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Bible Commentaries
John 15

Burkitt's Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the NTBurkitt's Expository Notes

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Verse 1

Observe here, How our blessed Saviour, under the metaphor of a vine, elegantly sets forth himself in his relation to his visible church, shewing, under that similitude, what his Father meant to do with Judas, and with all unfruitful branches like unto him, even take them away, cut them off, and throw them into the fire: but such as are fruitful, he purges by his word and spirit, by ordinances and providences, by mercies and afflictions, that they may be more aboundingly and abidingly fruitful.

Learn hence, 1. That Jesus Christ in his offices for, and relation to, his people, doth most fitly resemble a vine. As the vine is weak, mean, and small, in outward appearance, not like the cedar for height, or like the oak for strength: so was Christ in his state of humiliation: there was no beauty in him, Isaiah 53:1

As the vine is a fruitful plant, though it has little pomp, yet it has much plenty, and is only useful for fruit bearing, and brings forth both plenty and variety of sweet fruit to make glad the heart of man: thus the fruits of Christ's death, resurrection, ascension, and intercession are many and great, delightful and sweet.

In a word, as the fruit of the vine is pressed, that it may be drink unto men, so Christ submitted to be trod in the wine-press of God's wrath, that thereby the sweetest fruit and benefit might redound to his people.

Finally, as the vine is the root from which all the branches derive their nourishment and fruitfulness, in like manner is Christ the stock into which all his members are ingrafted, the root in which they all subsist, and the fountain from whence their spiritual life and fruitfulness doth proceed and flow.

Learn, 2. That as Christ is the vine, so his Father is the husbandman: he ingrafts and implants all the branches into this vine: the plants of righteousness are of his own planting: he takes notice what store of fruti every branch doth bring forth: and it is his daily care to dress and dung, to purge and prune, to support and shelter, his vineyard, that it may bring forth fruit abundantly.

Learn, 3. That there are two sorts of branches in this vine, some fruitful, others unfruitful; some have the visibility, but not the reality, of branches; some are branches only by external profession, others are so by real implantation.

Learn, 4. That the true touch-stone whereby to discern one sort of branches from another, is not by the fair leaves of profession, but by the substantial proofs of an holy and righteous conversation.

Learn, 5. That in the most fruitful branches, in the best and holiest of christians, there remains much corruption to be purged out, in order to future and farther fruitfulness.

Learn, 6. That the husbandman's hand (God the Father's) manages the pruning knife of affliction, in order to his people's improvement in grace and holiness: he had rather see his vine bleed, than see it barren.

Lastly, That such branches as, after all the husbandman's care and cost, remain unfruitful, shall be finally cut off and cast away, as was Judas here; who, in this discourse of our Saviour, seems particularly and especially to be aimed at; he was a branch in him that bare no fruit, who was shortly after taken away, and went to his own place.

Verse 3

Our Saviour having in the former verses distinguished his disciples into two sorts; some that were members of his body the church, and branches of him the true vine, by outward shew and visible profession only: others that are spiritually ingrafted into him, and do bring forth much fruit: now in this third verse Christ tells his disciples which number they were of: Now (saith he) ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you; that is, now that Judas, the traitor, that dead, rotten, fruitless branch, is cut off, and cast out, ye are all clean through the cleansing power and virtue of my word and doctrine.

Learn hence, 1. That such as are justified by the blood, and sanctified by the Spirit of Christ, are in Christ's account clean, notwithstanding their many spots and manifold imperfections: Now are ye clean.

2. That as the blood of Christ is the meritorious, and the Spirit of Christ the efficacious, so the word of Christ is the instrumental, cause of a believer's purification and cleansing; Now are ye clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I will abide in you; that is, abide in me, not only by an outward and visible profession, but by a real and fiducial adherence, and I will abide in you by the influences and operations of my Holy Spirit. The union and conjunction between Christ and his members is mutual; they abide in him by faith and dependance, and he abideth in them by the indwelling presence of his grace and spirit: Abide in me, and I will abide in you.

Observe farther, The reason which Christ gives why they should thus abide in him; because without union with him , without interest in him, without influences of grace derived from him, they could bring forth no fruit for him, nor do any thing that is truly acceptable and well-pleasing to him: As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in me, for without me ye can do nothing: That is, "As branches severed from the vine cannot live and bear fruit, so neither can Christians, separated from Christ, and without deriving virtue from him, do any thing spiritually good and well-pleasing in the sight of God."

Learn hence, That not only unregenerate men do labour under an impotency to that which is spiritually good, but even disciples themselves, wihtout daily dependance upon Christ, and without constant communications of grace from him, can do nothing in a lively and acceptable way and manner unto him: Without me ye can do nothing; you that are branches of me the true vine.

As Christians, without me, that is, without my Spirit, abiding in you, and uniting to me your head, you can do nothing acceptable, to me, or worthy of my gospel. Again: as apostles, it may denote, that without the gifts and powerful assistance of the Holy Spirit, they could do nothing to convert the world to Christianity: in both respects might Christ truly say, Without me ye can do nothing.

Verse 6

Here our holy Lord discovers the sad and deplorable condition of such professors, who pretending relation to Christ, do yet bring forth no fruit unto him: he calls them withered branches, fit only for the fire.

Learn hence, That such as have had a long standing in God's vineyard, and contented themselves with a withered profession, are in great danger of having God's blasting added to their barrenness. All their parts and gifts, and common graces, will wither, and their fair blossoms of profession will drop off, and at the great day the angels will gather these fruitless branches together, and cast them into hell-fire.

Verse 7

Observe here, 1. A glorious privilege declared: Ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Not that we are hereby warranted to ask what we please at God's hand, but our will must be limited by the word and will of God; we must pray in faith, and in the name and mediation of Jesus Christ, and with a single eye at the glory of God.

Observe, 2. The condition upon which this privilege is attainable: If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you; that is, practically and experimentally. If my doctrine and commands abide in your hearts, and dispose you to an holy fruitfulness in your lives, then shall all your just requests be granted.

Learn, that such as by faith embrace the promises, and by obedience live up to the precepts, of the gospel, may in prayer humbly ask of God what they will, with a due submission to the wisdom and will of God.

Verse 8

Our Lord here exhorts his followers to an holy fruitfulness in good works, by a double argument.

One drawn from the glory of God: Herein is my Father glorified.

The other from their own advantage: So shall ye be my disciples; that is, hereby ye shall evidence and prove yourselves to be my disciples.

Learn hence, That a Christian's abounding fruitfulness in good works will abundantly conduce to the honour and glory of God, and also to his own peace and comfort, by being the best evidence of his discipleship.

Verse 9

Lord, what a comparison is here! As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: he doth not say, As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved him; but so have I loved you: nor doth he say, As God hath loved me, so have I loved you; but, As the Father! It is verbum dilectionis, a word importing dearness of affection: nor doth he say, The Father hath loved me, and I love you; but, As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: nor doth he say, As the Father hath loved me, so will I love you; but, So have I loved you.

This shews the priority of Christ's love, that he loved us first, and also denotes the invincible constancy of his love, and the indubitable certainty thereof: I have loved you: follow me from heaven to earth, and from earth to heaven again, and you will find that every step I have taken hath been in love.

Learn, 1. That the Lord Jesus Christ hath given full and ample demonstration of his great and wonderful love unto his church and people.

2. That it is the duty, and ought to be the singular care, of every Christian, to preserve the sweet sense and inward diffusions of Christ's love in their own souls: Continue ye in my love.

Verse 10

Christ had told his disciples in the foregoing verse, that he had loved them, even as the Father had loved him; that is, with an eternal love, with a real and operative love, with an immutable and constant love.

