The Nazarene taught in a parable of the Vine truths known by many Christians. These are found in John 15:1-10. The main thrust includes several factors:
Read John 15:1-10 from the 21st Century Version of the Christian Scriptures - NCMM:
JN15:1 “I am the True Vine, and my Father is the farmer. JN15:2 Every branch in me not bearing fruit He removes, and everyone bearing fruit He prunes so that it may bear more fruit. JN15:3 You are pruned ones by means of the Word that I have spoken to you. JN15:4 You remain in me and I in you. Just as the branch cannot continue to bear fruit if it does not remain in the Vine, neither will you if you do not remain in me. JN15:5 I am the Vine and you are the branches. The one remaining in me, and I in him, this person continues to bear much fruit. Because apart from me you are unable to accomplish anything. JN15:6 If ever anyone does not remain in me, he is to be thrown outside and then burned up. JN15:7 As long as you [apostles] remain in me and in my Sayings, whatever you shall ask for it will come to be. JN15:8 In this my Father is glorified, that you may continue to bear much fruit and [show] you are [truly] my disciples. JN15:9 Just as my Father loved me, I also loved you. Now you remain in my love. JN15:10 You remain in my love If you continue to observe my commandments, even as I have observed my Father’s commandments and continue to remain in Him.” [NCMM]
What did Jesus include or associate with this need to produce fruitage? What is included in such fruitage? A brief review of some of our Lord’s words in John 15:1-10 help us appreciate our need to be fruitful.
Jesus said: “Every branch in me not bearing fruit He removes, and everyone bearing fruit He prunes so that it may bear more fruit.” [John 15:2]That is, any Christian branch belonging to Christ cannot be an “unfruitful branch” otherwise God takes it away, prunes it away, or cuts it away from the Vine itself. It is God who removes any unfruitful branches, and this for a failure to produce. [Matthew 15:13; Hebrews 6:8] Those who do bear fruitage God “prunes” - or, purges, cleanses, trims clean.
Jesus explains that the branch bearing fruit is further “pruned” in order for it to bear more fruitage. Our Lord said: “You are pruned ones by means of the Word that I have spoken to you. You remain in me and I in you. Just as the branch cannot continue to bear fruit if it does not remain in the Vine, neither will you if you do not remain in me.” [John 15:3, 4] It is the teachings of Jesus that “prunes” or “cleans.” Without a familiarity with these teachings there can be no pruning or cleaning. [John 17:17] The branch must continue, abide, or dwell in Jesus and this involves continuing in his teachings. Christ will then continue his close relationship with the disciple.
The disciple must remain in an intimate relationship with Christ just as a branch does with the Vine. The branch cannot exist without the Vine. Jesus said: “The one remaining in me, and I in him, this person continues to bear much fruit. Because apart from me you are unable to accomplish anything. If ever anyone does not remain in me, he is to be thrown outside and then burned up. As long as you remain in me and in my Sayings, whatever you shall ask for it will come to be.” [John 15:5-7] Bearing fruit is what characterizes those who continue in Jesus’ teachings and maintain a close relationship with him. Those who do not “accomplish anything” by bearing fruitage have parted from Christ. That is God Himself as the farmer or vine-dresser will, as some versions word it-- cast forth, throw away, trim off, cast aside -- resulting that the branch withers or dries up.
There is no absolute guarantee that a branch may automatically remain in the Vine. If such ‘branches’ do not remain in the teachings of the Nazarene, and thus maintain a good relationship with him, they will be cast off and destroyed. [Compare notes on Hebrews 6:4-8.] Those who maintain their relationship in Christ must also “remain … in my Sayings.” That is, as another version puts it: “Remain in union with me and my words remain in you.” [WMS] One cannot separate the Nazarene’s teachings from the Nazarene himself. Any disciple who refuses to remain in Jesus’ teachings, no longer remains in a relationship with him.
Jesus taught that it was the disciple’s fruitage that glorified his Father. He said: “In this my Father is glorified, that you may continue to bear much fruit and [show] you are [truly] my disciples. Just as my Father loved me, I also loved you. Now you [apostles] remain in my love. You remain in my love if you continue to observe my commandments, even as I have observed my Father’s commandments and continue to remain in Him.” [John 15:8-10 NCMM] It is this fruitage that “proves” [RSV] one is a “genuine disciple.” [Matthew 5:16; John 13:35; 2 Corinthians 13:5] It is not enough to claim to be a disciple of Christ. There must be fruitage in proof of such a claim.
