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Bible Commentaries

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

John 15

 

 

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Verse 1

CONTENTS

The Lord continues his Discourse through the whole of this Chapter. Under the Similitude of a Vine and the Branches, Jesus describes his Union with his Church. In the close of the Chapter, Jesus again speaks of the coming of the Holy Ghost.


Verses 1-8

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. (2) Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. (3) Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. (4) Abide in me, and I in you, as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. (5) I am the vine, ye are the branches, he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. (6) If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered: and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. (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. (8) Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

Nothing can be more beautiful in the illustration of that sweet and precious doctrine, of the oneness and union of Christ with his Church, than the figure of the Vine and its Branches, which the Lord Jesus hath here been pleased to explain it by. He is indeed the One true Vine, and as the Prophet calls him, the Branch; to which the Evangelist, under the same authority, gives testimony when saying: the Branch (for so it should have been rendered, and so it is indeed in the margin of our old Bibles,) from on high hath visited us. Luke 1:78. See Isaiah 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5; Zechariah 3:8 - Zechariah 6:12. And it is a very blessed part in this figure, wherein Jesus speaks of his Father, under the character of the Husbandman. For all Christ is, as Christ, is of Jehovah. Hence the Prophet, speaking of the sufferings of Christ, under this similitude, saith; And the Branch that thou madest so strong for thyself, it is burnt with fire and cut down. Psalms 80:15-16. And another servant of the Lord, when speaking under the same spirit of prophecy, in relation to the glories of Christ, saith: In that day the Branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious. Isaiah 4:2. It hath been supposed, that in the memorable prophecy of the dying Patriarch Jacob, the Vine unto which the foal he said should be bound; referred to the same. And when it be considered what went before in the Patriarch's prophecy of the Shiloh, to whom the gathering of the people should be, there seems a great connection with the whole. Genesis 49:10-11; Matthew 21:2; Mat_21:7. I do not think it necessary to dwell upon the several characters of a Vine and its branches, by way of illustrating the doctrine, concerning the union and communion between Christ and his people. Every way by which the dependance of the Church is shewn to be wholly on Christ; a branch on a Vine strikingly displays. It springs from the Vine, derives all its life, sap, moisture, fruitfulness, wholly from the Vine. And Jesus is all this, and infinitely more, to his people. In his divine nature, deep rooted in his own self-existence, in common with the Father, and the Holy Ghost. In his human nature, the Branch of growth arising from the root of Jesse. And in both, the source of all fruitfulness, to the Church, in time, and to all eternity. Hail! thou Lord of Joseph, the fruitful bough, whose branches run over the wall! Genesis 49:22.

I detain the Reader to remark to him, that the second verse should be read, as the original will truly allow; Every branch that beareth not fruit in me. For there can be no Branch, really, and truly in Christ, but what must bear fruit. But there may be many, that appear as branches in the Lord's garden the Church; and yet have no union with him. So that what fruit soever they bear, it is not in Christ, neither from Christ; and therefore their root is in themselves, and shall be, as rottenness, and their blossom go up as the dust. Isaiah 5:24; Deuteronomy 32:32. Whereas the true branches, in the true Vine, derive all from the Vine. Every portion of life, and fruitfulness, come from Christ. From me (the Lord saith,) is thy fruit found. Hosea 14:8. Reader! be very jealous over your own heart, on these grand points. See to it, that not only in the first grafting upon Christ, when taken from the old olive tree, which is wild by nature, thou art grafted contrary to nature, (being wholly an act of free sovereign grace in God, and nothing of man concurring with it,) into this true Olive Tree, Christ Jesus; but in all the after actings of life, see to it that it is all upon Christ, and all from Christ. Grace is no self acting principle. All our fresh springs are in Him. Of his fulness do we all receive, and grace for grace; meaning, that we need daily, yea momently, grace from Jesus, to act upon and keep alive, the grace we have before had from Jesus. Christ is all. Romans 11:24; Psalms 87:7; John 1:16.

