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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek Testament

John 15


The relation between Jesus and His disciples represented by the relation of the vine and its branches .

Verse 1

John 15:1 . Ἐγώ εἰμιἄμπελοςἀληθινή , “I am the true vine.” ἡ ἀληθινή suggests a contrast to other vines to which this title could not be applied: but not to a vine trailing across the window of the room where they were, nor to the golden vine on the Temple gate, nor to the vines on the slopes of Olivet; but to Israel, the stock which God had planted to bring forth fruit to Him, see Psalms 80:0 , Isaiah 5:0 , Jeremiah 2:21 . ἐγὼ δὲ ἐφύτευσά σε ἄμπελον καρποφόρον πᾶσαν ἀληθινήν . The vine was a recognised symbol also of the Messiah, see Delitzsch in Expositor , third series, iii., p. 68, and in his Iris , pp. 180 190, E. Tr. On the Maccabean coinage Israel was represented by a vine. It was the present situation which here suggested the figure. As Jesus rose to depart the disciples crowd round Him with anxiety on every face. Their helplessness and trouble appeal to Him, and He encourages them by reminding them that, although left to do His work in the world, they would still be united to Him as truly as the branches to the vine. He and His together are the true Vine of God. καὶπατήρ μουγεωργός ἐστι , “and my Father is the vine-dresser”. What is now happening is the Father’s doing, and, therefore, tends to the well-being and fruitfulness of the vine. [“Pater qui cum diligit me, certe servabit totum fruticem.” Melanchthon.]

Verse 2

John 15:2 . The function of the vinedresser is at once described: πᾶν κλῆμαφέρῃ . κλῆμα , or more fully as in Xen., Oecon. , xix. 8, κλῆμα ἀμπέλου , is the shoot of the vine which is annually put forth. It is from κλάω , “I break,” as also is κλάδος , but Wetstein quotes Pollux to show that κλάδος was appropriated to the shoots of the olive, while κλῆμα signified a vine-shoot. Of these shoots there are two kinds, the fruitless, which the vine-dresser αἴρει : “Inutilesque falce ramos amputans,” Hor. Epod. , ii. 13; the fruitful, which He καθαίρει [“suavis rhythmus,” Bengel]. The full meaning of αἴρει is described in John 15:6 : καθαίρει here denotes especially the pruning requisite for concentrating the vigour of the tree on the one object, ἵνα πλείονα καρπὸν φέρῃ , that it may continually surpass itself, and yield richer and richer results. The vine-dresser spares no pains and no material on his plants, but all for the sake of fruit. [ Cf. Cicero, De Senec. , xv. 53.] The use of καθαίρει was probably determined by the καθαροί of John 15:3 .

Verse 3

John 15:3 . ἤδη ὑμεῖς καθαροί ἐστε : “Already ye are clean”. καθαροί here means “in a condition fit to bear fruit”; in John 13:10-11 , it is suggested by the feet-washing, and means “free from inward stain”. It is similarly used even in classical writers. διὰ τὸν λόγον ὃν λελάληκα ὑμῖν , “on account of the word which I have spoken unto you”. For διά in this sense as indicating the source, see John 6:67 . The word which Jesus had spoken to them, i.e. , the whole revelation He had made, had brought spiritual life, and, therefore, cleansing. But this condition they must strive to maintain, μείνατε ἐν ἐμοί , κἀγω ἐν ὑμῖν . μενῶ must be understood after κἀγω . Maintain your belief in me, your attachment to me, your derivation of hope, aim, and motive from me: and I will abide in you, filling you with all the life you need to represent me on earth. All the divine energy you know to be in me will now pass through you.

Verse 4

John 15:4 . It is in and through you I live henceforth. καθὼς τὸ κλῆμαμείνητε [or μένητε ]; illustrating by the figure the necessity of the foregoing injunction. A branch that falls to the ground, and no longer abides in the vine as a living part of it, cannot bear fruit, so neither can ye except ye abide in me. That is, ye cannot bear the fruit my Father, the vinedresser, looks for, and by which He will be glorified, John 15:8 .

