Text: John 15:1-17
SETTING AND CONTEXT
This passage contains only a part of the words of Jesus to his apostles in the upper room on the evening of his arrest in the garden, the night before his death on the cross. These words were spoken to the eleven apostles after Judas Iscariot went out into the night to betray him (John 13:11-30). In this text, the Lord uses the vine and branches to illustrate how believers are enabled to bear good fruit to the glory of the Father during their lives in this world.
THE TRUE VINE
John 15:1-3 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 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. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.”
The Spirit of prophecy—The Lord speaks here of “those things which be not as though they were” (Romans 4:17). He knew that he would baptize all believers into his “body, the church” (Colossians 1:18) “with the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 3:11; 1Corinthians 12:13) after his resurrection and ascension back to heaven. Before Jesus “was taken up” (Acts 1:9) into heaven from “the mount called Olivet” (Acts 1:12), he told his apostles, “For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence” (Acts 1:5). There were no branches in Christ before believers were baptized into his body “by one Spirit” (1Corinthians 12:13)!
Jews—Believing Jews were baptized with the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost: “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place… And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4).
Gentiles—Believing Gentiles are baptized by the Holy Ghost at the very time they hear and believe the gospel. Peter preached the gospel to Cornelius and those in his house (Acts 10:39-43). And “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word… on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 10:44-45).
THE EMPTY VINE
“Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself: according to the multitude of his fruit he hath increased the altars; according to the goodness of his land they have made goodly images” (Hosea 10:1). Israel is the “vine” which the LORD brought out of Egypt and planted as “a noble vine, wholly a right seed” (Jeremiah 2:21) in the promised land of Canaan (Psalm 80:8-11). Instead of bringing forth grapes, “it brought forth wild grapes” (Isaiah 5:2), as “the degenerate plant of a strange vine” (Jeremiah 2:21). Therefore, it perished (Psalm 80:16) when it was burned with fire, cut down, and laid waste (Isaiah 5:6).
BELIEVERS ABIDING IN CHRIST
John 15:4 “Abide in me…”
Abide means, ‘To continue permanently or in the same state; to be firm and immovable’ (Noah Webster, 1828); to stay and pass the time in the same place (Genesis 19:2; 22:5; 24:55; 29:19).
Entrance into Christ—Jesus said unto his apostles: “In what place soever ye enter into an house, there abide till ye depart from that place” (Mark 6:10; Luke 9:4). As one must first enter into a house before he can dwell in it, so one must be first be placed “in Christ” before he may “abide in Christ.” Entrance into Christ is called “the operation of God” (Colossians 2:12). It is the greatest of all miracles concerning man’s eternal soul! The born-again believer has, once and for all, “passed from death unto [eternal] life” (John 5:24)!
Baptized into Christ—A man must first be baptized into Christ by the Holy Ghost (Matthew 3:11) before he may abide in Christ: “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (1Corinthians 12:13): “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15). He is “born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (1Peter 1:23; John 3:3-8). He is now one of “the saints in Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 1:1), and he is sealed by the “holy Spirit of God… unto the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30).
Now there is no condemnation to him when he walks “not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1-2). Nothing “shall be able to separate [him] from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39). He now has “the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus” (2Timothy 1:1). The Lord Jesus promised: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life” (John 6:47; 5:24). John the Baptist said: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36). The unbeliever has “not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Romans 8:9)!
Fellowship—A believer who has been “born of the Spirit” (John 3:8) is “one spirit” with Christ (1Corinthians 6:17-19)—and has been supernaturally and eternally joined to Christ. Nevertheless, in order for any believer to abide in Christ, he must with a willful conscience choose to remain in communion and fellowship in him. Such a man will obey the Lord’s command to take the yoke of Christ upon himself (Matthew 11:28-30) and walk together in agreement with the Lord (Amos 3:3).
The apostle John declared: “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light [“The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple” (Psalm 119:130, 105)], as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1John 1:5-7).
CHRIST ABIDING IN BELIEVERS
John 15:4 “…and I in you.”