In this verse he directs them how they may continue in the sense of his love; namely, by their constant obedience to his commands, as his obedience to his Father's commands had secured him a continuance in his Father's love; If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love: that is, in the sense of my love, and under the sweet apprehensions of it.

Learn hence, That as our obedience to Christ is the best evidence of our love to him, so is it the best mean to preserve and keep us in the sense and assurance of his love to us.

Verse 11

In these words our Saviour declares the ground and reason why he did so earnestly press and urge the duty of being universally fruitful upon his disciples, and that was two-fold:

1. That his joy might remain in them; that is, that the joy which he had in their holiness and obedience might remain with him: nothing is more desired by Christ, than that he may have cause continually to rejoice in the faith and fruitfulness of his people.

2. That their joy in him might be full. This latter arises from the former; our joy in Christ results from Christ's joy in us; his delight in us causes us abundantly to delight in him.

Learn hence, That nothing is more desired by Christ, than that the joy of his people should be a full, solid, constant, and uninterrupted joy.

3. That the only way and mean, in order thereunto, is by an holy fruitfulness in good works; All these things have I spoken unto you, that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy might be full.

The observation of God's commandments does give a Christian here the fullest and most perfect joy.

Verse 12

Our Lord had often in this farewell sermon of his to his dear disciples, pressed upon them the duty of loving one another, chap. 13 and 14. And yet here he inforces it from his own example: As I have loved you, so love you one another; that is, as truly and as sincerely for the manner, though not in the same proportion and degree.

Learn hence, That for the disciples of Christ to love one another upon such grounds, and in such a way as he loved them, is that which his heart greatly desires, and is very much set upon.

2. That Christ's love unto believers is both an obligation unto mutual love, and also a pattern and example for it. This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you.

Verse 13

Here our Saviour gives his disciples an evidence of the greatness of his love unto them; namely, in his readiness to lay down his life for them, which is the highest expression of love to our dearest friends, because life is the greatest earthly blessing.

Learn hence, That Christ's love, in laying down his life for his people, was a matchless love; for whilst they were enemies to him, he had a friendly respect for them; and never ceased till he had brought them into a covenant of friendship with himself.

Verse 14

Here Christ invites his people to obedience, by the honourable title of friends: Ye are my friends.

1. Actively, you will declare and manifest yourselves to be my friends.-

2. Passively, I will declare myself to be your friend.

Learn hence, 1. How condescending is the love of Christ, in calling his servants by the name of friends.

2. How glorious is the believer's relation to Christ, in being one of his friends.

3. How grateful is obedience to Christ, seeing it dignifies the practisers of it with the title of his friends.

4. Our conformity to Christ consists not so much in imitation of what he did, as in obedience to what he prescribed. Some actions of Christ are inimitable, but all his commands are obeyable.

5. That nothing short of an humble, uniform, cheerful, and constant, obedience to the commands of Christ, will evidence the truth of our relation to him, and the sincerity of our friendship with him: Then only are ye my friends, when ye do whatsoever I command you.

Verse 15

By these words Christ declares the reason why he was pleased to change his stile, and call his disciples friends instead of servants: namely, because of his communication of secrets to them, which servants are not admitted to the knowledge of: Henceforth I call you not servants; that is, not mere servants: not that they were to be exempted from obedience: (for that is called for in the foregoing verse) but Christ treated them now with the kindness and familiarity of friends, being about to leave them, he unbosoms himself unto them, saying, All things that I have heard of my Father, I have made known unto you.

Not as if Christ had communicated the infinite treasures of knowledge to them, which the Father had imparted to him: but he speaks here as the prophet of his Church, that as such he had revealed all things needful for them to know in order to salvation, all things belonging to their case and state; as a counsellor doth not impart all his knowledge to his clients; but all that is necessary for his client to understand and know, that he makes known unto him, relating to his own case.

Learn hence, 1. That all Christ's disciples are his servants, and all his servants are his friends, in regard of intimate communion and tender usage: Henceforth I call you not servants, but friends.

