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Bible Commentaries
John 15

Bell's Commentary on the BibleBell's Commentary

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Verses 1-8

  1. INTRO:
    1. Illustration: A pair of scissors consists of 2 single blades. Yet, the blades, regardless of how sharp or shiny, are useless w/o one essential element - the small metal screw that holds them together.
      1. In our relationship w/God, abiding in Jesus is the screw that holds everything together & makes us useful to Him.
      2. Jesus now uses a similar homespun illustration.
    2. Setting: Arise, let us go from here(14:31). The last supper being over they are still in the room preparing to leave, or they have just left & are on the way to Gethsemane. Maybe passing a vineyard when this subject came up.
      1. Josephus the Historian (Wars of The Jews 5.210) describing the Temple said, “but that gate which was at this end of the first part of the house was,...all over covered with gold, as was its whole wall about it; it had also golden vines above it, from which clusters of grapes hung as tall as a man’s height;”
    3. Bird’s-eye view of chapter: Our Relation to Christ - Our Union & Fruitfulness(1-8); Our Relation to Christians - Our Love & Fellowship(9-17); Our Relation to the World - Our being Hated & need to remain Faithful(18-27).
    4. Worm’s-eye view of chapter: Submit to the Pruning & Keep on Abiding for Jesus’ secret to a fruit-bearing life.
  2. GOD GRAPES! (1-8)
    2. Read Psalm 80:8-19 The vine is the people of Israel (note also the chorus in 3,7,19)
    3. Different Views of “takes away”(or lifts up):
      1. Not taken away but lifting grapes back onto the trellis;
      2. Or, taken away(killed) - but just their flesh, soul/spirit being saved;
      3. Or, only works/fruit being judged (bad works/fruit being burnt up, but not the person)
    4. I think, in me represents 2 classes of “Christians” that are being set forth(real & professing)
      1. For instance the branch that was just lopped off in ch.13...the Judas branch.
      2. Or like the seed of Abraham that weren’t children of Abraham in Rom.11:16-20 If the root is holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree(Gentiles), were grafted in among them(Jews), and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear.
    5. 4 preliminary observations:
      1. F.B.O.(for believers only) - Jesus is talking intimately w/His disciples(not multitude).
        1. His words are to those who already established a relationship w/Him(3).
      2. It’s a Metaphor - The visual picture of the vine & branches tells us that the central idea is a vital union.
        1. It is important to remember that not everything in a parable must mean something!
        2. A parable teaches 1 main truth, & to try to make a parable “stand on all 4 legs” is often the first step toward misinterpretation. (Warren Wiersbe; Outlines of the NT; Jn.15.)
      3. The main subject is Abiding - Jesus uses the image of fruit, not that of a seed taking root.
        1. His thrust is not on becoming a Christian but on becoming a productive Christian.
      4. The result of Abiding is Fruit - A branch is good for 1 thing...bearing fruit.
    6. 3 Symbols:
      1. Vine = [Jesus] He identifies Himself as the genuine vine, the only source of spiritual fruit!
        1. Not as a result of evangelism; but refers to character qualities of Christlikeness (i.e. The fruit of the Spirit)
      2. Vinedresser [Father] God the Father is pictured here as a busy, active, faithful gardner, working in His vineyard.
      3. Branches [Genuine Believers] Here He distinguishes between our position in the Vine(Christ) & our production.
    7. Main Truth: the importance of abiding in Him in order to bear fruit.
      1. Fruit is used 6 x’s & abide at least fifteen times (not always translated “abide”).
      2. The main point of the teaching here is fellowship, not sonship.
    8. (2) 2 Actions of the Vinedresser:
      1. [1] He does something w/the branch that isn’t bearing any fruit at all!
        1. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away
      2. [2] He does something w/the branch that isn’t bearing enough fruit!
        1. Every branch that bears fruit He prunes.
      3. One He takes away; one He prunes. [cut off vs. cut back]
    9. In viticulture 2 principles are generally observed: First, all dead wood must be ruthlessly removed; & Second, the live wood must be cut back drastically.
      1. Why? Dead wood harbors insects & disease & may cause the vine to rot (plus, it’s unproductive & unsightly).
      2. Why? Live wood must be trimmed back in order to prevent such heavy growth that the life of the vine goes into the wood rather than into the fruit.