Only in this way may a disciple “remain in Christ’s love.” This love is not automatic, but conditional based on: a] continuing in the Lord’s teachings; b] maintaining a relationship with him; c] producing fruitage; and, d] obeying his commandments. Note the following phrase when the Nazarene says: “… IF you continue to observe my commandments.” This love is conditioned on obedience to the Nazarene commandments. [See the work Nazarene Commandments 2000 and the 60 commands of Jesus Christ. Compare John 15:14.]
In this matter Jesus himself set the example of obedient fruitage. He himself had to remain in God’s love by obedience. The Son’s own relationship with his Father was condition on his own observance of His commandments. [Compare notes on John 8:29.] Paul echoes the same when he writes in Hebrews 5:8, 9: “With strong outcries and tears borne toward [God] he was favorably heard, and as a Son, he learned obedience from those things he suffered. And having become perfected he became to all those obeying him the one responsible for causing ageless salvation.” [NCMM]
How can such fruitage be identified? What does the Bible teach on the kind of fruitage a Nazarene disciple must continue to produce? Consider some of the following.
There can be no true spiritual fruitage without repentance. John the Baptist taught this: “Therefore, produce fruitage worthy of repentance. Do not be presumptuous. … Every tree not producing good fruit will be cut down and thrown into a fire.” [Matthew 3:8-10 NCMM] Before embarking on a course of discipleship each person must first feel a genuine regret for past attitudes, inclinations, and life-style. True repentance is evidenced by recognizable fruitage.
For example Paul wrote about such repentance and how it was characterized at 2 Corinthians 7:10, 11: “For sadness in a godly way leads to repentance unto salvation - and that is not to be regretted. But now worldly sadness produces death. For, consider! -- this very matter of being saddened in a godly way, how much earnestness it produced! How much sudden indignation! Let alone, defense! Let alone, displeasure! Let alone, fear! Let alone, longing! Let alone, zeal!” [NCMM]
Good fruitage is characterized by good speech. Good speech, that is what is favorable about others, comes from a good heart. What is unfavorable about others comes from a wicked heart. Jesus taught: “You either make the tree good and its fruitage good, or you make the tree rotten and the fruitage rotten. For a tree is known by its fruitage. Generation of vipers, how can you speak good when you are wicked? For out of the heart’s bounty the mouth speaks. Out of the good person’s heart comes a treasure of goodness; and expelled out of the wicked person’s wicked treasure comes wickedness. But I tell you that every fruitless word humans speak will be held to account on Judgment Day. For by your words you will be declared ‘Not Guilty,’ and by your words you will be accursed.” [Matthew 12:33-37 NCMM]
It is clear from our Lord’s teachings that “every fruitless word human’s speak” will come back to haunt both Jew and Christian on the Day of Judgment. No one can claim to be a genuine worshipper of God and yet slander fellow worshippers. James echoes his Lord when he writes: “If anyone considers themselves to be a formal worshipper and does not bridle his tongue -- but continues deceiving his own heart -- this person’s worship is worthless.” [James 1:26 NCMM] In a life-time a Christian produces a record of either good speech or harmful speech. If good speech is viewed as godly fruitage, then the “genuine disciple” will be characterized by such.
Jesus taught that not all produce the same amount of fruitage. What is important to the Nazarene is that fruitage is increased in some measure. This ever-bearing fruitage is the result of listening to his teachings with an obedient heart. Consider Christ’s explanation of his parable: “Now, the seed in the good soil, these are those who have heard with a good and honest heart, and having retained the Word they bear fruit with endurance.” [Luke 8:15 NCMM] First the individual hears of Christ’s teachings with “a good and honest heart.” Then after “retaining the Word” fruitage is produced throughout the disciple’s life.
