John 15



The Vine and the Branches (15:1-17)

1 I am the true vine and my Father (God) is the gardener. In order to show what the Christian life is like, Jesus here gives the illustration of a vine and its branches. In the Old Testament, Israel was called a vine. But it became a barren and corrupt vine (Psalm 80:8-16; Isaiah 5:1-7; Jeremiah 2:21). God’s true vine is Jesus Himself.

2 Christians are the branches (verse 5). Just as a branch cannot live unless the sap of the vine flows into it, so a Christian cannot live unless Christ’s Holy Spirit flows into him. Without Christ’s Spirit, we soon die spiritually. If we do not bear fruit, it is a sign that Christ’s Spirit is not in us. Such a branch God cuts away. A fruitless branch is useless to God (see Matthew 3:10).

However, the fruitful branch God trims clean,105 or cleanses, that it might bear more fruit. God cuts away the bad twigs—that is, our bad habits and sins. To be pruned or trimmed clean can be very painful. of ten God leads Christians through difficult experiences in order to “trim them clean” (see James 1:2-4 and comment). Especially, He leads us through humbling experiences to remove our pride. Just as a branch bears more fruit after it has been trimmed clean or cleansed, so it is with us.

Only Christians who have been cleansed from sin, from pride, can bear good fruit for God. The fruit that God looks for is of two kinds. First, He looks for the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), which correspond to the qualities manifested in Christ’s life (see Matthew 5:3-10). Second, God looks for another type of “fruit,” namely, new believers who have come to Christ through our witness. New Christians are also “fruit” pleasing to God.

3 Jesus assured His disciples that, except for Judas Iscariot, they were all clean (see John 13:10 and comment). The disciples were living branches ready to bear fruit. Yes, they would need additional periodic trimming, but they had already been cleansed of sin through faith in Christ’s word, Christ’s teaching.

4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. To remain in Christ means to love Him, to obey Him, to pray to Him, to worship Him. In other words, to remain in Christ means to remain joined to Him spiritually, just as a branch is joined to a vine. If we remain joined to Christ in this way, we will be like living branches. And just as the sap of the vine flows into the branches and gives them life, so will Christ’s Spirit flow into us and give us spiritual life.

In order to bear fruit, we must remain in Christ. If we do not remain in Christ, we shall not bear fruit. Not only that, we shall wither and die (verse 6).

5 This verse repeats the thought of verse 4. This teaching about the vine and its branches is like Paul’s teaching about the body and its members (1 Corinthians 12:27). Here we are like branches in Christ’s vine. In Paul’s illustration, we are like members of Christ’s body. The teaching is the same. We must remain joined to Christ, or we shall die.

Jesus said, “… apart from me you can do nothing.” We can do no spiritual work apart from Christ. We can do nothing pleasing to God apart from Christ. But in Christ, joined to Him, we can do everything. Paul said: I can do everything through him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13). But let us remember that whatever fruit we bear, it is not our fruit; it is Christ’s fruit. It is the vine that produces the fruit, not the branches. The branches only bear the vine’s fruit.

6 Let us never forget what happens to branches that become separated from the vine. They die and are thrown into the fire. Let us allow nothing to disrupt our union with Christ.

There is only one thing that can separate us from Christ: sin. Sin is like a disease that eats at the base of the branch. We will surely lose our union with Christ if any known sin remains in our life for which we have not repented.

7 If we remain in Christ, He will remain in us. If He remains in us, His words will remain in us also. We cannot separate Christ and His teaching. But Christ’s words only remain in those who obey His words.

For us today, Christ’s words are the Scriptures, especially the New Testament. The words of the Scriptures must remain in us. Thus, we can say that in our Christian lives two main things are necessary: first, Christ through the Holy Spirit must remain in us; and second, Christ’s words, that is the words of the Bible, must remain in our hearts.

If we are in Christ, and He is in us, we can ask anything and He will do it. In John 14:13, Jesus taught that if we ask anything in [His] name, He will do it. These two statements are really the same. Anyone who abides in Christ will surely pray in Christ’s name. Not only that, if we abide in Christ and keep Christ’s words in our heart, we shall always pray according to Christ’s will. Whatever we ask for, God will be pleased to give us. That is why those who remain in Christ will receive whatever they ask for (see John 14:13 and comment).

