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Bible Commentaries
John 15

Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New TestamentMahan's Commentary

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Verses 1-7

I am the vine

John 15:1-7

John 15:1 . Our Lord had told his disciples and others on previous occasions, ‘I am the door; by me if any man enter in he shall be saved.’ There is no other door. He said, ‘I am the true bread from heaven;’ ‘I am the water of life;’ ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.’ Everything that God has spiritually and eternally is in Christ, by Christ, and through Christ (John 3:35; Colossians 2:9; 1 Corinthians 1:30). Acceptance, forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life are ours by a living union with Christ; for he is the true vine. Believers are branches that have life, grow, and bear fruit only because of their union with the life-giving vine. With respect to the vine and the branches that are in the vine, ‘My Father is the vine-dresser’ who purposed, planted, and supported the vine (Hebrews 10:5; Galatians 4:4-5) for the purposes of his will and for his own glory (Ephesians 1:11-12).

John 15:2 . There are many religionists (such as Judas, Simon Magus, Demas, and others) who even appear to be in Christ by association, outward profession, and performance of church duties; but they bear no spiritual fruit--love, joy, peace, etc. (Galatians 5:22). Religious duties and what men call ‘fruit’ may be produced without any true spiritual union with Christ (Luke 16:15). These professors are dead branches which will eventually be exposed and taken away. The true branches which are savingly rooted in Christ by the Father's will and through genuine faith not only bear spiritual fruit, but they are constantly pruned, cleansed, and cared for by the Father through trial, teaching, and afflictions that they may grow and bring forth more fruit (James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:7; Psalms 119:71). The fruitless branches were never ‘in Christ’ by grace through faith. They only appeared to be.

John 15:3 . Christ had told his disciples in John 13:10 that they were ‘clean, but not all,’ because Judas was then among them. His being gone, Christ could now say to the eleven, ‘Ye are clean.’ Not by works, by law, nor by ceremony were they clean, regenerated, sanctified, and justified, but by his blood through the word preached and believed (Titus 3:5; James 1:18). These men were all true branches in the true vine, Christ Jesus. By the grace of God they believed in Christ, loved Christ, and were in Christ, never to be separated from him (John 10:27-30; Ecclesiastes 3:14; 1 Peter 1:3-5).

John 15:4 . It is true that once a man is saved by God's grace, he will remain saved forever; yet the scriptures are full of warnings to believers against unbelief (Hebrews 3:12-14), against drawing back (Hebrews 10:38-39), to continue in the faith (Colossians 1:21-23), and against neglecting his word (Hebrews 2:1-3). Abiding in Christ is abiding in his word (John 15:7), abiding in his love (John 15:10), and abiding in his Spirit (1 John 2:27). This abiding in Christ is not a condition which man fulfills by himself before Christ will give him life, but abiding in Christ is the result of Christ's gift of life and true evidence that we have the life of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). Branches on a grapevine do not bear fruit by themselves but from the vine and as a result of their union with the life-giving vine; neither can any man bear, produce, nor possess any spiritual knowledge, life, gift, grace, or holiness except through Christ's abiding in him and his abiding in Christ (Galatians 2:20; 1 Corinthians 15:10).

John 15:5 . Three things are expressed here:

1. Christ himself is the vine, the fountain, the spring, and the source of all life; and we are the branches who have no life, power, nor even existence apart from him. Without him we have and can do absolutely nothing.

2. Believers are truly one with Christ (John 17:21-23), and that close union with Christ is expressed here; for when one looks at the vineyard, he considers the vine and the branches to be one; and truly they are one as the head and the body are one (1 Corinthians 12:12).

3. Those branches which abide in Christ will surely bring forth the fruit of his Spirit (1 John 4:7-8; 1 Thessalonians 1:4-10). His presence, power, and Spirit beget peace, righteousness, and love.

John 15:6 . When the vine-dresser comes to care for his vineyard, he prunes, dresses, and gives special attention to the branches which have life, green leaves, and fruit. But the branches which are hanging around the vine, diseased, dead, and fruitless, he takes away, bundles them together, and burns them. These fruitless branches are false religious professors who profess to believe, who are numbered with the church, and who appear to men to be ‘in Christ.’ But like the wheat and the tares, it takes the eye of God to discern the real difference. We form our opinions by outward signs. God looks on the heart, and he will expose the counterfeit.

John 15:7 . Abiding in Christ means many things, such as regeneration or the very fact of spiritual life (Ephesians 2:1; John 1:12-13), faith in Christ (Hebrews 10:38), love for Christ (John 15:10; John 21:17), and perseverance (Hebrews 3:6; Hebrews 3:14). But abiding or living in Christ is expressed here simply as ‘my words abide in you.’ His word is truth, the gospel, his promises, precepts, and grace, and is called ‘the word of life’ (Philippians 2:16: Hebrews 4:12; John 6:63). The word of God is called the seed of life (1 Peter 1:23-25; Luke 8:11-15). One cannot separate the incarnate Word and the written word. It is impossible for a man to abide in Christ who knows not, loves not, and obeys not his word. ‘Ye shall ask what you will and it shall be done unto you.’ This must not be understood of temporal things, such as riches, honors, material and physical luxuries, which we may at times covet, but of things spiritual. The man in whom his word abides desires the will of God and the glory of God and will pray accordingly (Romans 8:26). Yet all things spiritually required, needed, and sought will be given if we abide in him and his words abide in us (Matthew 7:7-11; Philippians 4:19; 1 Corinthians 3:21-23).

