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Bible Commentaries
John 15

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary

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A.M. 4037. A.D. 33.

In this chapter,

(1,) Christ represents himself under the emblem of a vine, and exhorts his disciples to faith and a persevering regard to his commandments, John 15:1-11 .

(2,) He renews his exhortation to mutual love and universal obedience, by the consideration of his love to them, and the intimate friendship with him wherewith he would reward it, John 15:12-17 .

(3,) He comforts them against the hatred and persecution of carnal men, by the consideration of his being hated and persecuted in the same manner, and by the promise of the Comforter, John 15:18-27 .

Verse 1

John 15:1. I am, &c. Our Lord having gone with his disciples to the mount of Olives, employed the remaining hours of his ministry in delivering to them a long and most excellent discourse, recorded in this and the following chapter. This discourse he began with the parable of the vine, taken probably from the vines that were growing around them on the mount of Olives. In this parable he shows them the excellence of his religion, and the nature of the relation in which they stood to him by the profession thereof. Moreover, he explains to them the advantages which would accrue to them from this relation. I am the true vine I am to my church, and the real members thereof, what the vine is to its branches. As the branches of the vine draw nourishment from, and are made fruitful by, their union with the stock, and by the care of the dresser, so my disciples are made fruitful in all holiness and righteousness by faith in me, and in the truths and promises of my gospel, and by the influence of my Spirit. And my Father is the husbandman Or, vine-dresser; he has planted this vine, his providence watches over it, and by him it is dressed and cultivated, and he views with peculiar delight the growth and fertility of its branches. In this passage our Lord seems to allude to Psalms 80:8, &c.; Isaiah 5:3-7; where the Jewish Church is represented under the figure of a vine: and God’s peculiar care thereof is set forth by the care which a husbandman takes of his vineyard. Wherefore, by calling himself, on this occasion, the true vine, Jesus intimated, that whereas the Jewish Church and people had hitherto been the peculiar care of God, they were to be so no longer. From this time forth, all such as became real partakers of the Christian religion, and who, perhaps, in allusion to this parable, were called by the apostle the body of Christ, were to be the true church of God, and the objects of his care, whatever nation or country they were of. See Dr. Samuel Clarke, and Macknight.

Verse 2

John 15:2. Every branch in me True believers, who by faith have an interest in, and union with Christ, are the branches of the vine here spoken of. Though, as to the place of their abode, their religious sentiments in lesser matters, and their modes of worship, they may be distant from each other, yet they meet in Christ, their root and stock, and the centre of their unity. That beareth not fruit Answerable to his advantages, fruit suitable to the relation in which he stands to me, and the union which by faith he has had with me: he whose faith in me and my gospel does not work or continue to work by love, and whose love does not continue to manifest itself by his obedience; he who does not bring forth, with constancy and perseverance, the internal and external fruits of the Spirit, namely, all goodness, righteousness, and truth, Ephesians 5:9; he taketh away Such unfruitful branches the vine-dresser cuts off in his righteous judgment, and entirely separates them from me, depriving them of all the advantages for fruitfulness, which they derived, or might have derived, from their connection with me, and their reception of my truth and grace. And every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it Or rather, pruneth it, cuts off from it every thing superfluous, and removes all the hinderances of its fruitfulness. Thus God, in the course of his providence, by various sufferings in the minds, bodies, families, circumstances, and situations of his people, and by his word, and their faith therein, and obedience thereto, (1 Peter 1:22;) and by the influence of his Spirit, mortifies and destroys what is still corrupt in their affections and dispositions, with what remains in them of the carnal mind, and prevents their bearing fruit to perfection. That it may bring forth more fruit Than it brought forth before, to God’s greater glory, the greater benefit of mankind, and their own greater progress in holiness here, and a fuller reward of felicity and glory hereafter. Dr. Campbell reads the verse, Every barren branch in me he loppeth off: every fruitful branch he cleaneth, by pruning, to render it more fruitful: remarking upon it as follows: “Critics have observed a verbal allusion or paronomasia in this verse. To the barren branch the word αιρει , [ he loppeth off, ] is applied; to the fruitful, καθαιρει , [ he cleaneth by pruning. ] It is not always possible in a version to preserve figures which depend entirely on the sound, or on the etymology of the words, though sometimes they are not without emphasis. This verse and the following afford a remarkable instance of this trope. As our Lord himself is here represented by the vine, his disciples are represented by the branches. The mention of the method which the dresser takes with the fruitful branches, in order to render them more fruitful, and which he expresses by the word καθαιρει , leads him to take notice of the state wherein the apostles, the principal branches, were at that time: ηδη υμεις καθαροι , &c., now are ye clean, &c. It is hardly possible not to consider the καθαιρει , applied to the branches, as giving occasion to this remark, which immediately follows it. Now, when the train of the thoughts arises in any degree from verbal allusions, it is of some consequence to preserve them, where it can be easily effected in a translation. It is for this reason that I have translated the word καθαιρει by a circumlocution, and said cleaneth by pruning. It is evident, that καθαιρει , in this application, means pruneth. But to have said in English, simply, pruneth, would have been to throw away the allusion, and make the thoughts appear more abrupt in the version than they do in the original; and to have said cleaneth, without adding any explanation, would have been obscure, or rather improper.”

