the First Week of Advent
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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary
New American Standard Version
Bible Study Resources
Nave's Topical Bible - Church; Commandments; Contingencies; Decision; Fellowship; Jesus, the Christ; Perseverance; Prayer; Righteous; Works; Thompson Chain Reference - Abiding in Christ; Answer Promised; Ask; Christ; Fellowship-Estrangement; In Christ, Abiding; Nearness to God; Power; Prayer; Promises, Divine; Vine; The Topic Concordance - Abidance; Bearing Fruit; Choosing/chosen; Comfort; Disciples/apostles; Enemies; Friendship; Happiness/joy; Hate; Holy Spirit; Jesus Christ; Love; Obedience; Ordination; Persecution; Sacrifice; Sending and Those Sent; Servants; Sin; Truth; Witness; World; Torrey's Topical Textbook - Prayer, Answers to; Union with Christ;
Verse John 15:7. If ye abide in me, &c.] "Those," says Creeshna, "whose understandings are in him, (God,) whose souls are in him, whose confidence is in him, whose asylum is in him, are by the inspired wisdom purified from all their offenses, and go from whence they shall never return." Geeta, p. 59.
Observe, in order to have influence with God, we must -
1. Be united to Christ - if ye abide in me.
2. That in order to be preserved in this union, we must have our lives regulated by the doctrine of Christ-and my words abide in you.
3. That to profit by this union and doctrine, we must pray - ye shall ask.
4. That every heavenly blessing shall be given to those who continue in this union, with a loving, obedient, praying spirit: - ye shall ask what ye will, &c.
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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on John 15:7". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://studylight.org/​commentaries/​acc/​john-15.html. 1832.
145. Union with Jesus (John 15:1-27)
In themselves believers have no life, strength or spiritual power. All that they have comes from Jesus Christ. If he is likened to a vine, they are likened to the branches, which means that they can bear spiritual fruit only as they are united in him. As they allow the Father to remove the hindrances of sin from their lives, they will bear even more fruit (John 15:1-5).
Those who bear no fruit are like the dead branches of a vine. Though attached to it, they receive no life from it. They say they are disciples of Jesus, but they have no spiritual union with him and in the end they will be destroyed. Such a person was Judas Iscariot (John 15:6).
If people are true disciples, they will prove it by the fruits that their spiritual union with Jesus produces. Among those fruits are obedience, love, joy and effective prayer (John 15:7-11). Jesus wants his disciples to serve him willingly, lovingly and with understanding. For this reason he chose the twelve apostles and trained them to know God’s ways. If their service is based on a true knowledge of God and the true exercise of self-sacrificing love, they can expect it to result in lasting fruit (John 15:12-17).
Union with Jesus, however, will bring some suffering, because disciples, like their master, will be hated by the world. Loyalty to Jesus will bring persecution (John 15:18-20). Jesus’ teaching and work showed clearly that he came from God. Those who heard and saw him had no excuse for not believing him. In fact, their clearer knowledge increased their guilt. They may have claimed to be worshippers of God, but if they hated Jesus they hated God (John 15:21-25).
The apostles also had heard Jesus’ words and seen his works, but they had believed. Therefore, they could be assured of the Spirit’s help as they witnessed to Jesus during the difficult time that lay ahead (John 15:26-27; cf. Acts 4:8-12; Acts 5:32).
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on John 15:7". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/​commentaries/​bbc/​john-15.html. 2005.
If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
And my words abide in you … This is here made the equivalent of Christ abiding in his disciples and of their abiding in him. See under John 14:20.
Whatsoever ye will … is not a promise that anything that might be asked of God by any person will be done, but means that a person truly "in Christ," and asking in harmony with the Father’s will, will have his prayers answered. This is one of the great promises.
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on John 15:7". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://studylight.org/​commentaries/​bcc/​john-15.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
My words - My doctrine; my commandments.
Abide in you - Not only are remembered, but are suffered to remain in you as a living principle, to regulate your affections and life.
Ye shall ask ... - See John 14:13. This promise had particular reference to the apostles. It is applicable to other Christians only so far as they are in circumstances similar to the apostles, and only so far as they possess their spirit. We learn from it that it is only when we keep the commandments of Christ - only when we live by faith in him, and his words are suffered to control our conduct and affections, that our prayers will be heard. Were we perfect in all things, he would always hear us, and we should be kept from making an improper petition; but just so far as men regard iniquity in their heart, the Lord will not hear them, Psalms 66:18.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on John 15:7". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/​commentaries/​bnb/​john-15.html. 1870.
7.If you abide in me. Believers often feel that they are starved, and are very far from that rich fatness which is necessary for yielding abundant fruit. For this reason it is expressly added, whatever those who are in Christ may need, there is a remedy provided for their poverty, as soon as they ask it from God. This is a very useful admonition; for the Lord often suffers us to hunger, in order to train us to earnestness in prayer. But if we fly to him, we shall never want what we ask, but, out of his inexhaustible abundance, he will supply us with every thing that we need, (1 Corinthians 1:5.)
If my words abide in you. He means that we take root in him by faith; for as soon as we have departed from the doctrine of the Gospel, we seek Christ separately from himself. When he promises that he will grant whatever we wish, he does not give us leave to form wishes according to our own fancy. God would do what was ill fitted to promote our welfare, if he were so indulgent and so ready to yield to us; for we know well that men often indulge in foolish and extravagant desires. But here he limits the wishes of his people to the rule of praying in a right manner, and that rule subjects, to the good pleasure of God, all our affections. This is confirmed by the connection in which the words stand; for he means that his people will or desire not riches, or honors, or any thing of that nature, which the flesh foolishly desires, but the vital sap of the Holy Spirit, Which enables them to bear fruit.
These files are public domain.
Calvin, John. "Commentary on John 15:7". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/​commentaries/​cal/​john-15.html. 1840-57.
Tonight let's turn now to John's gospel chapter 15, as we follow Jesus in His last hours prior to the cross.
Jesus had been at the last supper with His disciples there in the upper room somewhere in Jerusalem. The fourteenth chapter of John ends with the words, "Arise, let us go hence." So, at that point, they left the upper room. And they began their journey which would ultimately lead them to the Garden of Gethsemane. And whether or not they went through the temple courts or whatever, we don't know. The gospels do not trace the steps of Jesus. It is possible that they went on in through the temple gates, because they were left open all night during the Passover season, so that anyone who wanted to come and pray could come and pray at any time. And those gates had upon them the carved clusters of grapes, by which God declared His purpose for the nation Israel, that it be a fruitful vine and bear fruit for God. And it could be that as they were passing through the gates with these clustered grapes, the symbol of the nation, the vine, that this prompted Jesus to make this statement to His disciples found here in the fifteenth chapter of John where He said,
I am the true vine ( John 15:1 ),
In the Greek it reads, "I am the vine, the true." And though, you say, "Well, what is the difference? It sounds the same to me," there is, I feel, a subtle difference here. "I am the vine, the true." Throughout the Old Testament God had used the vine as a symbol of the nation of Israel. Many of the prophets refer to Israel as the vine, as do the Psalms. It was the national symbol of Israel. But Isaiah the prophet, in chapter 5, speaks of the nation as a vine, and how God planted it, hedged it, put it about, put in a winepress. But when the time came to gather fruit, there was nothing but wild grapes. And so he allowed the vineyard to just go back to nature, allowed the brambles to come in and just discarded, actually, the vineyard as far as ever endeavoring or hoping to receive the fruit from it.
Now, in the twenty-first chapter of Matthew's gospel, Jesus gives a parable that the Pharisees understood correctly to be addressed against them. And in this parable, He speaks of the lord who had a vineyard. And when the time came for fruit, he sent his servants that he might receive from his vineyard. But the husbandmen that he had left in charge of the vineyard beat the servants and sent them away empty. And so he sent other servants to them which they also beat, and some they stoned. And finally, he said, "I will send my only son; surely they will honor him." But when the husbandmen saw the son coming, they said, "Look, this is the son and the heir. Let's kill him and then the vineyard can be ours." So, Jesus said, "What will the lord of the vineyard do when he comes? Surely he will take the husbandmen and cast them out and give the vineyard unto others." Now, with that as a background, the vineyard, the nation Israel having failed. The religious leaders at that time were the husbandmen who were overseeing the vineyard, and when Jesus came, they said, "Look, He is a threat to us and to our positions. We'd better get rid of Him." And so they destroyed Him. What will the Lord do? He will take the vineyard and He will give it unto others. And so, Jesus is saying,
I am the true vine, and my Father is now the husbandman ( John 15:1 ).
