At key points in His ministry, Christ emphasized His equality with God in the clearest possible terminology. The strongest affirmations of His deity employed the name for God used when the Father first revealed Himself to Moses–“I AM” (Exodus 3:14).
John 15:1-8(HCSB)“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. 2 Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me. 6 If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples.
Jesus had already said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12); “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35); “I am the Way” (John 14:6); and “I am the Door” (John 10:9). Now, the night before His death, He tells them, “I am the Vine.” Like the other great “I am” passages recorded in the Gospel of John, it points to His deity. Each one is a metaphor that elevates Jesus to the level of Creator, Sustainer, Savior, and Lord–titles that can be claimed only by God.Jesus promises to do the same for us. He is the “true vine” bringing life to each of the branches. The purpose of the vine is to bring nourishment to the branches in order that they might produce fruit. When separated from the vine the branches wither and die. The vitality of our spiritual life is dependent upon our connection to Christ the “true vine.”
The metaphor in John 15 is of a vine and its branches. The vine is the source and sustenance of life for the branches, and the branches must abide in the vine to live and bear fruit. Jesus, of course, is the vine, and the branches are people. While it is obvious the fruit-bearing branches represent true Christians, the identity of the fruitless ones is in question. Some Bible students say the barren branches are Christians who bear no spiritual fruit. Others believe they are non-Christians.
Each of us must answer two questions this morning. First, are we connected to the vine, or is the life of Christ flowing within us? Secondly, if we are connected to the vine and we are joined to Christ, then how much fruit are we producing through our lives; is there no fruit, some fruit, or an abundance of fruit?
1. JESUS IS THE SOURCE OF LIFE. (Verse 1)
John 15 continues Jesus’ teaching with, “I am the true vine” Jesus was a master teacher. He didn’t talk over people’s heads; He used things which were common to those He taught so that they could understand His teaching. So I believe that as Jesus and the disciples were making their way they walked beside something familiar to everyone in Jerusalem–a grapevine.
Everyone living in Jerusalem, and even those rough fishermen among the twelve who walked with Jesus knew that life flowed from the vine into the branches. So Jesus uses this common sight around Jerusalem to bring further understanding to what He had said earlier.
Therefore, Jesus is showing His disciples and us that He is the source of spiritual life. Jesus is the source of life, a resource made available by the Holy Spirit when He comes to dwell within the believer. John spells it out plainly for us:
1 John 5:11-12(HCSB)11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.
12 The one who has the Son has life. The one who doesn’t have the Son of God does not have life.
Now before we move any further we need to stop and deal with our first question, “Are you connected to the vine?” If you are not connected to Jesus through the forgiveness of your sin, if you have not let Jesus rescue you from drowning in a turbulent sea of sin, then you are as good as dead. The life you are living is empty and meaningless because your aren’t connected to the source of life.
Romans 6:23(HCSB) For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The choice is yours. You can either stay the way you are, or you can choose to be grafted into the life giving vine. All the other vines are lifeless; the branches have no real fruit because there is no life in the vine. But when you are connected to Jesus, suddenly everything will be made new and alive.
2. THE LIFE SOURCE PRODUCES FRUIT. (Verses 2-8)
Jesus is the life source and His life within the believer is for one purpose–to produce fruit. The question we need to think about for ourselves is, “How much fruit is being produced, is there no fruit, some fruit, or an abundance of fruit?”
Remember, Jesus is talking with His disciples. Jesus is the true vine and His disciples and those who believe in Him are the branches. So when we think about the quantity of fruit in an individual’s life we are talking about believers– that is those connected to the vine. As we said, anyone who is not connected to Jesus cannot bear fruit.
Now before we deal with that question, let’s quickly THINK ABOUT THE FRUIT. Some of you may be wondering exactly what is this fruit we are supposed to be producing.
· Some have taught that the fruit Jesus is talking about is OBEDIENCE. This fits with the context, those who love Christ will obey His commands.
· Others have taught that the fruit is to REPRODUCE OTHER BELIEVERS. One of the signs of life is that it reproduces itself. Fruit carries within it the seed which has the ability to reproduce.
· Others have taught that the fruit is the FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control is the fruitful evidence that you are connected to the vine.
So which one is it? Let’s have Jesus answer that question.
Matthew 7:16-20(HCSB)16 You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So you’ll recognize them by their fruit.
Jesus says you will can recognize the fruit; we are fruit inspectors. So let’s check out the fruit.
· Is OBEDIENCE to Christ’s word something that the life of Christ would produce within the life of a believer. YES!
· Is REPRODUCTION of new believers something that Jesus’ life within you will yield as fruit? YES!