Verses 8-16

Abiding in his love

John 15:8-16

John 15:8 . When believers walk in truth and love, when they adorn the doctrine of God, our Saviour, with generous, gracious and exemplary lives and behavior, they glorify God (Matthew 5:16). The fruits of righteousness, by the indwelling Spirit of Christ, displayed by a believer, not only glorify the power, grace and mercy of God in them but cause others to glorify God. 'So shall ye be my disciples.' Our fruitfulness does not make us disciples of Christ, but is proof and evidence that we are his disciples. Good fruit does not make a tree good; the tree is first good and the fruit is evidence that the tree is good.

John 15:9 . The Father's love to the Son is eternal, unchangeable, constant, full and perfect. In all these respects Christ loves his people. This ought to encourage us not only to cherish that love above all things but to continue in that state of love and favour (1 John 4:7-11). 'Abide in me, abide in my word and abide in my love'; this is true faith and discipleship.

John 15:10 . All of these words seem to enforce the principle of perseverance in faith and love for Christ as taught throughout the word. It is not those who occasionally cry, 'Lord, Lord, who will enter the kingdom of heaven, nor those who name Christ with their lips while their hearts are far from him, nor those who profess to know and love him; but those who truly believe, know and love Christ will walk with him, continue in faith and good works and continue in his love, even as he is for ever the Son of God and always does those things that please his Father (Jeremiah 32:40; Colossians 1:21-23; Hebrews 3:6; Hebrews 3:14). Men show the operation of grace in the heart and true love for Christ by continuing in faith, in his word and in his love.

John 15:11 . His words concerning their union with him as the vine and branches, his love for them and their love for him, and his exhortation for them to continue in him, in his words and in his love were spoken to them in order that his joy, peace and rest might remain in them, fill them and encourage them even in the most severe trials of life (Colossians 3:15; Romans 15:13; Philippians 4:7). Difficult times were ahead (John 16:1-4), and they would recall these words in these days.

John 15:12 . While speaking of perseverance in faith and setting forth the evidences of true discipleship, our Lord comes to the clearest proof and sign of a union with him: 'that you love one another' (John 13:34-35). Love is the principal commandment on which all the others rest (1 Corinthians 13:13; 1 Corinthians 5:13; Matthew 22:36-40). Love is of God, and 'He that loveth not knoweth not God' (1 John 4:7-10; 1 John 4:20-21). It is only as we are in Christ, in his word and in his love that we are able really to love one another and that we shall keep on loving one another.

John 15:13 . When you combine John 15:12-13 you are able to see what kind of love our Lord is saying we are to have for one another: 'As I have loved you and lay down my life for you.' There is no way that we can copy the infinite, substitutionary and redemptive love of our Lord; nevertheless, the principle of self-sacrifice, self-denial and doing all that we can for the benefit and well-being of others, even to the point of denying ourselves, is there. Like the love of Christ for us, our love for one another gives, forgives, sacrifices, continues and is sincere (1 Corinthians 13:4-7; Ephesians 4:32).

John 15:14 . The word 'friend' carries a powerful message, and Abraham was called the friend of God (Isaiah 41:8). God spoke to Moses as a friend (Exodus 33:11). Our Lord calls true believers his friends. What favor to be the friends of God! The friends of the Lord are those who love him and do his commandments. Not that these things gain for us the favour of God and the blessings of his covenant, for that is the gift of his grace in Christ; but the sense is that by obeying his word and doing his will out of a principle of love for him, it becomes evident that we are truly sons and friends of Christ.

John 15:15 . There is a sense in which we are the servants and bond slaves of our Lord (Romans 1:1; Exodus 21:1-6), and we delight to serve him in love for ever. But our Lord is saying to his disciples, 'You are more than servants; you are my friends.' A master usually keeps himself distant from servants, commands them to do his bidding without explanation and rewards them or punishes them according to their productivity. With a friend it is different. A friend is loved and taken into one's confidence, plans and counsels. Christ reveals to us, as we are able to receive it, his purpose, his counsel, the great designs of his grace and the glories of his redemptive will. Christ has made known to us, his friends, the glory, gospel, word and purpose of the Father (John 17:6-8; John 17:14).

