“Keep Bearing Much Fruit”
“Keep bearing much fruit and prove yourselves my disciples.”—JOHN 15:8.
1. (a) What requirement of discipleship did Jesus mention to his apostles? (b) What question should we ask ourselves?
IT WAS the evening before his death. Jesus had taken ample time to encourage his apostles with a heart-to-heart talk. By now, it must have been past midnight, but Jesus, moved by love for his close friends, continued speaking. Then, in the midst of his conversation, he reminded them of one more requirement they needed to meet to remain his disciples. He said: “My Father is glorified in this, that you keep bearing much fruit and prove yourselves my disciples.” (John 15:8) Do we today meet this requirement of discipleship? What does it mean to be “bearing much fruit”? To find out, let us return to the conversation that evening.
2. What illustration about fruit does Jesus relate on the evening before his death?
2 The admonition to bear fruit is part of an illustration that Jesus related to his apostles. He said: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the cultivator. Every branch in me not bearing fruit he takes away, and every one bearing fruit he cleans, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Remain in union with me, and I in union with you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it remains in the vine, in the same way neither can you, unless you remain in union with me. I am the vine, you are the branches. . . . My Father is glorified in this, that you keep bearing much fruit and prove yourselves my disciples. Just as the Father has loved me and I have loved you, remain in my love. If you observe my commandments, you will remain in my love.”—John 15:1-10.
3. What must Jesus’ followers do in order to bear fruit?
3 In this illustration Jehovah is the Cultivator, Jesus is the vine, and the apostles whom Jesus was addressing are the branches. As long as the apostles strove to “remain in union” with Jesus, they would bear fruit. Jesus then explained how the apostles could succeed in maintaining this vital unity: “If you observe my commandments, you will remain in my love.” Later, the apostle John would write similar words to fellow Christians: “He who observes [Christ’s] commandments remains in union with him.”a (1 John 2:24; 3:24) Hence, by keeping Christ’s commandments, his followers remain in union with him, and that unity, in turn, enables them to bear fruit. What characterizes the fruitage that we need to bear?
Room for Growth
4. What can we learn from the fact that Jehovah “takes away” every branch not bearing fruit?
4 In the illustration of the vine, Jehovah “takes away,” or lops off, a branch when it does not bear fruit. What does this tell us? It tells us not only that all disciples are required to bear fruit but also that all are capable of doing so, no matter what their circumstances or limitations may be. After all, it would be contrary to Jehovah’s loving ways to ‘take away,’ or disqualify, a disciple of Christ for failing to accomplish something that was beyond his reach.—Psalm 103:14; Colossians 3:23; 1 John 5:3.
5. (a) How does Jesus’ illustration indicate that we can make progress in being fruitful? (b) What two kinds of fruitage will we consider?
5 Jesus’ illustration of the vine also shows that within the limits of our circumstances, we must make room for growth in our activities as a disciple. Note how Jesus puts it: “Every branch in me not bearing fruit he takes away, and every one bearing fruit he cleans, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:2) Toward the end of the illustration, Jesus urged his followers to bear “much fruit.” (Joh 15 Verse 8) What is the message here? As disciples, we should never become complacent. (Revelation 3:14, 15, 19) Rather, we should look for ways to make progress in bearing fruit. What kind of fruitage should we endeavor to bear more abundantly? There are (1) “the fruitage of the spirit” and (2) the Kingdom fruitage.—Galatians 5:22, 23; Matthew 24:14.
The Fruitage of Christian Qualities
6. How did Jesus Christ stress the value of the first-mentioned fruit of the spirit?
6 Listed first among “the fruitage of the spirit” is love. God’s holy spirit produces love within Christians, for they obey the command that Jesus gave shortly before he spoke the illustration of the fruit-producing vine. He told his apostles: “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another.” (John 13:34) In fact, throughout his conversation that final night of his earthly life, Jesus repeatedly reminded the apostles of the need to show the quality of love.—John 14:15, 21, 23, 24; 15:12, 13, 17.
7. How did the apostle Peter show that bearing fruit relates to manifesting Christlike qualities?
7 Peter, present that night, understood that Christlike love and related qualities are to be manifest among genuine disciples of Christ. Years later, Peter encouraged Christians to cultivate such qualities as self-control, brotherly affection, and love. He added that doing so prevents us “from being either inactive or unfruitful.” (2 Peter 1:5-8) Whatever our circumstances, manifesting the fruitage of the spirit is within our reach. May we, therefore, strive to show love, kindness, mildness, and other Christlike qualities to a fuller extent, for “against such things there is no law,” or limit. (Galatians 5:23) Indeed, let us bear “more fruit.”
Bearing Kingdom Fruit
8. (a) What is the link between the fruitage of the spirit and Kingdom fruitage? (b) What question deserves our consideration?
