The Fruit of the Vine
BY KEVIN LANDIS
JOHN CHAPTER 15 opens with the Lord declaring that He is the True Vine and that while all those who make a profession of faith are branches in Him, the ones that bear no fruit are cut off by His Father. To be "cut off" is language that has to do with being condemned on Judgment Day.
Remember the admonition Jesus gave in Matthew 7? On the last day many will stand before Him and say, "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied and done many wonderful things in your name?", and He will tell them, "I never knew you. Depart from me, ye that work iniquity."
So, John 15 is teaching that not all who consider themselves to be in Christ are saved. Only those that bear fruit are true believers. A person can profess Christ with his lips, but in his heart of hearts, he is a stranger to Christ. Having no manifestation of fruit in his life, he will be condemned to hell on Judgment Day.
We must therefore ask ourselves: "Am I a fruit-bearing branch in Christ?" To help us answer that question, let's look at three aspects of the fruit that is mentioned in John 15: the nature of this fruit; the way it manifests itself in the life of the believer; and the result of that manifestation.
What fruit is Jesus talking about?Eight times in this chapter, Jesus talks about those who abide in Him bearing fruit, more fruit or much fruit. What is this fruit that He is speaking of?
Many teach that it refers to soul-winninggoing into the world with the gospel. But while the Greek word for fruit, karpos, is used once (out of 66 times) in connection with evangelism (John 4:36), it cannot be so interpreted in the context of John 15.
Like the thief on the cross, there are people who are saved in their deathbeds. Never having carried out the Great Commission, these believers would nevertheless still be loved, not cut off, by the Father.
Rather, the fruit that Jesus is speaking of is, in a word, Christlikeness. To bear fruit is to produce in one's life those qualities and characteristics that are like unto Jesus Christ.
Work of salvation. This is that great work of salvation that God had purposed to accomplish even before the foundations of the world. Romans 8:29 declares that believers have been predestined by God to be conformed to the likeness of His Son.
This is the imagery the Lord uses in John 15: He is the vine and believers are branches joined to Him. As the life of Christ flows through the believers, they grow in grace and become more and more like Him.
Using that same analogy, Paul says to the church at Galatia: "I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you" (Gal. 4:19). He is saying, I'm enduring labor pain until you are made into the image of Christ.
Specifics. Christlikeness, of course, is a broad definition. But the Bible also specifies in many passages what that encompasses.
Most of you are probably familiar with Galatians 5:22,23: "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." These are the results generated in the life of the believer by the ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
But the Bible speaks of fruit in many other verses as well.
In Ephesians 5:8-10, Paul reminds believers that they were formerly in darkness, but are now light in the Lord, and exhorts them to "walk as children of the lighttrying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord." In the middle of that statement, he says parenthetically, "for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth."
In Hebrews 12:11, we read, "Discipline, for the moment, does not seem to be joyful, but sorrowful. Yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness." Here, we see that discipline by God brings about the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
Ministering to the needs of others is yet another facet of Christlikeness. We read in Titus 3:14, "Let our people learn to engage in good deeds, to meet pressing needs, that they may not be unfruitful."
There is also fruit that comes from our lips. Hebrews 13:15 says, "Through Christ, let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to his name."
How is the fruit manifested?How is this Christlikeness manifested in the life of a born-again believer? It begins with the inner man.
It causes a fundamental change in the believer's character.
Many people think that bearing fruit means doing the right things. They have a hit list: these things I do, these things I don't do. By following those rules, they think they are bearing fruit. But fruit bearing is not merely external activity. One can do many good things, but still does not have an inward change of character.
Listen to what God has to say about those who, by the grace of God, know the Lord:I will put my law within them and on their heart I will write it. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach again each man his brother, saying, "Know the Lord," for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity and their sin I will remember no more (Jer. 31:33,34).Notice that they know the Lord because God has written His law upon their heart. They do good things not by following an external list of things to do. It's not someone beating them over the head with a club, saying, "You ought to behave this way." It's not self-reformation. No, they do things differently because God has changed their character.
"If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation," we read in II Corinthians 5:17. In Christ, a born-again person is altogether different from what he was in Adam. No longer self-centered, he is now a child of God, a believer who has a heart that is manifested in the regenerated man is this: There is a sincere desire to please God, a heartfelt motivation to do all things unto the glory of God.
Many people think that bearing fruit means doing the right things. They have a hit list: these things I do,
Remember how noble Judas appeared when he criticized Mary for pouring a bottle of perfume on Jesus' feet? He said it could be sold and the money given to the poor. But the Word of God reveals that he wasn't concerned about the poor at all. He was a thief and wanted to help himself to the money. Behind his noble act was a selfish motive.
