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The True Vine
While the Lord Jesus and His disciples have left the upper room and are on their way to the Mount of Olives, He continues teaching His disciples. In this chapter He speaks with them about what they will be when He will have gone away from them. It is noteworthy that in this chapter He is not interrupted by any of His disciples with a question or remark, as is the case in the previous and next chapter. He tells them that they will be a new testimony for God on earth.
To illustrate His teaching, He uses the picture of the vine. The picture of the vine is applied to Israel in the Old Testament (Isaiah 5:1-Judges :; Ezekiel 15:1-Ruth :). Yahweh removed a vine from Egypt and planted it (Psalms 80:8). That is Israel according to the flesh, but that is not the true vine. Israel did not produce the fruit God expected. Instead, the people have produced stinking fruit and God has had to surrender it to judgment.
The Lord Jesus takes the place of Israel as a vine. He re-starts the history of Israel, but now with fruit for God and with blessing for others. He is the true, the genuine vine. He did bring God the fruit that God could have expected from Israel. Christ is the source of all true fruit for God on earth. He is not just a vine that bears fruit, while the other vines do not bear fruit. He is the true vine from which every branch can bear fruit.
The Father – and not Yahweh, or the Almighty – is the Vinedresser. This presumes a relationship that is beyond the one Israel knows. God is in a covenant relationship with Israel as a people. That is a very different relationship than the one in which the believers relate to Him who form the family of God after the resurrection of the Lord Jesus (John 20:17; John 20:22). They may know Him as Father because the Lord Jesus is their life and therefore they are children of God.
Pruning and Bearing Fruit
The believers are compared to branches on a vine. The Father is presented as the Vinedresser who takes the greatest care of the branches to ensure that they bear as much fruit as possible. He prunes and takes away everything that abuses the juices of the vine at the expense of the good fruit.
There may be things in the life of a believer that prevent his life from bearing full fruit for the Father. It doesn’t always have to be explicit evil, but anything in our lives that reduce the quality of the fruit. Then the Father sets to work to get rid of everything that prevents from bearing the full fruit. What absorbs our life force and does not produce fruit, must be removed. He will do everything to increase and improve the fruit.
If branches do not bear fruit, it means that they have no life connection with the vine. Their connection is a pseudo connection. Judas was such a branch. His connection with Christ as the vine has been a pseudo connection.
The fruit the Father wants to cultivate within us is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). This fruit of the Spirit is the total mind of Christ. If this is present, it will certainly come to expression in deeds. The Lord speaks to His disciples as believers who are already clean. The cleansing by the Father only happens to those who are already clean. That cleanness has come about through the word that the Lord Jesus spoke to them and that worked in their hearts and consciences.
When the Lord speaks about this cleanness, Judas is no longer present and He does not have to say “but not all” (John 13:10). The Word has cleansed their ways, it has judged their worldly thoughts, it has exposed their carnal desires. It has led them to self-judgment, repentance and faith. However, we not only need the Word to come to repentance and stand clean before God. We need the cleansing power of the water of God’s Word over and over again. Thus the Father cleanses us. He reveals through His Word what is to be removed from us.
To undergo the cleansing of the Father through the Word it is necessary to abide in Christ. When the Lord says “abide in Me”, this is a command that can only be fulfilled by those who have life. To ‘abide in Him’ we do by maintaining a living connection with Him. The result of this will be that He stays in us. Not that someone who has converted and received Christ as His life can lose Him again. What matters is that the believer is aware that he is in Him and also that he knows that Christ as the life is in Him.
There is an intimate connection between the believer and Christ. Without it, there can be no fruit. No disciple has life in himself. Consequently, no disciple is able to bring forth fruit himself. It is only possible to produce fruit if there is a living connection with the vine. Only by abiding in Him there can be fruit.
Once again the Lord Jesus points to Himself as the vine and tells His disciples that they are the branches. It is important that we keep an eye on the correct relation. Only by abiding in Him and by His abiding in the believer will there be much fruit. Bearing fruit entirely depends on abiding in Him. Apart from Him it is impossible to bear fruit. Apart from Him, separated from Him, it is impossible to do anything to the honor of the Father. We totally depend on Him for all things.
