For many of us today the scenario in which the Lord uses in John 15:1-8 may not make much sense, seeing as how many of us live in more metropolitan settings. However, to those he was speaking to it made perfect sense, because ancient Israel was a more agrarian society. In order for certain plants to grow and produce fruit there are times they must be pruned, like rose bushes for example. If you allow a rose bush to grow out of control the flowers are not as plentiful and the beauty of the buds are lackluster at best.
In times past Israel was considered to be the vine, that is why Jesus says, “I am the true vine….” showing that he is taking the place of Israel. John gives a great example of this in chapter 15 verse 2, “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. ” So as we grow in following Christ we must be “pruned” in order to grow. Charles Spurgeon says this about pruning, “Many trials are not sent for chastisements at all, but as preparations for higher usefulness.”Every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth,” evidently not because of any offense in the branch, but because the branch is good and does bear fruit! Therefore, it is allowed the special privilege of the pruning knife that it may bring forth more fruit.” (Spurgeon 2005, 303)
Dr. Towns says, “The problem with secret discipleship is that it amounts to a contradiction in terms. Sooner or later, either the secrecy will destroy their discipleship or their discipleship will destroy their secrecy.” (Towns 2002, 125) In living a life as a branch we will produce fruit which we cannot hide, if we do not we will be removed from the vine. Some commentators believe that those who do never bear fruit, truly did not know the Lord to begin with.
We’ve all had moments in our lives, when we’ve tried to do things for the glory of God and we never consulted him about it. Christ is adamant that without him we are incapable of doing anything (Jn 15:5) Leon Morris says, “The condition of fruitfulness in Christian service is vital contact with Christ. On our own we can do nothing.” (Morris 1989, 121) What does the Lord mean when he says, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”? Tenney sums it up this way, “ To remain in Christ and to allow his words to remain in oneself means a conscious acceptance of the authority of his word and a constant contact with him by prayer.” (Tenney 1981, 152)
This passage is one that should make us all examine our lives and look a little deeper to make sure that we are developing fruit. Because in doing so we honor God, know we live for Jesus and others will know to whom we belong.
Morris, Leon. Jesus is the Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1989.
Spurgeon, Charles H. 2,200 Qutations from the Writings of Charles H. Spurgeon. Edited by Tom Carter. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005.
Tenney, Merrill C. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1981.
Towns, Elmer. John Believe and Live. Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2002.