DOES JOHN 15:6 DISCREDIT THE NOTION OF “ONCE SAVED, ALWAYS SAVED?”
by Shawn Brasseaux
“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.” This, John 15:6, is commonly employed to prove the idea of “loss of salvation.” Allegedly, if Christians do not bear fruit (that is, have a life replete with sin instead of maintaining good works), they will lose their place in Heaven. Father God will disown them from His family if they do not practice holy living. Is that what John 15:6 teaches? “For what saith the Scriptures?” We need not concern ourselves with “For what saith the denomination?” and “For what saith the preacher?”
In John chapters 13–16 (the general context), Jesus Christ is speaking in the upper room on the night of His arrest and trial. These are His words to Israel’s believing remnant, the Little Flock, the disciples, after they have eaten the Last Supper. With that background in mind, we now turn to the pages of God’s Holy Word.
John 15:1 begins: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.” The concept of the vine is nothing new in Scripture. Psalm 80:8 says, “Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it.” Incontestably, this refers to Israel, especially when compared to Isaiah chapter 5: “ Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill:  And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes….  For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.” Israel is God’s vine.
Apparently, however, Israel as a vine brought forth wild fruit—fruit that God did not accept. The Jews became involved with pagan religion, idol worship, heathenism. Their nation now corrupted, they became a nation that God had neither created nor intended. Therefore, Jesus says, “I am the true vine.” If Israel will be God’s people, His nation of people in the Earth, they must be associated with Jesus Christ, for Jesus Christ is “well pleasing” in God’s sight (Matthew 3:17). Israel will be saved “in the Lord,” justified, given a right standing before JEHOVAH God. Turn to Isaiah chapter 45, to read: “ Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed.  In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.” As opposed to being “in the Lord,” one is naturally “in Adam” (a Hell-bound sinner). This “two-headship” issue is found in Romans 5:12-21.
The Lord Jesus says His Heavenly Father is the “husbandman,” or farmer, in John 15:1. However, Satan is also laboring in Israel—except he is trying to bring about his own nation, a people that will accomplish his will in the Earth. See Matthew 13:24-43—God’s work and Satan’s counterfeit work in Israel.
Now, we go back to John chapter 15, and pick up with verse 2: “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.”
In Israel’s program, faith produces works. JEHOVAH God aims to create Israel as a literal, physical, visible, earthly nation. Consequently, they will have literal, physical, visible, earthly blessings and literal, physical, visible, earthly works. This all starts by being “in me,” Christ said, or what is a spiritual issue to bring about the physical issue. There is to be fruit-bearing among believing Jews, just as James chapter 2 says, but those works are the result of God working in the believers rather than believers (or unbelievers) struggling to be justified before God. Such confusion abounds even today as touching the Church the Body of Christ.
Returning to John chapter 15, and now verse 3, “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” This concept links to the purging of verse 2. God cleans the Messianic Jews by using His Word. Jesus Christ spoke God’s Word to Israel so that Israel would have a chance to be clean—that is, become Father God’s servants (cf. John 17:1-26). They could bear the fruit that He wanted them to produce in them long ago, when they came out of Egypt under Moses. He would not accept their “wild fruit” of Isaiah 5:2. He has to create a new Israel, a born-again Israel, a nation spiritually born of Him instead of born of Satan (see John 8:44 and 1 John 3:1-15).
Moving on to John 15:4, which says, “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.” Jesus Christ is speaking in light of all the nation Israel. He is sending out His 12 Apostles (not Judas Iscariot but Matthias) to convert the other Jews. These unbelievers must be told to abide in Jesus Christ, as He will abide in them. He is the vine, life source, and they are the branches. Without Him, they will not be able to bear fruit that God accepts. Unless they come to faith in Jesus Christ, they will not become the nation God wants. The vine provides the branches with nourishment; the vine, not the branches, is directly attached to the roots. Religion, even God’s religion (Judaism), will not help these lost Jews. They need to be in Christ: they should come to Jesus by faith in Him being Messiah, in order to be God’s earthly people!!