The Branch That Bears No Fruit
In John 15:2 the Lord has already spoken about the branch that bears no fruit. Here He returns to this and says what the fate of such a branch is. He speaks of ‘anyone’, not of ‘you’. He knows that the eleven are in Him and are therefore clean and fruit-bearing branches. But if ‘anyone’, like a Judas, does not abide in Christ as the only source of fruit, it will end fatally with him.
This is not about someone who is a member of the body of Christ. Whoever is a part of that body can never become detached from it. The vine and the branches emphasize the connection of believers with Christ as a manifestation of the new life evidenced by bearing fruit. The condition for bearing fruit is the connection with the Lord Jesus as the source of one’s life.
The Lord, however, speaks about the possibility that someone confesses by words and deeds to be connected with Him, but of whom it turns out after a while that it is only an outward confession. Letting go of Christ then not only means that the branch does not bear fruit, but that the branch withers and is thrown into the fire to be burned. It is not about suffering damage or loss of works and reward (1 Corinthians 3:13), but about perishing (1 Corinthians 9:27).
What the Lord says here of the branch that bears no fruit cannot possibly apply to a true believer. A true believer who does not bear fruit does not exist. Life may still express itself so weakly, if there is real life, it will express itself, small as it may be.
Bearing Much Fruit
After the Lord’s profound words to someone who only keeps the appearance of a connection with Him, He presents to His disciples the way of full blessing and abundant fruit. Whoever abides in Him, that is, whoever is in a life connection with Him, will automatically bring forth fruit. That fruit is the effect of their abiding in Him as well as the abiding of His words in them.
His disciples have heard His words, not as forgetful hearers (cf. James 1:25). They also accepted those words, so that they now abide in them and give direction to all their thoughts and actions. The Lord then directly encourages them to ask whatever they wish giving assurances that the sources of Divine power will work what they ask for. When our hearts are thus connected with Him, we will ask that which He loves to hear because it is completely according to His will (John 14:13). He does not think of Himself, but is focused on the glorification of the Father.
The more we pray according to His will, the more fruit we bear and the more the Father is glorified. Everything we ask, also with regard to our worries, will be fruit that glorifies the Father. This fruit also shows that we are disciples of the Lord Jesus. This is the second name the Lord uses to describe the believers in this chapter. He has already called them ‘branches’ and now He calls them ‘disciples’. He will also call them ‘friends’, ‘slaves’ and ‘witnesses’.
Disciples are followers, students. He can call us His disciples when we have learned from Him, as true followers, that our lives, just as His, are all about bearing fruit for the Father. Bearing fruit is not an easy thing. It can only happen in the way of following the Lord Jesus.
Bearing fruit is a process we have to learn, we have to grow in it. Bearing fruit is a spiritual process of gaining insight into God’s thoughts of how we can be pleasing to the Lord (2 Peter 1:5-Ruth :). That is why we are in the training school of God as students. In that training school we have a Teacher Who not only tells us how to do it, but also through His relationship with the Father shows us how to do it.
This brings us to the importance of the awareness of the love of the Lord Jesus. This awareness is an element of priceless value for the path the disciple has to take in order to bear much fruit. Therefore, it is the disciple’s responsibility to remain in the love of the Lord Jesus. His love is an infallible source of comfort in the sometimes painful and disappointing course of earthly circumstances that are so contrary to Him. To abide in His love means to be constantly aware of that love, whatever the circumstances may be.
Perhaps it may seem that He does not love us, but we must hold on to the fact that He loves us with the same love with which the Father has loved Him in His life as Man on earth. It is that love that matters and not the love of the eternal Father for the eternal Son. He is always aware of that, even if it is not apparent from the situation in which He finds himself. It is not our human judgment that is the standard to define love, but the knowledge that He loves us.
For continuous awareness of His love it is necessary to keep His commandments. We can abide in His love if we are willing to do what He asks of us. When we look at the fruits it brings, keeping His commandments can’t be difficult. Just as the Lord Jesus is the perfect example of love, so is He in keeping the commandments. He abides in the love of the Father by keeping His commandments. He knows the Father’s love of eternity, but now He knows that love in a new way by keeping the commandments of the Father as an obedient Son.