And in that, He is saying, "You are the ones to whom this vineyard is given," or, "You are now the vineyard, the true vineyard of God. You are the ones who are to bear fruit now for God. The nation Israel failed. In God's purposes for it, it did not bring forth the fruit that God was desiring. And so, now God is giving to you that privilege, the church, that it might become now God's vineyard and bring forth fruit unto Him. I am the vine, the true, and My Father is now the husbandman." And so, He is the one that is overseeing the vineyard directly. He no longer has it under the authority of the priesthood or of the religious leaders. He has taken away their authority and He is taking upon Himself that position of the husbandman overseeing the vineyard.
Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch in me that beareth fruit, he purges it, that it may bring forth more fruit ( John 15:2 ).
So every branch that doesn't bear fruit, He takes away. There is that pruning process that goes on within the church, as the Father cuts off the unfruitful branches. But then, there is also that cultivating of those branches that are bearing fruit. He washes them.
Now, in Israel many of the grapes that are grown are grown actually on the ground. As you go through the Eshcol valley and the areas around the Eshcol valley where the finest grapes are grown, you will see these huge trunks of the grapevines. And they are maybe six feet long, and you'll see them lying on the ground, propped up on one end by a rock. And so, they're just lying across the ground, only propped up by a rock on the one end. As they produce the fruit, the fruit actually is lying right there on the stony ground of the vineyard. But as the fruit is developing, as it is getting ripe, the vinedressers will go through the vineyard and they will pick up these great bunches of grapes and they will wash them and clean off the dirt and all. And they'll cleanse them in order that the fruit might ripen to perfection. And, I'll tell you, the grapes that are grown there are truly delicious grapes, table grapes, that are grown through that valley.
Now, Jesus is taking a picture that is very familiar with the people, as they had seen the people out there washing the branches and washing these bunches of grapes that they might produce more fruit. If you're not bearing fruit, cut off. You are pruned. If you're bearing fruit, you're purged, that you might bring forth more fruit. And what is that which God uses to cleanse the church? His Word.
Now you are clean through the word which I have spoken to you ( John 15:3 ).
What tremendous cleansing power there is in the Word of God! "Thy Word have I hid in my heart, O Lord, that I might not sin against thee" ( Psalms 119:11 ). "Wherewithal shall a young man take heed of his ways? By giving heed to the Word of God" ( Psalms 119:9 ). The great cleansing power of the Word. My father-in-law, an old Swede, had in his Bible, "This book will keep you from sin, and sin will keep you from this book." And it is true; there is that cleansing power of the Word. It will keep you from sin. "Now you are clean, through the Word which I have spoken unto you."
Abide in me ( John 15:4 ),
"I am the vine, the true. Ye are the branches." And the importance of the branch abiding in the vine, and this relationship, is going to be stressed here by Jesus Christ in the next few verses. That important relationship and the necessity of abiding in Him. And He declares,
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me ( John 15:4 ).
You cannot bring forth any worthwhile fruit unto God apart from that indwelling power of Jesus Christ. Anything that you endeavor to do for God apart from Jesus Christ is worthless. It is as wood, hay, and stubble that will burn when the day of judgment comes. The only lasting fruit is that which is produced as the result of the relationship with Jesus Christ. And here again, the idea of fruit indicates to us the method of God. The fruit that comes forth from our lives is a very natural thing; it's not forced. That apple hanging on the tree is not out there struggling and striving and pushing and doing its best to get ripe. All it has to do is just hang in there and it's going to ripen. And it's going to come to maturity. And I just need to hang in there, just to abide in Christ, and the natural result of abiding in Christ is my life is going to bring forth fruit. One of the problems in the church today is this endeavor of forced fruit. "Now, you ought to be doing this for the Lord..." And you're being pushed into all kinds of activities, not really directed by the Spirit. And this can become worthless expenditures of energy, unless God is behind it and God is guiding it and God is directing it. Unless you're abiding in Him, you cannot bear fruit of yourself. You cannot sit down and say, "Now, this is what I'm going to do for God this year. And these are the projects that I'm going to endeavor. And this is my plan by which I intend to fulfill this goal." That bearing fruit that God desires is the most natural thing that can happen to you as you abide in Christ. It's just a natural function. And so, "Abide in me. You can't bear fruit of yourself."
I am the vine, ye are the branches. And he that abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit ( John 15:5 );
Now this is really progression and this is growing. I start out as I receive Jesus Christ. I am grafted into the vine; I become a part of it, I begin to take nourishment from Him. And as my life begins to bring forth fruit, then His World cleanses me that I might bring forth more fruit. And as I abide in Him, then I begin to bring forth much fruit. And herein is my Father glorified; this is what my Father wants, that my life bear much fruit for Him. So, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He that abides in Me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit."
for without me you can do nothing ( John 15:5 ).
I've got that underlined with a bold underline in my Bible. Because I have tried to do so many things on my own and failed. I wonder, "When will that truth really sink into my heart?" That I might realize that apart from Jesus, I can do nothing. It's futile for me to even try. Any service towards God not directed by the Spirit is worthless. "Apart from me, you can do nothing." Now, I have here a reference to another verse that Paul declared in Philippians 4:13 ,"For I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." So they go together. Apart from Him, I can do nothing. Through Him, I can do anything. Nothing is too hard. I can do all things through Christ, but apart from Him I can do nothing. And so,
If a man abides not in me ( John 15:6 ),
This brings up an interesting consideration. Is it possible for a man not to abide in Jesus Christ? If it were not possible, why would Jesus even bring up then the prospect? You see, if it weren't possible for a man not to abide in Jesus, He would not have even brought up the prospect. But the fact that He brings up the prospect means that there is that possibility. "If a man abides not in me,"
he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gathered them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned ( John 15:6 ).
Cut off from the vine, withered. It was Ezekiel that tells us the worthlessness of a grape branch. It's not strong enough to make a nail out of it, and you can't use it for any woodworking project, because of its texture and makeup. A grape branch is only good for one thing, and that's to produce grapes. And if it doesn't do that, it really isn't good for anything else; it's not good firewood. It's like a punk, it just smolders and smokes, but it doesn't really burn well, and it's not good for any woodworking project. It's good for only one purpose, and that's to produce fruit. I hate to tell you this, but you're good for only one purpose, and that's to bear fruit to God. And if you don't do that, you're just as worthless as a punk. I mean, there's no value to you. So Jesus said, "Abide in Me, and if you don't, cut off your withered and then gather them together and throw them into the fire, and they are burned."
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you ( John 15:7 ).
Now He brings up here the subject of prayer. And in the subject of prayer, He makes here a very broad promise. "Ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." But who is He addressing this broad promise to? Those who are abiding in Him and those who have the Word of God abiding in them. "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, then...under those conditions you can ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you."
Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples ( John 15:8 ).
And so, God called the nation of Israel to bring forth fruit; they failed. Now God is giving out the vineyard to others. The church becomes the instrument of God to bear God's fruit in the world today. "And if God spared not the natural branches, but cut them off, take heed, lest He not spare us" ( Romans 11:21 ). If we fail in the purposes of God to bring forth fruit, then God will raise up others to bring forth fruit unto Him.
I believe that I am eternally secure, as long as I abide in Jesus Christ. No power can wrest me from his hand. I have no doubts or qualms at all about my eternal security and my salvation. I don't worry about, "Oh, is God going to save me or not, or will I make it in the last day?" I know I will. Because I have no intention of ever doing anything but abiding in Jesus Christ, and as long as I abide in Him, I am eternally secure. You say, "But what if you don't abide in Him?" That's your problem, not mine. You see, that doesn't even enter my mind. I'm like Peter, "Lord, where can we go? You have the words of life." These people get all hung up on eternal security and all. That's too bad, because I am eternally secure as long as I abide in Him. And I have no intention of doing anything else.
As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue in my love ( John 15:9 ).
