Home Media Sermons by Pastor Nicki Coertze Non-series Sermons by Year 2020 Sermons . Abiding in the Vine

. Abiding in the Vine

ABIDING IN THE VINE – FRUITLESS BRANCHES

John 15:4-10 (ESV)4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me, he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

One of the things here at Logos Community Church, Polokwane and what I strive for is to when we come to the Word of God is to look for what God intended for the original hearers. I have no desire to be right as far as my position to the text is concerned. We want to find God’s position towards His Word and with hard labour we are simply seeking to discover it. We just simply desire to know the truth.

 

One of the things we are confronted in the text before us, and we already touched on it in verse 1-3 is who are the fruitless branches?

 

I believe there are two very practical purposes behind the instruction that Christ gave to His disciples in this chapter.

 

*First, it is an explanation for a dilemma that they will soon be confronted with.  How do we understand someone like Judas?  The words of Christ here explain the difference between a branch that is in him only superficially, and a branch that is in Him in a different way, in a way that they receive His life.

 

*Second, is an exhortation for them to pursue Him who is their life, and as a result to glorify God to their fullest capacity by bearing much fruit.  It is an exhortation to persevere, it is an exhortation to pursue Christ, it is an exhortation to bear fruit, and all of this they have been ordained to if they are truly His.

 

And while there is teaching here that calls for personal examination as to the reality of our position in Christ, there is more instruction here that calls for personal examination as to whether we are engaging in a full, whole hearted, all out pursuit of the Lord Jesus Christ that will result in maximum fruit bearing.

 

I do not believe that the main thrust here has to do with the fruitless branches.  The main thrust here has to do with abiding in Christ and being a branch that bears much fruit to the glory of God.

 

And so, today, I want us to think about what it means to abide in the Lord Jesus Christ, but I think that before we talk about that it is important that we be confident about a particular identification that we have made concerning the fruitless branches.

 

There are even some people who are reformed in doctrine and Calvinistic in their view of salvation who see the fruitless branches here as Christians, and all that is burnt up is their works. For them this is a process of progressive sanctification. The idea is also that the burning spoken of is simply a loss of rewards. If that is the truth that the fruitless branches are believers, I want to know that. Others believe that it is true disciples, real Christians who lose their faith, who lose their salvation and end up in hell. I still stand with John Calvin’s view of many things where he says: “Even if every bone in my body cries against it, if God says so, so let it be.”

 

I think, despite my great respect for many theologians, is that they are wrong on this one.  And I want to make clear why I believe that. For those listening to the devotions, you already know that I believe it is the Judas kind of believers that do not bear fruit. They are someone who are connected to Jesus, but they are connected to Jesus in a way that is not saving, they are connected in a way that does not result in fruit. They are truly connected to Him for association and for identification, but they are not connected to Him in the same way that the branches are that bear fruit. The fruitless branches represent superficial branches like Judas, who were not really saved.

 

So, for this Sunday’s sermon, I want to grapple with this issue. Why do I say that these branches are not genuine disciples? This morning I want you to think with me as we look at some other Scriptures other than John 15.

 

 

Point 1. Why the fruitless branches are not genuine disciples. (Five reasons)

 

A.     The context argues for it.

 

The first reason, and one that I went over last week, is the context.  I think it is most natural to see this discussion as a part of Christ’s ongoing work of preparing these men for what they were about to face.  One question that would have to be answered for them is what happened to Judas?  How can you explain a man like that? Remember the upper room experience, Judas has gone out, with the purpose of betraying the Lord Jesus. Jesus is dealing with these men about their future, the fact that He is going to be betrayed, the fact that He is going to be crucified. After He is raised from the dead He is going away. He is going to send the Helper, the Holy Spirit. What are these conversations about? It is about preparing these 11 true disciples for what is coming. It is about comforting them; it is about getting them ready to know His peace that He is leaving with them. So, when they get up to leave the upper room in John 14 we read the following in John 14:25-31 (ESV) 25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.”


That is context. They go from there. There is not much time left, and Christ prepares His disciples. And one thing they needed to understand is about Judas. What happened to Judas, where does he fit into the grand scheme of things? How do you understand someone who was like you? How do you understand someone who professed faith in the Lord Jesus and does something like this? I believe that all the conversation taking place since the upper room is so that the true disciples can understand where they are heading to, and that the true disciples can understand what happened to a not so true disciple.

