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Bible Commentaries

Sermon Bible Commentary
John 15



Other Authors
Verse 2

John 15:2

Good Works

I. All that Christ did on the earth and said and suffered, and all that He now is in heaven, and all that He says in heaven, and all for which He has appointed and instituted His Church, is to establish and manifest truth. Truth is communicated to us that it may beget faith, and faith is given to us that we may find peace; and we have peace that we may enjoy the sweetness of communion with God; and we have sweetness of communion with God that we may take root and grow in the fruit of holiness. The very next thing to the glory of God, and only second to it, is holiness, because holiness is God's image.

II. What is fruit? Let us analyse it. We were all once poor, helpless, lifeless, dead branches. We could not raise ourselves up. God took us off the vine and joined us to Jesus Christ. The fruit depends upon the depth of the graft. If you are a graft indeed, then a spirit, a sure influence, and an empowering, vigorating, propagating principle has flown, and is always flowing, from the Father through the Son into your heart, just as the sap from the root through the stem into the little branches. If that secret process is going on, fruit is always being formed upon you. The sap must run when the spring-time comes; grace must flow in its season, and when the sap runs, it must deposit itself and the deposit must become fruit, and so grace must turn itself into good works.

III. God will have, and God must have, faithfulness in life, personal holiness, and that holiness going forth to extend itself in the world. No, God will look on nothing where He does not see, what He saw in Eden, His own reflection. Hence, in all this present life, you have not yet the clue to read life's mysteries if you are not looking upon life as the probation and the discipline and the school for another state. It is God deepening the features of the resemblance of His children to Himself. And when in another world we shall look back on all the sufferings of this lower state, and learn to connect the great preparative process that has been carried on here, with that higher being where the real fruits of glory shall be always shedding themselves over the fields of immensity; we shall understand better than we can read it here what our Lord means in the words of this text.

J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 1874, p. 211.

I. The main and direct application of such is of course to individual Christians, to whom indeed it was spoken. The branch bears fruit by virtue of the healthy and generous sap which flows into it from the vine. Without union with the vine it were not a living branch at all; without this fertilising sap flowing, and flowing rightly, in proper measure through it, it could bring forth no fruit. But, as in the operations of husbandry, the sap requires directing, the branch must be trained and pruned, and stopped from rambling out into unfruitful exuberance. So it is with God's spiritual husbandry likewise. The fruit-bearing branches of Christ are liable to become exuberant and unprofitable—to cover a vast space without a correspondent yield for the Master's use. All afflictions of believers are but the knife of the great Husbandman, the purging that they may bring forth more fruit.

II. The same parable which describes individuals, describes nations. If Christian believers are the smaller twigs of the great vine, each in Christ and Christ in them, the greater limbs of the vine may figure forth to us Christian nations, including families, as they include individuals, but existing and bearing fruit by the same power and under the same conditions. And the heavenly Husbandman purifies us that we may bring forth more fruit. Let us then be watchful; not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is; not surprised nor cast down because we receive evil at His hand as well as good, but examining our fruit, and enquiring what the heavenly Husbandman expects of us, and sparing neither ourselves nor our substance—but diligent in seeking His grace, that we may show ourselves mindful of His great mercies, and fulfil the end of His chastisement.

H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. ii., p. 247.

References: John 15:2.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiii., No. 774; J. Armstrong, Parochial Sermons, p. 293; Archbishop Maclagan, Church of England Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 41.

Verse 4

John 15:4

I. If there is any lesson which experience forces on the heart, which lays a deeper hold on the soul, as the soul gets a better knowledge of itself, which sinks into us in proportion to our endeavour to rise above ourselves, it is that the source of all spiritual life and health is in the thought of God, and that without that thought we cannot really live. We look back at last and feel that cur progress is really nothing, that we have to do all over again, that we have not yet even begun, that what we fancied was generosity was but high spirits and good humour, that what we thought was unselfishness was but the surrender of what we did not greatly value, that what we thought was our sweetness and kindness was but a love of popularity, that we have only been successful when we have never really been tried. And we come back at last to the love of God as the one thing that can keep the soul alive, the one thing that saves us from falling back into utter hardness, the one power that still renews us when our own strength fails, that love of God which we read in the Cross of Christ.

