Bible: What Does John 15 Teach Us About Fruit-bearing?
The Vine and Branches
Fruit: The Proof of Genuineness
On the way to Gethsemane, Jesus employs one of His favorite teaching methods—the object lesson—to inform His apostles about the only way they can bear fruit for the kingdom.
Undoubtedly drawing their attention to a grapevine, Christ identifies Himself as “the true vine” and His Father as “the vinedresser” (v. 1).
[Being “true” as opposed to “false,” He is the source from which genuine moral and spiritual character (“fruit”) will develop; Jesus’ word usage also implies that the current Jewish leadership constitutes the “false.”
God the Father oversees the vineyard’s growth].
Branches associated with Him (“in Me”) He places into two categories: those who do not bear fruit, and those who do.
The first group the Father “takes away,” that is, either He removes from life through physical death, or lifts up (in the sense of encourages) to enable growth (v. 2a).
[According to Ryrie, the verb can support both meanings (New Testament Study Bible, 192).]
The Father works differently on the latter group.
Instead of removing its members through chastening or enabling them to bear fruit through encouragement, He “prunes” (cuts away life-draining growths that impede optimum development) in order that they might produce more fruit [v. 2b).
Jesus reassures His apostles that they have already been “cleaned” (same root word as “prune” in verse 2b) through their belief in His word (v. 3; cf. 13:10), but He admonishes them to continue to “abide in Me” in order to bear fruit (v. 4a).
Continuing the analogy, Jesus asserts the absolute impossibility for His men to develop Christian character apart from abiding in Him, just as it is impossible for branches to bear fruit unless they abide in the vine (v. 4b).
[“Abiding” denotes the believer’s need to depend spiritually upon Christ; the saint must function as a conduit through which the Lord’s power to live a godly life might flow.]
Jesus clearly states that the apostles (without His enablement) have no spiritual power to accomplish anything; however, if they (as branches) draw their sustenance from Him (as the Vine), they will bear “much fruit” (v. 5).
[“Fruit” may mean more than just developing a holy character, vital as that is; the term also suggests success in the “soul winning”enterprise (cf. 2 Cor. 3:5-6).
It seems that Jesus leaves open the possibility that even the apostles might become relatively fruitless.]
Does Jesus teach here that "branches" can lose their salvation?
The "Burning" of False Disciples
On the other hand, those who do not draw their spiritual strength from Christ inevitably become useless for service.
In such cases, the Father (presumably), having rejected them as branches, removes them to where they wither away; afterwards, His angels (“they”) gather them and throw them into a consuming fire (v. 6).
[Regarding these useless branches as genuine believers is an unsatisfactory interpretation.
How can we say that God loves these people when He removes them and angels burn them up?
Ryrie comments that the branches’ “works” burn up at the bema, but the text clearly refers to the branches themselves as the objects consumed by fire, not their works (New Testament Study Bible 92)].
Jesus promises to give their heart’s desire to those who fulfill two conditions:
(1) remain “connected” to Him (abide), and
(2) draw their strength from His words (v. 7).
[Of course, what true believers want will coincide with what God wills for their lives.]
Answers to Prayer
Abiding in Christ
By receiving answers to prayer, such people manifest much fruit bearing, glorify the Father, and prove their true discipleship (v. 8).
Having modeled this “abiding” relationship with the Father in the presence of His apostles by loving them and keeping God’s commandments, Jesus now commands them to remain in His love by keeping His commandments (vv. 9-10).
He tells them “these things” so that they might continually experience fullness of joy, His joy (v. 11).
If they habitually practice upon one another the kind of love that Jesus exemplified before them, they will live a life filled with His joy (v. 12).
Self-Sacrifice As Atonement for Sins
Love One Another
Sacrificing oneself for friends—what Jesus has done throughout His ministry, and is about to undertake, in the ultimate sense, at the Cross—demonstrates the greatest degree of love (v. 13).
[What activities constitute mundane acts of love?]
For Christ to consider the apostles His “friends” (for whom He will sacrifice Himself), they must obey His command (to love one another) [v. 14].
[Does this qualification mean that if one stops loving the brethren, one not only loses friendship with Christ, but also the benefits of His sacrifice on one’s behalf?
If so, behold how vital it is to love one another!]
[Is it possible for genuine children of God to lose their love for the brethren? Cf. 1 John 3:10, 14-17; 4: 20-21].
Apparently, the apostles have already passed this “love one another” test in Jesus’ sight, for He now designates them as friends rather than as servants.
While "servants" are ignorant of God’s activity, "friends" know what the Lord’s will is (v. 15).
Who Is Sovereign? Christ or You
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Who Chooses First: You or Christ?
By His sovereign will, Christ has both chosen and commissioned the apostles to go [into all the world]; their obedience will produce mature “fruit” that will, in turn, result in the Father’s giving them whatever the Son would have asked for were He with them to ask for it (“in My name”) [v. 16].
[The Eleven did not choose to believe in Jesus before He chose them for salvation; their election actually occurred, in God’s mind, in eternity past (see Eph. 1:4).
Likewise, they did not choose to become apostles; Jesus selected them to do His work].
All Jesus asks His apostles to do is love one another (v. 17).
An Extreme Result of the World's Hatred
Hatred of the Unregenerate World of Men
As time goes on, the apostles will need to experience love from one another.
Just as the unsaved world [system] hated Christ for Who He said He was, it will hate His disciples for being saved by Christ out of the world (“I chose you out of the world”) and for not being like them in lifestyle and world view (“of the world”) [vv. 18-19].
Christ’s men should not believe that they are exempt from suffering because they are His servants; on the contrary, they should expect to receive the same treatment as He received, both good and evil (v. 20).
Spiritual ignorance of the Father will cause the unsaved world to persecute the apostles because of their relationship to Christ (v. 21).
Christ’s enemies show their hatred for both Him and His Father by repudiating His message and His works; therefore, they will bear the full guilt of their sin—a destiny they would not have to endure had He not spoken to them or performed miracles before them (vv. 22-24).
Jesus recognizes that their sinful hatred fulfills OT Scripture (v. 25; cf. Pss. 35:19; 69:4).
[Perceiving his enemies’ deceitful words and plans, David asks that God not permit them to rejoice over his adversity (Ps. 35:19-21).
The words "without a cause" surface several times in this context, referring to the unjustified attacks of enemies.
Faithful believers should expect jealousy and hatred to creep into the hearts of unsaved people and find expression verbally or even physically.
In a later psalm, David reports that his many enemies overwhelmed him with hatred and wrongful accusation (69:4)].
When they appear in court, Christ will have three witnesses to plead His case: the Holy Spirit, the Father, and the apostles (vv. 26-27).
[Earlier, Jesus included other witnesses who/that would testify to His truthfulness: Moses, the Scriptures, and John the Baptist (cf. 5: 31-47).
See the chart after John 16:15 for a view of the Person of the Holy Spirit as Jesus presents Him in this discourse].
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