 

As I explained in the devotions this week, we need not stumble over that because Judas did indeed “belong” to Christ, or was “in Christ” but in a different way than the other disciples and for a different purpose. He was in Christ by identification in the sight of men, he was in Christ as to association, he was in Christ superficially, but he was not in Christ truly and vitally.

 

Charles Spurgeon makes that same point regarding this issue in the broader sense.

 

“They are both branches, they are both branches in the vine… How much alike persons may be apparently, who in God’s sight stand at opposite poles of character!  Both the persons described in the text were in Christ: in Christ in different senses it is plain, because the first persons were not so in Christ as to bring forth fruit, consequently, as fruit is that by which we are to judge a man, they were not in Christ effectually, graciously, influentially, or so as to receive the fruit creating sap.  If they had brought forth fruit, their fruitfulness would have been a sign that they were in Christ savingly.  Who will venture to say that a man who yields no fruit of righteousness can be really a Christian? Yet they were in Christ in some sense or other; that is to say, the two characters were equally esteemed to be Christians; their names were enrolled in the same church register; in the common judgment of men they were equally Christian, according to their own profession, they were so; they were both in Christ as His avowed disciples, as soldiers professedly fighting under his banner.”

So, in that sense they are both in Christ, but they are not both in Christ savingly.

 

So, my view and I hope you share my view is that the context does not argue that they are true believers, but rather Judas like believers.

 

B. The analogy that Jesus chooses of fruit bearing argues for it.

 

I believe that the analogy is not saying that there is a work of progressive sanctification, but it has to do with salvation, whether someone is truly saved or not. If we are to believe that the fruitless branches of John 15 speak of genuine believers who just don’t bear fruit, can we see any other instance in the New Testament where a fruitless branch is spoken of as being a believer? Let me say it another way. When the analogy of fruit bearing is used in the New Testament can we see an instance where the issue is not salvation but progressive sanctification. Can we see anywhere when it comes to fruit bearing that the issue is sanctification where it is simply a process of becoming holy.

 

Matthew 3:7-12 (ESV) 7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

 

Who is John the Baptist speaking to here?  He is speaking to people who placed their confidence, when it came to the matter of salvation, in their physical connection to Abraham.  He is speaking to them about their very salvation. What baptism is set opposite the baptism with the Holy Spirit which has to do with salvation?  What is the baptism of fire? It is not refining fire as in 1 Peter with the gold being refined. It is the baptism of judgment. That is why I said to you the other day, you will either be burned or barned. Here is the analogy of fruit, but the unbeliever burns with unquenchable fire. The issue is not sanctification but salvation. Who are they trusting in, Abraham or Christ?

 

Matthew 7:15-20 (ESV) 15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”

 

Who is Christ speaking of here?  He is speaking of false prophets.  And immediately after this discussion about the fact that you can know someone by their fruits he talks about the day when false professors will come face to face with the fact that Christ never knew them. Matthew 7:21 (ESV) 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

 

What is the claim of those who He says this to? Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV) 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” Again, He uses the analogy of fruit bearing and what is it connected with? Not progressive sanctification but salvation. False prophets are not saved people, and you will know them by their fruits. They were connected to Jesus through prophecy, casting out demons and mighty works, but they were not saved.

 

Matthew 12:31-37 (ESV) 31 Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. 33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

 

Who is Christ speaking of here?  A brood of vipers.  He straightforwardly identifies them as evil.  And he says that it would be by the words of people that one day their true spiritual condition would be able to be demonstrated. Again, the analogy of fruit bearing. But again, an issue of salvation.

 

Matthew 13:18-23 (ESV) 18 “Hear then the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

 

Note that there is a place, even where there is good soil, for differing amounts of fruit bearing.  It is not like every believer is as fruitful as they could be or as they should be.  But it is still true to say that only one kind of soil brings forth fruit and that is good soil. Where there is bad soil, there is no fruit.

 

Matthew 21:33-43 (ESV) 33 “Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. 34 When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. 35 And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. 37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ (This is about Israel, it is about the prophets sent to them, they killed the prophets, and now Christ is sent to them). 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ 39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.” 42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “ ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? 43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.

