Fellowship and Fruit-Bearing
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

We have begun a series of discussions on those verses of Scripture which seem to contradict the doctrine of the security of the believer. Some of these verses of Scripture were published in the local newspaper as proving the theory that you can lose your salvation after you have once obtained it. There were many questions about them, so we said we would take them up one by one, discuss them, and find out exactly what they did teach. After all, that is the important thing about understanding the Word of God.

It is not necessary for you to know what Jehovah's Witnesses teach. It is not necessary for you to know what the Roman Catholics teach. It is not necessary for you to know what a dozen other different groups might teach. But it is important for you to know what the Word of God teaches. Then, when any false doctrines are presented, you will know whether or not these things are consistent with the Word of God.

It might be wise for us to understand what we mean by the security of the believer because sometimes people use the term, and we find we are not talking about the same thing, even though we use the same term. When I use the term the security of the believer , I am thinking about the truth that is taught in such verses as Romans, chapter 6, verse 23:

Romans 6:

23For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

I believe that eternal life is eternal life. I am thinking about the truth that is taught in such passages of Scripture as John, chapter 10, where we are told that we belong to the Lord, that we are His, that we shall never perish, and no man shall ever be able to pluck us out of the Father's hand because we are in His hands.

Someone may say, “If you believe once saved, always saved, then you believe, don't you, that the moment a man is saved, he can just do anything in the world that he wants to and still go to Heaven?” No, we don't believe that. That is the reason we find it necessary to explain what we mean when we talk of the doctrine of the security of the believer. This doctrine, like all of the doctrines that are based on the Word of God, has been twisted and turned by the Devil to rob people of the joy there is related to believing it.

We believe that when a person is born again, he is a new creature in Christ Jesus. We believe that old things are passed away, and all things are become new. We believe that when a person receives the Lord Jesus Christ as his own personal Savior, he does not accept that as a license to sin. He accepts it as a privilege of service. We would question seriously, in the light of the Word of God, the relationship to God of anyone who would say, “Now I'm saved. I can do anything I want to do and still go to Heaven.”

People who are born again do not think that way. People who are born again do not talk that way or feel that way. We believe that once we have eternal life, we have it, because the Bible says so. If there are Scriptures that would seem to indicate we do not have eternal life, they can be explained if they are properly considered in the light of their context.

Understanding John, Chapter 15

We are going to notice two verses of John, chapter 15, that are sometimes used by Armenians to teach the idea of falling from grace. You will need to keep in mind some of these phrases. You might as well become familiar with them. The two schools of thought on this question are Armenian and Calvinistic. The Armenian school of theology believes that you can lose your salvation after once you have found it. The Calvinistic school of theology believes that once you are saved by the grace of God, you are saved.

The Armenian school of theology often turns to this passage of Scripture, along with some of the others that we have been thinking about, to suggest you can lose your salvation after once you have obtained it. Notice, please, John, chapter 15, verse 1:

John 15:

1I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
2Every 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.
3Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
4Abide 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.
5I 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.
6If 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.
7If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
8Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
9As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
10If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.
11These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
12This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
13Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
14Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
15Henceforth 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.
16Ye 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.

We are going to stop our reading right there because that is the portion of the Word that will come under consideration. Two verses in this paragraph, as I have already suggested to you, are often used to suggest the idea that you might lose your salvation after you have once obtained it. One of those verses is verse 2:

John 15:

2Every 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.

Then in verse 6:

John 15:

6If 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.

As we consider this portion of the Word of God, let us refresh our minds on two principles that it is very important for us always to keep before us in our study of the Word of God.

No Contradictions In Scriptures

First, the Bible never contradicts itself. Settle that in your minds once and for all and forever. The Bible never contradicts itself. It might seem to you that it does, or it might seem to me that it does, but it never does. God is not the author of confusion. The Word of God never contradicts itself. If the Bible seems to contradict itself, that seeming contradiction can be resolved by a careful examination of the Scripture in its context, and that is the second principle that you need to keep in mind. First, the Bible never contradicts itself. Second, every seeming contradiction can be resolved if the Scripture in question is examined in the light of the context in which it is found.

That leads us to ask a question about chapter 15. That question is, “What is John, chapter 15, talking about?” Is it talking about salvation? If it is talking about salvation, then you might well lose your salvation according to these two verses of Scripture. What is it talking about?

Fellowship And Fruit-Bearing

There are two words in this passage of Scripture—one mentioned fifteen times, and one mentioned eight times—that tell us what this passage of Scripture is talking about. This passage of Scripture is talking about fellowship and fruit-bearing. There is a vast difference between fellowship and salvation. It is possible for you to lose your fellowship and still hold on to your salvation.