Now He's beginning to talk about the fruit. The fruit of the Spirit is love. This is what God is seeking from His church: love--the expressions of love. He wants verbal expressions, but He also desires deeds that express. Just like our wives want the verbal assurance, but then also, they want the deeds. The verbal assurance doesn't mean much unless there are deeds, and the deeds don't mean much unless there are words. Somehow they want it verbalized. And she says to me sometimes, "Honey, do you love me?" And I say, "Of course I love you. Don't I bring the food home for dinner? Don't I provide for the house? Sure I love you." Well, she just needs verbal assurance. And God wants that verbal expression of our love, and God wants us to love and to show our love by our deeds. And this is the fruit that God is seeking from His garden, from the church. Oh, that we might express our love to God more fully, more completely.
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full ( John 15:10-11 ).
Now this is the first time the gospels mention anything about the joy of Jesus Christ. "These things have I spoken unto you that My joy..." There are many people who picture Jesus as a very sad and sorrowful person, and they make note that the gospels record many times His crying, but they never record any place where He laughed. I do not believe that silence is evidence or proof of anything. I personally am convinced that Jesus laughed a lot. The fruit of the Spirit is love, and the characteristic of love is joy. And for too many years there was that kind of a unwritten code in the church that the more sorrowful you looked, the more holy you were. And so the ministers used to try and look as mournful and sad and sober, never cracking a smile, because that would be a sign of getting in the flesh and carnality, you know. And so, it was always even a somber voice, "Gooood mor-ning bre-thren. We're ga-thered here to-day..." You know, it took on this somber kind of a, you know, you felt like you're coming under a dark cloud, coming into the presence of God. But, "In His presence," the Bible says, "is fullness of joy, and at His right hand there are pleasures forevermore" ( Psalms 16:11 ). Jesus here speaks of His joy, but it is interesting that He speaks of His joy just before He's coming to the cross. And in Hebrews we read, "Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame" ( Hebrews 12:2 ). But then He talks about the fullness of joy that His disciples should receive. "That my joy might remain in you and that your joy may be full."
There's a vast difference between joy and happiness. The world today is in a mad pursuit for happiness, but happiness is an experience of the emotions, where joy is an experience of the spirit. Because happiness is in the realm of emotions, it's a variable. And a person can go from great happiness to tears in just a hurry. Have you ever noticed how akin our emotions are? If our emotions really get to working, and I'm really getting emotional and laughing hard, it's just a little tilt and you can be crying. You know, I've watched this with the grandchildren. They'll be laughing and just screaming with gales of laughter, and then suddenly, they'll look real sober, their little lip will go out, and they'll begin to puddle-up and cry. And you wonder, "Well, what happened?" They seemed to be so happy and giggling and having so much fun, and suddenly, they're crying. But that's because it's in the realm of emotions, and our emotions are variable and they can change so quickly. That's why the Lord doesn't promise happiness; it might not last. He promises joy. Because that is an experience of the spirit, deeper than the level of the emotions. It's an abiding joy. It's not the variable. And though the outward circumstances of my life may change drastically, because it's joy, it doesn't vary with my outward circumstances. It's a constant.
You see, you might come to me and say, "Oh, Chuck, I'm really desperate; I need ten thousand dollars right away to pay off these bills, because they're going to foreclose on me." And I might sit down and write you out a check for ten thousand dollars and hand it you and say, "Here!" And you go away just so happy, saying, "Oh, oh, oh, great," laughing all the way to the bank, until you try to cash the check. And then you would become very sad when they say, "He doesn't have enough money in his account to cover that thing!" And so, you see how your happiness can change to sorrow in such a hurry, because of the change of the outward circumstances, and not the joy.
And the Lord wants your joy to be full. And twice here in this final discourse with His disciples, He speaks about this fullness of joy. And in this case, the fullness of joy is related to your prayer life. Oh, the joy of being able to spend time in prayer with the Father! And to see God working in answer to prayer. What joy, what full joy it brings to us to see God's answers to prayer! And so, related here to our prayer life, "that your joy may be full."
This is my commandment ( John 15:12 ),
Now, Jesus had said, "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love." What is His commandment?
That you love one another, as [He said,] I have loved you ( John 15:12 ).
Just one commandment, but it isn't simple. Just one commandment: that I love you as He loved me.
Now this love, as I said, is the fruit that God is looking for, and Jesus said, "Apart from Me, you can do nothing." And for you to try to manufacture this fruit, this love, is an impossibility, and you just can't do it. It is the result of that relationship with Him. As I abide in Him, His Word abides in me. As I am washed and cleansed by the Word, then my life begins to produce much fruit. And God's love begins to pour forth through my life to touch the lives of those around me. But it isn't something I can do in my own struggle or effort; it is something that is the natural result of just abiding in Jesus. His love begins to flow forth from my life to others, and that really is the sign and the evidence that Christ is truly indwelling me, that I am really one of His disciples, that we have this love. So, "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." And then He declared,
For greater love has no man than this, than a man will lay down his life for his friends ( John 15:13 ).
That's the kind of love I have for you. I'm going to lay down My life for you to prove My love. And this is the way I want you to love one another, with a self-sacrificing, giving love, where you will lay down your life for each other.
You are my friends, if you do what I command you ( John 15:14 ).
The commandment is that we love one another.
Henceforth I do not call you bondslaves; for the bondslave does not know what his lord is doing: but I have called you friends; for all things have I heard of my Father I have made known unto you ( John 15:15 ).
It is interesting, though Jesus declared this new relationship no longer bondslaves, but friends, that each of the writers of the New Testament took the phrase bondslave to describe their relationship to Him. "Paul, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, by the will of Christ..." "Jude, a bondslave..." "Peter, a bondslave..." "James, a bondslave..." And though the Lord said, "I'm calling you friends," yet there was that awareness and consciousness that true life is only discovered when I submitted totally to Him, to serve Him.
Now Jesus declares,
You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you ( John 15:16 ),
That, to me, is such an exciting thing, that God chose me. When did God choose me? In Ephesians, we read we were "chosen in Him before the foundations of the world" ( Ephesians 1:4 ).
Now, it is interesting that in so much of our evangelism, we are emphasizing that a person choose Jesus Christ. When in reality, Jesus said, "You haven't chosen me, I have chosen you." As Paul begins to list the spiritual blessings that he has in Ephesians, chapter 1, "Thanks be unto God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ in heavenly places." When he begins to make a list of these spiritual blessings for which he is thanking God, what does he put at the top of the list? The fact that God chose him! Actually, that should be at the top of all of our lists. Because if God didn't choose us, then none of the rest of the benefits would be there. But because God has chosen us, then all of the rest of the benefits follow, having been chosen of God. Does it upset you that God chooses people? Surely if you've been chosen, it doesn't. I'm blessed that God chose me!
Now, my mind immediately begins to take this truth and race with it and say, "Wait a minute! If God has chosen some, then that isn't fair to the others. And shouldn't God be fair? How can God be fair when He has chosen those that are to be saved?" In the book of Acts we read, "And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed" ( Acts 13:48 ). Jesus said, "I've chosen you and ordained you that you should be My disciples." And so, in the book of Acts, "And as many as He ordained unto eternal life believed." That sure takes the pressure off, doesn't it? It's God's work. Salvation is of the Lord. "Except the Father draw a man, he cannot come to Jesus Christ. God has chosen us in Christ before the foundations of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him in love, bringing Him forth this fruit that He desires."
Now, on what basis did God make His choice? You see, don't find fault with God yet. Don't judge God too quickly. God made His choice on the basis of the fact that He knows everything. On the basis of His omniscience and His foreknowledge. Now, because God has all knowledge, omniscient, it is impossible for me to think how God thinks. How do you come to a problem when you know everything from the beginning? You know how it's all going to work out, you know what the end result is. I can't even think of how it would be to be able to think that way. Surely, if I could think that way, I would make different decisions than I often make. I would never botch things up. If I knew everything, then I could always make the right decision. And I would make my decisions predicated upon what I knew; it would be dumb not to. So God, knowing those who would respond to His love and grace, chose them on the basis of His foreknowledge, that they should be in Christ. So I'm thankful that God chose me. Spurgeon made an interesting statement on this. He said, "It's a good thing that God chose me before I was born, because He never would have chosen me afterwards." That, I'm sure, he said in jest, because when God chose him before he was born, God knew him completely then. And God knew the end results of this man's life, as God knows us. And knowing everything about us, He chose us anyhow. Isn't that neat? The grace of God.
