Jesus taught that fruit is a necessity in the believer’s life:
“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 bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John. 15:1-8).
Many interpret this passage in a fashion which is reassuring and tickling to the ears (2 Tim. 4:3-4). But such interpretations are not true to Scripture. Consider the relationships and consequences:
We are branches; Jesus is the vine; we (as branches) cannot bear fruit by ourselves; we (as branches) can only bear fruit as we remain in Jesus (the vine); we (as branches) must remain continually in the vine (Jesus); we (as branches) can do nothing apart from Jesus; we (as branches) are to bear much fruit for the glory of God, showing ourselves to be disciples of Jesus; and we (as branches) will bear much fruit if we continually remain in Jesus (the vine) and He in us.
What happens if we don’t remain in the vine (Jesus) and don’t produce fruit? See the results: God, the Father, is the gardener, who cuts off every branch in Jesus that bears no fruit; if we (the branches) don’t remain in Christ (the vine), we are like branches that are thrown away and wither; and if we (the branches) don’t remain in Christ (the vine), we are like branches which are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. There are some crucial lessons to be learned from this passage.
“In Christ” Without Fruit = No Salvation
To whom could the above teaching refer? How about the millions of people who warm our church chairs with an easy-belief form of Christianity? Such professing Christians often have no fruit of the Spirit of God in their lives. They have been taught that their passive belief is adequate for salvation. They neither obey Jesus nor pledge to obey Him as their Lord; thus they don’t have the Spirit (Jn. 14:15; Acts 5:32); without the Spirit they can’t have the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22); without the fruit of the Spirit they will be cut off from Jesus (Jn. 15:2); without the Spirit they don’t belong to Christ (Rom. 8:9); unless they belong to Christ they have no salvation (1 Jn. 5:12).
Fruit of the Spirit as a Test
Paul the apostle mentions a list of the fruit of the Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). Note that the word “fruit” is singular in number and not “fruits.” The grammar may appear to be wrong; but according to God’s Word, all nine of them are treated as a single element. Either we will have all nine of them or else none of them. Since the fruit (all nine) is of the Holy Spirit, we won’t have it unless we have the Holy Spirit in us. So firstly, it is a test for the presence of the Spirit. We will have the fruit (all nine of them) if we have the Spirit. This could be what apostle John refers to in 1 Jn. 3:24.
What is different about our life? Have we ceased to be obedient? Are we still trusting God in all our things? Has some other activity taken our time and attention away from Jesus? As soon as we discover the difference, we can take immediate steps to repent of our sin and restore our relationship with our Father and our Lord Jesus.
Secondly, the fruit we bear is not only a test for the presence of the Holy Spirit within us, but also a test for false spirits. Jesus said: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them” (Matt. 7:15-20). Again in this passage, note that the tree with bad fruit was cut down and thrown into the fire. There is both good fruit and bad fruit. The good fruit (of the Spirit) identifies the person who is filled with the Spirit; bad fruit identifies those who are not of the Spirit and not of the kingdom of God. What is bad fruit? Paul explains: “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-21).
How about hatred, jealousies, selfish ambitions, factions and envy? Aren’t all those ones that can be hidden from others? If we would belong to Jesus, if we would have salvation, if we would have the Holy Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit, we must rid ourselves of such bad fruit. But we can’t just get rid of it, because it comes from a bad tree. What then must we do? That tree (our old sinful nature) must die. We can be born again as a new creation when we commit to receive and obey Jesus as our Lord. Then God Himself will become our Father and we will be indwelled by the Holy Spirit. As a new creation we will be new trees bearing good fruit.
Three Judges of our Fruit
There are three judges of the fruit in our lives. One is God who sees the heart. He sees even the motives behind our actions (1 Cor. 4:5). Nothing can be hidden from God.
We also judge the fruit in ourselves. If we harbour secret sins, we can hide them from most people, but we are always aware of them. We know how we really feel. If we have secret sins, we feel like a hypocrite when faced with a compelling sermon or the convicting Word of God.