The true believer, on the other hand, really wants to do the will of God. Remembering that God has saved him from an eternity in hell, he wants to express his gratitude by living a life that is pleasing to his Savior. And he is happiest when he can do so.
Progressive. As I said earlier, the Christlikeness that is manifested in the life of a believer always begins with the inner man. Only after it has manifested itself in one's inner being, does it begin to manifest itself in one's conduct. When we ask ourselves, "Am I a fruit-bearing branch in Christ?", we need to determine if there is a manifestation of this fruit in my heart and soul, a manifestation in my character.
Now, bearing fruit is progressive. In all that I have said, I'm not at all indicating that a true believer is one who has all of this perfected in his life. That's not the case.
Jesus says in this text there are those who bear fruit, and as they abide in Christ, they bear more fruit. As they abide in Christ, they bear much fruit. In other words, there is a distinction even among believers.
and a mind that is more and more like Christ's.
Submission. For one thing, he begins to submit to the authority of God's Word. He respects everything that the Bible teaches. He tries to keep the commandments of God not because he has to but because he wants to. And there is a renewed and active conscience in him. Reflecting this fact, Paul says in Acts 24:16: "I do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience before God and man."
The fruit of a believer also manifests in his affections, that is, what he loves. In Deuteronomy 6, Moses told the people of Israel that they were to teach their children to love the Lord their God with all their heart, with all their soul, with all their mind, with all their strength, with all their being. That's the description of a true believer. In his heart of hearts, he loves Christ. He loves God.
We saw earlier that it's only because God has written His law in the heart of His people that they have a new character. That's why Jesus says here in John 15:5: "He who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing." The true believer realizes that and so, humility is also manifested as a fruit of salvation.
New motives. In Proverbs 16:2, the Bible says: "All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the motives."
You see, God is concerned about our motives. He is more interested in why we do the things that we do than in what we do. And one fruit
Some are well along in Christian maturity, others are not. Still others are just beginning to bear fruit.
Only after Christlikeness has manifested itself in one's inner being, does it begin to mani
What's important, though, is that in every child of God, there is fruit being produced. Moreover, although the rate of growth is not the same for every one of them, there will always be some growth. Every branch that bears fruit, Jesus says, the Father prunes so that it may bear more fruit.
What does it accomplish?What are the results when fruit is born in a believer's life? Jesus says in verse 8, "By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit..."
Humanism says that man is the end of all things. It says that we ought to do everything for ourselves. But self-glorification is a dead-end street. The Bible tells us that we were created to glorify God. This is the chief end of man.
And when the likeness of Christ is manifested in my life, God is glorified. Why? Because I could not possibly have produced that fruit had God not graciously changed my character, conforming me to His image. And bringing glory to God is our great calling. It's the reason that God redeemed us.
Proof of salvation. Verse 8 also shows us the second result: "By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples." Or, as another translation puts it: "so shall you be my disciples."
Jesus is not saying that we bear fruit as a means to become His disciples. That would be altogether contrary to scripture. What He is saying is that as you bear fruit, you will demonstrate that you are truly a disciple of Mine. Being fruitful thus serves to assure the believer that he is indeed
united with Christ.
We find this truth expressed a little differently in I John 5:13: "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life."
Misapplication. I remember when I was in college, I was involved in an evangelistic campaign. We were told that when people show some interest in the gospel, all we have to do is to tell them to pray the sinner's prayer, and then show them this verse and say, "Here's why you can have an assurance of your salvation."
Now I realize that the apostle John did not write that verse with the idea that as soon as someone prays the sinner's prayer or says that he believes in Christ, he can, according to that verse, know for sure that he has eternal life.
What John is really saying is this: I've written all these things in this whole epistle so that you can examine your life and see if they are true of your life. If so, then you can rest assured that Christ is your Lord and Savior.
Warnings. Among the warnings that John presents in his first epistle are: If we say that we have come to know Christ but do not keep His commandments, then we're a liar and the truth is not in us. If we say that we love Christ but do not love our brethren, then we fail the test. If we claim that we believe Christ but still love the world or things of the world, then we don't have the love of the Father in us.
And so, John concludes: Only those that meet the test, whose life is characterized by the things he has called attention to, are the ones who have the assurance of eternal life.
In closing, let me urge you to examine your life carefully. Remember, only the branches that abide in the True Vine will produce fruit, and only fruitful branches are children of God. If you are in Christ, fruit will be manifested in your life without exception, and that fruit will bring glory to God. o
Rev. Kevin Landis is pastor of Bible Chapel of Delhi Hills, 705 Pontius Road, Cincinnati, OH 45238.
Back To Top
Back To Previous Page