Jesus and the disciples leave the home where they had celebrated the Passover (see 14:31). They have probably begun to slowly make their way towards the Garden of Gethsemane (see 18:1). Along the way, Jesus continues to teach the disciples. Chapters 15-17 contain what is commonly referred to as the “Second Farewell Discourse”…the first being that which He had given while in the home (chapters 13-14). Chapter 17 is called the “High Priestly Prayer” due to the fact that Jesus is interceding for believers of all ages as their High Priest.
Jesus has just spent time (chapter 14) consoling the hearts of His disciples because of their concern over the fact that He had told them that He would soon be leaving them. Now He turns to the business of how they are to live in His absence…and teaches them five indispensable lessons.
The first lesson (15:1-17) that they must learn is how they are to abide in Him. This is important in light of the fact that He will no longer be physically present with them. Before, they could watch, listen, and learn. But with Him gone…how are they to continue relating to Him when they are no longer able to do this? Everything is dependent upon this practice. If they are to successfully fulfill His mission…then they must understand how to abide in Him. The result of their abiding in Him will be that they will bear His fruit. In other words, His character (the fruit, the result of His presence in them) will be developed in them, and in so doing He will complete His mission through them.
The second lesson (15:18-16:6) that they must learn is how to face opposition. Jesus teaches His disciples that because they are His followers, they can largely expect the same reception from the world that He had received...including hatred (:18), and persecution (:20). He says that the world will held accountable for their sin because they denied His words (:22) and His works (:24). When the Holy Spirit comes...He will bear witness of Him (16:8)...and, His disciples will bear witness of Him.
The third lesson (16:7-15) concerns the work of the Holy Spirit.
The fourth lesson (16:16-33) is the confidence they will have in light of the certainty of His return (the certainty of the future gives peace in the present).
The fifth lesson (17:1-26) is the security they receive because everything He has taught them originates from the Father.
John 15:1-17-Abiding in Christ
John 15:1-Jesus uses a symbol that would be well-known to the disciples to teach them how they are to abide in Him…how they are to continue relating to Him without His physical presence among them. He refers to the vine. The disciples would be very aware of the significance of the vine in the history of their Jewish faith. Traditionally, the vine represented Israel. But here, Jesus identifies the vine as Himself. He begins by again appealing to the Hebrew literary device, “I am”…reminding them of His unique relationship with the Father. Then He says that He is the “true vine”…Israel had been chosen by God in the past to be the portrayal of the vine, the representation of Him. Now He is here…He is the “true vine” and the fulfillment of all that Israel had been intended by God to reveal.
For an explanation of the significance of Israel as the vine see:
In His analogy, there are four elements involved.
First, there is the Father…the owner and caretaker of the vineyard.
Then, there is Jesus…the vine, itself.
Next, there are the believers…the branches of the vine.
Finally, there is the fruit…the character of Jesus being produced in and manifested through the lives of the believers.
John 15:2-3-Jesus now teaches about believers bearing fruit. The key to bearing fruit is the word “bear”…which means “to yield, or produce”. It is the responsibility of believers to bear fruit. Bearing fruit is the product of abiding in Christ. The Father is active in caring for the branch so that it will be able to most effectively bear fruit. It is vitally important that we understand that believers do not produce fruit, they bear fruit. Christ produces His fruit through us as we abide in Him. In verses 4-16 the word "abide, remain" (same Greek word) is used 12 times...it means to stay close to, connected to, to live in (see 6:56, 1 John 3:24).
What does it mean to abide in Christ?
The life of Christ flowing unhindered through the believer and producing His character in them.
How do we abide in Christ?
- Obey His commands (:3,10)
- Love His people (:12-14)
- Respond to His Spirit (16:12-15)
10 results of abiding in Christ
- We bear much fruit (:2,5).
- We are pruned so that we can produce even more fruit (:2).
Those that do bear fruit are “pruned” (:2)
- The key to fruit bearing is our abiding in Christ, our constant relationship with Him (:4-5).
- Apart from Him we cannot produce fruit (:5)
- God works in our lives in such a way that there is nothing in us that would hinder the character of Jesus from being developed in us, and flowing through us.
- We are “clean”, forgiven of sin by God, so that we can effectively bear fruit (:3)
- The words translated here as "prunes" (:2) and "clean" (:3) are the same as the word "clean" in 13:10 (Greek: katharos). The words "bears fruit" is a participle...and "prunes" is a future, indicative verb. If the branch is currently bearing fruit…the Father will prune it in the future so that it will continue bearing fruit. Verse two states the principle...and verse three makes it personal to the disciples...they are already clean and are bearing fruit.
