Sermon: Discipleship Fruit
Main Pt: God created us to be fruitful disciples, for His glory & by the power of His Holy Spirit
DISCIPLES and the Vine (2x: 1,5)
Who is Jesus? = seven “I am” in John
true vine v.1….the vine v.5
OT negative connotation (Isa.5:1-7; Ps.80:8-17; Ezek.15; 19; Jer.2:21; Rev.14:14-20)
DISCIPLES & the Father (10x: 1,8,9,10,15,16,23,24,26,26) Gardinero, Labrador, Viñador)
He cuts off the dead brances v.2
Example: Judas 13:2,27
He prunes the live branch v.2
Persecution (v.18-25; cf 8:1)
v.3 Cleaning involves cutting away – the worthless and the “good”
DISCIPLES & Branches (6x: 2,2,4,5,6,6)
Who am I?
Fruit bearing branch
Dead branch, non fruitbearing
DISCIPLE & Fruit: anything (word, thot, deed) that glorifies God
Progression (no 2 à fruit 2 à more 2 à much 5; lasting 16)
real spiritual fruit has in it the seeds for more fruit.
spiritual crop” The more we abide in Christ, the more fruit we bear; and the more fruit we bear, the more the Father has to prune us so that the quality keeps up with the quantity.
DISCIPLE & Love (10x: 9,9,9,10,10,12,12,13,17,19)
56xs in John….13:1,23,34,35; 14:15,21,23,24,28,31; 16:27; 17:23,24,26)
DISCIPLE & Joy (v11,v11)
DISCIPLES & Answered Prayer (v7-8, v16)
DISCIPLES & Testify (v.27)
Romans 1:13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles cf (Jn 4:35–38)
Romans 6:22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.
Romans 15:28 So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this fruit [the financial offering], I will go to Spain and visit you on the way.
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Hebrews 13:15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name
DISCIPLES & Remain (12x:4,4 (promised presence),4,4,5 (if),6 (Jn.6:66),7 (if),7,9 (command)
10, 11nkjv ) …..remain 40xs in John; 27 in epistles
DISCIPLES & Obedience = 10,10, 20,20
Remain = obedience…..everything revolves around obedience!
“When our Lord says: Abide in me he is talking about the will, about the choices, the decisions we make.
DISCIPLES & Glory (v.8)
Jesus glorified his Father by suffering…..giving his life for us…..dying a cruel death
18x in John, 5x in his prayer of chap.17
2:11 [great things]This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him
11:4 [painful things] When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”
14:13 [answered prayer] & I will do whatever you ask in my name so that the Son may bring glory to the Fr
17:4 I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.
DISCIPLES & Friends (v13, 14,14)
God, Savior, Lord, King……Brother (Heb.2:11,12,17)….
Prov 18:24 A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
*Jesus introduced a new aspect to discipleship that was foreign to them
DISCIPLES & the Holy Spirit (26)
See 13:15-22; 16:5-16
GOD CREATED US TO BE FRUITFUL DISCIPLES
FOR HIS GLORY and BY THE POWER OF HIS HOLY SPIRIT
a vine needs to be cultivated at least three years before being allowed to produce fruit at all. That is, it must be trimmed and allowed to grow, then be trimmed and allowed to grow again, and so on for a considerable length of time. Only after this does it become useful for bearing fruit. Similarly, there are times in our lives when we seem to go on for considerable periods, undergoing rather radical treatment at the hands of the Father and seeing little fruit come from it. In such times we doubt if there will ever be fruit. But that is only because we cannot see as God sees. We do not have his perspective. Do not get discouraged if that has happened to you. Instead, remember that Jesus promises fruit in due time if we truly remain in him in a close way.
John 15: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my DISCIPLES. 9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be [remain KJV] in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other. 18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. 23 He who hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’ 26 “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.
John 15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. 9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be [remain – nkjv] in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other. 18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. 23 He who hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’ 26 “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.
(RVR) Yo soy la vid verdadera, y mi Padre es el labrador. 2 Todo pámpano que en mí no lleva fruto, lo quitará; y todo aquel que lleva fruto, lo limpiará, para que lleve más fruto. 3 Ya vosotros estáis limpios por la palabra que os he hablado. 4 Permaneced en mí, y yo en vosotros. Como el pámpano no puede llevar fruto por sí mismo, si no permanece en la vid, así tampoco vosotros, si no permanecéis en mí. 5 Yo soy la vid, vosotros los pámpanos; el que permanece en mí, y yo en él, éste lleva mucho fruto; porque separados de mí nada podéis hacer. 6 El que en mí no permanece, será echado fuera como pámpano, y se secará; y los recogen, y los echan en el fuego, y arden. 7 Si permanecéis en mí, y mis palabras permanecen en vosotros, pedid todo lo que queréis, y os será hecho. 8 En esto es glorificado mi Padre, en que llevéis mucho fruto, y seáis así mis discípulos. 9 Como el Padre me ha amado, así también yo os he amado; permaneced en mi amor. 10 Si guardareis mis mandamientos, permaneceréis en mi amor; así como yo he guardado los mandamientos de mi Padre, y permanezco en su amor. 11 Estas cosas os he hablado, para que mi gozo esté en vosotros, y vuestro gozo sea cumplido. 12 Este es mi mandamiento: Que os améis unos a otros, como yo os he amado. 13 Nadie tiene mayor amor que este, que uno ponga su vida por sus amigos. 14 Vosotros sois mis amigos, si hacéis lo que yo os mando. 15 Ya no os llamaré siervos, porque el siervo no sabe lo que hace su señor; pero os he llamado amigos, porque todas las cosas que oí de mi Padre, os las he dado a conocer. 16 No me elegisteis vosotros a mí, sino que yo os elegí a vosotros, y os he puesto para que vayáis y llevéis fruto, y vuestro fruto permanezca; para que todo lo que pidiereis al Padre en mi nombre, él os lo dé. 17 Esto os mando: Que os améis unos a otros. 18 Si el mundo os aborrece, sabed que a mí me ha aborrecido antes que a vosotros. 19 Si fuerais del mundo, el mundo amaría lo suyo; pero porque no sois del mundo, antes yo os elegí del mundo, por eso el mundo os aborrece. 20 Acordaos de la palabra que yo os he dicho: El siervo no es mayor que su señor. Si a mí me han perseguido, también a vosotros os perseguirán; si han guardado mi palabra, también guardarán la vuestra. 21 Mas todo esto os harán por causa de mi nombre, porque no conocen al que me ha enviado. 22 Si yo no hubiera venido, ni les hubiera hablado, no tendrían pecado; pero ahora no tienen excusa por su pecado. 23 El que me aborrece a mí, también a mi Padre aborrece. 24 Si yo no hubiese hecho entre ellos obras que ningún otro ha hecho, no tendrían pecado; pero ahora han visto y han aborrecido a mí y a mi Padre. 25 Pero esto es para que se cumpla la palabra que está escrita en su ley: Sin causa me aborrecieron. 26 Pero cuando venga el Consolador, a quien yo os enviaré del Padre, el Espíritu de verdad, el cual procede del Padre, él dará testimonio acerca de mí. 27 Y vosotros daréis testimonio también, porque habéis estado conmigo desde el principio.
(VP) “Yo soy la vid verdadera, y mi Padre es el que la cultiva. 2 Si una de mis ramas no da uvas, la corta; pero si da uvas, la poda y la limpia, para que dé más. 3 Ustedes ya están limpios por las palabras que les he dicho. 4 Sigan unidos a mí, como yo sigo unido a ustedes. Una rama no puede dar uvas de sí misma, si no está unida a la vid; de igual manera, ustedes no pueden dar fruto, si no permanecen unidos a mí. 5 “Yo soy la vid, y ustedes son las ramas. El que permanece unido a mí, y yo unido a él, da mucho fruto; pues sin mí no pueden ustedes hacer nada. 6 El que no permanece unido a mí, será echado fuera y se secará como las ramas que se recogen y se queman en el fuego. 7 “Si ustedes permanecen unidos a mí, y si permanecen fieles a mis enseñanzas, pidan lo que quieran y se les dará. 8 En esto se muestra la gloria de mi Padre, en que den mucho fruto y lleguen así a ser verdaderos discípulos míos. 9 Yo los amo a ustedes como el Padre me ama a mí; permanezcan, pues, en el amor que les tengo. 10 Si obedecen mis mandamientos, permanecerán en mi amor, así como yo obedezco los mandamientos de mi Padre y permanezco en su amor. 11 “Les hablo así para que se alegren conmigo y su alegría sea completa. 12 Mi mandamiento es este: Que se amen unos a otros como yo los he amado a ustedes. 13 El amor más grande que uno puede tener es dar su vida por sus amigos. 14 Ustedes son mis amigos, si hacen lo que yo les mando. 15 Ya no los llamo siervos, porque el siervo no sabe lo que hace su amo. Los llamo mis amigos, porque les he dado a conocer todo lo que mi Padre me ha dicho. 16 Ustedes no me escogieron a mí, sino que yo los he escogido a ustedes y les he encargado que vayan y den mucho fruto, y que ese fruto permanezca. Así el Padre les dará todo lo que le pidan en mi nombre. 17 Esto, pues, es lo que les mando: Que se amen unos a otros. 18 “Si el mundo los odia a ustedes, sepan que a mí me odió primero. 19 Si ustedes fueran del mundo, la gente del mundo los amaría, como ama a los suyos. Pero yo los escogí a ustedes entre los que son del mundo, y por eso el mundo los odia, porque ya no son del mundo. 20 Acuérdense de esto que les dije: ‘Ningún servidor es más que su señor.’ Si a mí me han perseguido, también a ustedes los perseguirán; y si han hecho caso de mi palabra, también harán caso de la de ustedes. 21 Todo esto van a hacerles por mi causa, porque no conocen al que me envió. 22 “Ellos no tendrían ninguna culpa, si yo no hubiera venido a hablarles. Pero ahora no tienen disculpa por su pecado; 23 pues los que me odian a mí, odian también a mi Padre. 24 No tendrían ninguna culpa, si yo no hubiera hecho entre ellos cosas que ningún otro ha hecho; pero ya han visto estas cosas y, a pesar de ello, me odian a mí y odian también a mi Padre. 25 Pero esto sucede porque tienen que cumplirse las palabras que están escritas en la ley de ellos: ‘Me odiaron sin motivo.’ 26 “Pero cuando venga el Defensor que yo voy a enviar de parte del Padre, el Espíritu de la verdad que procede del Padre, él será mi testigo. 27 Y ustedes también serán mis testigos, porque han estado conmigo desde el principio.
(NVI) Yo soy la vid verdadera, y mi Padre es el labrador. 2 Toda rama que en mí no da fruto, la corta; pero toda rama que da fruto la poda para que dé más fruto todavía. 3 Ustedes ya están limpios por la palabra que les he comunicado. 4 Permanezcan en mí, y yo permaneceré en ustedes. Así como ninguna rama puede dar fruto por sí misma, sino que tiene que permanecer en la vid, así tampoco ustedes pueden dar fruto si no permanecen en mí. 5 »Yo soy la vid y ustedes son las ramas. El que permanece en mí, como yo en él, dará mucho fruto; separados de mí no pueden ustedes hacer nada. 6 El que no permanece en mí es desechado y se seca, como las ramas que se recogen, se arrojan al fuego y se queman. 7 Si permanecen en mí y mis palabras permanecen en ustedes, pidan lo que quieran, y se les concederá. 8 Mi Padre es glorificado cuando ustedes dan mucho fruto y muestran así que son mis discípulos. 9 »Así como el Padre me ha amado a mí, también yo los he amado a ustedes. Permanezcan en mi amor. 10 Si obedecen mis mandamientos, permanecerán en mi amor, así como yo he obedecido los mandamientos de mi Padre y permanezco en su amor. 11 Les he dicho esto para que tengan mi alegría y así su alegría sea completa. 12 Y éste es mi mandamiento: que se amen los unos a los otros, como yo los he amado. 13 Nadie tiene amor más grande que el dar la vida por sus amigos. 14 Ustedes son mis amigos si hacen lo que yo les mando. 15 Ya no los llamo siervos, porque el siervo no está al tanto de lo que hace su amo; los he llamado amigos, porque todo lo que a mi Padre le oí decir se lo he dado a conocer a ustedes. 16 No me escogieron ustedes a mí, sino que yo los escogí a ustedes y los comisioné para que vayan y den fruto, un fruto que perdure. Así el Padre les dará todo lo que le pidan en mi nombre. 17 Éste es mi mandamiento: que se amen los unos a los otros. 18 »Si el mundo los aborrece, tengan presente que antes que a ustedes, me aborreció a mí. 19 Si fueran del mundo, el mundo los querría como a los suyos. Pero ustedes no son del mundo, sino que yo los he escogido de entre el mundo. Por eso el mundo los aborrece. 20 Recuerden lo que les dije: “Ningún siervo es más que su amo.” Si a mí me han perseguido, también a ustedes los perseguirán. Si han obedecido mis enseñanzas, también obedecerán las de ustedes. 21 Los tratarán así por causa de mi nombre, porque no conocen al que me envió. 22 Si yo no hubiera venido ni les hubiera hablado, no serían culpables de pecado. Pero ahora no tienen excusa por su pecado. 23 El que me aborrece a mí, también aborrece a mi Padre. 24 Si yo no hubiera hecho entre ellos las obras que ningún otro antes ha realizado, no serían culpables de pecado. Pero ahora las han visto, y sin embargo a mí y a mi Padre nos han aborrecido. 25 Pero esto sucede para que se cumpla lo que está escrito en la ley de ellos: “Me odiaron sin motivo.” 26 »Cuando venga el Consolador, que yo les enviaré de parte del Padre, el Espíritu de verdad que procede del Padre, él testificará acerca de mí. 27 Y también ustedes darán testimonio porque han estado conmigo desde el principio.
