Every true believer in Christ will produce fruit of some kind, in some measure. Jesus makes that very clear in John 15, where He declares,
“Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away…” (v. 2)
Then He describes what becomes of such a branch in v. 6,
“If anyone does not abide in me, he is thrown away like a branch and withers, and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.”
Jesus is not saying that it’s possible for a person to lose his salvation. Instead, He is revealing that some professions are superficial—some people appear to be branches because they’re following Christ for a while, but they neither “abide” in Him nor produce fruit.
Remember the context of this teaching: the evening of the Last Supper.
Supper’s over, the feet have been washed, Jesus has revealed that one of the disciples was a traitor, and Judas the traitor has slipped out into the night to do his dastardly deed.
Then Jesus takes up several topics of discussion for last-minute instruction before going to the garden and facing betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion. This vine-and-branches discourse is one of them, and when you consider the larger context, it becomes clear what He means and about whom He’s talking.
Imagine how rattled the disciples will be in just a couple of hours.
One of the twelve, the treasurer of the group, someone with whom they have traveled all over, rubbed shoulders, and shared in the experiences of being a close associate of the Messiah will plant a kiss of betrayal on their Master, who will then be led away to His death.
How could one of their own do such a thing?
How could a “branch” turn so on the Vine?
How could this “branch” be utterly unfruitful?
It’s a branch that didn’t abide. It—he—was attached to the Vine in a pledge of loyalty, a profession of faith, a declaration of intended discipleship, but time revealed the truth: he didn’t abide.
So how does
Jesus helps us out here.
In v. 10, He declares,
“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love….”
And what are His commandments?
He’s given two on this night of betrayal. The first is found in John 14:1, “Believe in God; believe also in me”—a call to total, repentant, dependent faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord (again, follow the context and read through the rest of chapter 14).
The second commandment Jesus issued that night comes in 15:12,
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
When you consider the actions of Judas Iscariot, you realize he kept neither of these commandments. He was a branch by profession, but unabiding and unfruitful, and therefore doomed.
A genuine believer in Christ has come to repentant, dependent faith in Him, after which he or she has developed a love for other believers in Christ—the fruit production has begun, and life has been changing and developing ever since.