Verses 3-6

John 15:3-6. Now ye are clean All of you, to whom I now speak, are made clean from the guilt and power of sin through the word which I have spoken unto you, whose sanctifying influence has operated on your hearts, and which, when applied by the Spirit, is the grand instrument of purifying the soul. Abide in me By the continued exercise of humble faith and love, producing all holiness, by which alone you can continue to be in me; and I in you And I will be in you by my Spirit, to nourish your piety and virtue, and supply you, as from a living root, with every necessary grace. As In the natural world; the branch cannot bear fruit of itself But must presently wither; except it abide in the vine Continue in a state of union with it, and be nourished by sap from thence; no more can ye Be able to produce the fruits of genuine and acceptable obedience; except ye abide in me And have the life of grace maintained in you by a vital union with me. I am the vine That is, the root and stock of the vine of which I speak; ye are only the branches And cannot flourish or subsist, much less can you bear fruit, without me. Our Lord, in this whole passage, speaks of no branches but such as are, or, at least, were once, vitally united to him by living faith. He that abideth in me By a real, internal, and spiritual union, begun and continued by faith; and I in him By my word and Spirit, my truth and grace; the same bringeth forth much fruit In holy dispositions, and righteous, benevolent actions, to the credit of his profession, the comfort of his own soul, and the edification of his fellow- creatures; for without me Χωρις εμου , separate from me, and deprived of the influences of my word and Spirit, (alluding still to the vine and its branches;) ye can do nothing Nothing truly and spiritually good; can bear no fruit that will be pleasing to God, or profitable to yourselves. Without the merit of Christ, we can do nothing toward our justification; and without the Spirit of Christ, nothing toward our sanctification. We have as necessary and constant a dependance upon the grace of the Mediator for the whole of the spiritual and the divine life, as we have upon the providence of the Creator for all the actions of the natural life: as to both, it is in and by the divine power that we live, and move, and have our being. If a man abide not in me By living, loving, and obedient faith, as well as by church communion, by which last, separate from the former, he may abide in Christ all his life and be withered all the time, and cast into the fire at last; he is cast forth as a branch He is separated from Christ, as a branch that is barren is cut off from the tree which it only encumbered; and is withered They that abide not in Christ by a real and vital union, though they may flourish a while in a creditable and plausible profession, yet in a little time they wither and come to nothing. Their abilities and gifts wither, their zeal and devotion wither; as do also their credit and reputation, their hopes and comforts. For they that bear no fruit will soon bear no leaves. How soon was the fig-tree withered away which Christ cursed! And men gather them and cast them into the fire, &c. The loppings of the vines, in those countries where they are cultivated, are carefully gathered up, and make a considerable part of their fuel; as if he had said, As men gather up withered branches, which have been cut off from the tree on which they once grew, and throw them into the fire, where they are burned as a worthless kind of wood, fit for nothing but fuel; so, in like manner, such will be the end of those unhappy creatures. Satan’s agents and emissaries will insnare and make an easy prey of them; for they that fall off from Christ soon fall in with sinners, are associated with them, and employed in the unfruitful works of darkness; so that they become fit fuel for the divine wrath, from which the profession they formerly made will not preserve them. And they are burned This follows of course; but it is here added very emphatically, and makes the threatening very terrible. The original expression, και καιεται , is literally, and they are burning; for they will not be consumed in a moment, like thorns under a pot; but burning for ever in a fire, which not only cannot be quenched, but will never spend itself. Such, reader, is the consequence of apostatizing from Christ, or ceasing to live by faith in him; they draw back unto perdition, Hebrews 10:38-39. Some interpret men’s gathering them, of the ministry of angels in the last day, when they shall gather out of Christ’s kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire, as tares are gathered and bound in bundles to be burned.