NBLH) “Yo soy la vid verdadera, y Mi Padre es el viñador. 2 “Todo sarmiento que en Mí no da fruto, lo quita; y todo el que da fruto, lo poda para que dé más fruto. 3 “Ustedes ya están limpios por la palabra que les he hablado. 4 “Permanezcan en Mí, y Yo en ustedes. Como el sarmiento no puede dar fruto por sí mismo si no permanece en la vid, así tampoco ustedes si no permanecen en Mí. 5 “Yo soy la vid, ustedes los sarmientos; el que permanece en Mí y Yo en él, ése da mucho fruto, porque separados de Mí nada pueden hacer. 6 “Si alguien no permanece en Mí, es echado fuera como un sarmiento y se seca; y los recogen, los echan al fuego y se queman. 7 “Si permanecen en Mí, y Mis palabras permanecen en ustedes, pidan lo que quieran y les será hecho. 8 “En esto es glorificado Mi Padre, en que den mucho fruto, y así prueben que son Mis discípulos. 9 “Como el Padre Me ha amado, así también Yo los he amado; permanezcan en Mi amor. 10 “Si guardan Mis mandamientos, permanecerán en Mi amor, así como Yo he guardado los mandamientos de Mi Padre y permanezco en Su amor. 11 “Estas cosas les he hablado, para que Mi gozo esté en ustedes, y su gozo sea perfecto. 12 “Este es Mi mandamiento: que se amen los unos a los otros, así como Yo los he amado. 13 “Nadie tiene un amor mayor que éste: que uno dé su vida por sus amigos. 14 “Ustedes son Mis amigos si hacen lo que Yo les mando. 15 “Ya no los llamo siervos, porque el siervo no sabe lo que hace su señor; pero los he llamado amigos, porque les he dado a conocer todo lo que he oído de Mi Padre. 16 “Ustedes no me escogieron a Mí, sino que Yo los escogí a ustedes, y los designé para que vayan y den fruto, y que su fruto permanezca; para que todo lo que pidan al Padre en Mi nombre se lo conceda. 17 “Esto les mando: que se amen los unos a los otros. 18 “Si el mundo los odia, sepan que Me ha odiado a Mí antes que a ustedes. 19 “Si ustedes fueran del mundo, el mundo amaría lo suyo; pero como no son del mundo, sino que Yo los escogí de entre el mundo, por eso el mundo los odia. 20 “Acuérdense de la palabra que Yo les dije: ‘Un siervo no es mayor que su señor.’ Si Me persiguieron a Mí, también los perseguirán a ustedes; si guardaron Mi palabra, también guardarán la de ustedes. 21 “Pero todo eso les harán por causa de Mi nombre, porque no conocen a Aquél que Me envió. 22 “Si Yo no hubiera venido y no les hubiera hablado, no tendrían pecado (culpa), pero ahora no tienen excusa por su pecado. 23 “El que Me odia a Mí, odia también a Mi Padre. 24 “Si Yo no hubiera hecho entre ellos las obras que ningún otro ha hecho, no tendrían pecado (culpa); pero ahora las han visto, y Me han odiado a Mí y también a Mi Padre. 25 “Pero ellos han hecho esto para que se cumpla la palabra que está escrita en su Ley: ‘Me odiaron sin causa.’ 26 “Cuando venga el Consolador, a quien yo enviaré del Padre, es decir, el Espíritu de verdad que procede del Padre, El dará testimonio de Mí, 27 y ustedes también darán testimonio, porque han estado junto a Mí desde el principio.
John 15:8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear [phero – to bring] much fruit, showing [ginomai – to be] yourselves to be my disciples.
NASB95) “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples
NKJV) By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.
NLT) When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.
GNT) My Father’s glory is shown by your bearing much fruit; and in this way you become my disciples.
LB) My true disciples produce bountiful harvests. This brings great glory to my Father.
RVR60) En esto es glorificado mi Padre, en que llevéis mucho fruto, y seáis así mis discípulos.
VP) En esto se muestra la gloria de mi Padre, en que den mucho fruto y lleguen así a ser verdaderos discípulos míos.
NBLH) “En esto es glorificado Mi Padre, en que den mucho fruto, y así prueben que son Mis discípulos
NVI) Mi Padre es glorificado cuando ustedes dan mucho fruto y muestran así que son mis discípulos.
2590. καρπός karpós; gen. karpoú, masc. noun. Fruit or produce both of trees and plants and of the earth.
(I) Particularly in Matt. 3:10, “a tree that does not bear good fruit” (a.t.); 13:8; Luke 12:17; 13:6, 7, 9; John 12:24; 2 Tim. 2:6. Allegorically in John 15:2, 5, 8. To pay in produce as a share given for rent (Matt. 21:41; Luke 20:10; Sept.: Ps. 1:3; Jer. 12:2). Of children or offspring as “the fruit of thy womb” (Luke 1:42); “fruit of his loins” (Acts 2:30; Sept.: Gen. 30:2; Mic. 6:7).
(II) Metaphorically, fruit, meaning:
(A) Of deeds, works, conduct (Matt. 3:8; 7:16, 20; 21:43; Luke 3:8; Sept.: Prov. 10:16).
(B) For effect, result (Rom. 15:28; Gal. 5:22, “the fruit of the Spirit”; Eph. 5:9; Heb. 12:11; James 3:17; Sept.: Jer. 17:10; Mic. 7:13).
(C) By implication, for profit, advantage, good (John 4:36; Rom. 1:13; 6:21, 22; James 3:18; Sept.: Ps. 58:11).
(D) “Fruit of our lips,” meaning praise (Heb. 13:15 in allusion to Sept.: Hos. 14:3 [cf. Sept.: Prov. 12:14]).
(E) In the NT, the redeemed human life is presented as a field with God being the owner, in expectation of fruit to be rendered and shared with Him. In 1 Cor. 3:9, Paul reminds his readers that they are God’s husbandry (geó̄rgion , field, farm). This recalls the parable of the vineyard spoken by the Lord Jesus in Matt. 21:33–44 and Luke 20:9–19. Christians, individually and collectively, are expected to produce good results, “fruit unto God” (Rom. 7:4). Also those who are His overseers, those who plant and water, naturally look for produce and the reward of their toil. Thus Paul hopes, as he looks forward to his visit to Rome, that he may have some “fruit” among the people of that city as he had in Corinth and Ephesus (Rom. 1:13).The fruit of a tree is the evidence of its being attached to the true vine (John 15:1, 2). The fruit of the new life is regarded as sanctification (Rom. 6:22). The fruit of the spirit (Gal. 5:22) is equivalent to the good works that follow faith as indicated in James 2:14–19. The “fruit of righteousness” is an OT phrase and is found again in Phil. 1:11 and Heb. 12:11, where “righteousness” or conformity to the highest moral standards is described as the “peaceful fruit” or discipline patiently endured. We must never forget that the word “righteousness” refers to the rights of God clearly desired by the child of God in whose heart His righteousness dwells. One who does not produce fruit in his life is unfruitful (ákarpos ). Those who walk in darkness are spoken of as unfruitful (Eph. 5:11; Rom. 6:21). In Rom. 7:5, Paul describes the unregenerated life as producing “fruit unto death” which fruit is given in detail in Gal. 5:19–21 (cf. Col. 3:5–9). For the final harvesting we have the picture of Rev. 14. It is evident from a study of John 15 that Christ expects much fruit from His branches. If there is no fruit on a branch, that branch is not truly attached to Christ. He is not satisfied with little, but demands that our fruit may be commensurate to His investment in us as indicated by the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14–30 [cf. Luke 12:48]). Our rewards or lack of rewards in heaven are commensurate with the fruits of our labor on earth.
(καρπός , (2590)), fruit, is used (I) of the fruit of trees, fields, the earth, that which is produced by the inherent energy of a living organism, e.g., Matt. 7:17; Jas. 5:7, 18; plural, e.g., in Luke 12:17 [for the next verse, see Note (1) below] and 2 Tim. 2:6; of the human body, Luke 1:42; Acts 2:30; (II) metaphorically, (a) of works or deeds, fruit being the visible expression of power working inwardly and invisibly, the character of the fruit being evidence of the character of the power producing it, Matt. 7:16. As the visible expressions of hidden lusts are the works of the flesh, so the invisible power of the Holy Spirit in those who are brought into living union with Christ (John 15:2-8, 16) produces “the fruit of the Spirit,” Gal. 5:22, the singular form suggesting the unity of the character of the Lord as reproduced in them, namely, “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, temperance,” all in contrast with the confused and often mutually antagonistic “works of the flesh.” So in Phil. 1:11, marg., “fruit of righteousness.” In Heb. 12:11, the fruit of righteousness is described as “peaceable fruit,” the outward effect of Divine chastening; “the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace,” Jas. 3:18, i.e., the seed contains the fruit; those who make peace, produce a harvest of righteousness; in Eph. 5:9, “the fruit of the light” (R.V., and see context) is seen in “goodness and righteousness and truth,” as the expression of the union of the Christian with God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit); for God is good, Mark 10:18, the Son is “the righteous One,” Acts 7:52, the Spirit is “the Spirit of truth,” John 16:13; (b) of advantage, profit, consisting (1) of converts as the result of evangelistic ministry, John 4:36; Rom. 1:13; Phil. 1:22; (2) of sanctification, through deliverance from a life of sin and through service to God, Rom. 6:22, in contrast to (3) the absence of anything regarded as advantageous as the result of former sins, ver. 21; (4) of the reward for ministration to servants of God, Phil. 4:17; (5) of the effect of making confession to God’s Name by the sacrifice of praise, Heb. 13:15.
2. GENĒMA (γένημα , (1096)), from ginomai, to come into being, denotes fruit (a) as the produce of the earth, e.g., the vine; in the following the best mss. have this noun, Matt. 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:18; [12:18 in some mss.; see Note (1)]; (b) metaphorically, as “the fruits of … righteousness” (i.e., of material ministrations to the needy), 2 Cor. 9:10.¶ Notes: (1) In Luke 12:18 some mss. have gennēmata, a mistake for genēmata; the best have sitos, corn. (2) Genēma is to be distinguished from gennēma, offspring (from gennaō, to beget), Matt. 3:7; 12:34; 23:33; Luke 3:7.¶
3. OPŌRA (ὀπώρα , (3703)) primarily denotes late summer or early autumn, i.e., late July, all August and early September. Since that is the time of fruit–bearing, the word was used, by metonymy, for the fruits themselves, Rev. 18:14.¶ Note: Cp. phthinopōrinos, autumnal, in Jude 12, “autumn trees,” bearing no fruit when fruit should be expected.¶
1. karpophoros (καρποφόρος , (2593)) denotes fruitful (A, No. 1, and pherō, to bear), Acts 14:17.
2. AKARPOS (ἄκαρπος , (175)), unfruitful (a, negative, and A, No. 1), is used figuratively (a) of “the word of the Kingdom,” rendered unfruitful in the case of those influenced by the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches, Matt. 13:22; Mark 4:19; (b) of the understanding of one praying with a “tongue,” which effected no profit to the church without an interpretation of it, 1 Cor. 14:14; (c) of the works of darkness, Eph. 5:11; (d) of believers who fail “to maintain good works,” indicating the earning of one’s living so as to do good works to others, Tit. 3:14; of the effects of failing to supply in one’s faith the qualities of virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, love of the brethren, and love, 2 Pet. 1:8. In Jude 12 it is rendered “without fruit,” of ungodly men, who oppose the Gospel while pretending to uphold it, depicted as “autumn trees” (see Note under A, No. 3).¶ In the Sept., Jer. 2:6.¶
KARPOPHOREŌ (καρποφορέω , (2592)), to bear or bring forth fruit (see B, No. 1), is used (a) in the natural sense, of the fruit of the earth, Mark 4:28; (b) metaphorically, of conduct, or that which takes effect in conduct, Matt. 13:23; Mark 4:20; Luke 8:15; Rom. 7:4, 5 (the latter, of evil fruit, borne “unto death,” of activities resulting from a state of alienation from God); Col. 1:6, in the Middle Voice; Col. 1:10.¶
Note: For “bring forth fruit to perfection,” Luke 8:14, see Perfection, B.
RELATIONSHIPS AND RESPONSIBILITIES John 15:1–17 This is the seventh and last of the “I AM” statements of Christ recorded in the Gospel of John. However, Jesus did not stop with this image, but went on to use the picture of “the friend.” These two pictures of the believer—branches and friends—reveal both our privileges and our responsibilities. As branches, we have the privilege of sharing His life, and the responsibility of abiding. As friends, we have the privilege of knowing His will, and the responsibility of obeying. Branches—We Must Abide (John 15:1–11) The cultivation of vineyards was important to the life and economy of Israel. A golden vine adorned Herod’s temple. When our Lord used this image, He was not introducing something new; it was familiar to every Jew. There are four elements in this allegory that we must understand to benefit from His teaching. The vine. There are actually three different vines found in Scripture. The past vine was the nation of Israel (Ps. 80:8–19; Isa. 5:1–7; Jer. 2:21; Ezek. 19:10–14; and Hosea 10:1).
Psalm 80:8-19 You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. 9 You cleared the ground for it, and it took root and filled the land. 10 The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches. 11 It sent out its boughs to the Sea, its shoots as far as the River. 12 Why have you broken down its walls so that all who pass by pick its grapes? 13 Boars from the forest ravage it and the creatures of the field feed on it. 14 Return to us, O God Almighty! Look down from heaven and see! Watch over this vine, 15 the root your right hand has planted, the son you have raised up for yourself. 16 Your vine is cut down, it is burned with fire; at your rebuke your people perish. 17 Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand, the son of man you have raised up for yourself. 18 Then we will not turn away from you; revive us, and we will call on your name. 19 Restore us, O Lord God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.
Isaiah 5:1-7 I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. 2 He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit. 3 “Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. 4 What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad? 5 Now I will tell you what I am going to do to my vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it will be destroyed; I will break down its wall, and it will be trampled. 6 I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned nor cultivated, and briers and thorns will grow there. I will command the clouds not to rain on it.” 7 The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of his delight. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.
Jeremiah 2:20-22 “Long ago you broke off your yoke and tore off your bonds; you said, ‘I will not serve you!’ Indeed, on every high hill and under every spreading tree you lay down as a prostitute. 21 I had planted you like a choice vine of sound and reliable stock. How then did you turn against me into a corrupt, wild vine? 22 Although you wash yourself with soda and use an abundance of soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me,” declares the Sovereign Lord.
Hosea 10:1 Israel was a spreading vine; he brought forth fruit for himself. As his fruit increased, he built more altars; as his land prospered, he adorned his sacred stones.
Ezekiel 15 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, how is the wood of a vine better than that of a branch on any of the trees in the forest? 3 Is wood ever taken from it to make anything useful? Do they make pegs from it to hang things on? 4 And after it is thrown on the fire as fuel and the fire burns both ends and chars the middle, is it then useful for anything? 5 If it was not useful for anything when it was whole, how much less can it be made into something useful when the fire has burned it and it is charred? 6 “Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: As I have given the wood of the vine among the trees of the forest as fuel for the fire, so will I treat the people living in Jerusalem. 7 I will set my face against them. Although they have come out of the fire, the fire will yet consume them. And when I set my face against them, you will know that I am the Lord. 8 I will make the land desolate because they have been unfaithful, declares the Sovereign Lord.”
Ezekiel 19:10-14 “ ‘Your mother was like a vine in your vineyard planted by the water; it was fruitful and full of branches because of abundant water. 11 Its branches were strong, fit for a ruler’s scepter. It towered high above the thick foliage, conspicuous for its height and for its many branches. 12 But it was uprooted in fury and thrown to the ground. The east wind made it shrivel, it was stripped of its fruit; its strong branches withered and fire consumed them. 13 Now it is planted in the desert, in a dry and thirsty land. 14 Fire spread from one of its main branches and consumed its fruit. No strong branch is left on it fit for a ruler’s scepter.’ This is a lament and is to be used as a lament.”
19:10-11. In verses 10-14 Ezekiel addressed King Zedekiah directly. He is the subject of the rest of the dirge. The mother, Israel, was like a vine. Since vines were common in Israel, the writers of Scripture often referred to Israel and others as vines (cf. Isa. 5:1-7; Ezek. 15; 17:5-10; Matt. 21:33-41; John 15:1-8). In her past glory, Israel was, figuratively speaking, fruitful and full of branches. It had prospered under the blessing of God, and had produced many rulers. Its branches were strong, fit for a ruler’s scepter. The exact identification of the ruler(s) intended by Ezekiel’s metaphor is unknown. Possibly Ezekiel was not pointing to specific rulers in Israel’s past, but was merely showing that Israel’s past was glorious and that it included many mighty leaders.19:12-14. The vine’s past glory contrasted sharply with its condition in Ezekiel’s day. Israel the vine was uprooted in fury and thrown to the ground. It was shriveled and its branches were burned. Ezekiel did not explain the cause for this judgment, but in chapters 16-17 he had already stated why Israel went from blessing to disaster. The vine forgot that God was her source of blessing. Therefore God ”uprooted“ the nation, deporting her from the land. The east wind would have conveyed a double meaning to Israel. The prevailing winds in Israel are from the west and bring moisture-laden air from the Mediterranean Sea. The east wind, known as the sirocco, blows on Israel from the desert in the east, bringing severe problems. It can wither vegetation (Gen. 41:6), destroy houses (Job 1:19), and cause severe distress (Jonah 4:8). However, Ezekiel’s east wind referred to more than the sirocco. Babylon was also east of Israel; and when she ”blew in“ from the east, the nation shriveled under the heat of her oppression. Ultimately Israel fell to Babylon. Ezekiel’s statement, Now it is planted in the desert, in a dry and thirsty land, probably refers to Babylon’s destruction of Israel. As the sirocco destroyed vegetation in its path, so Israel would languish under Babylon’s attacks. However, Ezekiel was possibly alluding to the Babylonian Captivity which the nation would soon face. The luxuriant vine of the nation would be uprooted from her homeland and cast down on foreign soil. God’s judgment would also affect the royal line. No strong branch is left on it fit for a ruler’s scepter. The nation which had produced mighty rulers in the past (Ezek. 19:11) now would have no king. After Zedekiah was overthrown by Babylon, no king from the Davidic dynasty replaced him. Not till Christ returns will a ruler’s scepter again arise in the line of David & reign as Israel’s king
Revelation 14:14-20 I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one “like a son of man” with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. 15 Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, “Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” 16 So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested. 17 Another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. 18 Still another angel, who had charge of the fire, came from the altar and called in a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, “Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine, because its grapes are ripe.” 19 The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath. 20 They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia.
In an act of wonderful grace, God “transplanted” Israel into Canaan and gave the nation every possible benefit. “What could have been done more to My vineyard, that I have not done in it?” God asked (Isa. 5:4). If ever a nation had everything it needed to succeed, it was Israel. But the vine produced wild grapes! Instead of practicing justice, it practiced oppression; instead of producing righteousness, it produced unrighteousness and cries of distress from the victims. God had to deal with the nation Israel and chasten it, but even that did not produce lasting results. When God’s own Son came to the vineyard, they cast Him out and killed Him (Matt. 21:33–46). There is also a future vine, “the vine of the earth” described in Rev 14:14–20. This is the Gentile world system ripening for God’s judgment. Believers are branches in “the vine of heaven,” but the unsaved are branches in “the vine of the earth.” The unsaved depend on this world for their sustenance and satisfaction, while believers depend on Jesus Christ. The “vine of the earth” will be cut down and destroyed when Jesus Christ returns. The present Vine is our Lord Jesus Christ, and, of course, the vine includes the branches. He is the “true Vine,” that is, “the original of which all other vines are a copy.” As Christians, we do not live on substitutes! The symbolism of the Vine and branches is similar to that of the Head and the body: we have a living relationship to Christ and belong to Him. When we lived in Chicago, we had a small grape arbor in our backyard; but what we cultivated was nothing like what is even today cultivated in the Holy Land. Ours was a very fragile plant and it was easy to break off a branch. The vines I saw in the Holy Land were large and strong, and it was next to impossible for anyone to break off a mature branch without injuring the vine itself. Our union with Christ is a living union, so we may bear fruit; a loving union, so that we may enjoy Him; and a lasting union, so that we need not be afraid The branches. Of itself, a branch is weak and useless. It is good for either bearing or burning, but not for building (Ezek. 15). The branch cannot produce its own life; it must draw that life from the vine. It is our communion with Christ through the Spirit that makes possible the bearing of the fruit. Many of the images of Christ and the believer given in Scripture emphasize this important concept of union and communion: the body and its members (1 Cor. 12), the bride and the Bridegroom (Eph. 5:25–33), the sheep and the Shepherd (John 10). A member of the body cut off from the body would die. The marriage creates the union, but it takes daily love and devotion to maintain the communion. The shepherd brings the sheep into the flock, but the sheep must follow the shepherd in order to have protection and provision. The sooner we as believers discover that we are but branches, the better we will relate to the Lord; for we will know our own weakness and confess our need for His strength. The key word is abide; it is used eleven times in John 15:1–11 (“continue” in John 15:9 and “remain” in John 15:11). What does it mean to “abide”? It means to keep in fellowship with Christ so that His life can work in and through us to produce fruit. This certainly involves the Word of God and the confession of sin so that nothing hinders our communion with Him (John 15:3). It also involves obeying Him because we love Him (John 15:9–10). How can we tell when we are “abiding in Christ”? Is there a special feeling? No, but there are special evidences that appear and they are unmistakably clear. For one thing, when you are abiding in Christ, you produce fruit (John 15:2). What that “fruit” is, we will discuss later. Also, you experience the Father’s “pruning” so that you will bear more fruit (John 15:2). The believer who is abiding in Christ has his prayers answered (John 15:7) and experiences a deepening love for Christ and for other believers (John 15:9, 12–13). He also experiences joy (John 15:11). This abiding relationship is natural to the branch and the vine, but it must be cultivated in the Christian life. It is not automatic. Abiding in Christ demands worship, meditation on God’s Word, prayer, sacrifice, and service—but what a joyful experience it is! Once you have begun to cultivate this deeper communion with Christ, you have no desire to return to the shallow life of the careless Christian.
The vinedresser. The vinedresser is in charge of caring for the vines, and Jesus said that this is the work of His Father. It is He who “purges” or prunes the branches so they will produce more fruit. Note the progression here: no fruit (John 15:2), fruit, more fruit, much fruit (John 15:5, 8). Many Christians pray that God will make them more fruitful, but they do not enjoy the pruning process that follows! The vinedresser prunes the branches in two ways: he cuts away dead wood that can breed disease and insects, and he cuts away living tissue so that the life of the vine will not be so dissipated that the quality of the crop will be jeopardized. In fact, the vinedresser will even cut away whole bunches of grapes so that the rest of the crop will be of higher quality. God wants both quantity and quality. This pruning process is the most important part of the whole enterprise, and the people who do it must be carefully trained or they can destroy an entire crop. Some vineyards invest two or three years in training the “pruners” so they know where to cut, how much to cut, and even at what angle to make the cut. The greatest judgment God could bring to a believer would be to let him alone, let him have his own way. Because God loves us, He “prunes” us and encourages us to bear more fruit for His glory. If the branches could speak, they would confess that the pruning process hurts; but they would also rejoice that they will be able to produce more and better fruit. Your Heavenly Father is never nearer to you than when He is pruning you. Sometimes He cuts away the dead wood that might cause trouble; but often He cuts off the living tissue that is robbing you of spiritual vigor. Pruning does not simply mean spiritual surgery that removes what is bad. It can also mean cutting away the good and the better so that we might enjoy the best. Yes, pruning hurts, but it also helps. We may not enjoy it, but we need it. How does the Father prune us? Sometimes He simply uses the Word to convict and cleanse us. (The word translated “purge” in John 15:2 is the same as “clean” in John 13:10. See Eph. 5:26–27.) Sometimes He must chasten us (Heb. 12:1–11). At the time, it hurts when He removes something precious from us; but as the “spiritual crop” is produced, we see that the Father knew what He was doing. The more we abide in Christ, the more fruit we bear; and the more fruit we bear, the more the Father has to prune us so that the quality keeps up with the quantity. Left to itself, the branch might produce many clusters, but they will be inferior in quality. God is glorified by a bigger crop that is also a better crop.
The fruit. The word results is often heard in conversations among Christian workers, but this is not actually a Bible concept. A machine can produce results, and so can a robot, but it takes a living organism to produce fruit. It takes time and cultivation to produce fruit; a good crop does not come overnight. We must remember that the branches do not eat the fruit: others do. We are not producing fruit to please ourselves but to serve others. We should be the kind of people who “feed” others by our words and our works. “The lips of the righteous feed many” (Prov. 10:21).
Several different kinds of spiritual fruit are named in the Bible.
Romans 1:13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles cf (Jn 4:35–38)
Romans 6:22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.
Romans 15:28 So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this fruit [the financial offering], I will go to Spain and visit you on the way.
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Hebrews 13:15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name
Many of these things could be counterfeited by the flesh, but the deception would eventually be detected, for real spiritual fruit has in it the seeds for more fruit. Man-made results are dead and cannot reproduce themselves, but Spirit-produced fruit will go on reproducing from one life to another. There will be fruit—more fruit—much fruit. A true branch, united with the vine, will always bear fruit. Not every branch bears a bumper crop, just as not every field has a bumper harvest (Matt. 13:8, 23), but there is always fruit where there is life. If there is no fruit, the branch is worthless and it is cast away and burned. I do not believe our Lord is teaching here that true believers can lose their salvation, for this would contradict what He taught in John 6:37 and 10:27–30. It is unwise to build a theological doctrine on a parable or allegory. Jesus was teaching one main truth—the fruitful life of the believer—and we must not press the details too much. Just as an unfruitful branch is useless, so an unfruitful believer is useless; and both must be dealt with. It is a tragic thing for a once-fruitful believer to backslide and lose his privilege of fellowship and service. If anything, John 15:6 describes divine discipline rather than eternal destiny. “There is [for believers] a sin unto death” (1 John 5:16). Our Lord had spoken about peace (John 14:27); now He mentions love and joy (John 15:9–11). Love, joy, and peace are the first three “fruit of the Spirit” named in Galatians 5:22–23. Our abiding in Christ certainly ought to produce His love, joy, and peace in our hearts. Because we love Him, we keep His commandments; and, as we keep His commandments, we abide in His love and experience it in a deeper way. Several times in John’s Gospel you will find Jesus speaking about the Father’s love for Him. We so emphasize God’s love for the world and the church that we forget that the Father loves the Son. Because the Father does love the Son, He has put all things into the Son’s hand (John 3:35) and has revealed all things to the Son (John 5:20). The Father loved the Son before the foundation of the world (John 17:24); He loved the Son when the Son died on the cross (John 10:17). The amazing thing is believers today can experience personally that same love! Jesus prayed “that the love with which Thou hast loved Me may be in them [the disciples and believers today]” (John 17:26). As branches in the Vine, we have the privilege of abiding and the responsibility of bearing fruit.
JM - 15:1–17 Through this extended metaphor of the vine and branches, Jesus set forth the basis of Christian living. Jesus used the imagery of agricultural life at the time; i.e., vines and vine crops (Matt. 20:1–16; 21:23–41; Mark 12:1–9; Luke 13:6–9; 20:9–16). In the OT, the vine is used commonly as a symbol for Israel, (Ps. 80:9–16; Is. 5:1–7; 27:2–6; Jer. 2:21:12:10; Ezek. 15:1–8; 17:1–21; 19:10–14; Hos. 10:1, 2). He specifically identified Himself as the "true vine" and the Father as the "vinedresser" or caretaker of the vine. The vine has two types of branches: 1) branches that bear fruit (vv. 2, 8), and 2) branches that do not (vv. 2, 6). The branches that bear fruit are genuine believers. Though in immediate context the focus is upon the 11 faithful disciples, the imagery also encompasses all believers down through the ages. The branches that do not bear fruit are those who profess to believe, but their lack of fruit indicates genuine salvation has never taken place and they have no life from the vine. Especially in the immediate context, Judas was in view, but the imagery extends from him to all those who make a profession of faith in Christ but do not actually possess salvation. The image of non-fruit-bearing branches being burned pictures eschatological judgment and eternal rejection (Ezek. 15:6–8). 15:1 I am the true vine. This is the last of 7 claims to deity in the form of "I AM" statements by Jesus in the gospel of John (6:35; 8:12; 10:7, 9; 10:11, 14; 11:25; 14:6). 15:2 He takes away. The picture is of the vinedresser (the Father) getting rid of dead wood so that the living, fruit bearing branches may be sharply distinguished. This is a picture of apostate Christians who never genuinely believed and will be taken away in judgment (v. 6; Matt. 7:16; Eph. 2:10); the transforming life of Christ has never pulsated within them (8:31, 32; cf. Matt. 13:18–23; 24:12; Heb. 3:14–19; 6:4–8; 10:27–31; 1 John 2:19; 2 John 9). He prunes. God removes all things in the believer’s life that would hinder fruit-bearing, i.e., he chastises to cut away sin and hindrances that would drain spiritual life just as the farmer removes anything on the branches that keep them from bearing maximum fruit (Heb. 12:3–11). 15:4–6 Abide in Me. The word "abide" means to remain or stay around. The "remaining" is evidence that salvation has already taken place (1 John 2:19) and not vice versa. The fruit or evidence of salvation is continuance in service to Him and in His teaching (8:31; 1 John 2:24; Col. 1:23). The abiding believer is the only legitimate believer. Abiding and believing actually are addressing the same issue of genuine salvation (Heb. 3:6–19). For a discussion of the perseverance of the saints, see Matt. 24:13. 15:6 The imagery here is one of destruction (Matt. 3:10–12; 5:22; 13:40–42, 50; 25:41; Mark 9:43–49; Luke 3:17; 2 Thess. 1:7–9; Rev. 20:10–15). It pictures the judgment awaiting all those who were never saved. 15:7–10 True believers obey the Lord’s commands, submitting to His Word (14:21, 23). Because of their commitment to God’s Word, they are devoted to His will, thus their prayers are fruitful (14:13, 14), which puts God’s glory on display as He answers. 15:9, 10 abide in My love. Cf. Jude 21. This is not emotional or mystical, but defined in v. 10 as obedience. Jesus set the model by His perfect obedience to the Father, which we are to use as the pattern for our obedience to Him. 15:11 your joy may be full. Just as Jesus maintained that His obedience to the Father was the basis of His joy, so also the believers who are obedient to His commandments will experience the same joy (17:13; cf. 16:24). 15:12 Cf. 13:34, 35. See notes on 1 John 2:7–11. 15:13 This is a reference to the supreme evidence and expression of Jesus’ love (v. 12), His sacrificial death upon the cross. Christians are called to exemplify the same kind of sacrificial giving toward one another, even if such sacrifice involves the laying down of one’s own life in imitation of Christ’s example (1John 3:16). 15:14, 15 friends. Just as Abraham was called the "friend of God" (2 Chr. 20:7; James 2:23) because he enjoyed extraordinary access to the mind of God through God’s revelation to him which he believed, so also those who follow Christ are privileged with extraordinary revelation through the Messiah and Son of God and, believing, become "friends" of God also. It was for His "friends" that the Lord laid down His life (v. 13; 10:11, 15, 17). 15:16 I chose you. Cf. v. 19. In case any pretense might exist among the disciples in terms of spiritual pride because of the privileges they enjoyed, Jesus made it clear that such privilege rested not in their own merit, but on His sovereign choice of them. God chose Israel (Is. 45:4; Amos 3:2), but not for any merit (Deut. 7:7; 9:4–6). God elected angels to be forever holy (1 Tim. 5:21). He elected believers to salvation apart from any merit (Matt. 24:24, 31; Rom. 8:29–33; Eph. 1:3–6; Col. 3:12; Titus 1:1; 1 Pet. 1:2). bear fruit. One purpose of God’s sovereign election is that the disciples who have been blessed with such revelation and understanding should produce spiritual fruit. The NT describes fruit as godly attitudes (Gal. 5:22, 23), righteous behavior (Phil. 1:11), praise (Heb. 13:15), and especially leading others to faith in Jesus as Messiah and Son of God (Rom. 1:13–16). 15:18, 19 Since Satan is the one who dominates the evil world system in rebellion against God (14:30), the result is that the world hates not only Jesus, but those who follow Him (2 Tim. 3:12). Hatred toward Jesus means also hatred toward the Father who sent Him (v. 23).15:20 servant...master. That axiom, spoken also in 13:16, reflects the obvious truth that led Jesus to inform His disciples. They could expect to be treated like He was treated because those who hated Him don’t know God (v. 21) and would hate them also; and conversely, those who listened with faith to Him, would hear them also. 15:22–24 they would have no sin. He did not mean that if He had not come, they would have been sinless. But His coming incited the severest and most deadly sin, that of rejecting and rebelling against God and His truth. It was the decisive sin of rejection, the deliberate and fatal choice of darkness over light and death over life of which He spoke. He had done so many miracles and spoken innumerable words to prove He was Messiah and Son of God, but they were belligerent in their love of sin and rejection of the Savior. See Heb. 4:2–5; 6:4–6; 10:29–31. 15:25 Jesus quotes Pss. 35:19; 69:4. The logic here is that if David, a mere man, could have been hated in such a terrible manner by the enemies of God, how much more would the wicked hate David’s perfect, divine Son who was the promised king that would confront sin and reign forever over His kingdom of righteousness (see 2 Sam 7:16). 15:26, 27 when the Helper comes. Again, Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit (7:39; 14:16, 17, 26; 16:7, 13, 14). This time He emphasized the Spirit’s help for witnessing-proclaiming the gospel. See 16:7.
BKC - Jesus now instructed His disciples on three vital relationships. Disciples are to be rightly related to Jesus (vv. 1-10), to each other (vv. 11-17), and to the world (vv. 18-16:4). Disciples have three respective duties: to remain (abide), to love each other, and to testify.
15:1. I am the true Vine (v. 5). This is the last of the seven great “I am” statements in John (6:35). Israel was God’s choice vine on which he lavished care and attention (Ps. 80:7; Isa. 5:1-7; Jer. 2:2; 6:9; Ezek. 15; 17:5-10; 19:10-14; Hosea 10:1; 14:8). He longed for fruit, but the vine (Israel) became degenerate and produced rotten fruit. Therefore Jesus, as “the true Vine,” fulfills what God had intended for Israel. The Father is the Gardener who cultivates and protects the Vine. 15:2. He (the Gardener, the Father) desires fruit, which is mentioned eight times in this chapter (vv. 2 [thrice], 4 [twice], 5, 8, 16). A progression is seen: fruit (v. 2), more fruitful (v. 2), and “much fruit” (vv. 5, 8). The fruit which God desired from Israel was loving obedience, righteousness, and justice (Isa. 5:1-7). Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He cuts off. The phrase “in Me” does not mean the same thing as Paul’s words “in Christ.” Here it is part of the metaphor of the Vine and seems to mean, “every person who professes to be My disciple (a branch) is not necessarily a true follower.” A branch that bears no fruit is obviously dead. Therefore, like Judas, it is cut off. (John 15:6.) Every year in Palestine gardeners prune their vines. They cut off the dead wood which has no life in it and trim the living branches so that their yield will be greater. 15:3. The disciples had been cleansed by Jesus and His message, but one, Judas, was not cleansed (13:10-11). 15:4. Fruitfulness is the result of the Son’s life being reproduced in a disciple. The disciple’s part is to remain. The word remain, a key word in John’s theology, is menō which occurs 11 times in this chapter, 40 times in the entire Gospel, and 27 times in John’s epistles. What does it mean to remain? It can mean, first, to accept Jesus as Savior (6:54, 56). Second, it can mean to continue or persevere in believing (8:31 [“hold” is remain]; 1 John 2:19, 24). Third, it can also mean believing, loving obedience (John 15:9-10). Without faith, no life of God will come to anyone. Without the life of God, no real fruit can be produced: Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me. 15:5-6. A disciple’s continual abiding with Jesus (If a man remains in Me)—and the indwelling of Jesus in a believer (and I in him)—result in abundant fruit (v. 8). But those who do not believe face disaster. A branch without life is dead and cut off (v. 2). It is worthless and therefore is thrown into the fire and burned. What did Jesus mean by these symbolic words about vine branches being burned? These words have been interpreted in at least three ways: (1) The “burned” branches are Christians who have lost their salvation. (But this contradicts many passages, 3:16, 36; 5:24; 10:28-29; Rom. 8:1.) (2) The “burned” branches represent Christians who will lose rewards but not salvation at the judgment seat of Christ (1 Cor. 3:15). (But Jesus spoke here of dead branches; such a branch is thrown away and withers.) (3) The “burned” branches refer to professing Christians who, like Judas, are not genuinely saved and therefore are judged. Like a dead branch, a person without Christ is spiritually dead and therefore will be punished in eternal fire (Matt. 25:46). Judas was with Jesus; he seemed like a “branch.” But he did not have God’s life in him; therefore he departed; his destiny was like that of a dead branch.15:7-8. In contrast with verse 6, the emphasis in these verses is positive: remain with Jesus and bear much fruit. Effective prayer is based on faith in Christ and on His words remaining in believers. Christ’s words condition and control such a believer’s mind so that his prayers conform to the Father’s will. Since his prayer is in accord with God’s will, the results are certain—it will be given you (1 John 5:14-15). Fulfilled prayers bring glory to the Father because, like Jesus, His disciples are doing the heavenly Father’s will (“Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth” [Matt. 6:10]).15:9-10. A believer is motivated by the wonder of Jesus’ love, which is patterned after the Father’s love in its quality and extent. Remain in My love might seem to be mystical but Jesus makes it very concrete. Obedience to the Father’s commands is the same for a disciple as it was for the Son (14:15, 21, 23; 1 John 2:3; 3:22, 24; 5:3). Active dependence and loving obedience are the proper paths for all of God’s children. Jesus’ friends (15:11-17).15:11. Jesus had great joy in pleasing His Father by living a fruitful life (Heb. 12:2). The purpose of His teaching is to give man an abundant life, not a joyless existence (John 10:10). The commands for His disciples to obey are for their joy (17:13).15:12. One primary command was given by Jesus to believers: they must have mutual love (Love each other; this is repeated in v. 17). Christians grow by caring for and nurturing each other. The standard for that love is Christ’s example of humble sacrificial service: as I have loved you. 15:13-14. The most a person can do for his friend is to die for him; such a death is a clear demonstration of love. Jesus demonstrated His love (v. 12b) by dying for His friends, those who obey Him. Abraham was called God’s “friend” (2 Chron. 20:7; Isa. 41:8) because he obeyed God. Like close friends, Abraham and God communicated well with each other (Gen. 18:17). 15:15-17. A servant (lit., “slave”) does not have a close relationship with his master, as friends do. Normally, a slave does what he is told without understanding his master’s mind or business. Since Jesus had opened Himself to His disciples, the title “slave” did not fit their relationship. (When Paul spoke of himself as “a servant [lit., slave] of God” [Rom. 1:1], he had a different idea in mind. He meant he willingly and humbly served and obeyed God.) Jesus called His disciples friends because He had disclosed His Father’s revelation to them. Jesus then reminded them that contrary to the common practice of disciples picking a teacher, Jesus had chosen them (John 15:19). The purpose of His choosing was so that they would produce lasting fruit. He chose them for a mission, and His Father would answer their requests in order to accomplish that mission (whatever you ask in My name; cf. v. 7; cf. “in My name” in 14:13-14; 16:23-24, 26). Friendship with Jesus involves the obligation of brotherly love: Love each other (15:12). The world’s hatred (15:18-16:4). 15:18. Friendship with God results in enduring the world’s hatred. Conversely, being friends with the world is to be God’s enemy (James 4:4). Jesus alerted His disciples to the fact of the world’s hatred. The world in John’s Gospel is the system of organized society hostile to God, which is under Satan’s power (John 14:30). Believers might be surprised by this hostility (1 Peter 4:12-13), but they should remember that Jesus was hated from His birth (when Herod the Great sought to kill Him) to His death on the cross. 15:19. A fundamental reason for the world’s hatred of a Christian lies in their differences (1 Peter 4:4; Rom. 12:2). A believer, having left the kingdom of darkness and having been transferred into the kingdom of God’s Son (Col. 1:13), has a different joy, purpose, hope, and love. He now has certainty, truth, and a standard for life. Christians have been chosen (John 15:16) out of the world system by Christ and they now belong to Him. Since they do not belong to the world . . . the world hates them. 15:20-21. Jesus reminded His disciples of a statement He had made earlier: No servant is greater than his master (13:16). Previously He was referring to their need to imitate His humble service. But the principle has other applications. Christians are to identify so closely with Jesus that they share in His sufferings (they will persecute you also). On the positive side, some people followed and obeyed Jesus’ teaching, so they also responded to the apostles’ message. The root cause of the world’s hatred against the disciples is their identification with Jesus. They hate Jesus because they are ignorant of God, the One who sent Him.15:22-23. Jesus came as the Revelation of God. If Jesus had not come, their sin would not be so great. The statement, they would not be guilty of sin (v. 24), must not be taken absolutely as 16:9 shows (3:19; 9:41). Before Jesus’ coming people might have pleaded ignorance as an excuse for sin (Acts 17:30). But now that the Light has come, those who willfully reject it have no excuse. The revelation in Jesus and by Jesus is so tied to the Father that to hate Jesus is to hate God (John 15:24b).15:24-25. These two verses amplify the thought in verses 22-23. Jesus’ miracles were so distinctive that their import was unmistakable. The Jewish nation should have honestly confessed, “No one could perform the miraculous signs You are doing if God were not with Him” (3:2). But the nation as a whole rejected both Jesus and the Father because in their sins they loved darkness rather than light (3:19). The nation thought it was serving God in rejecting Jesus (16:2-3) but in reality it was serving Satan (8:44). Sin is basically irrational. Their hatred of Jesus was without any rational cause which also fits the pattern of hatred for righteous people, as seen in those who hated David (Pss. 35:19; 69:4; 109:3).15:26-27. In the face of the opposition and hatred of the world a believer might be tempted to try to escape from the world or to be silent in it. Monasticism, extreme separation, and lack of witnessing have been too common in the church’s history. Jesus encouraged His disciples by the promise of the Spirit’s work in the world. As the work of Jesus was to promote the Father and not Himself, so the Spirit will witness to Jesus as the Messiah (He will testify about Me). And what He says is true for He is the Spirit of Truth (16:13). As the Counselor (14:26; 16:7), He presents God’s truth to the world. The Spirit is sent from the Father (14:26), just as the Son was sent from the Father. Yet this mysterious work of the Spirit is not done in isolation from the church. The apostles were to bear witness to the facts that they came to know: You also must testify. As the apostles witnessed, the Holy Spirit persuaded, and people were saved. The same combination of human obedience to the divine command (Acts 1:8) coupled with the witness of the Spirit is needed in every generation.
