LIFE OF CHRIST
In our last lesson on the Life of Christ, we examined John 14. In this lesson, we will examine John 15.
John 15:1 "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.† 2 "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.† 3 "You are already clean because 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 abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.† 5 "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.† 6 "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.† 7 "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.† 8 "By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.
Jesus makes His 7th ďI amĒ statement in the gospel of John when He said ďI am the true vine.Ē While this is a simple allegory, its message is powerful. A vine grown in a vineyard is pruned by the vinedresser. When a branch of that vine stops producing fruit, it becomes useless and it robs nutrients from the other producing branches. So, the vinedresser will cut off the fruitless branches so the good branches can produce more fruit. Also, the branches that are attached to the main vine can only exist as long as they are fed and supported by that vine. If they get cut off, they will wither up and die.†
In our text, Jesus is the true vine and the Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Jesus refers to each individual Christian and not each denomination as some teach. It is strange that some would claim these branches to be denominations considering no denominations existed in the first century. There is only one church (Mt. 16:18; Eph. 4:4), and Paul condemned the idea of denominations in 1 Corinthians 1:10ff. Just as a fruitless vine is cut off, if we are not being fruitful for the Lord, He will cut us off. So, we should strive to produce fruit such as the fruit of the Spirit:
Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,† 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Every Christian should be producing these fruits, and we learn how to produce these fruits by studying the Word of God. Now, a person could learn to have similar fruits in their lives and not be a Christian, but these fruits will not be pleasing to God if the person is not in Christ. For example, there are weeds that produce similar fruit to that of regular plants. Even though the fruit of the weed is similar, it is not the same as the regular plant. The only way the fruit of the Spirit will have any meaning for us is if we are in the true vine of Jesus. Any fruit produced outside Him, no matter how similar it may be, will not be the same, and it will not be pleasing to God.
If we want to produce the fruit of the Spirit, we must be in Christ, which can only be achieved by obeying Godís plan of salvation. We must believe that Jesus is the Son of God (Jn. 3:16), repent (Lk. 13:3), confess Jesus as Lord (Rom. 10:9), and be baptized for the remission of our sins (Acts 2:38). While all these steps are necessary, it is at the point of baptism that we enter into Christ (Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:3) and are grafted into the true vine (Rom. 11:17ff).
Since there is only one vine, the only thing it can produce is a Christian. When we plant a watermelon seed, we expect it to produce watermelons and not pumpkins. In a similar way, the Word of God is described as a seed in Lk. 8:11, and the Book of Genesis teaches that everything produces after its own kind (Gen. 1:11), which means the Word of God cannot produce a Baptist, Methodist, or other manmade denomination. Instead, it can only produce a Christian. As Jesus said, if we abide in Him, His word abides in us.
Even though we cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit without Jesus, we still have our part in producing the fruit. If the fruit produced was entirely up to Jesus, then no branch would ever need to be cut off. So, we must learn to be fruitful by living our lives based on Godís Word, and we must continue to reach out to the lost so they might obey the gospel and be grafted into the true vine as well.
Sometimes bearing fruit can be discouraging and difficult, but we must press on. Paul said: ďTherefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the LordĒ (1 Cor. 15:58). Paul is teaching us that no matter how hard we labor for the Lord, it is never in vain. We need to take verse 8 in our text to heart because when we abide in Christ by producing fruit, it will glorify our Father in heaven.
Jesusí allegory also teaches against the false doctrine ďonce saved always saved.Ē Jesus clearly teaches that if we are not bearing fruit while attached to the true vine, the Father will cut us off. This same idea is given by Paul with the use of olive branches in Rom. 11:17ff. In fact, let me read that section of Scripture:
Rom. 11:17 And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, †18 do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. †19 You will say then, "Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in." †20 Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. †21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. †22 Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness1, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. †23 And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. †24 For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?
Not only will the unfruitful be cut off, Jesus said: ďIf anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.Ē† In other words, once we get cut off from the true vine and we die in that state, our destination will be hell. As Peter said:
2 Peter 2:20 For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.† 21 For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.† 22 But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: "A dog returns to his own vomit," and, "a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire."
