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The Blue Letter Bible

David Guzik :: Study Guide for John 15

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The Departing Jesus Teaches His Disciples about Life In Him

A. When Jesus is gone, they must still abide in Him and bear fruit.

1. (Jhn 15:1-3) Jesus: the true vine.

"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 bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you."

a. I am the true vine: Jesus may have said this in view of, or as they passed by, the great golden vine on the front of the temple. This vine symbolized the nation Israel, because the vine is a familiar Old Testament symbol for Israel (Psalm 80:8-9) but is often used in a negative sense (Isaiah 5:1-2,7 and Jeremiah 2:21).

b. In contrast, Jesus is the true vine. We must be rooted in Him, not Israel, if we will bear fruit for God.

c. Every branch in Me: The branches that are taken away were never properly abiding in the vine. The ones that bear fruit are cleansed (not "removed" by pruning), and that through the Word.

i. Every branch that bears fruit He prunes: This word for prunes is the same word translated cleanse in other places. They used the same word could apply to either "pruning" or "cleansing" in ancient Greek.

ii. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you: The word of God is a cleansing agent. It condemns sin, it inspires holiness, it promotes growth, it reveals power for victory.

iii. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away: Boice believes that the ancient Greek verb airo, translated here as "takes away" is more accurately translated "lifts up. " The idea is that the Father lifts up unproductive vines off of the ground (as is common in vinedressing), that they may get more sun and bear fruit better.

2. (Jhn 15:4-8) The vital relationship between the branch and the vine.

"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. 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. 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. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples."

a. Abide in Me, and I in You: Fruit bearing is impossible without abiding; but it is inevitable with abiding. The quality and quantity of the fruit may differ, but the fruit will be inevitable.

i. The purpose of the branch is to bear fruit. People don't raise grape vines to look at the pretty leaves. They take the trouble to cultivate, plant, water and tend the vines so that fruit can be enjoyed. In this sense, we can say that fruit represents Christian character (such as the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5).

ii. Fruit also implies inherent reproduction. Virtually every piece of fruit has seeds within it, seeds that are meant to reproduce more fruit.

b. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered: What was Jesus saying here? There are basically three views regarding what this passage says about the believer's position in Jesus.

i. The first view believes cast out branches are ones who, though once true believers, end up in Hell for a lack of fruit. They were once saved, but are now cast out.

ii. The second view is that the cast out branches are pseudo Christians who never really abided in Jesus, and therefore go to Hell (like Judas).

iii. The third view sees the branches cast out as fruitless Christians who live wasted - burnt up - lives (like Lot).

c. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit: There is an easy way to avoid being one of the cast out branches. They are the ones who do not abide in Me, said Jesus. If we abide in Jesus, we have full confidence and assurance.

i. Real fruitfulness is only determined over an extended period of time. "Genuine conversion is not measured by the hasty decision but by long-range fruitfulness. " (Erdman) This principle is displayed in the Parable of the Soils (Matthew 13).

d. You will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you: Answered prayer is a privilege of close abiding; we find our prayers in tune with Jesus' will.

e. By this My Father is glorified: The purpose of fruit-bearing is to bring glory to God, not man. If people look at our live and praise us for the glorious fruit, something is wrong. The whole purpose is the glorify God.

B. When Jesus is gone, they must love one another all the more.

1. (Jhn 15:9-11) The link between love and obedience.

"As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 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. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full."

a. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love: We know that we abide in God's love by obedience, not by our mystical experiences.

b. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full: When we fail to abide in Jesus' love, and thereby fail to keep His commandments, then we do not have the fullness of joy He promises to those who do abide in His love and obedience.

i. "No one is more miserable than the Christian who for a time hedges in his obedience. He does not love sin enough to enjoy its pleasures, and does not love Christ enough to relish holiness. He perceives that his rebellion is iniquitous, but obedience seems distasteful. He does not feel at home any longer in the world, but his memory of his past associations and the tantalizing lyrics of his old music prevent him from singing with the saints. He is a man most to be pitied; and he cannot forever remain ambivalent. " (Carson)

ii. It begins with abiding in the love of Jesus; much of our low level of Christian living comes from not be persuaded of the love of God for us. This is, in part, what kept Israel out of the Promised Land at Kadesh Barnea (Deuteronomy 1:27)

c. If you keep My commandments: The foremost commandment to obey is love one another (John 13:34), and while Christians are ready to describe the delights of love in the new heaven and new earth, we often still hoard our resentments, animosities and bitterness down here. An old poem puts it well:

To live above with those you love: Undiluted glory.

To live below with those you know: Quite another story.

d. That My joy may remain in you: When we think about the joy of Jesus, we understand that it isn't the same as what we often think of as "happiness" or "excitement. " The joy of Jesus is not the pleasure of a life of ease; it is the exhilaration of being right with God, and consciously walking in His love and care. We can have that joy, and have it as an abiding presence.

e. That your joy may be full: This is the result of abiding in Jesus' love, and obedience flowing from that abiding relationship.

2. (Jhn 15:12-17) Jesus speaks of the extent of His love that they are to imitate.

"This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. 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. 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. These things I command you, that you love one another."

a. That you love one another as I have loved you: They are commanded to love in a particular way, according to the way Jesus loved (as I have loved you). What was the love of Jesus like?

b. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends: It is a love that will lay down its life for others; it is a love that treats servants as friends.

i. "The friend is a confidant who shares the knowledge of his superior's purpose and voluntarily adopts it as his own. " (Tenney)

ii. The difference between a servant and a friend is not between diligent obedience and disobedience (or even casual obedience). The difference is between understanding and not understanding. Because friends have a close relationship, they understand while servants do not.

c. You did not choose Me, but I chose you: It is love based on Divine election; love that takes the initiative. Jesus introduced this thought right at the point where the disciples might feel proud that they are the friends of Jesus, bearing great fruit for God.

C. When Jesus is gone, they must be ready for persecution from the world.

1. (Jhn 15:18-25) The disciples can expect persecution from an antagonistic world.

"If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. 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. 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. But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also. 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. But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, 'They hated Me without a cause. '"

a. If the world hates you: The blessings of fruitful living, union with Jesus, joy, and answered prayer are contrasted with the threat of persecution.

b. You know that it hated Me before it hated you: As Christians, we can face the worst, recognize that Jesus has been there first, and then press on ahead.

i. This spirit is reflected in the dying words of William Borden, who gave his life for Jesus on the mission field: "No reserve; no retreat; no regrets."

c. They hated Me without a cause: There is no just cause for the world to hate Jesus and His followers they way they do. Instead the world hates because its sin is exposed, and because they know not the Father or the Son.

2. (Jhn 15:26-27) The witness of the Holy Spirit and the disciples.

"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. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning."

a. And you also will bear witness: Christians must not think Jesus has left them in this world for no other purpose than to endure hatred. Joining with the Holy Spirit, they are witnesses.

b. He will testify of Me … you also will bear witness: Without the witness of the Spirit, the disciples' witness would be powerless; without the disciples' witness, the Spirit would be restricted in His means of expression. God intends to work with man in partnership.

c. He will testify of Me: Everything the Holy Spirit does is consistent with the testimony of the nature of Jesus. His job is to tell us, and to show us, who Jesus is. If spiritual phenomenon occur that are not consistent with the nature of Jesus, it isn't the Holy Spirit doing it. He is the One who will testify of Jesus in all that He does.

© 2000 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission

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