Christ’s abiding is faithful and eternal—The “Godhead” (Acts 17:29; Romans 1:20) consists of “three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one” (1John 5:7). Furthermore, in the Lord Jesus Christ “dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9). Therefore, when Christ abides in the believer, the Father (John 14:23; 17:20-23) and the Holy Ghost (John 14:15-17) also abide with him “for ever” (John 14:16)! Christ in us is our unchanging “hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27), “for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5); “For the LORD loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved for ever: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off” (Psalm 37:28).
John 15:4 “…As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.”
The root—Jesus declared: “I am the root and the offspring of David…” (Revelation 22:16; Isaiah 53:2). He is the “root of the righteous [that] shall not be moved” (Proverbs 12:3), that “yieldeth fruit” (Proverbs 12:12). The branch bears the clusters the vine produces. The natural branch of a grapevine cannot bear [produce] a cluster of grapes unless it is connected to the vine, from which it receives nutrients and life from the root. If detached from the vine, the branch will wither and die and not produce any fruit.
John 15:5 “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.”
The fruit of righteousness—Believers are married to Christ, “even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God” (Romans 7:4). We bring forth “the fruit of the Spirit [which] is in all goodness and righteousness and truth” (Ephesians 5:9), which “is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).
The apostle Paul prayed that the Philippians would be “filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ [the true vine], unto the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:11). When believers submit themselves to God (James 4:7) and walk “in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16, 25) and “after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1, 4), God will work in them “both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).
No fruits of righteousness whatsoever can be produced without Jesus Christ! There are many “works” that men may highly esteem and justify as “good works” here on earth, but when their works are tried at the judgment seat of Christ, the fire will burn up all those works that were done by the power of the flesh and not by the Spirit of Christ working through the believer (1Corinthians 3:13-15). While “dead works” (Hebrews 6:1; 9:14) may be mistakenly viewed by men as “fruit” here, their true identity will be revealed when judged by the Lord Jesus Christ.
John 15:6 “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.”
False identity—Some believe that this verse speaks of men who were only professing to be true believers [wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15)]. This cannot be true, for the Lord is speaking here of “Every branch in me…” (John 15:2, 4-6), and the word of God declares plainly: “…if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2Corinthians 5:17). Furthermore, all unbelievers are “without [outside of] Christ… having no hope, and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12)!
Christ will never cast out!—The Lord Jesus promised: “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37); and, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24); and again Jesus declared: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28). And yet some continue to teach that John 15:6 means that God condemns true believers to hell when they fail to abide in Christ! This is a false “private interpretation” (2Peter 1:20).
Race for the prize—The apostle Paul exhorted believers: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 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” (Hebrews 12:1-2). The believer’s race is along “the path of the just [which] is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day” (Proverbs 4:18; Isaiah 26:7).
The apostle also commanded believers: “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection… And this will we do, if God permit” (Hebrews 6:1-3). The apostle testified: “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). Near the end of his life on earth, Paul declared to Timothy: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2Timothy 4:7-8). All believers should desire to have the same testimony at the end of their lives.
Disqualified runners—The apostle Paul exhorted and warned: “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1Corinthians 9:24-27).
Dishonourable vessels—In Christ there “are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these [the disobedient vessels of dishonour], he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” (2Timothy 2:19-21). For example, Paul wrote to the believers in Thessalonica and said, “For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake” (1Thessalonians 1:5).
Paul and his fellow workers not only preached the gospel, but they lived the truth of the gospel in the sight of men! He that serves God by abiding in Christ “is acceptable to God, and approved of men” (Romans 14:18). Paul always endeavored to provide “for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men” (2Corinthians 8:21). Paul brought his body under subjection so that by his testimony and works of righteousness, he might also be justified as a genuine child of God in the sight of men (James 2:24) and not be counted a castaway by them. Lot was a “just” and “righteous man” (2Peter 2:7-8) in the sight of God, but his sons in law regarded him a “castaway,” a man who had lost his testimony by living as a hypocrite: a man whose genuine and truthful warning was discarded by them (Genesis 19:14).
