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THE VINE AND THE BRANCHES ( John 15:1-10 )
15:1-10 "I am the real vine and my Father is the vine-dresser. He destroys every branch in me which does not bear fruit; and he cleanses every branch which does bear fruit, so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean through the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in me even as I abide in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit in its own strength, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. The man who abides in me, and in whom I abide, bears much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he will be cast out like a withered branch. And they gather such branches and throw them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask what you will, and it will be given to you. It is by the fact that you bear such fruit, and that you show yourselves to be my disciples, that my Father is glorified. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love. As I have kept my Father's commandments, so I abide in his love."
Jesus, as so often, is working in this passage with pictures and ideas which were part of the religious heritage of the Jewish nation. Over and over again in the Old Testament, Israel is pictured as the vine or the vineyard of God. "The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel" ( Isaiah 5:1-7). "Yet I planted you a choice vine" is God's message to Israel through Jeremiah ( Jeremiah 2:21). Ezekiel 15:1-8 likens Israel to the vine, as does Ezekiel 19:10. "Israel is a luxuriant vine," said Hosea ( Hosea 10:1). "Thou didst bring a vine out of Egypt," sang the Psalmist, thinking of God's deliverance of his people from bondage ( Psalms 80:8). The vine had actually become the symbol of the nation of Israel. It was the emblem on the coins of the Maccabees. One of the glories of the Temple was the great golden vine upon the front of the Holy Place. Many a great man had counted it an honour to give gold to mould a new bunch of grapes or even a new grape on to that vine. The vine was part and parcel of Jewish imagery, and the very symbol of Israel.
Jesus calls himself the true vine. The point of that word alethinos ( G228) , true, real, genuine, is this. It is a curious fact that the symbol of the vine is never used in the Old Testament apart from the idea of degeneration. The point of Isaiah's picture is that the vineyard has run wild. Jeremiah complains that the nation has turned into "degenerate and become a wild vine." It is as if Jesus said: "You think that because you belong to the nation of Israel you are a branch of the true vine of God. But the nation it is; a degenerate vine, as all your prophets saw. It is I who am the true vine. The fact that you are a Jew will not save you. The only thing that can save you is to have an intimate living fellowship with me, for I am the vine of God and you must be branches joined to me." Jesus was laying it down that not Jewish blood but faith in him was the way to God's salvation. No external qualification can set a man right with God; only the friendship of Jesus Christ can do that.
THE VINE AND THE BRANCHES ( John 15:1-10 continued)
When Jesus drew his picture of the vine he knew what he was talking about. The vine was grown all over Palestine as it still is. It is a plant which needs a great deal of attention if the best fruit is to be got out of it. It is grown commonly on terraces. The ground has to be perfectly clean. It is sometimes trained on trellises; it is sometimes allowed to creep over the ground upheld by low forked sticks; it sometimes even grows round the doors of the cottages; but wherever it grows careful preparation of the soil is essential. It grows luxuriantly and drastic pruning is necessary. So luxuriant is it that the slips are set in the ground at least twelve feet apart, for it will creep over the ground at speed. A young vine is not allowed to fruit for the first three years and each year is cut drastically back to develop and conserve its life and energy. When mature, it is pruned in December and January. It bears two kinds of branches, one that bears fruit and one that does not; and the branches that do not bear fruit are drastically pruned back, so that they will drain away none of the plant's strength. The vine can not produce the crop of which it is capable without drastic pruning--and Jesus knew that.
Further, the wood of the vine has the curious characteristic that it is good for nothing. It is too soft for any purpose. At certain times of the year, it was laid down by the law, the people must bring offerings of wood to the Temple for the altar fires. But the wood of the vine must not be brought. The only thing that could be done with the wood pruned out of a vine was to make a bonfire of it and destroy it. This adds to the picture Jesus draws.
He says that his followers are like that. Some of them are lovely fruit-bearing branches of himself; others are useless because they bear no fruit. Who was Jesus thinking of when he spoke of the fruitless branches? There are two answers. First, he was thinking of the Jews. They were branches of God's vine. Was not that the picture that prophet after prophet had drawn? But they refused to listen to him; they refused to accept him; therefore they were withered and useless branches. Second, he was thinking of something more general. He was thinking of Christians whose Christianity consisted of profession without practice, words without deeds; he was thinking of Christians who were useless branches, all leaves and no fruit. And he was thinking of Christians who became apostates, who heard the message and accepted it and then fell away, becoming traitors to the Master they had once pledged themselves to serve.
