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the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26
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John 15

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This chapter is a continuation of the farewell discourses. True, the Lord gave the signal to conclude the meal and depart; but see the final paragraph in the preceding chapter. As Dodds said:

He saw their reluctance to move, and the alarmed and bewildered expression that hung upon their faces; and he could not but renew his efforts to banish their forebodings and impart to them intelligent courage to face separation from him. Marcus Dodds, The Gospel of St. John (Cincinnati, Ohio: Jennings and Graham), Vol. II, p. 175.

First, in this chapter, is Jesus’ metaphor of himself as the true vine and the admonition to fruit bearing; then follows a restatement of teachings and exhortations previously given, including another reference to the Holy Spirit.


Marcus Dodds, The Gospel of St. John (Cincinnati, Ohio: Jennings and Graham), Vol. II, p. 175.

Verse 1

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.

This is parallel to John 15:5 and the seventh of the great "I am’s" of this Gospel. For a list of these, see under John 8:12.

Jesus’ choice of this metaphor has been attributed to: (1) a fruitful vine growing over the window of the upper room where the discourses were spoken, (2) to the great ornamental vine decorating the door of the temple, (3) to the vineyards through which the Lord and the disciples passed when they left the upper room, (4) to Jeremiah’s words, through which God said of Israel, "I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed: how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me?" (Jeremiah 2:21), or (5) to the institution of the Lord’s Supper which occurred during the last supper just concluded. Either (4) or (5) of the above, and perhaps both of them, explain the choice of metaphor here.

I am the true vine … The stress of "true" focuses attention on Jeremiah 2:21, in which passage the degeneracy of Israel was in view. Christ meant by this that he himself is the true Israel of God, the seed of Abraham through whom all the prophecies were to be fulfilled. The degenerate Israel’s hatred of him which was reaching its climax at that very time was a most impelling reason why Christ should have stressed his status as God’s true vine. The mention of "husbandman" in this context is most significant. The husbandman: God, will reject and destroy the degenerate vine, and the spiritual seed will be continued in the true vine, that is, "in Christ."

But, as Robertson observed, "It is almost certain that there was an additional reason for the use of this allegory." A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (New York and London, 1932), Vol. V, p. 257. Also, as Hendriksen noted, "During the institution of the Lord’s Supper. Jesus had spoken dramatically of the ’fruit of the vine’ (Luke 22:18), and scholars have great difficulty explaining this metaphor without reference to the Lord’s Supper just instituted." William Hendriksen, Exposition of the Gospel according to John (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1961), II, p. 296.

The supplementary nature of John is apparent in this inclusion of the allegory of the vine which was omitted by the synoptics.

Verse 2

Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh it away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he cleanseth it, that it may bear more fruit.

Not only will the husbandman (God) reject the degenerate vine, he will also give the strictest attention to the true vine, extended here to mean not merely Christ but all the church "in him."

Every branch in me … See under John 14:20 for elaboration of the significance of being "in Christ." One not in Christ has the same status as a severed branch. Note that the responsibility of Christians is retained, the fruitless members being taken away. Even those who bear fruit are pruned to make them more fruitful. That very evening had revealed Judas as a branch which the Father took away and Peter as a branch that would be pruned. Of course, the primary application to the analogy here is to the apostles; but there is a sense in which, by extension, the teachings apply to all who are in the Lord.

He cleanseth it … The RSV has "prunes it" here which more exactly fits the metaphor. All Christians need pruning! As Henry said:

The best have something in them which is peccant, something which should be taken away; some notions, passions, or humours, that want to be purged away; which Christ has promised to do by his word, Spirit, and providence. Matthew Henry, Commentary (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company), p. 1123.

Verse 3

Already ye are clean because of the word which I have spoken unto you.

Christ here intimates that the apostles do not at the moment need "pruning," having already been pruned enough by the devastating teachings and revelations of that entire evening. Their pride, secularism, trust of themselves, and their vain ambitions had all been swept away in the knowledge of Judas’ treachery, Peter’s forthcoming denial, and the Lord’s impending death, the latter being a fact that their minds could no longer avoid. However, the idea persists that these words were spoken prophetically, the present tense being used for the future; because, actually, much pruning remained for the beloved Twelve.