      3. We know that we are abiding when the Father prunes us.
      4. He cuts away the good, so that we can produce the best!
        1. Which helps to explain why a dedicated Christian often has to go through suffering
        2. Sometimes He cuts back so far that His method seems cruel. Nevertheless, from those who have suffered the most, there often comes the greatest fruitfulness. (Merrill Tenney; John; pg.227,228.)
          1. Q: Is God pruning your life now? - Yes, the pruning knife is sharp. Yes, it will be painful. Yes, you’ll probably bleed more sap. But, fruit is coming. [Illus: Rubber Trees at GFA College, in Kerala, India]
            1. Each night a rubber tapper must remove a thin layer of bark along a downward half spiral on the tree trunk. If done carefully, this tapping panel will yield latex for up to 5 years. Then the opposite side will be tapped allowing this side to heal over. The spiral allow the latex to run down to a collecting cup. The work is done at night so the latex will run longer before drying out.
          2. The branch that is good for something gets the special privilege of the pruning knife. :-)
    10. There is a productive vine (pruned for greater production) & A non-productive vine (cut off for destruction). [The key...one’s relationship to the Vine!]
    11. To abide in Christ means to be in communion with Him so that out lives please Him.
    12. To abide in Christ does not mean to keep ourselves saved.
      1. It means to live in His Word & pray (7), obey His commandments (10), & keep our lives clean through His Word (3,4).
    13. You are already clean/pruned - cleaned, justified, & grafted in (Rom.11)
      1. Our prayer: “Lord, clean my thoughts & prune my motives!”
    14. KEEP ON ABIDING! (4-8)
    15. Ok, Jesus’s 1st secret to to a fruit-bearing life was Submit to the Pruning. The 2nd is to Keep on Abiding!
      1. Abide = “dependence on, rely on, wait for, draw strength from.”
      2. How did Jesus live out His abiding life with the Father?
        1. He had constant contact w/the Father.
        2. He often took deliberate steps to withdraw to be alone (Spurgeon said, “Be not content w/an interview now & then, but seek always to retain His company.”)
    16. Christ said 4 things to us: [1] Come to Me (as Savior) [2] Learn of Me (as Teacher) [3] Follow Me (as Master) [4] Abide in Me (as Life).
      1. So, to abide is the highest requirement of Christ & therefore applies to His faithful disciples.
    17. (5) Stretch your branch far from the root, & bear your strength & sweetness to those who stand outside the wall!
      1. In Jacob’s last words to Joseph (Gen.49:22) he said, Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall. (niv)
    18. 3-Fold progression of spiritual productivity:
      1. Action: Abiding (1) Result: Fruit (2);
      2. Action: Pruning (2) Result: More Fruit (2);
      3. Action: Continued Abiding (5) Result: Much Fruit (5).
    19. What Fruit? Well probably the 9 grapes that form the cluster in Gal.5:22,23a.
      1. Jesus didn’t indicate the nature of the fruit here, but Paul expounded on it.
        1. Love, Joy, Peace - Patience, Kindness, Goodness - Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self control.
    20. Slowly evaluate each one, savor each fruit! - Think of Christ-likeness!
    21. How would you express each one? Here’s how I did:
      1. Love is: When we become transparent, & Jesus shows through very Apparent!
      2. Joy is: An attitude cultivated when the heart smiles!
      3. Peace is: Enjoyment of Godliness & Contentment!
      4. Patience is: The discipline to stop & pray before any decision. Not feeling the worlds pressure to hurry through life.
      5. Kindness is: What is shown even to those who bend us the wrong way!
      6. Goodness is: So general a term it spans every area of our life, in which we strive for the highest Good in all things.
