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Bible Commentaries

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann
John 15

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-5

Christ the True Vine.

The Husbandman, the Vine, and the branches:

v. 1. I am the true Vine, and My Father is the Husbandman.

v. 2. Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away; and every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

v. 3. Now ye are clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you.

v. 4. Abide in Me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself except it abide in the vine, no more can ye except ye abide in Me.

v. 5. I am the Vine, ye are the branches; he that abideth in Me and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without Me ye can do nothing.

Whether the Lord spoke these words in the courtyard of the house in which He had celebrated the Passover with His disciples, or on the way through the valley of the Kidron, is immaterial. In this section of His discourse He combines parable and application in a very impressive manner. He wants to make clear to His disciples the relation which He holds to those that are called to continue His work. In the great garden, or vineyard, of the world, Jesus is the true Vine, planted there by His heavenly Father according to the eternal counsel of salvation. God the Father Himself is the Husbandman, the Gardener, and He is actively and solicitously concerned about the growth of the Vine. The Vine-dresser takes an unceasing interest in every phase of the Vine's condition, and in every branch that buds forth from. the main stem. Every one of the annual shoots of the Vine that is fruitless, that shows no indication of becoming a bearing branch, the Vine-dresser takes away, cuts off the stem; and every shoot that is bearing the Gardener cleans very carefully, by removing all suckers, by pruning away all unnecessary buds that sap the vigor of the branch. The object is to have each branch yield the richest possible results. Jesus now makes the application to His disciples. They are clean, free from inward stain, they are in the condition of good branches, ready to yield fruit; and that through the Word, on account of the Word which Jesus has spoken to them, which He had taught them during His ministry. This Word of the Gospel made them clean; it renewed, it converted them; it made them true branches of Christ. "He says plainly: Through the Word are ye clean which I have spoken to you; that is nothing else than the entire preaching of Christ, as He was sent into the world by the Father, in order to pay for our sins through His suffering and death and to reconcile the Father, that all who believe on Him might not be lost nor condemned, but for His sake have forgiveness of sins and eternal life (Joh_3:1-36 :. This Word makes a person clean (where it is received into the heart by faith), that is, it brings forgiveness of sins and makes acceptable before God, that for the sake of that faith, by which alone such Word is accepted and adhered to, we that cling thereto are reckoned and considered altogether pure and holy before God, though we, on account of our nature and life, are not clean enough, since sin, weakness, and frailties, which are still to be cleansed, always remain in us as long as we live on earth. " It is necessary therefore, as Christ here urges, that His disciples strive to remain in the condition to which the grace of God has elevated them. They must keep their hold on Him by faith and in trust. And He will then, in turn, abide in them, will supply them with divine power and energy. The branches are active indeed, but only through the. power which they have received from the stem. Just as soon as a branch is taken away from the vine, its ability to bear fruit is ended. Even so, just as soon as a disciple severs his connection with Christ, which is maintained by faith, through the Word, he ceases to be in a condition in which he can bring forth fruit well pleasing to God. Jesus is the Vine, the believers are the branches. While they abide in Him, while His strength flows into them every day and hour, through the Spirit, in the Word, so long they can bring forth fruit in abundance. But let that connection be severed, let the hold of faith be broken, then all good works are a thing of the past. Without Christ, without His power and life, outside of Christ and His strengthening Spirit, there is no possibility of real spiritual work of any kind. The result in such cases, even with the best of intentions, is nothing in the sight of God. In their own strength, by their own power, the believers cannot think, desire, speak, perform anything good. Christ works the doing of the good through the power of the Word.


Verses 6-10

The earnest application:

v. 6. If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch and is withered; and men gather them and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

v. 7. If ye abide in Me and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

v. 8. Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be My disciples.

v. 9. As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you; continue ye in My love.

v. 10. If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love; even as I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love.