· Is the FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT a byproduct of Christ’s life at work within a believer?YES!
So what is the fruit of the believers’ life that is connected to Jesus, the true life-giving vine? ALL OF THE ABOVE! Those who are Christ’s branches should desire to produce more and more of ALL His fruit.
That brings us back to the question of quantity. How much fruit is your life producing; is there no fruit, some fruit or an abundance of fruit?
1. The branches that produce NO FRUIT. (Verses 2a, 6)
There is no such thing as a fruitless Christian. Every Christian bears some fruit. You may have to look hard to find even a small grape, but if you look enough, you will find something.
It is the essence of the Christian life to bear fruit.
Ephesians 2:10 (HCSB)For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.
The fruit of salvation is good works. James 2:17(HCSB) explains the close relationship between faith and works, 17 In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself.
If salvation is legitimate, it produces fruit. That does not mean a person is saved by works, but works are evidence that faith is genuine.
Jesus said a genuine believer can be tested by his fruit.
Matthew 7:16-17(HCSB) 16 You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit.
Jesus’ illustration would make no sense if every Christian did not bear at least some fruit.
John the Baptist recognized the connection between salvation and fruit-bearing.
Matthew 3:7-8(HCSB)7 When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to the place of his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance.
Lack of fruit showed that their repentance was not genuine.
Since all Christians bear fruit, it is clear that the fruitless branches in John 15 cannot refer to believers. In fact, the fruitless branches had to be eliminated and thrown into the fire. Yet, in verse 2, Jesus refers to the fruitless branches as those who are “in Me.” If they are “in Him,” are they not genuine believers?
Not necessarily. Other passages in Scripture show it is possible to be attached to the Vine without being a true believer. For example, Romans 9:6 says, “For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel.” A person can be part of the nation of Israel yet not be a true Israelite. Likewise, one can be a branch without abiding in the true Vine. Some only appear to be a part of God’s people.
Luke 8:18(HCSB)8 Therefore take care how you listen. For whoever has, more will be given to him; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken away from him.
Those who only appear to belong will be removed from God’s people.
Clearly, some who appear to be in Christ do not truly abide in Him.
1 John 2:19(HCSB)They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. However, they went out so that it might be made clear that none of them belongs to us.
If you are religious, you need to be sure your connection to Christ is genuine. The apostle Paul said, 2 Corinthians 13:5(NLT)5 Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith.
We have a stern warning from Scripture to check our own lives and make sure our salvation is real. This is serious; a branch that does not bear fruit is taken away and burned. Those who say the discarded branches are Christians have a problem: the branches are burned. If they are Christians, it would mean they have lost their salvation forever.
But those fruitless branches are Judas-branches, false branches, people who associate themselves with Jesus and His people and put on a facade of faith in Him. But even though they may appear to be connected to Christ, their association is superficial. So the Father removes them.
2. The branches that produce SOME FRUIT. (Verses 2-4)
Not all branches are as fruitful as others. Some branches may have bushels of fruit while another branch may only have a single bushel or a peck or two, and still other branches while not barren have very little fruit at all.
NOW DON’T CONFUSE QUANTITY AND QUALITY. As a believer you are joined to the vine. The life of Christ within the vine is what produces the fruit. Therefore any fruit produced in your life, obedience, reproduction, or the Fruit of the Spirit, IT IS ALL GOOD FRUIT. Christ’s life in you will not produce inferior fruit. Christ, the true vine, only produces the best quality fruit.
However, each of us as branches can restrict the quantity of fruit produced in our lives. Look again at what Jesus said.
John 15:2-4(HCSB) 2 Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me.
What is it that restricts the production of fruit? In a word it’s SELF.
We love Christ; His Spirit is within us, and His fruit is evident in our lives. But from time to time, more often for some and less for others, we stop relying upon Christ and His life within us and live our life in our own strength. Jesus said, “No branch can bear fruit by itself!”
In those times when we stop depending on Christ and rely upon our own strength and ability, it is then that the branch is unable to continue to produce fruit. Often times we may fall into sin once again simply because we didn’t depend upon Christ the source of life to help us.
What does the Father do for the branch that only produces some fruit? Does He cut the branch off and throw it away? No, the Father’s desire is that each branch produces an abundance of fruit; that’s not possible if the branches are cut off of the vine. What did Jesus say the Father would do? “Every branch in me that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”
What is the Father doing when He prunes the branches? He is causing us to stop depending upon self in order that we might rely fully on Christ and bear more fruit.
Although the fruitless branches are removed from the vine and burned, the Father tenderly cares for the fruit-bearing branches. In verse 2, Jesus told His disciples, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” All the fruit-bearing branches are included. The vinedresser prunes the branches so they will bear much fruit.
Kathairo is the Greek word for “prune,” or “cleanse.” In farming, it referred to cleaning the husks off corn and cleaning the soil before planting crops. In the metaphor of the vine, it refers to cleaning shoots off branches.
Have any of you noticed, PRUNING IS PAINFUL. But have you also noticed that although pruning is painful, PRUNING IS PRODUCTIVE. When the branches are pruned back more fruit really is produced. The pain of cutting accomplishes what the Father intends–FRUITFULNESS!
Pruning is also necessary in our spiritual lives. The Father removes sins and the unnecessary things that limit our fruitfulness. One of the best ways to cleanse us is to allow suffering and problems to come into our lives. He prunes us with a vinedresser’s knife. Sometimes it hurts, and we wonder if He knows what He is doing. It may seem we are the only branch getting pruned while other branches need it more. But the Vinedresser knows what He is doing.
Spiritual pruning can take many forms. it may be sickness, hardships, or loss of material possessions. It may be persecution or slander from non-Christians. For some it is the loss of a loved one or grief in a relationship. Or it may be a combination of difficulties. Whatever the method, the effect is to narrow our focus and strengthen the quality of our fruit.
Whatever the method of pruning God uses, we can be assured He cares about us and wants us to bear much fruit. He wants to free us from the shoots that drain our life and energy. He continues His care throughout our lives to keep us spiritually healthy and productive.
Hebrews 12:5-7(HCSB)5 And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons:My son, do not take the Lord’s discipline lightly or faint when you are reproved by Him,6 for the Lord disciplines the one He loves and punishes every son He receives.7 Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline—which all receive—then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 7Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?
If we remember that God is trying to make us more fruitful, we can look past the pruning process to the goal. It is thrilling to realize that God wants our lives to bear much fruit.
Hebrews 12:11(HCSB)11 No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
The Vinedresser’s pruning knife is the Word of God. In John 15:3, Jesus said to the disciples, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” The word translated “clean” in that verse is the same word He used in verse 2 to describe the pruning process. God’s Word cleans the sin out of our lives. That stimulates fruitfulness.
The Father uses affliction to make us more responsive to His Word. Most of us become more sensitive to the truth of Scripture when we are in trouble. When we have a particular problem, a verse of Scripture sometimes will seem to jump off the page. In adversity, the Word of God comes alive.
3. The branches that produce an ABUNDANCE of FRUIT. (Verses 5, 7-8)
John 15:5(HCSB)“I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.
These are the branches that have been properly trained through the discipline of pruning. They have crucified self and have learned that apart from Christ they can do nothing.
Galatians 2:20(NLT)My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
John 15:7-8(HCSB)7 If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples.
Why can Jesus say what He does in verse seven? Those branches that remain in Him and His word remains in them will not ask selfishly. They have died to self and the passions of the world; they live for Christ. Therefore whatever they ask for is what Jesus would ask for.
How do we produce an Abundance of Fruit?
He places us in relationship with other believers. We need each other to grow effectively and be fruitful; none of us can make it alone. I believe this is the single most important thing that God does for us. Being a part of a church and sharing in loving relationships with other Christians is vital to your spiritual health.
He instructs us in His Word. The Holy Spirit is our teacher; through our personal devotions, sermons, teaching and interaction in small groups the Holy Spirit will cleanse and strengthen our lives through the Word of God.
God renews our minds so that we no longer conform to the ways of this world but pursue His kingdom; He teaches us to hate sin and desire righteousness in our lives. When we have sin in our lives we want to be restored in our relationship with God and He is faithful to forgive us.
Finally when we mature as believers that we bear an abundance of fruit the Father is glorified as we show ourselves to be Christ’s disciples.
Spurgeon once said,
The Word is often the knife with which the great Husbandman prunes the vine; and, brothers and sisters, if we were more willing to feel the edge of the Word, and to let it cut away something that may be very dear to us, we should not need so much pruning by affliction. It is because that first knife does not always produce the desired result that another sharp tool is used by which we are effectually pruned.
The pruning process helps us bear more fruit. If there is no fruit in your life, if there is no genuine connection to Jesus Christ, you are in danger of being removed and cast into the fire of hell. If there is fruit in you life, you can rejoice that affliction is making the pruning knife more effective, and that the Vinedresser’s ultimate goal is that you bear much fruit.
Jesus, the true vine is producing fruit within His branches. Christ’s fruit is good; it alone will endure. How much fruit are you letting be produced through your life? Is there no fruit, some fruit or an abundance of fruit?