John 15.16: “Go and bear fruit”

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that remains, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you. This I command you—to love one another. (John 15.16-17 NET)

When I was in bible college the teacher in one class engaged the students to define what the “fruit” referred to in John 15. It was a very lively discussion and the teacher gave no direction to the debate and the topic was left unresolved at the end of the class session. The teacher must not have known for himself the solution or else he would have guided the discussion more. At least it seems to me he really didn’t have a position on the reference of “fruit” in John 15. Being a young Christian, I could not decide which position was correct. One group of students argued for qualities internal to a Christian while another group said it was converts to which the fruit referred and so Jesus was urging evangelism.

Even bible translations (in its study notes), such as the NET Bible, do not define the concept of fruit as a single entity but say the section speaks transitionally from qualities in the disciples to a missional concept with these qualities reproduced in converts. I disagree with this nebulous reference and argue that the fruit mentioned is qualities in the disciples exclusively. These qualities are the fruit of The Spirit (see Gal. 5.22-24) which the believers bear as they both crucify their flesh and live in The Spirit.

My solution is utterly simple and takes the text at face value without the necessary forcing that the other positions employ with the terms “go” and “remain.”

This section of text (pericope) cannot refer to the fruits in converts by the use of “go” since the converts would themselves be subject to the Vine. The converts would be new branches themselves commanded to bear fruit. The concept of responsibility for others’ fruits is absent from scripture. Of course this fruit bearing in John 15 is toward others primarily or at least witnessed by others. Vs. 8 notes this: “My Father is honored by this, that you bear much fruit and show that you are my disciples.” The “showing to be disciples” is obviously to others but without reference to resulting converts. The fruit is the witness, not the resultant branches who are chosen by The Lord.

Certainly, fruits such as peace and joy are internal to the Christian but cannot escape the notice of others. So, while a believer may experience joy and peace while alone, they (the believer) are further established to both individually praise God and to reflect God’s grace in their lives to others.

Some cite the term “remain” as indicating converts since converts “remain” and have eternal life. However, it is the fruit that remains as the text indicates. Of course the branches remain forever if they abide in the Vine, but the reference is to fruit, not branches. The determining of branches is from the Vine’s choosing: “you did not choose Me, but I chose you.” 

1Cor. 3.9-15 is a section that also speaks to Christian fruit bearing also even if the metaphor changes to components of buildings (gold, silver, stones) as indicated by vs.9: “We are coworkers belonging to God. You are God’s field, God’s building… If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, each builder’s work will be plainly seen, for the Day will make it clear, because it will be revealed by fire. And the fire will test what kind of work each has done. If what someone has built survives, he will receive a reward.  If someone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”

In 1Cor. 3, the figure is a builder whose work remains if it is a certain quality. Here, the builder’s work remains just as the fruit remains in John 15. This fruit and the quality building refer to rewards that endure through eternity in the Christian. Of course, a Christian is never motivated by mere rewards, rather “we love, because He first loved us.”  (1Jn. 4.19). The rewards are probably memorials of our collaboration with The Lord. In my mind, the promise of rewards give the Christian significance and purpose. The metaphoric gold and silver reflects the light of The Lord. The metaphoric fruits are savored.

Additionally, John 15.17, which closes the pericope, gives an explicit command to make clear what Jesus is talking about: “This I command you: Love one another.” If He wanted the disciples to understand the metaphor as evangelizing others, then He would have said something to indicate this idea instead of an action primarily among Christians.

The Covenant of Salt

Three texts name the Covenant of Salt in the bible. Lev. 2.13, Num. 18.19, and 2Chron. 13.5. However, they do not refer exactly to each other but are related. Lev.2.13 commands the symbolic use of salt in all the sacrifices of the Aaronic Priesthood. Additionally, Ezek. 43.24 commands the priests of a future temple to sprinkle salt on the burnt offering (and presumably the other offerings also) without specifically mentioning “The Covenant of Salt.” The Numbers and 2Chron. references  point to durable agreements. Num. 18.19 speaks to the offerings of the Israelites being given to the House of Aaron the priest. Even though offerings are mentioned, no salt is, but rather shows the permanent nature of a statute. 2Chron. 13.5 speaks to the inviolability of the decree that the Kingship of Israel is made with the House of David and names it the Covenant of Salt, again showing a durative action.

A question is then raised as to why salt is referenced to indicate permanence or durability. The ancient people to whom the bible was written would not have thought it unusual to connect salt with permanence. Each household would prepare their food from scratch or preserve it using salt in the process. They used salt in virtually all their foods excepting fruits which could be eaten raw (fruits, of course, contain traces of salt as all other plants-more on this later). Modern bible readers may be puzzled by salt’s reference because so much of today’s food is processed for us.

Initially, when I started tracing the use of salt in the bible, it was to try to understand the metaphorical use of salt in the New Testament: “have salt among yourselves” (Mark 9.5), and “salt losing its flavor” (Mt. 5.13). Col. 4.6 instructs Christians: “Let your speech always be seasoned with salt.” The prior references to salt in the Old Testament intrigued me also as to their meaning. Often, to find metaphorical meaning, the bible student needs to trace all biblical references to help to determine their usage.