Many men who were once effective witnesses for Jesus Christ have fallen into sin and have lost their testimony in the world. Even the mention of their names brings ridicule and reproach to the name of Christ! Such men are castaways: withered and fruitless branches! Nevertheless, if these men are born-again believers, they are still God’s children, and their souls are eternally secure in Christ! When born-again believers choose to “walk in darkness” (1John 1:6), “after the flesh” (Romans 8:13; 2Peter 2:10), they forsake their great privilege to abide in Christ. Thankfully, because of God’s great mercy and forgiveness, those who have walked away from their fellowship with the Lord may come back and be restored to fellowship!
John wrote: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1John 1:9)! It is also written, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). However, there is a point beyond which the Lord will not permit the believer who continually rebels and walks after the flesh to “go on unto perfection” (Hebrews 6:1-3). After the children of Israel continued to tempt [test] the Lord in the wilderness by not taking heed to his voice, the LORD said, “Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it” (Numbers 14:22-23). These things were our examples (1Corinthians 10:6-14).
The believer who fails to use his gifts and opportunities for the glory of God forfeits his great privilege to abide in Christ. He will become a castaway, a vessel of dishonour, not “meet for the master’s use” (2Timothy 2:20-21).
Loss of rewards—When a believer fails to abide, he may also lose rewards for the good work that he did prior to his turning away from the Lord’s fellowship: “Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward” (2John 1:8). When a carnal believer—who failed to abide in Christ because he chose to walk not “after the Spirit” but “after the flesh” (Romans 8:1), stands before the judgment seat of Christ (2Corinthians 5:10; Romans 14:10), his “dead works” (Hebrews 6:1; 9:14) will be burned as “wood, hay, stubble” (1Corinthians 3:12; Colossians 3:25), “but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (1Corinthians 3:15)!
The carnal believer will not lose his soul, but he will miss the great blessings that come to those who abide in Christ during their lives on earth. The believer who neglects his fellowship with Christ is in great danger of being set aside from being Christ’s ambassador on earth. As a “castaway,” he can only bring forth the dead “works of the flesh” (Galatians 5:19). He will lose the blessings and rewards he could have received during the thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ (Revelation 20:1-6) and in eternity!
God’s gift of eternal life in Christ—”And we [believers] know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life” (1John 5:20). We believers stand “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began” (Titus 1:2). “And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life” (1John 2:25).
The “promise of life… is in Christ Jesus” (2Timothy 1:1), for “…in Christ shall all be made alive” (1Corinthians 15:22)! God “hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2Timothy 1:9); “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (1John 5:10-11). God the Father “hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1Peter 1:3-5).
Inseparable!—”For there is not a just man [a man God has declared righteous, a man who has been “justified by faith” (Romans 3:28; 5:1; Galatians 3:28)] upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). After his salvation, the apostle Paul agreed with Solomon. He admitted that no good thing dwelt in his flesh and that he did evil and was in captivity to the law of sin, which worked in the members of his body. Paul, who called himself the “chief” of sinners (1Timothy 1:15), declared: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin” (Romans 7:18-25).
Paul was “persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39). It is obvious that Paul knew he would never be cast out from being one of God’s children! He was not concerned that God might cast him into hell fire because of the sins done in his body. Like Paul, every born-again believer may be absolutely certain of eternal life in Christ.
PROMISE OF ANSWERED PRAYER
John 15:7 “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.”
Must ask according to God’s will—The carnal understanding of this promise is that the Christian can plead this promise before the throne of grace and obtain whatever he personally wills out of his own heart. This understanding is contrary to the word of God. David wrote: “Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass” (Psalm 37:4-5). This scripture declares that LORD will put his desire in the heart of the man who delights in the LORD and abides with him.
The apostle John later wrote: “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us” (1John 5:14). What we ask shall not be done unto us unless our will is in agreement with the will of God! The spirit of the believer who is abiding in Christ—walking in fellowship with him and having spiritual communion with him; and whose thoughts and desires are regulated by “the word of Christ,” which dwells in him “richly in all wisdom” (Colossians 3:16), will be walking “not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1).