Those that don’t bear fruit He “takes away” (:2)
- The words, "bear fruit" is a participle, and "takes away" is a present, indicative verb. Both speak of an ongoing, continuous action. If the branch is not currently bearing fruit, He immediately takes it away.
This could mean either of two things...
(Ryrie, 15:2) The word may mean this literally (as "Remove" in 11:39) and would be a reference to the physical death of fruitless Christians (1 Cor. 11:30); or it many mean lift up (as "picked up" in 8:59) which would indicate that the vinedresser encourages and makes it easier for the fruitless believer, hoping he will respond and begin to bear fruit. prunes. this is done through the Word of God, which cleans the life (same root word as clean in v. 3)
John 15:4-6-When we abide in Him we will be able to bear fruit...if we don't abide in Him we are "thrown away" (different word from v. 2-“takes away”) and burned "as a branch".
(Ryrie, 15:6) This refers to the works of the believer. The Christian who does not abide in Christ cannot do what pleases God; therefore, his works will be burned at the judgment seat of Christ, though he himself will be saved (1 Cor. 3:11-15).
Spiritually speaking: non-productive vines have a negative affect on other vines.
- They take away nutrition.
- They require additional maintenance.
- They are a negative witness.
- They grow and grow and take up room needed for productive vines.
- They are a stumbling block and negative influence since they exist side-by-side with other (perhaps younger) vines.
The vinedresser does what is necessary to make it possible for the branch to bear fruit. The vine produces the fruit. And, the branch bears the fruit. The key for the branch to bear fruit is to stay connected ("abide") to the vine. That means that the key to my bearing spiritual fruit is to continue to develop my relationship with Christ...then He will produce His fruit through me. The way that I develop my relationship with Christ is to bear the fruit that He produces in me...in other words, I do those things that will allow Him to live through me, and I don't do things that would hinder His living through me.
- We bring glory to the Father (:8).
- We prove that we are His disciples…through obedience to Him (:8).
- We experience the love of the Father through the love of Jesus (:9).
- His joy will be made full in us (:11).
- We will have love for one another (:12-13).
In verses 9-13 the word "love" (agape) is used 8 times. The word "love" in verse 19 is "phileo". The most tangible proof that we are abiding in Him is the love that we have for one another...this is the fruit that He bears through us.
- We are friends with Christ (:14).
- Our prayers are answered (:7,16)…we abide in Him and His words abide in us
- We will have lasting fruit -“remain” (:16). This is speaking of the fact that the character of Christ would continue to be developed in the believer even in the face of opposition…which is what He is about to teach, next.
John 15:18-16:6-Jesus now begins to teach the second indispensible lesson concerning how they are to live in His absence. They must learn is how to face opposition.
Jesus directly addresses the reason why they are going to be persecuted. It is because He “chose” them (same word as in verse 16).
of God the Father choosing Christians, as those whom he set apart from the irreligious multitude as dear unto himself, and whom he has rendered, through faith in Christ, citizens in the Messianic kingdom: (James 2:5) so that the ground of the choice lies in Christ and his merits only
Choice, Choose, Chosen:
"to pick out, select," means, in the Middle Voice, "to choose for oneself," not necessarily implying the rejection of what is not chosen, but "choosing" with the subsidiary ideas of kindness or favor or love, Mar 13:20; Luk 6:13; 9:35 (RV); 10:42; 14:7; Jhn 6:70; 13:18; 15:16, 19; Act 1:2, 24; 6:5; 13:17; 15:22, 25; in Act 15:7 it is rendered "made choice;" 1Cr 1:27, 28; Eph 1:4; Jam 2:5.
(http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1586&t=NASB, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words)
It is because of the fact that He has just told them to “abide” in Him (this will be the evidence of their unmistakable identification with Him) that His character in them would be so obvious that they would be persecuted for the same reasons that He was persecuted (cf. Acts 4:13). They persecuted Him for His words and His works…because they revealed their sin and condemned them. Even so, they will persecute them. When the Holy Spirit comes…He will continue the work of Jesus through the disciples…and it will be all the evidence they will need to determine that they are His followers.
Prayer: Father, be my vinedresser...do whatever is necessary in me that I might abide continuously and completely in You. Please let the character of Jesus flow through me unhindered. Help me to always obey Your commandments.