Journey Through John – Chapter 15

I Am the True Vine

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

  • “I am” – The 7th and final “I am” statement issued by Jesus.
  • “true vine” – Although Jesus’ metaphor stands on it’s own, Israel was referred to as the vine in the Old Testament, thus Jesus’ self designation as “the true vine” carries special significance. Jesus is everything Israel should’ve been regarding obedience to the law and kingdom focus. THEO: Any “branch” that doesn’t come from the “true vine” is not legitimate.
  • Within this teaching, Jesus names 3 types of “branches”
    • no fruit
    • some fruit
    • much fruit
  • Two common errors often occur in the interpretation of this text. Both revolving around the branches that bear no fruit. Some go as far as to say that believers who are not evangelistic, or leading others into the kingdom are snatched out of the vine. Others say that the non-fruit bearing branches are not believers, but are unregenerate persons.
  • There is danger in trying to make every aspect of a parable mean something or be loaded with meaning. It is often better to ask ourselves the question, “What is the point?” and examine a parable from a macro level, instead of trying to investigate every word spoken or every character mentioned.
  • Evangelism is not the overall thrust of this passage. I also find it difficult to see non fruit producing branches as unregenerate, especially when you consider v. 3.
  • QUES: What do you see emphasized in this parable?
  • QUES: What word do you see repeated throughout these verses?
  • The word “fruit” is used 8x in verses 1-16. The word “abide” is used 10x in verses In verses 2 and 8, Jesus mentions that God is active in and pleased when his disciples bear much fruit. Thus the emphasis is on God carefully pruning the branches in order for them to be more fruitful. Jesus teaching in these verses centers on how his disciples might become more fruitful.
  • “Abide” – (meno) to remain in a place, to tarry. It is often translated, “to abide, to remain”. Another connotation of the word helps me understand it more deeply. The word can mean, as noted above, “to remain in one place”. Which essentially means to loiter. If you grew up in a small town, you know what it means to loiter. Another scholar more elegantly stated, “It seems to suggest an effortless resting in the Lord, confident in the promised union between the vine and the true branches.” Kenneth O. Gangel, John, vol. 4, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 283. In this passage the emphasis is on the disciples ongoing faith, dependance, and obedience to Jesus.
  • v4,5 – If you were given the task of picking one verse which summarizes the teaching of Jesus here, you would be hard pressed not to pick verse 5. These two verses draw a sharp emphasis on the believer’s dependance upon Jesus for fruit production. Twice in these verses Jesus emphatically stated, “the branch cannot bear fruit by itself” and “apart from me you can do nothing”. The application for believers is clear. For fruit to become evident in your life, you must have continued, quality time spent with Christ. We live in a world where this has become extremely convenient. May we take advantage of these opportunities. Simply put, the more time we spend with Jesus, the less time we tend to dwell on temptation to sin.
  • v6 – as in verse 2, causes the most difficulty in interpretaiton. There is little doubt that fire is a biblical reference to the judgment of God, but we shouldn’t automatically assume that the reference here is to eternal punishment. Consider Ezekiel 15:1-6:
  • “And the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, how does the wood of the vine surpass any wood, the vine branch that is among the trees of the forest? Is wood taken from it to make anything? Do people take a peg from it to hang any vessel on it? Behold, it is given to the fire for fuel. When the fire has consumed both ends of it, and the middle of it is charred, is it useful for anything? Behold, when it was whole, it was used for nothing. How much less, when the fire has consumed it and it is charred, can it ever be used for anything!Therefore thus says the Lord God: Like the wood of the vine among the trees of the forest, which I have given to the fire for fuel, so have I given up the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”
  • Thus it seems v 6 is suggesting that just as a fruitless branch is useless, so too is a fruitless disciple.
  • v7 – gives a conditional statement regarding kingdom alertness and prayer. Abiding in Jesus + Knowing God’s Word = successful prayer. Similar statements have been written in the preceding verses.
  • v8-11 – provides powerful motivation for fruitfulness.
    • It is God’s desire that we bear much fruit. It brings him glory.
    • It is a dual expression of love, where the disciple expresses love for God through obedience and the disciple experiences God’s love through giving him glory.
    • It is a source of true joy. “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” – Piper

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

  • v12 – Jesus’ commands from verse 10 are summarized by one command here – to love each other as Christ has loved us. The was initially spoken in 13.34-35. John draws emphasis on Jesus’ upcoming death by changing the verb tenses of the the word love in this verse. The disciples love for one another is to be ongoing (present tense), Jesus’ love for the disciples is in a past tense, suggesting a completed action.
  • v13 – foreshadows the death of Christ, but also emphasized the need for believers to love one another sacrificially.
  • v14 – Ironically our society latches onto the concept of Jesus as friend, while they largely ignore the need for obedience.
  • v15 – What an odd concept, knowing intimately the Son of God as a friend. APP: Friendship with Jesus requires time, talking, and trust. APP: We should not confuse the concepts of intimacy and casualness here.
  • v16 – Election is not a response to foreseen faith, but is God’s unmerited favor bestowed on individuals. To say that this applies to the 12 only shows exegetical inconsistency within the chapter. No one believes the rest of the chapter is just for the 12. Notice the other promises of God we treasure that would be nullified if we took it to apply only to the 12. The latter part of verse 12 is seen again in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 2.8-10. It is not simply the disciple who abides, but the fruit of the disciple remains as well.

The Hatred of the World

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’

  • QUES: Why is it so important for disciples to love one another? Short answer. Because the world does not.
  • Satan has been and will always be adversarial to the Kingdom of God.
  • QUES: How is the word “world” used in these verses?
  • “World” – “a system and people of rebellion, hatred, and persecution”. How does John’s use of world influence our understanding of John 3:16?
  • “John, however, is not against the world per se. For him God loved the world and gave his Son so that the people of the world might believe in him and escape the clear judgment for sin (3:16–18). But John claims that the world has been in rebellion against God. Its people have walked in darkness (8:12) and have not generally recognized or accepted the Son and his “truth” (8:32; cf. 1:9–10; etc.). Instead, the people of the world have chosen to follow the devil and have accepted his lies (8:44). The world therefore is viewed by John not as essentially evil but as potentially transformable. This distinction is absolutely crucial to any comparison with Gnosticism. Yet disciples must understand clearly that the world is a hostile place and that while it is potentially transformable, it will generally resist such transformation because of its rebellion and sin (8:21–24; 15:22–24). Gerald L. Borchert, John 12–21, vol. 25B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 154.
  • The world hates disciples because the world hates Jesus. The world acts in the way it does because it does not know the Father.
  • APP: There should be a noticeable difference between the worldview and actions of disciples and those of the world.
  • v22 – Jesus’ clear revelation of God to the world brings the world under a guilty verdict regarding their sin.

26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.

  • v18-25 – seem gloomy, but Jesus offers hope through the promise of the Holy Spirit. The disciples are not against unsurmountable odds. The Holy Spirit is in the life-changing business.