Fruit Leading to Joy (John 15:8-11)
Purpose statement. Let me propose a bold statement. If there is little joy in your life it is because there is little fruit in your life.
Context. (1) The upper room discourse. (2) Judas has been dismissed to betray Jesus. (3) Jesus is preparing his true disciples for His future death and departure. (4) In chapter 15 John introduces the final “I AM” statement, “I am the vine.” (5) In this context we see three participants. The Father removes those who do not bear fruit (15:2,6) and prunes those who bear fruit (15:2,5). The Son cleanses us (15:3) and enables us (15:4-5). Disciples are to abide in Christ and bear fruit (15:4-5).
Fruit of abiding. Belief in Christ à Knowing God à Loving God à Obeying God à Joy in God
Jesus begins to draw some conclusions amid this discussion about abiding. Verse eight, God is glorified through believers bearing fruit. Verse nine, this fruit becomes manifest as obedience and ongoing love of Christ and from Christ. Verse 11, Jesus desired that this process of abiding result in a fulness of joy in the life of the disciples.
By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (Jn 15:8–11).
I would like to answer two questions. (1) What does this fruit look like, and (2) how does this fruit produce joy?
Defining joy. Like many other human conditions, joy can be either a feeling or an action. By action, I do not necessarily mean a conscious decision based in one’s will power. We cannot produce the joy spoken of in John 15. This joy is an action, but it is a byproduct of a work of Christ and the Holy Spirit.
Because it is a byproduct of Christ’s work in us, joy is firmly rooted and deep. It is not flimsy and superficial like our understanding of happiness or pleasure. Even though we cannot personally produce joy, since it is a fruit of our abiding in Christ and the Holy Spirit’s empowerment, we can however do things that would foster joy.
Even though it is a byproduct of abiding in Christ or is a fruit of the Spirit, Scripture still commands believers to be joyful. Believers engage in this type of joy regardless their feelings.
Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Proverbs 5:18 tells the reader to rejoice in the wife of his youth, without reference to what she may be like. Christ instructed his disciples to rejoice when they were persecuted, reviled, and slandered (Mt 5:11, 12). The apostle Paul commanded continuous rejoicing (Phil 4:4; 1 Thes 5:16). James said Christians are to reckon it all joy when they fall into various testings because such testings produce endurance (Jas 1:2).
In Colossians, Paul writes, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake” (Col 1:24) and again in 2 Corinthians he writes, “as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Cor 6:10).
Defining fruit. Any good, right, and true byproduct of an ongoing relationship with Christ. As branches, we cling to the vine. Any good, true, and right product that Christ produces through us is valuable fruit.
for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. (Eph 5:8–11).
Our fruit can be visible in many ways.
Our fruit can be visible in many ways.
Investment into Others (discipleship). Appropriately so, many consider evangelism to be the primary fruit of a Christian’s life. Most certainly, Jesus gave the disciples (and the church) a great command when he told them to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19). Additionally, Paul uses karpon to refer to those he led to Christ which is translated as “harvest” (ESV, NIV), “fruit” (KJV, NAS, NET), and “spiritual fruit” (NLT). Paul writes to the Romans, “I have often intended to come to you . . . in order that I may reap some harvest (or spiritual fruit) among you” (Rom 1:13).
Multifaceted investment. Christ commanded the disciples (and future believers) to make disciples not just converts. Discipleship involves both evangelism and continued exhortation and edification.
Investment into others flows from glorifying God. The “Great Commission” is not the same as the “Great Command.” Our greatest priority (or the “Great Command”) is to glorify God in every moment of our lives. Christ’s “Great Commission” however consists of a great and immense scope. It involves every believer of all-time purposing to spread the gospel to the whole world.
This “Great Commission” has been given to us by Christ and is empowered by Christ. As we cling to Christ, he will give us a compassion for others. That compassion should and will manifest itself in edifying believers and testifying to the lost.
Personal growth (spiritual maturity). As believers consider the idea of fruit in John 15, many as well naturally consider Paul’s discussion of the “fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5. After acknowledging the “works of the flesh” in 5:19, Paul continues and lists the fruit of the Spirit, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:23).
Additionally, Peter exhorts the church to “make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love” (2 Peter 1:5-7). He then acknowledges that if these qualities are absent in their lives they will be “unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8).