8 Colorful and succulent fruits adorn a plant. However, the value of such fruits goes far beyond that of adornment. Fruits are also vital for propagating the plant through their seeds. Likewise, the fruitage of the spirit does much more than adorn our Christian personality. Qualities like love and faith also motivate us to spread the seedlike Kingdom message found in God’s Word. Notice how the apostle Paul stresses this vital link. He says: “We too exercise faith [a part of the fruitage of the spirit] and therefore we speak.” (2 Corinthians 4:13) In this way, Paul further explains, we “offer to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips”—the second kind of fruitage that we need to manifest. (Hebrews 13:15) Is there room in our life to be more fruitful, indeed to bear “much fruit,” as proclaimers of God’s Kingdom?
9. Does bearing fruit equal making disciples? Explain.
9 To answer properly, we need first to understand what constitutes Kingdom fruitage. Would it be correct to conclude that bearing fruit means making disciples? (Matthew 28:19) Does the fruit that we would bear refer primarily to individuals whom we help to become baptized worshipers of Jehovah? No. If that were the case, the situation would be deeply discouraging for all those dear Witnesses who have been faithfully proclaiming the Kingdom message for years in less responsive territories. Why, if the Kingdom fruit that we bear is represented only by new disciples, such hardworking Witnesses would be like the barren branches in Jesus’ illustration! Of course, that is not the case. Then, what is the primary Kingdom fruitage of our ministry?
Fruitful by Spreading Kingdom Seed
10. How does Jesus’ illustration of the sower and the different types of soil show what Kingdom fruitage is and what it is not?
10 Jesus’ illustration of the sower and the different types of soil points to the answer—a heartening answer for those who witness in less productive territories. Jesus said that the seed is the Kingdom message found in God’s Word and that the soil represents man’s figurative heart. Some seed “fell upon the good soil, and, after sprouting, it produced fruit.” (Luke 8:8) What fruit? Well, after a wheat stalk sprouts and matures, it produces as fruit, not little wheat stalks, but new seed. Likewise, a Christian produces as fruit, not necessarily new disciples, but new Kingdom seed.
11. How may Kingdom fruitage be defined?
11 Therefore, the fruitage in this case is neither new disciples nor fine Christian qualities. Since the seed that is sown is the word of the Kingdom, the fruitage must be a manyfold duplication of that seed. The bearing of fruitage in this case refers to making expressions about the Kingdom. (Matthew 24:14) Is bearing such Kingdom fruitage—proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom—within reach, no matter what our circumstances may be? Yes, it is! In the same illustration, Jesus explains why.
Giving Our Best for God’s Glory
12. Is bearing Kingdom fruitage within reach of all Christians? Explain.
12 “The one sown upon the fine soil,” said Jesus, “produces, this one a hundredfold, that one sixty, the other thirty.” (Matthew 13:23) Grain sown in a field may vary in production according to circumstances. Similarly, what we can do in proclaiming the good news may vary according to our circumstances, and Jesus showed that he recognized this. Some may have more opportunities; others may have better health and more vigor. Thus, what we are able to do may be more or may be less than what others do, but as long as it represents our best, Jehovah is pleased. (Galatians 6:4) Even if advanced age or enfeebling illness limits our share in the preaching work, our compassionate Father, Jehovah, no doubt views us as one of those who “keep bearing much fruit.” Why? Because we give him ‘all of what we have’—our whole-souled service.b—Mark 12:43, 44; Luke 10:27.
13. (a) What is the foremost reason for us to “go on” bearing Kingdom fruitage? (b) What will help us to keep bearing fruit in less responsive territories? (See box on page 21.)
13 To whatever extent we are able to produce Kingdom fruitage, we will be moved to “go on and keep bearing fruit” when we keep in mind why we are doing so. (John 15:16) Jesus mentioned the foremost reason: “My Father is glorified in this, that you keep bearing much fruit.” (John 15:8) Yes, our preaching activity sanctifies Jehovah’s name before all mankind. (Psalm 109:30) Honor, a faithful Witness in her mid-70’s, notes: “Even in less responsive territories, it is a privilege to represent the Most High.” When Claudio, who has been a zealous Witness since 1974, was asked why he continues to preach even though few in his territory respond, he quoted John 4:34, where we read Jesus’ words: “My food is for me to do the will of him that sent me and to finish his work.” Claudio added: “Like Jesus, I want not only to begin but also to finish my work as a Kingdom proclaimer.” (John 17:4) Witnesses of Jehovah worldwide agree.—See the box “How to ‘Bear Fruit With Endurance,’” on page 21.
To Preach and to Teach
14. (a) What twofold purpose did the work of John the Baptizer and of Jesus have? (b) How would you describe the Christian activity today?
14 The first Kingdom proclaimer mentioned in the Gospels is John the Baptizer. (Matthew 3:1, 2; Luke 3:18) His primary purpose was “to bear witness,” and he did so with heartfelt faith and with the hope “that people of all sorts might believe.” (John 1:6, 7) Indeed, some to whom John preached became disciples of Christ. (John 1:35-37) Hence, John was a preacher as well as a disciple maker. Jesus too was a preacher and a teacher. (Matthew 4:23; 11:1) Not surprisingly, then, Jesus commanded his followers not only to preach the Kingdom message but also to help individuals who accept it to become his disciples. (Matthew 28:19, 20) Our work today is thus a combination of preaching and teaching.
15. What similarity is there in the response to the preaching work performed in the first century C.E. and that carried out today?
15 Of those in the first century C.E. who heard Paul preach and teach, “some began to believe the things said; others would not believe.” (Acts 28:24) Today, the response is much the same. Sadly, most Kingdom seed falls on unreceptive soil. Even so, some seeds still fall on fine soil, take root, and sprout, just as Jesus foretold. In fact, worldwide, an average of over 5,000 people become genuine disciples of Christ each week of the year! These new disciples “believe the things said,” although most other people do not. What helped in making their heart receptive to the Kingdom message? Often the personal interest shown by the Witnesses—the watering of the newly sown seed, as it were—made the difference. (1 Corinthians 3:6) Consider just two of many examples.
Personal Interest Makes a Difference
16, 17. Why is it important to show personal interest in those whom we meet in our ministry?
16 Karolien, a young Witness in Belgium, called on an elderly woman who showed no interest in the Kingdom message. Since the woman’s hand was wrapped in a bandage, Karolien and her companion offered help, but the woman declined. Two days later the same Witnesses returned to the woman’s home and asked her how she was feeling. “This made the difference,” said Karolien. “She was amazed to see that we were really interested in her as a person. She invited us into her home, and a Bible study was started.”
17 Sandi, a Witness in the United States, also shows personal interest in those to whom she preaches. She looks up birth announcements in a local newspaper and then calls on the new parents with My Book of Bible Stories.c Since the mother is usually home and proud to show visitors her baby, often a conversation ensues. “I talk with the parents about the importance of bonding with a newborn through reading,” explains Sandi. “Later I talk about the challenges of raising a child in today’s society.” Recently, as a result of such a call, a mother and six children began serving Jehovah. Showing initiative and personal interest may lead to similar joyful results in our ministry.
18. (a) Why is the requirement to ‘bear much fruit’ within reach of all of us? (b) What three requirements of discipleship mentioned in the Gospel of John are you determined to meet?
18 How reassuring it is to know that the requirement to “keep bearing much fruit” is within our reach! Whether we are young or old, whether we have good health or poor health, whether we preach in receptive or less receptive territories, all of us are able to bear much fruit. How? By manifesting the fruitage of the spirit to a fuller extent and by spreading the message of God’s Kingdom to the best of our abilities. At the same time, we strive to ‘remain in Jesus’ word’ and to ‘have love among ourselves.’ Yes, by meeting these three important requirements of discipleship mentioned in the Gospel of John, we prove that we “are really [Christ’s] disciples.”—John 8:31; 13:35.
a Although the vine’s branches in the illustration refer to Jesus’ apostles and other Christians who are in line for a place in God’s heavenly Kingdom, the illustration contains truths from which all of Christ’s followers today can benefit.—John 3:16; 10:16.
b Those who are confined to their homes because of old age or sickness may be able to witness by letters or, where permissible, by telephone, or perhaps they can share the good news with those who visit.
c Published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Questions for Review
• What kind of fruitage do we need to bear more abundantly?
• Why is the goal of “bearing much fruit” within our reach?
• What three important requirements for discipleship mentioned in the Gospel of John have we considered?
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HOW TO “BEAR FRUIT WITH ENDURANCE”
WHAT helps you to continue faithfully preaching the Kingdom message in less responsive territories? Here are some helpful answers to this question.
“Knowing that we have Jesus’ full support inspires optimism and perseverance, whatever the reaction in the territory.”—Harry, age 72; baptized 1946.
“The scripture 2 Corinthians 2:17 always encourages me. It says that we share in the ministry ‘under God’s view, in company with Christ.’ When I’m in the ministry, I enjoy the company of my best friends.”—Claudio, age 43; baptized 1974.
“Frankly, the preaching work is a personal struggle for me. Yet, I experience the truth of the words found at Psalm 18:29: ‘By my God I can climb a wall.’”—Gerard, age 79; baptized 1955.
“If I can read just one scripture in the ministry, it satisfies me that someone had his heart examined by the Bible.”—Eleanor, age 26; baptized 1989.
“I keep trying different approaches. There are so many that I will not be able to use them all in the remaining years of my life.”—Paul, age 79; baptized 1940.
“I do not take negative responses personally. I try to have a relaxed approach, conversing with people and listening to their viewpoint.”—Daniel, age 75; baptized 1946.
“I have met newly baptized ones who told me that my preaching work played a part in their becoming Witnesses. Unknown to me, someone else later studied the Bible with them and helped them to progress. It gives me joy to know that our ministry is a team effort.”—Joan, age 66; baptized 1954.
What helps you to “bear fruit with endurance”?—Luke 8:15.
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By manifesting the fruitage of the spirit and by proclaiming the Kingdom message, we bear much fruit
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What did Jesus mean when he told his apostles: “Keep bearing much fruit”?