Verse 5

John 15:5 . ἐγὼκλήματα “I am the Vine, ye are the branches,” together forming one tree and possessed by one common life. The stock does not bear fruit, but only the branches; the branches cannot live without the stock. Therefore it follows ὁ μένωνοὐδέν . The one thing needful for fruit-bearing is that we abide in Christ, and He in us; that the branch adhere to the vine, and the life of the vine flow into the branch. χωρὶς ἐμοῦ , “in separation from me”. See Ephesians 2:12 . Grotius gives the equivalents “seorsim,” “separatim,” κατὰ μονάς , κατʼ αὐτό . οὐ δύνασθε ποιεῖν οὐδέν , “ye cannot do anything,” absolutely nothing according to John 1:3-4 ; but here the meaning is, “ye cannot do anything which is glorifying to God, anything which can be called fruit-bearing,” John 15:8 .

Verse 6

John 15:6 . ἐὰν μή τις μείνῃ , “if any one shall not have abided in me”. ἐβλήθηἐξηράνθη , the gnomic aorist, cf. 1 Peter 1:24 ; and see Burton, M. and T. , 43, and Grotius: “Hi aoristi sine designatione temporis significant quid fieri soleat, pro quo et praesens saepe usurpatur”. The whole process undergone by the fruitless branch is described in these six verbs, αἴρει John 15:2 , ἐβλήθη , ἐξηράνθη , συνάγουσιν , βάλλουσι , καίεται , and each detail is thus given for the sake of emphasising the inevitableness and the completeness of the destruction. ἐβλήθη ἔξω ὡς τὸ κλῆμα , “is cast out,” i.e. , from the vineyard, as the next words show; here this means hopeless rejection. The result is ἐξηράνθη , the natural capacity for fruit-bearing is destroyed. The figure derived from the treatment of the fruitless branch is continued in συνάγουσινκαίεται , cf. Matthew 13:49-50 ; and Matthew 13:41-42 . On καίεται , Euthymius remarks οὐ μὴν κατακαίονται “but are not consumed”. And in Exodus 3:2 , the bush καίεται , but οὐ κατεκαίετο “burns, but was not consumed”. But this only shows that without the miraculous interposition it would have been consumed.

Verse 7

John 15:7 . From the fate of those who do not abide in Him, Jesus turns to the results of faithful adherence ἐὰν μείνητεὑμῖν . The expression is altered from that of John 15:3 ; John 15:5 , instead of “and I in you,” we now have “and my words abide in you”; it is by means of His teaching and His commandments that Christ abides in His people, and by His word they are fitted for fruit-bearing, John 15:3 . Not that His words are a substitute for His personal presence, but its medium. But His presence is not to energise in them as if they were machines; they are to consider the exigencies that arise, and, giving play to judgment and conscience, are to ask for appropriate manifestations of grace: ὃ ἐὰν θέλητε αἰτήσασθε , “ask what ye will”. Petitions thus prompted by the indwelling word of Christ will necessarily be answered: καὶ γενήσεται ὑμῖν .

Verse 8

John 15:8 . Further assurance of an answer is given in the fact that the γεωργός is glorified in the fruit-bearing branches: ἐν τούτῳ , “in this pre-eminently,” i.e. , in your bearing much fruit, cf. John 6:29-30 ; John 6:40 . So, rightly, Weiss and Holtzmann. For construction with ἵνα see Burton on Subject, Predicate and Appositive clauses introduced by ἵνα . ἐδοξάσθηπατήρ μου , ἵνα , etc. ἐδοξάσθη , proleptic; cf. John 13:31 . The Father is glorified in everything which demonstrates that through Christ His grace reaches and governs men. καὶ γενήσεσθε ἐμοὶ μαθηταί , “and ye shall become my disciples”. The ἐμοὶ μαθηταί seems to mean: This is the relation you will hold to me, viz. , that of discipleship. “A Christian never ‘is,’ but always ‘is becoming’ a Christian. And it is by his fruitfulness that he indicates his claim to the name.” Westcott.

Verse 9

John 15:9 . Καθὼς ἠγάπησεἐμῇ . Love is the true bond which gives unity to the moral world, and inspires discipleship. All that Christ experiences is the result of the Father’s love: all that the disciples are called to be and to do is the outcome of Christ’s love. This love of Christ was to be retained as their possession by their conforming themselves to it: μείνατε ἐν τῇ ἀγάπτῇ ἐμῇ , “abide in my love,” no longer “abide in me,” but specifically “in my love”. Abide in it, for there is a possibility of your falling away from its enjoyment and possession.

