John 15 (KJV)

1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.

2 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.

3 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.

5 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.

6 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.

As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.

A Mark of Christ’s Disciples

During his ministry, Jesus shared different indicators that would serve to identify his disciples. “Bearing much fruit” was one of those indicators and is closely connected to his command to love one another. Being fruitful is one of the most important indicators that we are disciples of Christ. In fact, without being fruitful, Christ warns we risk being thrown away and burnt. Seeing that being fruitful is an important pursuit for all Christ’s disciples, it is beneficial for us to have a good understanding of just what it is.

So what is fruitfulness? How does it work? And how can be confident that we are fruitful?

How Do We Bear Fruit?

Jesus shared the most important ingredient to being fruitful with his disciples: he said, “abide in me”. Jesus illustrated what he meant by comparing himself to a vine, and his disciples to the branches. The branches draw their nutrients from the vine, and use those nutrients to produce fruit. If a branch becomes disconnected from the vine it will be cut off from its nutrients and will fail to produce fruit. To bear fruit, we must remain connected to Christ in an abiding and enduring relationship.

When Jesus spoke those words to his disciples, only 11 of them were present. One of the twelve had stopped abiding in him and broken his relationship with Christ. Judas provides a clear example of someone who failed to abide in Christ and the consequences that can follow. Judas had began to follow Christ. His discipleship looked promising. But somewhere along the way, he decided to give up, and leave Jesus. And true to Jesus words, Judas’s life withered and died in sin.

As Christ’s disciples, we are utterly dependent upon him, just as a branch is utterly dependent upon a vine for sustaining its life, its growth, and its production of fruit. To break our union with Christ would have the same effect as cutting a branch from a vine: it will gradually wither and die.

Jesus’ illustration demonstrates that remaining in Christ is the key to fruitfulness. Fruitfulness is impossible without Christ. We cannot bear fruit in isolation; we must remain connected in our relationship to Christ. Apart from him, we can do nothing, but by his strength we can do all things. It takes his divine power in our life to bring forth a new life.

Trimming the Tree

Being fruitful involves trimming, which is the removal of unproductive growth. A vinekeeper trims the branches so they will grow in the correct direction to produce the most fruit. God will perform these trimmings in our life to remove things that are unproductive. God will seek to trim things that hinder our fruitfulness. His trimming efforts will ensure that life is not wasted in areas that bear no fruit. (Heb 12:11, Romans 6:22)

Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

Hebrews 12:11

God’s trimming and its effects will be evident in our lives through the diligence we show in our lifestyle as we remove what doesn’t belong. As individuals, we have a responsibility to turn away from things that hinder our relationship with Christ and our usefulness as a witness of his glory.

Jesus made very clear to his disciples how productive trimming would be done. To be effective, the trimming can never be done through coercion. Trimming will only enhance the branch when it recieved voluntarily in love, and out of a desire to please our Father. In other words, forced trimming will not produce fruit. Only trimming that comes about through our loving relationship with God will produce fruit. Jesus clearly explained that when it comes to trimming things from our lives that do not profit us, love is at the heart of the matter. (John 14:23-24)

Following the words of Jesus, the apostle Paul directs us to trim from our lives things that are unproductive, and turn our attention towards things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, good, virtuous, and praiseworthy. (Phil 4:8) Things that are incompatible with modesty, or integrity, or love must be trimmed. And it is the act of turning our attention away from unproductive and hindering things will trim them from our lives.

What Is Fruit?

But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.

Romans 6:22

As a young Christian, or even as a confused Christian, we may honestly not understand what kind of fruit Jesus is speaking of when he tells us to be fruitful. If we have been a member of an unhealthy group, it can badly alter our understanding of what Christ expects and rejoices to see in our lives. So just what is this fruit he is talking about?

The fruit of the spirit is a change to the essential elements of our character and nature, causing us to become increasingly Christ-like. And this fruit is a key element of our holiness. (Romans 6:22)

The apostle Peter explained that through Christ we have been made partakers of the “divine nature”. (2 Peter 1:4) Peter stressed the importance of the fruit of the spirit to his readers in connection to this divine nature. He explained that if the fruit of the spirit is bountiful in our lives, we will never fall, and an entrance to the everlasting kingdom of Jesus Christ is open to us. Like Jesus, Peter viewed the fruit of the spirit as a clear indication that we are truly disciples of Christ. (2 Peter 1:10-11)

In the most basic sense, the fruit is the product of our life. Whatever controls our hearts will produce fruit. (Matthew 15:19, Galatians 5:19) There is both good and bad fruit. We are born with a fallen nature that will naturally produce bad fruit, like dishonesty, jesouly, hate, and pride. Good fruit grows from our relationship with Jesus Christ, and it becomes discernible to others through our character. And when we abide in Christ, our character flaws are gradually trimmed away, and we grow to becomes increasingly like Jesus.

In John 15:8, Jesus explains that fruitfulness is the glorification of God in our lives. When we reflect God’s glory in our own being, we are fruitful.

Peter, Paul, James, and John, all wrote about fruitfulness in their epistles explaining in detail exactly what it is. Paul said, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galations 2:22-23 NIV) This fruit is is the product of the life transforming power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Growth of fruit in our life is a gradual process. Like the fruit on a natural vine, fruit in our lives will be grown and produced in seasons of time. Throughout our lives we will continue to grow and produce ever-increasing amounts of fruit, which is to say we are constantly growing to become ever more like Jesus.


As Jesus explained, fruit can only be a produced through our relationship with Christ. It is not something we can conjure through our own strength or ability.

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.