Boice - “I Am the True Vine”John 15:1–5“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” there have been many guesses about what may have occasioned Christ’s parable of the vine and its branches, which extends over the first half of John 15, but it is impossible to be certain of the cause. Since the preceding chapter concludes with the words, “Come now; let us leave,” it would seem that the Lord and his disciples left the upper room at this point and began that quiet walk across the city of Jerusalem down into the Kidron Valley that brought them to the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. If that is the case, they may have passed the great golden vine that decorated the door to the Holy Place of the temple or else the vines that grew close to the great walls of the city and stretched along it. This is not certain, however, for the party may have lingered in the upper room even after Christ’s statement. Some, who have felt this way for other reasons, have suggested that the vine on the temple may have been visible through a window of the room or that a real vine may have been nearby.As I say, we do not know the occasion for this parable. We only know that vines were visible everywhere in Judea and that the image of the vine had already been widely used in reference to Israel. “I am the true vine,” Jesus said. He then went on to teach about the nature of the church and its fruitfulness, which was to be the result, not of any human achievement, but of its spiritual union with himself. “In me … in me … in me!” That is the theme of this parable and of the great “I am” saying with which it is launched. The True Vine The first point of this parable is the “I am” saying itself, and the obvious emphasis is upon the word “true.” “I am the true vine,” says Jesus. This does not mean that he is true as opposed to that which is false but, rather, that he is the one, perfect, essential and enduring vine before which all other vines are but shadows. The word is used in precisely this sense elsewhere where Jesus is declared to be the “true light” (1:9), the “true bread” (6:32), and the “true tabernacle” (Heb. 8:2). But there is an even more immediate reference, which almost certainly would not have escaped the disciples. The vine is the preeminent symbol of Israel. Thus, over and over again in the Old Testament Israel is portrayed as God’s choice vine or God’s vineyard. Isaiah had written, “I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit. … The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of his delight. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress” (Isa. 5:1–2, 7). In a similar vein, Jeremiah recorded, “I had planted you like a choice vine of sound and reliable stock. How then did you turn against me into a corrupt, wild vine?” (Jer. 2:21). Ezekiel 15 compares Israel to a vine also, as does Ezekiel 19, “Your mother was like a vine … : it was fruitful and full of branches” (v. 10). Hosea wrote, “Israel was a spreading vine; he brought forth fruit for himself” (10:1). One of the best-known passages is from the Psalms: “You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it, and it took root and filled the land. The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches” (Ps. 80:8–10). The vine was well known, then, as a symbol of Israel. Indeed, a bunch of grapes from the vine is a symbol seen in Israel even today. But the truly extraordinary thing about the use of this image in the Old Testament is that it is always brought forward as a symbol of Israel’s degeneration, rather than her fruitfulness. The point of Isaiah’s reference is that the vine has run wild, producing sour grapes. “What could have been done more to my vineyard, than I have not done in it?” God asks. Yet it brought forth “wild grapes” (v. 4). Jeremiah terms Israel a “degenerate” and “strange” vine. Hosea calls her “empty,” that is, run to leaves. The eightieth psalm is set in the context of a plea for God’s renewed favor after the vine has been burned and the hedges broken down. So here is a vine planted by God to be fruitful but which is not fruitful. And here also, by contrast, is the Lord Jesus Christ who is the true vine. He came from dry ground, but still he grew up before the Lord as “a tender plant” (Isa. 53:2). He was despised of men, but he was perfect and beloved of the Father who, indeed, declared him to be his “beloved Son” in whom he was “well pleased” (Matt. 3:17; 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35). Jesus is the One who, by his very nature as the true vine, brings forth fruit unto the Father. The Gardener There are two things that the Father is said to do in his care of the vine. First, he is said to “cut off” every branch that does not bear fruit. Generally this has been understood to be a purging away of dead branches in precisely the same sense that branches are said to be “thrown into the fire” and “burned” in verse 6, but I am convinced that most translators have missed the true meaning of the term “cut off” in this instance. Undoubtedly, their translation has been made to conform to what they know or believe is coming in verse 6, but the translation is not the best or even the most general meaning of the Greek word airo which lies behind it. The word airo has four basic meanings, which are, proceeding from the most fundamental to the most figurative: (1) to lift up or pick up, (2) to lift up figuratively, as in lifting up one’s eyes or voice, (3) to lift up with the added thought of lifting up in order to carry away, and (4) to remove. In translating this word by the verb “cut off” the majority of translators have obviously chosen the fourth of these meanings, for the reason suggested above. But the verse makes better sense and the sequence of verbs is better if the first and primary meaning of the word is taken. In that case the sentence would read, “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he lifts up,” that is, to keep it from trailing on the ground. This translation makes better sense of the passage in every way, and in addition it is much better theology. First, the emphasis of this opening section of the parable is, quite rightly, upon the care of the vine by the Father. It would be strange, granting this emphasis, if the first thing mentioned is the carrying away of unproductive branches. But it is not at all strange to emphasize that the gardener first lifts the branches up so that they may be better exposed to the sun and so the fruit will develop properly. Second, this lifting up is precisely what is first done with vines, as any one who has watched them being cared for knows. Grapes are not like squash or pumpkins that develop quite well while lying on the ground. They must hang free. Consequently, any branch that trails on the ground is unproductive. It would be a strange gardener who immediately cuts off such a branch without even giving it a chance to develop properly. But it would be wise and customary for him to stretch the vine on an arbor or use some other means of raising it to the air and sun. This is, of course, precisely what vineyards look like, for the vines are always strung from pole to pole on wires. Third, to translate the word airo by “lifts up” gives a proper sequence to the Father’s care of the vineyard, indicated by the verb that follows. Thus, he first of all lifts the vines up. Then he cuts off the unproductive elements, carefully cleansing the vine of insects, moss, or parasites that otherwise would hinder the growth of the plant. This last item would have been the ancient equivalent of using insecticides, as is done today. For these reasons the translation “lifts up” should be preferred. And if this is the case, then the first thing the Father is said to do is to lift the Christian closer to himself. To translate that into spiritual terms, it means that the Father first creates a sense of true devotion in the Christian. Pruning The second thing the Father is said to do in his care of the vine is to purge it or prune it. In Greek this word is katharizo, which means to cleanse, make clean, or purify. It has given us our English word catharsis. Normally this word would indicate the act of cleansing the vine of anything harmful to it—insects, moss, and so on. But since it is being used of a vine and its branches, it is hard to escape the feeling that pruning is probably also in view. At all events, here the Father is said to be doing a work of removal, removing everything that would prove detrimental to the most fruitful harvest. In spiritual terms this obviously refers to God’s work in removing that which is spiritually detrimental from a given Christian’s life. It means to have our bad habits stripped away. It means to have our priorities reordered, our values changed. At times it may mean the removal of friends who are hindering rather than advancing our spiritual growth. The order of these two activities of the Father are most important, because the reverse only produces hypocrisy. What happens when we go about lopping off so-called unspiritual practices without first being drawn closer to God in true devotion is that we imagine ourselves to be quite saintly, when actually we are not. We begin to look down on others who have not made the same denials. We consider them to be worldly and ourselves spiritual. Moreover, having eliminated these elements ourselves without first having our lives filled with Christ, we discover that we have a vacuum within and that it is easy for something else not at all Christian to fill it. We are like the man in Christ’s story who threw one demon out of his house but then suffered greater loss when that demon and seven of his friends returned to repossess him. What should happen is that we first of all draw near to God and become productive. After that, as the harmful things begin to be cut away, we hardly feel their going. It is a case of maturing, similar to a girl’s giving up dolls. No one ever asks a girl to give up playing with dolls. When she is young she plays with them. But as she grows older she becomes interested in a young man, and after this the dolls are just “kid’s stuff.” The girl does not “give up” dolls. The dolls give her up, because she has grown into a higher sphere of experience. In the same way, as we grow close to the Lord Jesus Christ the dead wood and parasites fall away. There is one more point connected with the matter of cleansing. It concerns the means by which we are cleansed—the Word of God. Unless we see that the Word must cleanse us, our ideas of purity are man-made and not of God’s origin at all. What is more, they are ineffective. David asked the question, “How can a young man keep his way pure?” He answered, “By living according to your word” (Ps. 119:9). Similarly, Jesus says to his disciples, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you” (John 15:3). Nothing will keep sin from us but a careful attention to and application of God’s Word. Nothing else will cleanse us. Remain in Me The third point in Christ’s parable of the vine and the branches is the secret of fruitfulness, which is abiding in Christ. Here Jesus says, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (vv. 4–5). The key sentence in these two verses can mean one of three things. It can be a simple declarative, with the sense, “You must remain in me, and I must remain in you.” It can be a promise: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.” Or it can be a command meaning, “ Remain in me and, thus, see to it that I for my part also remain in you.” Probably, as Leon Morris points out, it is the third of these that should be preferred. “Jesus means that the disciples should live such lives that He will continue to abide in them. The two ‘abidings’ cannot be separated, and ‘abiding’ is the necessary prerequisite of fruitfulness. No branch bears fruit in isolation. It must have vital connection with the vine. So to abide in Christ is the necessary prerequisite of fruitfulness for the Christian.” I am not a horticulturist, but I am told by those who know such things that a vine needs to be cultivated at least three years before being allowed to produce fruit at all. That is, it must be trimmed and allowed to grow, then be trimmed and allowed to grow again, and so on for a considerable length of time. Only after this does it become useful for bearing fruit. Similarly, there are times in our lives when we seem to go on for considerable periods, undergoing rather radical treatment at the hands of the Father and seeing little fruit come from it. In such times we doubt if there will ever be fruit. But that is only because we cannot see as God sees. We do not have his perspective. Do not get discouraged if that has happened to you. Instead, remember that Jesus promises fruit in due time if we truly remain in him in a close way. We can give our witness, live the Christian life, and, in a sense, refuse to be concerned about the outcome; for, ultimately, God is the One responsible for the vineyard. You Can Do Nothing The last sentence of this section introduces a warning, lest in our budding enthusiasm for bearing fruit for God we forget that it cannot be done without him. “Apart from me you can do nothing,” says Jesus. This statement may be applied in two ways. On the one hand, it may be applied to Christians; and if that is done, we have the following: (1) great work to be done, (2) the possibility of attempting to do it, but without Christ, and (3) the inevitable failure that must result from such effort. Spurgeon, who preached a marvelous sermon on just these words, observed, “Without Jesus you can talk any quantity; but without him you can do nothing. The most eloquent discourse without him will be all a bottle of smoke. You shall lay your plans, and arrange your machinery, and start your schemes; but without the Lord you will do nothing. Immeasurable cloudland of proposals and not a spot of solid doing large enough for a dove’s foot to rest on—such shall be the end of all!” It is good that it is so, for if it were not so, I am afraid that we would try to do it all without him. Nothing is what shall come of our efforts, if it is not Christ working. On the other hand, there is also encouragement in this verse when we realize that it may be applied to those who are yet Christ’s enemies. “Without Christ we can do nothing.” That is humbling. But if that is true for those who are united to Christ by faith, in whom he nevertheless dwells, how much truer it is of those who are not at all united to him. They may try to do something against the gospel. They may try to destroy Christ’s work. But all their efforts will come to nothing, for only the hand of man (and not that of God) is in them. 15:6–7 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” when the Lord Jesus Christ unfolded his parable of the vine and the branches he knew what he was talking about, for he wished to stress that his disciples must be fruitful, and it is a characteristic of the vine that it is good for nothing except fruit-bearing. If it does not produce grapes, it is worthless. The reason for this is that the wood of the vine is too soft for any other purpose. A tree might be cut down, sawed into planks, and then used to construct furniture or build a house. But the vine is always gnarled and twisted and cannot yield planks. Besides, it is brittle. Anything built of it would soon break in the user’s hands and be worthless. It is not even good for burning. William Barclay points out, in his commentary, that at certain times of the year it was stipulated by law that the people were to bring wood offerings to the temple to supply the fires for the sacrifices. But it was also laid down that the wood of the vine must not be brought, because it was useless for that purpose. It burned too quickly. The only thing that could be done with it, save letting it lie around, was to make a bonfire and destroy it quickly. This, is the basis of the fifteenth chapter of Ezekiel, for in that chapter the prophet is emphasizing the uselessness of Israel in her then-quite-unproductive state. He writes, “How is the wood of a vine better than that of a branch on any of the trees in the forest? Is wood ever taken from it to make anything useful? Do they make pegs from it to hang things on? And after it is thrown on the fire as fuel and the fire burns both ends and chars the middle [that is, it is burned up instantly], is it then useful for anything?” (vv. 2–4). This is the image that Jesus uses of those who are joined to him in saving faith. So the question immediately arises: Are we who are joined to Christ fruitful? Are we useful to him? Or are we merely a lot of leaves and dead wood, fit for nothing but to be gathered up and burned. Remaining in Christ The verse we come to first contains the phrase, “He cuts off.” But the place to begin is not with the negative. It is with the positive idea: with remaining. This is true because remaining in Christ is the major idea of this section of John’s Gospel. The word “remain” occurs eight times in just seven verses (vv. 4–10), and the thought is alluded to even more often. It is also true because the negative—“does not remain” is bracketed between two positive statements. Verse 5 reads, “If a man remains in me,” and verse 7 concludes, “If you remain in me …” Besides, we will hardly understand a failure to remain in Christ until we know what remaining means. In the first place, then, remaining in Christ is for those who are in Christ already. That is, Christ’s challenge is for those who are already Christians, who have believed on him as the Son of God and Savior and have committed themselves to him as Savior and Lord of their lives. Does this describe you? If so, you can go on to what Jesus is talking about in terms of a full and fruitful life. If not, you must stop at this point or else first come to him. Do not think that Jesus is giving a formula for a full and fruitful life to all men, regardless of their relationship to him. He is speaking to Christians, and he is giving this promise only to them. So come to him if you have not already done so. Say, “Lord Jesus Christ, I admit that my life is unfruitful and that I can never make it fruitful by myself. I need you. Accept me now, not on the basis of my own merit (for I have none), but on the basis of your death on my behalf. Accept me as one of your followers.” If you can pray that prayer and mean it, you can be certain that he has already joined you to himself. The second point is the remaining. It refers to conscious decisions or choices in living the Christian life. Ray Stedman writes of this passage, “When our Lord says: Abide in me he is talking about the will, about the choices, the decisions we make. We must decide to do things which expose ourselves to him and keep ourselves in contact with him. This is what it means to abide in him. We have been placed into Christ by the Holy Spirit. Now we must choose to maintain that relationship by the decisions we make—decisions to expose ourselves to his Word in order to learn about him, and to relate to him in prayer wherein we converse with him. Decisions to relate to other believers in Body Life experiences; that is, bearing one another’s burdens and confessing our faults and sharing in fellowship with one another, wherein we learn about and see Christ in one another. All of this is designed to relate to him—Abide in me. If we do that, we are fulfilling this active, necessary decision of the will to obey his Word, to do what he says, and to stay in touch with him.” There is also a third point, found in verse 7. There Jesus says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you.” This is a point that we have seen earlier in other contexts. It is in chapter 14, for instance. There Christ speaks of love and the expression of love through obedience to his commandments. He says, “If anyone loves me he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (v. 23). Or again, even in this present chapter Jesus says, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you” (v. 3). Some people imagine that they can have the person of Christ without the doctrine of Christ. They like the idea of Jesus, but they shy away from his teaching. Some even revolt against it. But their goal is impossible, for he has declared that he will come to none and make his abode with none except those who keep his commandments. Spurgeon once wrote on this theme, “We cannot separate Christ from the Word; for, in the first place, he is the Word; and, in the next place, how dare we call him Master and Lord and do not the things which he says, and reject the truth which he teaches? We must obey his precepts or he will not accept us as disciples. Especially that precept of love which is the essence of all his words. … If thou wilt not have Christ and his words, neither will he have thee nor thy words.” Not Remaining In the midst of these encouraging instructions, there is a frightening note, for Jesus speaks of the opposite possibility, the possibility of not remaining in him. In this case, he says, “If anyone doe not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned” (v. 6). Here is a problem, a problem for all Christians (I am convinced) and not just Calvinistic ones. What is the problem? It is the language of the verse. Jesus does not say, notice, that if we fail to abide in him we will simply be unfruitful, though that is true. Nor does he say we will suffer the loss of all things and yet be saved, as Paul so clearly does in 1 Corinthians 3:15. Rather, he seems to say that if a man does not remain in him, he shall be cut off from the vine and shall wither and be gathered together with others who have also been cut off and shall be burned. The last verb makes one think of being burned in hell. So the text seems to teach the possibility, if not the fact, that some who were once saved will eventually be lost and be consigned to eternal suffering. Does it teach that? If not, how should verse 5 be taken? Study of the interpretation of this verse shows that there are three basic views taken of it. The first—the one generally assumed by non-Calvinistic theologians and thinkers—is that its meaning is exactly as I have outlined it and that the doctrine of eternal security or perseverance must therefore be rejected as nonbiblical. But is this valid? To answer that we must see all that is involved. Assuming that this is the meaning of this text (and perhaps of a few other texts), we are then immediately confronted with many other texts, by far the greater weight of biblical revelation, that contradict it. If we hold to this interpretation of John 15:6, we must reject Philippians 1:6, for instance, for how could Paul be confident that he who had begun a good work in the Philippians would continue it until the day of Christ, if they at any time might be cut off for failing to be fruitful? We must reject Romans 8, for in this case there would be something able “to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” We must even, let us note, reject verses in the Gospel of John itself, for some of the clearest statements of the believer’s security are found in this book. One example is John 10:27–29. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” We must reject all these verses if John 15:6 refutes the believer’s security. Moreover, I do not believe that the Christian can really accept this interpretation, at least after it has been carefully thought through. In response to John 10:27–29, Arminians usually say that although God will not allow anyone to pluck us out of his hand, he will, nevertheless, not prohibit us, of our own will, from jumping out, if that is truly our desire. But notice that this is not what John 15:6 is saying. John 15:6 is not saying that we can jump out of God’s hand, if we choose to do so, but that God will himself thrust us out—more than that, cut us off from a living union with his own Son—not, we must note, because of some grave sin (blasphemy, murder, adultery, or something worse) but simply because we have ceased to be fruitful, and this by the same God who has pledged himself to defend us against all enemies. I ask: Can any Christian really believe that? I do not believe he can, at least after he has thought it through clearly. If that were the nature of our God, then we would have been cast off long ago; and we would all be in hell. Instead of this, our experience teaches that God has actually born with our fruitlessness, yes, even with our sin and unbelief, and has out of his great love continuously worked to bring us on in the Christian life. Therefore, to adopt this first view is to slander the character of our God and to set the lie to our own experience. The second interpretation of this verse is that it applies to those who are nominal Christians only. This, for the most part, is the view of Calvinistic writers—Matthew Henry, Charles Spurgeon, the Puritans, and others. These find support in the immediate context: first, in reference to Israel, the old branch, which, according to Paul’s teaching in Romans 11 was cut off in order that the wild olive branches (symbolizing the Gentiles) might be grafted in; and then, second, in reference to Judas, who had apparently been cut off that very evening and was soon to be “burned.” These interpreters point out that it is not the word “branch” that is used in verse 5, but rather “anyone”—“If anyone does not remain in me …” The difficulty with this approach is that it is hard to believe that it is not true branches, believers in Christ, that are spoken of. For one thing, the argument regarding “man” versus “branch” does not hold up; for neither word is in the Greek of this verse. The Greek word is tis, an indefinite pronoun. The meaning, then, is “If anyone [that is, any of the preceding, the branches or true believers] does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away.” Besides, there is nothing in the context to indicate that suddenly a new class of persons, those who have claimed to be Christians but who are not actually regenerate, is being introduced. We may point out that the situation noted by the Calvinistic expositors is a real one—there are those who profess to be Christians but who are not and who will eventually be separated from the true church and be lost—but that is not the point here. According to the third view, it is the believer’s works that are burned, if these works are not of Christ, and it is the Christian’s role as a fruit-bearer and not his salvation that is discussed in the passage. Several observations support this. First, it is fruitfulness rather than salvation that is in view throughout this section of the chapter. True, the matter of burning is often associated with hell and therefore the loss or nonpossession of salvation. But that does not mean that it is always associated with it or that it is associated with it here. On the contrary, burning is not always used of hell, as the passage in 1 Corinthians about works proves. And it is its association with the destruction of useless works rather than with the loss of salvation that is most appropriate in this passage. It is always dangerous to try to interpret a parable on any level other than that involved at its most basic point. Another observation concerns the actual wording of the verse. It is, for example, “like a branch” that the one who is thrown away is thrown away. Therefore, it is not as a “son” that he is thrown away, but as a fruit-bearer. So far as that is concerned, he may indeed be useless to Christ and the Christian ministry though a Christian. Finally, we note that there is even a change of number between the first part of the sentence and the second. In the first part the important term is singular: “If anyone does not remain. …” In the second part the key term is plural: “such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” The “them” and “they” may well be what issues from the “one” who is thrown away in terms of his usefulness. And if this is the case, then it is the Christian’s works rather than the Christian himself that are destroyed. Lot would be an example here, as Arthur W. Pink points out in his presentation of this evidence. “He was out of fellowship with the Lord, he ceased to bear fruit to His glory, and his dead works were all burned up in Sodom; yet he himself was saved!” Fruitless Christians? But shall we rejoice just because we are able to accept the third interpretation and therefore consider ourselves to be safe once again? Shall we relax just because we will not be condemned to hell for our fruitlessness? That would be horrible. Our reaction should be one of horror, rather, to think that it is possible to be saved by Christ, to be cultivated and cared for and coddled by the heavenly husbandman, to be preserved for heaven, and yet not to be fruitful in a proper heart response to the One who has done all this for us. Saved and yet fruitless? Far be it from any Christian to be content with that. It is our shame if we are. And it is folly too, for if we fail to abide in Christ, we forfeit the two great blessings that are promised to us. The first is fruitfulness. Is it really wise to be fruitless? Does it make sense to be unproductive in the Christian life when we could actually be highly productive to the blessing both of ourselves and those around us? No true Christian can ever agree that this is a wise course of action. The second great blessing is the privilege of answered prayer. It is interesting that Jesus speaks of that explicitly in verse 7, saying, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” These are the two great spheres of blessing for those who abide in Christ—fruitfulness and the privilege of answered prayer. It is toward that divinely appointed sphere of operations that each who belongs to Christ should aspire. John 15:8–11 “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” the connection between John 15:7 and John 15:8 is the connection that the glory of God has with prayer according to the will of God, a connection that we have already seen in John 14:13–14 (“And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.”). But here the emphasis is different. In John 14 the emphasis was upon prayer itself. That it was to be answered was to be a comfort to the disciples. In John 15 the emphasis is upon the glory of God. In this text the glorification of God is linked to four elements, each of which should be abundantly visible in the life of each Christian. The elements are: fruitfulness, love, obedience, and joy. Each one is linked to the central theme of the chapter, the need for Christians consciously to remain in Christ, and should receive careful attention. Fruitfulness The first of these ideas is fruitfulness, which Jesus highlights by saying, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (v. 8). The flow of thought is that if we are Christ’s and remain in him, then we will be fruitful in the Christian life and God will be glorified in our fruitfulness. Moreover, the fact that we are fruitful will be a proof that we are indeed Christ’s disciples. At this point we should probably talk about the real meaning of fruitfulness, for if we fail to do that or if we define fruit wrongly, we are inevitably going to discourage some Christians, which we should not do. Let me explain what I mean. If we begin with a phrase like Paul’s words of expectation in writing to the Romans—“that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles” (Rom. 1:13)—and if we therefore identify the fruit of the Christian life with converts to Christ, then we will discourage any who, for whatever reason, do not see many come to the Lord. And we will discourage those who, because of sickness or old age or whatever unfavorable circumstances, are unable to do much and who are therefore made to feel they are useless. It is true, of course, that these other items may be looked at as fruit in a certain sense. The Bible does so itself. But the real fruit is that listed in Galatians 5:22–23: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” This fruit is the fruit of Christ’s own character within us. It is his love, joy, peace, and so on, within the Christian. Once we see this, we see that a fruitful life can belong to any child of God regardless of his age or circumstances. He or she need not be disheartened by advancing years or by suffering. In fact, the person may even be encouraged by them, for it is in such circumstances that the character of the Lord can shine brightest and others can best see that he is truly his Lord’s disciple. Do not think that in taking this approach I am denying the need for fruit in the sense of conversions. We obviously need these too. But the starting point, indeed the indispensible heart of the Christian’s witness, is this divine character. Apart from it, the effort to save others is like an apple tree trying to produce other apple trees. It cannot be done in that fashion. First, the apple tree must produce apples. After that the apples, which contain apple seeds, will produce other apple trees. Love The second of Christ’s emphases is love. This follows naturally since love is a fruit of the Spirit. In fact, it is the chief fruit, for “the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13). Jesus speaks of it saying, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you” (v. 9). As I look at that verse I see three parts to it. The first part is a declaration of love: “I have loved you.” We know that these are wonderful words to hear at any time, if they are true. “I love you.” “I have loved you from the moment I first set eyes upon you.” “I will always love you.” This is the basis of any good marriage, when the love expressed is the fullest measure of love. It is the basis of a Christian home in the love between parents and children. In a different sense it is the basis of friendship and certainly of fellowship within the church. But if this is true when the words are spoken by mere men and women, how much more wonderful they are when spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ, as here, and when we are the ones loved. This is an astonishing love, for there is nothing in us that could give cause for it. We are sinners. Jesus is holy. We have rebelled against God. Nevertheless, Jesus loves us. The steps of the expression of his love are these. To begin with, he loved us with an electing love. This is the stage of love revealed in Deut 7:6-8 in relation to Israel: “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you …” (vv. 6–8). He loved you because he loved you. That is the heart and full substance of it. As Spurgeon has written, “Election is based upon affection, and that affection is its own fountain.” Next, the Lord became a man like us, so great was his love for us. It is written of love in marriage, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). Thus did the eternal Son. He left his Father’s home in heaven to come to earth to woo and wed his bride, the church. He redeemed her. The incarnation is Jesus becoming like us so that we might become like him. Finally, having elected us in love and become like us in a human form, Jesus died for us. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). That is true, and the greatest example of it is the death of Jesus himself. Said Spurgeon, “That laying down of life in our Lord’s case was specially a proof of love, for he died voluntarily; there was no necessity upon him, as upon us, to die. Other men, if they died for us, would but pay the debt of nature a little before its time; but Jesus died who needed not to die, so far as he himself was concerned. He died also amid circumstances of pain, and shame, and desertion, which made that death peculiarly bitter. The death of the cross is to us the highest proof of our Savior’s infinite love of us. He must die the death of a felon, between two thieves, utterly friendless, the object of general ridicule; and this he must do as bearing our sins in his own body. All this makes us say, ‘Behold how he loved us!’ O beloved! can we doubt Christ’s love, since he laid down his life … ?” It is not only a sublime declaration of love that we have in this verse. We also have the measure of that love; for Jesus says, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.” I suppose that we would rejoice in the love of Christ for us even if his love were but a part-time or half-hearted thing. For him to love us at all would be remarkable. But this is not what he says; nor is it the case. Jesus says that he has loved us, not with an imperfect or even a “perfect” human love, but rather with the greatest love there is; namely, the love which has existed within the being of the Godhead from all eternity and which will exist to all eternity, the love of the Father for him and (we must obviously add) his love for the Father. Is there a greater love than that? It is impossible that there could be. This love is without beginning or end. It is without measure. It is without change. It is according to the measure of this great love, and consequently with that love itself, that Christ loves us. One thing more. First, we saw Jesus’ declaration of his love for us. Second, we saw the measure of that love. Third, we have the challenge of love, which is, in this case, to “continue” it. If we continue in his love, then we will be remaining in him and prove fruitful. Obedience The third word in this catalog of elements contributing to God’s glory is obedience, though it is expressed in a challenge to keep Christ’s commands, as has been done elsewhere. “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love” (v. 10). Are we tired of this emphasis by now, this emphasis upon Christ’s commands? I suspect that we are; but if we are, the fault is in us and not the commands. For, as John says in his first epistle, “His commands are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:30). Then what is wrong? I suspect that what is wrong with us is that we are not really as anxious to do Christ’s commands as we would like to think we are; thus, the emphasis upon obedience (we have had it several times already in the last discourses, and we will have it several times more) exposes our halfhearted commitment to the will of Christ and so gives birth to feelings of true guilt. What happens to us is precisely what happened to Peter when, following the resurrection, the Lord was recommissioning him to service. Peter had denied the Lord three times in the presence of the servants and soldiers in the courtyard of the high priest. So Christ recommissioned him with a threefold pattern. He asked him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Peter was aware of his recent failure, but he did love Jesus. So he replied in what I believe to be an air of genuine humility, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”After a short time Jesus asked Peter again, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter replied that he did.Again Christ gave the commission, “Feed my sheep.”Finally the Lord asked Peter the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” This time we are told, “Peter was grieved because he asked him a third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’ ”Jesus said, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:15–17).Why was Peter grieved? He was grieved because the third repetition reminded him of his threefold denial and hence awakened grief and true guilt for what he had done. Moreover, the questioning had suggested that perhaps, just perhaps, Peter’s first effusive answer, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you,” could not be taken at quite its face value. Peter was always prone to blurt something out, but did he really mean it? Did he mean it enough to take a servant’s role in caring for Christ’s sheep? Did he mean it enough to continue to fulfill this or any other command of Christ until his life’s end? Ah, that was quite a different matter. And Peter, like us, did not enjoy being reminded of his weakness.We need to be reminded anyway. That is the point of the repetition. “If you love me, obey my commands” (14:15). “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me” (14:21). “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teachings” (14:23). “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love” (15:10). “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (15:14). The point is obvious. We must keep Christ’s commands if we are to be Christ’s disciples and grow in his love. Let us note one thing further. It is true that we are reminded to obey all that Jesus has given us by way of instruction. But even as he tells us this, Jesus points out that he is asking of us no more than he has already asked and given of himself. “Just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love” is his comparison. We can be encouraged by this, knowing that the One who instructs us has himself set the pattern and will give us strength to do as he requires. Joy In the last verse, Jesus introduces the fourth and final element that is to be in us and by which the Father shall be glorified. It is joy. Christ adds it, I am sure, to indicate that his commands actually lead in precisely the opposite direction from being grievous. They lead to the fullness of that joy that is of God and that is rightly listed as the second virtue in the list of the Spirit’s fruit in Galatians. Jesus says of this virtue, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (v. 11). This sentence speaks of the Christian’s joy in three senses: joy attained, joy abiding, and joy abounding. Joy is to be attained as a result of the things Jesus had been teaching. This is the reason why the Christian must abide in him, so that the views, outlook, and aspirations of the Master will be those of the disciples as well. This is the reason for the twofold repetition of the word “joy”—“my joy” and “your joy.” The joy of Jesus is to be the joy of the disciple. His joy was a wonderful thing, for it was not deterred by suffering or any other circumstance. In fact, it rejoiced in hardship; for we read that Jesus “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2). Where did he find that joy? The answer is in his intense desire to do the will of his Father: “I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices” (Ps. 16:8–9). Second, the verse speaks of joy abiding—that “my joy may be [remain] in you.” The point of this phrase is that joy does not necessarily remain. Many things can destroy it. Sin can destroy it. So can disobedience or unbelief. David confessed this in the great fifty-first psalm, crying out to God, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation” (v. 12). It was not that his salvation was lost, only that the joy had evaporated. This always happens when we become separated from Christ in the sense of having the fellowship that once was ours broken. In contrast to this, we must abide in him; for when we abide in him the joy abides also. Finally, the verse speaks of abounding joy. This is the meaning of the clause “and that your joy might be complete.” I wish that all Christians were more joyful, and, as I read this verse, I sense that the Lord desires this too. Unfortunately, there are many long faces and dour looks. There is too much defeat, too much unhappiness. It does not need to be that way. Rather we should be able to rejoice in Christ, even in the face of arrest, beatings, crucifixion, and death, as he did. When joy, linked to fruitfulness, love, and obedience, is found in the life of a Christian, all can see it and know that the source is divine. We can never produce these things. We cannot produce the Spirit’s fruit. We cannot produce love. We cannot produce joy. But Jesus can do it as we abide in him.John 15:12–14 “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” there is something charming about the word “friend” or “friendship.” It is due partly to our desire for a close friend or friends and partly, too, to our remembrance of them. We look to our past and can almost mark the major periods of our lives by friends we have had. We think of the friends who went to grade school with us and of the things we did with them. Perhaps at the point of going into high school we made different friends, and we think sometimes, not only of the friends, but of the adventures we had—sometimes adventures that the teachers or other authorities did not entirely appreciate. We have had college friends and those we have acquired later in life. We value friendship and know that we would be much impoverished if we had no friends at all. It is this awareness that probably gives the verses to which we now come their special appeal, for in them the Lord Jesus Christ, the great incarnate God of the universe, speaks of friendship in terms of our relationships to him. He calls us friends, saying, “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” Human Friendship When Jesus says, “You are my friends,” it is evident that he is speaking to us on the human level in terms we can clearly understand. And he is doing so—we cannot fail to see it—so that we might contrast his friendship, which is great and perfect, to even the best of the other friendships we have known. The best known of the biblical examples is the friendship between Jonathan, the son of King Saul, and David, the young hero of Israel. Jonathan was in line for the throne. But David was so evidently blessed of God that the people were saying that he should be the next king. Here was cause for great antagonism, antagonism between the apparent rights of the one and the supposed aspirations of the other. But there was no antagonism. Instead there was a great and beautiful friendship. It was a case in which each sacrificed in order to put the other’s interests ahead of his own. Sometimes the love that exists between one friend and another leads to the ultimate sacrifice, to death. A friend of mine tells that as he was growing up he knew a man who in a sublime moment of self-sacrifice gave his life to try to save his grandson. The two were out in a boat on the Monongahela River in West Virgina, and neither of them could swim. The child, for one reason or another, fell overboard and was drowning. So the man jumped in after the child. Both drowned. But afterward when they found the bodies, the grandfather still had the young child clutched in his arms. He had been so anxious to save his grandson that he had not even opened up his arms to attempt to swim to save himself. When we hear a story like that we tend to become silent, for we know that we stand before something sublime. It is the ultimate sacrifice, the sacrifice of one’s life. Because of such sacrifices we understand what the Lord is saying when he declares in clear reference to his own self-sacrifice: “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Friend of Sinners On the other hand, it is not really fair to talk about Jesus’ sacrifice in merely human terms, for his death surpasses anything we can imagine. It may not happen often, but sometimes one human being will voluntarily die for another; still, this gift never equals or even parallels Jesus’ sacrifice. We see this when we reflect on Jesus’ death. First, when we begin to reflect on Jesus’ death we recognize that his death was exceptional if only because Jesus did not have to die. That is not true of us. We are mortal. We must die. But Jesus was immortal and therefore did not have to die. Indeed, he was life itself; for he said, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). He could have come into this world, performed a full and varied ministry, and then have returned to heaven without ever having experienced death. On the other hand, of us it is said, “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Heb. 9:27). What does this mean in terms of self-sacrifice? Merely this. If you or I were to give our lives for someone else, while that would undoubtedly be a great and heroic sacrifice, it would nevertheless at best be merely an anticipation of what must eventually come anyway. We would simply be dying a bit sooner than normally. The Lord did not need to die under any circumstances. Second, the death of the Lord Jesus Christ is exceptional in that he knew he would die. Again, this is not usually the case when a mere man or woman gives his or her life for another. Few who die in this way do so knowing in advance that they will die. Rather, it is usually the case that although the act is a risk and death is possible, they nevertheless think they may escape death while yet saving their friend. People take calculated risks and sometimes die, but they do not often die deliberately. Jesus by his own testimony deliberately went to the cross to die for our salvation. There is another area in which the love of the Lord Jesus Christ for his friends shines brighter than any love of which we are capable. The text says that we are Christ’s friends and that he was going to give his life for his friends. But if we think of this closely and honestly, we must recognize that, when the Lord Jesus gave his life for us, strictly speaking we were not exactly his friends. True, he calls us friends. It is also true that we become his friends. But we become friends because of his act, because of his electing grace toward us manifesting itself in the atonement and in the ministry of his Spirit by which our natural rebellion against God is overcome and our hearts are drawn to love and serve Jesus. When he died for us, or (if we may push that even farther back) when in eternity past he determined to die for us, he did so while we were yet enemies or were forseen to be enemies. It was “while we were still sinners, [that] Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Here especially do we see the wonderful love of the Lord Jesus Christ. So long as we think of ourselves as being somewhat good in God’s sight we do not see it. But when we see ourselves as God sees us, then the surpassing worth of the love of Christ becomes evident. It is this that leads up to the verse I have just quoted from Paul’s treatment of the human condition in Romans. The opening chapter of that book deals with man’s sin, showing how all men and women have possessed a certain knowledge of God but have turned from that knowledge in order to worship a god of their own devising. Paul says that a certain knowledge of the existence and power of God is disclosed in nature and in the consciences of all men and women. But we have rejected that knowledge. Paul says, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles ” (Rom. 1:21–23). There are certain consequences of this, as the chapter goes on to show. We have given up God. So, says Paul, in a certain sense God has given us up. He has given us up to certain consequences. Three times in this chapter we read that “God gave them over.” In every case, however, we are told what God gave them over to. This is important, for it is not as if God were holding the human race in his hand and then let go with the result that the human race simply drifted off into nowhere. If I let go of an object, the object falls. I have not given it up to nothing. I have given it up to the law of gravity, and the law of gravity draws it downward. In the same way, God gives us over to the sad consequences of our rebellion. First of all, God has given us over to “sexual impurity” (v. 24). That is, when we turn our backs upon God, who is perfect in his purity, we inevitably become dirty spiritually. Second, God has given us over to “shameful lusts” (v. 26). That is, the good affections we have and that we rightly cherish become warped because they are severed from their source. Love becomes lust. A proper sense of responsibility becomes the driving pride of personal ambition. Self-sacrifice becomes selfishness, and so on. Third, God says that he has given us over to a “depraved mind” (v. 28). This means that we have developed a way of thinking that is antagonistic toward God so that we are constantly devising philosophies and actions that try to eliminate his presence from our lives. These important verses from Romans give God’s assessment of the human race. He made us. More than this, he made us in his own image. But we have rebelled against him and defaced that image. Instead of God’s glory, we have advanced man’s depravity. Instead of his sovereignty, we have sought human autonomy. Instead of holiness, we have sin. Instead of love, hate. Yet, in spite of our depravity, Christ came to be our friend and prove his friendship by dying for us. As Paul states, “At just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:6–8). Spiritual Death There is one more reason why the love of the Lord Jesus Christ for his friends, seen in his death for us, is superior to all human loves. The death of the Lord was a spiritual death, whereas ours, if we are Christians, is only physical. If we were to give our life for someone else, the death we would endure would be only physical. We cannot die spiritually in the place of another person. But that is precisely what Jesus Christ did. Death is separation. Physical death is the separation of the soul and spirit from the body. Spiritual death is the separation of the soul and spirit from God. This is what makes hell such a terrible place; those in hell are separated from God. And because God is the source of all good—all joy, peace, love, and other blessings—hell is the opposite. It is misery, unrest, hate, and so on. This is the separation that Jesus endured for us. He died physically also; that is true. His death was particularly painful and degrading. But the truly horrible aspect of his death was his separation from the Father when he was made sin for us and bore sin’s punishment. This is the meaning of the cry wrung from his lips in that moment: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I do not know how to explain that. I do not know how it is possible for the second person of the Godhead to be separated from the first person of the Godhead, even for a brief time, as this was. But this is what happened as Jesus experienced ultimate spiritual death in order that we might never have to experience it. Love like that goes beyond our best understanding. These truths and more are involved in Christ’s statement: “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” We read that and acknowledge its truth. But then we go on to say, “Yes, and greater love has no one at all—either man, devil, or angel—than that the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, should die a spiritual death for us sinners.” Do you know him as the One who demonstrated his love and friendship for you by thus dying? Is he your friend in that sense? If not, you are not yet truly a Christian. But you can be. You can find him to be your friend, indeed, a superlative friend. You need only come to him, confessing your sin and acknowledging your need of him to be your Savior. Friends of Jesus There is one other question that arises from our text. I have asked, “Is Jesus your friend?” This is the question that emerges from verse 13 in which Jesus speaks of his love and, therefore, of his friendship for us. But in the next verse we have what might be called the other side of that question. It is, “Are you Christ’s friend?” Jesus suggests this when he declares, “you are my friends if you do what I command you” (v. 14). I am glad the Lord put it as he did, for I suppose that if we had come to him and had asked, “Lord, you have shown yourself to be a friend to us; what must we do to be your friends?” Jesus could have answered, “You have my example of what a true friend is; do that.” But if he had said that, we would have been discouraged. How could you or I do that—love as he loves, give ourselves as he gave himself? It is impossible for us to die spiritually for someone else. If Jesus had required us to do all he did, it would be impossible to become his friend. But he did not say that. Instead, he put the requirements in our terms and on our level, saying, “You can be my friends if you will only do what I command you.” This means that we are to show our friendship to him by simple obedience. Did I say “simple”? Yes, it is simple; but it is simple obedience, and this means that it must be active, continuous, and in all things. We see that our obedience must be active, for Jesus said, “You are my friends if ye do. …” Unfortunately some Christians talk about the Christian life as though it consisted largely in refusing to do certain things. If we fall into that way of thinking, we imagine after we have refused to drink alcohol, refused to play cards, refused to have extramarital sex, refused to cheat in business, and so on, that we have done a great deal. But we have not. We have obeyed negatively but not positively. Christ calls upon us to love one another, and that cannot be done except in very practical ways. We are also to pray. We are to worship with other Christians. Our lives are to be marked by good deeds. It would make a great difference in the lives of many Christians if, as they read their Bibles and pray each day, they would pause as part of their devotions to ask what practical things the Lord would have them do. Second, our obedience should also be continuous. Jesus did not say, “If you do what I command and then quit” or “If you do it on Sundays” or “If you do it when you feel like it.” The verb is a present subjunctive meaning “If you are doing.” The idea is of continuous action, day after day, year after year. There is no vacation from being a disciple of the Lord. Finally, our obedience is to be in all things, for he says, “If you do whatever I command you.” It means coming to him in love to do whatever he asks of us, not picking and choosing as some do, not exalting those aspects of the Christian faith we like and neglecting those we dislike. Rather it means coming with that yielded humility of mind and body that places us prostrate at his feet and asks from that position, “Lord, what will you have me do?” It is only when we ask that question and mean it that we find ourselves being lifted up to do the great errands of our king, and not as slave either, but rather as a friend of Jesus. I asked earlier, “Is Jesus your friend?” Now I must ask, “Are you Christ’s friend by this definition?” God grant that you might be, to your own great joy and to the praise of his glory. John 15:15–17 “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.” apart from the fifteenth chapter of John’s Gospel, in which the Lord Jesus Christ calls his disciples friends, I do not know of any other characters in the Bible who are called friends of God except Abraham. But this one case is significant, because the nature of the relationship of God to Abraham is an illustration of the main point of Christ’s teaching here. Abraham is called “the friend of God” in James 2:23, and the reference in James is either to 2 Chronicles 20:7 (in which Abraham is called “your friend,” “your” being God) or Isaiah 41:8 (in which Abraham is called “my friend”) or both. The significance of the term is in the fact that God spoke freely to Abraham and thus repeatedly opened his mind to him. The classic example is God’s conversation with Abraham just before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. In this conversation God said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?” (Gen. 18:17). The answer was no, for the story goes on to record how God revealed the coming destruction to Abraham and how Abraham, knowing that Lot was in Sodom, interceded for the righteous who lived in those cities. Communication is essential to friendship. Friends speak to one another. They bare their souls and tell their troubles. They share their aspirations. It is no surprise then that in the upper room, in the midst of those conversations in which Jesus calls his disciples friends, the Lord of glory shares his thoughts with them. Already he has done this in reference to his death and resurrection, heaven, the coming of the Holy Spirit after his ascension, and other doctrines. Now he does so in reference to his special calling of them to fruitful service. He declares that they are his friends because “everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (v. 15). Friends, Not Servants One thing that characterizes our friendships is autonomy in the area of choosing whom we will befriend and whom we will not befriend. Generally speaking, that exercise of autonomy is mutual for the persons involved. For example, when we meet another, three reactions are possible so far as friendship is concerned. First, we may not like him or her, and he or she may not like us. In that case we try to be polite to the other person, but no friendship develops. Second, we may like the other person, but he or she may not like us, or vice versa. In that case also no friendship develops unless, of course, the one who dislikes the other changes his or her mind. Third, there may be a mutual attraction. It is only in this latter situation that the people involved become friends. This means that we have a choice in the matter, and so does the other person. We consider this essential to friendship. Yet, in striking contrast to our understanding of the matter, in these verses Jesus stresses that we have become his friends, not because we chose him (because we did not), but because he in his great mercy chose us. Do we think that we have chosen him? If we do, we have not sufficiently recognized the depth of our own depravity or the unmerited nature of God’s grace. The true situation is that we had not only failed to be his friends; we had actually become his enemies, having rejected his rightful rule over us and having spurned his love. The friendship is established only when God acts in Christ to remove the barrier. It is only after he has spoken of laying down his life for us that the Lord Jesus speaks of his disciples as friends. There is a second difference. It is seen in the purpose clause of verse 16 (“I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit”) and in the command that follows (“This is my command: Love each other”). Does it not seem strange from our conception of friendship that Jesus should speak of choosing his friends in order that they might do something and, which is perhaps even worse, immediately follow his declaration of friendship with a command? We would not think of choosing a friend for what he or she could do. That sounds calculating and ignoble. It is not worthy of friendship. Moreover, we would not think of commanding our friend to do something, at least not if we wished to retain him as our friend. How can Jesus do this? Is his friendship less than human friendships? Or is he teasing, that is, pretending to be our friend when actually he is not? The answer is in the nature of the friendship involved. For this, while true friendship, is nevertheless not a friendship between two equals but between sinful and limited human beings and God. Consequently, the full dimensions of that relationship (which always involve our sin, ignorance, and finitude as well as God’s holiness, omniscience, and total sovereignty) are involved. We are God’s friends—by grace. But that does not mean that we can approach God as his equal or dictate the terms of the friendship. It means that we must approach him in gratitude always bearing in mind that the friendship exists because he has stooped to our estate. Fruitful Christians Having placed the matter of friendship in its proper perspective the Lord goes on to disclose the privileges of that friendship in terms of a life of fruitful Christian service. Here, therefore, the purpose clause emerges, not as a qualification upon the nature of the friendship (though in one sense it is that) but rather as the glorious privilege and destiny of all whom the Lord Jesus Christ calls friends. “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name” (v. 16). This statement of purpose has two parts, each of which is introduced by the important Greek word hina (“in order that”): first, that they might be fruitful and, second, that their prayers might be answered. This is not the first time the word “fruit” has occurred in this chapter, but it carries the understanding of fruitfulness a step farther than any of the previous occurrences. In these verses there is a fourfold progression.
1. In the first part of verse 2 the Lord speaks merely of “fruit.” There are no qualifying adjectives. His teaching is that it is the purpose of the vine’s branches to bear fruit and that he is concerned that they do so. In studying this verse and (in chapter 14) the fruit of the Spirit, we saw that the fruit is primarily those aspects of character that it is the Spirit’s work to produce in the life of believers. The fifth chapter of Galatians describes it as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (vv. 22–23). In a secondary sense, the word “fruit” may also refer to good works, which flow from these characteristics, and to converts to Christianity.
2. In the second half of verse 2 the Lord adds a modifier to the word “fruit,” saying, “Every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will bear even more fruit.” “More” is a searching word, as Andrew Murray has noted in his valuable devotional study The True Vine. The reason it is searching is that “as churches and individuals we are in danger of nothing so much as self-contentment. The secret spirit of Laodicea—we are rich and increased in goods, and have need of nothing—may prevail where it is not suspected. The divine warning—poor and wretched and miserable—finds little response just where it is most needed.” So let us not be content with little fruit. Regardless of past blessings, there is always more that God has for us in growth of Christian character, service, evangelism, and other blessings.