As Paul said:
2 Thessalonians 1:7 Ö when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels,† 8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.† 9 These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,
The Bible clearly teaches that a person can fall from Godís grace (Gal. 5:4), so we must continue to abide in Christ by producing fruit, otherwise we will be cut off.
Verse 7 offers some encouraging news, because Jesus said if we abide in Him, He will be in us, and whatever we ask for it will be done. We know this is a general statement because what we ask for must be in accordance with Godís will, but it is comforting to know that while we abide in the true vine, we have full access to God through prayer. When we pray, we can know that God will hear our prayers and answer them.
John 15:9 " As the Father loved Me, I also have 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 remain in you, and that your joy may be full.
The same love the Father has for Jesus is the same love Jesus has for His disciples, and He tells them to abide in His love. Since He is telling them to abide in His love, it means they could choose not to abide in it. If we choose not to abide in His love, we will be pruned from the vine.
How do we abide in His love? According to Jesus, we must keep His commandments just like He kept the commandments of the Father. As Jesus said, ďIf you love Me, keep My commandmentsĒ (Jn. 14:15). No one can separate abiding in Christís love and keeping His commandments. This is a truth that many in the religious world need to understand because they think they can worship God their way and it will be acceptable to Him. They do not stress the necessity of keeping all of Godís Word because they think it makes us like the Pharisees. The Pharisees were strict law keepers, but they were not keeping the law of God. They were keeping their own law, and that is what Jesus rebuked them for. He never rebuked them for keeping the law of God. So, if we want to abide in the love of God, we must keep all of Godís commandments.
In verse 11, Jesus wants His disciples to experience the same joy He experienced in obeying Godís commands. The writer of Hebrews writes:
Hebrews 12:1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,† 2 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 has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Jesus endured many hardships while He was on the earth especially when He had to endure the cross and be temporarily separated from the Father. He did this because He loves us, and it brought Him great joy to keep the Fatherís commandments, which showed His love for the Father. Because of Jesusí obedient love, He was exalted and is now sitting at the right hand of God.
If Jesus had to endure and keep Godís commandments, how can people possibly think they do not have to keep His commandments? Are we better than the Son? Absolutely not! So, if we want to abide in the love of God and experience the joy that Jesus had in keeping Godís commandments, we must follow Jesusí example and keep the commandments of God. One thing that will help encourage us to endure, as Jesus did, is by reminding ourselves of the reward that we will receive in heaven as Paul pointed out in:
1 Cor. 9:24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives
the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. †25 And everyone who competes for the
prize is temperate in all things.
Now they do it to obtain
a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. †26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one
who beats the air. †27 But I discipline my body and bring it
into subjection, lest, when I have
preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
As Jesus said:
Rev. 2:10 Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
Now letís move on to verse 12.
John 15:12 "This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.† 13 "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.† 14 "You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.† 15 "No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I 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 remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.† 17 "These things I command you, that you love one another.
This commandment was called the new commandment in John 13:34, which is a deep love because we are told to love one other as Jesus loves us. Jesus proved how much He loved us by enduring the painful cross. Sometimes Christians say they love their brothers and sisters in Christ, but they are not willing to lift a hand to help them with their burdens much less put their lives on the line for them. It takes more than mere words to show our love because our actions prove our love, and Jesus is teaching that we must strive to have this same active love for one another.†
Jesus clearly states in verse 14 that if we want to be His friend, we must obey His commands. In verse 15, Jesus is not saying that His apostles are no longer servants; He is saying they are much more because they are His friends. Many times a servant has no idea what their masterís overall plan is, and they would simply follow his instructions without knowing. However, the apostlesí relationship was different with Jesus because He treated them as His friends, and He told them what His overall plan was and what He expected from them.
This friendship applies to all Christians because God has given us His entire plan in His Word. So, when we choose to obey Godí commands, it should encourage us to know that we are more than servants, we are Jesusí friends.
In verse 16, Jesus points out how He chose His 12 apostles, but this does not mean they did not have a choice in the matter. They were appointed to be Jesusí eyewitnesses, and they were to go out into the world and bear fruit, which points back to Jesusí allegory He made about the vine. We learn in The Great Commission that the fruit they were to produce was Disciples of Christ. They were to produce these disciples by teaching them the Word of God and by baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Mt. 28:19-20). To help them with their work, Jesus told them that whatever they pray for, the Father will provide for them.
In a similar way, God has called us to be Christians through the gospel as can be seen in:
2 Thess. 2:13 But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, †14 to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
However, we cannot be a witness for Christ like the apostles because they were eyewitnesses, but we can share with others what Christ has done for us. We can produce the same fruit the apostles did by teaching others about the Word of God and baptizing them. When we pray to God for help, we must pray without doubting. As James said:
Jas. 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. †6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. †7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; †8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
As Paul wrote:
1 Tim. 2:8 I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting;
We just need to remind ourselves that God will answer our prayers in accordance to His will.
In verse 17, Jesus repeats the command to love one another.
John 15:18 " If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.† 19 "If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet 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 keep yours also.† 21 "But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.
Whenever we become a Christian and follow the ways of Jesus, we have to separate ourselves from the way of the world. When we do this, the world will hate us because we are different, and we oppose the sinful things the world has in it. Just as the world hated Jesus and rejected Him, the world will reject us because we are not greater than Jesus.
Sometimes the worldís hatred can cause us to be persecuted because they do not like what we stand for, but other times our stand for God can cause some in the world to embrace Christianity. A good example of this comes from when Paul spoke at Antioch where the Gentiles wanted to hear Godís Word and embrace it while the Jews wanted to oppose it (Acts 13:32-45).
Verse 21 teaches us not to think that people are rejecting us when we stand up for God because they are rejecting we stand for. So, ultimately they are rejecting Godís message when they are rejecting and persecuting us.
John 15:22 "If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.† 23 "He who hates Me hates My Father also.† 24 "If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father.† 25 "But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, 'They hated Me without a cause.'
Is Jesus saying that if He had not come to the earth and worked His miracles that we would have no sin whatsoever? If so, Jesus did us a great disservice by coming. I do not believe this is what Jesus is saying because we have all sinned and fell short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).
So, Jesus is not saying these people would be free from sin, He is saying they would not be guilty of rejecting the Son of God, but since they heard Him speak and saw Him work miracles and signs that no other man had ever worked, they were guilty of this sin. His words and miracles proved that He was the Son of God. To reject the Son is to hate Him and the Father, which proves that Jesus and the Father are one, and it proves Jesusí Deity.†
Verse 25 teaches that this rejection and hatred of Jesus was prophesied. Jesus calls it their law because they believed in what the Law of Moses said, yet they refused to accept what it said about Jesus. It is also worthy to note that this prophecy came from Psalm 35:19, which shows that the Book of Psalms is part of the old covenant.
John 15:26 " But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.† 27 "And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.†
Once again, Jesus tells His apostles how the Holy Spirit will be sent to them. He will work miracles through them, which will prove their testimony about Jesus. One of the qualifications of an apostle was that they had to be with Jesus from the beginning. Only those who were with Him and saw His works with their own eyes could witness to people about Jesus.
So, those who say they are witnessing to people today are just using modern day terminology, but Biblically they cannot witness to people about Jesus because they are not eyewitnesses of Jesus. However, as I stated earlier, we can teach people about Jesus and what He did for us from the Word of God.
The promise of sending the Holy Spirit to guide them into all truth was only given to the apostles. Today, the Holy Spirit does not guide us directly or give us new revelations. Instead, the Holy Spirit operates on us through the fully revealed Word of God because it is the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17), and it tells us everything we need to know to be saved and to live a faithful life that is pleasing to God (1 Tim 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3).
I hope you will take what you have learned from this lesson on John 15 and will apply it to your lives and do your best to remain attached to the true vine, which is Jesus and that you will continue to produce fruit for God. If you are not a Christians, why not get grafted into the true vine by obeying Godís plan of salvation that I mentioned earlier in the lesson.