“Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.” (Matthew 12:33 KJV)
Trees. There are all kinds of trees in the Bible. The tree of life. The tree of good and evil. And here Jesus speaks about ourselves in an analogy of a tree. “…for a tree is known by it’s fruit.”
Isn’t that so true? A person can say anything but how can we know they actually “mean” or what they really think in their hearts? Let’s be truthful…everyone is wearing masks to hide their sin right? How can we know their motives? Jesus says to “…make the tree good and it’s fruit good.” However who is it that makes a tree good?
Let’s think about that a moment. Let’s talk about a real tree for a moment. What is it that makes the tree look the way it does? What determines if a tree will bring forth healthy fruit or withered fruit? Or no fruit at all? Is it the branches or the bark? Is it the leaves? Is it anything externally on the tree at all? No. It is the health of the tree root. The part that is unseen and buried deep in the earth. And if you were to take two apple trees, one with apples ready for picking and the other has withered apples. Other then the fruit both can look and seem healthy. But there is clearly something wrong with the tree not bearing ripe fruit. That “something” must be a problem in the root.
God is very clear about the condition we are in, as people born into sin, we have a sinful nature. We are sinful because there is something wrong with our “inner man”, with our “root”. Our root, separated from God by our choice to commit sin is not well. The Scripture is clear that the wages of sin is death. Our root is so bad that our “tree” is going to die – in fact is spiritually dead. We all have a sinful nature that the Bible calls The Flesh that is inclined to sinning.
In Matthew 12, prior to Jesus mentioning trees and fruit of people, the Pharisees were attempting to accuse Jesus as ungodly because he was healing people on the Sabbath. (The Jews had very strict laws that they thought people should follow regarding the Sabbath Day) They even accused Christ of performing the miracle healing by the power of Satan! To better understand this you must realize that the Pharisees were the most religious men of that time. Leaders that studied the Torah (what we now call the Old Testament). But Jesus accuses them of not being what they claim. In Matthew 12 Christ speaks clearly and directly to them and says,
“O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.” (Matthew 12:34-35 KJV)
Like an apple tree that looks fine outwardly, yet has bad or no fruit, inwardly their hearts were still evil. No matter how many outward good works they did and how much they tried to not sin to please God, they still had a sin debt, yet they spoke as if they were more holy then everyone. They clearly thought that doing good deeds and following the Law of Moses was the way to please God, knowing what is good and what is bad. In essence, they were living off the “knowledge of good and evil”. Do good deeds to please God and less evil things and if our good outweighs our bad, then God would be pleased.
Do you know anyone that believes this lie? A person that does go to church regularly, on time, best dressed. They tell everyone how close they are to the priest or pastor. They believe they are a good person and on God’s side. Yet, they have never dealt with their ‘root problem’; that is their sin debt and the flesh. The very same people may not forgive others when wronged. In fact, they accuse and are judgmental of others because they think they are somehow, a ‘better person’. And the thing is they also think they are pleasing God.
The truth is, they are deceived. Look, we have ALL been deceived into thinking about our relationship to God in this manner. Do good and please God right? Do more good than evil and enter heaven someday, right? This is the lie that Satan told Adam and Eve in the garden. It is based on the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”.
This is NOT God’s way!
God wants salvation and righteousness before God, not of our own works, but through faith in Jesus.
“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”
(Galatians 2:16 KJV)
So we all have a problem with our hearts, our inner man, our “root”. It is all about the tree of knowledge of good and evil because we were all born into sin. So Jesus says that we need to “…make the tree good and its fruit good.”
It is important to notice and understand that Jesus did not say to do good works which would be good fruit. Instead He says TO MAKE the “tree” (our root) good and by doing so our fruit would be good.
The Key Question In Life
But how can we have a good root so our life can produce good fruit? Now THAT is the question to find the answer to! If our hearts and minds are tuned into God’s tree of life, our outward man will bear good fruit in an almost effortless way. So how do we make our inner man good?
Jesus answers this question in John 15. Speaking to the disciples, Jesus tells us that He is the vine and we are the branches. Now let us think about that for just a moment. From the very moment of our belief an trust on Christ to save us we are SEALED by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14). The Holy Spirit now indwells the believer forever. Jesus becomes our new root and source of life. He supplies everything to the Branches. Also, if one touches a branch on a vine, have they not also touched the vine? You see when Jesus became our NEW root, our vine, we also became part of the vine.
He makes it very clear that to have our root, our hearts, our inner man changed, we need to accept Christ as our personal savior. Accept His forgiveness of all our sins and allow the Holy Spirit to dwell in us and renew our minds and change the root of our problem – from a sinful nature called The Flesh and to be a new creation called The Spirit. A believer now has TWO NATURES and not just the Flesh. A believer is a new creation called The Spirit. The Spirit is now the NEW US. It never sins nor wants to sin. It is the very righteousness of God in Christ and that is now who we are as believers. The Flesh is at war with The Spirit in a believer and will be until our future bodily resurrection.
Jesus speaks clearly,
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 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. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.” (John 15: 1-4 KJV)
Remember that when Jesus spoke this to the disciples He had not yet died on the cross for the sins of the whole world. Jesus is preparing them for the soon coming New Covenant through Jesus Christ crucified. He is telling them beforehand. He is telling them to ‘abide in Him’ once the New Covenant begins.
What does it mean to abide in Christ?
Is abiding a work we must perform to remain in Christ? Does it mean that abiding is something that, as a believer, we must strive to attain? Well, there are many teaching this is the case but the Scriptures are clear that Salvation is not of ourselves nor by our own self righteous works. (Ephesians 2:8-9). Let’s look at another Scripture that will make this crystal clear and it is by the same one that penned Jesus words in John 15:
“Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.” (1 John 4:15 KJV)
The English word ‘dwelleth’ in this passage when looked at in the Greek it was penned sheds light on what the abiding Jesus is speaking of in John 15 is really all about. The Greek word for dwelleth in this passage is ‘menō‘ and it literally means ‘abide’ (Source: Strong’s Definitions)! So in John 15 when Jesus is talking about abiding, it is not a work that we must perform. It is belief on Christ and the only atonement for our sins; Jesus Christ crucified. So when a person believes on Christ and is a saved believer and the Holy Spirit indwells a person from that very moment of belief (Ephesians 1:13-14) they ARE ABIDING IN CHRIST AND CHRIST IS ABIDING ON THEM.
Jesus says that we cannot bear good fruit ourselves and that sounds a lot like Apostle Paul in Ephesians doesn’t it?
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV)
He is telling the disciples that they must abide in the vine, that is having the Holy Spirit indwelling us. Unless the Holy Spirit is abiding in us and we in the Holy Spirit, we really cannot do anything to please God. If Christ is not abiding in us, then Christ is not working through us neither. If the Holy Spirit is not indwelling us then all our deeds and good works are being done in self righteousness. A person will never bear good fruit until they are IN CHRIST and Christ is in them abiding. This abiding is really ‘living’. We live in Christ and He lives is us as believers. Abiding is not a work but once we are saved God works through us. Apostle Paul describes it like this:
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 KJV)
You see, these days I hear Bible teachers telling people they must WORK hard to abide and stay abiding in Christ. But is that really true? Or is it that once a person believes on Christ alone, and the atonement for sins Jesus accomplished through the cross, that this person now has Christ abiding within them by the Holy Spirit. They are from the very moment of belief SEALED by the Holy Spirit and MADE a new creation called The Spirit. Once this has happened God can work through the believer and produce good fruit. Why? Because the believer has a new ROOT called The Spirit and our new source is the Holy Spirit indwelling.
God The Father Is The Vine Dresser
It is God who provides everything for everyone and He also provided to us Jesus the Christ in His vineyard. Jesus is the only begotten Son Of God. He is God in the flesh. Part of the Triune God who is The Word become flesh. He paid the penalty for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2) and “…whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.“ (John 3:15 KJV). Our sin debt as a believer in Christ has been PAID IN FULL and that is all of the sins of a believer’s life; even your future sins! That is why He said, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” This is in reference to John 14 where Jesus tells the disciples that he is the only way to God.
The word Jesus had spoken throughout His ministry was the Gospel of Grace. The kingdom of God and salvation from slavery in sin. And He prunes (disciplines) those that are His so that they will bear good fruit. Jesus became the bridge between the gap of sinful man and Holy God. It is only through Him we have a newly created Spirit (the new us now) with a real relationship with God through means of the cross. And God wants to change us from the inside out through the Holy Spirit as our root. He wants to renew our minds by the Word of God. Jesus again addresses the root of our problem but this time with the solution when He said,
“I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth IN ME, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for WITHOUT ME YE CAN DO NOTHING.
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 ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be MY DISCIPLES.” (John 15:5-8 KJV)
To bear good fruit, we need a good root. God the Father, controls the vine so that the vine (Jesus is the vine) bears good fruit. Where is the fruit growing? On the branches! You and me are the branches. God the Father provides the seed, the good soil, the rain and the perfect amount of sun for the vine. Jesus Christ who bore our sins and gave us the very righteousness of Christ, is the true vine in God’s vineyard. And it is through the branches that the good fruit springs forth. Again Jesus said, “I am the vine, ye are the branches…” Fruit does not show up on the vine root. The root is the source and the branches bring forth the fruit. Yet the branches cannot bear fruit unless the root source gives the branches what it needs to bear the fruit. In the same way, if Christ is not in us and we have not believed on Christ then we are not abiding. Without the Holy Spirit indwelling us, that is God indwelling us, what source are we using for good works? Well first, we would be acting as vines and not as branches right? And because we would be using self righteous efforts and not using God as our source we simply cannot bear the good fruit of God. And as a branch, if we are not pulling our energy and life from the vine root we will dry up, and wither and be useless in bearing good fruit.
Two Groups Of People
There are two main groups of people being spoken of by Jesus in John 15:
I. People Who Believe They Are Vines…
John 15 is really addressed to disciples, that is ‘learners’ of Christ’s teachings. They are the Jewish people during Christ’s ministry following Christ and learning from Him. But there are people who did not go out and listen and learn from Christ; that are not disciples. They are not mentioned here. They and those today that believe they are not connected to a vine as a branch. Those who reject Salvation through Christ, who instead they act as if they are a vine. Some do not even believe in a God. They do whatever they want without considering God. They are unbelievers and the unredeemed who have rejected Christ.
II. People seeking a way to God…
This group is divided into three more sub groups (branches) in John 15:
⇒ BRANCH Sub group 1: “He who abides (DOES ABIDE) in Me, AND I IN HIM, and bears much fruit.”
This group are true believers who have accepted Salvation by belief on Christ crucified, based solely on the atonement provided by Christ on the cross for the remission of their sins, without works. Salvation is NOT by works of any kind as we see in so many Scriptures (Ephesians 2:8-9, 1 Timothy 2: 5-6, Romans 4:4-5, Galatians 2:16-21 ). The Holy Spirit abides (dwells) within believers and will work through a believer and accomplish good works. That is why this group bears much fruit.