The third judges are those who know us best, our children, our spouses, who see our private lives. How many children have rejected the Lord because a parent is a hypocrite? How many spouses reject the Lord because of the bad fruit in their spouse’s life? Consider the many who refuse any association with the church because of the hypocrites who attend. Hypocrite equals bad fruit.
This isn’t a casual matter, not something to be excused by saying that “Nobody is perfect.” It is not a case of having a happy or unhappy life; it is a case of having or not having salvation. Paul warns that those who bear bad fruit will not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:21; Rom. 7:4-5; Rom. 6:21).
Purposes of Fruit in a Believer’s Life
Jesus said, “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:8). Jesus disclosed two purposes for bearing fruit. The first is giving glory to God. Jesus also said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Our light shines before people when we bear fruit. When people praise God because of our good deeds, that brings glory to God.
The second purpose is that we show that we are disciples of Jesus. Jesus also said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Expressing genuine love for one another will show that we are bearing fruit since in Gal. 5:22, it is said that love is a fruit of the Spirit.
There is also another purpose. When we have the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, we truly have the abundant life. Humanity craves nothing more than love, peace, and joy. If a person has those, he is fulfilled. He no longer needs to strive for money, fame, status, bigger houses, or better jobs. True love, peace that surpasses all understanding, and inexpressible joy are found only when the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ indwells those who receive and obey Jesus as Lord.
Bear Much Fruit
Let us look at John 15:8 again: “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” God will be glorified if we produce much fruit. We will prove ourselves to be Christ’s disciples if we bear much fruit. How can we bear much fruit? Jesus said, “He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit” (John 15:5). If we remain in Jesus as our Lord and He remains in us, we will bear much fruit. That’s a wonderful promise.
There are two conditions here. The first is our duty to remain in Jesus. How can we remain in Him? Jesus said, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love” (John 15:10). The second condition is that Jesus should remain in us. How can we cause Him to remain in us? By loving and obeying Him. Then He promises that both He and the Father will live within us through the Holy Spirit (John 14:23,17). Through our firm attachment to the vine we will naturally produce much fruit.
It is not that hard, is it? We can produce much fruit by remaining in Jesus. We remain by obeying Him. We obey Him by learning His commands and teachings, obeying them, and teaching them to others (Matt. 28:20; John 14:21). Jesus remains in us when we love and obey Him. We obey because of the obedience that comes from a saving faith (Rom. 1:5). Our faith is in Christ the Lord who we confess as our personal Lord (Rom. 10:9,13).
Bear Fruit That Will Last
Jesus said further: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you” (John 15:16). Note that a promise has been attached. If we bear fruit that will last, God will give us whatever we ask in Jesus’ name.
Now what is the fruit that will last? “Love never fails” (1 Cor. 13:8). After telling about all else that would pass away, Paul concluded: “And now these three remain: faith, hope, love; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13). So in essence, the fruit (singular) of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) as we saw before, is the fruit that will really last according to God’s Word. And the Holy Spirit is the One who produces that fruit in a believer’s life.
Limited Time to Bear Fruit
If you claim to be a professing Christian, but do not now or have never experienced the fruit of the Spirit, pay close attention to this teaching of Jesus: “He also spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down” (Luke 13:6-9). Even though the immediate context refers to the nation of Israel, the greater context points to the need of repentance or else the hearers of Jesus then and now will perish. The nation of Israel had known the law, had the revelation of God, and thought themselves God’s chosen people, but Jesus warned them that they would perish if they didn’t repent.
Who are the people in this parable? God, the Father, owns the vineyard. We, professing Christians, are fig trees. Jesus takes care of the vineyard. When you and I go on and on without bearing fruit, God is about to cut us down (as fig trees) or cut us off the vine (as branches in John 15:2). Jesus intercedes for us (Hebrews 7:25), but according to the parable, even Jesus agrees that a time will come when those who don’t bear fruit will be cut down.
Anyone who professes to be a Christian but does not have the fruit of the Spirit in his/her life has the clock running on him/her. A time will come, or has come already, when God will seek to cut off such a person who doesn’t produce fruit. Jesus will, or already has, interceded for you as your High Priest (if you are a believer in Him). Now is the time to realize God’s requirement to bear fruit and to fulfill it. Pledge to be a doer of the Word and not a hearer only. Receive Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and pledge with all your heart to obey His teachings and commandments. The Holy Spirit will help you to live out your pledge. God is faithful. He will provide the power to obey and the fruit to prove that the Holy Spirit dwells in you.