Verse 7

John 15:7. If ye abide in me, &c. Our Lord having laid before his disciples the awful consequences of falling from grace, now proceeds to point out some of the peculiar advantages which should accrue from a contrary spirit and conduct; the first of which is that all their prayers should be heard and answered. If ye abide in me Through a faith working by love; and my words abide in you Practically and experimentally; if you adhere steadfastly to the doctrine which I have taught you, firmly believing my declarations, conscientiously obeying my precepts, and affectionately embracing and relying on my promises; ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you Two things are implied in this promise: 1st, That the true disciples of Christ, who abide in him, and in whom his word abides, as above explained, will not ask any thing but what is proper to be done for them, and according to the will of God, 1 John 5:14-15. They will, especially, ask spiritual blessings, which they know it is his will they should ask and receive; and will ask them in the way which he hath prescribed, namely, sincerely, earnestly, importunately, and perseveringly; and in the way of repentance, faith, and new obedience; and, in the name of Christ, relying for the success of their petitions on the mediation of Christ, and the mercy and promise of God through him. And, with respect to temporal blessings, they will ask them conditionally, and with entire resignation, desiring to receive them only so far as God foresees will be for their good and his glory. 2d, That they shall always have such an interest in Christ’s sacrifice and intercession, and in God’s favour through him, that all their prayers shall be accepted, and their petitions granted in the degree, time, and manner in which they themselves desire they should be granted, namely, when and as far as God sees will be for their good: which is all they desire; for they would not wish their requests to be granted to their own hurt, the hurt of others, or God’s dishonour. Thus the desire of the righteous shall be granted, and God will fulfil the desire of them that truly and consistently fear him: he also will hear their prayer, and will save them, Proverbs 10:24; Psalms 145:19. To this purpose this apostle speaks, 1 John 5:14-15, If we ask any thing according to his will he heareth us, and we have the petitions that we desired of him, and whatsoever we ask we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. Dr. Macknight, however, and many other commentators, suppose that whatever encouragement this promise of our Lord may give to pious Christians, of all nations and ages, to believe that their sincere prayer shall be granted, yet, that it was primarily addressed to the apostles; and that our Lord, having in the preceding verses exhorted the twelve, as disciples or private Christians, proceeds now to give them directions as apostles or preachers, commissioned by him to teach his religion to the rest of mankind. They accordingly paraphrase the passage thus; If ye abide in me, in the sincere profession and practice of my religion; and my words abide in you, if ye faithfully teach mankind my doctrines and precepts, notwithstanding the difficulties you may meet with in this work; ye shall ask what ye will, &c., ye may ask any miracle you please, in confirmation of your authority, and it shall be granted unto you.