Because of the word … The instrument of cleansing from sin is the word of God. Some have supposed the Holy Spirit to be the cleansing agent in redemption; but this is not true, if by "agent" is meant the means of cleansing. The Spirit is sent into men’s hearts not to make them sons of God, or to cleanse them, but because they are already so (Galatians 4:6). "The sword of the Spirit … is the word of God" (Ephesians 6:17); therefore, the word of God is the means and the Holy Spirit is the applicator or wielder of the means of cleansing from sin. What was true of the Twelve is true of all who are ever saved. It is "because of the word" of God.

Verse 4

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; so neither can ye, except ye abide in me.

Abide in me … standing at both ends of this verse is, in short, the plan of human redemption. All depends upon one’s being "in Christ," and abiding "in him" until probation has ended. Jesus did not here elaborate the means by which one is brought into such a sacred relationship with himself; but the New Testament leaves no doubt of how this comes about. Men are baptized into Christ (Romans 6:3; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:27), nor is any other means of entry into Christ disclosed in the sacred Scriptures. See under John 14:20.

Verse 5

I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for apart from me ye can do nothing.

See under John 15:1 and John 15:4, and under John 14:20.

Apart from me ye can do nothing … As regards procurement of righteousness in the sight of God, no human being can ever achieve any semblance of it. Christ Jesus wrought the only righteousness (in the ultimate sense) ever known on earth. No man could ever achieve the tiniest fraction of such a righteousness as that of Christ; and therefore, no man can be saved as HIMSELF. The only way he can be saved is to be saved as CHRIST. God makes sinners righteous, not by imputing to them "a righteousness" of some kind, but by transferring the sinner himself "into Christ," thus identifying him as Christ and thus enabling the sinner to be presented "perfect in Christ" (Colossians 1:28). The analogy in the metaphor is that the branch is in fact the vine, being in it, and part of it; but when that union is destroyed by the branch’s being cut off, it dies.

Verse 6

If a man abides not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

Here is the answer to the old question of whether or not a Christian can so sin as to be lost. Both the precept and the example are here. Judas, at first a true apostle, did not abide in Christ and was cast forth as a branch. Salvation for every man ever born turns upon just two questions: (1) is he "in Christ"? and (2) does he remain "in Christ"? Given an affirmative answer to those two key questions, a man’s salvation is absolutely secure. There is no way to be lost if one, "being in Christ." remains "in him" until probation is ended. "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord" (Revelation 14:13).

This verse is not a lesson in horticulture. The casting into the fire and burning are references to the final fate of the wicked who know not God and obey not the gospel of Christ.

And they gather them and cast them into the fire … Men are not charged with such responsibility as this, the gatherers here being the angels of God (Matthew 13:41,49).

This metaphor breaks down at one point, because branches of a vine have no choice of remaining or not remaining in the vine; but individuals in Christ do have such a choice. This concept is inherent in Jesus’ command to "abide in me," the power to do so being implied by the command itself.

Verse 7

If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

And my words abide in you … This is here made the equivalent of Christ abiding in his disciples and of their abiding in him. See under John 14:20.

Whatsoever ye will … is not a promise that anything that might be asked of God by any person will be done, but means that a person truly "in Christ," and asking in harmony with the Father’s will, will have his prayers answered. This is one of the great promises.

Verse 8

Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; and so shall ye be my disciples.

That ye bear much fruit … The worldwide thrust of Christianity is in this. The great purpose of the Lord’s coming into our world was to save the entire human race if possible. "Whosoever will" is invited. The great commission was to the "whole creation." In the very shadow of the cross, Jesus’ passionate desire was "much fruit"; and Jesus’ stressing this here emphasizes the truth that the evangelization of the whole world is the first, last, and great duty of the church.

Fruit … may not be understood here as meaning exclusively the manifestation of the graces and virtues of holy living, although the fruit of the Spirit is definitely said to be such things (Galatians 5:22). A larger and more comprehensive meaning is included here, namely, that of producing more Christians. Conversions are the fruit Christ had in view here; and no Christian, and no church, can be considered truly "in Christ" unless passionately engaged in soul-winning. At this point, the farewell discourse of Jesus turned to his love and the necessity of his followers abiding in his love, thus concluding the analogy of the vine.


Christ is the true Israel of God, the seed of Abraham through whom all the prophecies were fulfilled; and union with Christ is the way to salvation and eternal life. Whether apostles or just Christians, all who hope for redemption must be "in Christ," abide in him, and be found in him at last. Failure to abide in the Lord, that is, failure to abide in his teachings: or failure to remain in his spiritual body, shall ever result in forfeiture of all spiritual blessings. The great purpose of unity with Christ is the salvation of the world, to the extent it may be possible. Men shall recognize Christ’s disciples by their constant efforts to enlist others in the service of Christ. "And so shall ye be my disciples."