So, Jesus said to His disciples, "You have not chosen Me. I've chosen you." Now, I was encouraged to choose Jesus. And I did. And as soon as I did, He said to me, "You didn't choose Me, I chose you,"
and I ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain ( John 15:16 );
This is something that concerns me greatly. Not that I just bring forth fruit, but that I bring forth lasting fruit. A lot of people fault me because I do not make strong appeals for salvation at the end of the sermons. I do not stand and cry and plead with people to receive Jesus Christ. That I just tell them that if they want to be saved, they can go through that door and talk and pray with a pastor. And we don't make big emotional appeals, and some people fault us for this. If God's Spirit is working in a person's life, they will respond. I can't do anything to enhance that. Salvation is God's work; I recognize that. Rather than having a lot of people respond on an emotional appeal so that I can put a bunch of notches in my belt and say, "I had twenty people accept Jesus last night, because I pled with them and begged them and continued." The problem is, I want to know one year from now, how many of those same people are going on with the Lord? Lasting fruit, that your fruit should remain.
There was a little fellow that used to be here in the Costa Mesa area who used to do a tremendous amount...he spent his whole life witnessing. But he was often very forceful, and as a result, very obnoxious. And I watched him one morning when I was sitting in a restaurant. And he came in, and he started going from table to table loudly witnessing to everybody about the Lord. And you could see the people getting embarrassed and all. And he said, "Wouldn't you like to go through the sinners prayer?" And just to get rid of him, they'd say, "Yes," you know, and they'd go through it. And then he'd put his notches on his belt, going from table to table, "I led so many people to Jesus today." Well, very little of the fruit was lasting fruit. It was a forced kind of a thing. The guy was very forceful.
There was an interesting study made after Moody's campaigns. In some of the cities where he had tremendous campaigns, five years after the campaign, the survey team went around and surveyed people that had gone forward in the Moody meetings and made a profession of Christ during the Moody meetings. It was discovered that eighty-five percent of the people that had gone forward in the Moody meetings five years later were not going on in their Christian walk. They were back in the old practices, living in the world, and not continued in the Christian faith. Now, you who have read Moody's sermons or know anything about his ministry, know how that he would generally conclude his evangelistic sermons with a real tearjerker type of a story. Where he would talk about this little boy dying in his daddy's arms and the last words were, "Daddy, will I see you in heaven?" And the daddy there gulping, saying, "Yes, son, you'll see me in heaven." And the little boy dies, you know, with a smile on his face. And so, every daddy's heart is touched, you know. "I want to be with my child in heaven." And so, "Come forward if you want to see your child in heaven." And they were touched with emotions. But it wasn't very deep. It wasn't always abiding fruit.
In contrast with that, Dr. Finney had a very powerful ministry through the Word of God. He was a lawyer before he became a minister, and he was able to set forth the scriptures in a very logical order and sequence. And those people and thousands of people came forward in the Finney services and in the Finney revivals. Five years after his meetings, in the various communities, they made the survey of those that had gone forward in the Finney meetings, and it was discovered that eighty-five percent of them were still going on with the Lord. Their faith was not based upon an emotional appeal or an emotional moment, but was based upon facts of God's Word, and the faith was established in the fact of God's Word. And it was lasting fruit, that your fruit should remain.
Now, I believe that God ordained Moody, and I believe that God ordained Finney. And I believe that God had Moody reach people that Finney could not reach, and Finney reach people that Moody could not reach. And certainly, Dwight Moody was one of the greatest evangelists that God has brought along in the American history. But God uses different methods to reach different people and different instruments to reach different people. But my desire is that I not only bring forth fruit, but that the fruit remains, lasting fruit. And so, I'm not so much interested in the quantity of the fruit as I am the quality of the fruit that is developed through my ministry. That's why we spend so much time in the study of the Word of God, that we might be clean through the Word which He has spoken to us, that we might bring forth more fruit. And that we might bring forth much fruit, and that the fruit should remain.
And Jesus then said something quite interesting.
that whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you ( John 15:16 ).
Now again, He comes back to the subject of prayer and prayer to the Father in His name. I do believe that prayer should be addressed to the Father in the name of Jesus. I think that Jesus established this pattern for us. In the fourteenth chapter He said, "If you ask the Father anything in My name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son." Again, He said, "Now, I've ordained that whatsoever ye should ask the Father in My name, He may give it to you." Not "He shall." And therein is the big issue in this verse, and the thing that you want to take note of. He doesn't say that the Father "shall" give it to you, but that the Father "may" give it to you, indicating that the Father is desiring to give it to you all the time and prayer opens the door, that the Father may do for you what He is wanting to do the whole while. Too many people think that prayer is an information time, where I'm going to inform God of all of my difficulties that He doesn't know about. And then, I'm going to present to Him my solutions that I want Him to work out for me. Because I've dealt with these problems so long, I've got it all figured out how it could come to pass. And so, I begin to pray that the Lord will start working here and working there, and put this together, put this together; and I'm directing God on just how to work out my problems.
Now, oftentimes as I am praying, I am not offering to God direct prayers. I'm not praying directly for the need. But because I've worked out the way by which God can answer this need, I'm praying direction prayers as I'm directing God in how to answer my problem, because I've got it all figured out. This is the best way. Now, many times I get frustrated with God because He doesn't follow my directions. He doesn't always do it my way. And I think, "Oh, God doesn't listen to me when I pray. You know, because I've asked God to work it out like this and I've shown Him the way it should...it would all come to pass real well if God would just do this and this and then I could work it all out. And so, I've given Him directions and He's not following my directions." And sometimes I get upset with God because He doesn't follow my directions. And then one morning I wake up and found out that He's already done it; He did it by a much wiser way than I hadn't thought of. Pretty smart! Wow! That's alright, Lord! And He really answered the real prayer. He just didn't follow my directions. And so, I think that it's important that when we pray, we come to the heart of the issue. Rather than trying to direct God on just how to work things out, just lay the whole things before Him and say, "Lord, I know that You're much wiser than I am. You just work it out however you see fit, Lord." I'm opening the door that God may do for me the things that He is desiring to do. Prayer is consenting to God and to the will of God, for Him to do those things that He is wanting to do. I am at total disagreement with those persons who say that you've got to give detailed instructions for God or He doesn't know how to answer your prayer.
One minister has written in a book that he was praying for God to give him a bicycle. And he prayed for a long time for this bicycle and God didn't give him a bicycle. And finally, one day he said, "Lord, I've been praying so long for a bicycle. Why haven't you given me the bicycle?" And the Lord said, "You didn't tell me what kind you wanted. You know, there are ten speed bikes, there are cruisers, and there are all kinds of bikes." Poor God didn't know the kind of bike the fellow needed. And so, he had to wait for the fellow to tell him, "I want a ten speed Schwinn, green with silver stripes." I don't accept that!
Jesus said, "Your Father knows what you have need of before you ever ask Him." And every right thing I have ever prayed for, God had determined to give it to me before I ever asked. My asking only opened the door that God might do what He was wanting to do the whole time. "That your Father may," not shall, "your Father may give it to you." Your Father wants to bless you. Your Father wants to answer your prayers. Your Father is wanting to do some wonderful things for you. But He has given to you that capacity of choice and He will not violate your choice, and He will not work against your will. Prayer is consenting for God to do what He is wanting to do, that God may give to me those things that He desires.
Now again, Jesus emphasizes the importance of love.
These things I command you, that you love one another ( John 15:17 ).
We read so much about keeping His commandments. It gives us confidence in prayer. For we know that we receive whatsoever we ask of Him if we keep His commandments. What is His commandment? That we love one another. That's the fruit that God is looking for from His vineyard, that love flowing in and through our lives from Him to each other. That God would just bind our hearts together tonight in the glorious love of Jesus Christ. That we would have that kind of self-sacrificing, understanding, forgiving love for each other. That God would erase all of the bitterness or animosities or hard feelings or whatever we might feel towards our brethren in the Lord, and that we would be obedient tonight to the commandment of Jesus Christ, and truly love one another even as He loved us. God help us. Oh, may the fruit of God's Spirit just really spring forth in our lives as we abide in Jesus and as He abides in us.
