“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” –John 15:4
No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.
If your gas tank is empty, the car won’t go forward when you hit the gas pedal. Common sense. There are many things we know to be true, and their truth feels obvious to us, and yet we often don’t take the time to consider why they are true. Why doesn’t the car move when the gas tank is empty? Well, simply put, it’s because fuel injectors spray gasoline into the engine cylinders where it is ignited. The mini explosion moves the pistons, which creates a chain reaction to propel the car forward.
It’s easier just to have the common knowledge that a car needs gas to run, rather than understand the inner workings of an engine. For most people, that’s all they care to know about the topic. But for those who have an interest and an appreciation for the mechanics of an engine, they want to understand why gasoline is the fuel that gets them from home to the grocery store. And knowledge of this system also allows that person to troubleshoot when problems arise.
Jesus says, “No branch can bear fruit by itself”. It’s common sense! If you separate a branch from its vine, it loses the potential for growth. But why? We can take this at surface value, but when we seek additional wisdom from the statement, it can help us to troubleshoot when we are unsure if we are truly remaining in Jesus.
If you separate a branch from its vine, it no longer has access to an invaluable part of the plant: the roots! One of the biggest differences between the branch and the vine is direct access to the roots. A branch must go through the vine to receive the benefits of the roots.
But why do roots matter? Roots anchor the plant into the ground where it was planted. If the root system is strong and deep, then wind and storms may come, but the plant remains firmly planted. If a branch has separated itself from the vine, then it is no longer anchored and it will be blown or taken anywhere by anything. If we are not careful to remain attached to Jesus, we are also at risk of being greatly influenced by the world around us. We may find ourselves taken further and further from His truths and wisdom.
Roots also absorb nutrients, oxygen, and water from the ground and send them to the rest of the plant. Without this nourishment, of course a branch cannot produce fruit! It will also not be able to keep its leaves healthy, so they will wither away. If a branch no longer has access to a root system, it may look alive for a little while, but it will die and produce nothing.
Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
As we looked at in verse 2, Jesus is talking about spiritual fruit. The fruit of the Spirit. Just as a branch disconnected from the vine cannot produce its intended fruit, Jesus reminds us that we cannot produce our intended fruit if we are disconnected from Him. We must remain in Him.
We need access to the nourishment that Jesus’ roots can provide. But what is that nourishment? Well, just as a plant receives the nutrient building blocks needed to grow and produce fruit—we receive, from Jesus, the building blocks for spiritual growth and spiritual fruit. What goes into us is what will come out of us. It may not look the same as when we received it, but the building blocks are the same.
So if we are to produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control then we must be receiving the spiritual nutrients necessary for those things to grow in and from us. Which means that Jesus, who is growing from God, must be planted in those things. Which means, that if He is planted in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, then those all must be characteristics of God. Because He is planted in, and growing from, God the Father.
The fruits that we produce are reflections of God in our lives. They are evidence that we are growing from Him. But if we do not remain in Jesus, we will no longer reflect God’s image. We will no longer produce His fruit.
When we do not remain in Jesus, we lose access to the flow of the Spirit moving from who God is, through Jesus, and to us. If we want to continue to be reflections of God’s character, we must be careful to remain. It is only by remaining in Jesus that we receive the security of His strong roots, and the nourishment of who God is.
- Love – 1 John 4:8 “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
- Joy – Hebrews 12:2 “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
- Peace – 2 Thessalonians 3:16 “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.”
- Patience – 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
- Kindness – Ephesians 2:6-7 “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”
- Goodness – Psalm 145:9 “The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.”
- Faithfulness – 2 Timothy 2:13 “If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.”
- Gentleness – Matthew 11:29 (Jesus said) “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
- Self-Control – Psalm 86:15 “But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”