In re-reading John 15 the other day, I noticed that the New King James Version had an alternate translation of verse 2. In most translations, this verse reads, "He cuts off (removes, takes away) any branch in me that does not bear fruit, while any branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." The New King James, in a footnote, says, "also He lifts up" instead of removes or cuts off.
As I read and thought, I began to wonder why "lifts up" is not more widely used. Is "cut off" used because of the word given in verse 6? If lifting up a branch perhaps produces more fruit on the vine, wouldn't it make sense that the Gardener, who is most interested in seeing more fruit, would lift up the branch rather than remove it? Jesus says in verse 8, "This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples." In verse 2 He says that the Gardener (the Father) prunes branches so that "they will bear even more fruit." God's desire is to see fruit, not to have firewood.
Also, in verse 2, Christ says, "Any branch in me," which leads me to think that Christ isn't interested in cutting those branches off. The New Testament talks time and time again about our being "in Christ," much more so than Christ being in us, actually. It is troubling to me to think that my standing in Christ can be based on my fruit or lack thereof; who in the Body of Christ could remain in Him if our "in-ness" was based on us? Who in the Body abides in Him perfectly moment by moment? Our salvation is by grace, as is our abiding. Verse 2 translated "cuts off" would seem to make my position in Him more tenuous than it is, considering I am sealed with the Holy Spirit, a deposit guaranteeing my inheritance (Ephesians 1:13-14).
In the ESV study Bible, mention is made of the "lifts up" possibility, but it discounts it because in verse 6, the unfruitful in Christ are thrown away and burned, symbolizing judgment and hell. But the NIV translates verse 6 to say, "If anyone does not remain in me (doesn't say "anyone in me") he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned." It seems that the problem for this branch is that it is not in Christ, and therefore has no life. It withers and is only good for one thing – firewood.
I vaguely remembered that Bruce Wilkinson had written a book along the "lifts up" angle, though I never read it. So I did a google search for "Bruce Wilkinson, vine, lifted up" and the first link I found was this one.
I also found this article online.
And this one. (For contrasting views see here, and here. )
To me, lift up makes sense and seems consistent with what I believe is the point of John 15, which is that we learn the secret of bearing fruit. It's not that I don't think there will be judgment, it's just that I think that Christ was talking more about fruit than judgment in this passage. What do you all think?