Verses 9-17

John 15:9-17 . The disciples are urged to fulfil Christ’s purposes in the world, and are assured that if they abide in the love of Christ they will receive all they need for fruit-bearing .

Verse 10

John 15:10 . That possibility is defeated, ἐὰν τὰς ἐντολάς μου τηρήσητε . To encourage them in keeping His commandments He reminds them that He also has been subject to the same conditions, and by keeping the Father’s commandments has remained in His love.

Verse 11

John 15:11 . The great joy of His life had been found in the consciousness of the Father’s love and in the keeping of His commandments: this joy He desires that they may inherit, ταῦτα λελάληκα ὑμῖν ἵναχαρὰἐμὴ ἐν ὑμῖν μείνῃ , “my joy,” i.e. , the joy I have enjoyed, the joy which I habitually feel in accomplishing the Father’s will. This joy is not an incommunicable monopoly. καὶχαρὰ ὑμῶν πληρωθῇ , “and your joy be full,” which it could not be until they, like Him, had the spring of full joy in the consciousness of His love, and perfect obedience to Him; standing in the same relation to Him as He to the Father.

Verse 12

John 15:12 . And that they might know definitely what His commandment (John 15:10 ) is, He says, αὕτηὑμᾶς . “This is my commandment, that ye love one another as I have loved you.” Perhaps they expected minute, detailed instructions such as they had received when first sent out (Matthew 10:0 ). Instead of this, love was to be their sufficient guide. καθὼς ἠγάπησα ὑμᾶς . His love was at once the source and the measure of theirs. In His love for them they were to find the spring of love to one another, and were to become transparencies through which His love would shine.

Verse 13

John 15:13 . And that they might not underrate the measure of this exemplary love, He says, μείζονα ταύτης ἀγάπηναὐτοῦ . Ταύτης is explained by ἵνααὐτοῦ as in John 15:8 ; and does not directly mean “than this which I have shown and still show,” as understood by Westcott and Whitelaw. It is a general statement, the application of which is suggested in John 15:14 . Self-sacrifice is the high water mark of love. Friends can demand nothing more: there is no more that love can do to exhibit devotedness to friends, cf. Romans 5:6 ; Romans 5:8 ; Romans 5:10 .

Verse 14

John 15:14 . Then comes the application: ὑμεῖςὑμῖν . “Ye are my friends, if ye do what I command you.” You may expect of me this greatest demonstration of love, and therefore every minor demonstration of it which your circumstances may require, “if ye do,” etc. This condition was added not to chill and daunt, but to encourage: when you find how much suffering the completion of my work entails upon you, assure yourselves of my love. It is copartnery in work that will give you assurance that you are my friends.

Verse 15

John 15:15 . “Friends” who may expect all the good offices of their Friend, not “slaves,” is the character in which alone you can carry on my work: οὐκέτι ὑμᾶς λέγω δούλουςὑμῖν . The designation “slave” is no longer ( οὐκέτι ) appropriate, cf. John 13:16 and James 1:1 , Philippians 1:1 , etc. It is not appropriate, because ὁ δοῦλος οὐκ οἶδε τί ποιεῖ αὐτοῦκύριος “the slave knows not what his lord is doing,” he receives his allotted task but is not made acquainted with the ends his master wishes to serve by his toil (“servus tractatur ut ὄργανον ”. Bengel). He is animated by no sympathy with his master’s purpose nor by any personal interest in what he is doing. Therefore “friends” is the appropriate designation, ὑμᾶς δὲ εἴρηκα φίλους , “but I have called you friends”. Schoettgen quotes from Jalkut Rubeni, 164, “Deus Israelitas prae nimio amore primo vocat servos, deinde filios, Deuteronomy 14:1 ”. Other remarkable passages on God’s calling the Israelites “friends” are also cited by him in loc . For the peculiar use of εἴρηκα , cf. John 10:35 and 1 Corinthians 12:3 ; and for parallels in the classics, see Rose’s Parkhurst’s Lexicon . ὅτι πάνταἤκουσα παρὰ τοῦ πατρός μου , ἐγνώρισα ὑμῖν . Jesus had opened to them the mind of the Father in sending Him to the world, and as this purpose of the Father had commended itself to Jesus, and fired Him with the desire to fulfil it, so does He expect that the disciples will intelligently enter into His purposes, make them their own, and spend themselves on their fulfilment.

