— The Preaching and Teaching Ministry of Kevin A. Pierpont

How Is Spiritual Fruit Produced in Christians? – John 15:1-6

How is spiritual fruit produced in the life of a Christian? What about plants? Have you ever seen a branch or leaf that can survive without the stalk of the plant? No. That’s not the way it works is it?

Have you ever seen a child that after birth cares for himself and feeds himself and clothes himself? Never — that’s not the way it works is it?

Spiritual Fruit

Date: January 15, 2012
Title: How Is Spiritual Fruit Produced in Christians?
Scripture: John 15:1-6
Speaker: Kevin A. Pierpont
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Have you ever seen a Christian that’s healthy and vibrant in the faith and producing fruit that’s completely self-sustaining? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a believer like that. That’s not the way it works.

Let’s look at John 15:1-6 to see how it does work.

15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.

2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.

4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.

5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

Who does this passage apply to? Who is this for. Is it for believers, unbelievers, or both?

I think this passage is about believers. Some, when they get to verse 6 say that’s about unbelievers but I don’t think the context supports that idea.

Jesus is speaking here to the 11 disciples. And the context of this passage centers around the abiding of believers in Christ as they live here on earth. Jesus is speaking to those who are in Christ, those who are true followers of Christ.

So as we think about and apply the teaching of Christ here, it’s important to understand that this is not about how you become a Christian, it’s about how you live as a Christian, it’s about your life lived as a believer in and follower of Jesus Christ.

Jesus uses in this passage, imagery of the branches of a vineyard being maintained by the vinedresser. To those in Jesus’ day this kind of thing was common and well known. But it’s an image that’s not all that familiar to us, unless we’ve worked in a vineyard. Which I’m guessing most of us have not. So when we see the imagery here we need to be careful not to try to read too much into each part of the illustration of the vinedresser, the vine and the branches. If we do, I’ll think we may get confused about the purpose of the passage.

The purpose of the passage, I think, is to show us how dependent on the vine the branches are. And I think that we can hear it and see it as we read this passage: the branches, that is believers, are completely dependent upon the vine, which is Christ.

There are two keys to that dependance I want you to see. And these two keys are vital to our truly living as believers. Here’s the key to the believer’s dependance on Christ.

1. The vine and branches have a life giving and life receiving connection.

What we’re seeing here is the relationship that true believers in and followers of Christ, have with Christ. He gives life and believers grow.

But something else is also clear – believers have no power in and of themselves to do what’s required of them by God. Verse 5 makes that clear when Jesus says, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Think of it. What’s a branch without a vine? Dead.

There’s a key word in our passage that helps us see this life giving connection between vine and branches.

Note the word abide. Jesus says in verse 4, Abide in me, and I in you. We see the word abide 5 times in these 6 verses, and 6 more times through verse 16. Note that abiding is all about the believer in Christ. It’s about something only believers have with Christ.

So when you hear abide in these verses think fellowship. The true believer abides in Christ, or has fellowship with, Christ. And we must abide with Christ because we are completely dependent on the vine, Jesus Christ. And we must abide with Christ because our purpose is to glorify God now, while we are living here on earth.

And note that Jesus is not talking about a physical connection to Jesus Christ. This is not about the disciples benefiting from the physical presence of Christ, because he’d not much earlier, back in chapter 14, told them He would not be with them much longer. And He knows their hearts are troubled at the thought of not having him physically present. Jesus is not pointing to something that depends on His physical presence.

No, this abiding is a spiritual connection. The disciples would see Jesus Christ ascend to heaven, physically leaving them. But He would not be disconnecting them from the vine. They would still be connected – they would still be in Christ. We’ve noted it before when we saw it in chapter 14, that all true believers in Jesus Christ have the helper, the Holy Spirit.

But note that Jesus is also telling the disciples that they are to stay connected to Christ. And that’s the fellowship that we’re to seek in Christ. And that abiding with Christ, in one word is obedience, and that obedient walk with Christ, which is empowered by the Holy Spirit is where fruit in the believer’s life is produced. But note that there’s no fruit without the vine. We don’t produce the fruit, but by the work of the Spirit and the Word as we remain faithful to Christ and abide with Him, God produces the fruit of the Spirit in us, if we are His children.

And that leads us to the second key part of our complete dependance on Christ.

2. Our abiding in, or staying connected to the vine is our primary aim. Not producing fruit.

Again, this is for believers, those who have truly trusted in Christ, placing their faith in Him. I say that because in verse 3 Jesus says, Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.