Will Only a Few be Saved?
Let us look at Luke 13:22-28. Someone asks Jesus whether only a few people will be saved. Jesus responds by saying that one should strive hard to enter through the narrow door, and that, many will try to enter but will not be able to. Jesus says that once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, those outside will not be let in even if they knock on the door. Even though they may say that they know Jesus, Jesus will reply that He doesn’t know them and calls them evildoers. Shocking, isn’t it? Salvation is not all-inclusive. Not everyone who claims they are Christian will be saved. Again in this passage, we see that those who have not come to Jesus in the way He said are called evildoers. Anyone who doesn’t accept the lordship of Jesus Christ over their life is not justified before God, their sins are not forgiven, they are separated from God and will die in their sins as evildoers.
Example From the Jews
Will God really cut off the branches (us) in the vine (Jesus) who don’t produce fruit? Is this just rhetoric? Consider the Jews. Before Jesus’ ministry, John the Baptist warned the Pharisees and Sadducees: “… every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matt. 3:10). In response, some Jews repented and were baptized. Many refused. What happened? As a nation, the Jews rejected their Messiah. They denied the kingdom and killed the King. In 70 AD, Rome marched against Jerusalem and destroyed it and the temple, killing thousands of Jews and taking others into slavery. The trees that didn’t produce good fruit were cut down and thrown into the fire (figuratively).
If Cut Off, Can We be Restored?
Is there hope for any branch that has been cut off – those who haven’t produced fruit for the kingdom of God? Yes, there is hope. Paul gave an example in Rom. 11:17-23 using tree and branches. In it, the branches are the Jews, the wild olive shoots the Gentiles, and the olive root the Lord Jesus. Paul says in v. 21, “For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.” Does that apply to you? Perhaps you once believed, but later gave up your belief, or simply failed to grow and produce fruit, or you’ve fallen into a pattern of continuing rebellion and disobedience. Paul warned that you may be broken off, as Christ said the Father would do with those who didn’t produce fruit. In Rom. 11:17-21, the branches were broken off because of unbelief. In John 15:2, they were broken off for lack of fruit. Both are consistent since fruit comes from a saving faith. If there is no fruit, there is no faith. Instead there is unbelief. Thus, no fruit equals unbelief.
Paul continues in vv.22-23, “… they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.” The thrust of the passage is that the Gentile believers were grafted in even though most Jews were cut off from Christ. Paul says they were cut off because of unbelief. Gentile believers are grafted in because of faith. But, if those same Jews don’t persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.
For those who claim to be Christians, take heed. God was faithful to His Word as spoken by Jesus, John the Baptist, and Paul with warnings to the Jewish nation. Will He be less faithful to His Word when His teachings refer to us? We must carefully consider the warnings of Scripture. We must bear much fruit for the kingdom of God or we too will be cut off.
Do we earn our way to heaven by producing much fruit that will last? Absolutely no. If we don’t produce fruit, much fruit that will last, we will be cut off. Will we be cut off for lack of fruit? No, because fruit comes from a saving faith (Rom. 1:5). So in essence, we will be cut off because of unbelief (Rom. 11:20), the lack of a saving faith, evidenced by lack of fruit.
Just as the branch of the vine naturally produces fruit since it is attached to the vine, fruit will be produced in the lives of those with a saving faith and this is almost involuntary. It is from our firm attachment to Jesus as our Lord that we naturally produce much fruit that lasts for the kingdom of God. The fruit is evidence in our lives and identifies us with our Lord Jesus. The “firm attachment” is a saving faith.
If any of my readers haven’t received Jesus Christ as your Lord, you are persisting in unbelief. Bow your knee and pledge obedience to Him, repent of your sins and unbelief, submit to His Lordship, and He will lift you up. The Father will give you His Spirit and adopt you as His son or daughter, and you will bear fruit. Obey Christ’s commands and you will bear much fruit for the glory of God, and remain in Christ’s love.