Such a man will be diligent to cast “down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God,” and to bring “into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2Corinthians 10:5). This man will be transformed by the renewing of his mind so that he “may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2). Therefore, this man will ask according to God’s will (1John 5:14), and it shall be done unto him. The scriptural view of prayer is both glorifying to God and satisfying to the soul of the believer.
God intercedes for us—There are many times that “we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27). The Lord Jesus Christ at the right hand of God “also maketh intercession for us” (Romans 8:34).
FRUITFUL BRANCHES GLORIFY THE FATHER
John 15:8 “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit…”
Fruit of the Spirit—The fruit borne by the abiding branch is the fruit of the Spirit, which is “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23). The fruit results from our union with Christ and enables us to do the work of God in a way that is pleasing to God (2Timothy 2:24-26; Hosea 14:8). Therefore, every branch should acknowledge, “Not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1Corinthians 15:10) produced our good works.
Fruit-bearing saints are “filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:11). If there be any love, it is “the love of Christ” (2Corinthians 5:14). If there be any joy, it is Christ’s joy (John 15:11). If there be any peace, it is his peace which was given to us (John 14:27). If there be any meekness and gentleness, it is “the meekness and gentleness of Christ” (2Corinthians 10:1). The apostle Paul was a great example of a fruit-bearing branch in Christ. His statements reveal that he fully realized that the source of any good coming through him was coming from Jesus Christ, the true vine (Romans 15:18; 2Corinthians 13:3; Galatians 2:8, 20; Philippians 4:13).
John 15:8 “…so shall ye be my disciples.”
Earlier, the Lord Jesus said to the Jews which believed on him, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed” (John 8:31)! Continuance in the word of God is both a condition and an evidence of discipleship. For a Christian to bear much fruit testifies that he is truly a disciple of Christ, “for the tree is known by his fruit” (Matthew 12:33).
ABIDING IN THE LOVE OF GOD
John 15:9 “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.”
To continue, or abide, in Christ’s love is to be occupied with it, to count upon it, and to be persuaded that nothing shall ever be able to separate us from it (Romans 8:38-39).
John 15:10 “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.”
There will be no fruit to glorify the Father, and no abiding in Christ’s love, unless the believer is really and genuinely submitted (James 4:7) to the will of the Lord, and walking in the light of his commandments (John 13:34; 14:15), as he is in the light (1John 1:7). The Lord commanded his disciples: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:19-20).
John 15:11 “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.”
Abiding joy—Joy in the believer is a fruit of the Spirit of Christ in him (Galatians 5:22; Acts 13:52; Romans 14:17; 15:13; 1Thessalonians 1:6); and “the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). The Lord Jesus “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” (Hebrews 12:2). God has also set before us—his redeemed children, a future and eternal “fulness of joy” (Psalm 16:11) much too great and wonderful to comprehend! “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1Corinthians 2:9).
The Lord’s joy—The Lord prayed to his Father for his disciples, saying, “And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves” (John 17:13; 1John 1:4). If we abide in Christ, and he abides in us, we can experience the same joy that he had when he walked on earth in perfect obedience and communion with his Father. Even when men persecute us for Christ’s sake, we can rejoice “and leap for joy…” (Luke 6:22-23)! Through answered prayer, our “joy may be full” (John 16:22-24). Not only are we saved by Christ’s life, “but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement” (Romans 5:10-11).
Exceeding joy—God’s “power” (John 1:12) is available to enable all believers to finish their “course with joy” (Acts 20:24). The Lord Jesus “is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 1:24).
CONSTANTLY ABIDING by Mrs. Will M. Murphy
There’s a peace in my heart that the world never gave,
A peace it cannot take away.
Tho’ the trials of life may surround like a cloud,
I’ve a peace that has come there to stay!
Constantly abiding, Jesus is mine;
Constantly abiding, rapture divine;
He never leaves me lonely, whispers, oh, so kind:
“I will never leave thee,” Jesus is mine.