Now Jesus tells them of the problems that they are going to experience in a world that is alien to Him. "He came into the world and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came to His own and His own received Him not." He was an alien on the planet Earth. He never did settle down as a citizen of the world community, but was an alien. And Jesus said,
If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you ( John 15:18 ).
Don't be surprised at the reaction of the worldly person, if they hate you because of your love for Jesus Christ, because of your relationship to Him. Just know that they hated Him before they ever hated you.
Now, if you were of the world, the world would love you; but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you ( John 15:19 ).
We are told, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world, for he who has the love of the world in his heart has not the love of the Father" ( 1 John 2:15 ). And so, we are told not to love the world, but we are also being told here that the world isn't going to love us. If you were of the world, if you were a part of its system, then they would love you because they love their own. But you're not of the world. That's pretty heavy, and it should cause each of us to sort of examine the attitude that the world has towards me. Do they hail me as a great fellow? Do they pat me on the back and say I'm doing a good job? If they do, I'd better go in my closet and repent and ask God to forgive me! Because if you were of the world, then the world would love you. But because you're not of the world, it hates you.
Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my sayings, they will keep yours also ( John 15:20 ).
You're not greater than the Lord; if they hated Him, they're going to hate you. If they persecuted Him, they're going to persecute you.
But all these things will they do to you for my name's sake, because they do not know him that sent me ( John 15:21 ).
Jesus said, "Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so persecuted they the prophets that were before you" ( Matthew 5:11-12 ).
Now, if you are persecuted by the world, or ridiculed by the world, make certain that that persecution is coming for Christ's sake. Not because you're just an obnoxious person. One of the most obnoxious persons I ever knew was in college at the same time I was. And she was a character, and that's complimentary. She was a very loud-mouthed woman. She had trained for opera and had a voice I'm sure that came close to Enrico Caruso's as far as volume. And I used to ride the streetcar home from work in the evening, and every once in a while, she would get on the same car that I was on. And if she would spy me in the back of the car, with this loud operatic voice, she would say, "Praise the Lord, brother!" And everybody would turn to see who she was talking to, including myself. But somehow you know that everybody knows it's you. And this woman was guilty of disrupting more classes. When a joke was told and they would all be laughing, she would laugh louder than all the rest. I mean, she was just loud.
And so, one day I was embolden to take her the scripture, "Let the women keep silence in the church, and learn in silence and subjection." And she went walking away saying, "Thank you, Lord, for the persecution." And I knew then that there was no use! But I wasn't persecuting her for righteousness sake, or for the Lord's sake, but because she was just a plain obnoxious person. And persecution that comes for being a bore or brash, or whatever, there's no reward or special benefits for that. But, if it is truly for Christ's sake, then know that you are bearing His suffering. And if you suffer with Him, you will also reign with Him.
So, Jesus said, "If they've persecuted me, they will also persecute you. But, all of these things will they do to you for My name's sake because they have not known the One who sent Me."
If I had not come and spoken unto them, they would not have had sin; but now they have no cloak for their sin ( John 15:22 ).
A man is held responsible for that which he knows. A man is not held responsible for that which he does not know. And when God judges, people will be judged according to the knowledge that they have received. With knowledge comes responsibilities to act upon that knowledge. The Bible says, "It would have been better for them to have never heard than to have heard and turned away." You say, "Well, then it would be better if I had never heard." Well, it's too late for you. You are now responsible, having heard. And knowledge brings responsibility, always. Jesus said, "If I had not come and spoken unto them, they would have no sin, but now they have no cloak for their sin."
He that hates me will hate my Father also. And if I had not done among them the works which no other man did, they would have had no sin: but now they have both seen and hated both me and the Father ( John 15:23-24 ).
What an indictment He is making against those people who are now sinning against the light that God has given to them!
But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me [without a reason] without a cause ( John 15:25 ).
And as you analyze the hatred people have towards Jesus Christ, it is hatred without a reason, without a cause. But it is interesting how many people are unreasonable in their hatred for Jesus. You know, there are people that can talk to you rationally on every subject in the world except Jesus. And they become irrational. They became heated, they become violent. Normal rational people; but yet, they have such a hatred. And yet, you ask them, "Why do hate Jesus so much?" And they can't tell you. They hate Him without a cause; they don't know why, but it is just something that is there.
But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth ( John 15:26 ),
Again, notice that how often Jesus in these last words with His disciples is tying together the relationship with the Father, the Son and the Spirit, and is making reference to the three. "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name..." And here, "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth,"
which proceeds from the Father, he shall testify of me ( John 15:26 ):
Look how it's just intertwined. The Father, the Son and the Spirit. The Holy Spirit being sent from the Father by the request of Jesus, coming and bearing witness then of Jesus Christ, "testifying of me."
And ye also shall bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning ( John 15:27 ).
So, talking to His disciples, He declares that they, along with Spirit, will be bearing witness of Him, "because you have been with Me from the beginning."
Now, of those...and how many there were that were disciples following Jesus, we do not know. Of those that were disciples He named twelve of them apostles, but there were many others that were following Him. And later on, when Peter stood up before the assembled disciples, he said, "It is important that we choose one of us who has been with Christ from the beginning, that we might choose him to take Judas's place, who by his transgression and has gone to his own place. But we need to replace him in the board of twelve here. And so, we need someone who has been with us from the beginning who can testify of these things, and also bear witness of the resurrection, that he might be placed as an apostle in the place of Judas Iscariot." So, it is interesting that one of the requirements was those that had been with Christ from the beginning.
Now He is saying, "You are my witnesses, you're going to bear witness of Me, because you have been with Me from the beginning." That is, the beginning of His earthly ministry.
Well, we got one chapter tonight. Next week, we'll take sixteen and seventeen. Chapter 17; spend a lot of time in that chapter in meditation this week. We talk about the Lord's prayer. "Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name..." that is not the Lord's prayer. That is a model prayer for the believers. It has been called the Lord's Prayer. But the seventeenth chapter of John is truly the Lord's prayer. This is His prayer that He is offering to the Father. And I would suggest that you spend a lot of time this week meditating on the Lord's prayer in the seventeenth chapter here in John's gospel. It will do so much for you.
May the Lord help us now to be doers of the Word and not hearers only, lest we deceive ourselves. Speaking of His commandment to love one another, may God enable us this week to show that love, one to another. And may we love each other even as He loved us, so much that He gave Himself for us. May we truly abide in Jesus Christ. May we spend more time in the Word; less time with television and other fleshly distractions, and more time with Him, learning of Him, receiving from Him, growing in Him. And may we allow the Word of God to do its work in our heart of cleansing us, that we might bring forth much fruit that the Father might be glorified through our lives. Oh, may God bless you this week, and may God use you this week in a very special way to show forth His love to the needy world in which we live. In Jesus' name. "
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on John 15:7". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/​commentaries/​csc/​john-15.html. 2014.
The vine and the branches metaphor 15:1-8
Jesus often used a grapevine to describe the nation of Israel (cf. Matthew 20:1-16; Matthew 21:23-41; Mark 12:1-9; Luke 13:6-9; Luke 20:9-16). The vine as a symbol of Israel appears on coins of the Maccabees. [Note: Morris, p. 593.] Here Jesus used the vine metaphorically of Himself. One can hardly escape the inference that Jesus viewed Himself as the fulfillment of Israel. Covenant theologians like to think of the church as the fulfillment of Israel, but there is no scriptural warrant for this conclusion except the similarities between the two entities. However the differences between them make dispensational theologians conclude that the church only superficially fulfills Israel.
This is not a parable in the Synoptic sense since there is no plot. It is more of an extended metaphor similar to the shepherd and sheepfold metaphors in chapter 10.
"It is possible that if the text of this discourse was spoken as they walked from the upper room in Jerusalem down into the Kidron Valley and across to the Mount of Olives, they could have seen the great golden vine, the national emblem of Israel, on the front of the temple." [Note: Tenney, "John," p. 150.]
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on John 15:7". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/​commentaries/​dcc/​john-15.html. 2012.
5. The importance of abiding in Jesus 15:1-16
Jesus continued to prepare His disciples for His departure. He next taught the Eleven the importance of abiding in Him with the result that they would produce much spiritual fruit. He dealt with their relationships to Himself, one another, and the world around them in chapter 15. Their responsibilities were to abide, to love, and to testify respectively.