John 15:5

Have you ever seen a beautiful bowl of plastic fruit? A store in our community sells plastic fruit baskets for decorations. They are beautiful and look just like the real thing. From a distance, you cannot discern that they are just plastic. But if you pick up the plastic fruit and try to eat it, you will immediately find the difference. Looks can be deceiving, and the truth entirely depends on what is on the inside.

The fruit produced by the spirit of God is genuine and authentic. It was produced by a vine and it has life in it. Plastic can look like the real thing, but it has no life in it. It is just a shell. When we get close enough, and begin to handle it, we can soon discern whether it is genuine or just plastic.

By our own effort, the best we could ever produce is plastic fruit. It might look so much like the real thing that it will convince others. But when we abide in Christ, he will produce a genuine fruit that is a product of abiding in him. It is something that cannot be produced through our own human willpower, but only by the enabling power of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus warned us what would happen if we are not fruitful. He cautioned us that the unfruitful branches would be thrown away and wither. Ultimately, the unfruitful have no true relationship with Christ and they do not abide in him. The unfruitful may sit next to us in church. They may even produce plastic fruit that looks authentic. But God knows each of our hearts.

It is not our responsibility to prune or trim our neighbors. It is also not our job to judge the fruitfulness of those around us. Jesus instructed his disciples to let the unfruitful weeds grow, and to do nothing to try and root them up or remove them until it was time to harvest. (Matthew 13:24-30) He went on to explain that the angels of heaven would be responsible for separating the unfruitful weeds. (Matthew 24:36-42) When it comes to our neighbors, we should always seek to be a godly example, but we should leave the trimming to God.

Abiding in Christ

To abide in Christ and produce authentic fruit, we cannot merely add Jesus as just another part of our own life. We must give up our life, and live for him. Rather than taking him along with us down the broad road we have chosen, we have to change course and follow him down the narrow road. When we come to abide in Christ, our very mode of life changes. We are new creatures, old things pass away, and all things must become new. We cease living life according to our own will and on our own terms. Instead, we live life according to God’s will and on his terms.

Abiding in Christ entails developing a personal relationship with him. We are not abiding in the preacher, we are not abiding in the church, we are not abiding in another believer. We are abiding in Christ. We must learn to study, pray, and make devotions to Christ and develop our relationship with him. Without that personal abiding relationship, there can never be fruit.

Others can aid us in our walk with Christ, and God has a ministers and a church to point us towards Christ. But nothing can ever be a substitute for our direct relationship with him. We must learn to bow down before Christ.

The apostle Peter lays out a clear path about becoming a fruitful in Christ. He instructs his readers to give all diligence to the task and begin with faith in God.  (2 Peter 1)

Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;  And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;  And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.  For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-8)

Are The Gifts of the Spirit Fruit?

It can be easy to confuse the gifts of the spirit with the fruit of the spirit, but it is important to remember they are not the same thing. The gifts are not fruit. Instead, the gifts are tools to produce fruit. Some Christians make the dangerous mistake of thinking the gifts are superior to the fruit, and will honor the gifts more than the fruit they are intended to produce.

Jesus shared a parable of three men who he gave talents to. When he returned, he judged the men not by their talents, but by what they had used their talents to produce. (Matthew 25:14-30) And that provides us with an important lesson to consider.

Though we may have wonderful gifts and talents, if we do not have the fruit of the spirit in our lives, we are nothing. (1 Cor 13) God measures things differently than we do. We can be tempted to measure our success by the nature and quality of our gifts, but God measures our success by the measure and quality of our fruit.

Applying Scripture

Examine your own life. Are you becoming more and more like Christ? Is your life marked by the fruit of love, or self-control, or meekness? What about patience, joy, and peace? These are the things Christ wants to produce in your life. These are a key marks of his disciples.

To be fruitful, these things must grow and increase in your life. All the revelation, knowledge, gifts, talents you may have or works you may do will not benefit anything if you are unfruitful. Don’t neglect the weightier matters in your life. (Matthew 23:23)

Pursue a close relationship with Jesus. Abide in him. Dedicate time to be spent with him in prayer, study, and worship. This is the key to bearing fruit.

Spiritual Growth: A Prayer of the Puritans 

O Thou Most High,

In the way of thy appointment, I am waiting for thee,

   My desire is to thy name,

   My mind to remembrance of thee.

I am a sinner, but not insensible of my state.

My iniquities are great and numerous,

   but thou art adequate to my relief,

      for thou art rich in mercy;

      the blood of thy Son can cleanse from all sin,

      thy Spirit can subdue my greatest lusts to sin.

Give me a tender, wakeful conscience

  that can smite and alarm me when I sin.

May I be consistent in conversation and conduct,

   the same alone as in company,

      In prosperity and adversity,

      accepting all thy commandments as right,

      and hating every false way.

May I never be satisfied with my present spiritual progress,

   but to faith add virtue, knowledge, temperance, godliness,

   brotherly kindness, and love.

May I never neglect what is necessary to constitute Christian character, and needful to complete it.

May I cultivate the expedient,

   develop the lovely, adorns the gospel

   recommend the faith of Jesus,

   and accommodate myself to your divine will.

Keep me from sinking or sinning in the evil day;

Help me to carry into ordinary life the virtues of thy divine truth.

May your truth inform, warn, guide, and comfort me.

For Christ’s sake


The Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers Edited by Arthur Bennet, 1975 

Study Questions

  1. Can you name the nine fruit of the spirit?
  2. What are some things that all nine fruit of the spirit have in common?
  3. What are some ways your nature has changed since you began serving Christ?