THE MINISTRY OF EXHORTATION CHRIST THE TRUE VINE
The Lord's ministry of comfort, or of binding up, has been seen in chapter 14. Now in chapter 15 it is that of stirring up, or of exhortation. If, as we have seen, the sacred presence of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is a precious sanctuary, yet our feet walk on earth, and there must be the trial of faith, the practical test of reality.
Israel had been the vine brought out of Egypt and planted in the land (Isaiah 5:17), but in bringing forth wild grapes had proven rebellious, not true to the proper character of the vine. She must be set aside, and Christ, the true Vine, take His place as the source of all fruit for God. For the Father both cares for the vine and its branches and He receives the fruit.
There are branches that bear no fruit, and they are all taken away (v.2). These compare with John 6:66, disciples who, not being born again, do not continue. True believers, on the other hand, bear fruit, no doubt in different measures, but faith always bears fruit. These are "purged," which surely involves pruning, the cutting back of that which cannot be called evil, but which may hinder the fullest measure of fruit. The Father does this by His word, the same word which has once cleansed every believer. Verse 3 is true of the eleven disciples, and true of every believer today.
Verse 4 presses the total dependence of the branches on the vine. Independently the branches cannot bear fruit. The word "abide" involves permanency of dwelling, the life of the vine flowing into the branches. It is by faith that one abides, and this is true in a vital way of all true believers: they abide in Him. Yet they are still told to abide, that is, to be in daily practice what they are in principle. For life in Christ is the vibrant principle by which we abide.
Verse 2 has spoken of fruit and more fruit. Now verse 5 adds "much fruit." Such is the development of the new life: it is not "works" here, but "fruit," which is the development of the very nature of the child of God, not just the things he does, though his nature will be seen also in what he does. Compare Galatians 5:22-23.
Note in verse 6 it is not said, "If you do not abide," but "if anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered." The Lord refers to one who is outwardly a Christian, but not inwardly, a disciple but not born again. There is no life from the Lord Jesus resident in him. The figure of grafting into the olive tree (Romans 11:17-21) is instructive here. None of us is by nature in the vine: we are grafted into a stock altogether different than we are by nature. If the graft takes effect, the life of the vine flows into the branch: if it does not "strike," then no life is transmitted: the branch withers and is burned. The good graft is the true believer, the ineffective graft the mere professor of Christianity. He does not abide.
Verse 7. On condition of this vital abiding in Him and His words abiding in the believer, he is promised an answer to his prayers. For this abiding is drawing from Him the vital energy of life, and His words abiding in us means that His words become so vital a feature of our existence that we ask what accords with those words: our own wills are not independent, but clinging to Him. Asking consistently with this spirit of dependence, we shall not be denied.
In this the Father is glorified, for it involves the bearing of much fruit. Not only is the fruit itself for the Father's glory, but He is glorified by the fact of His laboring with us as the Husbandman, to produce this fruit (v.8). In this too we shall be Christ's disciples, not only in name, but in practice. Dependence and fruit-bearing will prove the reality of faith. Notice that we are not told to bear fruit, but to abide in Him, for it is this abiding that produces fruit spontaneously.
OBEDIENCE AND COMMUNION
From verse 1 to 9 we have seen the subject of dependence and fruit-bearing: Now the subject is that of obedience and communion. This too is begun in a most significant way, for the Lord first assures the disciples of the Father's love to Him as being the same love He has toward them, and encourages them to abide in His love. When He had said "abide in Me," life is more prominent, that is, to depend on Him for the life by which to bear fruit; but to abide in His love emphasizes that love as the dwelling of the soul, the warm, precious comfort of communion with One who delights in the fellowship of His own. But if we are to abide in His love, obedience to His commandments is an important requisite. As a child obeys his father, so he enjoys his father's love.
Abiding in the love of the Lord Jesus is necessary in order that, as He says, "My joy might abide in you." Before this He had spoken of "My peace" (ch.14:27), that blessed tranquility with which He faced all the circumstances of evil that opposed Him; then of "My love," the love that was fully devoted to pleasing the Father; now "My joy," the joy of doing the Father's will in His willing self-sacrifice (cf.Heb.12:2). It is His joy abiding in the soul that causes our joy to be full. Compare 1 John 1:4.
Having spoken of His commandments, now in verse 12 He shows that love is the very essence of His commandment, love that willingly relinquishes its own rights and comfort for the sake of the blessing of others. His love to us is its measure. None can be greater, for the next morning He would be on the cross, to lay down His life for those whom He calls friends. What a Friend indeed He was to them! Yet also, all who obey His commandments are His friends, that is, of course, those who give Him the supreme place of authority in true reality. In them only divine life is operative. Mere outward lip-service, as in Judas, was not enough.