Paul writes about fruitage as that of making disciples, or new followers of Christ: “However, brothers, I do not want you to be unaware that often I made plans to travel to you -- though I was hindered until now -- so that I might have some fruitage among you also as in all the other non-Jewish peoples.” [Romans 1:13-16 NCMM] Paul uses the word “fruitage” several times in the context of finding and making new disciples of Christ. [Philippians 1:22; 4:17; Colossians 1:6] He writes at Hebrews 13:15: “By means of [Christ] let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to the God - that is, the fruit of lips confessing his name.” [NCMM]
It is automatic that from true faith comes “speech” about Jesus Christ and his Kingdom. At 2 Corinthians 4:12 Paul writes about what moved him: “Now, possessed of the same believing attitude - just as it has been written: “I believed, and because of this, I spoke” [Psalm 116:10] - we also continue to believe, ‘and because of this,’ we continue to speak.” [NCMM]
In the course of a life time the genuine disciple will produce fruitage because of talking to others about the Gospel. This may include family, relatives, friends, school-mates, work-mates, or perfect strangers. Our Lord set the perfect role model in such disciple-making, and his first disciples demonstrated how this could be done. If one has been a Christian for many decades and looks back over a life without having produced any fruitage at all in the realm of disciple-making, then it is important to accept that “pruning” from the Word. This failure to be productive in a fruitage similar to our Lord’s may be corrected by asking those who are successful how they managed such fruitage. [Compare Matthew 28:19.]
True Christian fruitage can never be separated from charity. Paul associates such charity with fruitage. He writes: “For [the saints of] Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make some contribution to those poor saints in Jerusalem. For, also, the non-Jews were pleased to become indebted spiritually and so they ought to share in common their material things as part of their public ministry. Therefore, having completed and sealed to them this fruitage, I will travel through you [in Rome] on to Spain.” [Romans 15:26-28 NCMM] He also compares such fruitage to a spiritual sacrifice: “Also, do not forget doing good and sharing [with others], for with such sacrifices the God is favorably pleased.” [Hebrews 13:16 NCMM]
The mental, emotional and personality traits of an individual should also give evidence of growing fruitage. After a few years of “following the Lamb no matter where he goes” will give evidence of some of the following characteristics. “The Spirit, on the other hand, brings a harvest of love, joy, peace; patience towards others, kindness, benevolence; good faith, meekness, self-restraint. Against such things as these there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their lower nature with its passions and appetites.” [Galatians 5:22-24 Weymouth Translation]
This fruitage is compared to the purest light: “Continue conducting yourselves as Children of the Light because the Light’s fruitage is every type of moral virtue, ethical uprightness, and integrity.” [Ephesians 5:8, 9 NCMM Paraphrase]
True it takes hard work to improve the character, and sometimes it requires self-discipline as well as godly discipline. “Of course, at the moment any discipline is not joyful but causes grief. However, afterward [discipline] produces peace to those who have been trained by it with a righteous reward.” [Hebrews 12:11 NCMM]
After accepting Christ in the heart the genuine disciple will grow through his/her life in a knowledge and understanding of God’s Word. Paul describe it this way: “For this reason we also, from the day we first received these tidings, have never ceased to pray for you and to entreat that you may be filled with a clear knowledge of His will accompanied by thorough wisdom and discernment in spiritual things; so that your lives may be worthy of the Lord and perfectly pleasing to Him, while you exhibit the results of right action of every sort and grow into a fuller knowledge of God.” [Colossians 1:9, 10 Weymouth Translation]
Any observer can always tell when this Christ-like fruitage is growing and producing because it always produces peace. James wrote: “In contrast, the wisdom from above is first, pure, then, peace-loving, considerate, yielding, full of mercy and good fruitage, impartial, unhypocritical, and righteous fruitage planted peacefully by those who are peace-makers.” [James 3:17, 18 NCMM]
It is clear from the teachings of our Lord that a disciple must produce fruitage if he/she is to remain connected to the Vine; and, that such fruitage identifies the tree.
“By their fruitage you will know them! No one ever gathers grapes from thorns or figs from thistles! Thus, every good tree bears good fruitage, but rotten trees, wicked fruitage. No good tree bears wicked fruitage, nor a rotten tree good fruitage. Every tree not bearing good fruitage is cut down and thrown into the Fire. And, so, from their fruitage you will know them.” [Matthew 7:16-20 NCMM]
Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller
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