“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. Now YE ARE CLEAN through the word which I have spoken unto you.” (John 15: 2-3 KJV)
⇒ BRANCH Subgroup 2: Every branch IN ME that beareth not fruit
Every branch “in Me”, are believers. Those believers that do not bear fruit “He taketh away” (Greek word airō. This is usually translated as “to raise up, to elevate, or to lift up”). Think about a field of vines. Now some branches of the vine may be slouching and even half in the dirt. Wind and tough times have this branch weary and weak. What does a person attending to the vines do? Well, this was common practice of a vine care taker, those not bearing fruit he will lift up out of the ground so that it takes to the nutrients better in hopes of bearing more fruit. He will prop it up to get more sun and nutrients from the vine root. God HELPS them to bear more fruit! As believers, we sometimes receive miraculous help in our time of need don’t we? Other times we get discipline from God to hopefully bear more fruit. In both cases, God is helping us bear more good fruit ! And those already bearing fruit, are pruned to produce more fruit. These are both those who believe on the atonement of Christ for our sins. They bear the fruit of good works by God within as their source.
“YE ARE CLEAN through the word which I have spoken unto you”
These words are the words in John 14:6 where Jesus is telling the disciples, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.“ This group had ALL their sins forgiven.
This group is washed clean. They are abiding in Christ and CHRIST IS ABIDING IN THEM. It is a relationship that Christ describes in other Scriptures such as,
“That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (John 17:21 KJV)
⇒ BRANCH Subgroup 3: “If anyone DOES NOT abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is WITHERED; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.”
Who are the people in this group? They are those branches who are not abiding in Christ. You know there are those that think they are Christians because of their own self righteousness? I mean, yes they believe Christ died for their sins but they think they need to also follow the Law of Moses, or be a good person with good deeds to keep themselves saved. They say they are a branch but they are not using the source from the vine. They are in essence believing Christ’s sacrifice for sins was not enough. They just NEED to DO something MORE that just believe on Christ. Because they are not abiding in the source (Christ), Christ is not abiding in them you see? What happens to a branch not receiving nutrients from the source? It drys up. It withers. And eventually it is cast off, collected and burnt up as useless.
In John 15:6 we see Christ using some stronger words for this group of disciples, for this group of people following Christ around but not believing. It is a warning to all people, even those searching for God right up and until they have to belief on Christ alone for Salvation, but fail to accept the truth. Jesus says that those that do not abide ‘wither’. In the Greek the word ‘wither’ is xérainó, meaning ‘to dry up’. They become dry and stale and so they do not bear any fruit at all. This group of disciples have gone past the point of God being able to lift them up or prune them for more fruit bearing. They have all but given up on abiding in Christ.They have in fact, rejected Salvation by belief on Christ alone and the only atonement for sins; Christ crucified.
As you read the words of Jesus and study the Bible, the Holy Spirit quickens the renewing of your mind to God’s view in your inner man. And as you believe who the Bible says is the new righteous you, in Christ, that will flow outwardly into your life. God will give you new desires to accomplish good works and to bear much good fruit that He has set before you. These are the good works that receive rewards at the Bema Judgement seat of believers. After we are saved we still have our free will to walk and live by the flesh or live and walk by the Spirit.
How do we walk by the Spirit in our own effort?
We cannot, unless our inner self and mind are changed and renewed to God’s view. It is not just pressing forth to accomplish this walking by the Spirit in our own self righteous effort. This is accomplished ONLY by the Word of God. Read it. Study it. Believe you are who it says you now are, in Christ. This will renew your mind from the world view (the lie) to God’s view (the truth). Then walking by the Spirit happens because it flows from our inner being which is the Spirit of God Himself. This takes time. Keep studying the word of God and it will change your life as you mature in the faith!
The real problem is our root, our sinful world view root and inner being. It is not about any externals we DO to save ourselves. We need to acknowledge the new root of the Holy Spirit in us and believe we are now, after Salvation, who God claims we are. And when we believe this inwardly, our lives will change outwardly. The Spirit will start flowing out of you to others! I encourage you as a believer to read the first three chapters in Ephesians to see who God made you to be from the very moment you believed on Christ alone for your Salvation. Then BELIEVE IT and Walk in it! It is the new you, The Spirit.
John 15 is all about a positive and wonderful message. It is not about loss of Salvation as some teach but it is all about how Christ can work through you, as a redeemed person, to help the lost become saved. It is not about placing you under another work of the Law of Moses. It is about how Christ can and will work through a believer in our lives. As you learn about God and Jesus in the Bible, your faith grows. If we are diligently wanting to live for Christ, when you are wrong, God does not cast you off and throw you away.. no! He is our ‘Abba‘, our loving ‘daddy’ God. What loving Father does that? He will lift you and prune you as a loving father would. That is to help you have better understanding and encourage you and lift you up. And in doing so, increase your faith and your ability to bear more fruit and be a more effective witness by how you live and how you stand for the word of God to others.
LISTEN! LISTEN! You and me are not vines! We are branches!
We are to be branches! In fact, we are to be branches that have accepted Christ as our Savior! Branches that have the Holy Spirit dwelling and inside of us and who are abiding in Christ and the Bible and continuing in the love of God to bear much good fruit. So the Holy Spirit can do good works THROUGH us. By abiding in His words the Holy Spirit renews our mind over time in our lives. God the Father will lift us up with discipline and even prune true believers so that we can bear more fruit. It is ultimately the Holy Spirit in us that gives us the desire to accomplish good works and bear much fruit in our lives. God empowers us to bear good fruit. Of ourselves, we can do nothing to please God! But a person needs to rely on the vine (the root) for every need.
“If ye abide in me, and MY WORDS ABIDE IN YOU, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be MY DISCIPLES.” (John 15:7-8 KJV)
Along our journey in life God prunes those who believe and through good and bad times and experiences, He uses them all so that we produce good fruit. Ephesians 2:10 says,
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10 KJV)
So as Christians, what should we do? Abide in the word! Live in the Word of God. Read your Bible. Believe it because God promises it is true! And God will place desires on your heart and will do His good works through you, as a branch. THEN you will start bearing good fruit.
We are not vines who set our own paths and make up our own good works to please God – that is how the whole world outside of Christ believes because whether they realize it or not, that is following Satan’s deception in the garden of Eden. Instead, Christians are branches of Christ with the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. Just as a tree’s sap feed the branches to bear good fruit, it is God who does good works through us by placing desires in us to accomplish all He wishes (which is always for your own good!).
Jesus goes on to explain the purpose of the vine and branches points when he says,
“These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and THAT YOUR JOY MAY BE FULL. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.
Ye have not chosen me, BUT I HAVE CHOSEN YOU, AND ORDAINED YOU, that ye should go and BRING FORTH FRUIT, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
These things I command you, that ye LOVE ONE ANOTHER.” (John 15:11-17 KJV)
What is bad fruit and what is good fruit?
The answer comes in Galatians 5 starting at verse 19.
The Bad Fruit Of A Person…
“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21 KJV)
The Good Fruit Of A Person…
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. IF WE LIVE IN THE SPIRIT let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5:22-26 KJV)
The goal is to not make yourself look clean on the outside while we are full of sin inwardly, in our inner man and mind. We need to be clean inside and it will work it’s way to your outward man. But we can’t do this ourselves. We need Christ’s forgiveness of sins and we need to read the Word of God to renew our mind to God’s viewpoint, so that the Holy Spirit can change us from within.
“Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. ” (1 Peter 3:3-4 KJV).
God looks at us inside; not outwardly. It is not what you DO but the motives you have inside that He looks at. Your heart is the real you regardless what is happening outwardly. And we can align our own thinking to what the Holy Spirit is doing in us so that we will bear good fruit as we see in Philippians 4:8:
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, THINK ON THESE THINGS.” (Philippians 4:8 KJV)
Rest in God
Allow Him to change you from the inside out, through the true vine; Jesus Christ. And in time, you will bear the good fruit of God. And it will be your joy, the joy Christ wants for you! Love one another just as God loves and loved you in the blood sacrifice for sins through Christ Jesus. Abide in the words of God. Abide in the words of Jesus and you will learn to say as Paul did,
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16 KJV)