      7. Faithfulness is: Trustworthy in words spoken & deeds promised.
      8. Gentleness is: Not weak but meek; like a strong father picking up his new-born for the1st time
      9. Self-Control is: learning to say no to me!
    22. (5-8) I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. (Message)
    23. Note, the command is not to produce fruit but to abide!
      1. When we’re abiding, fruit comes naturally.
      2. The fruit in view here is not produced by the branch but by the Vine itself!
        1. Without abiding, a branch cannot produce even a bud of real fruit.
        2. The vital sap comes from Him alone.
        3. Nothing, yes nothing of genuine or eternal value. It’s only plastic fruit!
          1. Dr. Howard Hendricks tells of a small town in Texas where 1 year the school burned to the ground with the loss of more than 200 lives, because they didn’t have a sprinkler system. They began to rebuild after the initial shock had passed and called in the foremost company in fire prevention equipment to install a sprinkler system. When the new school was opened for public inspection, guides pointed out the new sprinklers in each room, to alleviate fears of another disaster. The school operated without incident for a number of years, then they needed to add on to the existing structure. As work progressed, they made a startling discovery. The new fire extinguishing equipment had never been connected to the water supply! They had the latest in technology and equipment, yet it was entirely useless!
      3. W/o Me you can do nothing...Lasting!
      4. Nothing, nothing, nothing you do w/your talents, gifts, money, or time, can save one soul, or can bear even one little spiritual grapew/o Christ!” bb
    24. (6) Those that didn’t remain show they didn’t have a saving relationship w/Christ!
      1. 1 Jn.2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.
    25. If we abide in Jesus, we will exhibit the fruit of the Spirit. [But this of course takes time!]
      1. These are not superficial character adjustments that happen over night.
      2. They involve a reshaping of the innermost dispositions of the heart, which is a lifelong process of sanctification by the spirit.
      3. We can’t go home & try to pop out a fruit! – Remain abiding & earnestly seek God’s Spirit to fill you, reshape you, do an inner makeover!
        1. Results? Our prayers answered(7) & the Father glorified(8)!
    26. End Prayer: “Flow through me True Vine, let your: Love, Joy Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, & Self-Control, burst forth in ripening acts of Christlikeness. In the name of The True Vine we pray!”

Verses 9-27

  1. INTRO:
    1. Jesus the Human Gadfly! - A gadfly is a horsefly. Gadfly is also used for “a person who upsets the status quo.” In Plato’s “Apology” he uses a gadfly to describe Socrates relationship with the Athenian political scene, which he compared to a slow dimwitted horse. During his defense when on trial for his life, Socrates, pointed out that dissent, like the tiny gadfly was easy to swat, but the cost to society of silencing individuals who were irritating could be very high. "If you kill a man like me, you will injure yourselves more than you will injure me," because his role was that of a gadfly, "to sting people and whip them into a fury, all in the service of truth."
      1. I think that the illustration of the gadfly is exactly what Jesus is going to discuss in our 2nd part this morning.
    2. Bird’s-eye view of chapter: Our Relation to Christ - Our Union & Fruitfulness (1-8); Our Relation to Christians - Love, Joy, Friends, & Fruit (9-17); Our Relation to The World - What happens, When Two Worlds Collide (18-27).
  2. LOVE, JOY, FRIENDS, & FRUIT! (9-17)
    1. LOVE! (9,10)
    2. Last week we looked at bearing fruit (fruit of the Spirit) – this is still our context today, as we note our 1st topic is Love, which is the 1st of the 9 fruit found in Galatians (Joy/Peace)
    3. My love - The Father loves the Son; the Son loves the believers; the believers love other believers!
    4. JOY! (11)
    5. Many imagine obedience to Christ is burdensome because of its self-surrender, its sacrifice, & its service; but Jesus teaches the opposite associating obedience w/joy. (Geneva Bible)
      1. Like a flag that flies over the castle when the King is on the throne; so JOY will stand over your life as a testimony that Jesus reigns in your heart.
    6. My joy - What was “My Joy”?
      1. Heb.12:1, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross.
      2. His joy was in being the instrument of redemption for the world.
      3. His joy was in being used by God to further the eternal purposes of God.
        1. We can have Joy in the same: being an instrument in the hand of God, & in helping to further His purposes.
      4. Joy is dependence on God & not on circumstances!
      5. Joy when your health is slipping; when your business is failing; Joy in the midst of opposition; in the midst of unemployment; When a loved one passes away; when a boyfriend/girlfriend says goodbye for good.