 

Who is Christ speaking of here? He is speaking of an unbelieving Israel. People to whom the kingdom of God has first been given, but who forfeit their position of favour because the fruit that should have been given to the owner was not given. (vs.41) And he also says that the kingdom will be given to people who produce its fruits. God will now turn to the gentiles. And where the Kingdom of God has truly come, there will be fruits. (vs.43) The ones who do not give Him his fruit he puts to a miserable death. (vs.41)

 

I challenge anyone to show me a passage, outside of what they say John 15 means namely sanctification. No, my friend, these sections and John 15 speak of salvation, and this makes it extremely critical. There is no place where a person completely devoid of good fruit is spoken of as being a genuine disciple?

 

No, there are some branches connected to Christ who are truly saved and bearing fruit, and then there are some branches connected to Christ in a superficial manner, but do not belong to Christ.

 

So, the first reason is context, and the second reason is where this analogy is used it speaks of salvation.

 

There is a third reason why these fruitless people are not true believers. Because if they are the call of Christ to examine fruits becomes meaningless.

 

C.      The call of Christ to examine fruit calls for it.

 

If fruit does not really tell the story, then why in the world would our Lord tell us to look for it?  If bad fruit does not really mean it is a bad tree, then why worry about anyone’s fruit at all? If you can have a good tree that has bad fruit, why would we ever worry about fruit, and why would the Lord tell us to look for it? Where the life of Christ is there is fruit, maybe not the same amount of fruit, but there is fruit.

 

There is a fourth reason.

 

 

D. The statement about a demonstration of discipleship calls for it (vs.8)

 

John 15:8 (ESV) 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” What is the evidence that you are really a disciple of Jesus? The evidence that you are a disciple, or a Christian is that you bear much fruit.

There is a fifth reason given.

 

E. The ordained purposes of God call for it. (vs.16)

 

John 15:16 (ESV) 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”

 

Do we think that God chose them to go and bear fruit and it did not happen? The context calls for these fruitless branches as unbelievers, the analogy call for these fruitless branches as unbelievers, the call of Christ that we will examine fruit, and that we will know a tree by it’s fruit tells us that they are unbelievers, the statement about proving to be His disciples by bearing fruit, tells us that those who do not bear fruit are unbelievers and the ordained purposes of God that we must go and bring forth fruit says that true believers will bear fruit, and those who bear no fruit are unbelievers.

 

I have one more point and I am going to fly through it, as time does not permit me to go into it in detail.

 

Point 2. Why is this an important issue?

 

  1. It is important for individual examination.

 

When we tell people that there is such a thing as a fruitless believer, and that there is no need to conclude that a fruitless person has no real connection to Jesus, then we give people a false sense of assurance. Back to my example of an unbeliever who bore no fruit lying in a coffin in the front of the church and the pastor dares say that he is in a better place now. What is the message to those who knew him well? You can live like you want to and you will go to a better place. I would like you to repeat after me. My fruit tells the truth about me. Think about it. You see my friend, it is not about growing up in the church, it is not about some baptism, it is not about walking an isle somewhere, or kneeling at the altar as some say, it is not about a sinners prayer, it is not about church membership or supposedly being slain in the spirit (wherever we find that in the Bible), or prophesying, or casting out demons or doing mighty works. It is about abiding in Christ and bearing much fruit, fruit that lasts.

 

I say to you this morning, if your fruit is bad, and there is no fruit of righteousness, I believe John 15 teaches that you have reason to fear eternity. If you want to know, whether or not you are a believer, take a look at yourself, examine yourself and ask if Christ is really in you, lest you fail the test. The way you are going to know is by the fruit you bear. What does your fruit say? Can you be honest with yourself, what does your fruit say? Are you really connected to Christ, not superficial, not in the estimate of those around you? We might all think you are a believer and you still fail the test. But if you look for some fruit that you know can only be produces, by the inner working of the life of Christ in me, is it there? This is the most serious question you can ask yourself today.

 

For the purpose of examination, it is always good to begin where the word of God is very specific. There are many kinds of fruit, but the Word of God tells us what some of the fruit is. Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV) 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

 

So, examine yourself to see if you are in the faith, and if not. I have good news for you. Come to Christ, believe in Him, submit yourself to Him, accept Him as your Lord and Saviour and He promises you that He will raise you up on the last day. You will not be cut off; you will not be cast out. You will be barned and not burned, and Jesus will be your Saviour and not your judge.

 

Amen!

Soli Deo Gloria

Logos Community Church:- 2 August 2020