Verse 16

John 15:16 . οὐχ ὑμεῖςὑμῖν . This is added to encourage them in taking up and prosecuting the work of Jesus. Euthymius says it is ἄλλο τεκμήριον τοῦ ἔχειν αὐτοὺς φίλους ἑαυτοῦ ; but it is more. They are invited to depend on His will, not on their own. They had not discovered Him, and attached themselves to Him, as likely to suit their purposes. “It is not ye who chose me.” But “I chose you,” as a king selects his officers, to fulfil my purposes. καὶ ἔθηκα ὑμᾶς , “and I set (or, appointed) you,” cf. 1 Corinthians 12:28 , Acts 20:28 , etc., see Concordance. The purpose of the appointment is ἵνα ὑμεῖς ὑπάγητε , “that you may go away” from me on your various missions, and thus (resuming the original figure of the vine and branches) καρπὸν φέρητε , may bear fruit in my stead, and supplied by my life. Or to express this purpose in a manner which reveals the source of their power to bear fruit, ἵνατι ἂν αἰτήσητεδῷ ὑμῖν , see John 15:7 , and John 14:13 .

Verse 17

John 15:17 . ταῦτα ἐντέλλομαι ὑμῖν . “These things” which I have now spoken “I enjoin upon you,” ἵνα ἀγαπᾶτε ἀλλήλους , “in order that ye may love one another”.

Verse 18

John 15:18 . Εἰκόσμοςμεμίσηκεν , “If the world hates you,” as it does (indicative); “the world” is contrasted with “one another” of John 15:17 , with the disciples who were to love. γινώσκετε , “ye know,” or, if it be taken as an imperative, “know ye,” that it has hated me, πρῶτον ὑμῶν , “before you,” and, as in John 1:15 where also the superlative is found, not only “before” in point of time, but as the norm or prototype.

Verses 18-25

John 15:18-25 . The relation of the disciples to the world .

Verse 19

John 15:19 . εἰ ἐκἐφίλει , “If ye were of the world, the world would love [that which is] its own”; not always the case, but generally. ὅτι δὲ … ὁ κόσμος , “but because ye are not of the world,” do not belong to it, and are not morally identified with it, “but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you”. So that the hatred of the world, instead of being depressing, should be exhilarating, as being an evidence and guarantee that they have been chosen by Christ.

Verse 20

John 15:20 . μνημονεύετε τοῦ λόγουαὐτοῦ . μνημονεύετε (from μνήμων , mindful), “be mindful of,” sometimes used pregnantly, as in 1 Thessalonians 1:3 ; Galatians 2:10 ; “the words which I said to you,” viz. , in John 13:16 , and Matthew 10:24-25 . The outcome of the principle is seen in 2 Timothy 2:11 , and 1 Peter 4:13 . That He should speak of them as “servants” so shortly after calling them “friends,” shows how natural and appropriate both designations are, how truly service characterises His friends, and how He must at all times be looked upon as Supreme Lord. εἰ ἐμὲ ἐδίωξαντηρήσουσιν . “If they persecuted me, you also will they persecute; if they kept my word, yours too will they keep.” In so far as they are identified with Him, their experience will be identical with His. The attitude of the world does not alter. Bengel takes ἐτήρησαν in a hostile sense, “infensis modis observare,” referring to Matthew 27:36 , but in John τὸν λόγον τηρεῖν is regularly used of “observing” in the sense of “keeping,” practising, see John 8:51 , John 9:16 , John 14:23 ; 1 John 2:3-5 , etc.; Revelation 1:3 ; Revelation 3:8 , etc.

Verse 21

John 15:21 . ἀλλά . “But” be not dismayed at persecution, for “all these things they will do to you for my name’s sake ”. ταῦτα πάντα seems to involve that details had been given ( cf. Matthew 10:16 ff.) which were omitted by the reporter; or that John 16:2 had been already uttered; or that John, writing when the persecutions of the Christians were well known, uses “all these things” from his own point of view. διὰ τὸ ὄνομά μου . The efficacy of this consolation appears everywhere in the Apostolic age; Acts 5:41 ; Philippians 1:29 , and cf. Ramsay’s Church in the Roman Empire . The “name” of Christ was hateful to the world, ὅτι οὐκ οἴδασι τὸν πέπψαντά με . They did not believe He was sent, because they did not know the sender. Had they known God, they would have recognised Christ as sent by Him. Cf. John 7:28 , John 5:38 , εἰ μὴ ἦλθοναὐτῶν .