Verse 8

John 15:8. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit “As the end for which my Father has given the gospel dispensation to men, is to make them fruitful in holiness, you, my apostles, by spreading the true knowledge thereof through the world, and by reforming yourselves and others, will do honour unto God’s wisdom and goodness in bestowing this dispensation upon you.” But as the holiness of the apostles, and the diligent discharge of their duty in preaching the gospel, would be to the glory of God, in effecting, through his grace, the conversion and salvation of mankind; so, the fruitfulness of all Christians, in a lower and narrower sphere, tends greatly to promote the glory of God; for many, by seeing their good works, are brought to imitate the same, and glorify their Father who is in heaven, Matthew 5:16. So shall ye be my disciples Thus shall you appear to all really to be what you call yourselves, my true disciples, and to act in a way worthy of your character and relation to me. Hereby shall you both evidence your discipleship and adorn it; and shall be owned by me as my disciples in the great day of final accounts, and have the reward of disciples, a share in the joy of your Lord. Observe, reader, to be a disciple of Christ, is both the foundation and height of Christianity.

Verses 9-11

John 15:9-11. As the Father hath loved me As certainly as he hath loved me; and with that kind of love wherewith he hath loved me, namely, with a love of approbation and delight, constancy and perseverance; so have I loved you As truly, as affectionately, as invariably: continue ye in my love Keep your place in my affection: see that ye do not forfeit that invaluable blessing. How needless was this caution, if it were impossible for them not to abide in his love. If ye keep my commandments If you carefully perform all the things which I have enjoined, both as my apostles and as private Christians; ye shall abide in my love You shall be always the objects of it: on these terms, and on no other, shall you continue to possess my special affection: even as I have kept my Father’s commandments Have exactly performed all the duties of my office, as Mediator, as the Teacher, Redeemer and Saviour of my church, their lawgiver and example; and abide in his love Continue to be the object of his infinite complacency. These things have I spoken unto you Not to grieve you by any intimation that I suspect the sincerity of your regards to me, but that you may be fortified and animated against all the temptations that will assault you, and may continue steadfast in your attachment to my cause and interest, and in your fidelity to me your Master, and zeal and diligence in serving me; that my joy may remain in you That my complacency in you, as my faithful friends, may still continue; and that your joy might be full May be maintained in its full height, and may greatly increase; as it certainly will, in proportion to your fidelity, zeal, and diligence in my service.

Verse 12

John 15:12. This is my commandment This I especially enjoin you, whether as apostles or private Christians; that ye love one another Cordially and constantly; even, if it be possible, with as great fervency and constancy, as I have loved you So as to be ready to sacrifice your lives for each other, as I expose and give up mine for you. It is remarkable, that no one duty is more frequently inculcated, or more pathetically urged upon his disciples, by our Lord, than that of mutual love. This is my commandment, he says, as if it were the most necessary of all the commandments. The reason might be, 1st, That as under the law, the prohibition of idolatry was the commandment more insisted on than any other, because God foresaw the people would be prone to that sin; so Christ, foreseeing that the Christian Church would be addicted to uncharitable contentions and divisions, strife and animosity, thought proper to lay the greatest stress upon this precept. 2d, Mutual love among Christians is a duty which both includes many other duties, and has a good influence upon all: and to this duty, Christ’s love to us all should at once direct, animate, and urge us; he having thereby both shown us our duty in this respect, and laid us under the most powerful obligations to perform it. Add to this, that our Lord was thus earnest in pressing his disciples to the duty of mutual love, not only because it was the great design of his gospel to promote it, but because this virtue exercised by his apostles and first disciples among themselves, and toward all mankind, would be one great means of making their preaching successful; just as Christ’s immense love to men will always have a great influence in drawing them to him.