Ten times in these ten verses is the necessity of abiding in Christ emphasized, the need of keeping a firm hold on the Savior by love. So much depends upon that fact that every believer, having once been implanted into the true Vine, maintain his close connection. For if anyone does not remain in Christ, the consequences are disastrous. He is thrown out as a useless branch, for he is withered. There can be no dead wood lying about in the vineyard of God's Church; so all the dead branches are heaped on a pile and thrown into the fire, and it burns. According to the common usage in such cases, there is inevitable and complete destruction for the dead branches. Every person that does not remain in Christ, after once having gained the saving knowledge, thereby becomes a dead member. He cuts off his own supply of spiritual life and power. And as for real fruit, actual good works, he no longer is able to perform them. There may be some Christian show and semblance, but the reality of Christian virtue is lost. "So long as the branch remains rooted in the stem or stock and its sap and power remains in him, his fruits must be and remain good, though they may in some way be stung by a worm or be attacked by caterpillars or some other vermin. Thus also, if a man abides in Christ and receives and keeps energy and power from Him by faith, that Jesus works in him with His power and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, then the remaining weakness, which is incited by the devil and this sinful nature, will do no harm, only that he oppose such weakness with the continual battle of faith and sweep out such vermin. But if thou wouldst give up the doctrine of faith or subvert it and, leaving Christ, depend upon thine own sanctity, or publicly live in sin and shame, and yet glory in the Gospel and in the Christian name: then thou shalt know that thou art a false branch and hast no part in the Vine, but, cast out and condemned with wood and fruits, belongest to eternal hell-fire. " But to those that abide in Jesus, or, what is identical with that condition, to those that abide in the Word of the Lord, a further beneficial effect and result of that blessed intimacy is the hearing of prayer by Jesus and the Father. By means of His teaching, of His Gospel, Jesus abides in His disciples, and by the power of that same Word they are enabled to bear fruit which is acceptable to Him. But this same relationship also teaches them to pray in the proper manner. For the words: You may pray what you will, are not to be taken in an absolute sense, in the sense of arbitrary choice. The relation of the believers to Christ precludes such an understanding. The prayer of Christians will always be made in the way of love and of God's Word, in accordance with the new life which governs their every thought and action. Such prayers are the expression of the intimacy between Christ and His disciples, and are heard as a matter of natural consequence. For by this granting of prayer, flowing out of the intimate relationship between Christ and the believers, the Father is glorified. And the result is a strengthening of the bonds of love, an increase in the amount and in the quality of the good works, and a confirming of discipleship. The obedience of Christians is not a galling servitude, but a cheerful, joyful expression of their love. The same measure of love that the Father has toward the Son the latter has toward His own, and so the union and intimacy is a most perfect one, and should be kept by all means. Every person that abides in the love which Christ has for him and for the whole world is safe by reason of that love. But this abiding is done and accomplished by keeping and observing the commandments of Jesus; this rings the full possession and enjoyment of Christ's love. Just as Christ kept the will of His Father and carried it into execution, so the Christians will naturally find their delight in observing all the commandments, all the sayings of their Master, above all that one concerning the clinging to the Word of the Gospel as the one Word of salvation. This abiding in Christ, in the Word of the Gospel, faithfulness in confessing; is the result and working of God's grace. He that began the good work in us by planting us into the true Vine, Jesus Christ, will also perform it until the great day of glory.


Verses 11-14

The New Status of Christ's Disciples.

The joy of the Christians:

v. 11. These things have I spoken unto you that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.

v. 12. This is My commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.

v. 13. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

v. 14. Ye are My friends if ye do whatsoever I command you.

The parable of the Vine and the branches with its application had a definite object, namely, that the joy which Christ has enjoyed, which is His in a peculiar sense, may be in His disciples, may become their property, their special and cherished possession. The great joy of His life He found in the intimate communion with His Father, with whom He is united in one essence, in the consciousness of the Father's love, and in the observance of His will. If this same mind would be found in the disciples, they would feel the same joy, they would rejoice in the constant communion with Christ and God. And by the same token their joy would be fulfilled, they would have the full measure of joy, of bliss which could not be taken from them. This joy, attained by the consciousness of their union with their Savior, will then also work willingness to fulfill the commandment of love, that the brotherly love among them should be so full and so perfect as Christ's love toward the believers is full and perfect. And in order to emphasize utter unselfishness and forgetfulness of self as the keynote in the manifestation of true love, He gives them an instance, a specific case of love's highest proof. A greater love than this love has no man, that he give and lay down his life for his friends. This general truth had a very specific application in the case of Jesus: He laid down His life for those whom He had chosen as His friends. And in His case the idea of ransom, of substitution, stands out very prominently. In the place of, in the stead of, the guilty ones He gave His own life, thus delivering them from the consequences of deeds which they should have borne. "That is called a great, powerful love if a man gives to another in his misfortune a hundred or a thousand dollars, or pays all his debts for him; but how great would that be if a king" or a prince would give to a poor beggar a duchy or principality, yea, even his own kingdom or land and people? There the whole world would sing and say of unheard-of love. But that is only a small matter when compared with this, that Christ gives His life and body for thee, which is indeed the highest love that any man on earth can show to another; for to serve with money and goods, yea, also with the body, is also called loving. But there is none that would not much rather give his money and goods, yea, his land and people, than that he should die for another; and if he did it, it would be nothing beside that fact that God's Son comes down from heaven and steps forth in thy place, and willingly sheds His blood and dies, though thou hast been His enemy and a condemned person. That is the love which is much greater and higher than heaven and earth and everything that might be named. " This application of the great truth Christ makes Himself. His disciples are His friends, if the evidence of their works in performing His commandments indicates the faith of their hearts. He looked upon them as His friends for whom He intended to die; but they, in turn, should show and practice self-denial in loving and serving their neighbors, one another. Note: It is a name which honors the Christians very highly, to be called the friends of Jesus, the Savior, and to have such wonderful evidence of Christ's friendship in His death.


