One of my favorite pictures from my childhood is a picture that was taken of me and my farmer grandfather. I was maybe four or five-years-old and I was standing with my grandfather in one of his fields. He was surveying the crop; I was more interested in the camera.
In those years, I would occasionally accompany my grandfather to work with him in his fields. He would turn a five-gallon bucket upside down, place a burlap sack over the top of it for comfort, and then set it next to his seat on the tractor, and then the two of us would work the fields all day long. It was a small taste of life on the farm for his city-slicker grandson.
I thought about that farm-work this morning as I read John 15. There is a small correlation between the “work” I did with my grandfather 45 years ago and the work I do with the Lord in the process of harvesting spiritual fruit in my life. There are at least five key principles of spiritual fruit in the opening verses.
1. Spiritual fruit is the work of God (v. 2). If there is something produced spiritually through our lives, it is God’s work. And to produce that fruit, he will discipline us if we are unfruitful (v. 2a), and if we are fruitful He will cleanse or purify us (the word “prune” is in the family of words for “purification”) so that we will produce more fruit.
2. Spiritual fruit is the result of living in Christ (v. 4). The verb “abide” is important in John. He uses it 40 times in the book and 11 times in this chapter. The basic sense of the word is to “live” or “remain.” So to abide in Christ means to live with Him — to be dependent on Him and to continue in life with Him. The word is indicative not only of faith in Christ, but continued obedience to Christ. And the result of that obedience is spiritual fruit.
3. It is impossible to produce spiritual fruit apart from living in Christ (v. 5). We can do nothing without Him. That means that we can do nothing spiritually without being obedient and submissive to Him. So no matter what seems to be done in our lives, if we are disobedient, we are unfruitful and unproductive. (And that means that only in eternity will the true estimation of our work be revealed, 1 Cor. 3:10ff).
4. If there is no fruit, there is no life (v. 6). And if there is no life, judgment awaits. God created men — all men — to glorify Him. If men do not glorify Him by living for Him, they await eternal condemnation (Rom. 3:23; 6:23).
5. These truths are for our joy (v. 11). Christ revealed the realities about spiritual life and producing spiritual fruit so that we would learn to live with Him and consequently to know His joy. The path of obedience and spiritual fruitfulness may be laborious and difficult at times (it gets hot and dusty sitting on a tractor all day, too), but the end product for us is always joy.