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.
and every branch that bears fruit
The literal rendering of this phrase is “each [branch] bearing fruit” (present active participle). The reference is to the very class of those in the previous clause, to believers. Moss, insects, parasites, and dirt need to be cleansed from the branch.
He prunes [cleanses, trims],
In context, the idea of pruning here is discipline of the believer. The verb for “prunes” is cleanses. The next verse uses the noun for “cleanses.” It is important to see the connection between the verb here and the noun in the next verse— “You are already clean.” The point of “already clean” is that the apostles Jesus spoke to at this moment had been previously justified in God’s eyes. Judas, who was there earlier, was not clean (Jn 13:10). He was a person with close connection to Christ but was never a genuine disciple (Jn 17:12).
The idea is not to take the branch away but to clean it so it bears fruit. The Father does this through Jesus’ “word” (Jn 15:3). As the believer applies the word to his or her life, he or she becomes cleaner. Obstructions against living a godly life are removed point by point.
After the Gardener lifts the branch up, He cuts off anything unproductive about the branch, whatever may be the portions of the branch that are blunting its growth. A grape vine would produce more if it is trimmed. A gardener cuts off dead sprouts to give it more vitality. A pruned branch would provide more nourishment if it were cleansed.
The question of pruning here does not pertain to status on the vine but to fruitfulness. Some believers do not bear fruit. The Master Gardener distinguishes between productive and unproductive branches. Once He makes His judgment, then He deals with believers according to their production. Unproductive branches are cleansed so that they become more fruitful. The Father removes anything detrimental to the believer’s life. That may mean reordering our priorities or values.
that it may bear more fruit.
The goal of pruning or trimming is to produce “more fruit.” Note verse 1 mentioned “fruit,” singular. Here it is “more fruit.” Later, in verses 5 and 8, the phraseology is “much fruit.” The purpose of pruning or cleaning is to produce abundant fruit, not to cut the branch off the vine.
God disciplines believers to bring them to maturity, to bearing fruit.
Pruning or cleansing is a symbol for discipline of the believer. The biblical purpose for divine discipline is not punishment but spiritual restoration and strengthening. It is important to note that the Father does not prune the entire branch (the believer) but only the part of the branch that hinders fruit growing. He does this through discipline of the believer (He 12:6) to produce the “peaceful fruit of righteousness” (He 12:11). This discipline may not always relate to sin, but sometimes the purpose is to prevent sin.
God uses discipline to train the believer in godliness (He 12:6,7). The means has an end—to bring the believer into maturity. It was good for the psalmist to be afflicted (Ps 119:67,71). The means of discipline is to bring us into subjection to God and His Word. The dynamics of the Word of God refine believers (He 4:12; 2 Co 7:1; Ps 119:9,11).
God prunes the production of an individual believer. He is in the business of ridding Himself of dead wood. This will allow for His branches to produce more fruit.
God also cleanses churches. He has clear markers or boundaries between a church that represents Him and one that does not. Some churches die on the vine and God shuts them down. They have no biblical reason to exist. They do not win people to Christ or grow believers into maturity.