Would God Really Throw His Sons Into Fire?

According to John …

  • John 15:1-8 (KJV)I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.  Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruitNow ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.  Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.  I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.  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.  If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.  Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
  • John 15:1-8 (NRSV) … “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.
  • I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples ….”

Based on a part of the passage above (John 15:6), some have said that a believer can lose his/her salvation, which is what being “thrown into fire” represents.  Is that a correct understanding of the passage?   If so, it begs another question: Why?  Why would a loving God, who told His people not to throw their children into fire, turn around and do the same?  Clearly, there is something wrong with that picture … It doesn’t make sense.  Surely, there must be another way of understanding that passage.

What is the passage about … What is the primary message related to?

  • Note frequency of “fruit” and “bear”
  • Note John 15:2,4,5,8

What is the message re: fruit and bearing?

  1. As believers, we must bear fruit (John 15:2) … God is looking for it (Isaiah 5:1-7) … God expects it … and God will discipline and/or correct us, if necessary.
  2. To bear fruit, we must abide in the Vine (John 15:4) … We cannot bear fruit apart from the Vine … NOTE: A branch cannot produce fruit; it only bears the fruit.  Similarly, we cannot produce good fruit; It is Christ in us that produces the good fruit. (Galatians 2:20)
  3. To bear much fruit, God’s word must abide in us. (John 15:7-8; 1 Peter 2:2) … NOTE: The same means that God uses to make us clean (v.3) is the same means that He uses to help us bear much fruit (v.7) — i.e. His word (John 6:63; Hebrews 4:12)

What if we don’t bear fruit? 

John 15:2,6 (KJV) …  Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit … 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. 

John 15:2,6 (NRSV) … He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit …  Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

  1. v.2 … The branch is taken away (KJV) / removed (NRSV) … cut off (NIV).
  2. v.6 … The branch is cast (KJV) / thrown (NRSV) into the fire … and burned.

What does the branch being “taken away” mean?

  • The word translated as “taken away”, “removed” or “cut off” should be better translated as “taken away” or “taken up” or “lifted up” … given the farming practices at the time.
  • The idea is that the branch is lifted up … from the ground … so that the grapes have more space, air, etc. to grow properly.
  • So … the belief that the branch being cut off or taken away means loss of salvation is unfounded.

What about the branch being cast/thrown into the fire?

  • Some believe that pictures a believer who has backslidden or stopped producing fruit will be thrown into the fires of hell … which would mean a believer can lose his/her salvation.
  • That belief, however, is also unfounded.

So, what does the branch being cast/thrown into the fire mean/represent?

  • There are two ways to understand/explain it …
  • One way … to view the branch that is cast into the fire as an UNbeliever … to view John 15:6 as referring to a person who is not “in” Christ … and never was in Christ … and, therefore, was never saved … so the verse can’t be talking about loss of salvation because one cannot lose what one never had.
  • The second way … to view the branch that is cast into the fire as a believer … to view John 15:6 as referring to a person who is “in” Christ, BUT just NOT “abiding” in Christ … and, therefore, was saved … and, therefore, able to lose his/her salvation.
  • That second viewpoint has some challenges, however …

Why would the second viewpoint be wrong?

  • The main weakness of the second view, stated above, is that it demands that the “fire” being referred to is “the fire of hell”
  • … and we should NOT assume that’s the case.

Why shouldn’t we assume the “fire” is a reference to hell?

  • For one, the text doesn’t say so … NB: The text, John 15:6, says the branch is “burned”, not “burned up.” (not a convincing point for some/most).
  • Secondly, however, there are many scriptures that speak of “fire” in the Bible that could not be seen as referring to the fire of hell … or even to a fire of destruction.

What are some of the scriptures that speak of fires that could not refer, in any way, to the fire of hell?

  • 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 …  According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. 11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. 14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. 
  • Fire tries everyone’s work.
  • Numbers 31:23 … things passed through fire … to become clean
  • Psalm 66:11-12 … “fire” here refers to afflictions we go through … and serve a good purpose …
  • Isaiah 33:14-15 … God is the devouring fire …
  • Isaiah 43:2 …   There is a fire that we can walk through without being burned or scorched
  • Isaiah 48:10 …  We are refined, tested in the furnace (fire) of affliction
  • Jeremiah 6:28-30 … fire for refining rebels
  • Zephaniah 3:8-9 …   All earth will be devoured by God’s jealous fire … then restored
  • Zechariah 13:9 … one-third to pass through the fire … to be refined …
  • Matthew 3:11 … Jesus baptizes with fire
  • Luke 12:27-49 … Jesus longs to send fire on the earth
  • Hebrews12:29 … consuming fire (cf. Dt.4:24; Dt.9:3)
  • 1 Peter 4:12 … fiery trials
  • Revelation 15:2 … there is a sea of fire in Heaven
  • There is a fire that transforms …
  • Malachi 3:1-4, 6
  • God’s fire does not consume our beings  … it refines and purifies our natures.
  • Isaiah 4:4-5
  • God’s fire washes away the filth from off the “daughters of Zion” … but not only the daughters of Zion … from “every dwelling place”.
  • Mark 9:47-49
  • Everyone will be “seasoned” with fire.  What does “seasoned” mean?  According to one translation (GNT) … it means “purified”.

BUT … an even more important question .. What kind of God do we worship?

  • Leviticus 18:21
  • Deuteronomy 18:10 … don’t let any descendants pass through the fire to Molech
  • 2 Kings 16:3 … making sons pass through fire … an abomination
  • Jeremiah 32:35 … causing children to pass through fire … an abomination to God

 

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