from the vine? How did it grow from a sprout to a branch? From whence did its nourishment come to become a branch? From the vine.

    You see the dire straights the Calvinist is in here?

    Of course the end of the life and purpose of a branch isn’t just to be a sprout or a branch but eventually to bear fruit. Hence the reason our Lord implores believers to “abide” in Him.

    Believers that experience some growth (but not to mature purpose) are described aptly as ones that do not abide in Christ. They, at some point, quit getting their nourishment from Christ and fail to bear fruit.

    But imagine the Calvinist trying to, in hoping to support his erring doctrine of perseverance, that though this branch clearly is presented as "in" Christ as are fruit bearing branches, and though for it to have come to life it had to spring from the vine and grow, it never really was attached to the vine. Talk about DRAMATIC CONTRADICTIONS and confusion.

    3. Verse 4 presents the command from Jesus to believers “abide in me”. There is a significant and telling clue in the Greek grammar here that provides conclusive evidence that abiding is NOT talking about SALVATION but about the post-salvational RELATIONSHIP of the believer to Christ.

    The command “abide” is a 2nd Person Plural Aorist Active Imperative.

    The use of the “active” in the Greek means that the subject performs the action of the verb. The subject of the command “abide in me” is the plural “you”. Jesus is commanding “(You) abide in me”.

    In other words, the abiding is NOT done by Jesus but by the believer, hence that is why Jesus commands the believer to do the abiding. Jesus doesn't command you to do something He does. Jesus died for your sins, that is what He does and did and the command to you is to believe.

    And in salvation, Jesus KEEPS you saved, that is His job and it is YOUR job to maintain the relationship through obedience, i.e. positive volition to Christ.

    So since the command given by Jesus for the believer to do the abiding, the Calvinist is faced with saying that here, that it is up to the BELIEVER to keep themselves saved (since they argue abiding refers to Salvation and not Relationship) and if they don’t abide, well they weren’t really saved or lost their salvation.

    In truth, the reality is that the command represents that we, as believers, can choose to NOT abide, hence the very purpose of the command. The reason we are given commands is because alternative are possible and here the context of the command is for believers to abide, understanding that in the context of a believer's life NOT ABIDING is the alternative. And if only “true” believers did abide and did not choose to NOT abide, then what is the purpose of the command if by default all believers are guaranteed to abide.

    Why? Because not all believers ARE guaranteed to abide. But the Calvinist, here, is faced with a dilemma.

    If they admit what is present in the text, particularly in the active voice where the believer is commanded to be the one that abides as opposed to Christ keeping them, they have to admit that it is not a SALVATIONAL context but a RELATIONAL context because in a SALVATIONAL context Christ does the keeping and in a RELATIONAL context, we are responsible for maintaining fellowship. For an exhaustive treatment I recommend this article, Viticulture and John 15:1-6 by Gary W. Derickson , Associate Professor of Biblical Studies, Western Baptist College.
     
  2. TCGreek

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    Q,

    1. I'd love to engage you in a healthy discussion on these matters, but I'm tired in this whole thing.

    2. Look at the archives--not just here on BB--but in church history--we have been debating these points for years. What is about to change?
     
  3. Alex Quackenbush

    Alex Quackenbush
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    I am not surprised at anyone tiring from time to time regardless of the endeavor. I too find myself at certain times less enthusiastic than at other times regarding debate and discussion on theological topics since the tiredness generally grows from infantile and adolescent distractions.

    But then this is the work of the spiritual child and in fact all children; to forgo the maturing process and through their selfish and indulgent rants, posturing, feigning offense and so on, to control and manipulate instead of submit and discover. So in that I certainly understand the wearisome experience reflected in your post.
     
  4. webdog

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    Secrets of the Vine by Wilkerson is an excellent read on that parable, too.
     
  5. Rippon

    Rippon
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    Arrogance , thy name is Q .
     
  6. webdog

    webdog
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    Confrontation, thy name is R.
     
    #6 webdog, Dec 9, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 9, 2007
  7. Rippon

    Rippon
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    Barking-up wrong trees = WD !
     
  8. Rippon

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    Perhaps this should be moved to a game forum .
     
  9. Alex Quackenbush

    Alex Quackenbush
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    Enter the infantile and adolescent distraction:

    :laugh: These poor little children.

    Now for the grown-ups, back to the topic at hand.
     
  10. Amy.G

    Amy.G
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    If being a grown-up means I have to act like you, I am perfectly content in remaining a child.
     
  11. Alex Quackenbush

    Alex Quackenbush
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    Alright children, settle down.
     
  12. Amy.G

    Amy.G
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    Thank you.
     
  13. youngmom4

    youngmom4
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    Ok...I have to ask...is everyone bashing Q because they disagree with him on this topic or because they disagree with him (or his attitude) on other topics? It really isn't very grown-up to discount everything a person says because you disagree with them or their attitude on a different topic. Of all of Q's posts, this is probably the least arrogant one I've seen. He's presented a valid interpretation of a key passage of Scripture. So, how 'bout let's all discuss the merits of this particular argument...and not every other one that's taken place on this board? :thumbs:

    Personally, I agree with the interpretation of this passage. Salvation is maintained by Christ. We are responsible for the relationship. Is there anyone who disagrees? Can you back your point out of Scripture? :wavey:
     
  14. TCGreek

    TCGreek
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    If salvation is maintain by Christ, why are we responsible for the relationship? Isn't the maintenance of Christ includes the relationship as well?
     
