I AM the vine
“I Am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5)
Before we delve into the subject it is important to understand that the Lord’s message is for believers – those who are already saved and planted into Him. As a non- believer cannot bear fruit, all believers also do not become automatically fruitful. Fruitfulness in this case is not measured from a worldly viewpoint but is entirely about the motive. Our greatest achievements mean nothing if achieved with evil intentions – like self glorification/satisfaction, recognition from others or even to “score a point with God”. Fruit that is borne out of the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives and meant for God’s glory as an expression of gratitude to Him for what He has given and done for us, will be acceptable.
The Setting – Lord Jesus is spending His last few hours in the company of His disciples – He had washed their feet to prepare them as sacrificial offerings for God’s glory; the Last Supper had been instituted and they were now in the Gethsemane Park. The timetable for the Redeemer to bear much fruit has reached its final hours before the Son displays His fruit bearing on the cross. The season of fruit bearing is preceded by tender care and that had been provided by the Lord and the only thing lacking was the indwelling presence of the Gardener’s representative to guide and remind of their duties.
A similar Garden was set up by the Gardener in Eden and the first two were given all authority and power with the simple command “Tend to it” so that much fruit is available to the owner. There also He would come to ensure compliance in the “cool of the day” and the moment the two decided to bear fruit on their own, they had to be cut off and thrown out of the Garden. Lord Jesus warns the disciples about this mistake while revealing the purpose of being in the Garden – to bear fruit not for self but for use by the Gardener Himself.
The Ownership of the Vineyard – A toddler clings to anything that he holds till something new draws his interest and we behave in a similar manner. It is always my money, my house, my family, my church while the Provider is forgotten. The Ten Commandments were given to the Israelites by God to remind them that He would never cease to be in control nor would He accept any of their attempts to go towards someone else. In the garden also the same principle operates – He is in control and no plant can be independent of Him. The first requirement is to relinquish all control to Him and rejoice in His tender care but the great advantage of this is removal of the weight of command. We are supposed to just surrender to His Divine control, leaving the onus of getting much fruit from the branches, to Him, for His power, authority and resources are beyond our imagination and He will.
What is the Desired Fruit? – We must be fully aware of the fruit that is expected by the Gardener for He will reject any other fruit that is unsuitable. Essentially, fruit bearing is related to good deeds of righteousness, obedience and love and this love is bidirectional – towards God and towards our fellow beings. Before the task tender care has been given by bringing us out of the darkness that we were in and transforming us into ‘children of Light’ whose fruit is goodness, righteousness and truth (Ephesians 5:8-9). On the other hand the Savior Lord promised the Helper in fulfillment of His Word of not leaving us as orphans and the fruits of this Helper, the Holy Spirit are, “love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control” (Galatians 5:22). The Gardener God desires fruit that will last and not get destroyed when tested and that is derived from the second commandment from Lord Jesus “Love one another” (John 13:34). The desired fruit is in obedience to these commands of the Father and this is only possible by remaining in the Vine – Lord Jesus.
The Real Purpose of Fruit Bearing – The repeated assertion by the Lord Jesus “I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38) reveals His purpose towards the Father. His commitment towards the disciples is to give them abundant life in Him (John 10:10). The purpose of our fruit bearing also revolves around these two facts and Lord Jesus has commanded accordingly, “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples” (John 15:8). He glorified the Father through absolute obedience right up to the cross and our fruit must also result in His glory through perfect obedience. When we walk into a well maintained and fruit bearing garden there is an automatic urge to praise the owner/gardener. Our fruit bearing must also get reflected in our words and deeds that we truly witness our Messiah in our daily living.
We were created for the glory of God and our fruit bearing for His glory can only be once we abide in the True Vine, for Lord Jesus is the Alpha and Omega – the beginning and the end of the way of glorifying God. “And the glory which You gave Me I have given them; that they may be one as We are one” (John 17:22)
Is there some upper limit for Fruit Bearing – When the aim of our existence is to glorify God and that is achieved through our fruit bearing, then apparently more the fruit, more the glory. Our responsibility is to understand the process and that is to abide in the Vine for only by “looking unto the author and finisher of our faith” can we achieve this. For producing more fruit the Gardener would do some pruning and we must be prepared for that also and maintain an attitude of thanksgiving in all circumstances. Job lost all his children, his property in one day and suffered unbearable physical suffering while his three friends cast aspersions on him and his wife also turned against him. Yet he did not “sin and accuse God of wrongdoing” as a result Satan was proved wrong and God’s prideful claim “there is none like him” was further established. It is such fruit bearing that brings joy and glory to the Gardener.