So then there are three ways in which we can be useless branches. We can refuse to listen to Jesus Christ at all. We can listen to him, and then render him a lip service unsupported by any deeds. We can accept him as Master, and then, in face of the difficulties of the way or the desire to do as we like, abandon him. One thing we must remember. It is a first principle of the New Testament that uselessness invites disaster. The fruitless branch is on the way to destruction.
THE VINE AND THE BRANCHES ( John 15:1-10 continued)
In this passage there is much about abiding in Christ. What is meant by that? It is true that there is a mystical sense in which the Christian is in Christ and Christ is in the Christian. But there are many--maybe they are in the majority--who never have this mystical experience. If we are like that, we must not blame ourselves. There is a much simpler way of looking at this and of experiencing it, a way open to anyone.
Let us take a human analogy. All analogies are imperfect but we must work with the ideas which we possess. Suppose a person is weak. He has fallen to temptation; he has made a mess of things; he is on the way down to degeneracy of mind and heart and mental fibre. Now suppose that he has a friend of a strong and lovely and loving nature, who rescues him from his degraded situation. There is only one way in which he can retain his reformation and keep himself on the right way. He must keep contact with his friend If he loses that contact; all the chances are that his weakness will overcome him; the old temptations will rear their heads again; and he will fall. His salvation lies in continual contact with the strength of his friend.
Many a time a down-and-out has been taken to live with someone fine. So long as he continued in that fine home and that fine presence he was safe. But when he kicked over the traces and went off on his own, he fell. We must keep contact with the fine thing in order to defeat the evil thing. Robertson of Brighton was one of the great preachers. There was a tradesman who had a little shop; in the back room he kept a photograph of Robertson, for he was his hero and his inspiration. Whenever he was tempted to carry out a bit of sharp practice, he would rush into the back room and look at the photograph and the temptation was defeated. When Kingsley was asked the secret of his life, referring to F. D. Maurice he said: "I had a friend." The contact with loveliness made him lovely.
Abiding in Christ means something like that. The secret of the life of Jesus was his contact with God; again and again he withdrew into a solitary place to meet him. We must keep contact with Jesus. We cannot do that unless we deliberately take steps to do it. To take but one example--to pray in the morning, if it be for only a few moments, is to have an antiseptic for the whole day; for we cannot come out of the presence of Christ to touch the evil things. For some few of us, abiding in Christ will be a mystical experience which is beyond words to express. For most of us, it will mean a constant contact with him. It will mean arranging life, arranging prayer, arranging silence in such a way that there is never a day when we give ourselves a chance to forget him.
Finally, we must note that here there are two things laid down about the good disciple. First, he enriches his own life; his contact makes him a fruitful branch. Second, he brings glory to God; the sight of his life turns men's thoughts to the God who made him like that. God is glorified, when we bear much fruit and show ourselves to be disciples of Jesus. The greatest glory of the Christian life is that by our life and conduct we can bring glory to God.
THE LIFE OF JESUS' CHOSEN PEOPLE ( John 15:11-17 )
15:11-17 "I have spoken these things to you that my joy might be in you, and that your joy might be complete. This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, that a man should lay down his life for his friend. You are my friends, if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because the slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends because I have made known to you everything that I heard from my Father. You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and I have appointed you to go out and to bear fruit, of such a kind that it will remain. I have done so, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. These are my orders to you, that you love one another."
The central words of this passage are those in which Jesus says that his disciples have not chosen him, but he has chosen them. It was not we who chose God, but God who, in his grace, approached us with a call and an offer made out of his love.
Out of this passage we can compile a list of things for which we are chosen and to which we are called.
(i) We are chosen for joy. However hard the Christian way is, it is, both in the travelling and in the goal, the way of joy. There is always a joy in doing the right thing. The Christian is the man of joy, the laughing cavalier of Christ. A gloomy Christian is a contradiction in terms, and nothing in all religious history has done Christianity more harm than its connection with black clothes and long faces. It is true that the Christian is a sinner, but he is a redeemed sinner; and therein lies his joy. How can any man fail to be happy when he walks the ways of life with Jesus?
