Regardless of the kind of study you do, you always come back to 4 main categories of questions: Observation, Interpretation, Correlation, Application. Observation - what does it say? Interpretation - what does it mean? We’re going to talk about that more today. Correlation - what does it say in other verses that explain this verse? Application - what am I going to do about it? In today’s passage Jesus gets very intimate and very personal - powerful passage in John 15. I want to read these verses and we’re going to dig in and see what it means and what it doesn’t mean.
God expects you to be faithful in life and he expects you to be fruitful. Fruitfulness one of the major themes of the NT. God says I have made an investment in your life. I made you, I created you, I saved you, I put my Holy Spirit in you and I want a return on my investment. I expect you to live a fruitful life. I’ve planted the seed of God’s Word in you and I want you to bear fruit.
John 15: 1 – 17 - those verses have more spiritual insight, more power-packed truths than I could possibly teach you in 6 months. So we’ve got to limit our study. I want to focus on this concept of fruit. I want to show you how a verse can be misinterpreted. Each verse in the Bible, has one and only one meaning. It may have multiple applications but it only has one interpretation. Many applications, depending on whether you’re a man or a woman, young or old, married or single, live in the 21st century or the 1st century. There are correct ways to interpret the Bible and there are incorrect ways. Then you can make the Bible say anything.
One of the problem verses – v. 6 - “If anyone doesn’t remain in me, he’s like a branch that’s thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”
Misinterpreted grossly - If you don’t bear fruit - if you don’t bring people to Christ, God is going to throw you away. You’re going to lose your salvation and you’re going to burn in the fire of hell. Is that what this verse means? Absolutely not! Gross misinterpretation - totally ignores the context and the principles of interpretation of Scripture. Here’s the 1st principle.
1. You consider the historical context.
You ask this question - who is this being spoken to and why? This passage on fruit bearing is in the middle of a 4 chapter conversation all on the same evening with the same group of people. It was the night Jesus was betrayed, arrested and taken to be whipped before he was crucified. This is the last conversation of Jesus before he goes to the cross. Then in John 17 Jesus prays for them. Then he is arrested and taken and crucified.
15: 11 “I’ve told you this [about serving, loving, heaven, prayer, Holy Spirit, gift of peace, bearing fruit] so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” That’s called the context. Who’s he talking to? Why is he saying it? - To give them encouragement. Knowing the context – do you think He is saying - if you don’t bear fruit you’re going to be cut off from me, you’re going to lose your salvation and you’re going to burn in hell! It makes no sense at all.
2. You must define the key words.
You’ve got to make sure that you understand what the word means, not what you think it means. Just because it means something somewhere else doesn’t mean it means that in this particular verse. In John 15 the word “love” is used 9 times and the word “fruit” is used 9 times in 17 verses. I think I know what love is, but what is fruit? If God expects me to bear fruit in my life, I’d better know what it means. If this is what brings glory to God - I better know what it is. People say it’s the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, kindness, self control – those 9 qualities. Not automatically.
The word “fruit” is used 45 times in the NT - has at least 10 different meanings. You can’t just automatically assume you know what the word means. Matthew 3: 8 - “fruit if repentance.” Matthew 26:29 - “fruit of the vine” - communion wine. Romans 7:5 - “fruit for death” - sinful lifestyle. Romans 15:18 - “We receive this fruit” - offering of money. Galatians 5:22 - “the fruit of the Spirit” – 9 godly attitudes. Ephesians 5:9 - “the fruit of life” - truth, righteousness and goodness. Colossians 1:6 - “The gospel is bearing fruit and growing” - new believers. Hebrews 13:15 - “praise to God, the fruit of our lips” - worship.
So what is it? If God says I am to bear fruit and Jesus is saying this is so important it’s one of the last things I’m going to talk about - what is Jesus taking about when he says we must bear fruit in this context?
3. You must interpret unclear verses with clear ones.
We find 3 clear characteristics of fruit. v. 4 “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.” Means to stay, to continue, to abide, to connect. A branch that’s disconnected from a tree is not going to bear any fruit. “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”
A. Bearing fruit is produced by remaining in Christ.
He says it 3 times. You stay in me, you’re going to bear fruit. If you don’t stay in me you can’t do anything. Fruit is an inside job - you can’t just tack it on to your life. It’s got to come from within. The Holy Spirit flowing in you is going to bear fruit.
v. 8 “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
B. Bearing fruit brings glory to God.
That’s what the verse says. It’s very clear.
v. 11 “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
C. Bearing fruit will give me complete joy.
Bearing fruit - produced by remaining in Christ, brings glory to God and it’s going to give me complete joy. We’re still stuck with the question - what’s fruit?
4. Look for the most obvious meaning.
This is the exact opposite of what a lot of people want to do - want to go find some deep meaning, hidden meaning, secret meaning. The Bible is not full of secrets. What is the purpose of the Bible? - To reveal God, not to conceal him. So if I read a Bible verse and I come up with an interpretation that nobody else has seen, I’m wrong. You look for the obvious meaning.
Don’t try to make every detail mean something. When there’s a story in the Bible, every detail doesn’t have a spiritual meaning. A parable is a story with one point to it. If a guy is wearing a red scarf, the red means nothing. It’s just part of the story. If the guy was on a 3 wheel bike – not the trinity!
What is obvious about v. 6? “If anyone does not remain in me, he’s thrown aside like a branch and he withers and they gather them and throw them into the fire and they are burned.”
Here’s the point. A fruitless fruit tree has lost it purpose. The purpose of a fruit tree is to bear fruit. So what good is a fruitless fruit tree? Use it for firewood. If you use it for firewood and burn it, then you get some value out of it. He’s not talking about going to hell.
So you let the text speak for itself - the meaning becomes obvious. When we let the text speak for itself it’s very clear what the meaning of “fruit” is. We don’t have to use any Bible dictionary or Bible encyclopedia or any other tools. Those are all good tools but you don’t have to use them to see what “fruit” is. Let’s go back to the text. Look at 3 things.
15: 7 “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you!” He’s talking about prayer.
A. Remaining in Christ produces answered prayers.
Being connected to Christ produces answered prayer. Prayer can do anything that God can do! You say, I’ve asked for a lot of things I didn’t get. If God doesn’t give you what you ask for it will always be something better. God will never give you something worse than you asked for. Maybe you don’t think it’s better. But God knew it was better, and God is God and you’re not. Pray, “God I want you to give me what you think is good for me, because you know what I need more than I do.”
14: 13, 14 - same conversation - same eleven guys. “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”Second thing we learn -
B. Answered prayer brings glory to God.
So when I pray and ask for things and then God gives it to me, it brings glory to God because it shows how loving God is. What do you need to be asking God for in your life? Some of you are going through a really shaky time right now. When you feel the sky is falling in on you, you hold up your hands in prayer. Jesus said, “Ask anything in my name. It will bring glory to God. It will cause you to remain connected to me.”
16: 24 - Same conversation, same group of guys. Jesus says “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete!” Have you heard that phrase before – your joy will be complete.
C. Answered prayer gives me complete joy
Over 20 times in the NT we are commanded to ask -“Ask and it shall be given… Seek and you’ll find… Knock and the door will be opened.” James “You have not because you ask not.” One day we’re going to get to heaven – see all these things we could have had but never asked for - see all the experiences we could have enjoyed but you never asked for them - see all of the blessings we could have experienced but never asked for them. Jesus, in his final words to his disciples says, I want you to ask. I’m not going to be here with you anymore, but you can talk to me any time and you can ask.
Are you seeing a connection here? Bearing fruit is produced by remaining in Christ. Bearing fruit brings glory to God. Bearing fruit gives me complete joy. Answered prayers come from remaining in Christ. Answered prayer brings glory to God. Answered prayer gives me complete joy. You see any connection here? Just in case you missed it, Jesus mentions it one more time in v. 16 “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit-fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name!”
So here it is. Looking at the Word, looking at the context and letting the text speak for itself you write this down:
I bear fruit by asking in prayer.
He’s not talking about losing your salvation because you didn’t win somebody to Christ. He’s talking about fruit comes through prayer. Prayer is the root of all fruit. The fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, come through prayer. Gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, peace, patience, kindness, meekness, self-control come through prayer. Prayer is the password to everything God wants to do in your life.
See what our problem is? We have trouble with prayer when we’re not in trouble. We don’t have trouble praying when we’re in trouble. Prayerlessness is acting like an atheist. I don’t need to pray; things are going well and you only pray when you need something.
Jesus says the way you bear fruit is by praying - the more you pray the more fruit you’re going to have in your life. Everything God does he does because you ask him to do it in your life.
Bible study isn’t Bible study until you get to the what am I going to do about it part - personal application. Matthew 7: 24 “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house upon the rock.”
So the last thing we need to do here, we don’t need to talk about prayer – we need to pray. I want you to write out an application, 1 sentence of what you’re going to pray about this week so that you can bear fruit. Where do you need to bear fruit? Maybe in your finances - your marriage -your health - your friendship - your job - your education. “You have not because you ask not.”
Prayer - Jesus, thank you that you love us and created us to bear fruit. Thank you that you do not want our lives to be barren. Thank you that you created prayer so that we could talk to you. What a privilege! Forgive us for not praying more. We pray for a church full of fruit bearers. Men and women who are bearing fruit in their career, bearing fruit in their lives, in their families, in every area through answered prayer. Lord, help us to pray more that we may see more fruit in our lives. In Jesus Name, Amen