Bear Fruit or Perish
The gospel is not only the good news of salvation, the gospel is also good news of fruitful living. But those two things, salvation and fruit-bearing, are not separate and exclusive features. A part of being saved is being saved from barren, fruitless living.
In one of the most precious portions of Scripture, John 15, Jesus is teaching his disciples in the Upper Room Discourse about life after he is gone. The concepts of abiding and fruit-bearing are the two driving themes in the first 10 verses.
What is interesting is that the lack of fruit-bearing is the occasion for God’s wrathful judgment. Look at these two verses:
Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. John 15:2
If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. John 15:6
Why is every person judged if they do not bear fruit? Because they were created to bring God glory as a true-image bearer of him. One of the most important ways that you reflect God’s power and glory is by how you produce glorious works of love and service.
Have you ever wondered why the whole world recognizes the need and dignity of work? When a man or woman is without work you know trouble is often just around the corner. Depression, anger, bitterness, and theft often become realities in that person’s life. Why is this? Because even an unsaved person is made in the image of God. They are designed to be productive, and when they are not they begin to sink. But on the flip-side, when they are productive those degrading attributes that arise in unemployment begin to melt away. Why? Because they are tasting the hints of what they are supposed to be and do.
But it is only a hint for the unbeliever. They will never experience the kind of productivity they are supposed to know. Even if they are a nation-builder, a renowned scientist, a culture-transforming artist or politician, no matter how productive they may be, they are only producing a part of what they are meant to produce. What is the most important thing they are to produce? Glory to God.
Look at these verses and notice the two features that are most important about a fruit-bearing branch.
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. John 15:4
My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. John 15:8
First, notice in verse 4 that a branch is to be a display of the vitality and life of the vine. The branch is not the focus, the branch is only the showcase of the vine. God is glorified when people know in their bones and point with their fingers to the power and work of God on display in their life. In every work of diligent labor and in every stooping for sacrificial people-serving, a person is to say “Look at God! Look what he has done!” Yes, it is happening in them, but they know they are only the showcase for Him. This is true fruit.
Second, notice in verse 7 the explicit statement that God is glorified in much fruit-bearing. Why? Because this fruit-bearing is disciple-proving. It is not just any kind of productivity. The men of Matthew 7:21-23 were productive. They prophesied, cast out demons, and did miracles. Yet, they were cast out because they were not fruit-bearers. This means that the productive life John 15 speaks about, that counts for eternity and is not burned up, is the fruit-bearing that displays being a disciple. When a person is walking according to the Scripture, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, and proclaims the grace and power of God at work in their productive activities, they are glorifying God. This is true fruit.
All of this can only happen if someone is vitally connected to the Vine. They must be “in Christ.” Being “in Christ” is another way of speaking about being saved. When true salvation comes, a person begins to bear fruit like God bears fruit. They begin to serve like God serves. They begin to love like God loves. They begin to work diligently, patiently, dependently, and ultimately God-exultantly. When that is happening they have a real assurance they are saved, and will not be taken away, gathered up and burned in judgment. True faith is a works-producing faith, as James 2 reminds us. Jesus tells us the same thing here in John 15. You were created in Christ Jesus for good works (Ephesians 2:10) and if you are not doing them in the ways we explored above you need to ask if you are actually in Christ.
You must abide in Christ, and when you do you will bear fruit. Therefore, bear fruit or perish.