(ii) We are chosen for love. We are sent out into the world to love one another. Sometimes we live as if we were sent into the world to compete with one another, or to dispute with one another, or even to quarrel with one another. But the Christian is to live in such a way that he shows what is meant by loving his fellow men. It is here that Jesus makes another of his great claims. If we ask him: What right have you to demand that we love one another? His answer is: "No man can show greater love than to lay down his life for his friends--and I did that." Many a man tells men to love each other, when his whole life is a demonstration that that is the last thing he does himself. Jesus gave men a commandment which he had himself first fulfilled.
(iii) Jesus called us to be his friends. He tells his men that he does not call them slaves any more; he calls them friends. Now that is a saying which would be even greater to those who heard it for the first time than it is to us. Doulos ( G1401) , the slave, the servant of God was no title of shame; it was a title of the highest honour. Moses was the doulos ( G1401) of God ( Deuteronomy 34:5); so was Joshua ( Joshua 24:29); so was David ( Psalms 89:20). It is a title which Paul counted it an honour to use ( Titus 1:1); and so did James ( James 1:1). The greatest men in the past had been proud to be called the douloi ( G1401) , the slaves of God. And Jesus says: "I have something greater for you yet, you are no longer slaves; you are friends." Christ offers an intimacy with God which not even the greatest men knew before he came into the world.
The idea of being the friend of God has also a background. Abraham was the friend of God ( Isaiah 41:8). In Wis_7:27 Wisdom is said to make men the friends of God. But this phrase is lit up by a custom which obtained both at the courts of the Roman Emperors and of the eastern kings. At these courts there was a very select group of men called the friends of the king, or the friends of the Emperor. At all times they had access to the king: they had even the right to come to his bedchamber at the beginning of the day. He talked to them before he talked to his generals, his rulers, and his statesmen. The friends of the king were those who had the closest and the most intimate connection with him.
Jesus called us to be his friends and the friends of God. That is a tremendous offer. It means that no longer do we need to gaze longingly at God from afar off; we are not like slaves who have no right whatever to enter into the presence of the master; we are not like a crowd whose only glimpse of the king is in the passing on some state occasion. Jesus gave us this intimacy with God, so that he is no longer a distant stranger, but our close friend.
THE LIFE OF JESUS' CHOSEN PEOPLE ( John 15:11-17 continued)
(iv) Jesus did not only choose us for a series of tremendous privileges. He called us to be his partners. The slave could never be a partner. He was defined in Greek law as a living tool. His master never opened his mind to him; the slave simply had to do what he was told without reason and without explanation. But Jesus said: "You are not my slaves; you are my partners. I have told you everything; I have told you what I am trying to do, and why I am trying to do it. I have told you everything which God told me." Jesus has given us the honour of making us partners in his task. He has shared his mind with us, and opened his heart to us. The tremendous choice laid before us is that we can accept or refuse partnership with Christ in the work of leading the world to God.
(v) Jesus chose to be ambassadors. "I have chosen you," he said, "to send you out." He did not choose us to live a life retired from the world, but to represent him in the world. When a knight came to the court of King Arthur, he did not come to spend the rest of his days in knightly feasting and in knightly fellowship there. He came to the king saying: "Send me out on some great task which I can do for chivalry and for you." Jesus chose us, first to come in to him, and then to go out to the world. And that must be the daily pattern and rhythm of our lives.
(vi) Jesus chose us to be advertisements. He chose us to go out to bear fruit, and to bear fruit which will stand the test of time. The way to spread Christianity is to be Christian. The way to bring others into the Christian faith is to show them the fruit of the Christian life. Jesus sends us out, not to argue men into Christianity, still less to threaten them into it, but to attract them into it; so to live that its fruits may be so wonderful that others will desire them for themselves.
(vii) Jesus chose us to be privileged members of the family of God. He chose us so that whatever we ask in his name the Father will give to us. Here again we are face to face with one of those great sayings about prayer which we must understand aright. If we come to it thoughtlessly, it sounds as if the Christian will receive everything for which he prays. We have already thought about this, but we may well think about it again. The New Testament lays down certain definite laws about prayer.
(a) Prayer must be the prayer of faith ( James 5:15). When it is a formality, merely the routine and conventional repetition of a form of words, it cannot be answered. When prayer is hopeless it cannot be effective. There is little use in a man praying to be changed, if he does not believe it possible that he can be changed. To pray with power a man must have an invincible belief in the all-sufficient love of God.