The commandments of the Father are not the commandments of Sinai. The Lord Jesus is not just a Jew Who faithfully obeys the law. He is the Son Who fulfills the commandments of the Father. We have seen an example of these commandments in John 10 (John 10:17-Job :). There He speaks of the commandment He received from His Father to lay down His life and take it again. Such a commandment is nowhere to be found in the law of the Old Testament. Nowhere does the law ask a righteous man to lay down his life.
Only Someone Who is also God can lay down his life and take it again. Every wish of the Father is a commandment for Him. How does He know those wishes? Because he walks in fellowship with the Father. The same applies to us if we want to abide in his love. True discipleship is that we abide in the enjoyment of the love of Christ.
If the words of this chapter are read in a lawful way, there will only be sadness and we may even become depressed. If bearing fruit is understood as an achievement to be made, we feel how much we fall short. This leads us to the sighing of wanting, but not being able, as we see with the man described in Romans 7 (Romans 7:15-Psalms :).
When we understand the words of Christ as He intended them, we realize that they are expressly meant to give us His joy and fulfill our joy. The joy He has is the motive for us to walk as disciples in a life of fruitfulness. Bearing fruit is for the Father, but the joy of the Lord Jesus will be our part.
This is one of the glorious things He means when He speaks to Peter about having part with Him (John 13:8). The partaking with Him here is “My joy”, just as the Lord also spoke about the taking part in “My peace” (John 14:27) and “My love” (John 15:9) and as He will speak about “My glory” (John 17:24). He wants us to partake in His joy and that this joy will become complete (1 John 1:4), come to adulthood. His joy is to be in the things of the Father. We are invited to grow towards that, that we too have nothing more than that. The joy of Him is to be in us. The perfect joy is when our joy merges with His joy.
The Commandment to Love One Another
With the commandment to love one another, the Lord returns to what He said earlier (John 13:34). Love must permeate all relationships between the members of God’s family. The disciples must love one another with a love that is beyond all the weaknesses of the other. The Lord turns the spotlight on this commandment as “My commandment” because it is the summary of all other commandments. It is not the moral obligation to love one’s fellow man, but the reciprocal love of Christians, the standard of which is His love for them. We see this in the newly converted Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 4:9).
The commandment of love is the commandment of the Divine nature of which we have become partakers (2 Peter 1:4) and through which everything may be done. It is a commandment for the believer, because in his heart the love of God is poured out. To such nature, which can only love, the Lord Jesus says that he must love. It is like saying to a fish: ‘You must swim’. He cannot and will not do otherwise; when he swims, he is in his element.
For our love for one another the love of the Lord Jesus is the norm. He has proven His love by laying down His life for us. He did this because He considers us His friends. We could say that giving up one’s life for enemies is an even greater proof of love, but that is not what this is about. The Lord calls His disciples His friends. Is there any greater proof of His love for those who are His friends than that He is laying down His life for them?
We, too, can provide no greater proof of our love for our friends, our brothers and sisters, than that we give our lives for them. We also ought to do this (1 John 3:16). However, what is the value of this theory if in daily life we close our hearts to the needs and concerns of God’s children? In his first letter John points to the practical expression of this love (1 John 3:17). Christ does this by emphasizing obedience to Him. Love for Christ and obedience to Him always go hand in hand.
He calls us His friends, but that does not mean that we should treat Him as a buddy. We have to be aware that we are His disciples and that He is our Lord. Incessantly the relationship between privilege and responsibility is presented to us.
The Lord addresses His disciples here as privileged people whom He wants to tell what He is planning. A master does not explain his plans to a slave, but to a friend. A slave must simply obey without asking for an explanation. His master is unaccountable for any task whatsoever. In His friendship the Lord Jesus emphasizes that He calls us friends by giving us the reason why. We see that in His friendship He goes much further than just calling us to obedience. Friend means lover. He speaks to His disciples in their love for the Father, a love He also has.