II. If God's patience be infinite, so is His forgiveness absolute. There is no question of great or of little sins when we clasp the Cross. It is this fulness of patience, this fulness of forgiveness, which brings the Christian back to the Cross of Christ at last, as the one spring and source of all Christian life. All else is proved to be, however useful, yet still insufficient; all else, whatever good it may do, yet seems somehow to fall short of that one thing that the soul cannot spare, the smile on the face of God. Somehow, when we fail elsewhere, we seem to know that it was natural that we should fail. We are not much surprised, however much we may be pained, by finding that our own strength of will has proved too weak, or by finding that long maintained habits have given way to the presence of new temptation, or by seeing that clearer knowledge by no means implies greater purity or more spiritual life. But when we come to the Cross of Christ, to the love which stands unparalleled by anything else that we know, we feel that it cannot fail, for the fountain is supplied by the inexhaustible waters of heaven itself.

Bishop Temple, Rugby Sermons, 2nd series, p. 146.

Union with God

The root of all true spiritual life must be in God Himself. Isolated, independent life in each individual man is conceivable in thought, but revelation and experience concur in teaching us that it is never found, and in fact cannot exist. There is but one real source of good. And if there be any good in us, it must have come and must continue to come from that source. In being united to God through Christ consists, according to the revelation of the New Testament, the true life of man.

I. If we leave out of our lives all that is wrong in them, and think only of what is unreproved by our conscience, we see in the first place that a large proportion of all that we do is in a sense mechanical, and has no conscious principle or purpose. If this part of a man's life is on the whole good, and such as becomes a true man and a servant of God, it would be absurd to say that this was not a great blessing to himself and to those with whom he lives. But, on the other hand, this taken by itself does not imply true spiritual life. It may probably be the result of careful discipline and of nothing more.

II. If we rise a step higher, we find a good deal of what our consciences would not only not censure, but positively approve, due to good impulses and instincts. Though good gifts in themselves these do not constitute the Christian character. This is proved by the fact that very often these gifts are found in men who are not living or trying to live good lives. We cannot call these impulses, however useful, however attractive, however beautiful—spiritual life.

III. We rise one step higher, and we come to what must be called the life, not of impulse, but of principle. I do not think there can be any doubt that the conscientious life, even if it be nothing more, is, as far as it is conscientious, true spiritual life. But yet it is not the highest. I do not say that men are never branches of the True Vine without being themselves aware of it. But far, far more blessed are those who not only derive from God the true strength of their life, but who know from whom that strength comes. How much fuller is his blessing, how much greater his strength, who not only is upheld by God's Almighty hand, but knows the hand which upholds him and knows that it can never fail.

Bishop Temple, Rugby Sermons, 3rd series, p. 244.

References: John 15:4.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 318; Ibid., Evening by Evening, p. 69; A. Murray, The Fruits of the Spirit, p. 190. John 15:4, John 15:5.—Contemporary Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 65; E. M. Goulburn, Thoughts on Personal Religion, p. 19; G. Salmon, Church of England Pulpit, vol. xxi., p. 133.

Verse 5

John 15:5

Jesus, the Source of Spiritual Blessing to men

I. When men speak, as they do now, so much of Jesus Christ as only one amongst the many great teachers and benefactors of our race, does it not occur to them as strange and unaccountable that He alone—He alone of all those whose names have come down to us with this honour attached to them—should, in the midst of this advanced and enlightened age, possess a living power and a devoted and loving following. The writings of many of the great thinkers of antiquity are still in our hands. We value them for what we think they are worth. But, I ask, over whom do they rule? By whom are their authors reverenced and worshipped? We may delight our intellects with the hard, keen reasoning of an Aristotle, or delight our souls with the sublime conceptions and dulcet words of a Plato; but what man in his senses would now profess himself an Aristotelian or a Platonist? Their power has long since passed away; their sceptre is broken; and to most men, even in civilised countries, they are nothing but a name. But Jesus Christ is still in the midst of us as a living power. Men believe in Him, receive His teachings, confide their highest interests into His hands, love Him with an all-mastering love, and if need be, are ready to sacrifice even life itself for His sake. And if we have yet to expect a further development of thought which is to supersede Christianity, why has it been so long in coming? Centuries have passed, and yet no sign of its approach is to be seen. Is not the world's last hope in Christ? Is not our last alternative this: Jesus Christ for all, or a dark, dreary, and hopeless nothing.