(b) Prayer must be in the name of Christ. We cannot pray for things of which we know that Jesus would disapprove. We cannot pray that we should be given possession of some forbidden person or some forbidden thing; we cannot pray that some personal ambition should be realized, if that ambition means that someone else must be hurt to fulfil it. We cannot pray in the name of him who is love for vengeance on our enemies. Whenever we try to turn prayer into something to enable us to realize our own ambitions and to satisfy our own desires, it must be ineffective, for it is not real prayer at all.
(c) Prayer must say: "Thy will be done." When we pray we must first realize that we never know better than God. The essence of prayer is not that we say to God: "Thy will be changed," but that we say to him: "Thy will be done." So often real prayer must be, not that God would send us the things we wish, but that he would make us able to accept the things he wills.
(d) Prayer must never be selfish. Almost in the passing Jesus said a very illuminating thing. He said that, if two people agreed in asking anything in his name, it would be granted ( Matthew 18:19). We are not to take that with a crude literalism, because it would simply mean that if you can mobilize enough people to pray for anything you will get it. What it does mean is this--no man when he prays should think entirely of his own needs. To take the simplest example, the holiday-maker might be praying for sunshine while the farmer is praying for rain. When we pray, we must ask, not only: "Is this for my good?" but: "Is this for the good of all men?" The greatest temptation of all in prayer is to pray as if nobody but ourselves mattered.
Jesus chose us to be privileged members of the family of God. We can and must take everything to God in prayer; but when we have done so we must accept the answer which God in his perfect wisdom and perfect love sends to us. And the more we love God, the easier it will be to do that.
THE WORLD'S HATRED ( John 15:18-21 )
15:18-21 "If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but the world hates you, because you are not of the world, but I have picked you out of the world. Remember the word which I spoke to you--the servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you. If they kept my word, they will keep yours. But they will do these things to you because of my name, because they do not know him who sent me."
It is always John's way to see things in terms of black and white. To him there are two great entities--the Church and the world. And there is no contact and no fellowship between them. To John it is,
"Stand thou on that side, for on this am I."
As he saw it, a man is either of the world or of Christ, and there is no stage between.
Further, we must remember that by this time the Church was living under the constant threat of persecution. Christians were indeed persecuted because of the name of Christ. Christianity was illegal. A magistrate needed only to ask whether or not a man was a Christian, and, if he was, no matter what he had done or had not done, he was liable to punishment by death. John was speaking of a situation which existed in the most clear-cut and agonizing way.
One thing is certain--no Christian who was involved in persecution could say that he had not been warned. On this matter Jesus was quite explicit. He had told his people beforehand what they might expect. "They will deliver you up to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them.... And brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all for my name's sake" ( Mark 13:9-13; compare Matthew 10:17-22; Matthew 10:23-29; Luke 12:2-9; Luke 12:51-53).
When John wrote, this hatred had long since begun. Tacitus spoke of the people "hated for their crimes, whom the mob call Christians." Suetonius gad spoken of "a race of men who belong to a new and evil superstition." Why was this hatred so virulent?
The Roman government hated the Christians because it regarded them as disloyal citizens. The position of the government was quite simple and understandable. The Empire was vast; it stretched from the Euphrates to Britain, from Germany to North Africa. It included all kinds of peoples and all kinds of countries within it. Some unifying force had to be found to weld this varied mass into one; and it was found in Caesar worship.
Now Caesar worship was not imposed on the world; it actually arose from the people themselves. Away back in the old days there had been the goddess Roma--the spirit of Rome. It is easy to see how men could think of that spirit of Rome symbolized in the Emperor. He stood for Rome; he embodied Rome; the spirit of Rome found its home in him. It is a great mistake to think that the subject peoples resented Roman government; for the most part they were profoundly grateful for it. Rome brought justice, and freed them from capricious kings. Rome brought peace and prosperity. The land was cleared of brigands and the sea of pirates. The pax Romana, the Roman peace, stretched over all the world.
It was in Asia Minor that men began to think of Caesar, the Emperor, as the god who embodied Rome, and they did so in sheer gratitude for the blessings Rome had brought. At first the Emperors discouraged and deprecated this worship; they insisted that they were men and must not be worshipped as gods. But they saw that they could not stop this movement. At first they confined it to the excitable Asiatics of Asia Minor, but soon it spread everywhere. Then the government saw that they could use it. Here was the unifying principle which was needed. So there came the day when once a year every inhabitant of the Empire had to burn his pinch of incense to the godhead of Caesar. By so doing, he showed that he was a loyal citizen of Rome. When he had done this, he received a certificate to say that he done it.
