John 15:1-17: December 29—Fruit-bearing with Jesus
Dec 22, 2013
By MARK A. RATHEL

Mark Rathel is a professor of theology at The Baptist College of Florida in Graceville.
The imagery of Jesus as the Vine and believers as the branches expresses a vital, intimate relationship. Jesus expressed the goal of this intimacy as the production of “much fruit” (v. 5). In Greek, the phrase “much fruit” is karpos (fruit) and poly (much). In approximately 155 A.D., a preacher from Smyrna -church mentioned in Revelation 2 - named Polycarp (literally “much fruit”) died as a martyr. What a great name for a disciple of Christ = “Much Fruit.”

How does a disciple develop into a “much fruit” Christian? What characterizes a fruitful Christian?

First, fruit-bearing with Jesus involves pruning and abiding (Jhn. 15. 1-8). In John 14:31, Jesus and the disciples left the upper room and passed through the Kidron Valley. In the moon-lit night, the disciples observed a giant golden vine on the gate of the temple. The vine functioned as a symbol of Israel in Judaism. The background for Jesus claim, “I am the true (genuine) vine” is the OT. The OT described Israel as the vine of God. Yet, the vine of God was corrupt (Jer. 2:21), produced bad fruit (Isa. 5:1-7), and was useless (Ezek. 15:2-5). Israel failed to produce fruit; Jesus is the true vine and source of fruitfulness.

Four matters are necessary for fruit production. First, a branch must be derive life, strength and nourishment from the vine. A branch must be “in me” (Jesus), “I in you” (Jesus indwelling the believer) and “remain” (abide in Jesus). “Remain” or abide occurs 11 times in this chapter and 40 times in the Fourth Gospel. The verb “remain” communicates on-going, continuing relationship of intimacy. Following Christ is more than a one-time decision. Second, fruit production involves pruning. Second, God the vinedresser “lifts up” unproductive vines (v. 2). Many English versions translate the second part of verse two as the removal or destruction of branches such a translation misses the fact that the branches are “in Me.” The verse, then, does not teach a branch in Jesus possibly suffers eternal destruction; Jesus in John 6 and 10 set forth strong teachings regarding the security of the believer. The primary meaning of the Greek term translated “remove” (Gk. airō) in the HCSB is “lift-up.” God the vinedresser “lifts up” unproductive branches. Third, producing fruit required pruning, the removal of useless shoots. In contrast professing branches not “in Me (Jesus), suffer the fire of hell (v. 6). The term translated “prune” literally means “to make clean.” The agent of pruning (cleansing) is the Word of Jesus (v. 3). God cleanses or prunes the believer as he or she reads daily the Word of God. Sin will keep you from the Word of God, but the Word of God will keep you from sin. Fourth, an intimate relationship of abiding with the vine Jesus is impossible without prayer (v. 8).

Second, Four interconnected realities characterize the life of a fruitful Christian (Jhn. 15:9-17). In summary, a disciple (branch) intimately connected to the vine (Jesus) reproduces the life of the vine (Jesus). First, a fruitful Christian loves like Jesus—sacrificially. The pattern for Christian love is love of Jesus. Love is inseparable from obedience. Christ’s love led to His laying down His live as a costly sacrifice. Second, Christian fruitfulness means experiencing joy like Jesus. This is not the “joy” of pleasant circumstances; in a few hours, Jesus would die. Complete joy is the joy of obedience to God and the joy of fellowship with our Creator and Redeemer. Third, Christian friendship involves the privileged status of friendship. Every ancient king had a small cohort of individuals that enjoyed the privileged status of “friends of the king” and enjoyed access to the king. Finally, Christian fruitfulness involves mission of “going out” (v. 16).

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