In the Christian life, we always find two things appearing together: promises and conditions. If we fulfill the condition, God will fulfill His promise. God has never given a promise without also stating a condition along with the promise.

What are some of these promises and their corresponding conditions? One example is: if a man has faith, God will fulfill his request (Mark 11:24). The condition is that the man must have faith; the promise is that the request will be fulfilled. A second example: if a man forgives others, God will forgive him (Matthew 6:14). A third example: if a man draws near to God, God will draw near to him (James 4:8). And a fourth example is found in this verse 7: if you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.

Let us ask ourselves: Do we always receive what we ask for from God? of ten—perhaps usually—we do not. Why? Because we have not fulfilled the condition.

When God doesn’t grant our request, what do we usually say? We say: “It wasn’t God’s will to grant it.” But that’s not the real reason our request wasn’t granted. When we say it wasn’t God’s will, we are in a sense blaming God for not fulfilling our wishes. When we are not successful in prayer, let us not blame God! Rather let us blame ourselves. There is only one reason for our prayers not being successful: namely, we have not prayed in the right way (see James 4:3). We have not fulfilled the conditions.

We have another habit that is generally not suitable. After we have finished our prayer, we of ten say to God, “Please grant our request—if it is your will.” When we add these words, “If it is your will,” we are admitting that we have prayed without really knowing what God’s will is. Such requests are usually not granted. This verse teaches us an important truth: if we remain in Christ and His words remain in us, then we shall know what God’s will is, and our prayers will then be in accordance with His will. And when our prayer is in accordance with His will, then He will grant our request.

How can we find out what God’s will is? For the most part we can find out God’s will simply by reading the Bible. There is a saying: When I pray, I talk to God; when I read the Bible (which is God’s word) He talks to me. True prayer is not just talking to God—it’s also listening to God. Prayer is like a conversation, in which we both talk and listen. First, having read God’s word, we understand His will; then, according to His will, we make our requests.

When Christ is in us, His words will be in us also. But this statement is also true in reverse: When Christ’s words are in us, then Christ Himself will be in us. Because Christ and His words are, in a sense, the same. Christ is God’s living Word (see John 1:1-2,14). Therefore, Christ’s words come not only from the Bible but also directly from Christ Himself, who lives within us in the form of the Holy Spirit. Thus, from these two sources of Christ’s words, the Bible and the Holy Spirit, we can gain a sure understanding of what God’s will is.

How, then, can we learn from Christ’s words what God’s will is? First, we can learn what God’s “general will” is by accepting Christ’s words, by accepting the Bible and studying it, by letting His words become “written” in our hearts (Hebrews 8:10). Second, we learn what God’s “particular will” is (that is, His will in specif ic circumstances) through the leading of the Holy Spirit. We encounter many circumstances in life about which the Bible does not give us specif ic instructions. For example, the Bible doesn’t specifically tell us who we should marry, what kind of work we should do, or what subjects we should study in school. To determine what God’s will is in these matters, the guidance of the Holy Spirit is necessary.

But before we can learn what God’s “particular will” is in any specif ic circumstance, a third thing is necessary: namely, we must be willing to do anything God asks—no matter what. If we are not willing to obey what God says—whatever it might be—then He will not reveal His will to us. Our own selfish desires will prevent us from knowing what His will is. We shall be drawn to our own will instead of to God’s will. When this happens, we shall not learn what God’s particular will is for that specif ic circumstance.

Therefore, in summary, if God does not grant a prayer request of ours, it is because we have failed to learn what His will is in that matter. His will has not entered our heart; we have not committed ourselves to do His will. In other words, we have not fulfilled the condition necessary for obtaining our request. Because of our own weakness, disobedience, and sin, our prayer request has not been granted.

Who among us has experienced the full meaning of this verse? Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches. And as a vine and its branches grow, so likewise must we grow in the Christian life. Our life in Christ must grow ever fuller, ever deeper.

