“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:8, ESV)
In the Gospels Jesus told a parable about fruitfulness. It’s often referred to as the parable of the sower but it’s really a parable about fruitfulness and the sort of soil that produces it. He identifies four kinds of ground: a hard path, rocky soil, thorny soil, and good soil. Although there are four types of ground mentioned, there are really only two: fruit bearing and non-fruit bearing. The seed sown on the non-fruit bearing ground is either plucked away or does spring up but never results in fruit.
Jesus explains that the seed is the gospel and the ground is the heart. A case can be made that the different soils represent different responses to receiving the gospel message. The path is the hard heart that rejects the gospel outright. The rocky soil reflects an emotional response to the gospel. People receive the good news with great joy but when they start to suffer for their faith they decide that’s not what they signed up for. The thorny soil reflects an intellectual response. The gospel makes sense to these people. But when the gospel competes with their own kingdoms, seeking their own kingdom wins out. They are beset with worry rather than rest. As a result their lives are unfruitful for the gospel of the kingdom that brings them under the lordship of Jesus Christ.
But the good soil is different. There the seed of the gospel finds fertile ground, so that it takes root and bears fruit. The fruit may be of differing degrees – thirty, sixty, or a hundredfold – but it is fruit that necessarily grows from the good soil. The good soil will produce fruit. It will not be barren. That fruit will be evidence of God’s handiwork of grace that brought about the good soil in the first place.
In His metaphor of the vine and the branches Jesus also speaks of fruit. He says that those who do not bear fruit will be taken away. We might think of those who appear to be part of the visible church, having made a profession of faith, who appear to have life but do not bear fruit. Jesus also speaks of those who do not bear fruit whom the Father will prune so that they will be more fruitful. We are reminded that God is the planter and those who are His will thrive. He knows the heart and exercises His workmanship of grace in those He has united to Christ by His Spirit in their effectual calling.
Jesus emphasizes three characteristics of the fruit associated with life in Him. One, it is authentic. It organically proceeds from union with Him. It is not of our own stark effort, yielding artificial fruit that looks real but is not. Two, it is abundant. Jesus says, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15:8, ESV). Whether that fruit is a harvest of thirty fold or a hundred fold, it will not be meager. It will be much fruit. Third, the fruit of union with Christ will be enduring. It will not wither. As Jesus puts it: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last” (John 15:16, NIV84).
What is this fruit of which Jesus speaks? It is what gives evidence of grace through union with Christ, such as saving faith and genuine repentance. These are evidences of regeneration, expressions of new life in Christ wrought by the Holy Spirit. Also in view are the fruit of this new life, such as new character and new desire and new way of approaching life. Prominent in the metaphor of the vine and branches is the fruit of love (John 15:9). But an examination of the sort of love Jesus describes shows it to be vastly different from the love that is popularly taught. Ultimately, the fruit in view is conformity to the image of Jesus Christ to whom we are united.
- What are the three characteristics of the fruit Jesus describes and that brings glory to God?
- What do much fruit and lasting fruit look like in the Christian life?
Father, by the Holy Spirit fill me with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of Your name.
For study of the fruit of the Spirit through abiding in Christ see A Vine-Ripened Life (Stanley D. Gale, Reformation Heritage Books)
Scripture quotations marked NKJV are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Those marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.