The hallmark of true friendship is that you can tell each other everything. A good friend has no secrets. Christ therefore introduces us into the depths of His heart. With a friend you share the most intimate thoughts, just as God does not hide from Abraham what He is going to do, and Abraham is called a friend or a lover of God (Genesis 18:17-Psalms :; 2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23). This is what Christ does here in relation to His disciples and even on a higher level.
As His friends, He has revealed to His disciples everything He has heard from His Father. What the Father has entrusted to Him, He has passed on to them as His friends. This is a special proof of friendship. And to think that they did not choose Him to be His friends, but He chose them. It is a great privilege that we have been chosen. It is also a great responsibility that we are set to bear fruit.
In order to enjoy the privilege and fulfill the responsibility, the heart is directed from the privilege and the blessing to Him Who blesses. We may ask Him for anything that will lead to lasting fruit. It all originates from Him. Here, praying in the Name of the Lord Jesus is the praying of a heart that is made one with the Son and that prays in line with the Father’s eternal counsels. Such prayer will definitely be answered.
The Lord concludes this part, which in John 15:12 began with the commandment of loving one another, by again bringing up this commandment of loving one another in John 15:17. Love for one another is the new and repeated commandment of Christ for His own (John 13:34). To love is the revelation of the divine nature, as perfectly visible in Christ through the service of the Holy Spirit. It is the atmosphere in which the fruit can grow and blossom to the honor of the Father.
The Disciples Hated by the World
While believers love one another, they find themselves in a world that hates them. Their love among themselves arouses the hate of the world. The world rejects the love of God wherever it appears. To love one another as Christians exposes us to the hate of the world that is governed by Satan.
The love of the disciples among each other is in sharp contrast to the hate of the world. Love from within, hate from outside, that is the position resulting from the rejection and death of the Lord Jesus. Yet we are able to turn that around. We can become cold and indifferent towards our brothers and sisters, while doing our best to secure the love of the world.
Just like mutual love, hate is ignited from outside because we abide in the love of the Lord Jesus. This should not surprise us since this has also been Christ’s part during His life on earth. The world hates us because of Him. What happens to us has first been His part. In its own way, the world loves those who belong to the world. At the same time, the world hates those who belong to Christ because they are no longer of the world.
Not our faults are the true cause of the world’s hatred, but what the world recognizes in us from the grace and excellence of Christ. Grace reduces man to nothing and makes God and Christ everything. Grace does not spare sin but saves the sinner. These things are unbearable to the flesh, which is enmity against God (Romans 8:7). The hatred of the world is our part, and not only because we no longer belong to the world, but because He has chosen us.
The fact that we could only become partakers of Him through His election clearly reveals the character of the world. The world would never let us go if the Lord Jesus had not chosen us and called us by His power. That this evokes the hatred of the world is foreseen by the Lord. In this context, He reminds His disciples that He said that a slave is no greater than his Lord (John 13:16). This applies to serving the fellow believers, to which the Lord applies it in John 13 (John 13:15), but it also applies to the hatred and enmity they will experience in the world. The slave should not expect to remain free from what has happened to his Lord.
The connection of the disciples with Christ arouses hatred which manifests itself in persecution. The world experiences that connection when it hears the word that the disciples speak. If that is the word of Christ, it will reveal what is in the heart of the hearer. Whoever has accepted His word will also accept the word of the disciples. However, if His word is rejected the slave may not count on any other fate. Christ is despised and rejected and likewise that will be the part of the slave. Both slaves and their word will be treated with contempt because it will bring God, His Person and His Word, too close to them.
The Son Hated by the World
The expression of hatred by the world against the disciples finds its cause in the Name of Christ. They do not know what His Name means in all its glory in both blessing and judgment. This is due to their unfamiliarity with the Father as the One Who sent Him. They moderate that they honor the Father; but when Christ, the Son of the Father, declares Him, they reject Him. Thus they show that they do not know Him Who sent the Son. If the world only knew the least about Him, it would not reveal itself in this way. It demonstrates the total blindness concerning the Father. The world cannot but reveal itself in hostility.