[I list “investment into others” first and “personal growth” second because that seems to be the common understanding. However, more likely investment into others will flow from personal spiritual growth and maturity. As we more consistently display the character of God in our lives, we will more consistently influence and invest in those around us.]
Giving. In working through the New Testament usage of karpon, we as well find some other instances in which some action was considered to be “fruit.” In Romans 15, Paul writes to the Roman church about the aid and contributions given by their church to the poor saints in Jerusalem. Their aid and contributions were considered to be “fruit” (Rom 15:28 KJV, NAS).
While the context primarily identifies financial assistance as fruit, spiritual fruit would include the giving of one’s time, stuff, care, abilities, etc.
Praise and Thanksgiving. As the author of Hebrews wraps up his letter, he offers a handful of imperatives that flow out of the preceding content. Let brotherly love continue (13:1). Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers (13:2). Remember those who are being mistreated (13:3). Hold marriage in high honor (13:4). Avoid a love of money and be content with what you have (13:5). Be willing to take on the reproach of Christ (13:13).
Near the end of this list, he writes, “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” (Heb 13:15–16).
Once again, defining fruit. While the word karpon may be used in these various passages, do not limit your understanding of fruit to those few passages or ideas. Any good, right, and true byproduct of an ongoing relationship with Christ. As branches, we cling to the vine. Any good, true, and right product that Christ produces through us is valuable fruit.
Our fruit leads to our joy.
Our fruit leads to our joy.
Investment into others (discipleship) produces joy. Numerous times throughout his epistles, Paul closely connects his ongoing joy in life to the acceptance of the gospel by other people (Rom 1:8f; 1 Cor 1:4; Eph 1:15-16; Phil 1:3-5; Col 1:3-4; 1 Thess 1:2f; 2 Thess 1:3-4; 2 Tim 1:3-5; Philemon 4-5).
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints . . . Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing . . . And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God (Col 1:3–10).
Even more dramatically, in 1 Thessalonians, Paul asks a question. “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy (1 Thess 2:19–20). As well, the apostle John writes to Gaius in his third epistle, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 Jn 4).
Spiritual maturity produces assurance. In his second epistle, Peter mentions some qualities that ought to be true of believers, things such as faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. He then concludes that the present of these character qualities confirm a believer’s “calling and election” (2 Peter 1:5-11). John makes this same principle a couple of times in his gospel and in his first epistle. In John 13, our love for one another displays that we are truly disciples of Christ (Jn 13:34-35). Five times, within John 14, John proposes that our obedience flows from a connection to Christ. Consistent obedience within a believers life provides assurance that they are truly connected to Christ.
John also makes this connection in his first epistle. “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him” (1 Jn 3:14–19).
As we grow in Christ, the increased spiritual maturity and consistent development of character can only be explained through one’s connection to the vine. Increased spiritual maturity is fruit of being connected to Christ. This assurance in the life of a believer produces joy.
Giving produces joy. Paul had ministered to the elders of the church in Ephesus. He had spent himself on them – every day, “with all humility and with tears and with trials” (Acts 20:19). He had ministered daily in their homes. And yet he does not account his life as precious to himself. He provided for himself financially through his own work. He concludes his discussion with these elders by saying, “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35).
Paul spent his life serving others with his time, finances, abilities, mind, etc. And, he concludes that a person lives a blessed life when they focus on giving to others instead of expecting from them.
Praise and Thanksgiving produce peace. As Paul acknowledges in his letter to the Philippians, our praise and thanksgiving will result in a “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Phil 4:6–7). As well in Romans, Paul writes, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Rom 15:13). As we come in praise and thanksgiving to God, both peace and hope are produced within our lives, a peace that surpasses understanding and a hope that is defined by a “hopeful confidence in” Christ and an ongoing “expectation of a divinely provided future” (Friberg Lexicon).
Let us consider once again my opening statement. “If there is little joy in your life it is because there is little fruit in your life.”
So then, the solution to a lack of joy is not to personally pursue producing fruit but instead abiding in Christ. As we abide in Christ, we will know God more fully, love him more completely, bear fruit more consistently, and experience unexplainable hope and joy.
 Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Joy,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1224–1225