Christ now says in John 15:5: “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.” This points back to verses 1 and 4. Jesus Christ is the vine, the true nation Israel. If Israel is to be the nation God intended, they must be in Jesus Christ. They have to have a personal relationship with Him by faith. Whoever abides in Him, and He in them, they will bring forth much fruit. It is not that they will simply produce fruit; they will produce a lot of fruit. Without Him, they cannot do anything. The branches depend on the vine, and so the believing Jew relies on Jesus Christ. Works are not the primary issue; faith is first and foremost, and then works demonstrate that faith. (Go back to our comments about “literal, physical, visible, earthly” Israel having “literal, physical, visible, earthly” works.)
Finally, John 15:6, the “problem verse:” “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.” This is a warning, not to the Apostles or any other believers in Israel, but to the people to whom the Apostles will minister. The Apostles must caution their unsaved Jewish brethren of the dangers of not abiding in Christ. Unbelievers will be cast forth as a withered branch, thrown into the fire and burned. This is the all-consuming fire at the Second Coming (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 and Matthew 13:30,37-43), giving way to the flames of Hell and the Lake of Fire.
John 15:6 is no threat against believers (either Messianic Jews of old or us Christians today in the Dispensation of Grace). It has nothing to do with working to stay saved or you wind up in Hell. There is nothing here about anyone losing salvation, losing justification, losing eternal life. It is a warning to the unsaved audience of the Apostles, those whom the Apostles are to warn when they begin their ministries in the Book of Acts. For the remainder of this study, we will briefly survey more of the chapter to gain additional insight.
Reading John 15:7, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” If they abide in Him—lost Jews getting into Christ by faith—and they as believers then let God’s Word get into them, their prayers will be answered. Unanswered prayer is a very troubling issue for so many, but it does not have to be. Prayer is simply talking to God in light of His Word to you. It is not (NOT!!!) talking to God in light of His Word to someone else. Unanswered prayer results from us expecting Father God to do something He did not say He would do for us. He may have told someone else He would do it for them, but He never told us He would do it for us. We go to Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon, for God’s Word to us. Paul is “the apostle of the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13), the Lord Jesus Christ’s spokesman to us in this “the Dispensation of Grace” (Ephesians 3:2). We do not come and grab verses from John chapter 15 and force them on us.
Go ahead and read more from John chapter 15 about Israel’s fruit-bearing: “ Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.  As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.  If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.  These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.  This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.  Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.  Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.  Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.  Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.”
“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 15:6). This passage is used today to make Christian good works compulsory. Preachers and Bible teachers cry out, “You had better have works to prove your salvation or God will throw you out of His family!” They primarily use this verse to refute the “once saved, always saved” slogan Bible believers have gained a reputation for saying. It is claimed, “John 15:6 is one passage that shows us that there is no such thing as ‘once saved and always saved’ in the Bible! Jesus says He will reject and burn those who do not abide in Him!”
It is undeniable that the Lord Jesus says in John (once again), “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.” However, this admonition should be considered in light of something highly significant. It is not a threat to believers (“you had better work or you will lose your salvation”) but a warning to unbelievers in Israel who fail to come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ!! Those Jews who have not joined the Little Flock, Israel’s believing remnant, will be consumed when Jesus Christ returns at His Second Coming (note Zechariah 13:8-9). They must be a part of redeemed Israel—they must forsake apostate, satanic Israel—or they will face God’s endless wrath! This is the message entrusted to the Little Flock, for them to preach to their unbelieving brethren, lost Jews. John 15:6 is spoken with their audience in mind.
By the way, one more thing. God’s grace is not against good works (Titus 2:11-15). Our Christian lives are to be filled with good works (Ephesians 2:10). However, fear and guilt do not motivate us to do right (that would be legalism). We are under grace and not law (Romans 6:14-15). Gratitude to Father God for what He has done for us—sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins—is what compels us to yield our lives to His will. See 2 Corinthians 5:14-21. It is highly significant that nothing like John 15:6 appears in the entire Book of Titus, and yet Titus abounds with instructions about maintaining good works under grace. Surely, John 15:6 was never intended to be a threat to us Christians—especially believers in the Dispensation of Grace and the Church the Body of Christ.