        1. Joy is dependence on God & not on circumstances!
    7. FRIENDS! (12-15)
    8. This section begins & ends w/Love one another! (see 12,17)
      1. It is a command to love! – A decision not a feeling!
        1. It is a decision to continually seek the highest good of others.
        2. We aren’t to love others on the basis of their inherent goodness or external attractiveness, but on the basis of the example Jesus set for us. (Charles Swindoll; John, vol.3, pg.10)
      2. He doesn’t say, “I command you to generate feelings for one another!”
    9. Up to this point Jesus said, love your neighbors as you love yourself (Lk.10:27) Now, He gives the disciples a new commandment based on a different comparison. They are to love each other as Jesus loved them!
      1. Jesus loved them unconditionally: He loved them in their unbelief (Mt.14:31) He loved them in their pettiness(18:1-6) He loved them in their desertion(26:31) He loved them in their denial(26:33,34) He loved them in their laziness(26:36-46) He loved them in their betrayal (26:47-50) He loved them to the end (Jn.13:1) (ibid; pg.10)
    10. (13) In Disney’s “The Jungle Book” movie (1967) Bagheera(panther) quotes this verse to comfort Mowgli(jungle boy) when they thought Baloo(bear) had died saving Mowgli’s life.
    11. John says it again in 1 Jn.3:16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
      1. Now in vs.13 their relationship moves to a deeper level - beyond discipleship to friendship!
    12. How often have we heard of a firefighter or a police officer who had given his life in the call of duty! [Even greater a love is laying down your life for your enemies!]
      1. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Rom.5:7,8 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
    13. This is Speaking of love as a lifestyle not only as a once & for all event.
      1. Laying down your life is a continual process!
    14. (15) A slave(servant) in Greek law was defined as a “living tool”! (His master never opened up to him)
    15. This phrase “I have called you friends” speaks of a custom which came from the courts of the Roman Emperors & the Eastern kings. (William Barclay, backed by Kittles.)
      1. “At these courts there was a very select group of men who were called “The friends of the king, or the friends of the Emperor.” - At all times they had access to the king. They even had the right to come into his bedchamber at the beginning of the day. - The friends of the king were those who had the closest & the most intimate connection w/him, & who had the right to come to him at any time.”
      2. This sheds light on when the Jews said to Pilate “If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar's friend.” [which was a threat of Impeachment by the people]; Or, when Jesus said to Judas, "Friend, why have you come?"
    16. Not an acquaintance but a friend!
      1. Acquaintances are people who know us on the outside, on the surface.
      2. Friends are people who know us on the inside: our joys, hurts, failures, the secret plans of our lives, soul secrets.
      3. Look how Jesus let these 11 into His life. Sharing his future secrets w/them. Sharing His own struggles, pains, & emotion w/them.
    17. FRUIT! (16,17)
    18. (16) Our branches will bear permanent fruit & Our prayers will be answered.
    19. Imperishable Fruit! – Fruit that has eternal significance.
      1. They say the church should be a community of Dates instead of Pumpkins. Pumpkins you can harvest in 6 months. Dates have to be planted and tended by people who will not live to harvest them. Dates are for future generations.
    20. Go – marks the direction of Christian service.
      1. "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature”; “Go, work today in my vineyard.”; “Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.”; "Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you."; “Go and sin no more."; “Go & bear fruit!”
    1. ​​​​​​​Wow, vs.18 overshadows vs.17 like an eclipse! (darkens the mood)
    2. Hatred for Christians? Why? - They were considered…
      1. Bad Citizens – Wouldn’t confess Caesar as Lord. This branded them disloyal & dangerous.
      2. Cannibals – They ate bodies & drank blood in a private meal.
      3. Promiscuous – Love feasts, kiss of peace.
      4. Dooms Day Disciples – Talked of “the end”, the 2nd coming.
      5. Against the Family – Divided families, split homes, marriages.
    3. The World = human society organizing itself w/o God.
      1. There is bound to be a huge divide between “a group that regards God as the only reality in life & “the man who regards God as totally irrelevant for life”!
      2. The world dislikes those who are different!
        1. (Illus.) Almost 2 centuries ago, a man invented the 1st umbrella & tried it out on a walk through the streets of London. He soon ran into the hostility of people who didn’t want some oddball walking their streets w/his own personal roof on a stick! - They pelted him w/stones & rotten vegetables & chased him off the street!