Initially I thought my research complete concerning The Salt Covenant, but recently I read a section that seemed to explain the idea better. Incidentally, this biblical section refers to David’s Covenant also and provides a rationale of permanence. This crucial text is Jer. 33.20-21b: “Thus says the Lord, ‘If you can break My covenant for the day and My covenant for the night, so that day and night will not be at their appointed time,  then My covenant may also be broken with David My servant so that he will not have a son to reign on his throne.”

God cites His fixed order of creation to indicate faithfulness to David’s Descendant (Jesus) of the promise of an eternal kingdom. So, it seems, God has a covenant with the physical creation to regulate it. With this usage, and others, covenants can be made with non-living entities. Since He is the Creator and Sustainer of all, therefore, this should not surprise us. Likewise, The Covenant of Salt. God has ordained that salt is a necessary nutrient in virtually all living things, plants,  animals, and microorganisms.

Often, when thinking of life’s sustenance, we think of water. However, water is exceedingly difficult to purify absolutely (laboratory water). It will usually contain traces of substances, especially Sodium, a component of salt. Water and salt seem to have a relation to each other in forming an electrolyte in living things. Without this water and salt solution (electrolyte) our hearts could not beat, nor could our nerves make connections in our brain. Blood transports, among other things, salt to every cell in an organism. Even plants rely upon salt to function. Soil contains salts which plants take up to grow. Salt water is a fertilizer when mixed with fresh water at a specific ratio. Of course too much salt in both fields and organisms is injurious and even deadly. For the most part, animals and humans regulate salt concentrations by water intake and careful seasoning. So everything living is designed to depend on salt. God has made a covenant with all living things, it seems, to use salt for sustaining life.

Therefore, looking at salt from the perspective as a necessary component of life, it is easier to understand the concept of durability in connection with the term “Covenant of Salt” in the bible.




The (Major) Purpose of The Law

Many were the purposes why God gave The Mosaic Law to  Israel. One reason was to show God’s wisdom to the other nations so as to win respect and that they would turn to the One, Only True God. This happened on many occasions such as Uraiah the Hittite and probably the Pelethites who served under David later in his reign. Also the lineage of Christ contains Gentiles who turned to the Lord. Another reason for giving The Law was for societal and personal justice in Israel. However, the overarching purpose seems to be to show God’s righteousness and our sinfulness contrasted.

The Law acted to reveal our sinfulness and thus the sincere worshiper could bring a sacrifice which proclaimed the message from the beginning in (Gen. 3.15) that The Divine Man would provide the payment to redeem His people. Paul shows this condemnatory function of The Law clearly in 1Cor. 15.56 where he indicates: “the power of sin is the Law.” Also, Gal.2.19ff. “Through The Law I died to The Law, so that I might live for God…for if righteousness were through The Law, then Christ died for no purpose.”

Gal. 3.19 gives the reason for The Law:  “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the seed [Christ] should come to whom the promise had been made.” Heb. 8.7-8 says The Mosaic Covenant pointed out the peoples’ sin: ” For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. For he finds fault with THEM when he says: ‘Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.'” (emphasis mine)

Jesus mentions the same truth when reproving the Jewish leaders: Do not suppose that I will accuse you before the Father. The one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have placed your hope. (Jn. 5.45) Later in the account Jesus speaks to their inability to keep the Law: “Hasn’t Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law” (7.19). These Pharisees that Jesus was primarily speaking to were extremely punctilious in their religious observance, yet they failed to keep The Law completely.

Further, The Law was perfect and whoever could keep it would live: “So you must keep my statutes and my regulations; anyone who does so will live by keeping them. I am the Lord.” (Lev.18.5) Additionally, Jesus quotes Leviticus to the Jewish expert in Lk. 10.25-28: “Now an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus, saying, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you understand it?” The expert answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

No one ever kept The Law except Jesus who claimed this promise of whoever could keep The Mosaic Law would live forever in Lev.18.5. He earned life in His humanity and gives eternal life to those who trust Him. Yes, it is also true that Jesus could not sin but this does not take anything away from His righteous life. More could be said about He being perfected through suffering during His earthly life (it was for our sanctification). Also, Jesus died as a penal substitution and fulfilled all the sacrifices: guilt, sin, burnt, daily, and others. These considerations will have to be in other posts however.


This One Bone Is The Only Skeletal Evidence For Crucifixion In The Ancient World

Kristina Killgrove, a bioarcheologist at the University of West Florida, discusses Roman crucifixion and the singular evidence which remains to our day.

This striking evidence gives credence to the promise of Gen. 3.15 referring to Christ’s sacrifice for humanity: “and he (the serpent) will pierce your heal.” A bite from a serpent was understood to be a death strike in the ancient world. However, a resurrection was inferred since the primary judgement was pronounced on the serpent: “and He shall crush your head.” This was also a death blow which is still pending until the full number of humans are saved from eternal judgement.

When God gave the Mosaic Law it provided the promise: “Do this and you will live.” Since no one (except Jesus) could keep it perfectly, the sacrificial system was in place to witness to Christ’s final sacrifice which the worshiper, by faith, could find refuge. Since Christ did keep the Law’s requirements He could rise from death and so provide eternal life to all who believe.