But for those in Christ, the purpose for which God has them here on earth is to be productive, bearing fruit. That doesn’t happen without staying connected to the vine, Jesus Christ. That’s why we see in verse 2, the fruit bearing branch that God prunes so that it will be even more productive.

This is not about getting saved, this is about the one who is already a new creation in Christ. Fruit in the believers life is an identifying characteristic of the one who is a follower of Christ. Fruit is how other believers know when they are seeing a true brother or sister in Christ. Fruit is how the world knows that our faith is real and not just talk. And just as healthy plants produce healthy fruit. So healthy Christians produce healthy fruit.

But an unhealthy plant means little fruit and a poor quality of fruit, if signs of fruit exist at all.

So here’s the point of what Jesus is teaching. Those who abide in Christ, those who seek fellowship with Christ, will bear fruit. And what that fruit looks like will vary and will likely be of many different sorts. Because I think God’s Word makes clear that, in the life of a believer their will be several kinds of fruit. Like in Galatians 5:22-23 where we see the fruit of the Spirit.

So for example, a Godly and Christ-like character is fruit. Faithful and cheerful serving is fruit. Leading others to Christ is fruit. Faithful and cheerful Christian giving is fruit. Doing your work for God’s glory, even work done for a secular employer, is fruit. And there are others.

But in all that, it is a fundamental truth that those who stay connected to the vine will grow, and flourish, and produce healthy, obvious fruit. And that fruit in a believer’s life points to the health of the relationship with Christ.

On the other hand, the branch that doesn’t stay connected to the vine, the believer that does not abide in Christ, the one that does not stay in close fellowship with Christ, does not produce good fruit, and withers spiritual.

But note, as we talk about fruit bearing, where Jesus put the emphasis for us.

Is the emphasis on our producing fruit or is the emphasis on our abiding in Christ? It’s on our abiding, on our fellowship with Christ, isn’t it? That’s what Jesus says in verse 4,

4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.

And that is a reminder and a challenge to us that we not confuse our priorities as God’s children. If we are in Christ we are branches connected to the vine, which is Christ, and our priority is not to do more for Christ, it’s stay connected to Christ, and it’s obvious from the text that when we stay connected to Christ, He does more with us.

The priority for us is not production, it is by God’s grace, fellowship with Christ. And when we nurture a healthy abiding with and fellowship with Christ, fruit will be abundant. We don’t make fruit, God does – it’s Christ at work in us that produces fruit. That’s what we hear in verse 5.

5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

And the importance of our abiding in Christ is seen in verse 6. And you may have heard someone say that this is about unbelievers. Or that this is about a believer who loses his salvation. I don’t think so, because Jesus was speaking to the 11 disciples here and has made it clear that they are “in Him”. And anyone in Christ is kept by Christ. But I do think this is a warning to those who are in Christ about what can happen when we don’t stay connected to Christ, when we don’t abide in him. If we don’t abide in Christ, we become worthless for God’s Kingdom purposes. I think that’s what we’re seeing in verse 6:

6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

Warren Wiersbe writes this of verse 6 and I think it’s helpful:

A true branch, united with the vine, will always bear fruit. Not every branch bears a bumper crop, just as not every field has a bumper harvest (Matt. 13:8, 23), but there is always fruit where there is life. If there is no fruit, the branch is worthless and it is cast away and burned. I do not believe our Lord is teaching here that true believers can lose their salvation, for this would contradict what He taught in John 6:37 and 10:27-30. It is unwise to build a theological doctrine on a parable or allegory. Jesus was teaching one main truth-the fruitful life of the believer-and we must not press the details too much. Just as an unfruitful branch is useless, so an unfruitful believer is useless; and both must be dealt with. It is a tragic thing for a once-fruitful believer to backslide and lose his privilege of fellowship and service. If anything, John 15:6 describes divine discipline rather than eternal destiny. (Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.)

Se we must remember that there’s something God does and there’s something we do. He is always the life giver, He is always the producer of fruit in His people and He will also prune so that we’ll become more productive. And that pruning may indeed be painful at times as He works in and through our lives, often showing us how we must depend on Him in the midst of difficulty. And we are to abide, we’re to stay connected to the source of life. We’re to pursue our fellowship with Christ.

When we come back to John 15 next week we’ll see what abiding in Christ looks like.

But know this, that God is at work, growing the faithful, pruning the faithful, producing fruit in the faithful, fruit that’s for our good and fruit that brings Him glory.

Photo by: Vvillamon (Creative Commons)