Remain in me (verse 4). Now we can understand the full meaning of these words: namely, that our spirits must be the same as Christ’s Spirit, that our mind and our will must be the same as Christ’s mind and will. We must live not for ourselves, but for Christ. We are not our own; we are Christ’s! And for those who remain in Christ in this way, the promise of this verse will be fulfilled: … ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.

8 What brings God glory? Our fruit brings Him glory. Just as God was glorified in Christ (John 13:31), so God will also be glorified in us, that is, by our fruit (see Matthew 5:16; John 15:2). By our fruit—especially by our love—men will know that we are Christ’s disciples (John 13:35).

9 Now remain in my love. To remain in Christ’s love is the same as to remain in Christ (see verse 4). Let us not forget how much Christ loves us. He loves us as much as God loved Him. When we remain in Christ’s love, we remain in God’s love also.

10 To remain in Christ’s love, we must love Him. To love Him, we must obey Him (see John 14:15 and comment). As long as we continue to obey Christ, we shall remain in His love, and He and the Father will abide in us (see John 14:21).

11 Jesus told these things to the disciples so that His joy might be in them—that is, so that they might experience the joy that He Himself always experienced. This joy was a spiritual joy, an inner joy. And like the peace that Jesus promised to give them (John 14:27), this joy would remain with them even during trials and persecution. Such joy is the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Thus it is experienced by everyone in whom the Holy Spirit dwells.

All men of the world seek joy and happiness above all things. But they seek in vain. Only when a man seeks Christ will he find true joy.

12 Here Jesus repeats the new command that He gave to His disciples in John 13:34: Love each other as I have loved you.

13 Then Jesus told His disciples that the greatest love they could ever show to each other was to lay down their lives for each other. That is how Jesus loved them, and He proved it by laying down His life on the cross for them. There could be no greater love than that.

Jesus commands us, also, to love each other as He has loved us. That means that we, too, must be ready to lay down our lives for each other—not only for Christ, but for our brother also! This is one reason why Jesus’ disciples must hate their own lives in this world (see John 12:25 and comment). The person who loves his own life will never be willing to give it up for Christ and for others.

We should remember that Jesus gave up His life not only for His friends, but also for His enemies (see Romans 5:6,8). He commands us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). It is true that He has not directly commanded us to lay down our lives for our enemies. However, true love does not ask, “Who is my friend and who is my enemy?” Love always gives, without calculation. Jesus gave everything for all men. His disciples should be happy to do likewise.

14 Jesus called His disciples friends, and He calls us friends today. But in order to be a “friend” of Jesus, one must obey His commands.

15 Jesus called His disciples friends, because He made known to them everything He Himself learned from His Father. He had even more to tell them, but they could not have borne it then (John 16:12). He would tell them later through the Holy Spirit (John 16:13).

The disciples were no longer servants. A servant receives only orders from his master. The master does not have to give the servant a reason for an order. But Jesus treats us as friends. He takes us into His confidence. Through the Holy Spirit, He reveals to us everything we need to know.106

16 Men do not first choose to follow Jesus. Rather, Jesus chooses men to follow Him. First Jesus calls. Then men are free to follow or not to follow. But no man can follow Christ unless he has first been called (see John 5:37,44 and comment).

Jesus not only chose His disciples, but He also gave them an appointment. The appointment was to go, that is, to be witnesses. And their work was to bear fruit. Jesus told them, “I chose you … to go and bear fruit.” Jesus’ disciples were like branches. The work of a branch is to bear fruit. In the context of this verse, to “bear fruit” means primarily to bring others to faith in Christ (see verse 2 and comment).

Every Christian has been appointed to go and bear fruit. We may not be called to go far away. But we are all called to go. We are called to go at least to our own family and to our neighbors. Let no Christian think that he does not have to go and bear fruit. Just as every Christian is a disciple, so is every Christian a missionary.

The work God gives every Christian to do is a lasting work. If we are truly doing God’s work, that work will last. If we are bearing God’s fruit, that fruit will last. Let us each be certain that it is God’s work we are doing—God’s fruit we are bearing—and not our own. If we are truly doing His work according to His will, God will give us whatever we ask for in Jesus’ name. If we do what God says, He will do what we say! (see John 14:13; 15:7 and comments).

