A G Westacott, Eastbourne
The subject before us has two aspects like that of Priesthood, viz., (Godward and Manward. The Apostle Peter refers to the one as "spiritual sacrifices" and the other as the "shewing forth of the virtues of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvellous light." The exercise of each is essential to growth in grace and in "the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect (i.e. full-grown) Man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ."
(1) GODWARD. "That we might bring forth fruit unto God” (Rom. 7. 4). This fruitage is possible only in the experience of those who have been born anew. The natural man produces "fruit unto death" (v. 5). Every tree brings forth fruit according to its kind, either "unto death " or " unto God."
The Holy Spirit brings before us in the context
One with Law and the other with Christ. Death had intervened to dissolve the marriage bond, so a believer, in accepting the Lord Jesus and identifying himself with His death, is regarded as dead, dead to the law, because in Christ the penalty has been dealt with, and now the believer is a new creature in Christ Jesus, in living union with the Risen One, which has for its end a life of fruit-bearing.
In the latter part of the preceding chapter we have a picture of:
Two Servitudes, one, "servants of sin" producing the "unfruitful works of darkness"; the other, “servants of God" producing fruit as the product Notice three striking contrasts:—
(a) Sin and God . . . the contrasted masters
(b) Shame and holiness . . . the contrasted services
(c) Death and Everlasting Life . . . the contrasted ends.
The great marriage referred to carries with it, on our part, the responsibility of subjection. Our happiness and welfare are henceforth identified with Him. It is this union that infuses life and strength into us, so as to enable us to fulfil the object of our marriage, namely, to live the fife of obedience to His will, and realized dependence upon Him, so as to produce fruit unto the glory of God.
The Lord's Teaching in the Upper Room
The importance of this subject of fruit-bearing is seen when we remember that in the night in which He was betrayed He took His beloved ones aside and in that upper room spoke words of solemn import to them on this very subject, which are to be found in John, chap. 15.
The Lord first of all declares that He is the enduring reality, the "True Vine"; that God the Father is the Cultivator, and that believers form the branches. We at once observe that the subject is not union but communion. I have no doubt whatever that the whole record applies to believers only.
The Fruitless Branch
The purpose of the branch in the vine is to bear fruit. Should it fail in this respect the Cultivator may remove it. Let it be emphasized that resurrection-fruit can only arise after resurrection-life. The words of our Lord were addressed to the eleven, for Judas had gone out. "Every branch in Me not bearing fruit He taketh away." One who has ceased to bear fruit becomes "barren and unfruitful," and of such it is said the Cultivator "lifts up" or removes from this present scene.
But how does it come about that a branch does not bear fruit? The answer is that sin is permitted in the life, which has the effect of breaking that communion which is vital in fruit-bearing. Believers are viewed as of the renewed state being trees planted by God (Matt. 15. 13, etc.) and just as He planted trees in the Garden of Eden all bearing fruit, so He expects fruit from the trees of His spiritual planting.
The Cleansed Branch
Should we by reason of the action of the Vine produce fruit unto God, then He cleanseth the branch so that it may produce the second stage of “more fruit." The word translated " purgeth " is from the same root as " clean " in verse 8, and this distinguishes between our state (v. 2) and our standing (v. 3). " He that is bathed (clean) needeth not save to wash (cleanse) his feet “(John 13. 10). “Ye arc holy “;” Be ye holy "—state and standing should agree.
This cleansing then is with the object of removing that which hinders communion, so that the believer may be more fully devoted to Him and therefore more fruitful.
Fruit That Remains The Lord, it will be noted, did not say “We were made clean by baptism," but “by the Word of God," so that water, apart from the effect of the Word, has no spiritual meaning or value. We also learn that the branch gives nothing to the vine, but receives all from it. So in bearing fruit let us remember that the credit is wholly due to the Lord Jesus, for severed from Him we can do nothing. That is, our fruit-bearing, even to the smallest extent, is dependent upon continued communion or fellowship with Him; and, on the other hand, the Lord says that those who abide in Him shall bear much fruit. More still than that, it shall be fruit that remains. How true this was in respect of those to whom He spoke! It likewise can be true in the experience of every believer. Verse 6 of this chapter also refers to those described as “branches," who having failed to maintain fellowship with Him and to produce fruit, are stripped of the gifts and opportunities God gave them and that which they have produced, namely, dead works, is burned up. (Compare Matt. 5. 13 and 1 Cor. 3. 12-15). Let us not seek to do anything of ourselves but more than ever realize that our whole resource is in Him, and ever cleave to Him as Lord with true purpose of heart, continually drawing upon His abundant supplies, which are never diminished. Then we shall fulfil the injunction to bear “abiding fruit “unto God and give evidence of our union and communion with our living Head.
What form docs this fruit take? First and foremost the fruit, not fruits, of the Spirit: love to God and all that is included therein (Gal. 5. 22, 23; Eph. 5. 9). All fruit for God must first come from God, and the fruit God desires is Christ reproduced in our lives.
(2) MANWARD. Fruit also takes the form of a faithful witness. What we do for Him must be the result of what He is doing for us. “Walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, bearing fruit in every good work “(Col. 1. 10, 11). Now if the walk referred to is maintained, it will issue in good works and in an increasing knowledge of God. The inspired Word also reminds us of our dependence upon Him for our daily strength, and in this we learn the lesson of patience and longsuffering. The Lord Jesus, having in John 15 dealt with the Godward aspect of fruit-bearing and indicated its issue, proceeds to give proof of His love to them, and gives utterance to a command of the utmost importance to every believer to " love one another." The measure of this love is "as I have loved you."
This also is a very necessary ingredient for spiritual progress in the direction indicated. If we, as believers in the Lord Jesus, give evidence by our lives that we love Him and one another, we shall certainly be fruit-bearers. The only way in which men can recognize the love we have for one another is by those acts which spring from it. These exhortations are by no means only for young Christians. The Psalmist says, “They shall still bring forth fruit in old age “(Psa. 92. 14). The Lord on one occasion looked for fruit, He found “nothing but leaves "— mere profession!
Whilst by interpretation this refers to Israel, let us earnestly desire so to walk before Him that the Cultivator may never have to remove us; but, on the other hand, that we may bear much fruit to His honour and glory.