The writer is indebted to the father of James H. Childress for the following thoughts on Christ as the true vine. He said:

On the true vine, the grapes always grow in clusters, that is, in congregations; but, on wild grapes, like the Muscadine, the grapes grow in one’s and two’s all over it. Therefore Christians must: belong to congregations, and not float around like the grapes on the wild vine. Also, every cluster of grapes has a few "no good" grapes on it; and there are no congregations which do not manifest the same characteristic.

It is not affirmed here that such thoughts were in the mind of the Lord when he gave the analogy; but none can deny the truth of Brother Childress’ deductions from it.

Verse 9

Even as the Father has loved me, I also have loved you: abide ye in my love.

Regarding the strange use of the perfect tense here, Westcott noted that:

It is simpler to regard the tense as chosen with regard to a work now looked upon as completed, according to the usage which is not infrequent in these discourses. The love of Christ, as it were, is looked upon as the atmosphere in which the disciple lives. B. F. Westcott, The Gospel according to St. John (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1971), p. 219.

Abide ye in my love … again presupposes the ability of the believer either to abide, or not abide, depending upon his own will, and not upon any capricious election from all eternity. Westcott stressed that "This enjoyment depends upon the human side upon the will of man, for it can be made the subject of a command." Ibid.

Verse 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.

The love of Christ by his disciples and his reciprocal love for them do not indicate a subjective emotional condition but a course of obedient action. This verse is almost the converse of John 14:15 (which see); and, taken together, they strongly teach that the love of Christ on the part of men means keeping Christ’s commandments. This is reinforced by the truth, also stated in this verse, that even the love of the Father by the Son meant keeping God’s commandments. Once more in John, it is revealed that the relationship between Christians and Christ is the same as that between Christ and the Father.

Verse 11

These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.

Jesus had spoken of the Holy Spirit repeatedly during that evening; and since the fruit of the Holy Spirit is "love, joy, peace … etc." (Galatians 5:22), it is rather significant that this triad of love, joy, and peace finds such tremendous emphasis throughout this discourse. (See also John 14:27.) This rather extended discussion of the FRUITS of the Holy Spirit must therefore be viewed as preparatory to Jesus’ return to the subject of the Holy Spirit later in the discourse. These sacred references to the fruits of the Spirit throughout the farewell discourse disprove the allegations of Windisch and others who claim that the Spirit passages do not fit.

Joy … Like the love mentioned in John 15:10, the joy here is not so much a subjective state of ecstasy as it is a state of spiritual serenity, much higher and more satisfying than a mere emotional state of euphoria. All such things as fun, pleasure, delight, happiness, gladness, etc., are on a lower level than the joy promised by the Lord.

Verse 12

This is my commandment, that ye love one another, even as I have loved you.

This is identical with John 13:34, which see. Although not so designated here, it is the "new commandment."

Verse 13

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

These words evidently inspired the reference of the apostle Paul to the incredible fact that Christ died for men while they were yet sinners (see my Commentary on Romans, pp. 183-185). The love of Jesus for men is here contrasted with the highest conceivable example of man’s love for men, the love of Christ far exceeding any love that men might have for one another.

Verse 14

Ye are my friends, if ye do the things which I command you. No longer do I call you servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I heard from my Father I have made known unto you.

The utmost desire on the part of God that people should obey him and receive his blessing is seen in the teaching here. God manifested itself in the person of his Son; and, having every right to command, he nevertheless stooped to plead with men and to solicit them as friends to do his will.

No longer … servants … is not an excuse for Christians to abandon the concept of themselves as bondslaves of Christ (Romans 1:1); but the teaching is that the Lord treats his followers far better than any servant deserves to be treated.

My Father … Christ often used the first person possessive in speaking of the Father, a use not allowed to disciples who were instructed to pray, "Our Father" (Matthew 6:9). A clear implication of Jesus’ Godhead is in this distinction.

All things that I heard from my Father … Jesus’ revelation was complete; and, in its completeness, it was delivered to the apostles, who were enabled to remember it completely by the power of the Holy Spirit (John 16:13). This means that subsequent revelations of God’s will are not. If Jesus did not teach it, his followers should not be duped into believing it, no matter what it is. In the light of this, where do such works as Science and Health, The Book of Mormon, and the encyclicals of popes appear?