II. The moral judgments and the spiritual wants of men are the same now as they were when Christianity was first preached, as they have ever been during the whole period that Christian truth has been the object of thought. Why should men wish to change what has already been found to meet the end it was designed to reach in satisfying the intellectual, the moral, and the spiritual wants of men? Let search be made by men into their spiritual necessities, let them survey and catalogue their spiritual wants, let them gather into one sum all their needs and all their longings as moral, accountable, and immortal beings, and then let them come unto Jesus Christ and see whether He is not ready and sufficient to do for them all they need. He alone who came forth from the bosom of the Father can reveal God to men.

W. Lindsay Alexander, Penny Pulpit, No. 699, new series.

References: John 15:5.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vi., No. 345; vol. xxvii., No. 1625; Preacher's Monthly, vol. i., p. 348; Church of England Pulpit, vol. v., p. 201; Homilist, vol. vi., p. 145; Ibid., 3rd series, vol. x., p. 277; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 267; vol. xv., p. 101; R. Tuck, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 213; H. W. Beecher, Plymouth Pulpit, 5th series, p. 293; W. Page Roberts, Liberalism in Religion, p. 137. John 15:5-8.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iv., pp. 85, 224. John 15:7.—A. Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer, pp. 156, 164; J. Keble, Sermons from Ascension Day to Trinity, p. 474. John 15:7-11.—W. Roberts, Christian World Pulpit, vol. x., p. 237.

Verse 8

John 15:8


I. The relation between doctrine and practice. Our text sets this before us shortly, but most admirably. We have in it Christian precept springing out of Christian doctrine. "Herein is My Father glorified, if ye are influenced and dwelt in henceforth by the Holy Spirit, the life-giving sap of that vine; if ye bear much fruit, so shall ye be My disciples"—the disciples of the Son of God, who came to suffer for us, that we might live before God, and to teach us, that we might obey God. Christian practice then springs out of Christian doctrine, but by no means as a matter of course. Those who preach only doctrine are not justified in taking for granted that correct Christian practice will spring out of doctrinal teaching, however correct. As, on the one hand, we have no right to infer that a man who lives correctly and purely will be right in doctrine, so, on the other hand, we have no right to infer that he who believes strictly and exactly the true doctrines of the faith will be right in practice.

II. Note some of the principal points connected with Christian practice. (1) The first is reality. We are not called upon to make a show in the Church, or to make a show in the world; but we are called upon to be godly men, walking in the sight of God, and the sunshine of an enlightened conscience; and this we cannot be unless our religion is real. (2) Note the paramount importance of Christian love. That there is in the present day a great want of this grace, I surely need not remind you. The Christian Church is broken up into parties, and those parties distinguished from one another in many cases by so very thin a line of either belief or practice, that it would be exceedingly difficult for even their leaders on meeting together to define to one another what it is that keeps them apart. It is impossible to differ from a man conscientiously, in a Christian point of view, otherwise than in a spirit of love, unless you have banished from your minds all those asperities and prejudices which will constantly come in to interfere with conscientious holding of opinion when that love does not exist. (3) Hold fast reality and simplicity in Christ. Freedom in action to God consists in having the loins girt about with truth. Be not afraid of being that which you seem, and seem to be that which you are conscious of being.

H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. vii., p. 325.

The great teaching of these words is this: Man's greatest power for glorifying God is a life of Christ-like action.

I. The inward life in union with Christ must show itself outwardly in Christ-like action. (1) All profound emotions must display themselves in action. (2) The inner Christian life has a power to overcome the hindrances to its manifestation.

II. That life of Christ-like action is man's greatest power of glorifying God. We may trace this in two ways: (1) A Christ-like life is the strongest manifestation of God to the world. (2) A Christ-like life is the greatest human influence to bring men near God.

E. L. Hull, Sermons, vol. i., p. 58.

References: John 15:8.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxix., p. 355. John 15:9.—Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 78; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 259. John 15:9, John 15:10.—J. Lockhart, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 88. John 15:10-16.—R. Thomas, Ibid., vol. iii., p. 357.