Verse 15-16

The meaning of Christ's friendship:

v. 15. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth; but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you.

v. 16. Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in My name, He may give it you.

This new character of the disciples the Lord explains more fully. He makes the distinction between servants and friends. A servant does not know what his master is doing; He receives orders to carry out an allotted task, but has no idea what the object of the master may be in assigning it; he has no personal interest in his work. But the disciples of Jesus are from henceforth His friends; they are in His confidence, they are admitted to the inner circle of intimates, to His close companionship. The only name that will now fit them is that of friends, for the Master has revealed to them the secrets of the Father, His essence and especially His counsel of love for the salvation of mankind. This is such a great honor because there is no equality between Him and them, to begin with. Between men of equal rank, friendship springs up spontaneously. But in this instance it was pure grace and mercy on the part of Jesus which prompted Him to choose them. There was not the faintest idea in the mind of the believers to elect Christ as their Savior or to range themselves on His side. This choosing was done entirely by Him. Everything that is done by the believers in faith is the result of the gracious election of Christ. It is on that account that they have been set, appointed, for the purpose of going out, of showing themselves before the world and doing good works. And these fruits of their faith and election should not be passing and evanescent, but they should have a permanent, lasting value. As believing Christians they have that ability, and they should make use of the energy and power supplied to them by Christ through faith. And this, in turn, implies such a close intimacy with the Father that the believers freely bring their petitions and prayers before Him. They pray in the name of Jesus, trusting in His redemption, which has restored them into their rightful position as children of God, knowing that God will hear their prayer and give them the blessings which they are in need of. Christ and the Father are to the believers a constant source and fountain of spiritual strength. They owe everything that they are, that they have, and all the good they do, to Christ and to the love of Christ.


Verses 17-21

The result of the Christians' calling:

v. 17. These things I command you that ye love one another.

v. 18. If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you.

v. 19. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

v. 20. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept My saying, they will keep yours also.

v. 21. But all these things will they do unto you for My name's sake, because they know not Him that sent Me.

The Lord again summarizes all the demands of Christian life in the one command, namely, that the Christians love one another. This is not a command in the sense of the Mosaic injunctions, but a truly evangelical admonition. That must be the principal characteristic of the Christians by which they are distinguished from all men, the mutual love which they show toward one another in all their dealings. But this behavior necessarily implies a segregation from the world, from other people among whom the Christians are living. It brings upon the believers the hatred of the world, an undying, malignant hatred, that may sometimes hide itself under the guise of toleration, but never sleeps. Under these circumstances the Christians should feel neither anxiety nor surprise, for it is altogether in accordance with the nature of the world to hate the believers, as they hated Christ, the Lord, before them. There is that ineradicable contrast between Christ and His disciples, on the one side, and the world, the unbelievers, on the other. If the Christians were of the world, if they had the nature, the manner, the character of the world, the world would immediately recognize the affinity and treat them accordingly. But now Jesus, by His choosing them, has separated the believers from the world. So the natural result is this characteristic hatred of the unbelievers, expressed sometimes only in veiled insinuations, then again in open enmity. Christ's disciples of all times should therefore keep in remembrance the word that the servant is not greater than his lord; the servant cannot expect to experience better treatment than his master is receiving. The Lord Jesus suffered persecution of the most malicious kind during His earthly stay: His disciples can expect no less. On the other hand, if they have kept, observed, and practiced the Word of the Master, the world will be apt to accord the same treatment to their teaching. That is always a ray of hope in a ministry which otherwise has little to commend it to one eager for the service of Christ. The reason for, and the explanation of, the hatred and persecution of the disciples is very simple. In the first place, the children of the world hate the very name of Jesus as the Savior of the world. The idea of a Redeemer from sins is not only distasteful, but absolutely hateful to them. And then, they had no knowledge of the Father that sent forth Jesus into the world with the aim and object that He avowed to have. Had they known God, they would with. out fail have recognized in Jesus Christ the Ambassador and Son of God. This explanation is the comfort of the disciples under whatever persecutions may come upon them, also in these latter days.


