The harvest season is over, but it is still time for Christians to bear fruit. Our plants and trees bear fruit during the warm months, but God’s people bear fruit while they are in Christ. John 15 records Jesus’ doctrine about our spiritual productivity.
First, Jesus wants us to know that Christians are expected to be productive in the church. God will work on us so that we can be more productive, and if we refuse to be productive, God will send us away. Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 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 fruit” (Jn 15:1-2).
Then, Jesus shows us how we can be productive in his church. Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches; the one who remains in Me, and I in him bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). The secret to productive Christian living is to remain in Christ. As Christians are connected to Christ, they will find themselves being productive because they are so connected to Christ. Just as you will be cold if you go play in the snow, if you remain in Christ, you will find yourself working for the Lord.
So how do we remain connected to Christ in such a way that we will be productive? Jesus said, “If you remain in Me, and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (Jn 15:17). Connection with the Word leads to the capability to serve God. With the capability to serve God, God will provide service opportunities.
Jesus gave these teachings just after he had initiated the Lord’s Supper. Early writers described the connection between the Lord’s Supper initiation and the vine imagery in John 15 with beautiful theology. Here is a summary:
Christ rises quickly from the table where he has sat with his disciples for the Last Supper in order to perform the sacrament of his final passion in the mystery of his flesh (Hilary). Like a grapevine hung on the wood of the cross for us (Ambrose), the true vine (Augustine) of David is put through the winepress of the cross (Gaudentius). He lets the juice from his veins flow in support of its branches (Clement) in the Eucharist as an antidote to our grief (Theophilus of Alexandria). As the vine, he joins himself to our nature that we might become partakers in his nature through the Holy Spirit as branches attached to and supported by him (Cyril).
Elowsky, Joel C., ed. John 11–21. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007.
Jesus is the source of our life. His blood was shed on the cross and nourishes his people in the Supper every Lord’s Day.
Stay connected to Christ. Stay in the Word. Stay ready to serve.