By: Steve Shirley
Let's begin by reading (Jn 15:1-17).
(Verses 1 & 5) "I am the true vine" This is the final of 7 key "I AM" statements (metaphors used to describe Himself) by Jesus in the Book of John. For the other 6 "I AM" statements, see: (Jn 6:35)(Jn 8:12)(Jn 10:7,9)(Jn 10:11,14)(Jn 11:25)(Jn 14:6).
(Verses 1 & 2)(NASB) "My Father is the vinedresser. (2) Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit."
We can see in (verse 2) that there are two types of vine "branches," those that bear fruit and those that don't bear fruit. The vine branches that "bear fruit" are believers in Christ, who the "vinedresser" (the Father) "prunes," so that they "may bear more fruit." In other words, just as a real life "vine branch" must be "pruned" (or "cleansed") of things like bugs, mildew, fungus, so that it can "bear more fruit," so must a believer be "pruned" of sinful and worldly things by the "vinedresser."
On the other hand, we see the vine branches that "do not bear fruit." There is some debate as to who is being spoken of here. There are basically 3 theories.
1. These branches represent those who are "professing" believers in Christ. These are people who claim to have saving faith in Christ, but in reality, they are not saved. The proof of this is that they "do not bear fruit." All Christians will "bear fruit," meaning they will become more and more like Jesus. Doing "good works" is a part of this, and they show that we belong to Christ (James 2:14-26)(Eph 2:10). Perhaps the best proof for this view is found in (Mt 7:21-23).
2. Others think that these branches refer to "backslidden" Christians, and "taken away" is referring to a failure to receive rewards at the "judgment seat of Christ" (1 Cor 3:11-15).
3. Still others believe that these branches represent a Christian who has lost his salvation (being "taken away" from the "vine"). (This is very unlikely in light of the numerous verses in the New Testament pointing to the eternal security of the believer.)
(Verse 3) "Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you." As we can see here, Jesus is speaking specifically to His 12 disciples regarding the "vine branches" metaphor. Eleven disciples would be the "branch that bears fruit," with Judas Iscariot being the "branch that did not bear fruit." (Judas appeared to be a believer in Jesus, and was even called a "disciple," but he was not saved.) However, even though Jesus is speaking to the disciples, the metaphor and examples apply to "all" Christians, and those who "claim" to be Christians.
(Verses 4-6) "I am the vine, ye are the branches... abide in me"
Those "branches" who "abide in Jesus" (are attached to the "vine") are true Christians. They will "bear much fruit." However, if a branch is not attached to the vine, it "cannot bear fruit," and it "is cast out as a branch and is withered" (and dies). This seems to point most clearly to "theory" #1 from above. In other words, this pictures an "apostate," who has heard the word, and knows the way to truth, but has never actually become Christian. Those "withered" branches are "gathered up," and cast into the fire (picturing Hell and destruction: Mt 3:10-12, Mt 7:15-23, Mt 13:40-42).
(Verse 7) "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." Those who "abide" in Jesus, or belong to Him, can go to Him with their requests, and their "desires" will be granted (if it is in accordance with His will: 1 Jn 5:14, Mt 6:10, Mt 26:39-42).
(Verses 9-10) "Abide in my love" Those who belong to Jesus show their "love" for Jesus by "keeping His commandments." Jesus showed His love for the Father by doing the same thing. The examples Jesus gave us for obeying His Father's "commandments" are the same examples we should keep in showing our love for Him. In doing so, we will "abide in His love."
(1 Jn 2:3-6) shows us this in a little more detail: "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. (4) He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. (5) But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. (6) He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked."
At one time, I was asked the questions: "What are these commandments that Jesus wants us to keep? Do they include all the commandments in Leviticus and Deuteronomy like the feasts and dietary laws? What about the Ten Commandments?"
I began studying this by looking in Strong's Concordance at all forms of the word "command" (i.e. commandments, etc...) in the New Testament. As I did so, I started to notice a continual pattern. As I looked these verses up, and several other related ones, one key thing seemed to emerge over and over. Let's look at Jesus' words first.
(Mt 22:36-40) Master, which is the great commandment in the law? (37) Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. (38) This is the first and great commandment. (39) And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (40) On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Also see: Mk 12:28-31, Lk 10:27, Mt 19:19, Jas 2:8)
(Jn 13:34-35) A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. (35) By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (Also see: Jn 15:12-13,17)
(Mt 5:43-45)(NASB) You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' (44) But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (45) so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven;... (Also see: Lk 6:27-35 where this is carried out even farther)
(Mt 7:12)(NASB) In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
Now, put these in conjunction with several key verses from the Epistles:
(Rom 13:8-10) Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. (9) For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (10) Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
(1 Jn 3:23-24) And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. (24) And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.
(1 Jn 4:21) And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.
(2 Jn 1:4-6) I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father. (5) And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. (6) And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.
Based on these verses, I believe the primary
"commandments" we are to keep are:
#1. To love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, and mind.
#2. To love our neighbor as ourselves.
If we TOTALLY followed these two commandments, we would automatically fulfill every other commandment that is stated in the Bible. The Ten Commandments and every other "moral law" in the Bible is summarized in these two commands. If we TOTALLY love God and our neighbor, we will not "covet," "murder," "lie," "commit adultery," or break any of the other numerous laws God has given.
I also believe one other "commandment" may apply, and that is the commandment to make Jesus Christ the Lord and Savior of our lives, which is the whole point of the New Testament (and the Old Testament). We can never truly follow these two "primary" commandments until we first have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
(Verse 11) "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full."
Our "joy will be full" if we are obeying God's commandments, praying in Jesus' name (Jn 16:24), and in fellowship with the Father and Jesus Christ (1 Jn 1:4). In God's presence is "fullness of Joy" (Ps 16:11).