3. Seven verses farther, in verse 8, we have another modifier. This time the Lord says, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” Christians often seem to want little to happen—perhaps because they consider “much” of anything to be worldly, including spiritual growth and successes. But whatever the reason, it is certain that Christ is thinking in different terms here, for here he speaks of “much fruit” and of the fact that “much fruit,” rather than merely “fruit” or “more fruit,” is to the glory of God. Do we believe him? Then we must strive to achieve much, knowing that little fruit brings but little glory either to the Father or the Son.
4. Finally, in the verse we are studying, we come to the last stage in this progression. It is “fruit that will last” (v. 16). Not all fruit does last. In fact, in purely agricultural terms no fruit really lasts. Pears perish. Apples become rotten. Berries, oranges, and grapefruit spoil. In human terms much that we do also belongs in this category. We work, but much of our work and the fruits of that work pass away. In time we will ourselves pass away. Does nothing remain? Does all pass? One thing remains, and that is the fruit produced in the life of the Christian by the Lord Jesus Christ. He is eternal. Therefore, his work is also eternal and will never perish. Only one life! ’T’will soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Is Christ at work in you? Or is it just you working? Here every Christian worker should pause and ask what he or she is accomplishing in the light of eternity. We should remember that it is possible to build great monuments out of wood, hay, and stubble. A haystack can be quite a large thing. But these will not last. Rather, we are to build with the gold, silver, and precious stones provided by God and assembled by the Lord Jesus Christ according to his blueprint.
Intercession The second purpose of Christ’s calling of us to be friends is that “the Father will give you whatever you shall ask in my name.” I must admit that when I first looked at that clause, I found myself wondering why it is introduced here in what is apparently a repetitive way. The inducement to pray is not new. We have had it several times already (14:13–14; 15:7).
It would be a sufficient answer to say that the promise is repeated simply because we need to hear it and because we are so lax in our life of prayer. But as I think about the context in which Jesus speaks of this new friendship and of his command that we love one another, it seems to me that he is probably thinking here of that particular type of prayer known as intercession. Intercession is prayer for others. What should be more natural for the one who along with others has been brought into this great brotherhood and sisterhood of Christianity than that he or she should pray earnestly for those others who are also Christ’s friends? If they are Christ’s friends, then they are our friends too. And we must pray for them, as indeed they also must pray for us. In this respect we must be like a towering vine, anchored upon earth but reaching up to that rarified and invigorating atmosphere of heaven in which we meet the Lord and have our requests met by him.
Love One Another The last verse of this section returns to the theme with which verses 12–17 began, to “love one another.” It is not the first time that this command has been given, and if we are sensitive at this point, it is possible that we are just a bit irritated at Christ’s repetition. In John 13:34–35, Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” In the next chapter Christ speaks frequently of our need to love him. Then, in chapter 15, we read, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” (v. 12). Why this constant repetition? And why are we irritated? The answer to both questions is the same: we do not love one another. Therefore, we feel guilty about it and know that we need to be reminded. John himself learned this, for, in imitation of Jesus, he repeats the command in his first letter to the churches of Asia. “Love one another,” he says in 4:7. “Love one another,” he repeats just four verses later (v. 11). Then a third time, “Love one another” (v. 12). We are to love one another because of God’s great love toward us and because of Christ’s command.
Do we? Do we love one another within that bond of friendship created by the Lord Jesus Christ and according to his own love and standards? Let me list some things that love within friendship does
1. Love prays for the other. Job is a significant example. Job had lost all that he valued, including his family, health, and property. In his misery his “friends” had turned against him though pretending to give comfort. Truly, if anyone ever had a right to spurn friendship, it was Job. Yet at the end of the story, after God had intervened to disclose his true purposes and reveal his anger at the counsel of Job’s friends, we read that Job prayed and that God blessed Job greatly. For whom did Job pray? “After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10).
2. Love sticks close to the friend when the friend is in trouble. Solomon knew what it is to have a friend who sticks close, for he wrote: “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24). He indicates the same thing a chapter earlier saying, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Prov. 17:17).
3. Finally, love also gives and gets. This double activity is seen in Christ’s parable of the two friends, one of whom visited the other in the night to say, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him” (Luke 11:5–6). In the context of Christ’s parable the friend who is in bed is reluctant to get up to give to the one asking, yet eventually does, the point being the superior worth of the friendship of God, who gives to all men liberally and is not hard to be entreated. The parable ends, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (v. 9). I tell the story, however, not to stress the willingness of God to give (though that is a valuable lesson) but rather to show the nature of that friendship that goes out of its way to supply what another needs. We would not want to imply that we should spend time in prayer meetings when it is within our power to give to those who are in need. That is like dedicating a gift to God (corban) when parents are destitute. On the other hand, if we are thinking spiritually, we know that we have nothing to give of ourselves. We cannot meet the other’s spiritual need. Yet, by God’s grace, we have a friend who can meet those needs, even the Lord Jesus. “Friend, … a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.” Can we think that if we pray that way, recognizing our own need, Jesus will not provide all that the friend of ours (who is, therefore, also a friend of his) lacks? Of course not. Therefore, we must love and give and pray. And we must be friends of Christ, as well as of one another.
He Will … You Will John 15:26–27 “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.” Could anything be more exciting than being a coworker with God? I hardly think so. Yet this is what is promised to every faithful Christian in the pages of God’s Word. If your boss should call you up tomorrow morning and say, “I have been watching your work and have been very satisfied with it; I would like you to become a partner with me in directing the affairs of the company,” you would be thrilled. You would be even more thrilled if the call should come from the President of the United States asking you to be a member of his cabinet or a special counsel in the area of your expertise. How much more delighted should we be, then, that the sovereign and eternal God has appointed us coworkers with him in carrying the gospel of salvation to this world! Where does God say that we are appointed coworkers with him or with Jesus Christ in this ministry? The passage I am thinking of as I use that word is 2 Corinthians 6:1, in which Paul says, “As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain.”The idea also occurs in the words of Christ in the midst of the final discourses as he instructs his disciples concerning the coming of the Holy Spirit. Here Christ says, “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you … he will testify about me. And you also must testify” (John 15:26–27). He will testify … you must testify. It is the combination of these two testimonies, however strange it may seem, that God uses to exalt Christ and draw men and women to him. And yet, lest we get too carried away in thinking about being coworkers with God, we need to note that the Lord mentions the Spirit’s witness first and only after this does he mention our own. Our witness is necessary, but it is powerless without the presence and supernatural activity of God’s own Spirit. Only he can illuminate the unregenerate mind and move the rebellious will of man to embrace our Savior.
Witness of the Spirit How does the Holy Spirit bear his witness? Or, to put it in slightly different words, in what does the testimony of the Holy Spirit consist? There are two answers. One is the work of the Holy Spirit in directing the writing of the books of our Bible. The other is the Spirit’s work in bringing those objective truths home to the subjective experience of the individual Christian. The witness of the Spirit in directing the writing of the Bible is clearly involved in this section, for the next chapter goes on to speak of it explicitly. “When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you” (16:13–14). “The truth” that was to be revealed is the truth of the Christian gospel, centering in Jesus’ ministry. It involved the past (“he will remind you,” 14:26) and future (“he will tell you what is yet to come,” 16:13). In this ministry there is special reference to the official role of the apostles as the recipients of the witness. This is taught at several other key places in the Bible. Second Timothy 3:16 says: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” This verse teaches that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the result of the direct breathing out of God and that the vehicle of that divine “spiration” was the Holy Spirit. Similarly, 2 Peter 1:21 teaches that the Holy Spirit directed the human writers of the Bible so that the work they produced, while still in one sense the work of men, was nevertheless precisely what God himself desired. The verse says, “For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
This puts the Bible in a category of its own, for it is not like other books. It is true, if we speak only on a human level, that from time to time human authors are what we may choose to call inspired. That is, they are wrestling with a problem and then suddenly are confronted with a great solution or with an exceptional way of stating what they desire to say. They write it. Later, when we come to what they have done, we are so impressed that we say, “Well, he must certainly have been inspired when he wrote that.” But this is a loose use of language, and it is not what we are speaking about when we say that the Bible is inspired. When we speak of the Bible being inspired we mean that in a unique way the Holy Spirit came upon the human authors so that what they produced was what God desired, both in the whole and in its parts. It is this that makes the Bible distinct. The Internal Witness There is also a second way in which the Holy Spirit bears witness to the Lord Jesus Christ. He continues to bear a witness (present tense) by speaking through the Bible to carry the truths of the Bible home to the individual human mind and heart.
The experience of this truth is what lay at the heart of, and was fundamentally new in, the Protestant Reformation. When the Reformers spoke of the unique authority of the Scriptures they spoke of sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”). But this meant more to them than the simple idea that God had revealed himself to men through the Bible. The new element was not that the Bible, being given by God and through the channel of his Holy Spirit, speaks with God’s own authority. The Roman Church held to that as well as the Reformers. The new element was the Reformers’ belief, substantiated by the explicit teaching of Scripture and by their own personal experience of Bible study, that the Bible interprets itself to God’s people from within, due to the fact that the Holy Spirit has not ceased to speak through it to their hearts. It was this discovery that freed them from an improper and debilitating dependence upon traditions and the decrees of church councils. These may have had value, but they were ultimately unnecessary, for God is not only able to teach but also does teach his people without them. What is this activity of God’s Spirit? The Reformers called it “the internal witness of the Holy Spirit,” for they wished to stress that it was the subjective or internal counterpart of the objective or external revelation embodied in the pages of the written Word of God. Their own experience of Bible study taught them this, but they also noticed that this particular function of the Holy Spirit is repeatedly revealed in God’s Word. For example, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). Or again, from the last discourses, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26). Similarly, in his first epistle John writes of this, extending the principle from that special ministry of the Spirit toward the apostles to a more general ministry for all believers, “But you have an annointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. … As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him” (2:20, 27). Later in the same letter John adds, “It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth” (5:6). Paul writes of the same reality. “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom, but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in words” (1 Cor. 2:12–13).
Comprehension, Conviction, Commitment We may break this down a bit by asking, “When we say that the Holy Spirit speaks through the Bible to the individual heart, precisely what does the Holy Spirit do? What are the results of his ministry?” There are several answers. First, the Holy Spirit gives comprehension. Apart from the ministry of the Holy Spirit there is no understanding of spiritual things. The Bible is taught, but men and women do not comprehend it. The gospel is proclaimed forcefully, but the unregenerate consider it nonsense. What is wrong? Is it the nature of the Bible or the inability of the preacher? What is wrong is that the Holy Spirit has not yet granted understanding. This is what Paul is speaking about in 1 Corinthians 2 when he says, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (v. 14). Without the internal witness of the Holy Spirit, the unregenerate comprehend nothing of the gospel. On the other hand, where the Holy Spirit is at work, understanding follows. This is true regardless of the obstacles to comprehension. In his discussion of this theme, R. A. Torrey refers to it as the explanation of something that every experienced Christian worker has noticed. He speaks of sitting down beside a person who has expressed a desire to know more about salvation through Christ and of trying to explain the gospel. The Bible is opened. Texts that speak of Jesus as the atoning, risen, and returning Savior are shown, but the inquirer does not see it. The truths are those the person needs to see and believe in order to be saved, but he stares blankly. He sees nothing. The worker goes over it again, but still there is no understanding. A third time! Suddenly, with face lighted up, the person exclaims, “Oh, I see it. I see it. Jesus is God, and he died for me. I only have to believe it to be saved.” He does believe it, and he is saved. What has happened? Torrey writes, “Simply this, the Holy Spirit has borne his testimony and what was dark as midnight before is as clear as day now. This explains also why it is that one who has been long in darkness concerning Jesus Christ so quickly comes to see the truth when he surrenders his will to God and seeks light from him.” The second thing the Holy Spirit brings is conviction. This is necessary too because it is not enough merely to have a comprehension of spiritual things. Comprehension is necessary. But if we have a proper comprehension, this will involve an understanding of our own sin and we will need to be convicted of our sin. The next chapter speaks of this, for Jesus says, speaking of the Spirit, “When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned” (John 16:8–11). America will never experience a great revival until there is a deep and disturbing recognition and confession of both personal and national sin. It is the Holy Spirit’s work to bring such conviction. Third, the Holy Spirit will also bring commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. Having comprehended the gospel and having been convicted of sin to the point of repentance, the one to whom the Holy Spirit bears his witness then commits himself to Christ as Lord and Savior. We have an example of this in the story of Philip and the Ethiopian treasurer. The Ethiopian had been to Jerusalem to worship God and while there had apparently bought a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He was sincere in his search, but he did not understand spiritual things, so he was puzzled by what he read on his way back to Ethiopia. God sent Philip to him. When Philip arrived, the Ethiopian had come to Isaiah 53: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth” (Acts 8:32–33; cf. Isa. 53:7–8). He wanted to know of whom the prophet was speaking. Philip taught him about Jesus and how he died for our sin, as Isaiah indicates. At this point, having been given understanding and having been convicted of his own sin, the Ethiopian asked to be baptized as a sign of his commitment. He said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (v. 37). This is what happens when the Holy Spirit is at work. Is he at work in your heart? Do you know that Jesus Christ is indeed the Son of God, as he claimed to be, and do you understand that he died in your place, the just for the unjust, that he might save you from sin? Are you convicted of sin so that you are sorry for sin and willing to turn from it? Have you reached the point of committing yourself to Jesus? If you have, say, “Lord Jesus Christ, I am a sinner, but I believe that you are the Son of God and that you died for me. Accept me now as one of your children and help me to follow you faithfully until my life’s end.” Human Witness Finally, there is a word here for those who have heard the witness of the Spirit and responded to it. The Holy Spirit is witnessing, but you must also bear witness, and it is only because of his witness that yours has promise of succeeding. This is why Jesus, immediately after he has said, “The Spirit … will testify about me,” goes on to add, “and you also must testify” (v. 27). Moreover, there is a reminder of what constitutes an effective human witness. There are three elements. First, there must be assurance that the gospel is indeed true. This is suggested in Christ’s reference to the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth, for if the Spirit of truth has borne his witness to your mind and heart, one of the inevitable results will be your conviction that what he has testified to you concerning Christ is factual. There can be no true witness on your part without that, just as there can be no true conversion without it. John R. W. Stott, Rector Emeritus of All Souls’ Church in London, has said correctly, “No man or woman is truly converted who is not intellectually converted.” So, too, there is no true witness that is not at its heart a proclamation of facts that the witness knows beyond any doubt to be true.
Second, there must be a personal experience of that truth. In other words, it is not enough merely to be intellectually convinced of something, important as that may be. It is also necessary to have entered into the reality of it personally. This, Jesus indicates when he says, referring to the witness of the apostles, “And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.” Today neither you nor I can reenact the experience of the apostles. But it is not altogether different to say that we must experience the Lord Jesus Christ as they did. Certainly we must spend time with him through our periods of personal Bible study and prayer. And we must attempt to put into practice what we learn of him in those sessions. Finally, there must be a verbalized testimony. That is, you must speak about these things to others. It is not enough merely to be convinced of the truth of the Christian faith and have experienced it yourself. You must seek to tell others what you have known and experienced
|John 15:8This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my DISCIPLES|
|Juan 15:8En esto es glorificado Mi Padre, en que den mucho fruto, y así prueben que son Mis DISCÍPULOS|
1 John 2:6 Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me