John 15 records a parable of Jesus’. There is the ‘vine’, representing Jesus. There are the branches; they all are ‘in me’, i.e., in Jesus, who is ‘the vine’ – figuratively speaking, not absolutely or literally, which is impossible.
The ‘branches’ represent two ‘types’ of branches; only the two. The ‘branches’ are not a figure for each individual human, by no means! They represent either, those ‘individuals’ (collectively) who do not bear fruit, and that, because of being not-fruit-bearing-branches, are “taken away”.
A wine farmer will tell you these not-fruit-bearing-branches just steal the fruit-bearing branches’ sunlight. Maybe a few will be left on the vine to help photosynthesis; they are not given a hope to someday start bearing fruit. So those with no use to the benefit of the fruit-bearing branches, are cut out and thrown away as they never were of any use anyway. In the parable it seems not a single one of the non-fruit-bearing-branches meant anything to the Husbandman. Now who is going to argue with Him He should have been more patient with those useless branches? (I know of one if I’m not mistaken.)
As for the other, single, ‘type’ of branches. They too do not represent believers individually, but all of such individuals in whom Jesus says He, abides (5b, “… and I in him abideth”), collectively.
This parable is about “The True VINE”, in the first and last analysis – not about the branches. The parable is aimed at teaching Jesus’ followers their dependence on Him, as the branches are dependent on the vine! – “Without Me ye can do nothing”.
Please note that no branch can do anything by his own ability – not even remove itself from the branch! That is meant absolutely and literally in the parable, because the Father decides when and where and which branch, He, may ‘take away’. We are also told the Father takes away only, not-fruit-bearing-branches – “every branch in the vine that bears no fruit” (vs 2)– but He takes away no, fruit-bearing branches, ever!
So could the fruit-bearing branches have the ability to cut themselves out from amongst the others of the same or of the different, no-fruit-bearing-branches? Not at all! In another parable (The parables must contribute to the understanding of one another because parables are not perfect examples.), Jesus tells us the husbandman erected a fence around the vineyard, so that nobody from outside may cause harm to it. So we have the double security the fruit-bearing-branches are unable to sever themselves from the vine. It is the faithfulness of the Good Husbandman that assures they stay in the vine – not the branches by virtue of some inherent capability or some natural freedom. The day and instant it would be separated from the vine – by way of supposition said – it would die. The fact it stays alive is by staying in the vine and by not being removed by the husbandman. It has no life or will of its own. It is a parable, yet true.
But could the branches in themselves have the choice or the ability to either bear fruit or no fruit, and so have the choice or the ability to get themselves cut off and thrown out? Could such a quality be the determining factor whether the branch stays in the vine or is cut out of the vine? “Without Me you can do nothing!” The branch can’t even fool the husbandman so as to have itself cut off and taken away.
How is that, possible? Is the branch really left powerless and helpless – ‘like a robot without batteries’? The answer is the deciding factor! “No more can ye, except, ye abide in Me!” (4c) You will abide in Me not of yourself, but of the husbandman’s goodwill, and … because, “you are clean through the Word I have spoken to you!” You are cut clean of all self-will and self-ability; you are ‘stripped to the branch’; not a leave for own energy-generation is left on you. “I have spoken to you: Abide in Me!” is the power and the life behind the life of the branch, useless, or fruit-bearing.
There’s the secret! While baring the branch of every extrinsic value through the Word Spoken, it is emptied of all intrinsic power, and left –left in the vine’s life– completely and utterly, helpless and self-less. So that God can work in him and through him. (Calvin: The Sabbath is meant for us to rest from our own works, so that God can work within us His own works.) So that He, through us, can bring forth much and splendid fruit. The Word of God shall not return to Him empty.
The fruit-bearing branch is, “in, the vine”. It is not (in this parable), ‘engrafted’. It did not of itself protrude from the vine; it has been there all the time. It bears fruit, or it bears no fruit.
Two things, no, three, determine whether it bears fruit, or does not bear fruit. “The branch cannot bear fruit of itself.” (4)
One. It must first be “cleansed” and “be, clean”, in order to bear fruit.
How? Through the Word God has spoken in Christ.
Two. It must ‘abide’ in its very original condition of total dependence, “in the vine”.
How? Through the Father deciding and taking away or not taking away, but leaving the brach, in order to ‘abide’ … in peace, waiting on a faithful Husbandman to protect it from the enemy, to feed it through the Vine, and to keep it clean of any diverting energy channels, so that it can bear fruit, and fulfill its redemption from having been created a non-fruit-bearing branch.
Three. “Ye shall ask what ye will, and, it shall be done, unto you.” You shall not be able to boast, ‘I, abode in the vine; I, grafted myself in; I, persevered, I earned, my blessings!’ On the contrary, You shall ask what you want: Thy will be done, and it, the Father’s will, shall be done unto you.
Christ only; grace only;
glory to God only. This parable from John 15. Recognise the warning against the
false security of free-will!
Post script: Why the Father hasn't left a single non-fruit-bearing-branch on or in the vine: So that the only help to live and the only source of fruit-bearing, shall be God only.
... and, so that it will never be said, I was never given the choice!