    4. Hatred – Family & friends will rejoice with you with enthusiasm & affirmation over a new job, a promotion, a new relationship,…until that relationship was w/Jesus Christ?
      1. Then all of a sudden resistance, strange looks, a cold indifference,…it’s the ol’ “oh, you got religion?”
      2. Jesus gives us how to face that situation!
        1. Don’t take it personally. Why? Because it is directed at Him.
      3. Understand, some times we bring this on ourselves by insensitivity, being overbearing, aggressive, or by using pushy witnessing techniques! (God forgive us)
        1. Note also the worlds hatred is not for what they did wrong but what they did right
        2. Hatred from the world is brought on because we are different (at least we should be!) – Remember, He Chose us out of this world (19).
          1. It’s butterflies still living with caterpillars! – We dwell on 2 different planes. – No wonder the frustration of unequally yoked relationships.
        3. The world says, “You’re no fun anymore! You don’t get drunk w/us, tell dirty jokes, sleep around,…you just don’t know how to have a good time anymore!”
          1. ​​​​​​​Oh we can…we don’t want to have that kind of fun! Our wants have changed! - It’s not what we can’t do – It’s what we no longer want to do because of holiness & pleasing our Lord!
    5. (20) Persecute - “to put to flight”, “to pursue”, “to chase like a wild beast.”
      1. Christianity is the most persecuted religion on the planet. It is illegal or severely restricted in 51 different countries.
        1. *More than 43 million Christians have been killed for their faith since the crucifixion of Jesus. *It's been estimated that more Christians have been martyred in the 20th Century than in all the prior 1,900 years combined. * There have been more than 26 million documented cases of martyrdom in this century alone. * More than 200 million Christians in over 60 nations face persecution each day 60% of these are children * 150-165,000 are martyred each yr.
      2. We are excited to invite you to the VOM Regional Conference: Bound w/ Them, Sat, Nov.14 here at CM. (Free!)
        1. VOM speakers will encourage and challenge you with their testimonies.
      3. Tom White, Executive Director of VOM-USA, was imprisoned in Cuba in May 1979. After many missions dropping hundreds of thousands of gospels onto the communist island, his private plane crashed on a Cuban highway. He was sentenced to 24 years in prison. He received brutal treatment in the prison.
      4. Steven Khoury youngest ordained Arab pastor in Israel/Palestinian territories.
      5. Eric Foley founded VOM Korea, to support the work of the indigenous underground church in North Korea.
      6. Mujahid El Masih was committed to jihad in Pakistan until Jesus brought him peace, and he became a pastor.
      7. Getaneh Getaneh of Ethiopia was imprisoned and suffered for his faith when communism came to his country.
    6. (22) Not sin in the general sense (they are without excuse) but the particular sin of hating Jesus & those who belong to Him.
  4. IV. WITNESSING! (26,27)
    1. (26) The voice of the church has always testified of Him, & here we see that testimony is backed up w/the H.S. testifying through us!
    2. (27) “Saving knowledge is diffused over the earth, not like sunlight but like torchlight, which is passed from hand to hand.” (James Strachan, Leadership, Vol. 7, no. 2.)
      1. Just open your mouth & tell about what God has done for you!
      2. Christian witness comes from long fellowship & intimacy w/Christ!
    3. A witness is one w/an outward testimony!
      1. A Christian witness is a man who not only knows Christ – but who wants others to know Him too.
    4. End: Christianity spread rapidly during the first century because all Christians saw themselves as responsible for disseminating the gospel.
      1. Q: How many people are you making homesick for God?
      2. Give a man a Dollar, and you cheer his heart. Give him a Dream, and you challenge his heart. Give him Christ, and you change his heart.
      3. John Wesley used to say, “I look upon all the world as my parish.”
    5. Instead of telling people to give up things, it’s better to tell them to "seek first the kingdom of God," and then they will get new things and better things, and the old things will drop off by themselves.
    6. * If we are abiding in Christ, we will love the brethren, & get victory over the hatred of the world.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on John 15". "Bell's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbb/john-15.html. 2017.
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