Verse 22

John 15:22 . “If I had not come and spoken to them,” as the revealer of the Father, “they would not have sin,” they would still be ignorant of the Father, but would not have incurred the guilt which attaches to ignorance maintained in the presence of light. ἔχειν ἁμαρτίαν is Johannine, see John 15:24 , Joh 19:11 ; 1 John 1:8 . νῦν δὲ πρόφασιν οὐκ ἔχουσι περὶ τῆς ἁμαρτίας αὐτῶν . “But now,” as I have come, “they have no excuse for,” etc., πρόφασιν , cf. Psalms 140:4 : “Incline not my heart προφασίζεσθαι προφάσεις ἐν ἁμαρτίαις ”.

Verse 23

John 15:23 . In hating me, they hate my Father whom I represent, ὁ ἐμὲ μισῶνμισεῖ . In hating and persecuting me, it is God they hate.

Verse 24

John 15:24 . εἰ τὰ ἔργαοὐκ εἶχον . This repeats in a slightly varied form the statement of John 15:22 . He had not only come and spoken, but had done works which none other had done, cf. John 3:2 ; John 9:32 ; John 7:31 . The miracles wrought by Christ were themselves of a kind fitted to produce faith. In them men were meant to see God, John 5:17 ; John 5:19-20 . So that He could say, νῦν δὲ καὶ ἑωράκασιμου . This is their guilt, that they have both seen and hated both me and my Father. This does not imply that they had been conscious of seeing the Father in Christ, but only that in point of fact they had done so. Cf. John 14:9 ; John 1:18 .

Verse 25

John 15:25 . This almost incredible blindness and obduracy is accounted for, as in John 12:37 , by the purpose of God disclosed in O.T. Scripture. “Their law” is here, as in John 10:34 , etc., used of O.T. Scripture as a whole. αὐτῶν is inserted, as ὑμετέρῳ in John 8:17 , to suggest that the very Scripture in which they had prided themselves would condemn them; see also John 5:45 , John 5:39 . The words ἐμίσησάν με δωρεάν do not occur in O.T.; but similar expressions are found in Psalms 34:19 , οἱ μισοῦντές με δωρεάν , and Psalms 108:3 , ἐπολέμησάν με δωρεάν . Entirely gratuitous was their hatred and rejection of Christ, so that they were inexcusable.

Verse 26

John 15:26 . But the work of the Apostles was not to be wholly fruitless, nor was their experience to be wholly comprised in fruitless persecution. Ὅταν δὲ ἔλθῃ … περὶ ἐμοῦ . The Spirit of Truth will witness concerning me. The Spirit is here designated, as in John 14:16 , “the Paraclete,” and the Spirit of Truth. There, and in John 14:26 , it is the Father who is to give and send Him in Christ’s name: here it is ὃν ἐγὼ πέμψω παρὰ τοῦ πατρός , as if the Spirit were not only dwelling with the Father, but could only be sent out from the Father as the source of the sending. This is still further emphasised in the added clause, ὃ παρὰ τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκπορεύεται . To define the mode of being of the Spirit, or His essential relation to the Father, would have been quite out of place in the circumstances. These words must be understood of the mission of the Spirit. What the disciples needed to know was that He came out from the Father, and of this they are here assured. ἐκεῖνος μαρτυρήσει περὶ ἐμοῦ , “He,” that person thus elaborately described, who is truth and who comes out from Him who sent me, “will witness concerning me”.

Verses 26-27

John 15:26 to John 16:11 . The conquest of the world by the Spirit .

Verse 27

John 15:27 . καὶ ὑμεῖς δὲ μαρτυρεῖτε , “and do ye also witness,” or, if indicative, “and ye also witness”. Most prefer the indicative. “The disciples were already the witnesses which they were to be in the future.” Meyer. This agrees with the ἐστε following. They were able to act as witnesses ὅτι ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς μετʼ ἐμοῦ ἐστε , “because from the beginning,” of the Messianic activity, “ye are with me”. The present, ἐστε , is natural as Jesus is looking at their entire fellowship with Him, and that was still continuing. Cf. Mark 3:14 , ἐποίησε δώδεκα , ἵνα ὦσι μετʼ αὐτοῦ ; also Acts 1:21 ; Acts 4:13 .

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on John 15". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.