I detain the Reader one moment longer to remark, respecting what our Lord saith; Abide in me, and I in you. I humbly apprehend, that this is not a mere precept of Christ, but rather a promise. Jesus meant by the expression to say, that by his Holy Spirit, which he was going from them purposely to send, they should be enabled to abide in him. The words, according to my view, are similar to that sweet scripture of Christ, when Jesus breathed on them, and said unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost. John 20:22. This was no precept: commanding them to receive what they had no power to take hold of, without the Lord making them receivers, of what he communicated. In like manner here. Abide in me. Jesus undertakes for them, that they shall abide in him. And I in you. How, but from his own sole grace, could they receive this abiding of Christ in them? But if the Lord Jesus with the precept, wills them into the apprehension of the blessing; and while he thus speaks, communicates the power to receive, and enjoy: how very blessed are our Lord's words read in this sense? Ye shall abide in me; and I will abide in you. And all this is in perfect conformity to our Lord's own everlasting Covenant with his people; in which he hath undertaken, both for himself, and for them. And I will make an everlasting Covenant with them; that I will not turn away from them to do them good: but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me, Jeremiah 32:40. Here we behold the security. The Lord engageth (and well it is that he doth) for both. I will not, saith the Lord, and they shall not. I leave the Reader to his own conclusions, under God the Holy Ghost's teaching, on this subject. But I venture to observe, that there are numberless portions in the word of God, which in their first view, however they may seemingly appear as precepts; yet, explained upon Gospel principles, will be found more in the sweet language of promises, and such as tend to refresh, rather than alarm the soul, in a conscious inability of performance. See Matthew 5:48; 1 Peter 1:15.


Verses 9-25

As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. (10) If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. (11) These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. (12) This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you. (13) Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (14) Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. (15) Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth; but I have called you friends: for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. (16) Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. (17) These things I command you, that ye love one another. (18) If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. (19) If ye were of the world, the world would love his own, but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. (20) Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord: if they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you: if they have kept my saying, they will keep your's also. (21) But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me. (22) If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin. (23) He that hateth me hateth my Father also. (24) If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now they have both seen and hated both me and my Father. (25) But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.

Some of the many blessed things here spoken of by our Lord, are so sweet and plain, as to need no comment: indeed their beautiful simplicity, would suffer by one. I shall only therefore venture to offer an observation or two, which may not at first view appear so obvious as others.

When our Lord saith, in the opening of this passage, that as the Father hath loved him, so hath Christ loved his Church: it is very proper that we should consider, in what sense Jesus meant it. The love here spoken of in relation to the Father's affection towards Jesus, cannot be supposed to be the love he bears to the Son, as God. For in this sense, none but God himself, can apprehend the nature or extent of it. We must be blessed with infinite capacities, before that we can have the smallest conceptions, concerning any one thing, that is in its nature infinite. This, therefore, is not the love to which Jesus refers. Neither is it to be supposed, that the Father's love of Christ, in the Personal glory of God-Man-Mediator, as Christ, is the love here meant This must far exceed Christ's love of the Church. But the sense seems to be, that the love Jesus here speaks of, in relation to his Church, is of the same nature and kind, though not in equal degree. Under these limitations, and with an eye to Christ, as the predisposing cause, in whom, and for whose sake, God the Father loved the Church before all worlds, and chose the Church in Christ before all worlds; there is nothing upon earth can be more blessed, than the assurance Jesus hath here given: both of his Father's love of Him, and his love of the Church in Him. It is blessed, yea very blessed, to ponder the subject in this point of view! Jesus desires the Church to keep always in remembrance, that as the Father loveth Him, in this precious view, as the Head of his body the Church, and as such Christ hath been from everlasting infinitely delightful in his sight: so, saith Jesus, is my Church dear to me, as my Father's gift, and as the several members of my mystical body. Reader! fold up in your bosom those precious words of Jesus, for your unceasing meditation and delight!