"If in the Discourse recorded in the fourteenth chapter of St. John’s Gospel the Godward aspect of Christ’s impending departure was explained, in that of the fifteenth chapter the new relation is set forth which was to subsist between Him and His Church. And this . . . may be summarized in these three words: Union, Communion, Disunion [i.e., separation from the world]." [Note: Edersheim, 2:519.]
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on John 15:7". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/​commentaries/​dcc/​john-15.html. 2012.
Here the second use of "abide" is obviously in view, namely, its use as a synonym for fellowship rather than salvation. Jesus addressed His believing disciples and told them what would happen if they did abide in Him. He had already explained that believers may or may not abide in Him (John 15:3-5). Not only do abiding disciples bear much fruit (John 15:5), but they also receive what they ask God for in prayer.
This verse has also been a stumbling block to some sincere Christians. It appears to be a blanket promise to grant any request the disciple may offer. Really it is a blanket promise to grant any request that an abiding disciple may offer. An abiding disciple will ask only those things that are in harmony with or subject to God’s will, as Jesus did. The wishes of abiding disciples are the same as Jesus’ wishes. To ask anything else would make the praying believer a non-abiding disciple.
Putting this revelation together with what Jesus said earlier, we can see that abiding disciples pray in Jesus’ name, and praying in Jesus’ name requires abiding in Christ (John 14:13-14). [Note: See Thomas L. Constable, Talking to God: What the Bible Teaches about Prayer, pp. 175-76.] Perhaps we can understand better now what Jesus meant when He said earlier that He wanted His disciples to experience the same unity with Himself that He enjoyed with His Father (John 14:20-21).
"To remain in Christ and to allow his words to remain in oneself means a conscious acceptance of the authority of his word and a constant contact with him by prayer." [Note: Tenney, "John," p. 152.]
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on John 15:7". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/​commentaries/​dcc/​john-15.html. 2012.
THE VINE AND THE BRANCHES ( John 15:1-10 )
15:1-10 "I am the real vine and my Father is the vine-dresser. He destroys every branch in me which does not bear fruit; and he cleanses every branch which does bear fruit, so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean through the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in me even as I abide in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit in its own strength, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. The man who abides in me, and in whom I abide, bears much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he will be cast out like a withered branch. And they gather such branches and throw them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask what you will, and it will be given to you. It is by the fact that you bear such fruit, and that you show yourselves to be my disciples, that my Father is glorified. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love. As I have kept my Father's commandments, so I abide in his love."
Jesus, as so often, is working in this passage with pictures and ideas which were part of the religious heritage of the Jewish nation. Over and over again in the Old Testament, Israel is pictured as the vine or the vineyard of God. "The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel" ( Isaiah 5:1-7). "Yet I planted you a choice vine" is God's message to Israel through Jeremiah ( Jeremiah 2:21). Ezekiel 15:1-8 likens Israel to the vine, as does Ezekiel 19:10. "Israel is a luxuriant vine," said Hosea ( Hosea 10:1). "Thou didst bring a vine out of Egypt," sang the Psalmist, thinking of God's deliverance of his people from bondage ( Psalms 80:8). The vine had actually become the symbol of the nation of Israel. It was the emblem on the coins of the Maccabees. One of the glories of the Temple was the great golden vine upon the front of the Holy Place. Many a great man had counted it an honour to give gold to mould a new bunch of grapes or even a new grape on to that vine. The vine was part and parcel of Jewish imagery, and the very symbol of Israel.
Jesus calls himself the true vine. The point of that word alethinos ( G228) , true, real, genuine, is this. It is a curious fact that the symbol of the vine is never used in the Old Testament apart from the idea of degeneration. The point of Isaiah's picture is that the vineyard has run wild. Jeremiah complains that the nation has turned into "degenerate and become a wild vine." It is as if Jesus said: "You think that because you belong to the nation of Israel you are a branch of the true vine of God. But the nation it is; a degenerate vine, as all your prophets saw. It is I who am the true vine. The fact that you are a Jew will not save you. The only thing that can save you is to have an intimate living fellowship with me, for I am the vine of God and you must be branches joined to me." Jesus was laying it down that not Jewish blood but faith in him was the way to God's salvation. No external qualification can set a man right with God; only the friendship of Jesus Christ can do that.
THE VINE AND THE BRANCHES ( John 15:1-10 continued)
When Jesus drew his picture of the vine he knew what he was talking about. The vine was grown all over Palestine as it still is. It is a plant which needs a great deal of attention if the best fruit is to be got out of it. It is grown commonly on terraces. The ground has to be perfectly clean. It is sometimes trained on trellises; it is sometimes allowed to creep over the ground upheld by low forked sticks; it sometimes even grows round the doors of the cottages; but wherever it grows careful preparation of the soil is essential. It grows luxuriantly and drastic pruning is necessary. So luxuriant is it that the slips are set in the ground at least twelve feet apart, for it will creep over the ground at speed. A young vine is not allowed to fruit for the first three years and each year is cut drastically back to develop and conserve its life and energy. When mature, it is pruned in December and January. It bears two kinds of branches, one that bears fruit and one that does not; and the branches that do not bear fruit are drastically pruned back, so that they will drain away none of the plant's strength. The vine can not produce the crop of which it is capable without drastic pruning--and Jesus knew that.
Further, the wood of the vine has the curious characteristic that it is good for nothing. It is too soft for any purpose. At certain times of the year, it was laid down by the law, the people must bring offerings of wood to the Temple for the altar fires. But the wood of the vine must not be brought. The only thing that could be done with the wood pruned out of a vine was to make a bonfire of it and destroy it. This adds to the picture Jesus draws.
He says that his followers are like that. Some of them are lovely fruit-bearing branches of himself; others are useless because they bear no fruit. Who was Jesus thinking of when he spoke of the fruitless branches? There are two answers. First, he was thinking of the Jews. They were branches of God's vine. Was not that the picture that prophet after prophet had drawn? But they refused to listen to him; they refused to accept him; therefore they were withered and useless branches. Second, he was thinking of something more general. He was thinking of Christians whose Christianity consisted of profession without practice, words without deeds; he was thinking of Christians who were useless branches, all leaves and no fruit. And he was thinking of Christians who became apostates, who heard the message and accepted it and then fell away, becoming traitors to the Master they had once pledged themselves to serve.
So then there are three ways in which we can be useless branches. We can refuse to listen to Jesus Christ at all. We can listen to him, and then render him a lip service unsupported by any deeds. We can accept him as Master, and then, in face of the difficulties of the way or the desire to do as we like, abandon him. One thing we must remember. It is a first principle of the New Testament that uselessness invites disaster. The fruitless branch is on the way to destruction.
THE VINE AND THE BRANCHES ( John 15:1-10 continued)
In this passage there is much about abiding in Christ. What is meant by that? It is true that there is a mystical sense in which the Christian is in Christ and Christ is in the Christian. But there are many--maybe they are in the majority--who never have this mystical experience. If we are like that, we must not blame ourselves. There is a much simpler way of looking at this and of experiencing it, a way open to anyone.
Let us take a human analogy. All analogies are imperfect but we must work with the ideas which we possess. Suppose a person is weak. He has fallen to temptation; he has made a mess of things; he is on the way down to degeneracy of mind and heart and mental fibre. Now suppose that he has a friend of a strong and lovely and loving nature, who rescues him from his degraded situation. There is only one way in which he can retain his reformation and keep himself on the right way. He must keep contact with his friend If he loses that contact; all the chances are that his weakness will overcome him; the old temptations will rear their heads again; and he will fall. His salvation lies in continual contact with the strength of his friend.
Many a time a down-and-out has been taken to live with someone fine. So long as he continued in that fine home and that fine presence he was safe. But when he kicked over the traces and went off on his own, he fell. We must keep contact with the fine thing in order to defeat the evil thing. Robertson of Brighton was one of the great preachers. There was a tradesman who had a little shop; in the back room he kept a photograph of Robertson, for he was his hero and his inspiration. Whenever he was tempted to carry out a bit of sharp practice, he would rush into the back room and look at the photograph and the temptation was defeated. When Kingsley was asked the secret of his life, referring to F. D. Maurice he said: "I had a friend." The contact with loveliness made him lovely.