How many times we have prayed for grace and strength to bear fruit, but nothing seems to happen. Our request is not granted. And we ask: “Why has no answer come?” The reason is this: We have reversed the command given by Jesus in this verse. That is, we have first asked for grace and strength, so that we can go out and bear fruit with ease. But here Jesus says: “ … go and bear fruit. Then God will grant your request for grace and strength.” Only after God sees our willingness to obey will He give us the grace and strength we need to bear fruit for Him.

Here we can see an important truth: There is only one way we can bring glory to God and share in that glory ourselves, and that way is the way of obedience. Only when we are obedient will we receive the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-16). Only when we are obedient will Jesus be manifested in our lives (John 14:21). Only when we are obedient will God come and live in us (John 14:23). Only through obedience can we remain in Christ’s love (John 15:10). Only through obedience can we obtain Christ’s friendship (John 15:14). And only when we are obedient will we obtain the answer to our prayers. All of these great blessings come to us only when we obey Jesus.

There is one further thing that should be mentioned concerning this verse. There are three little words here—in my name. In the comment on John 14:13, it was said that the expression “in Christ’s name” means “in Christ’s stead.” When we pray, we must pray in Christ’s stead.

The following illustration shows us this truth clearly. Jesus is like a merchant who went away on a long trip. Before leaving, the merchant put his business into the hands of his servant. The merchant gave the servant full authority to manage his business during his absence. The merchant even gave the servant the authority to use his (the merchant’s) name.

Now a servant under such circumstances does nothing by his own authority. He does nothing in his own name. If he were to try to get his master’s money out of the bank in his own name, his master would certainly punish him. Why did the merchant trust his servant? Because his servant was obedient and trustworthy. It’s because the servant was obedient and trustworthy that the merchant was able to give him complete authority over his business—including even the right to use his name.

In the same way, when Jesus left this earth and went to heaven, He put all his work, His “business,” into our hands. He gave us full authority to use His name, so that we might be able to draw from His “bank account” all the riches and blessings of heaven. Servant of Christ! Learn to use His name properly! Let His name rule in your life. Concentrate on the work He has given you. Jesus says to us: “I have appointed you to go and bear fruit. I have appointed you to be my witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). I have appointed you to be streams of living water (John 7:38). I have appointed you to pour out upon a parched and suffering world all the riches and blessings of heaven.”

What have we done about our appointment? What are we doing about it now? From now on, let us stop asking for blessings for ourselves, such as joy, peace, and comfort. Rather, let there be only this thought in our minds: “I am not my own; I am His. I am His servant. My life has only one meaning and purpose, and that is to do His will.” And when we have made the doing of His will the sole desire of our lives, then He will come to us and lift us up, and say to us: “I no longer call you servants. … Instead, I have called you friends” (verse 15).

Servants of Christ! Take your appointment, and in obedience go and bear fruit to His glory.

17 See John 13:34 and comment.

The World Hates the Disciples (15:18-27)

18 If the world107 hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. Jesus’ meaning is this: “The world will indeed hate you, because it first hated me.” Let the disciples not be surprised. If the world hated Jesus, it will certainly hate His followers (see Matthew 10:24-25).

Notice that Jesus’ disciples are to be known by their love. Men of the world are known by their hatred.

19 The world hates the followers of Jesus because they are not of the world. They have been called out of the world to enter Christ’s kingdom. Even in this life, Christians have left the kingdom of darkness and have become citizens of the kingdom of God. That is why Satan, the prince of this world (John 14:30), is so angry. Christians have left his kingdom. He hates them. And all those under Satan’s rule, that is, all who are of the world, also hate Christians. There will always be hostility between Christians and the world (Satan’s kingdom). Just as there can be no reconciliation between good and evil, truth and falsehood, light and darkness, so there can be no reconciliation between Christians and the world.