I beg the Reader next to notice, what Jesus hath said, in respect to the keeping his commandments, by way of abiding in his love. Not, as if the love of Jesus was suspended on any act of his people: for this would be to subvert the whole plan of the Gospel; and to make the grace of God to depend upon the free will of man. In this case, human merit, and not divine favor, would become the standard of acceptance. Reader! I hope that you have not so learned Christ! Christ's love, is the sole cause of ours. And as we never obtained that love, because we kept his commandments: so our continuing in that love doth not rest, or depend upon, our present or future deservings, more than our past or original merit. The word If, in the beginning of the verse, if ye keep my commandments, seem to be used by Christ in a similar way and manner to the words of his servant the Apostle Paul, in his Epistle to the Hebrews: not as forming a cause, or condition, but rather as the consequence. For speaking of Christ and his house, he saith, whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence. Hebrews 3:6. So again, Hebrews 3:14, We are made partakers of Christ (saith he) if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end. In both those instances, it is our mercy, that neither our being of the house of Christ, built on Him the foundation, nor our being made partakers of Christ as part of himself; depend upon the least act of ours. These things were all settled before the foundation of the world; being chosen in Him, that we should be holy, and without blame, before God and our Father in love. Ephesians 1:4. But the Apostle in both places is speaking of the result of things, and not the cause, or condition of them; but as of a thing actually enjoyed. It is, as if he had said, we manifestly prove that we are Christ's, because we remain on the foundation: and we shew to all the world, that we are made partakers of Christ, because the sweet fruits of his grace, and love, are manifested in our lives, and conversation. In like manner, the keeping Christ's commandments are not meant as the cause, of abiding in his love; but his love is the cause, how his people are enabled to keep his commandments, and abide in him: and these become so many proofs and evidences that they are His, and who continue in his love.

I hope the Reader can, and doth, enter with me, into a suitable apprehension of the sweet character, Jesus makes use of, as a friend. Jesus is indeed the friend that loveth at all times, and one that sticketh closer than a brother. Proverbs 17:17-28; Pro_18:1-24. And who that considers, how from everlasting, Jesus engaged for his Church, as a surety; how he died for us; paid all our debts for us; bought us out of the hands of infinite justice; married our nature; is gone to heaven, to take possession of it in our name; will come again to receive us to himself, that where he is, we may be also: and in the mean time, supplies all our wants, answers all our necessities; and in every circumstance of life, is a constant friend, a faithful friend, an unchanging friend, an everlasting friend: who that thinks of these things, but must enter into a proper apprehension of what the Lord Jesus saith, when he calleth his children friends? Dearest Jesus! how shall I enumerate the thousandth part of the acts of the most disinterested friendship, which thou hast manifested to my soul? What a Friend was the Son of God to our nature, when he passed by that of angels, and took on him the seed of Abraham? What friendship was that, when Jesus became poor, that we through his poverty might be made rich? What love, so unequalled, to die, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God! And what love like thine; when though all forsake us, Jesus will never leave nor forsake his redeemed? Yea, Lord! though we so often believe not, yet thou abidest faithful: Jesus cannot, will not, deny himself. Shall I not say then as the wise man; Thine own friend and thy Father's friend forsake not! Proverbs 27:10. Yes! blessed Lord, everywhere, and in all things, I will speak of thee, with the Church of old, and say, This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem! Song of Solomon 5:16.


Verse 26-27

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. (27) And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning,

If the Reader recollects what was observed, in the preceding Chapter, on the one, chief, and great subject, of this Sermon of our Lord's, namely, concerning the Person, Godhead, Work, and Ministry of the Holy Ghost; he will remember, that it was reserved to the subsequent parts of Christ's discourse, to notice the several offices of God the Spirit, as they were mentioned. Now here, in those verses, the Lord Jesus takes observation of two of them, namely, as the Comforter, and as the Spirit of truth. I therefore beg the Reader to remark with me, some few particulars relating to those blessed offices of God the Holy Ghost.