Abiding in Christ means something like that. The secret of the life of Jesus was his contact with God; again and again he withdrew into a solitary place to meet him. We must keep contact with Jesus. We cannot do that unless we deliberately take steps to do it. To take but one example--to pray in the morning, if it be for only a few moments, is to have an antiseptic for the whole day; for we cannot come out of the presence of Christ to touch the evil things. For some few of us, abiding in Christ will be a mystical experience which is beyond words to express. For most of us, it will mean a constant contact with him. It will mean arranging life, arranging prayer, arranging silence in such a way that there is never a day when we give ourselves a chance to forget him.
Finally, we must note that here there are two things laid down about the good disciple. First, he enriches his own life; his contact makes him a fruitful branch. Second, he brings glory to God; the sight of his life turns men's thoughts to the God who made him like that. God is glorified, when we bear much fruit and show ourselves to be disciples of Jesus. The greatest glory of the Christian life is that by our life and conduct we can bring glory to God.
THE LIFE OF JESUS' CHOSEN PEOPLE ( John 15:11-17 )
15:11-17 "I have spoken these things to you that my joy might be in you, and that your joy might be complete. This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, that a man should lay down his life for his friend. You are my friends, if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because the slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends because I have made known to you everything that I heard from my Father. You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and I have appointed you to go out and to bear fruit, of such a kind that it will remain. I have done so, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. These are my orders to you, that you love one another."
The central words of this passage are those in which Jesus says that his disciples have not chosen him, but he has chosen them. It was not we who chose God, but God who, in his grace, approached us with a call and an offer made out of his love.
Out of this passage we can compile a list of things for which we are chosen and to which we are called.
(i) We are chosen for joy. However hard the Christian way is, it is, both in the travelling and in the goal, the way of joy. There is always a joy in doing the right thing. The Christian is the man of joy, the laughing cavalier of Christ. A gloomy Christian is a contradiction in terms, and nothing in all religious history has done Christianity more harm than its connection with black clothes and long faces. It is true that the Christian is a sinner, but he is a redeemed sinner; and therein lies his joy. How can any man fail to be happy when he walks the ways of life with Jesus?
(ii) We are chosen for love. We are sent out into the world to love one another. Sometimes we live as if we were sent into the world to compete with one another, or to dispute with one another, or even to quarrel with one another. But the Christian is to live in such a way that he shows what is meant by loving his fellow men. It is here that Jesus makes another of his great claims. If we ask him: What right have you to demand that we love one another? His answer is: "No man can show greater love than to lay down his life for his friends--and I did that." Many a man tells men to love each other, when his whole life is a demonstration that that is the last thing he does himself. Jesus gave men a commandment which he had himself first fulfilled.
(iii) Jesus called us to be his friends. He tells his men that he does not call them slaves any more; he calls them friends. Now that is a saying which would be even greater to those who heard it for the first time than it is to us. Doulos ( G1401) , the slave, the servant of God was no title of shame; it was a title of the highest honour. Moses was the doulos ( G1401) of God ( Deuteronomy 34:5); so was Joshua ( Joshua 24:29); so was David ( Psalms 89:20). It is a title which Paul counted it an honour to use ( Titus 1:1); and so did James ( James 1:1). The greatest men in the past had been proud to be called the douloi ( G1401) , the slaves of God. And Jesus says: "I have something greater for you yet, you are no longer slaves; you are friends." Christ offers an intimacy with God which not even the greatest men knew before he came into the world.
The idea of being the friend of God has also a background. Abraham was the friend of God ( Isaiah 41:8). In Wis_7:27 Wisdom is said to make men the friends of God. But this phrase is lit up by a custom which obtained both at the courts of the Roman Emperors and of the eastern kings. At these courts there was a very select group of men called the friends of the king, or the friends of the Emperor. At all times they had access to the king: they had even the right to come to his bedchamber at the beginning of the day. He talked to them before he talked to his generals, his rulers, and his statesmen. The friends of the king were those who had the closest and the most intimate connection with him.
Jesus called us to be his friends and the friends of God. That is a tremendous offer. It means that no longer do we need to gaze longingly at God from afar off; we are not like slaves who have no right whatever to enter into the presence of the master; we are not like a crowd whose only glimpse of the king is in the passing on some state occasion. Jesus gave us this intimacy with God, so that he is no longer a distant stranger, but our close friend.
THE LIFE OF JESUS' CHOSEN PEOPLE ( John 15:11-17 continued)
(iv) Jesus did not only choose us for a series of tremendous privileges. He called us to be his partners. The slave could never be a partner. He was defined in Greek law as a living tool. His master never opened his mind to him; the slave simply had to do what he was told without reason and without explanation. But Jesus said: "You are not my slaves; you are my partners. I have told you everything; I have told you what I am trying to do, and why I am trying to do it. I have told you everything which God told me." Jesus has given us the honour of making us partners in his task. He has shared his mind with us, and opened his heart to us. The tremendous choice laid before us is that we can accept or refuse partnership with Christ in the work of leading the world to God.
(v) Jesus chose to be ambassadors. "I have chosen you," he said, "to send you out." He did not choose us to live a life retired from the world, but to represent him in the world. When a knight came to the court of King Arthur, he did not come to spend the rest of his days in knightly feasting and in knightly fellowship there. He came to the king saying: "Send me out on some great task which I can do for chivalry and for you." Jesus chose us, first to come in to him, and then to go out to the world. And that must be the daily pattern and rhythm of our lives.
(vi) Jesus chose us to be advertisements. He chose us to go out to bear fruit, and to bear fruit which will stand the test of time. The way to spread Christianity is to be Christian. The way to bring others into the Christian faith is to show them the fruit of the Christian life. Jesus sends us out, not to argue men into Christianity, still less to threaten them into it, but to attract them into it; so to live that its fruits may be so wonderful that others will desire them for themselves.
(vii) Jesus chose us to be privileged members of the family of God. He chose us so that whatever we ask in his name the Father will give to us. Here again we are face to face with one of those great sayings about prayer which we must understand aright. If we come to it thoughtlessly, it sounds as if the Christian will receive everything for which he prays. We have already thought about this, but we may well think about it again. The New Testament lays down certain definite laws about prayer.
(a) Prayer must be the prayer of faith ( James 5:15). When it is a formality, merely the routine and conventional repetition of a form of words, it cannot be answered. When prayer is hopeless it cannot be effective. There is little use in a man praying to be changed, if he does not believe it possible that he can be changed. To pray with power a man must have an invincible belief in the all-sufficient love of God.
(b) Prayer must be in the name of Christ. We cannot pray for things of which we know that Jesus would disapprove. We cannot pray that we should be given possession of some forbidden person or some forbidden thing; we cannot pray that some personal ambition should be realized, if that ambition means that someone else must be hurt to fulfil it. We cannot pray in the name of him who is love for vengeance on our enemies. Whenever we try to turn prayer into something to enable us to realize our own ambitions and to satisfy our own desires, it must be ineffective, for it is not real prayer at all.
(c) Prayer must say: "Thy will be done." When we pray we must first realize that we never know better than God. The essence of prayer is not that we say to God: "Thy will be changed," but that we say to him: "Thy will be done." So often real prayer must be, not that God would send us the things we wish, but that he would make us able to accept the things he wills.
(d) Prayer must never be selfish. Almost in the passing Jesus said a very illuminating thing. He said that, if two people agreed in asking anything in his name, it would be granted ( Matthew 18:19). We are not to take that with a crude literalism, because it would simply mean that if you can mobilize enough people to pray for anything you will get it. What it does mean is this--no man when he prays should think entirely of his own needs. To take the simplest example, the holiday-maker might be praying for sunshine while the farmer is praying for rain. When we pray, we must ask, not only: "Is this for my good?" but: "Is this for the good of all men?" The greatest temptation of all in prayer is to pray as if nobody but ourselves mattered.
Jesus chose us to be privileged members of the family of God. We can and must take everything to God in prayer; but when we have done so we must accept the answer which God in his perfect wisdom and perfect love sends to us. And the more we love God, the easier it will be to do that.
THE WORLD'S HATRED ( John 15:18-21 )
15:18-21 "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; but the world hates you, because you are not of the world, but I have picked you out of the world. Remember the word which I spoke to you--the servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you. If they kept my word, they will keep yours. But they will do these things to you because of my name, because they do not know him who sent me."
It is always John's way to see things in terms of black and white. To him there are two great entities--the Church and the world. And there is no contact and no fellowship between them. To John it is,
"Stand thou on that side, for on this am I."