Verse 15. As He is about to suffer, He no longer calls His disciples servants, but friends; for a servant's place is not to enter into and understand his master's affairs in such a way as the master may desire to make known to his friends. So the Lord had made known to His disciples all that the Father had given Him as matters of revelation. At the time their understanding of it was no doubt very limited, but His imminent death and resurrection and the coming of the Spirit of God would illuminate these things for them in a most wonderful measure.
The credit for this was in no way due to them, but to Him: He had chosen them, not they Him (v.16). He had ordained, or appointed them for the purpose of going out in the world to bear fruit. It is He only who ordains His messengers: this is never to be in the hands of any man or group of men. Christ is the source of their authority, and the source by whom they bear fruit, for He is the vine. Fruit from this source will abide. Then He confirms what He had said in verse 7, but adds the value of His own name in reference to their prayers to the Father. The Father honors the name of the Son, and that which accords with the proper honor of that name will receive its answer from the Father.
SEPARATION AND SUFFERING
Just as we have seen that dependence and fruit-bearing are connected, and obedience and communion are inseparable, so in this section separation and suffering go together. This begins with the repeated command to love one another, for believers are unitedly separate from the world. Among themselves let love be a powerful, living reality, for from the world they may expect hatred: it had certainly shown its hatred toward their Lord, and they, being chosen out of the world, were therefore not of the world. It is not surprising that this incurs the world's hatred with its accompanying persecution. For while we remain in the world, there is yet a moral separation that becomes intolerable to the world, because its immoral, unholy ways are condemned by such moral separation.
Here we need that word, "remember." If we tend to feel resentful or discouraged because of the world's attitude, how imperative that we keep in mind the history of our Lord among men, as He had emphasized to them in His words. The servant can not expect better treatment than his Lord, for his Lord is greater then he. Those who have persecuted Christ will do the same to His followers: those favorable to Him will be favorable to them.
What encouragement there is in verse 21 for the suffering believer! He may accept whatever persecution that may come as for Christ's name's sake, remembering that the world is ignorant of the Father who sent the Son, and therefore does not understand the significance of the evil it is doing.
Yet God takes full account of all of this, and having sent His Son, will use this means of manifesting the true character of an evil world, a world which successfully keeps its corrupt condition in measure covered up, so long as there is no contrasting standard presented before its eyes. But the Son of God has come, and has spoken. If He had not come, "they had not had sin," that is, their sin would not have been brought to the light, manifested for what it actually is. Now they were exposed, with no cover- up left them.
Instead of this leading to their broken confession before God, it incurred their hatred of Christ, which proved their hatefulness toward His Father too, whatever may have been their claims of knowing God.
In verse 22 He has spoken of His person, as coming, and His words: in verse 24 He adds to this His works done among men as fully witnessing to the glory of His person and the truth of His words, a threefold, substantial presentation of God's own standard of pure truth. No other had done, or could do, what He did. In all this the Father had been manifested, but by the world both He and His Father had been hated.
Yet God was in perfect control. He had foretold this in "their law," where the Messiah is represented as saying, "They hated Me without a cause" (Psalms 35:19). So the Jews ignorantly fulfilled their own scriptures by their hatred and rejection of Christ. Nothing can thwart the fulfillment of the word of God.
THE MINISTRY OF POWER - POWER BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD
Verses 26 and 27 properly belong to chapter 16; and here again the Comforter is introduced, who has not been spoken of since chapter 14:26, where He is linked with the Lord's ministry of consolation. But now the ministry of power is emphasized, the Lord giving through the Spirit the capacity and energy for witness in a hostile world.
Let us observe the great beauty of verse 26 as indicating the pure unity and interdependency of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Comforter would come, sent by the Son, but from the Father. Yet again, He would of His own volition proceed from the Father. The Son sent Him (ch.10:7); the Father sent Him (ch.14:26); and it is just as true that He proceeded of His own volition. Precious unity indeed!
His coming is with the object of testifying of Christ as the One rejected and crucified by the world, but raised from among the dead and glorified by His God and Father. Yet more than this, the disciples of the Lord Jesus would have the blessed dignity of being identified with the Spirit of God in this great work of bearing witness to the grace and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, for they had companied with the Lord from the beginning of His ministry (v.27).
This itself was a valuable present reward for their fellowship with the Lord Jesus in His sufferings, that is, to have fellowship with the Spirit of God in witness to Him. Let us also deeply value the honor of being linked with Him in whatever measure of suffering and witness. Because of this too our future prospect is to reign with Him.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on John 15". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany