John 15:1-2 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. (2) Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
Above the sanctuary gate in Herod’s Temple hung a golden grapevine, made with gold leaves and grapes donated by the people of Israel. No doubt, this golden vine had been seen by the Lord Jesus and His disciples in their recent days within the Temple, and it is at least possible that this vine of gold may have served as an illustration for the Lord’s lesson on fruit-bearing in John 15. Certainly, many churches today are like that golden vine: bright, shiny, wealthy, impressive – yes, and as dead and fruitless as a golden grapevine.
Jesus Christ is “the true vine.” The vine provides sustenance, strength, and stability. The branches are the little offshoots of the vine that actually produce the grapes. Branches connected to the vine produce fruit; disconnected branches, those that do not abide in the vine, wither and are fruitless.
Joh 15:6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
If a Christian individually or a church corporately is not bearing fruit, we should stop and look for the cause. There are only four options: 1) There is something wrong with the vine. 2) The husbandman is not caring for the branches properly. 3) The branches are not abiding in the vine. 4) The branches have recently been pruned.
We know that the first two options are not possible. The Lord Jesus Christ is the vine, so we will find no problems there. God the Father is the husbandman, and certainly we cannot find any fault in His care for the branches. Therefore, either we are not truly abiding in Christ (thus, withered), evidenced by perpetual fruitlessness, or the branch has been recently pruned, evidenced by temporary fruitlessness.
Joh 15:2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
Please allow me to mix a metaphor here as I have more experience with fruit trees than grape vines. My teenage years were spent on a ten acre peach/plum/pecan orchard in Weatherford, Texas, owned and operated by my grandfather. Every year, when the trees were dormant, he would get out his ladder and long-handled pruning shears, and skillfully prune his hundreds of trees. My job was to load those pruned branches on a trailer and haul them down to the brush pile with his old Ford tractor, where they would eventually be burned.
Now, someone might think that a fruit tree would be better off with more branches. Logic tells us that more branches equals more fruit, correct? The short answer is yes, you will get more fruit, but it will be small, imperfect fruit. Furthermore, if a tree becomes overloaded with fruit, the limbs cannot bear their weight. Any gust of wind will cause the entire limb to break off, and the entire tree may be irreparably harmed.
Unpruned branches will break under their own weight. Success in ministry and unchecked pride may lead to a broken life and ministry. We need the humbling of a good pruning to remind us that without CHRIST we can do NOTHING (vs. 5). Then, God can grow us and strengthen us to bear the weight of “much fruit.”
I have never enjoyed the pruning process in my Christian life. Yet I know that God’s purpose in pruning my life is so that I can bring forth more fruit and much fruit. My job is to abide in Christ, and let the Father work on me as He sees fit. I have never enjoyed when my church has gone through the pruning process. Yet, I have stayed in one place long enough to know that short times of apparent fruitlessness have always turned into times in which our church saw “more fruit,” “much fruit,” and fruit that remains.
Thank God for large, strong, fundamental churches that see a perennial harvest. They have been through the pruning process many times, no doubt, which is why they are now able to bear such magnificent harvests. Newer churches and younger preachers, however, should not be surprised if there come times of fruit-bearing, followed by times of pruning, followed by a time of growth, followed by a time of “more” fruit, followed by a time of pruning, followed by a time of growth, followed by a time of “much fruit.”
A word of caution, however: the Father is the husbandman, and the only One Who gets to use the pruning shears. My grandfather never let me prune a peach tree. He knew what he was doing; it was his job, and if I had done it, I might have ruined a tree that had taken ten years to grow. Preach, stand, teach, lead, instruct, reprove, rebuke, exhort, set an example – but let God the Father prune the branches.
Is your life bearing fruit? Are people being saved? Could it be that you are not abiding in Christ, in His Word (vs. 7), in His love (vs. 9), or in His commandments (vs. 10)? Are you withered because you have become disconnected from the source of sustenance, strength, and stability for your life? Without HIM you can do NOTHING (vs.5).
Have you been fruitful in the recent past, and yet seem to be struggling today? It could be that your gracious Heavenly Father is purging your life or your church, that you might bring forth “more fruit.” Be faithful. Abide in Christ. Trust in God. Keep obeying the Great Commission. Keep going forward. It will be worth it when the season of harvest comes again.
Thank you for reading. God bless.