Verse 11

John 15:11

I. It is written "Rejoice in the Lord." And what is joy in the Lord? Is it merely the joy of the child, a flash of meteoric light, without permanence, without a fixed source within, or an abiding effect without? No, indeed. Joy in the Lord has for its ground, knowledge of the Lord. In order to rejoice in the Lord, you must know the Lord not as you know a mere fact, but as you know a dear friend, a loving father, One who is the source of your life, the fountain of your good, the hope of your soul, the desire of your heart. Men are always tempted to rejoice, not in Him, but in themselves and the world; in their strength, their comforts, their advantages. But He shakes our security in these things, that we may live nearer to Him; that we may learn when and where only is the joy that remains; not written in the sand and washed out by every tide, but graven on the everlasting rock; and that by personal experience we may each one rejoice in Him alone—in Him whatever betide—in Him for ever and ever.

II. And these things He does with us, that our joy may be full. If He had left us to ourselves, we should be filling the cup with strange ingredients, which we mistake for joy. We should rise in our national exclusiveness, our earthly pride, our carnal security, and thus when the cup of joy seemed to be full, and we lifted it to our lips to drink, it would be part joy and part bitterness; but now He casts out the bitterness, and though in His own way and not in ours, He is filling the cup with true unmixed joy—joy which will abide with us and refresh us and stand every trial—joy which will be joy on the bed of sickness and in the prospect of death—yea, and when death is past, in His heavenly kingdom.

H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. ii., p. 280.

The fellowship of Christ's joy the source of true blessedness

I. What was the blessedness of Christ? As the first step in this inquiry we must ascertain how far His blessedness is to be understood by man. We begin, therefore, by laying down the truth: (1) That the blessedness of the Infinite God is essentially incomprehensible. We can only conceive blessedness as increasing; therefore we must think of Him as more blessed as the ages roll on, and because those two thoughts can never be reconciled, the blessedness of God is for ever incomprehensible. But in God revealed in Christ the mystery is yet deeper. Whether Jesus, during the years of His humanity, did enter into the unchanging bliss of the Father we cannot tell. (2) Regarding Christ purely from the human side of His being, we observe that His blessedness as the God-man must be in some measure comprehensible. We see how His joy rose through all His sorrow. He tells us it came by keeping His Father's commandments and abiding in His love. We have the two elements combined to form it—the giving up of Himself to work the will of God, and the consciousness that the Infinite Love was resting on Him through it all. (3) But can that joy be communicated? To enter into Christ's joy we must become Christ-like. Ours must be that utter surrender of self in doing and bearing God's will, and then will the sense of infinite love dawn upon us, and we shall know something of the lofty gladness which filled the Saviour's heart while he was moving to the garden and the Cross.

II. The fellowship of Christ's blessedness is the only source of perfect joy. Perfect joy has two conditions which all men practically recognise. In its source it must be self-surrender to the highest love, and in its action it must be independent of outward changes. The longing to attain a state of life superior to the accidents of time and change shows this. The wisest men have spoken of following the right in the face of all consequences, as the source of the highest and purest joy of man. The fellowship of Christ's joy gives this. It is a joy undisturbed by sorrows; it may seem to be weakened, but it is in reality strengthened by suffering. And even death itself, which damps out the joy of all other men, consummates the blessedness of those who, through fellowship of life, are partakers of the joy of Christ.

E. L. Hull, Sermons, 3rd series, p. 46.

References: John 15:11.—H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. ii., p. 280; Homilist, 4th series, vol. i., p. 321; R. Thomas, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 357; A. Mackennal, Ibid., vol. viii., p. 235; J. T. Stannard, Ibid., vol. xiv., p. 168; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 131; vol. xi., p. 270; W. G. Blaikie, Glimpses of the Inner Life of our Lord, p. 202. John 15:12.—Preacher's Lantern, vol. iv., p. 687. John 15:12, John 15:13.—G. E. L. Cotton, Sermons and Addresses in Marlborough College, p. 502. John 15:12-16.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 278. John 15:12-17.—Christian World Pulpit, vol. x., p. 269.