Verses 13-16

John 15:13-16. Greater love To his friends, (of whom here he only speaks,) hath no man than this That is, a greater degree of love than this never existed in the world; that a man lay down his life for his friends That a man should be willing, not only on some sudden alarm, or in some extraordinary and unexpected danger, to hazard his life on their account; but on the coolest deliberation, to submit to lay it down for their preservation and happiness. Ye are my friends Ye are the friends for whom I will lay down my life, and who shall certainly share in the blessings which I shall thereby procure for my disciples; if ye do whatsoever I command you If you practically acknowledge my authority, and are so influenced by my love, as to make conscience of obeying all my commands. On this condition, and not otherwise, shall we be acknowledged by Christ as his friends. Who then dares assert that God’s love does not at all depend on man’s obedience? Henceforth I call you not servants Though the distance that is between you and me, and your obligations to obey me, might have warranted me to treat you as servants, and particularly to conceal from you my counsels and designs, I have not acted toward you in that manner; but I have called you friends I have treated you as friends are wont to be treated; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you I have all along communicated to you the most important of those gracious counsels which my Father, as the expression of his friendship, imparted unto me; nay, I have commissioned you to reveal them to the world, and have made you not only my friends, but my assistants, in the great work of saving the world. Ye have not chosen me You have not, as principals in this affair, adopted me your associate, but I, the great author of the gospel, have adopted you my associates; and ordained Greek, και εθηκα , appointed you; that ye should go and bring forth fruit That ye may go and convert sinners; and that your fruit should remain Even to the remotest generations; that whatsoever ye shall ask, &c. The consequence of your going and bearing fruit will be that all your prayers will be heard and answered.

Verses 17-21

John 15:17-21. These things I command you, &c. Again I would remind you, that if you would continue thus to be the objects of these my Father’s gracious regards, you must carefully practise your duty to each other, as well as to him; you must continue to love one another; and this you should the rather do, as you will be the mark of common hatred and persecution. Yet, if the world hate you You will have no reason to be offended or surprised at it; for ye know that it hated me Mild and benevolent as my conduct has always been; before it hated you Before it discharged its venom and malignity on you. If ye were of the world If your dispositions and actions were like those of the bulk of mankind; or if your doctrines and practices were conformable to its customs and maxims; the world would love its own No doubt you would meet with general approbation, and be much caressed; but because ye are not of the world Because your desires and designs, your spirit and conduct, are quite opposite to theirs, and I have chosen you out of the world Have called you not only to separate yourselves from, but to oppose its vices and follies, and even to be leaders in that holy and necessary opposition; therefore the world hateth you Notwithstanding that the cause in which you are engaged is most honourable, and your lives most useful and beneficent. And for the very same reason must the world in all ages hate those who are not of the world. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant, &c. To reconcile you to the persecutions you are to meet with, you ought always to bear in mind what I told you on this subject the first time I sent you out, (see Matthew 10:24,) that no servant can expect to be better treated than his master; and therefore, seeing they have persecuted me, they will naturally persecute you. If they have kept my saying Have conformed themselves to my doctrine; they will keep yours also Will be properly influenced by it, and will walk according to it; therefore, by the reception my doctrine meets with, you may judge how yours will be relished. But all these things will they do unto you All the opposition which they will show to your persons and ministry, will be exerted for my name’s sake Because of the enmity which they have to me, and the cause in which I am engaged; because they know not him that sent me Because they are not acquainted with the nature and perfections of that God to whom they boast so near a relation, and who has sent me into the world to declare and establish a religion which shocks their prejudices, and is contrary to their carnal and worldly spirit. And in all ages and nations, they who know not God will, for this cause, hate and persecute those that do.

