Fruitless Branches

Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away.

John 15:2

These words of Jesus show us a condition that is unhealthy. This raises the question: Are we dealing with unproductive followers, or with those who have never been truly born again? Or what kind of people are we referring to when we speak of branches that bear no fruit? Let us examine the matter somewhat closer to determine the spiritual condition of those whom Jesus refers to as fruitless branches.

Jesus says, “Every branch in Me.” This indicates that they have at one time experienced true salvation, that a conversion of their heart and life has taken place. Otherwise, they would not have become branches in Christ, the true vine, at all. For someone to say that these are only dead and graceless professors of Christ is not at all in accordance with the words of Jesus.

The fruitless branches Jesus is talking about are those who have experienced and witnessed the new birth. They have been placed in Christ Jesus through this glorious experience. By being born again, they have become a new creation. For, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Although these people were born again, they are atypical in one essential point. Although they have been born into Christ Jesus, they do not bear fruit. Since Jesus Himself spoke these words, we know that there is indeed such a condition: a person can be a branch in Christ, the vine, and yet bear no fruit. God wants to see fruit in the lives of His children. 

Now the question arises as to the cause of fruitlessness. We are fully aware that in the natural realm, there are distinct reasons that prevent a vine or a tree from bearing fruit.

1. There are instances where the vine or tree has been damaged. The outer bark may be fractured, and as a result, the sap cannot flow through as it should. The result of this is often barrenness. The same is true in the spiritual realm. If the new Christian is not given the proper care, or if they are instructed incorrectly, they can easily get into a diseased state where they are unable to bear fruit. These individuals are often quickly overcome when something comes their way, and then they lose the victory. These should repent as soon as possible, just as Peter did after he fell. Some new Christians also experience defeat through accusations and discouragement. Not knowing how to face these things, they become unfruitful.

2. Many vines and branches have stopped bearing fruit because they have been damaged by frost. This is a common cause of barrenness in an orchard or vineyard. Usually, the frost does its damage in the flowering period. We find a spiritual analogy here as well. In some local churches, the temperature is below freezing, and new Christians feel the frost soon after their spiritual birth. If the spirit of fault-finding exists in the church, as well as a lack of trust and dead formality, children in the faith can hardly be expected to stay alive in Christ and make progress spiritually. They can hardly be expected to bear fruit. 

Also, in many pulpits not enough spiritual food is offered to keep God’s children – the branches on the vine – in a fruit-bearing condition. In some places, so many worldly things have crept in that it is not at all surprising that the fruitfulness of some branches ceases. We can easily understand that under such circumstances young children in Christ suffer particular harm.

3. In addition, there are many harmful insects that harm the vines or trees by either sucking out the life-giving and fruit-bearing sap or otherwise making them incapable of bearing fruit in some way. Similarly, there are many things in the spiritual realm that suck out the inner sap of spiritual life. This then results in the absence of any fruit. Some of these harmful things are complacency, lukewarmness and inactiveness, neglecting prayer and the reading of the Word of God, and staying away from worship services and the gatherings of believers. Some suffer immediately after their conversion by being unwilling to be baptized or to observe the other New Testament ordinances.

If the new Christian fails to seek and attain sanctification, he cannot but suffer harm to his soul. Other harmful things are loving the world or things of the world, stinginess, and self-love. All these and many other things are pests of the spiritual life. If they are not removed, they will not only hinder the bearing of fruit but also destroy the spiritual life in time.

There is only one sure antidote to all these pests of spiritual life, and that is the whole, pure, and unadulterated truth of the Word of God. One thing is certain: if the things that hinder fruit-bearing are not removed, the spiritual life will be lost. The branch will then be cut off, causing it to wither.

H. M. Riggle

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