This passage of Scripture is talking about fellowship and fruit-bearing. How do we know this? We know it because of the word abide . It is found fifteen times in ten verses in this paragraph that we have read. For example, notice verse 4:

John 15:

4Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine;…

A careful examination of the word abide as it is used in the Word of God will indicate it is a fellowship word. It is a word always used in connection with fellowship. Fifteen times in these ten verses is the word abide used. That would indicate to you, would it not, that the subject of this passage of Scripture is fellowship? Here is the secret of fellowship.

Fruit Related To Service

Then, in this passage of Scripture you will find the word fruit mentioned eight times in these verses. And fruit, of course, is always related to service. So this passage of Scripture is dealing not with gaining salvation or losing salvation, but is dealing with the privilege of fellowship as it is related to fruit-bearing. If you keep in mind and examine these verses of Scripture in the light of the context, you will find what they are teaching. Look again at verse 1:

John 15:

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

This is the Lord Jesus speaking, of course, and the reason He is talking about the true vine every Jew would know, for the Old Testament is replete with object lessons related to the vine. The nation of Israel in the Old Testament was the vine. God expected fruit from that vine, and He did not find any. He was disappointed, and He said, “I am going to break down the hedge, and I am going to let all of the wild animals come in. I am going to let the wild animals destroy the vine. I'm going to remove the vine out of its place.” That is what He did.

So when the Lord Jesus appeared on the scene, the Lord Jesus Christ said, “I am the true vine. I am the vine that is going to make possible the production of the fruit, and my Father is the husbandman.”

Look at verse 2. The branch is expected to bear fruit because of its association with the vine. So we read in the second verse:

John 15:

2Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away:…

Stop and think what we are reading. “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh away.” If we are going to follow the suggestion that this teaches salvation, every Christian who does not bear fruit loses salvation. Now that is what it would teach—that every Christian who does not bear fruit loses his salvation. The most devout people who believe you can lose your salvation do not believe you can lose your salvation because you do not win souls. They believe you lose your salvation because of sin.

If this is teaching you can lose your salvation, then if you are a Christian and you live a perfect life—if everything is just as it ought to be in your estimation, and you fail to produce any fruit—then you are going to lose your salvation in the end. That is what this passage of Scripture would seem to teach.

Lifting Up The Branch

That does not seem logical, does it? What does it teach? What does this mean, “every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away”? I am going to say something to you that you will just have to accept on faith until you are able to verify it for yourself. If you go to the trouble, you can verify it because there is no secret about it. This phrase, “taketh away,” is an unhappy translation. The word in the original text that is translated “taketh away” here, everywhere else in the Word of God is translated “lifteth up.” Why it is translated “taketh away” here, I do not know. I say you are going to have to accept that on faith unless you have a Greek New Testament to look it up. But you can verify it. There is no secret about it.

It becomes much clearer when we read it that way: “Every branch in me that groweth not fruit he lifteth up.” I certainly do not know anything about gardening, but I am learning a little, and I have learned that if a piece of shrubbery gets knocked down to the ground by the rain and gets embedded in the dirt, it does not do very well. The leaves begin to turn yellow, and you think you've lost it. Then you put a stick in the ground, get hold of the shrubbery, wrap a cloth around it, tie it to the stick, and lift it up. You see it is alive when you thought it was dead.

Do you see what happens? We lift it up, and it begins to bear fruit. That is what this passage of Scripture is talking about. The husbandman, our Heavenly Father, looks out over His vineyard, and He says, “There is Joe Temple down there. He is a branch, but he is not bearing much fruit. I wonder why.” He looks a little bit closer and says, “He is weighed down with so much trouble, so many burdens and problems, I am just going to lift him up a little bit. The first thing you know, he will be bearing some fruit.”

Pruning To Encourage Fruit-Bearing

Do you see what I mean? He lifteth up and beareth fruit. That is right in line with the rest of the verse because you will notice in the second verse here again:

John 15:

2Every 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.

You notice, here is a branch, and it is alive. It is bearing fruit, but it does not look like it is bearing as much as it could. What does he do? He purges it. He cleans it—cuts off some of the branches, leaves, and twigs. He cleans it up so it can bear more fruit.

Once again, accept this little personal illustration, but it may help to clarify it. At Christmas time, we bought one of those living Christmas trees because we wanted to kill two birds with one stone. We wanted to have a Christmas tree in our house, and we wanted to have more shrubbery in our yard. So we bought one of those living Christmas trees, and then after the Christmas season was over, we planted the tree in the yard.

For a while it was doing just fine. Then we began to notice that down around the bottom it wasn't doing so well. Now mind you, it was still alive, but it wasn't doing so well around the bottom. We said, “We wish this could be as pretty around the bottom as it is at the top.” We didn't know what was wrong.

I learned a long time ago, when you don't know anything, you ask someone who knows. I went to the nursery and told them what the situation was and asked, “What am I going to do about that? What is wrong with it?” They said, “You need to wash it and clean it.” “Why?”, I asked. “In this country, we have a little red spider. You don't even see it with the naked eye. But that is what is wrong with that tree. You wash it with this solution, and everything will be all right,” they said.

So, because I didn't know, but I supposed they knew what they were talking about, I washed the bottom of that tree with the solution. Sure enough, the bottom of the tree is coming out just as pretty as the top. It is going to be a really pretty tree.

Do you know what I did? I purged it. I cleansed it. That is what this verse of Scripture is talking about. If there is a branch, and it is not bearing fruit at all, He lifts it up and makes it possible to bear fruit. Then, if there is a branch that is not bearing as much fruit as it ought to bear, He purges it, trims it, and prunes it, and the first thing you know, it is bearing more fruit.

Incidentally, we might digress long enough, though it is not a full digression, to remind you that this is the explanation for some of the things that happen. You know if a tree could talk when you begin to prune it, it would say, “Ouch!” But, you just go ahead and prune it without thinking because it cannot talk.

Some of these unpleasant things have happened to us. Some of these difficult things happen to us, and we wonder why they happen. We do not have the explanation for them. Instead of being too discouraged over it, we are thinking out of the will of the Lord. We are thinking God is punishing us. Just remember that He sees tremendous possibilities in us. But those possibilities can never be fulfilled unless there is pruning. So he takes the pruning knife, He cuts off what needs to be cut off, and it hurts. But, my, what a difference after the pruning is done. That is the reason we ought not to object too much to the pruning knife. It results in real fruit bearing.

Word Of God As A Cleansing Agent

Notice what He said, “Now ye are clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you. ” The Word of God is His pruning knife. That is the reason that many of us do not bear any more fruit than we bear. We do not expose ourselves enough to the cleansing agent, the Word of God, that we might bear fruit. Verse 4 says:

John 15:

4Abide 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.

People who are out of fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ accomplish absolutely nothing. Notice verse 5:

John 15:

5I 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 there is not as much fruit in your life as there ought to be, you might check the fellowship. You may be out of fellowship with Him.

Notice what He said in the last part of verse 5. How I wish we could all realize it and accept it as a fact, not just read it in the Bible and then pass it on and forget it. He said, “For without me, ye can do nothing.” Let those words sink in. “For without me, ye can do nothing.” Do you realize the average person is likely to say, “Well, I know if I lived a little closer to the Lord—by that we mean fellowship—if I lived a little closer to the Lord, I could do more.” Most of us talk that way. “If I lived closer, I could do more.” But this passage of Scripture is not saying you could do more; it is saying you can't do anything. You can do nothing out of fellowship with the Lord.

Importance Of Abiding

Notice verse 6:

John 15:

6If 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.

This verse of Scripture is not talking about the loss of salvation. It is talking about the uselessness of a life that is out of fellowship. Notice what He said: “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch.”

Do you remember what we have read in the book of Revelation? The Lord Jesus Christ said to the churches in question, “If you do not repent, do the first works, I am going to come and take the lampstand out of its place. You are not going to have an opportunity for testimony any more. You are not going to have an opportunity of service any more.” There are many, many Christians whose lives are useless because they do not stay in fellowship with the Lord.

What does He say, “Men gather them ”? Now let us be very careful what we read here in verse 6. “Men gather them , and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.”

The word them is not in the original text. We read this verse hurriedly, and we think, “Well, someone gathered men, souls, and cast them into hell, because they do not bear fruit.” But that is not what it says. It is talking about an entirely different thing.

Men gather branches that do not bear fruit. They get rid of them, take them out of the way, so that new branches can come out, and new fruit can be borne.

We teach sometimes, and there is an element of truth in it, that you can hinder the program and the purpose of God by not doing what God wants you to do. There is a sense in which that is true, but you cannot hinder it for long.

Removal From Place of Service

God is mercy, grace, patience, and long-suffering, and He will put up with me an awful long time. Because He is patient, He is full of grace. He is long-suffering. He will put up with me an awful long time. Sometimes I wonder why He puts up with me as long as He does. But if I do not get to the place where I do the thing that needs to be done in His name, He is going to remove me out of the place and put someone else in who will do it. That is what this passage of Scripture is talking about.

Conclusion

Let us learn the secret of abiding that we may produce the fruit. Let us pray that He will bless this lesson in our hearts.


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