And after his resurrection he called them brethren, John 20:17. The dignity of believers is a growing dignity, the longer they follow Christ, the higher privileges are indulged to them.

Learn, 2. That all the Father's counsel concerning our salvation, and so far as it is needful and necessary for us to know, is faithfully revealed by Christ to his Church, he being constituted by God the Father to be the great prophet and instructor of it: All things that I have heard of the Father, I have made known unto you; that is, all things fit for them at present to know; namely, concerning his passion, resurrection, ascension, mission of the Holy Ghost, a future judgment, and the promise of eternal life.

Verse 16

Here our Saviour gives another instance and evidence of his love to his disciples; he tells them, that his mercy and free goodness had prevented them in their election to eternal salvation, and in their vocation unto the office of apostleship: Ye have not chosen me, to be your Master and Lord, but I have chosen you, to be my disciples, friends, and servants.

2. He acquaints them with the end, design, and intention, of his chusing of them; namely, that they should bring forth fruit, and persevere therein, even in all the fruits of holiness and obedience, which are the praise and glory of God by Jesus Christ: I have ordained you, that you should bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain.

3. He directs them, that in order to their being fruitful, they should have access to the Father through him for whatsoever they wanted and stood in need of: Whatever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.

Learn hence, That all those whom God hath chosen, and called to the knowledge and service of Jesus Christ, ought to make it their care and endeavour to bring forth fruit, and to persevere therein to their lives end: I have chosen you, that you should bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain.

Verse 17

Observe here, 1. With what frequency and importunity our Lord inculcates and presses the duty of mutual love upon his disciples: I command you to love one another.

It denotes the great importance of the duty, and the great averseness and backwardness of our hearts to the performance of it.

And if we consider the disciples as apostles and ministers of the gospel, it intimates to us the necessity of mutual love amongst the dispensers of the gospel, as conducing exceedingly to the welfare and benefit of the church of God, over which he hath set them.

Observe, 2. The argument which our Saviour makes use of to press his disciples in general, and his ministers and ambassadors in particular, to love each other: and that is, because the world would certainly hate them.

Learn hence, That the world's hatred of the members and ministers of Christ, is, and ought to be, esteemed by them a strong argument to excite and persuade them to love one another; for this is subjoined as an argument to press mutual love, that we are sure to meet with the world's hatred.

Observe, 3. The several arguments by way of encouragement which Christ propounds to comfort his members and ministers against the world's hatred.

The first argument is taken from his own lot and usage; when here, in the world, he met with the very same before them: The world hated me before it hated you.

Learn hence, That hatred and persecution from the world need not seem hard to the saints, if they consider what a stock Christ had before them upon him: he is the prime object of the world's hatred and they who hate his members much, do hate him more, because of their likeness to him and resemblance of him.

A second argument of comfort under the world's hatred is this, that it will evidence they are not of the world, but chosen out of the world. Because ye are not the world, but I have chosen you our of the world, therefore the world hates you John 15:19.

Hence learn, 1. That the children of God, though in the world, yet they are not of the world, they have not the spirit of the world in them, nor is the conversation of the world led by them.

2. That the differnce betwixt them that are of the world, and those that are chosen out of the world, is of God's making: I have chosen you out of the world.

3. That such Christians as are separated from the world in judgment, affection, and practice, must for that reason expect to be hated and persecuted by the world: Because ye are not of the world, therefore the world hates you.

The third argument for consolation and support under the world's hatred, is taken from our relation to Christ, as servants to a master, Remember that the servant is not greater than his Lord John 15:20: as if Christ had said, "Is is equal that you should expect better treatment than myself, either as to your persons or ministry, or that you should expect that the world should better receive your doctrine than it did mine before you.

Learn hence, That neither the members nor ministers of Christ can nor ought to expect better treatment in and from the world, than their master found before them: The servant is not above his master, nor greater than his Lord.