Verse 16

Ye did not choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that ye should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should abide; that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

The supernatural nature of the call of the apostles to their God-appointed task is in view here. Their commission to teach all nations did not derive from some voluntary assumption of such an office on their part but was imposed upon them from above by Christ’s choice of them for that work.

But I chose you … Concerning this, Westcott said:

Here (and in John 6:70 and John 13:18) the eleven are regarded as representatives of the Lord in relation to his church, favoring the interpretation (that this is reference to a call of the apostleship). The power of the office of the apostles lay for them in the fact that it was not self chosen. Ibid., p. 221.

This passage strongly suggests the great commission (Matthew 28:18-20) in the mention of Jesus’ being perpetually with them to provide whatever might be asked of the Father.

Verse 17

These things I command you, that ye may love one another.

This oft-repeated commandment is here reinforced by the fact of their being co-holders of the sacred commission to all nations. Each of them had been empowered by God’s specific act of choosing them to their sacred task; and, in such a dignity, they were even further entitled and admonished to love each other.

Verse 18

If the world hateth you, ye know it hath hated me before it hated you.

The bitter hatred of an unregenerated world was inevitable for the people singled out and chosen by Almighty God as his plenipotentiaries in the solemn business of extending eternal life to mankind and proclaiming the conditions under which it would be granted. There was no way the world COULD love such people, whose very lives and commission would ever be anathema to sinful man. The Lord, in this scene, was acutely conscious that the evil hatreds and maledictions which had marked the attitude of man toward himself would inevitably be directed in full fury against the holy apostles.

Verse 19

If ye were of the world, the world would love its own: but because ye are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

Inherent in the world’s hatred of Christ was also the undying hatred of the apostles and the divine message they delivered to men. In this lies the reason why unregenerated men have authored whole libraries of rejection and hatred against the Gospel of John. Given the two facts, (1) of what unregenerates are in themselves, and (2) of what the glorious Gospel of John is, and the hatred of this Gospel becomes absolutely inevitable. Can anyone believe for a minute that the word of Christ through the apostles is treated with any less bias and hatred than that which marked the world’s treatment of Christ and the apostles themselves? See under John 15:24.

Verse 20

Remember the word that I said unto you, A servant is not greater than his lord. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also.

This is the same as John 13:16, which see. The thrust of these words is as follows: as the world treated Jesus, so will it treat the apostles, and so it will treat the word of the apostles, that is, the New Testament. From this, as a matter of sacred principle, slanders of this Gospel (as well as of any part of God’s word) may be instantly related to the hatred of Christ.

Verse 21

But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.

All these things … are the hatred, disobedience, mockery, persecution, lying trials, scourging, and death itself, etc., which marked the treatment of Christ by the world; and Jesus’ promise here is that nothing will be left out in the world’s similar treatment of the apostles. The holy Saviour was the object of Satan’s unrelenting scorn, hatred, and opposition; and the apostles who would bear his name before kings, Gentiles, and the children of Israel would incur the full measure of satanic opposition. That Satan is actually the author of all such opposition is implicit in the fact that long after that generation had descended into the grave, the same bitterness and hatred continued against the truth, only with a new set of human opponents in each succeeding generation. Only Satan could continue unabated the organization, marshaling, and deployment of his devices in one unending campaign throughout all history, with a hundred generations in turn playing out the same role of hating the Saviour of the world, telling the same lies, sneering the same sneers, sinning the same sins, repeating the same mockeries, and shutting their eyes to the same truths - just like always! In nearly two millennia NOT ONE NEW THING has been alleged by the devil and his servants against the Christ of glory. The war has already been won, but so many do not know it.

Verse 22

If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no excuse for their sin.

This explains the implacable hatred of evil men for the truth. The wicked soul desires nothing so much as to be left alone; there is something terribly upsetting about an aroused conscience; and unregenerates will avoid disturbing a conscience with the intensity of a burglar tiptoeing past the guard dog. "Let us alone" (Mark 1:24 KJV) has been the cry of the depraved and corrupted of all ages. If Jesus had not confronted men with the fact of their wickedness, they would have had an excuse to continue in it.

Verse 23

He that hateth me hateth my Father also.

Jesus said:

  • I and the Father are one (John 10:30).