Here was the practice and the custom which made all men feel that they were part of Rome, and which guaranteed their loyalty to her. Now Rome was the essence of toleration. After he had burned his pinch of incense and said, "Caesar is Lord," a man could go away and worship any god he liked, so long as the worship did not affect public decency and public order. But that is precisely what the Christians would not do. They would call no man "Lord" except Jesus Christ. They refused to conform, and therefore the Roman government regarded them as dangerous and disloyal.
The government persecuted the Christians because they insisted they had no king but Christ. Persecution came to the Christians because they put Christ first. Persecution always comes to the man who does that.
THE WORLD'S HATRED ( John 15:18-21 continued)
It was not only that the government persecuted the Christians; the mob hated them. Why? It was because the mob believed certain slanderous things about the Christians. There is no doubt that the Jews were at least to some extent responsible for these slanders. It so happened that they had the ear of the government. To take but two examples, Nero's favourite actor Aliturus, and his harlot empress Poppaea, were both adherents of the Jewish faith. The Jews whispered their slanders to the government, slanders which they must have well known to be untrue, and four slanderous reports were spread about the Christians.
(i) They were said to be insurrectionaries. We have already seen the reason for that. It was futile for the Christians to point out that in fact they were the best citizens in the country. The fact remained they would not burn their pinch of incense and say, "Caesar is Lord," and so they were branded as dangerous and disloyal men.
(ii) They were said to be cannibals. This charge came from the words of the sacrament. "This is my body which is for you." "This cup is the new covenant in my blood." On the basis of these words, it was not difficult to disseminate amongst ignorant people, prepared to believe the worst, the story that the Christians' private meal was based on cannibalism. The charge stuck, and it is little wonder that the mob looked on the Christians with loathing.
(iii) They were said to practise the most flagrant immorality. The weekly meal of the Christians was called the Agape ( G26) , the Love Feast. When the Christians met each other in the early days they greeted each other with the kiss of peace. It was not difficult to spread abroad the report that the Love Feast was an orgy of sexual indulgence, of which the kiss of peace was the symbol and the sign.
(iv) They were said to be incendiaries. They looked to the Second Coming of Christ. To it they had attached all the Old Testament pictures of the Day of the Lord, which foretold of the flaming disintegration and destruction of the world. "The elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up" ( 2 Peter 3:10). In the reign of Nero came the disastrous fire which devastated Rome and it was easy to connect it with people who preached of the consuming fire which would destroy the world.
(v) There was actually another charge brought and for this fifth charge there were understandable grounds. It was that the Christians "tampered with family relationships," divided families, split up homes and broke up marriages. In a way that was true. Christianity did bring not peace but a sword ( Matthew 10:34). Often a wife became a Christian and a husband did not. Often children became Christians and parents did not. Then the home was split in two and the family divided.
These were the charges which were spread about the Christians with the help of the Jews. It is little wonder that the name of Christian was hated.
THE WORLD'S HATRED ( John 15:18-21 continued)
Such were the causes of hatred in the early days. but it is still true that the world will hate the Christian. As we have already said, by the world John meant human society organizing itself without God. There is bound to be a cleavage between the man who regards God as the only reality in life and the man who regards God as totally irrelevant for life. In any event the world has certain characteristics, which are always part of the human situation.
(i) The world suspects people who are different. That comes out in the simplest ways. One of the commonest things in the world nowadays is an umbrella; but when Jonas Hanway tried to introduce the umbrella into England and walked down the street beneath one he was pelted with stones and dirt. In the early days of the Boys' Brigade, the boys who marched down the street in uniform often received similar treatment. Anyone who is different, who wears different clothes, who has different ideas, is automatically suspect. He may be regarded as an eccentric or a madman or a danger; but life is likely to be made uncomfortable for him.
(ii) The world acutely dislikes people whose lives are a condemnation of it. It is in fact dangerous to be good. The classic instance is the fate which befell Aristides in Athens. He was called Aristides the Just; and yet he was banished. When one of the citizens was asked why he had voted for his banishment, he answered: "Because I am tired of hearing him always called the Just." That was why men killed Socrates; they called him the human gadfly. He was always compelling men to think and to examine themselves, and men hated that and killed him. It is dangerous to practise a higher standard than the standard of the world. Nowadays a man can be persecuted even for working too hard or too long.
