by Mike Ratliff
“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 does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 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. 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. 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. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:1-8 ESV)
In my time off I listened to a few expositions by some preachers of some very bad, man-centered theology. The crux of their theology goes something like this. God wants everyone to have a vision and so every Christian needs to try really hard to pursue a vision until it aches within them. Then they know its from God and then they need to run after it as hard as they can. What passages from the Bible do you suppose they use to support that? Well, since its not found anywhere in God’s Word, they attempt to use passages out of context to do that and then misrepresent Jesus completely alien from the His Holy nature that we are given in Scripture to one of being more like a servant of these people. I believe they call this stuff either “vision-casting” or “vision-questing,” but, in any case, there are some so-called “evangelicals” who not only have those who preach this stuff come and preach it to their people, but they go to their “churches” as if they are all part of the same good ol’ boy network of ‘evangelicals.’ I think not. Oh, they may all be part of the same good ol’ boy network, but that ‘group’ has nothing to do with the Church and genuine Christianity.
Are Christians commanded to be fruitful? Are we to be productive in the Kingdom of God? Carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post. In v1 our Lord Jesus tells us that He is the vine and that His Father is the vinedresser. In v2 He makes it clear that there will always be professing Christians who are not genuine. How do we know this? They bear no fruit at all. They are lifeless branches that are taken away and burned. A person who does not bear fruit is not a true believer and will one day be taken away to an eternity in Hell. Here is v2 from the Greek: πᾶν κλῆμα ἐν ἐμοὶ μὴ φέρον καρπόν, αἴρει αὐτό, καὶ πᾶν τὸ καρπὸν φέρον, καθαίρει αὐτὸ, ἵνα πλείονα καρπὸν φέρῃ. The word used here that is translated as “bear” is φέρον the present active participle version of φέρω or pherō̄. In other words this is talking about continuous or repeated action. Branches who bear no fruit (μὴ φέρον καρπόν), are so as a way of life. On the other hand, our Lord says that genuine branches in the vine who do bear fruit (καρπὸν φέρον) do so as a way of life and he adds that the Father prunes them in order to make them even more fruitful. Then, in vv5 and 8 we read that some branches will produce “much fruit.” In other words, some believers will be exceptionally more fruitful than others, but all genuine believers will be fruitful. How can we reach this “much more fruitful” level?
Part of what makes us more fruitful is God working in us in pruning us. This is the Greek word καθαίρει the present, indicative, active form of καθαίρω or kathairō. This is the act of purification or cleansing to make something free from filth. God does this in all of us to make us more fruitful in His Kingdom. This can sometimes hurt. He takes away some things that we have our hearts set on. He changes our lives in ways we would not choose. He may take away our health, our job, whatever it takes to purify us to make us Kingdom ready to make us free from any improper mixture or contamination of the world and its ways.
The next part is something we must do by the grace of God. We must abide in Christ. We see this in vv4,5. Here they are in Greek: μείνατε ἐν ἐμοί, κἀγὼ ἐν ὑμῖν. καθὼς τὸ κλῆμα οὐ δύναται καρπὸν φέρειν ἀφ᾿ ἑαυτοῦ, ἐὰν μὴ μένῃ ἐν τῇ ἀμπέλῳ, οὕτως οὐδὲ ὑμεῖς, ἐὰν μὴ ἐν ἐμοὶ μείνητε. ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ἄμπελος, ὑμεῖς τὰ κλήματα. ὁ μένων ἐν ἐμοὶ κἀγὼ ἐν αὐτῷ, οὗτος φέρει καρπὸν πολύν, ὅτι χωρὶς ἐμοῦ οὐ δύνασθε ποιεῖν οὐδέν. The word translated as “abide” is μείνατε. This is how we increase the depth of our permanence in Christ and hence our fruitfulness. This is, of course, talking about our Lord Jesus Christ, not the commercialized, phony Jesus that people have made up in their own imaginations. This is the Christ of the Bible of whom all who are truly in Him are His δοῦλος or doulos or bondservant or slave. We grow in our permanence in Him as we dwell in Him this way. If we lightly regard our walk with Him then will we be abiding in Him this way? I think not.
The third and last part of how we grow in fruitfulness is by propagation. As God works in us to make us fruitful, there should be converts to Christ and other types of fruit, that are produced. These in turn will produce fruit. Are you being fruitful? Are you clinging to things of this world that needs to be pruned away? Take it to the throne of grace.
Soli Deo Gloria!