Verse 13

John 15:13

The Death of Christ, our only Stay. If the thoughts of sin, death, and judgment be so terrible, as in truth they are to every soul of man, on what shall we stay ourselves when our time is at hand?

I. First, upon the love of God, in giving His Son to die for us. This is our first foundation, that God loves the world; that He looks upon the works of His hands with an eternal and stedfast love, with a tender, yearning compassion. Whatever is doubtful, this is sure. Light does not pour forth from the sun with a fuller and directer ray, than does perfect and eternal love overflow from the bosom of God upon all the works that He has made. God's creative love alone would be enough to still our fears, and to show us that, if any perish, it is not because He is austere, but because they are evil. The whole will and Kingdom of God is love; and to Him, in that Kingdom, we may come with boldness of hope and trust.

II. We have, as a second foundation on which to build our trust, the love of the Son in giving Himself for us. Being in the form of God, He emptied Himself of His glory. His Godhead He could not lay aside for us; but He took to Himself something—the dearest and most precious to the soul of man—He took our nature, and therein a life, the most loved and priceless of all the gifts of God. There is nothing to be compared with life. We cherish it as our very self; it is the centre of every care; the end of all our labours. Such He took unto Himself, and thereby He possessed Himself of something He might give for us.

III. In Christ's death were united the oblation of a Divine person, and the sanctity of a sinless man; the perfection of a holy will, and the fulfilment of a spotless life; the willing sacrifice of the sinless for the sinful, of the shepherd for the sheep that was lost, of life for the dead. How this wrought atonement for the sin of the world, we cannot say further than is revealed. How the guiltless could take the place of the guilty—how the penalty, due to our sin, could be laid on any but ourselves, above all, on One who was sinless—must, at least in this our wayfaring on earth, be a mystery unsearchable, and a depth past finding out. In this life it is enough for us to know that He hath "tasted death for every man"; that "there is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus."

H. E. Manning, Sermons, vol. iii., p. 331.

References: John 15:13.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix., No. 1128; H. R. Haweis, Church Sermons, vol. i., p. 81.

Verse 13-14

John 15:13-14

Friendship with Christ


I. That the overtures of this friendship came first from Christ Himself, had their spring in considerations which could have originated with the Divine mind alone, whilst the proof of His own earnest desire to bring about such friendship is the very strongest that could be given. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." Who are Christ's friends? And the answer returned by our text is significant—"Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you." Friends, in the ordinary acceptation of the term, do not give commands at all. The relation commonly supposes something of equality, with no allowed subjection on either side, but maintained chiefly by offices of reciprocated kindness. But Christ had towards His disciples a prior relationship of Lord and Master, and therefore He is anxious to show that in receiving them into His friendship He does not thereby cancel their previous obligation to obedience and service. The friendship, then, which Christ has towards His disciples is manifestly only that of a sovereign towards certain subjects whom He admits to approach Him on some footing of condescending intimacy and confidence.

II. Assuming that we understand the nature of friendship with Christ, and in heart and purpose desire to comply with the required terms of it, let us see, in the next place, how this friendship is reciprocated by Christ, by considering some of the ways in which He shows Himself friendly to us. (1) He will be a counsellor to us in difficulties. "His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor." (2) He is a friend that giveth gifts; enhancing the value of His advice by supplying the means to follow it. Two things always go together in the Gospel—Repentance and Faith. These are Christ's gifts to His chosen ones. (3) The Lord shows Himself friendly in the methods and extent of His forgiveness. His forgiveness is as full as it is free, and as free as it is full. (4) It is a part of true friendship to be with us in the hour when health and strength are failing, when body and soul are parting, when the dust is returning to the earth as it was, and the spirit is returning to God who gave it. The proofs of the power of the friendship of our Divine Master increase with the exigency of the occasion, are most comforting when all other friendships fail.

D. Moore, Penny Pulpit, No. 3141.

References: John 15:14.—W. Anderson, Discourses, p. 214; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvi., No. 1552; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 132; E. Johnson, Ibid., vol. xv., p. 357. John 15:14, John 15:15.—Ibid., vol. xxv., p. 299; H. W. Beecher, Ibid., vol. xxvi., p. 251. John 15:15.—E. L. Hull, Sermons, 3rd series, p. 141; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 111; vol. xv., p. 26; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. x., pp. 123, 376; J. Ker, Ibid., vol. xxviii., p. 220; H. W. Beecher, Ibid., p. 339; vol. xxx., p. 372; Bishop Thorold, The Yoke of Christ, p. 103; E. Paxton Hood, Dark Sayings on a Harp, p. 295; T. M. Herbert, Sketches of Sermons, p. 306. John 15:16.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 61; A. Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer, p. 172; W. P. Lockhart, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvii., p. 136.

Verse 17

John 15:17

(with 1 Peter 2:17; Hebrews 13:1)

I. Look at the words in which the message is delivered: "That ye love one another," that ye "love the brotherhood," that this "brotherly love continue." It is clear that in the first instance it is Christians, as such, who are spoken to and spoken of. The brotherhood is the body of Christians, then a little company, now a great multitude that no man can number. They stand out from the rest of the world. The hatred of the outside world is taken for granted, and as it were, discounted. This "world," so far as these chapters are concerned, is neither to be loved nor hated. It is to be reasoned with, to be convinced of sin, in the end to be overcome. And the great spell that is to overcome it, is the φιλαδελφία the love which binds each brother who owns the common bond of the Christian communion. I will not stay to inquire how far this "world" of scripture, this mass of hostile or indifferent outsiders, has a real and formidable existence for us in this nineteenth century of a Christianity which is pledged and destined to overcome it. As regards my present subject, I may forego this inquiry, and assume that the brotherhood is a society far more extended. "Love the brotherhood" cannot now mean less than this, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." No man who has caught anything of the spirit of Christ's teaching as a whole, and still more the spirit of Christ's example, can doubt that to an enlightened Christian the whole world is ideally the brotherhood. Let a large part of your religion always look to the "brotherhood" in its aim. Let Christian private devotion be always fused with Christian public spirit.

II. There is a danger that our religion may be centred either on our own souls, or on the doctrines and watchwords dear to our religious friends, or on some too limited portion of the brotherhood; in fact, that the very conception of brotherhood may be so narrowed as to be degraded and almost unchristianised. We should recognise alike from the Gospel, from history, "from the signs of this most portentous time" that God meant all to be unselfish—nations, churches, classes, sexes—to work and to live and to die, not for themselves, but for each other, the strong for the weak, the rich for the poor, the educated for the ignorant.

H. M. Butler, Oxford and Cambridge Review, Nov. 1st, 1883.

References: John 15:17.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 80. John 15:17-27. Ibid., p. 165.

Verse 18-19

John 15:18-19

The World we have Renounced

Perhaps there is no word more commonly in our mouths than "the world," and yet hardly any to which we attach less clear and certain meaning—indeed, the sense intended by it varies according to the character of the person that uses it. Let us therefore endeavour to come at something better than mere floating notions about it. The world out of which the disciples were taken was not the Gentile world, but the disobedience of the visible Church.

I. First, it is true to distinguish between the Church and the world, as between things antagonistic and irreconcilable; for the Son of God, by His incarnation and atonement, and by the calling and mission of His Apostles, has founded and built up in the earth a visible kingdom, which has no other head but Him alone. That visible kingdom is so taken out of the world that a man must either be in it or out of it, and must, therefore, either be in the Church or in the world. In the visible kingdom of Christ are all the graces and promises of life; in the world are the powers and traditions of death. We know of no revealed salvation out of that visible kingdom; we can point to no other way to life. There is but one Saviour, one Mediator, one Sacrifice for the sin of the world, one baptism for the remission of sins, one rule of faith, one law of holiness. There can be no real fellowship or intercourse between those that are of the body of Christ, and those that are not. The only intercourse the Church has ever held with the heathen has been either such as St. Paul permitted to the Christians in Corinth, who might still maintain the relations of outward kindliness with unbelievers, or direct missions for the conversion of unbelievers. There could be no closer fellowship; for there was a moral and formal contrariety between the rules of conduct and aim on both sides, which held the Church and the world apart.

II. But farther, it is no less true to say, that the world, which in the beginning was visibly without the Church, is now invisibly within it. So long as the world was heathen, it warred against the Church, in bitter and relentless persecutions. It was when the conversion of individuals drew after it, at last, the whole civil state—when the secular powers, with all their courts, pomps, institutions, laws, judicatures, and the entire political order of the world, came into the precinct of the Church—then it was that the great tradition of human thought, passion, belief, prejudice, and custom, mingled itself with the unwritten usages of the Church. The world is now inside the fold, baptized, catechised, subdued, specious, and worshipping. This is a far more dangerous antagonist. There is but one safeguard for Christ's servants; to be like Him, in whom the prince of this world in the hour of temptation had nothing he could make his own. Our safety is not so much where as what we are.

H. E. Manning, Sermons, vol. ii., p. 239.

References: John 15:18-27.—A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 429; W. Roberts, Christian World Pulpit, vol. x., p. 318. John 15:18 -xvi. 15—W. Milligan, Expositor, 2nd series, vol. iv., p. 370.

Verse 19

John 15:19

I. Note the peculiar characteristic of God's people; they are not of the world, but are chosen out of the world. Our Lord resolves the distinction into the positive purpose of God. Our text says not only "Ye are not of the world," but explains why: "because ye are chosen out of the world." If they are not of the world, the essential and fundamental reason is because they were chosen in God's purpose, and given to Christ in that purpose, and subsequently given to Him in fact.

II. The result: "Therefore the world hateth you." That is true as a fact—the whole history of the world proves it. The text does not say that it is because God's people testify of the acts of the world that they are wicked, that therefore the world hates them. It says, whereas the people of God are not of the world, but chosen out of the world, on that account it is that the world hates them. A man of an unworldly spirit, such as the Lord's people are supposed to be, it is that that condemns the world. A heavenly-minded, spiritual, holy man, granting that character to exist, and to come in its practical bearing in reference to the world, the world would hate it. Is it not obvious? What is the world's idol? The world! The world will love its own; the worldly man idolises the world; it is his life, it is all that he cares about. Touch the world, practically condemn the world, and the whole of that man's life, and his pleasures, and recreations, and joys, and delights are all wrapped up in that word "world." The worldly man dislikes the man of God. He feels that his whole life and character strikes a blow at that which he himself delights in, and he is conscious, moreover, of the superiority of that man, and has a deep conviction that he is right. The lesson is that we should show by practice that a man of God is not a man of the world. Seek the things of God, but not the things of time and sense. Be true to your vocation, your hopes, expectations, and prospects; for so will you glorify God, and you will have increasing meet-ness for heaven's glory.

C. Molyneux, Penny Pulpit, Nos. 421-22.

References: John 15:19.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 302. John 15:22.—Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. vi., p. 270.

Verse 20

John 15:20

(with Matthew 10:24; Luke 6:40; John 13:19)

I. "The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord," etc. This saying is used for the purpose of preparing Christ's followers for the world's enmity. In this application it has a double aspect. You may not, or you may, be persecuted. If you are not, there is room for inquiry. If you are, there is ground of comfort and strength.

II. The maxim or proverb of the text is applied, further, to the mission or function of the Lord's followers as witnesses and prophets to the world. You are now addressed, not as the Lord's disciples and servants, but as yourselves invested with the character, and called to discharge the office, of masters and teachers. The Lord is here speaking of the duty which, as being yourselves enlightened, you owe to your fellowmen; and of the necessity of your being duly qualified and fully prepared for the performance of that duty. And the particular qualification, the special preparation, on which He insists is this, that you make sure of your own possession of the attainment or endowment, whatever it be, which you wish to be instrumental in conveying or imparting to your brother.

III. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, the servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him" (John 13:16). This third use or application of the maxim should be very precious to us. It binds us more closely than the other two in living and loving union of the tenderest sort with Christ. It is as one with Jesus that I must wash the feet of my brother. It must be because I am of one mind with Jesus in caring, not merely generally, for my brother's deliverance from eternal death, and his ultimate attainment of eternal life, but in the least and lowest of the incidents that may affect his comfortable ability to realise on the one hand, his present standing, or to press on to his future hope. We must apprehend and feel the washing of the feet to be inseparably connected with the atoning death symbolised, and the self-sacrificing life foreshadowed; and as implying, in that connection, the tenderest concern about a brother's most susceptible point, his weakest part.

R. S. Candlish, The Gospel of Forgiveness, p. 82.

References: John 15:22.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iv., No. 194; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 215; J. Keble, Sermons for Sundays after Trinity, part ii., p. 385. John 15:25.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ii., No. 89.

Verse 26-27

John 15:26-27

The Promise of the Spirit witnessing of Christ in the world

I. There is to be a testifying of the Spirit in the world, corresponding to our testifying to the world. His testifying is an internal subjective influence or operation in the world, to which your testifying is an external objective address. For what is the Spirit's testifying work? What is His mode of witness-bearing? Of what sort is it? It is a work of reproof, or of conviction. "He shall reprove, or convince." What an awful issue is thus made to turn of your witness-bearing! When you speak to men about Christ, your own speech affects their present state and future prospects. They cannot go away from you, or send you away from them, without something left behind by you with them that must tell on them for weal or woe. That is a serious thought. But that is not all. In speaking to them, you ask in prayer for them that, in terms of this promise of the Lord, the Holy Spirit may apply and endorse what you say, by a work of His own in those to whom you speak.

II. Along with the powerful working of the Spirit in the world to which we testify, there is a gracious working in ourselves. The Spirit deals inwardly with those to whom we speak outwardly; so as to make our speaking tell on them. But more than that, He deals with us; with ourselves directly; so as to make our speaking to others tell for good on our own souls. His dealing is still in the line of discovery and enlightenment. In the course of our witnessing for Christ and of Christ, and in connection with our witnessing for Christ and of Christ, the Spirit enlarges our capacity of apprehending Christ, and enables us to receive more abundantly out of His abundance of grace and truth, "even grace for grace." This may be regarded as a sort of personal acknowledgment and recompense of our fidelity in witness-bearing. Like the "quality of mercy when not strained," that fidelity is twice blessed. A large increase of spiritual insight and sympathy, as regards Christ and all His fulness, is the appropriate recognition and reward of a full and faithful testifying for Christ.

R. S. Candlish, The Sonship and Brotherhood of Believers, p. 239.

The Two Witnesses to Christ

I. Consider first the witness of the Apostles. The Lord speaks of the Apostles as being His witnesses because they had been with Him from the beginning; in other words, they knew what Christ had said and what He had done, and they were able therefore to report the same to the world. They were witnesses; their great work, in life or in death, was still to shout in the ears of an unbelieving world the good news that Jesus Christ had come, and that He had died and risen again. As long as they lived, they had no other ambition than to tell their tale and persuade men to believe it; and if they died, they considered that nothing could be more joyful and blessed and honourable than the martyr's or witness's crown.

II. Nothing can be more simple than the words of the Lord in the second verse of the text, when taken alone. But the Lord has not put them alone. On the other hand, He has put them in very striking connection with the words of the first verse. There is to be another witness beside the Apostles, and one differing from them in most essential particulars. This witness is called emphatically the Spirit of Truth, by which I suppose we may understand not merely the Spirit who loves and speaks truth, to whom all hypocrisy and lies are an abomination, but the Spirit who spreads and propagates truth, who makes men love it, moves their hearts towards it, carries it into their minds, writes it upon their consciences. We may alone conclude from the fact of the Spirit of Truth being sent from the Father to testify of Christ, that His mission was absolutely necessary; that witness could not be borne to Christ to any good purpose without Him; that mankind would never come to an unanimous verdict, unless this witness were sent direct from heaven to give evidence in the court of men's hearts. Christ thus taught us that in the work of preaching His Gospel to the world, and converting men from the power of Satan unto God, there are two agents who must labour together; and that therefore it is neither wise nor right to disparage the part which has to be performed by one, in comparison of that which has to be performed by the other. There is the human work and the Divine work; the witness of man without, the witness of the Spirit within.

Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, 5th series, p. 217.

References: John 15:27.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. v., p. 32; Preacher's Monthly, vol. v., p. 272. John 16:1-4.—A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 434. John 16:1-7.—W. Roberts, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 26. John 16:5.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. xviii., p. 227. John 16:5-14.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 196. John 16:5-15.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 228; A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 437. John 16:6, John 16:7.—Bishop Browne, The Anglican Pulpit of To-day, p. 35. John 16:6-22.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 226.


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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on John 15:4". "Sermon Bible Commentary".

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