20 Servants usually receive the same treatment from others that their master receives. Those who persecuted Jesus will persecute His disciples also, because the disciples will do the same things Jesus did. They will be lights in the darkness. Men of the world hate the light, because the light exposes their evil deeds (see John 3:19-20 and comment). That is why the world persecuted Christ, and that is why the world will persecute Christ’s disciples.

In the same way, those who obeyed Jesus’ teaching will obey the disciples’ teaching also. But those who obey the disciples will be fewer in number than those who persecute them. So it has been with Jesus’ disciples in every generation (see Matthew 10:24-25; John 13:16 and comments).

All faithful Christians will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). Jesus sends us out as sheep among wolves (Matthew 10:16). But let us remember that those who share in Christ’s sufferings will also share in His glory (see Matthew 5:10-12; Romans 8:17; 1 Peter 4:13-14).

21 Jesus said to His disciples: “They will treat you this way because of my name, that is, because of me.” The world treats Jesus’ disciples badly because the world does not know God. And the world does not know God because it does not recognize and accept Jesus, who is the revelation of God.

22 If Jesus had not come to earth, the Jews would not have been guilty of the sin of rejecting God’s Son. Jesus did not mean that the Jews would have been totally guiltless and without sin if He had not come. Even the best Jews were sinners, just like all other men (Romans 3:9-10). He only meant that they would not have been guilty of rejecting the true revelation of God. When the Jews rejected Christ, they rejected God; this was their greatest sin. If Christ had not come, they would not have fallen into that sin. Christ’s coming into the world resulted in the condemnation of all those who rejected Him (see John 3:18 and comment).

23 He who hates me hates my Father as well. The followers of other religions say: “I believe in God, but not in Christ.” But it is not possible to fully believe in the true God without believing in Christ. He who rejects Christ rejects God also (see John 12:44-45 and comment). And to reject Christ is the same as to “hate” Him. Therefore, he who rejects Christ hates both Christ and God.

Some people say: “I accept Christ, but I don’t accept His lordship over my life.” This also is impossible. Those who do not accept the lordship of Christ do not truly accept Christ. Men must accept Christ as their Lord and Savior—as the Son of God; otherwise they are, in effect, rejecting Him.

24 This verse adds to the thought of verse 22. The Jews not only rejected Christ’s teaching; they also rejected His works, His miracles. To refuse to believe in Christ was bad enough, but to refuse to believe His miracles was even worse. It showed an even greater hardness of heart on the part of the Jews. In spite of the great works of God that Jesus performed, the Jews continued to hate Him. And because they hated Jesus, they hated the Father too (verse 23).

Jesus’ miracles gave testimony that He had been sent from God (John 5:36; 10:25). When the Jews rejected Christ’s miracles, they rejected God Himself, because the miracles had been done by God’s power. Thus the Jews were without excuse. God in His mercy had given them signs; the signs were the miracles themselves. They had seen these miracles. They had seen Christ. And in seeing Christ, they had seen the Father (John 12:45). But they rejected both Christ and the Father. Their guilt was indeed great (see Matthew 11:20-24 and comment).

25 The Law, that is, the Old Testament, prophesied that the Jews would reject Christ. Here Jesus quotes from Psalms 35:19 and 69:4.

26 Then Jesus again mentioned the Counselor, the Holy Spirit (see John 14:16-17,26 and comment). Earlier He had said that God would send the Spirit. This time Jesus said that He Himselfwould send the Spirit. It’s saying the same thing: Jesus and God always act together.

The Holy Spirit testifies about Jesus. When people hear and believe the Gospel of Christ, it is because the Holy Spirit has testified about Jesus in their hearts. Man’s testimony alone is never enough; in order for anyone to believe in Christ, the testimony of the Holy Spirit is essential. Christians do not “convert” other people; people are converted only by the Holy Spirit.

27 However, the disciples’ testimony was also essential. They had been with Jesus from the beginning. They were eyewitnesses.

In the same way, the testimony of Christians today is also necessary. The Holy Spirit has no audible voice. We are the voice of the Holy Spirit. We must testify to other people about Christ, or they will never hear (see Romans 10:14). Our testimony reaches their ears; the Holy Spirit then carries it to their hearts.