By Eric Taylor
Pastor, Cedar Hill Baptist Church, Cedar Hill
Focal Passage: John 15:1-8
As we come to our final lesson in this quarter, we are reminded of Henry Blackaby’s challenge to “Find where God is working and join Him in it” (Experiencing God).
R. Kent Hughes wrote about our text, “The inward test is far more telling than the number of souls saved, people influenced, money collected, etc. It is possible to have [all] the outward signs without having the life of Christ within … . The fruit Christ looks for is His own life in us.” Which is why we must join in God’s work.
First, joining God’s work means that fruitfulness is proof of our union with Christ (John 15:1-3). There is a reason Jesus uses the phrases, “in Him,” or “in Me” multiple times. It is about our union with Christ.
Now while some believe these verses teach that you can lose your salvation, I would say, that if you take that interpretation then you also must have the integrity to interpret Jesus’ words here as teaching that you are not saved by grace but by works (i.e., “bearing much fruit”). I believe Jesus is teaching that there are some branches that may be in some way connected to the Vine (Jesus) but were never part of the true Vine to begin with. So instead of pruning that branch, the action is that of removing the branch. So, there is a contrast in action by the Vinedresser (God) not based on merit but by genuine connectedness to the Vine, Jesus Christ.
So, if one is not bearing fruit, the question is not, “What must I do to be fruitful?” The more appropriate question may be, “What must I do to be saved?” Are you “grafted in” the vine?
Second, joining God’s work means fruitfulness is produced by our union with Christ (v. 4). The branch is only useful for the Kingdom of Heaven and the glory of God if it is bearing good fruit. In other words, it is Christ’s life flowing in and through us that produces the fruit.
Major Ian Thomas used to say, “The glory of the gospel is not about man getting out of hell and into heaven, it is about getting God out of heaven and into man!” So, fruit bearing is more about abiding and availability.
Finally, joining God’s work means, fruitfulness progresses in our union with Jesus (vv. 2, 5, 8). Do you see the progression? First, there is a branch that “bears no fruit.” Then, there is the branch that “bears fruit.” Third, you see the branch(es) that bear “much fruit” (vv. 5, 8).
Now what does Jesus mean when He says, that by bearing fruit we, “become” His disciples? Again, if we are not careful, we can misunderstand or misinterpret this verse. The word “become” literally means, “show oneself.” So, this is about bearing “much fruit,” and in both instances, it is tied to genuine discipleship.
You see, today God wants to get rid of everything in our lives that does not bear fruit or keeps us from bearing fruit. He wants to get rid of all the clutter, crud, and sin in our lives, so that He can get the most fruit out of us. The question is, are we willing to let Him do it? If you truly are grafted in the vine, you will allow the Father to start cutting right now.