(ii) To put it at its widest--the world always suspects nonconformity. It likes a pattern; it likes to be able to label a person and to put him in a pigeon-hole. Anyone who does not conform to the pattern will certainly meet trouble. It is even said that if a hen with different markings is put among hens that are all alike, the others will peck her to death.
The basic demand on the Christian is the demand that he should have the courage to be different. To be different will be dangerous, but no man can be a Christian unless he accepts that risk, for there must be a difference between the man of the world and the man of Christ.
KNOWLEDGE AND RESPONSIBILITY ( John 15:22-25 )
15:22-25 "If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have no excuse for their sins. He who hates me hates the Father too. If I had not done deeds among them, which no one else had ever done, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen and they have heard both me and my Father. But it has all happened that the word which stands written in their law might be fulfilled--'They have hated me without a cause.'"
Here Jesus has returned to a thought which in the Fourth Gospel is never far from his mind, the conviction that knowledge and privilege bring with them responsibility. Until Jesus came men never had the opportunity really to know God; they had never fully heard his voice, and they had never seen perfectly demonstrated the kind of life he wished them to live. They could scarcely be blamed for being such as they were. There are things which are allowable in a child which are not allowable in an adult, because the child does not know any better. There are things which are allowable in someone whose upbringing has been bad which are not allowable in someone who has been brought up in all the benefits of a Christian home. No one expects the same kind of conduct from a savage as from a civilized man. The more knowledge a man has and the more privileges he enjoys, the greater the responsibility laid upon him.
Jesus did two things. First, he exposed sin. He told men of the things which grieved God and of the way in which God wished them to walk. He set the true way before men. Second, he provided the remedy for sin; and he did that in a double sense. He opened the way to forgiveness for past sin, and he provided the power which would enable a man to overcome sin and do the right. These were the privileges and the knowledge which he brought to men. Suppose a man to be ill; suppose he consults a doctor, and the doctor diagnoses what is wrong and prescribes a cure. If that man disregards the diagnosis and refuses to use the cure, he has no one to blame but himself if he dies, or comes to a condition which makes life wretched for himself. That is what the Jews had done. As John saw it, they had only done what it was foretold they would do. Twice the Psalmist had said: "They hated me without a cause" ( Psalms 35:19; Psalms 69:4).
It is still possible for us to do the same. Not many are actively hostile to Christ, but many live their lives as if Christ had never come and simply disregard him. But no man can know life in this world or in the world to come if he disregards the Lord of all good life.
WITNESS DIVINE AND HUMAN ( John 15:26-27 )
15:26-27 "When the Helper comes, the Helper whom I will send to you from my Father, I mean the Spirit of Truth who comes forth from the Father, he will be a witness about me. And you will be witness about me because you have been with me from the beginning."
Here John uses two ideas which lie very close to his heart and are constantly entwined in his thought.
The first is the witness of the Holy Spirit. What does he mean by this? We shall have occasion to think of this again very soon, but for the moment think of it this way. When the story of Jesus is told us and his picture is set before us, what makes us feel that this is none other than the picture of the Son of God? That reaction of the human mind, that answer of the human heart is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit within us who moves us to respond to Jesus Christ.
The second is the witness which men must bear to Christ. "You," said Jesus to his disciples, "win be witnesses about me." There are three elements in Christian witness.
(i) Christian witness comes from long fellowship and intimacy with Christ. The disciples are his witnesses because they have been with him from the beginning. A witness is a man who says of something: "This is true, and I know it." There can be no witness without personal experience. We can witness for Christ only when we have been with him.
(ii) Christian witness comes from inner conviction. The accent of personal inner conviction is one of the most unmistakable in the world. A man hardly starts to speak before we know whether or not he really believes what he is saying. There can be no effective Christian witness without this inner conviction which comes from personal intimacy with Christ.
(iii) Christian witness issues in outward testimony. A witness is not only someone who knows that something is true; he is someone who is prepared to say that he knows that it is true. A Christian witness is a man who not only knows Christ but wants others to know him too.
It is our privilege and our task to be witnesses for Christ in the world; and we cannot be witnesses without the personal intimacy, the inner conviction and the outward testimony to our faith.
-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)
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Barclay, William. "Commentary on John 15". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany