Sustenance and Fruit-bearing in the Time of Jesus’ Absence
Characteristics of Jesus’ Disciples: Fruit-bearing (15:1-8)
1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. v.1 This is one of the great “I am” statements of John’s gospel.
2 As to every branch in me not bearing fruit, he takes it away; and as to every one bearing fruit, he purges it that it may bring forth more fruit. 3 Ye are already clean by reason of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abide in the vine, thus neither can ye unless ye abide in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abides in me and I in him, “he” bears much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing. 6 Unless any one abide in me he is cast out as the branch, and is dried up; and they gather them and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will and it shall come to pass to you. 8 In this is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit, and ye shall become disciples of mine.
Characteristics of the Family of God (15:9-17)
9 As the Father has loved me, I also have loved you: abide in my love. v.9 Abiding in the Savior’s Love. To abide in the Savior’s love is to continue in the enjoyment of it. It doesn’t mean that we should try to manufacture feelings of love for Christ, but rather that we should consider His love for us, and walk in light of His love. When I am enjoying the love of Christ, there is no room in my heart for lust, or bitterness. Abiding in the Savior’s love is the best place a Christian can be. The pattern set before us is the Lord Jesus. He walked in the conscious sense of His Father’s love for Him. We should do the same.
10 If ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love, as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. v.10 Obedience to the Savior’s Commandments. How can we keep in the Savior’s love? We must obey His commandments. How can I enjoy the love of Christ if I am walking in disobedience? The pattern set before us is again the Lord Jesus. He perfectly kept the Father’s commandments, and the result was that He perfectly enjoyed the Father’s love. We see glimpses of this all through the Lord’s earthly pathway, such as at the river Jordan, when the voice was heard from heaven; “This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”.
11 I have spoken these things to you that my joy may be in you, and your joy be full. v.11 The Joy of Obedience. Obedience leads to joy. This includes living with a good conscience, but it goes beyond. The Lord Jesus had a certain joy that characterized His pathway, and we can share in that joy. Again, Jesus sets Himself before us as the perfect example. “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). His joy was the joy of obedience… of walking with the conscious sense of His Father’s pleasure and satisfaction.
12 This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, that one should lay down his life for his friends. vv.12-13 Love for each other, according to the pattern of Christ. Those in the family of God are to love one another. Love is not merely a feeling, it is an action. The example once again is Christ. He has loved us with a deep, deep love. We are to love one another with that same love. It appears to be more the character of Christ’s love that we are commanded to emulate, rather than the measure of His love. The character emphasized here is that of a self-sacrificing love. We get another character in Romans 5, that divine love is unconditional and unmerited, because that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Contrast “friend” here with “sinners” in Romans. But the point here in John is that love is willing to sacrifice self for the good of others. Love and sacrifice are linked. The ultimate sacrifice is that of our life; “greater love hath no man than this”.
14 Ye are my friends if ye practise whatever I command you. 15 I call you no longer bondmen, for the bondman does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things which I have heard of my Father I have made known to you. vv.14-15 Friendship with Christ: Intelligence and Confidence. We have been brought into the confidence of Christ, such that He calls us His friends, if we obey His commandments. We cannot be His friends if we disobey His requests. A friend is different from a servant, because a friend can enjoy the full confidence of another. A servant is only told what he needs to know to fulfill his duties. A friend is told much more, those things that interest and are valued by another. A servant is left in the dark on many matters, but a friend is told the truth. So the Father and and the Son are in perfect communion about all that the Father is doing and will yet do (prophetic events, etc.). The Father and Son desire to bring us into that communion of thought. How sad that many in the Church are dismissive of the truths that Christ desires our fellowship in. How often we hear expressions like, “why should I care about that? it has nothing to do with me”. J.N. Darby remarked, concerning prophecy:
It has been said, that the real use to be made of the prophecies is, to shew the divinity of the Bible by those [prophecies] which have already been accomplished. This is certainly a use which may be made of them, but this is not the special object for which they have been given. They belong not to the world, but to the church or remnant, to communicate the intentions of God to that church or remnant, and to be its guide and torch before the arrival of those events which they predict, or during their accomplishment. Shall we use the revelations of God merely as the means of convincing us afterwards that He has told the truth? It is as if someone were treating me as his intimate friend, heaping benefits upon me, communicating his thoughts to me, telling me all that he knew would shortly happen; and I should use all his confidence for no other purpose than to convince myself, when everything had come to pass, that he was a truth-telling person. Alas! alas! where are we? Have we so far lost the feeling of our privileges, and of the goodness of our God? Is there, then, nothing for the church in all these holy revelations? for certainly it is not the church’s place to be discussing whether God, its divine Friend, has told the truth. Dear friends, we wrong the goodness and friendship of God in acting thus towards Him. As Christians, we have no need to be witnesses of an event, in order to believe what God says to be true – that His word is true.1
16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and have set you that ye should go and that ye should bear fruit, and that your fruit should abide, that whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name he may give you. 17 These things I command you, that ye love one another. vv.16-17 Purpose and Calling. The family of God has a purpose, and a calling. We were chosen by Christ, elected before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). But we were chosen for a purpose: that we might bear fruit for the Father (vv.1-8). As the elect, we have access to the Father in a special way, can can take our requests to Him in the name of the Son, with confidence that He will supply every need. In closing this section, the Lord says “these things” (plural) “I write unto you that ye love one another”. It is an interesting way the verse is worded. All that the Christian family has in common is ours so that we might be knit together in love. Being together for prayer, fellowship, and ministry of the Word draws believers together. Aside from the primary purpose of teaching, exhorting, etc. there is a secondary effect that is often overlooked.
Characteristics of the World, and the Believer’s Portion in it (15:18-27)
18 If the world hate you, know that it has hated me before you. 19 If ye were of the world, the world would love its own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on account of this the world hates you. 20 Remember the word which I said unto you, The bondman is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my word, they will keep also yours. 21 But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they have not known him that sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they had not had sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 He that hates me hates also my Father. 24 If I had not done among them the works which no other one has done, they had not had sin; but now they have both seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But that the word written in their law might be fulfilled, They hated me without a cause. 26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes forth from with the Father, “he” shall bear witness concerning me; 27 and ye too bear witness, because ye are with me from the beginning.