THE COMMISSION OF THE GOSPEL
BEING TO REPRODUCE CHRIST FOR HIS INCREASE
John 15 shows us how the many grains are built up together as a corporate increase. In chapter 12 we see the way to produce the increase, and in chapter 15 we see the way of building. Verses 1 through 5 say, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the husbandman. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes it away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. He who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
We may have the wrong concept that the fruit spoken of by the Lord refers to certain manifestations of life, such as the fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5. In these days, however, the more I consider John 15, the more I am becoming clear. John 15:16 shows us the real meaning of fruit in this chapter. This verse says, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and I set you that you should go forth and bear fruit and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He may give you.” If we read this verse carefully, we can realize that fruit here does not refer to the manifestations of life. To bring forth fruit is to produce, to have an increase. This refers to the genuine outreach of the gospel. It is to impart Christ into people, causing them to become the fruit. In this chapter fruit is the outflow of Christ into people, thus making them the increase of Christ.
Consider a fruit tree. The fruit on the branches of the tree are the increase of the tree. Fruit is not merely meekness, humility, or a kind of good behavior. It is the overflow of the inner life to produce an increase of life. Fruit trees are reproduced by the seed of the fruit. Within all the fruit on the branches of the tree there are seeds. When these seeds fall into the earth, they produce more trees. Originally, there was only one tree, but after a certain time, there are many trees. This is the increase.
At the end of Matthew the Lord gave us the commission to go to the nations to preach the gospel (28:19). In Mark there is a similar word: “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to all the creation” (16:15). Likewise, Luke ends in the same way (24:47-49). In the Gospel of John, however, does the Lord speak there concerning the preaching of the gospel? It is there, but in a different way. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, it seems that the preaching of the gospel is a movement, a certain kind of activity or work. It is only in the Gospel of John, the Gospel of life, that the preaching of the gospel is not a work or activity; it is an outflow of life. That is why in John 15:16 the Lord chose and set the disciples to go forth and bear fruit. This is to preach the gospel for the increase of Christ. We must go forth to produce Christ, to have Christ reproduced, multiplied, and increased thirtyfold, sixtyfold, or a hundredfold. This is the “great commission.” In this book it seems that there is no such commission for gospel preaching, but in actuality there is the real commission for gospel preaching. It is not in a way of work, activity, or movement, but it is in the way of life, in the way of the outflow of the inner life.
BEING PRUNED IN ORDER TO BEAR MORE FRUIT
According to John 15, if we mean business with the Lord, the Father will prune, cut, and purge us. All the branches need a certain kind of trimming. I am somewhat reluctant to say this because I do not want to disappoint you or scare you away. However, if you go to the best husbandman to ask him how he helps the branches to bear fruit, he will tell you that he prunes them. Some branches do not bear fruit because they are short of pruning. When the brothers and sisters mean business with the Lord, and the Father comes in to put His hand upon them and prune them, right away the preaching of the gospel becomes prevailing. On the other hand, we may be very comfortable. If someone asks, “How are you?” we may say, “Everything is fine.” However, everything is not fine for the gospel preaching. The more everything is fine, the more we are not prevailing in gospel preaching. When one day the environment, our situation, is not so fine, even upside down, that will be the prevailing time for gospel preaching.
Many dear saints cannot preach the gospel prevailingly when they are healthy. However, once the Father, the Husbandman, touches the branch a little, their health is gone; they have some kind of illness. At that time their preaching becomes prevailing. While we are prosperous, we may tell people that they need Jesus and that they must believe in Him, but this may be like the daughters of Lot talking to the people in Sodom. People will not care for this kind of speaking and will listen to it in the same way that they listen to the news. However, we may lose our business, lose other things, or have other troubles. We may suffer something. This is the trimming, the cutting, the purging, and the breaking. This will cause us as branches to bring forth fruit. The Husbandman, who is the Father, knows how to prune us.
John 15 is very significant. In this chapter the Father has the intention to work all that He is, all the fullness of the Godhead in Christ, into the branches of the vine that they may bear fruit. There is much need for the Father to work all His fullness into us that we may bear fruit, that is, that we may have the outflow of the inner life, which is the reality of the fullness of the Father. The outflow of the inner life is the fruit, and many times this outflow comes out only by trimming, cutting, and pruning.
(Preaching the Gospel in the Way of Life, Chapter 12, by Witness Lee)