Working Bearing Fruit (John 15:1-8)
What is the fruit of the Christian? Individuals want to do several things with this text. Some want to identify this fruit as the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal 5), yet that fruit is the fruit the Spirit produces in our lives. Some want to talk about denominational churches being the branches; the good they do is the fruit.
The fruit here seems to be souls–the fruit of a Christian is another Christian. Paul wanted to preach in Rome so that he might have some fruit there (Rom 1:13). Epaenetus is the firstfruits of Christ in Achaia (Rom 16:5). We were won to Christ in order that we might bear fruit for God (Rom 7:4).
Let us examine what God teaches about bearing fruit:
The Work of Christ, v 1
Christ is the true vine. This juxtaposes him to those who are not the true vine.
The Israelites often thought of themselves as a vine. A great golden vine decorated the Temple Porch. The coinage minted during the Maccabean revolt had the symbol of a vine. The Old Testament spoke of the Israelites as a vine (Ps 80:8; Jer 2:21). Each time the OT spoke of Israel as a vine, the writers spoke of how miserably Israel had failed in its purpose.
Jesus isn’t an imitation vine–he’s the real thing.
As the true vine, Jesus gives life to the branches. A branch cannot bear fruit of itself; therefore, the disciples must remain in Jesus. The branch by itself can do nothing; it needs the vine. We as Christians can do nothing by ourselves; we need Jesus.
Jesus cleanses his disciples through the word. “Cleanse” here means “ready to bear fruit.” The preparation the apostles needed to bear fruit was their hearing Jesus’ message.
God’s Word purifies us. A young man can cleanse his way by heeding God’s Word (Ps 119:9). The word sanctifies us (Jn 17:17).
Are you in the vine, clean, and ready to bear fruit?
The Work of the Father, vv 1-2
The Father is the vinedresser. He isn’t merely someone who cares for the vines. He is the owner of the vineyard.
The branches which bear no fruit he takes away. Vine dressers do two things to keep the vine growing well. In the winter, they cut off the dry and withered branches. In the spring, they remove the rank and useless growth from the branches. Here, the Father is depicted as pruning and cutting something which, something which will help the vine to grow.
This shows that Christians can fall away–The Father actually removes growth which had been a part of the vine.
The branch that yields fruit the Father prunes. This helps the branch continue growing–these branches keep on bearing more fruit. This is like the discipline spoken of elsewhere. God allows us to be disciplined so that we can grow in the faith (Heb 12:5-11). As we endure difficulties, we are better able to bear fruit.
Has the Father taken you away or is he pruning you for more work?
The Work of the Disciples, vv 3-8
They must bear fruit. Those branches which bear no fruit are taken away. The Lord expects Christians to bear fruit.
Christians should expect themselves to win souls. George Whitefield said, “O Lord, give me souls, or take my soul.” Henry Martyn, a missionary to India, said, “Here let me burn out for God.” Mrs. Comstock, a missionary in India, prayed when she sent her children home, “Lord Jesus, I do this for thee.”
They must be clean. Although the word Jesus spoke cleanses them, the disciples must be clean. God cannot use impure lives to spread his Word.
They must remain in Christ. Just as a branch can’t bear fruit by itself, neither can a Christian bear fruit by himself. Really bearing fruit is a joint venture with God–God works through us.
Abiding in Christ refers to having fellowship with him. Fellowship with Christ means we live the way he lived (1 Jn 2:6). Do you have union with Christ?
The one who abides in Christ bears much fruit. One cannot be in Christ and not bearing fruit–it just doesn’t work that way.
Jesus outlines the disciples’ mission. Many will believe in him through the word (Jn 17:20). He sends his apostles as his Father sent him (Jn 20:21).
The one in Christ doesn’t just bear some fruit here and there; he bears much fruit.
Apart from Jesus we can do nothing. We cannot win souls unless we are in union with him. Martin Luther prayed, “Do Thou, my God, do Thou, God, stand by me against all the world’s wisdom and reason. O do it! Thou must do it. Stand by me. Thou True, Eternal God!”
The one who doesn’t abide in Christ is thrown out as a branch. Branches on a vine that bear no fruit are useless–Branches in Christ that bear no fruit are useless. Those branches that bear no fruit are burned–those in Christ who bear no fruit are burned.
The Father is glorified by our bearing fruit (Jn 15:8).
In that way we will prove to be Jesus’ disciples.
Are you a true disciple?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Owingsville church of Christ in Owingsville, Kentucky.