Verses 22-23

John 15:22-23. If I had not come and spoken unto them Thus plainly; they had not had sin Their guilt would not have been so great. “If I had not appeared in person among them, according to their own prophecies, and proved my mission by arguments which put it beyond all reasonable possibility of doubt, they would not have been so much to blame for rejecting the gospel.” But now they have no cloak for their sin But now that all the things foretold by Moses and the prophets are fulfilled in me; that my gospel is every way worthy of God; and that my mission from God is sufficiently proved by my miracles; they have no plea whatever to excuse their unbelief. He that hateth me, hateth my Father also As if he had said, This clearness of evidence, wherewith my mission is attended, makes the crime of rejecting me equal to, if not the same with, the crime of rejecting God. Their hatred to me implies also hatred to my Father. “How much,” says Dr. Doddridge, “is it to be wished, that those who make light of Christ, while they pretend a great veneration for the Father, would seriously attend to this weighty admonition, lest haply they be found even to fight against God! Acts 5:39.”

Verses 24-27

John 15:24-27. If I had not done among them, &c. If I had wrought no miracle at all among them; nay, if I had not done such extraordinary works as no other man ever did, not even their prophets, or Moses himself; they had not had sin Any degree of sin comparable to that which they are now under: but now they have both seen, &c. But now, as they have rejected my superior miracles, which they have seen with their own eyes, at the same time that they own the evidence of those which Moses wrought, of which they have heard only by distant report, they manifest such an obstinate perverseness of temper, that I may truly say, they have both seen and hated both me and my Father. For in my miracles, which are greater than any hitherto exhibited, they have seen, or might have seen, who I am; namely, the only-begotten Son of God; and who is my Father; for the glory of all the divine perfections shines forth in my miracles. Nevertheless, they have rejected me, who have performed these miracles, and my Father likewise, who sent me to perform them; so that, shutting their eyes against the light thus shining on them, and hardening their hearts against that incontrovertible evidence of my mission, which my mighty works afford, it is evident they reject me, not out of ignorance and weakness, but out of wilful hatred to me, and him that sent me, and therefore are utterly inexcusable. But this cometh to pass This is all permitted; that the word might be fulfilled Or, in consequence of this being permitted, the word is fulfilled; see note on chap. John 12:37-40; that is written in the law Or in their sacred volume; (namely, Psalms 35:19;) They hated me without a cause These very words, strictly speaking, were spoken concerning David, and are here applied to the Messiah, both because David was a type of him, and because he was hated without a cause, (see Isaiah 3:3-9; Daniel 9:26; Zechariah 12:10,) as David was. The meaning is, Be not surprised that I, who am the Messiah, have been rejected of the Jews. It has happened according to the prediction of their own prophets. But when the Comforter is come, &c. But, “for your encouragement I assure you, that they will not always continue thus obstinately bent against me and my religion. When he, who is to comfort you under all your troubles by the aid he will afford you, and who on that account is justly styled the Comforter; when he is come, whom I will send you from the Father To remain always with you; even the Spirit of truth He shall bear witness to me and to my religion so effectually, that many of the Jews shall be converted.” Macknight. We may observe here, that the Spirit’s coming, and being sent, by our Lord, from the Father, to testify of him, are personal characters, and plainly distinguish him from the Father and the Son. And his title as the Spirit of truth, together with his proceeding from the Father, can agree to none but a divine person. And that he proceeds from the Son as well as from the Father, may be fairly argued from his being called the Spirit of Christ, 1 Peter 1:11; and from his being said to be sent by Christ from the Father, as well as sent by the Father in Christ’s name. And ye also Weak as you now appear, shall, by his powerful assistance, bear a courageous and convincing testimony to me, because you have been with me from the beginning Namely, of my ministry, and therefore are the best qualified to give an account of my whole conduct; which, the better it is known, the more it will justify my cause, and expose the wickedness of those that rise up against me. In other words, “In process of time men’s eyes shall be opened to discern the authority of your testimony; and they shall give credit to your reports concerning me, because they shall know that ye have been my companions from the very first, consequently eye and ear-witnesses of all that I have done and said: so that after a while you shall testify concerning me, and preach my religion far more successfully than it will be in your power to do at the beginning.” See Doddridge and Macknight.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on John 15". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/john-15.html. 1857.
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