2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
He [the Father] takes away [lifts up];
The Father has two functions regarding the branches: (1) to lift up and (2) to prune or cleanse. These are decisive actions by the Father. The thrust behind these two ideas is the bearing of fruit, not that true believers can lose their salvation. The focus of verses 1-8 is “fruit,” “more fruit” and “much fruit.” Fruit is the purpose of growing a vine.
The gospel of John uses the Greek word for “takes away” 23 times in the gospel, 8 of which we can translate “lift up” (Jn 5:8-12; 8:59; 10:18,24). The 13 other times are necessarily translated take away or remove.
Our context demands that we translate the Greek word as lifts up. We must determine the meaning of the words “takes away” by the setting of the argument. It was a common practice in the viticulture of Israel in the first century to lift a branch so that it could produce more fruit. A branch lying on the ground suffered disease and rot.
The Father as the Gardener keeps the branch from hitting the ground. Lifting branches would expose them to the direct sun so that photosynthesis would occur. Grapes do not do well lying on the ground, as does a pumpkin for example. The viticulture here is that of lifting the branch off the ground to put it on a trellis to allow for air to dry the branch and prevent mold and disease from infecting it.
The Father addressed these words to the 11 apostles—that is, to believers only. Jesus spoke only to genuine believers here. We determine the meaning by discovering those to whom a writing is addressed. Jesus spoke in this passage to apostles, not to those who profess faith in Him. Judas had left at this point in the conversation and did not hear the analogy of the vine and branches.
Note that the grammar in the phrase “the branch not bearing fruit” is something going on (present participle). Evidently the branch had borne fruit as a believer in fellowship, but it is not bearing now.
Left to themselves branches will be unproductive for fruitful service and discarded. The Father will deal with the believer who produces nothing. He will act on believers who do not yield a spiritual harvest. Therefore, lifting the branch that is unproductive is necessary. The point of gardening is to harvest food.
God’s aim for the believer is to bear fruit.
There are many kinds of fruit that believers are to bear if they are to live vitally before God. They will have changed attitudes, desires, motives, and actions. Their faith will produce work (argument of James). Their dynamic will spring from their faith, their coming to harmony with God and His Word.