  15. Allan

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    While you have some good thoughts and opinions it would behoove you to season your speach with love and tenderness. I am not refering to your OP but your comments there after. You make no in roads toward good debate nor display a Christlike attitude in what you have set forth lately.
    Contend for the truth, but contend in Christ-likeness. We all fall short at times on here but don't allow that to be a common excuse. :)

    :thumbs:
     
    #15 Allan, Dec 10, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 10, 2007
  16. Alex Quackenbush

    Alex Quackenbush
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    Allan, I take issue with your view in light of many direct and strong words presented in Scripture that contend with error and ignorance that injure the souls of men. However, I accept the intention of them with sincerity and earnestness.
     
  17. canadyjd

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    Alex, you did not deal with the entire papable. How are we to understand these former "true believers" are now being "cut off", gathered and "burned"? Isn't this an analogy our Lord used frequently to refer to hell? Did they loose their salvation? Was God not able to "keep them" and "not lose any" as our Lord promised?

    Do you believe they lost their salvation? Is God sending them to be punished somewhere other than hell, and that they will then go to heaven? Are you saying they loose their place in the Kingdom as the exculsionists claim? Exactly what are you saying about these people?
    Wait just a second. Jesus said "4Abide in me, and I in you" The abiding is, in fact, done by Jesus as well as believers. Is Jesus giving us the command to force Him (Jesus) to abide in us? We certainly can't force Jesus to do anything, can we? Is Jesus saying He is going to abide in us, but only as long as we abide in Him? Isn't a relationship a "two-way" street, if you will. If we stumble and fall, will Jesus say, "Well, there you go again. I've had enough of this. Let's cut him off, gather him up, and burn him."?
    I don't see the command to "believe" in the text, Alex. Do you see it somewhere? The command is to "abide" in Christ, produce fruit proving you are His disciples, and by doing so bring glory to God the Father.
    So, our relationship with Christ is a one-way street? Our will toward Jesus, but not His will toward us? You don't believe Jesus is actively involved in His relationship with believers? Well, I certainly believe Jesus is not only actively involved in keeping me saved but also involved by "abiding" in me according to his will and inspite of mine.
    See my just previous comment to see what this calvinist believes concerning whether a believer keeps himself saved.
    The "alternative" is unsaved "professors" who produce no fruit.
    To demonstrate there will be false professors in the church who are, in fact, unsaved and who are known by their lack of producing fruit.

    Alex, what of our Lord's statement at the end, that the fruits demonstrate they are disciples. He is not saying the ones that were "cut off" and "burned" are disciples, too, is He? Jesus made the distinction to show that those who produce fruit are real disciples and the others were not.

    It seems to me the "calvinist" view looks at the whole of the passage, and understands it rightly in relationship with other texts on the subject.

    You have looked at part of the passage and simply generated more questions than you have answered.

    peace to you:praying:
     
    #17 canadyjd, Dec 10, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 10, 2007
  18. canadyjd

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    Alex: Consider the verse of the parable
    There is no doubt that Jesus is teaching that if you want to be identified as His disciple, you will bear much fruit and that will bring glory to the Father.

    The question is, does being a "disciple" equal being "saved"? From what you have written, I gather you do not believe being a "disciple" equals being "saved." This seems to come back to the Lordship issue, doesn't it?

    Please look at the two kinds of people identified here, a disciple and a non-disciple.

    1. "disciple": He abides in Christ and Christ abides in him. He produces fruit to the glory of the Father.

    2. "non-disciple": He does not abide in Christ. Christ does not abide in him. He produces no fruit. He is cut off, withered, gathered and burned.

    Even if I had never heard of John MacArthur, I think I could tell there is a difference here. All that talk about getting "cut off" and "burned" sounds a lot like hell to me. But maybe you see it as something else.

    peace to you:praying:
     
    #18 canadyjd, Dec 10, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 10, 2007
  19. psalms109:31

    psalms109:31
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    Abiding in Christ

    Those who are His is believers. These are whom the Father has given to Jesus. The meek and humble who trust in the name of the Lord.

    There is people who are tripped off of a cliff by an accident, the angels will be sent to save them from hell, but those who purposely jump off the cliff knowing what you are doing and putting are Lord our God to a test, you will find disappointment at the bottom of the cliff.
     
  20. MB

    MB
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    Hi Alex.
    There is a little something I think maybe you have over looked. I believe it's justification. Any fruit I have, I certainly hope it was produced by Christ' Spirit. There are a lot of people who claim Christ who are so far away from Christ they just don't ever consider Him the ruler of there lives.

    I'm not exactly a Calvinist and most who know me here could vouch for that. However I believe in the OSAS position though not exactly like Calvinist do. You have an interesting point but the fact is it isn't really up to us who is saved and who isn't, it's up to Christ. We believe and we even have some faith but it isn't our faith that saves us. This is where I think you may be confused. I would encourage you to read all of Galations 2.

    Gal 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

    If you will notice that Justification is by the faith of Christ. If it were by the faith of men I could see your point but the faith of Christ is perfect faith. This verse acknowledges that we believe that we might be justified. It doesn't say we will be.

    If you could show where we are saved by our faith I would consider it. The problem you would have to over come to do this of course is show that the faith of Christ isn't as perfect as I have believed.

    Those branches you spoke of I thought I might suggest a solution to the question of them.
    Rom 10:1 Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
    Rom 10:2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
    Rom 10:3 For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.


    We have to submit, everyone of us. This means our will to His the Jews wouldn't have it. they rejected Christ and when they did they couldn't produce any fruit and they were cut off and well you know the rest.
    MB
     

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