Verses 22-27

The hatred of the world and the testimony of the Spirit:

v. 22. If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin; but now they have no cloak for their sin.

v. 23. He that hateth Me hateth My Father also.

v. 24. If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin; but now have they both seen and hated both Me and My Father.

v. 25. But this cometh to pass that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their Law, They hated Me without a cause.

v. 26. But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the spirit of Truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of Me.

v. 27. And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with Me from the beginning.

The position of the unbelieving Jews at the time of Jesus was much like that of Paul, Rom_7:7. If Jesus had not come and revealed Himself to the world as the Messiah, if He had not taught and preached as He did, then their great sin, unbelief, would not have been committed. After the revelation of Christ, after the open preaching of the Gospel before the world, there is no longer any excuse for unbelief. It is here laid bare as the sin of sins, for Christ earned and offered full atonement for all sins, and in rejecting Him they also rejected His atonement, whereby their sins were returned to them with their full damnation. And in hating Jesus they also hated the Father, thus loading upon themselves a still greater measure of guilt. That is the climax of enmity toward God, that the world despises and rejects the love of God, the grace of God in Christ, that the children of unbelief hate that God who offers them mercy and peace. The situation is perfectly plain. Jesus had not only preached of the Father time and again, but He had revealed Him also through His works, through His miracles. They had rejected this revelation in their unbelief. Seeing the Father in the person of the Son, they had hated Christ and therefore also the Father, with whom He is One. There is no excuse for the world, but there is some measure of comfort for the disciples in the fact that the world's hatred has been prophesied, Psa_69:4. Without a just cause, from a mere spirit of contrariness, the world hated Christ, and today hates the Christians. Their rejection of Him, of His Word, and of His followers, is inexcusable.

But over against all this hatred and enmity of the world stands the comforting promise of Christ concerning the Holy Spirit and His testimony. The Comforter, the Helper, the Guide, whom He has promised them, will surely come. Christ will send Him from the Father, for such is His power as the exalted Son of God. He is the Spirit of Truth; the teaching of the eternal Gospel and the revealing of its glory and beauties to the hearts of the believers is His principal work. He is sent by the Son, but proceeds also from the Father. There is the most wonderful intimacy between the various persons of the Godhead. To testify of Jesus the Savior: that is the office of the Spirit; for that reason He bears the name Spirit of Truth. "I shall give you, says Christ, the Spirit that will make you sure and certain of the truth, that ye no longer dare doubt with regard to this or that concerning your salvation, but may be sure of the matter and be judges, and even judge all other doctrine. " Note how strongly the Trinity of the Godhead is here brought out: Jesus, the speaker, as one person, will send the Comforter from the Father, a person distinct from Himself; and this Comforter, in turn, is distinguished from the Father and from the Son. With the aid of this Comforter and Helper the disciples would be able to witness, to testify concerning the redemption of mankind through the work of Christ. And their testimony should have all the greater weight and value because they had been with the Lord from the beginning; they could speak of what they had seen and heard. With such a wonderful witness from on high to support and strengthen them, there was no reason why the disciples should not perform their work with all energy and power, even as this attitude should characterize their work today. "There is therefore no other manner or way to comfort, strengthen, and instruct the consciences, and to protect and defend one's self, than by this preaching and testimony of the Holy Ghost. That is the Word of God, preached in the world through the Holy Ghost, known also to the children, which also the portals of hell shall not overthrow."

Summary.Jesus tells His disciples the Parable of the Vine and the Branches with its application, explains and urges the commandment of brotherly love, and speaks of the hatred of the world against the disciples of Christ.

 


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Bibliography Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on John 15:4". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kpc/john-15.html. 1921-23.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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