“I enjoy reading your articles on Incarnate, and I appreciate the fact that you always include Scripture in them. However, I don’t always agree with your conclusions, especially when it comes to the topic of different religious groups. Haven’t you read John 15:1-8? Don’t you know that when Jesus said, “I am the vine and you are the branches,” He was talking about denominations…?”
Thank you for your kind words as well as your willingness to study the Word with me. Let’s look at your question together:
Jesus couldn’t have been referring to different denominations in John 15 because none of them were in existence at that time.
- Roman Catholicism did not begin until AD 325–almost 300 years after the Lord established His church back in Acts 2 (cf. Mat. 16:18).
- The first Protestant denominations were started around 1517.
How could Jesus have said, “You ARE the branches,” if the branches did not come into existence until several hundred years later?
A vine cannot maintain its life without bearing branches and fruit.
If Jesus was referring to denominations in John 15, that would mean that the church remained both branchless and fruitless until until religious diversity sprang forth several centuries in the future.
A vine yields only ONE type of fruit.
As a boy growing up in East Tennessee, I often watched my father raise grapes.
He loved grapes and homemade grape jelly, and that love was seen in his devotion to and care for his vines.
As a result, his vines produced grapes year after year, but THEY ONLY BORE GRAPES.
They never bore grapes, and tomatoes, and watermelons (read Genesis 1:11-12).
If Jesus had wanted to sanction denominationalism and religious division, He would have needed another comparison than that of the vine and the branches because A VINE BEARS ONLY ONE TYPE OF FRUIT–grapevines only yield grapes.
By contrast, Protestant denominationalism has produced countless religious faiths and groups.
Jesus obviously isn’t pleased with this kind of fruit.
Two chapters after He spoke about the vine and the branches He prayed, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; THAT THEY ALL MAY BE ONE…” (John 17:20, 21).
Did Jesus’ teaching and practice contradict His prayer life?
Jesus was referring to individuals, not denominations.
The very context of the passage bears this out.
NOTE: “Jesus said, ‘I am the vine, YOU (i.e., His disciples) are the branches. He (i.e., His disciple) who abides in Me, and I in Him (i.e., His disciple), bears much fruit…If a man (i.e., His disciple) abides not in Me, He (i.e., His disciple) is cast forth as a branch, and is withered…” (John 15:4).
Thank you for this good question.
“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!” – Mike