What is "joy?"
Here are some others verses which speak about "joy."
(Rom 15:13) When we believe in Jesus, we are filled with joy and peace.
(Gal 5:22)(1 Th 1:6) Joy is a "fruit of the Spirit."
(1 Pet 1:8) There is unspeakable (inexpressible) joy in Christ.
(Isa 51:11)(Isa 35:10) Joy is described as everlasting.
(Neh 8:10) says, "for the joy of the Lord is your strength."
(Verses 12 & 17) "This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you."
Sometimes, people base their love for another person on "feelings," therefore their love for that person goes up or down depending on how they feel about that person at any given time. Biblically, however, love for another person is a "commandment," not a feeling. Our "love (for) one another" should be based upon a commitment, not a feeling (i.e. towards a spouse in marriage).
(Verse 13) "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
What does this mean to you? What are some examples of this?
(Verse 15)(NASB) "No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends."
I have asked this question before, but would you prefer to be called a "friend" of Jesus, or a servant of Jesus? Why?
(Verse 16) "You did not choose Me but I chose you" Most likely referring to Jesus handpicking His disciples (after praying all night: Lk 6:12-16).
This verse is also sometimes used in the dreaded predestination debate! No scholar really questions that God "chooses (or "predestines")" some people and not others, but the debate comes in how God "chooses" people. Does God "choose" ("to save") based upon His omniscience and foreknowledge, or upon nothing other than His random decision to save some and not others?
Now, let's read (Jn 15:18-27).
(Verses 18-20) We learn 4 things in these verses.
#1. The "world" (non-Christians) hated Jesus before it hated the disciples (and all Christians who live for Christ).
#2. The "world loves" those who belong to it (other non-Christians), and "hates" God's chosen people (Christians).
#3. Jesus compares Himself to a "master," and the disciples to "servants."
#4. Because Jesus (the master) was "persecuted," the disciples (servants) of Jesus (Christians today included) should expect to be "persecuted" too.
Also, remember the words of Jesus to His (unbelieving) brothers in (Jn 7:7) "The world cannot hate you: but me it hateth." Believers in Christ should expect to be "persecuted," "hated," and "killed" - (Jn 16:1-3). Let me again share the three quotes I first used in John 7.
"The absence of the world's hate proves that we do not testify against it that its works are evil. The warmth of the world's love proves that we are of its own. The friendship of the world is enmity with God. Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." (Believer's Bible Commentary - Attributed to F.B. Meyer)
"The world does not hate its own. It does hate our Lord. It hates His followers. Where do you belong in this lineup?" - Vance Havner
"The world never burned a casual Christian at the stake." - John R. Rice
(Verse 21)(NASB) "But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me."
Those who "persecute" and "hate" those who belong to Jesus (Christians), do so because they do not know the Father ("the one who sent Me"). The Bible is clear that there is only ONE way to know the Father, and that is through Jesus (Jn 14:6)(1 Jn 2:22-23)(Mt 11:27).
(Verse 22)(NASB) "If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin."
This does not mean that if Jesus hadn't spoken to them personally, they would not be considered sinners. Instead, this is likely speaking of the specific sin of seeing Jesus face to face, hearing the truth, seeing His miracles, seeing His sinlessness, and yet persecuting and rejecting Him. They had "no excuse" for their unbelief. (Lk 12:47-48) could be used to describe what Jesus is saying here. Let's look at this.
(Verse 23) "He that hateth me hateth my Father also." Nearly everyone believes in God. However, when Jesus is brought into the picture, He is the dividing line. In (Mt 10:34-36)(NKJV), Jesus says this: "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. (35) For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; (36) and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household."
Jesus said He was the only way to the Father (Jn 14:6), and to Heaven. The "world" hates these words, hates those who believe them, and hates Jesus. In doing so, they also hate God the Father.
(Verse 24) "If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin."
Many "works" of Jesus (His "miracles") were things that no man before Him had done (i.e. the blind receiving sight, and the deaf hearing). The primary purpose of Jesus' "works" ("miracles") in the Bible was to confirm that He was from God (Jn 3:2)(Jn 5:36)(Mk 2:10-12), and so that people would believe in Him (Jn 10:37-38)(Jn 20:30-31)(Mt 11:2-6). (Other places showing this: Acts 2:22, Heb 2:3-4). They rejected both of these purposes.
(Verse 25) "But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause." This was written by, and said of David in (Ps 69:4)(also see: Ps 35:19), but we can see here this was also a prophecy concerning Jesus. The very "law" that the Jews prided themselves on keeping, they were guilty of breaking in their hatred of Jesus. Jesus had given no reason for anyone to "hate" Him.
(Verse 26) "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me"
As we saw in the previous chapter (Jn Ch. 14), the Greek word used here for "Comforter" is "parakletos," which means "the one summoned, called to one's side, esp. called to one's aid" (Strong's). This word is also used in (Jn 14:16,26)(Jn 16:7) and (1 Jn 2:1), which says, "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate ("parakletos") with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." We also see the Holy Spirit being called "truth" here, and in (Jn 14:17). ***Note: It is worth noting that it says here that the Jesus will send the Holy Spirit, and in (Jn 14:26) it says that Father will send the Holy Spirit.
(Verse 27) "And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning." (also see: Lk 24:45-49, Acts 10:39-41)
Jesus is speaking of the disciples here, who had been with Him since the beginning of His public ministry (which lasted about 3 years). After Pentecost, they would teach others ("bear witness") the things they had been taught by Jesus. In a sense, all Christians today now have the obligation to "bear witness" of Jesus through God's Word, and to share the Gospel (Mt 28:18-20).