  • He that believeth on me, believeth … on him that sent me (John 12:44).

  • He that beholdeth me beholdeth him that sent me (John 12:45).

  • If ye had known me, ye would have known my Father also (John 14:7).

  • He that honoreth not the Son honoreth not the Father (John 5:23).

  • He that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me (John 13:20).

  • God will send the Comforter (John 14:16); Christ will send the Comforter (John 15:26).

Thus this verse is another variation upon the dominant theme of John: hating Jesus is one and the same thing as hating God.

Verse 24

If I had not done among them the works which none other did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.

Beginning at John 15:18 and through John 15:25, Jesus warned the little band of the attitude of the "world" toward them and their holy mission. It would be one of unyielding hostility and animosity, for there could never be any way by which the carnal mind would love and accept the teachings of Jesus. As Hunter noted:

The WORLD bears its characteristically Johannine meaning - "human society as it organizes itself apart from God." The world’s attitude to his disciples, he forecasts, will be a continuation of its attitude to himself - hatred, not love …. True then, it is true still, and always will be. A. M. Hunter, The Gospel according to John (Cambridge: University Press, 1965), p. 151.

Verse 25

But this cometh to pass, that the word may be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.

Their law … stresses the inordinate regard the priests had for the external features of Moses’ law; and it was "theirs" in the sense of the affectionate regard they professed for it, while actually denying it by their sinful conduct. Note that the quotation ascribed to "the law" was not from the Pentateuch, thus revealing that the term "law" was a reference to the entire Old Testament. Passages referred to are:

Let not them that are mine enemies wrongfully rejoice over me;

Neither let them wink with the eye that hate me without a cause (Psalms 35:19).

They trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief and bring forth iniquity (Isaiah 59:4).

Hated me without a cause … means "without a just cause." That there was indeed a reason why they hated Christ is plain in John 3:19. Evil is its own sufficient reason for hating truth and righteousness. John never forgot this teaching and made it the basis of his comment on Cain:

Cain was of the evil one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his works were evil, and his brother’s righteous (1 John 3:12).

That the word may be fulfilled … Even in the dark hours that lay ahead, with all their sorrow, and even in the contemplation of the flood of evil that would engulf him and his followers, the Lord calmly pointed out that nothing strange was happening; all was going according to God’s plan; the Scriptures had foretold all that would happen in the dark hours ahead.

Verse 26

But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall bear witness of me: and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.

This is the third of the five so-called Paraclete passages in John, so named because the Greek word [@parakletos]; translated "Comforter," is found in the first four of these passages. See under John 14:16,17. There is no contradiction in the fact of Jesus’ sending the Comforter and the Father’s sending him (see under John 15:23). Critics who see a contradiction in these passages have simply missed the main point of this Gospel, namely, that Christ and the Father are one.

Spirit of truth … is another designation of the Comforter and stresses the function of completing the apostles’ memory of all that Jesus had told them, the same being, in turn, all that God had told Jesus (John 15:15). There is an intimate connection here with John 15:15, making it impossible to think of this reference to the Comforter as an interpolation. This reference is absolutely necessary to understanding (1) how it will be possible for the apostles to deliver the total message of Christ to the world (John 15:15), and (2) how they are to realize such fruits of the Spirit as "peace" (John 14:27), "love" (John 15:10), "joy" (John 15:11), etc. This repeated mention of certain fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) in the verses leading up to this passage makes it certain that further reference to the blessed Comforter had been in Jesus’ mind throughout the chapter.

Because ye have been with me from the beginning … This has reference to a primary requirement for the office of an apostle (Acts 1:21,22); and the introduction of this clause by the word "because" shows that these teachings about the Holy Spirit have reference to apostles, and not to all Christians. It is true, of course, that Christians receive an earnest of the Holy Spirit; but it is simply not true, nor do the Scriptures teach it, that the Holy Spirit will guide Christians into all truth. The proof of this is apparent in the fact that "all truth" is something that cannot be accurately associated with ANY Christian! Note also the fact that the guidance into all truth (in the apostles) by the Spirit was to be accomplished by bringing to their remembrance whatsoever Jesus had said unto them (John 14:26). How could the Holy Spirit help just any Christian to "remember what Jesus had said unto him," when, as a matter of fact, the Christian has never heard Jesus say anything at all? Thus, this final clause becomes a key to understanding the Paraclete passages.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on John 15". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/john-15.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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