IY. MUCH FRUIT
"He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for apart from Me ye can do nothing." (verse 5).
"Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit, and ye shall be My disciples." (verse 8)
Here we are led on a step further: the Husbandman is not content unless the "more fruit" becomes " much fruit." What new emphasis this gives to the central thought of the parable and of the true Christian life, that bearing fruit for the life and salvation of men is to be the one ouject of existence. It is only as Christians give themselves up to this, that the need and the meaning and the reality of abiding in Christ can be apprehended. How earnestly we need to pray that God may grant, in the Spirit of wisdom and revelation enlightened eyes of the heart that we may know the "hope of our calling," to bear much fruit.
Our Lord twice speaks of the "much fruit." He first tells how naturally it will come to them who abide in Him. Then He gives the double motive for it: the Father will be glorified, and we shall be true disciples. Let us study the call to bear much fruit, as it points to Christ, and our life of abiding in Him; to the Father, and our glorifying Him; to ourselves, and our becoming true disciples.
"As the branch cannot bear fruit except it abide in the vine: no more can ye except ye abide in Me." "He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for apart from Me ye can do nothing." We have seen what a branch is: an outgrowth of the vine, partaker of its life, begotten and maintained as part of itself to afford a channel through which it can bring forth its grapes. And we regard nothing as more natural, or so much a matter of course, about which there cannot be a moment's doubt, as that the branch cannot bear fruit except it abide in the vine. The union with the vine must be continual and unbroken if the vine is unceasingly to maintain its supply of sap for the bearing and ripening of the fruit. Abiding in the vine is the one indispensable condition of being a living, healthy, fruitbearing branch.
Every believer is a branch, an outgrowth of the Heavenly Vine, begotten and maintained as part of itself, with the one view of having a channel through which it can bring forth its life-giving fruit for the salvation of men. It is only as this nature and character of the branch is understood and accepted, that Christ's call to abide in Him can be apprehended. All attempts to enjoy the blessing of abiding will be futile as long as the first thought is our own happiness or holiness. Thousands may find in this truth the explanation of the failure of their many efforts and prayers to be kept abiding. A branch is only a means to an end; an instrument for the realisation of the purpose of the vine. Abiding is only a means to an end; the one only way in which the union of the vine and branch can be maintained for the realisation of their common object. Just
in such measure as the believer enters into God's thought concerning himself as a branch, and heartily responds to it, will there come the possibility, the certainty, the blessedness of abiding.
It is here where our whole modern Christianity needs to be reconstructed. The Church must preach the great truth that every branch is to bear fruit because Christ needs him, and chose him for this purpose, and because this alone is the true life of Christ in us. Bringing forth fruit, doing work for Christ, living to save and bless men, must not be regarded as a matter of choice, or special devotion, or as the payment of a debt of gratitude; it is the one aim of redemption. It is the one proof that God is having His way with us that the life of God is taking full possession of us, that we are, like Him, finding our joy in beneficence and love. Would God that believers would only take time to think what a branch is! They would begin to see—I repeat of set purpose what I have said before—and be amazed that they did not sooner see it, that the Heavenly Vine exists as absolutely as the vine on earth only for bearing fruit, that the branch exists just as much as the vine itself only for bearing fruit, and that the believer lives as absolutely and exclusively as Christ Himself for bearing fruit, and bringing God's life and salvation to men.
The power to abide depends entirely upon our accepting our calling as branches. It is the branch, wholly devoted to the vine and to fruit-bearing, that is allowed, that is able, to abide. The surrender to be a branch in the full meaning in which Christ uses the word, will give a wonderful new light and force to the word "Abide." It will then mean mean simply: maintain your place and position as a branch ; live only and entirely to let Christ, through you, give life to the perishing. The believer who each morning says to his Lord that he comes afresh to yield himself as a branch to bear much fruit, will feel how utterly impotent he is of himself to do this—as impotent as the branch "to bear fruit of itself." How sure and abundant "the supply of the Spirit" of the Heavenly Vine is that he may count on, and how simple it is, in view of these two truths, to continue abiding, to continue in the life of absolute surrender and unceasing, believing dependence.
Christ said: "If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love, even as I kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love." Christ's abiding in God's love was through abiding in His will to save the world ; our abiding in Christ's will to save men, giving ourselves up in obedience to live for them, will be our abiding in His love. We shall learn to count it our highest privilege each day to lose our life in His life, and our will in His will, and we shall, like Him, bear much fruit. "He that abideth in Me, and I in him, beareth much fruit." Abiding in Christ, going out of ourselves and everything to be entirely identified with Him in His life of saving men, losing and giving up every interest for the sake of serving Him as as a branch, and of having Him abide in us, will infallibly make us fruitful branches. It will no longer be a thing of inward strain or effort, but the simplicitly
and ease of the fruit-bearing of the natural branch will be transfigured into the rest and joy and love through which He brings forth His fruit in us. "He that abideth in Me and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit.
"Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit" This is Christ's second thought concerning the " much fruit."
And how does it glorify the Father? In the same sense in which it is said, "The heavens declare the glory of God." They do this effectually by simply showing forth what God is doing through them, yielding themselves to His Divine Power that maintains them and gives them their beauty. God gives of His glory unto them, and by what they are and do in virtue of God's power they manifest His glory.
Even so Christ glorified the Father on earth. He not only did the Father's will. He might have done that, and men might have thought that He did it by His own power. How careful He was to say again and again that He did nothing of Himself, that His words and works were all of the Father who dwelt in Him. And continually people glorified God, when they saw His mighty deeds. In His great Intercessory Prayer our Lord said: "Father! glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son may glorify Thee." It was only if and as the Father gave His glory to the Son, that the Son could glorify Him—that is, could show forth His glory.
In no other way can the Father be glorified by us. We cannot cause or create any new glory for God: as God, all glory is His. "Thine is the glory." But we can yield ourselves to God to work in us, and let men see in us how glorious He is, and how gloriously He works. "Herein is My Father, the Husbandman, glorified, if ye bear much fruit." The "much fruit" is the proof of how wise and successful the Husbandman is. As long as we bear little fruit, and our Christian life does not differ very greatly from others around us, men attribute our work to natural character or favourable circumstances, or the beneficent influence of our religious beliefs. But when in the heavenliness of our life, and in abounding fruitfulness, proof is given of something supernatural, men are compelled to say: "This is the Lord's doing; and God is glorified.
Christ sets this before His disciples as a distinct object. That God might be glorified was His one object: He wants it to be ours. That God can only be glorified by an entire devotion, and the giving up of the whole life for Him to work in, was what His life and death proved. He wants us equally to prove it. As the Vine of God's planting, He lived every moment to bear much fruit to the glory of the Father. As the Branches of God's right hand, as the Branches of Himself, the Heavenly Vine, Christs counts upon us equally to seek nothing less, to seek nothing else. The whole life of the Vine and its fruit is to the glory of the Father; the whole life of the Branch need be, may be, nothing less.
Let us pause, and pray, and take it in: With God the Husbandman working in me according to the riches of glory, with Christ the Vine strengthening me according to the glory of His power, I can bring forth much fruit. Let me believe in the glory of what the God of glory will do in me, and yield myself each morning to show forth His glory in me: I shall learn to abide in Christ, and bring forth much fruit.
"Bear much fruit; so shall ye be My disciples." Much fruit makes us disciples, true disciples such as Christ would have us.
There are many sorts of disciples— sickly, feeble, half-hearted, unfaithful disciples. There are disciples worthy of the name—men and women such as Christ would have them be, His whole-hearted followers, such as He calls disciples. They are those who bear much fruit, to the glory of the Father, branches who bear the likeness to the Vine, and prove that they possess its very nature.
How little this is realised in the Church of Christ, that much fruit is the mark of true discipleship. We have so many excuses for our feebleness and lack of fruit, we are so accustomed to the power of sin and the world, so satisfied with the tokens of good amid the prevailing low standards, that the thought of bearing much fruit to win Christ's approval as true disciples hardly enters the mind of many. And yet, if the parable of the Vine means anything, it means this, that every branch can and must bear much fruit. The fruit may be very different: in one patient suffering, in another active service and self-sacrifice, in some persevering intercession, in others a
manifest humility, and gentleness, and heavenly-mindedness; but in all much fruit—this is what abiding in Christ inevitably secures, what glorifies the Father, what gives us the assurance that we are well-pleasing to the Master. Surely the question ought to come home to each of us individually: Am I bearing much fruit? At least, am I seeking it with my whole heart.
"Much fruit." What we truly desire, what we seek with the whole heart, we sacrifice everything for. Let us be still in the presence of our Lord, and repeat to ourselves the great thoughts His words suggest. He is the Vine of heaven, come to earth to bring the fruit, the life of heaven to men. He has brought it to me. He has made me a branch, to impart that life through me and the fruit I bear. He has appointed me and fitted me for bearing much fruit. By the glory of the Father, by the blessedness of an unbroken abiding in Him, by the honour of being His true disciple, He pleads with me to bear much fruit. He asks nothing but that I yield myself wholly to Him, that day by day I depend on Him and the Father to do their perfect, mighty work in me. Shall not I, whatever others do— shall not I consent and say: "Lord! here I am, to be only and wholly, to be hourly and uninterruptedly, a branch in Thee, abiding in close communion, only seeking to know and do Thy will, and ever depending on Thee in the confident assurance that Thou wilt make me a Branch worthy of Thyself, bearing much fruit.