A fourth argument to support them under the burden of the world's hatred, is taken from the goodness of the cause for which they were to suffer: namely, for Christ's name's sake, All these things will they do unto you for my name's sake John 15:21.

Hence learn, 1. That it is the duty of all, but especially of the ministers of Christ, to own the name of Christ, to stand up in defence of his name and truth, his glory and honour, what opposition soever they meet with for the same.

Learn, 2. That the great quarrel of the world against the disciples of Christ, is for the name of Christ; whatever may be pretended, this is the ground of the quarrel.

Verse 22

These words are not to be understood absolutely, but comparatively; as if Christ had said, "Had not I come amongst them in my incarnation, and preached personally to them the doctrine of salvation, and confirmed that doctrine by miraculous operations, they might have pleaded ignorance in some measure, and they had not had sin; that is, they had not had the sin of unbelief and gospel-contempt of sin to answer for as now they have; but would have had more to say in excuse, or for a cover for their sin, than now they can: But now they have no cloak for their sin: that is, they are totally inexcusable, and have not the least colour or pretence for their obstinate unbelief."

Learn hence, 1. That sins of ignorance are, as it were, no sins compared with sins committed against light and knowledge.

2. That sins committed against gospel light are of an heinous nature, and aggravated guilt, as being committed against the very remedy.

3. That the gospel, where it is plainly preached, doth take away all pretence and excuse from sinners. Now they have no cloak for their sins.

Verse 23

These words declare the heinous nature of the Pharisees sin, in hating and persecuting Christ, who had done before their eyes such works as no man besides him, or before him, ever did: he acting by his own power.

Peter healed the lame man, Acts 3:1-16. but it was in the name of Jesus of Nazareth: but Christ healed the sick, and raised the dead, in his own name, and by a special word of command: I say unto thee, arise: yet did the Pharisees hate him and his Father, according to the prediction, They hated me without a cause Psalms 35:19. Which being spoken of David in type, received a more eminent accomplishment in Christ, the Son of David.

Learn thence, 1. That let men pretend to ever so much holiness or respect to God, yet if they hate Christ, despise his gospel, they are haters of God, who is one in essence and nature with his Son. He that hateth me hateth my Father also.

Learn, 2. That no miracles wrought by mortal men were ever comparable with the miracles wrought by Christ the Son of God; he did surpass them all in number, kind, and manner of doing them; by his own authority, in his own name, and not as others who obtained their power by prayer from God: I have none amongst them the works which none other man did.

Learn, 3. That Christ having confirmed his doctrine by such unparalleled miracles as the world was never before acquainted with doth aggravate the sin of those that are haters of his person, despisers of his doctrine, and reproachers of his miracles; it being just with God, when men obstinately shut their eyes, and will not see, judicially to close their eyes, and say, They shall not see.

Verse 26

Here our Holy Lord confirms himself, that, though he had laid them under many aspersions and scandals from the world, yet all these should be done away by the coming of the Holy Spirit who should testify of him, and make his person and doctrine to be acknowledged in the world; and that they themselves should bear witness of him who had been with him from the beginning; that is, since he first began to exercise his prophetic office.

Observe here, 1. That Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are three distinct persons in the godhead.

2. That the Holy Ghost proceedeth from the Father and the Son: here the Son is said to send him: and, as to the Father, he is said to proceed from him.

If the Holy Ghost doth not proceed from the Son, why he is called The Spirit of the Son, Galatians 4:6? Why is he said here to be sent by the Son? The Comforter whom I will send unto you from the Father. And if the Spirit doth not proceed from the Son, what personal relation can we conceive between the Son and the Spirit?

Observe, 3. That it is the highest dignity and honour of the apostles and ministers of Christ, that the Spirit beareth no testimony unto Christ, but with and according to the testimony given by them; for here it is conjoined, He shall testify of me! and ye shall also bear witness, who have been with me from the beginning.

Bibliographical Information
Burkitt, William. "Commentary on John 15". Burkitt's Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/wbc/john-15.html. 1700-1703.
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