Then certain individuals came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to discuss this question with the apostles and the elders. So they were sent on their way by the church, and as they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, they reported the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the believers. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them. But some believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and said, “It is necessary for them to be circumcised and ordered to keep the law of Moses.”
The apostles and the elders met together to consider this matter.
I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord!”
Our feet are standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem.
Jerusalem—built as a city
that is bound firmly together.
To it the tribes go up,
the tribes of the Lord,
as was decreed for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the Lord.
For there the thrones for judgment were set up,
the thrones of the house of David.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”
In the gospel of John today, it may seem strange to read about Christ telling the Twelve that the Father is glorified that they bear much fruit and become His disciples. After all, this discourse takes place during the Last Supper; they already were His disciples. Perhaps Jesus is expressing to His disciples that the Father is already glorified by them, in being His disciples and in the fruit they have borne. Or perhaps, Jesus is referring to an ongoing process of discipleship. He is giving His disciples their instructions on how to remain in Him when He is no longer physically, bodily, with them. Abiding in Him hereafter will be a matter of abiding in His word and His love and receiving the Holy Spirit. Through this, we bear fruit; without this, we can do nothing.
In the book of Acts, we see the early church working to discern how to remain in Jesus’s love and bear fruit as the church multiplies due to the conversion of the Gentiles. These conversions are the fruit of the Word of God going out into the world and the love of God calling His children to Him. Yet some insist that the Mosaic law and traditions must be kept. They have not accepted or not understood Jesus’s testimony that He has fulfilled the law, that it is a branch His Father has taken away. The law brought guilt and condemnation, which Jesus took away.
What keeps us from bearing fruit in our lives, and from drawing closer to Jesus as His disciples? Like those protesting for the keeping of the Mosaic law in Acts, it can be our guilt and self-condemnation, our insistence on meeting standards that God is not asking us to meet. It can be thinking we have to do it in our own strength, that we cannot approach Jesus unless we get our issues in order. But the reverse is true; it is only by abiding in Jesus that we can have the strength to change as He puts our issues in order.
Today, let’s spend time in the word of God and in receiving the love of Jesus. Let’s pray for the grace to draw nearer to Jesus and become more like Him, to bear fruit in our lives, and to share the gospel and the love of Jesus with others.