What does it mean to bear much fruit?
The parable in John 15 can seem a bit abstract. Jesus is the vine, we are the branches, and God is the vinedresser. What does this all mean?
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” John 15:1-8.
Some people think the fruit referred to here has to do with the gifts of the Spirit—how many people they have won to Christ, how much they have prophesied in His name, and various other good works accomplished through the spiritual gifts. But Jesus warns that there are many who called Him “Lord, Lord” who had many such good works, who manifested the gifts of the Spirit, but nevertheless He never really knew them. (Matthew 7:21-23) When Jesus speaks about bearing fruit by abiding in Him, He is speaking about the fruit of the Spirit that comes forth in the lives of those who walk in the Spirit.
What it means to abide in Him
The bearing of fruit, the fruit of the Spirit, can only come forth by abiding in Jesus and walking in the Spirit. To abide in Jesus is a very active lifestyle! It means to live in such a way that I am always found to be in Him, to walk hand in hand with Him, to live according to His Word. “If you abide in Me, and my words abide in you …” It is clear that abiding in Jesus has to do with His words abiding in (i.e. dwelling in, having power in) my heart and mind. When the words of Jesus abide and have power in my heart and mind such that I obey them by the power of the Spirit, then the fruit of the Spirit, the virtues of Jesus, will also come forth in my life.
What it means to bear fruit
It is clear that bearing fruit—the fruit of the Spirit—is the calling of every Christian: “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” John 15:1-2.
Bearing the fruit of the Spirit is not optional in the Christian life. Bearing fruit is a result of obedience to the Word of God and the Holy Spirit’s promptings. Indifference and willful disobedience to God’s will means I am not truly a Christian—a follower of Christ—and this means I cannot have with Jesus Christ and the Father. (John 14:15-17; John 14:21,23-24; 1 John 1:6-7) Jesus Himself says here that each branch that does not bear fruit is taken away by the Father. Such a thought should awaken me to seriousness, but should not lead to discouragement, hopelessness, or heaviness. Rather, it should be an inspiration that I should bear more fruit and have fellowship with Him!
So how can I bear fruit? The fruit of the Spirit can only come forth in me by the power of the Spirit. No amount of self-effort will bear spiritual fruit. It requires a total surrender of my self-will to God so that I can obey Jesus’ words in the daily situations of life, in order for the fruit of the Spirit to come forth instead of my own nature. Such a total surrender occurs when Jesus is my first love, and reigns in my heart and mind. Then it is His will—His Word—that is done in my life, and not my own will. Then the bearing of fruit—the fruit of the Spirit, the fruit of obeying Jesus’ words—will come forth quite naturally.
What it means to be pruned
The branches that bear fruit are pruned so that they can bear even more fruit. If branches had feelings and one were to ask the branch how it feels during the pruning process, the branch would undoubtedly reply, “Quite painful!”
It can sometimes feel the same for us who are living wholeheartedly for God, and walking in the Spirit to the best of our abilities and knowledge. The fruit of the Spirit is coming forth, but there can be areas where the fruit is immature or stunted. The vinedresser comes to prune and cuts off part of the branch, in the hope that the branch will bear even more fruit—fruit that becomes more perfect and abundant with time and pruning. This is also known as God’s chastening, or His treatment with us. (Hebrews 12:5-11)
The Father is the vinedresser, and He does the pruning. He sometimes allows difficult circumstances and situations to come over us: poor finances, poor health, opposition, misunderstanding, a difficult relationship, etc. Such trials bring us to the end of our own strength in area after area, in areas where we did not know we were operating in our own strength and not in the power of the Spirit. We see our lack of the fruit of the Spirit, and it awakens in us a need for a deeper surrender to Jesus and a deeper obedience to His Word. It is written: “… the Holy Spirit that God has given to those who obey Him.” Acts 5:32.
An ever-increasing obedience to God’s Word—walking in the Spirit—brings an ever-increasing power of the Spirit, and then the fruit of the Spirit can be manifested in our lives to an increasingly greater degree.
Bearing much fruit
The joy and satisfaction that go hand in hand with the bearing of more perfect and abundant fruit are not only reserved for the vinedresser, but are shared by the branch as well. The branch shares in the joy of the vinedresser, because it is the desire of the branch to bear more perfect and abundant fruit, that the vinedresser might be glorified. That is why the branch can bear the pain of pruning, just as Jesus could bear the pain of the cross: “… who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross …” Hebrews 12:2.
Bearing abundant fruit, the fruit of the Spirit, is the calling of every believer and God’s promise to them! And by God’s grace it is possible for you too! By this the Father is glorified, and by this definition Jesus has said: “… so you will be My disciples.”
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Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.