First, as the Comforter. Now it is the special work of God the Spirit, to bring comfort into the conscience of the Lord's people, in taking of the things of Christ and shewing to them; whereby he fills their hearts with joy and peace in believing, while he makes them to abound in hope through his own sovereign power. His very employment is consolation. And hence nothing can be more suited to him as a name, than the Holy Ghost the Comforter! And, if a child of God at any time feels refreshed with the consolations of Jesus, or the contemplation of the love of God the Father; these precious things are of His working. And hence we are taught to pray for the quickenings of the Spirit; because the Lord the Holy Ghost by those sweet influences, opens a communion between Christ and our souls. He manifests the love of the Father and the Son to the heart; and thus by holding up to our view their love, he awakens his own graces in our hearts, and leads forth the actings of faith and love in them, upon the Persons of the Godhead. Oh! the blessedness of the Holy Ghost, when acting as the Comforter of the Church! What are all the promises and encouragements in the Word, until they are opened and applied by the Lord the Spirit? Blessed God! do thou prove thyself to my soul's joy, as the Holy Ghost the Comforter, in all thy sevenfold gifts; that by opening and keeping open, a continual communion between Christ and my soul, I may hourly rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Secondly. The Lord Jesus speaks of him as the Spirit of truth, to lead into all truth. And what a gracious, compassionate, and wise office, is this? How would the poor, dark ignorant, and senseless children of men, under the Adam-nature of a fallen sinful state, ever have the least apprehension of divine things, but from his divine teaching? Oh! thou Matchless Instructor! hadst thou not shewn me the utterly lost estate of my poor nature by the fall, how should I have ever known my ruin and misery? And hadst thou not opened mine eyes to see the glory and suitableness of the Lord Jesus, what should I ever have apprehended of his glory, and my need of him? Yea! gracious God the Spirit! hadst thou not warmed my soul with his love, as well as informed my understanding by thy grace, thousands of errors would have remained; and though I had obtained an head knowledge, yet no heart influence would have followed, but from thy sovereign saving power. But now, dearest Lord, whilst thou art mercifully pleased to be to me a Spirit of truth, leading to the right apprehension of all truth, and a Spirit of grace, leading to the right performance of all prayer; then the whole comes home warmed and endeared to my heart. I hear the voice behind me, and I feel a power within me, when at any time exercised with doubts or misgivings, saying, This is the way, (even Christ the way,) walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left. Isaiah 30:21. See John 16:8.


Verse 27

REFLECTIONS

Reader! do not fail to observe the intimate oneness and union between Christ and his Church. The vine and its branches are not more closely formed in one, than Jesus and his people. Indeed, there are no figures, no images, either in nature or art, which can fully come up to the resemblance. All figures must fall short of the reality. But while we observe the closeness of union, let you and I be still more anxious to know whether we are the happy partakers of it. Are we indeed One with Christ, and Christ with us? H e that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit. One principle actuates both. What Jesus loves, we love; what Jesus hates, we hate. We look to Jesus for all things, and desire to eye Jesus in all things. Moreover, if one Spirit be in both, we shall undertake nothing but in his strength, and seek nothing but his glory. And as the branch wholly hangs upon, and is kept alive by the vine, so all our graces are kept alive by life in Jesus, and communications from Jesus. Oh! for grace to know these things in a lively, active, spiritual enjoyment of them, that we may be increasing in desires after him, and loosening from everything that is not in him, till we come to see him as he is, and dwell with him forever.

Blessed Holy Comforter of the Lord's people? Gracious Spirit of truth to lead into all truth! Oh! grant to me the knowledge of my Lord under all his sweet and precious offices! Send out Lord! thy light and thy truth to guide my poor soul continually! And, oh! for the daily, hourly renewing of the Holy Ghost, to be shed abundantly upon the churches and people, through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

 


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Bibliography Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on John 15:4". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/john-15.html. 1828.


Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, August 20th, 2017
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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