When do we stop Bearing Fruit – The angels are forever singing the song of God’s glory in heaven and the elders join in the chorus. Since we are promised eternal life in Lord Jesus our fruit bearing in and through Him cannot stop till we are in Him and He in us. Only difference will be the type of fruit that we shall bear – in this life the fruit is different while in heaven it will be joining the angels’ choir. Later during the Millennial Rule of the Lord our fruit bearing will be working for Him in His kingdom.
Are we special as His chosen ones? – He is in us with the Holy Spirit given to us to aid in our fruit bearing task. Establishing a close relationship through daily worship, fellowship and prayer assures us of His continued active participation in all our righteous deeds for His glory. “According as He has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4) would mean that we have been specifically and exclusively separated from others. But in the Gospel account where Aramaic was the language of communication, word ‘gave’ meaning to collect, as collecting water in a vessel or a cistern, was used by the Lord. All of rain water does not fall into the pond but is used for the entire crop and in like manner some of us fall into the pond to bear fruit for others by bringing them closer to the source of life.
Probably, those who fall into the cistern are required to be the fruit bearers for the Lord and that is what Apostle Paul meant that we are grafted into the Vine so that our fruit is available to those far off. Thus evangelism becomes the fruit from those ‘already collected’ by God to bear fruit in the lives of others in darkness. God desires all to be saved but not everyone will decide to be collected thus “Whoever will come and take of the water freely” (Revelation 22:17) will be saved. Thus the ‘chosen and appointed’ of John 15:16 are those collected by God for the special and difficult task of reaching the lost who do not have access to the Word of God – to rain upon a thirsty land and that is their fruit.
Can we bear Rotten Fruit also? – We may think that lives disconnected from God do not bear fruit or those connected to Him will always bear good fruit. God showed Prophet Amos a basket of ripe fruits to illustrate that the time has come for His people and even a good fruit will become rotten if not ready for use (Amos 8:1-2). Thus we may be capable of bearing good fruit but if we are not prepared to make the same available for God’s use to benefit others, it will rot and get wasted. In addition to bearing fruit it is equally important that others must be benefited from our fruit bearing. In like manner the gold and silver that we have will also become corrupted/rotten if not used for His vineyard (James 5:2).
Is there punishment for not Bearing Fruit? – “Every branch in Me not bearing fruit He takes away” (John 15:2) is the most terrifying statement from the Lord. For after having been given a clean slate, free of all sins through faith, repentance and forgiveness, and the blessed Helper and Guide – The Holy Spirit – to help us transform, if still one is found wanting in fruit bearing the consequences cannot be pleasant. There cannot be a ‘carnal Christian’ doing his/her own along with a bit of what God wants us to do. Bearing fruit is an essential requisite for all believers for not fulfillment of this duty leads to grave risks.
The Greek word translated as ‘takes away’ is “airo” which means to take out of the way, destroy or cause to cease and the same word is also used in Colossians 2:14 to take away what was against us and nailed it to the cross. The same is also in Acts 8:33 describing the treatment meted out to the Messiah, “In His humiliation His justice was taken away”. And this is not about unbelievers but to those “in Me”, the believers who have received all the rights and resources from the Savior. The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control (Galatians 5:22) and all these are indicators of the transformation process into The Son’s image and likeness through the urging of the Holy Spirit. The branch was grafted into the Tree but then something happened and the normal expected growth or change did not/never come about. The ‘chosen ones’ are entrusted with a mission – to lead others from darkness to His Divine Light and in this our efforts are blessed by the power of the Holy Spirit to produce results.
The branches that do not bear fruit are cut off at the trunk because not only are they worthless but they are likely to infect the rest of the branches also. Thus those who try to block the efforts of God’s followers will be cut off from His life-giving power (Life Application Study Bible P 1771). What is cut off is considered waste and consigned to the fire and destroyed.
Rewards of Fruit Bearing – Our Father desires the best from and for His children to ensure that they are the most productive using all the attributes and His power given to us. Fruit bearing is not through our effort but by His Divine mercy and power. Anything that hinders our maximum output gets pruned and removed. No cutting and chopping is considered comfortable and this pruning may be through various trials – sickness, loss of a loved one, job loss or financial crisis etc. Since the Savior has promised – I will never leave you nor forsake you – we must “count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (James 1:2) and give thanks to Him in everything for that is the will of God in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Greek word ‘kathairo’ translated as pruning means ‘purifying by removing what is undesirable’ and these trials are His way of teaching and correcting us.
The vineyard owner does not expect something unnatural from us for the process of fruit bearing is only natural and stress free for the trees. If I don’t see fruit in my life, I must seek His help to identify and rectify the weakness. And if there is much fruit then also I must be prepared for the rigors of pruning. But if I am stressed, confused or tired, maybe I am on the wrong path and need direction from His Spirit. The owner of the vineyard provides all the right tools, right gifts, right timing and expects right fruit and that too in His power. I have to just surrender to His will and thankfully rejoice!