The revelation of the Father in the Son has brought their sin to light. The words the Lord Jesus spoke to the world as the Son are the words of the Father. That is undeniable and yet they do so. The same goes for the works He has done. These too cannot be denied as works of the Father, but still they do. If He had not done all these things, they would not have been accused of the sin of rejection. However, now that it has become so obvious that the Son of the Father is among them as Man and they reject Him in spite of that, there is no excuse for their sin.
Never has any man and never has God spoken as in Christ (Hebrews 1:1). Prophets have spoken on behalf of God, but they were fallible men. After their testimony, weakness returned and they could even forget God. Now the Father has sent the Son, and He did not hold out the law to them, but spoke to them in love. He who rejects the law could do so with the excuse that he cannot keep it anyway. He who rejects love does so because he does not want it. The convincing proof of the world’s sin is found in the rejection of Him Who is God in grace.
The deliberate rejection of Christ by the world, and especially by the religious leaders, is strikingly expressed in the parable of the unjust vine-growers. There we hear them say when the lord of the vineyard finally sends his beloved son: “This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours” (Mark 12:6-Judges :).
After this premeditated murder, the world as a whole is rejected. Therefore, we have nothing more to expect from the world as such. What someone does with the Son, he does with the Father. The fact that they do not bow down before the Son, but rebel against Him precisely because He is the Son, is proof of their hatred of the Father. They hate the Father as they hate the Son and that makes their sin inexcusable. The words and works of the Son are the words and works of the Father. To reject the Son is to reject the Father at the same time. Perfect balance between words and works is found in the Lord Jesus.
The Jews believe that they are connected with God while rejecting His Son in hatred. They appeal to the law for their behavior. But precisely the law to which they appeal and in which they boast, clearly speaks of the rejection of the Messiah. In fact, the law is fulfilled in the word that is written about Him and of which His lips now pronounce the fulfillment (Psalms 69:4).
The fulfillment of this word is proof of the conscious rejection of Christ. There is no reason to hate Him. After all, He has always been among them in love and grace and goodness. Yet they have hated Him. It proves the evil of man’s heart as well as the truth of God’s Word.
After His rejection out of the world and His return to the Father, the world will not be without witnesses. New witnesses will come. To testify, you must have seen something, you must have witnessed something. The Lord Jesus has testified of the Father through His words and works that He has seen with His Father. That testimony has been rejected. Once He will be glorified, He will send another Witness: the Spirit of truth. The Spirit will complete the testimony. They have rejected the Son as being a Witness. This will not happen with the Spirit. He will be a permanent Witness. That is why it is so grave to sin against the Spirit or to reject the Spirit of grace.
Here the Son sends the Spirit to testify of Him. That is what proves the Godhead of the Son. Of course He does not send the Spirit independently from the Father. He sends the Spirit because of the Father. He also speaks about the fact that the Helper Himself will come. Again He speaks first about the Helper and then about the Spirit of truth (John 14:16). The Spirit is not only sent or given, but also comes Himself, for He is also God and comes from the Father.
Each of the three Persons of the Godhead always acts in perfect independence, but never separately from the other Divine Persons. Thereby the Son and the Spirit have both taken a position of dependency upon their coming to earth. The Son emanated from the Father and so does the Spirit emanate from the Father. The Son has testified of the Father and the Spirit will testify of the Son. For His testimony of the Son, the Spirit will use the disciples and also others, such as Paul.
A distinction is made between the testimony of the disciples and that of the Spirit. The disciples testify of what they have seen from the beginning, which is from the beginning that they went with the Lord Jesus on earth (1 John 1:1-Leviticus :). They are also witnesses of His resurrection. We have their testimony in the Gospels and in the beginning of Acts. Later witnesses, like Paul, will speak through the Spirit of the glorified Christ. Of course, their testimony of Christ in humiliation on earth also requires the power of the Holy Spirit, but the nature of their testimony has to do with the Lord’s life on earth before His death and His ascension.
Apart from their testimony, the Holy Spirit will also testify. He will testify of what He saw in heaven, while the disciples of Christ will testify of the time He was on earth.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op John 15". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany