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.