What it Means to “Bear Fruit”–John 15:5,8

vinebranchgrapes-1“I am the Vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:5,8).

I want to focus in on some key words in these verses to help us better understand the message that Jesus was conveying to His followers. The first one is the word “remain.”  What does it mean to “remain” in Christ?

First, I don’t believe that to remain in Christ is at all tied to our salvation; therefore, there is no threat that true believers can lose their salvation. The Greek word used here for “remain” is μείνατε (meinate). The word “remain” in the original Greek demands to be understood as continuance or perseverance. Therefore, the best rendering here for μείνατε (meinate) is a reamining that is A) connected and B) continuous. Thus, we are to be continually connected to Christ; here are some ways that we can do this:

  • Through prayer. To know the will of God is to be in constant communication with Him.
  • Through obedience to God’s commandments. Our disobedience to God’s instructions for our lives can create distance.
  • Through the Word of God. This teaches us, encourages us, and trasforms us to the will of God.

Second, we are told that if we “remain” in Christ we “will bear much fruit.” The Greek word used for “fruit” is καρπός (karpos). Obviously it is being used as a metaphor in this passage of Scripture. Judaic literature often used καρπός (karpos) to descrie a result.[1] It was also a common term found in Homer’s literature, in Diodorus Siculus, in Josephus’ writings, and in Pseudo-Phocylides with the meaning of “the product or outcome of something.”[2] Therefore, “bearing fruit” is the result of doing something, namely remaining in the vine. So just what is the “fruit” or “results” of remaining in the vine?

Since “fruit” is interpreted figuratively here, I think we can argue that the fruit that is produced is a moral image (spiritual). Paul also uses this moral imagery in Galatians 5:22-23: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Therefore, John 15:5,8 is helping us to understand that we constantly need to be remaining in Christ, so that we will bear the results of spiritual righteousness that glorifies God. Hence, the questions that we must all ask ourselves on an ongoing basis are:

1) Am I presently abiding in Him?

2) Am I choosing to do what is necessary to be connected and totally dependent on Christ?

3) Am I glorifying God by bearing much fruit?

[1] Gerhard Kittel, Volumes 3 and 4 of the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Translated and  Edited by Geoffrey W. Bromiley and D. Litt. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965.

[2] Walter Bauer, A Greek and English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Revised and Edited by F.W. Danker based on W. Bauer’s 6th edition. 3rd Edition, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.


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