John 15:16 . Though we are friends of Christ and with Christ, that friendship and love did not begin with us but with him. Men by nature hate God (Romans 8:7). This friendship was one-sided in its origin. He chose us, he set his love upon us, he redeemed us and he called us to himself (Romans 8:28-31; Thess. 2:13; Ephesians 1:3-4). We love him because he loved us; we seek him because he sought us, and we call upon him because he made us willing (Psalms 110:3; John 4:10-19; Romans 5:8). It was Christ who elected us out of a world of sin and darkness and ordained that we should be his sheep, his followers and bear fruit for his glory (Ephesians 2:8-10). Being in Christ by purpose and abiding in Christ by grace will produce lasting fruit and bring further mercies and blessings to those who seek his glory and pray accordingly.

Verses 17-27

The hatred of the world

John 15:17-27

John 15:17 . This is the third time in his last words to the disciples that Christ has told them to ‘love one another’ (John 13:34; John 15:12; John 15:17). He had declared such strong love for them that it is right and proper for them to love one another. If we abide in Him, in his word, and in his love, we will love one another. We not only love him because he first loved us, but we love others because he first loved us (1 John 4:19-20).

John 15:18 . The ‘world’ here is not only the secular, evil world but the religious world as well. The disciples had experienced the hatred of the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Sanhedrin. He is saying that after he is gone, this hatred will be vented upon them. The disciples of Christ are hated because they are not of the world and because they belong to the one whom the world hates. Men do not hate their gods nor the god they call ‘Jehovah,’ but they hate the living God who is revealed in Jesus Christ and in the word! (John 1:10-11; John 5:16; John 7:1; John 8:59.)

John 15:19 . Believers are in the world but not of the world (John 17:14). Believers are different from the world in character, attitude, principle, affections, and objectives. If they were like the world in these things, the world would love them; for everyone loves those who are like them. But Christ said, ‘I have chosen you out from among the world to know me, to love me, to walk in my word, to do my will; therefore, the world will hate you just as they hate me and my words’ (2 Timothy 3:12; Philippians 1:29). The believer's very existence, manner of life, and gospel message condemn the world.

John 15:20 . For their further comfort under the hatred of the world, he reminds them of a saying he used before to teach them humility, self-denial, and brotherly love. ‘The servant is not greater than his Lord’ (John 13:16). We are infinitely less deserving and lower than our Lord; so if they have persecuted Him, why should we hope to escape? ‘If they are inclined of the Spirit to receive my word, they will receive and keep your words, which are but my words preached by you’ (Luke 10:16).

John 15:21 . All of the hatred, persecution, and evil done to believers is ‘for my name's sake’ or because of me! ‘You are called by my name, and you call upon my name. You love me, confess me to be the Messiah and Redeemer, and preach to others my gospel of free and sovereign grace. Therefore, their hatred for me compels them to hate and persecute you. You have no cause to be ashamed, but you have cause to rejoice (Matthew 5:10-12). All of this the world does because they know not my Father who sent me’ (John 8:19; John 8:42; John 8:54-55).

John 15:22 . The sin Christ speaks of here is the sin of Israel and the religious Jews in rejecting the Messiah sent to them (Acts 3:25-26; John 1:11). If he had not come in his incarnation, in fulfillment of all their law and prophets, and with undeniable proof of his person, they would not be under such strong judgment for their particular sin; but he has come and they have no excuse (Isaiah 53:1-3; Romans 11:7-10).

John 15:23 . It is a common error in this world that many pretend to know, love, and worship God while they reject and despise the Lord Jesus Christ. This is impossible! Whoever hates him that is sent, hates also him that sent him. God the Father and Christ are ONE (John 10:30; John 5:23). The hatred of the world is toward the Father, the Son, and all who love him.

John 15:24 . In John 15:22 our Lord spoke about his words, which they heard and despised; now he refers to the supernatural and miraculous works, which he did. Surely the hatred of these religious Jews is inexcusable. They have both seen and heard (John 5:31-40); they have had plainly revealed to them that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ. Their sin of unbelief is further aggravated and terrible in the light of such revelations.

John 15:25 . This hatred and rejection was prophesied by David in Psalms 35:19 and is the means by which God fulfilled his redemptive work. The hatred of men must result in the crucifixion of Christ in order that his people may be saved (Acts 2:23; Acts 2:36; Acts 4:27-28); yet the guilt rests on men, for they did what they wanted to do. Nothing in him gave them cause for this hatred; the evil was in themselves.

John 15:26 . ‘But when the Holy Spirit is come, he shall bring all my words to your remembrance; he shall take the things of Mine’ (wisdom, righteousness, justification, redemption, substitution, satisfaction, eternal life) ‘and show them to you.’ He will not glorify himself, speak of himself, magnify his gifts, nor call attention to himself. He shall testify of me and he shall glorify me! (John 16:13-15.)

John 15:27 . The apostles and those believers who follow the apostles shall testify, witness, and preach of Christ. He speaks especially here to the eleven who had been with him from the beginning (Acts 1:8; Hebrews 2:3-4). But all of the elect love Christ and love to bear witness of him (Acts 8:4; 2 Timothy 4:2).

Bibliographical Information
Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on John 15". Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hms/john-15.html. 2013.
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