Someone in my congregation recently asked this question about John 15.
So I have been pondering this since Sunday. Here’s the verse.
[ The Vine and the Branches ] “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.
It’s from John 15. I always took bearing fruit to be leading others to Christ. On Sunday Pastor Tim (and I’m hoping I heard this right) talked about bearing the fruit of the spirit, which is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
I always thought I was not fruitful because I have not lead anyone to Christ and would therefore be cut off, which would be a bad and probably painful thing.
So what exactly does it mean to bear fruit?
Here was my reply: Great question! I remember my very first Bible paper was on this passage. I was so nervous about interpreting it right and got very confused. First of all, bearing fruit refers to both reproduction (i.e. our witness, fruits bear seed), and identity (i.e. what the spirit produces in us.) So it is both-and. Secondly, there is a interpretation issue in this verse. (I learned this one from Doug Greenwold of Preserving Bible Times.) This doesn’t happen very often where most English translations miss it, but this is one of those cases. When it says, “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit.” the word rendered “cuts off” is actually the word “AIRO” (sounds like “eye – row”). It would be much better translated, “lifts up.” ESV and NASB get it closer with “takes away” but that is still not the point. In Ancient Near Eastern Vine growing, the vines grew on the ground (without a trellis). To help it grow and bear fruit, a gardener would lift the vine or branch and put it on a rock where the cool evening air can help it breathe–then it can bear fruit! So the sense of this passage is: He lifts up every branch in me that bears no fruit (so that it will bear fruit again), while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. Wow! that is awesome! If you are a branch in Jesus, and you’re under performing, he doesn’t cut you off, he lifts you up. He only takes out a knife to prune you and make your fruit be more focused. I hope that helps. Pastor Tim