As he saw it, a man is either of the world or of Christ, and there is no stage between.
Further, we must remember that by this time the Church was living under the constant threat of persecution. Christians were indeed persecuted because of the name of Christ. Christianity was illegal. A magistrate needed only to ask whether or not a man was a Christian, and, if he was, no matter what he had done or had not done, he was liable to punishment by death. John was speaking of a situation which existed in the most clear-cut and agonizing way.
One thing is certain--no Christian who was involved in persecution could say that he had not been warned. On this matter Jesus was quite explicit. He had told his people beforehand what they might expect. "They will deliver you up to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them.... And brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all for my name's sake" ( Mark 13:9-13; compare Matthew 10:17-22; Matthew 10:23-29; Luke 12:2-9; Luke 12:51-53).
When John wrote, this hatred had long since begun. Tacitus spoke of the people "hated for their crimes, whom the mob call Christians." Suetonius gad spoken of "a race of men who belong to a new and evil superstition." Why was this hatred so virulent?
The Roman government hated the Christians because it regarded them as disloyal citizens. The position of the government was quite simple and understandable. The Empire was vast; it stretched from the Euphrates to Britain, from Germany to North Africa. It included all kinds of peoples and all kinds of countries within it. Some unifying force had to be found to weld this varied mass into one; and it was found in Caesar worship.
Now Caesar worship was not imposed on the world; it actually arose from the people themselves. Away back in the old days there had been the goddess Roma--the spirit of Rome. It is easy to see how men could think of that spirit of Rome symbolized in the Emperor. He stood for Rome; he embodied Rome; the spirit of Rome found its home in him. It is a great mistake to think that the subject peoples resented Roman government; for the most part they were profoundly grateful for it. Rome brought justice, and freed them from capricious kings. Rome brought peace and prosperity. The land was cleared of brigands and the sea of pirates. The pax Romana, the Roman peace, stretched over all the world.
It was in Asia Minor that men began to think of Caesar, the Emperor, as the god who embodied Rome, and they did so in sheer gratitude for the blessings Rome had brought. At first the Emperors discouraged and deprecated this worship; they insisted that they were men and must not be worshipped as gods. But they saw that they could not stop this movement. At first they confined it to the excitable Asiatics of Asia Minor, but soon it spread everywhere. Then the government saw that they could use it. Here was the unifying principle which was needed. So there came the day when once a year every inhabitant of the Empire had to burn his pinch of incense to the godhead of Caesar. By so doing, he showed that he was a loyal citizen of Rome. When he had done this, he received a certificate to say that he done it.
Here was the practice and the custom which made all men feel that they were part of Rome, and which guaranteed their loyalty to her. Now Rome was the essence of toleration. After he had burned his pinch of incense and said, "Caesar is Lord," a man could go away and worship any god he liked, so long as the worship did not affect public decency and public order. But that is precisely what the Christians would not do. They would call no man "Lord" except Jesus Christ. They refused to conform, and therefore the Roman government regarded them as dangerous and disloyal.
The government persecuted the Christians because they insisted they had no king but Christ. Persecution came to the Christians because they put Christ first. Persecution always comes to the man who does that.
THE WORLD'S HATRED ( John 15:18-21 continued)
It was not only that the government persecuted the Christians; the mob hated them. Why? It was because the mob believed certain slanderous things about the Christians. There is no doubt that the Jews were at least to some extent responsible for these slanders. It so happened that they had the ear of the government. To take but two examples, Nero's favourite actor Aliturus, and his harlot empress Poppaea, were both adherents of the Jewish faith. The Jews whispered their slanders to the government, slanders which they must have well known to be untrue, and four slanderous reports were spread about the Christians.
(i) They were said to be insurrectionaries. We have already seen the reason for that. It was futile for the Christians to point out that in fact they were the best citizens in the country. The fact remained they would not burn their pinch of incense and say, "Caesar is Lord," and so they were branded as dangerous and disloyal men.
(ii) They were said to be cannibals. This charge came from the words of the sacrament. "This is my body which is for you." "This cup is the new covenant in my blood." On the basis of these words, it was not difficult to disseminate amongst ignorant people, prepared to believe the worst, the story that the Christians' private meal was based on cannibalism. The charge stuck, and it is little wonder that the mob looked on the Christians with loathing.
(iii) They were said to practise the most flagrant immorality. The weekly meal of the Christians was called the Agape ( G26) , the Love Feast. When the Christians met each other in the early days they greeted each other with the kiss of peace. It was not difficult to spread abroad the report that the Love Feast was an orgy of sexual indulgence, of which the kiss of peace was the symbol and the sign.
(iv) They were said to be incendiaries. They looked to the Second Coming of Christ. To it they had attached all the Old Testament pictures of the Day of the Lord, which foretold of the flaming disintegration and destruction of the world. "The elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up" ( 2 Peter 3:10). In the reign of Nero came the disastrous fire which devastated Rome and it was easy to connect it with people who preached of the consuming fire which would destroy the world.
(v) There was actually another charge brought and for this fifth charge there were understandable grounds. It was that the Christians "tampered with family relationships," divided families, split up homes and broke up marriages. In a way that was true. Christianity did bring not peace but a sword ( Matthew 10:34). Often a wife became a Christian and a husband did not. Often children became Christians and parents did not. Then the home was split in two and the family divided.
These were the charges which were spread about the Christians with the help of the Jews. It is little wonder that the name of Christian was hated.
THE WORLD'S HATRED ( John 15:18-21 continued)
Such were the causes of hatred in the early days. but it is still true that the world will hate the Christian. As we have already said, by the world John meant human society organizing itself without God. There is bound to be a cleavage between the man who regards God as the only reality in life and the man who regards God as totally irrelevant for life. In any event the world has certain characteristics, which are always part of the human situation.
(i) The world suspects people who are different. That comes out in the simplest ways. One of the commonest things in the world nowadays is an umbrella; but when Jonas Hanway tried to introduce the umbrella into England and walked down the street beneath one he was pelted with stones and dirt. In the early days of the Boys' Brigade, the boys who marched down the street in uniform often received similar treatment. Anyone who is different, who wears different clothes, who has different ideas, is automatically suspect. He may be regarded as an eccentric or a madman or a danger; but life is likely to be made uncomfortable for him.
(ii) The world acutely dislikes people whose lives are a condemnation of it. It is in fact dangerous to be good. The classic instance is the fate which befell Aristides in Athens. He was called Aristides the Just; and yet he was banished. When one of the citizens was asked why he had voted for his banishment, he answered: "Because I am tired of hearing him always called the Just." That was why men killed Socrates; they called him the human gadfly. He was always compelling men to think and to examine themselves, and men hated that and killed him. It is dangerous to practise a higher standard than the standard of the world. Nowadays a man can be persecuted even for working too hard or too long.
(ii) To put it at its widest--the world always suspects nonconformity. It likes a pattern; it likes to be able to label a person and to put him in a pigeon-hole. Anyone who does not conform to the pattern will certainly meet trouble. It is even said that if a hen with different markings is put among hens that are all alike, the others will peck her to death.
The basic demand on the Christian is the demand that he should have the courage to be different. To be different will be dangerous, but no man can be a Christian unless he accepts that risk, for there must be a difference between the man of the world and the man of Christ.
KNOWLEDGE AND RESPONSIBILITY ( John 15:22-25 )
15:22-25 "If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have no excuse for their sins. He who hates me hates the Father too. If I had not done deeds among them, which no one else had ever done, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen and they have heard both me and my Father. But it has all happened that the word which stands written in their law might be fulfilled--'They have hated me without a cause.'"
Here Jesus has returned to a thought which in the Fourth Gospel is never far from his mind, the conviction that knowledge and privilege bring with them responsibility. Until Jesus came men never had the opportunity really to know God; they had never fully heard his voice, and they had never seen perfectly demonstrated the kind of life he wished them to live. They could scarcely be blamed for being such as they were. There are things which are allowable in a child which are not allowable in an adult, because the child does not know any better. There are things which are allowable in someone whose upbringing has been bad which are not allowable in someone who has been brought up in all the benefits of a Christian home. No one expects the same kind of conduct from a savage as from a civilized man. The more knowledge a man has and the more privileges he enjoys, the greater the responsibility laid upon him.
Jesus did two things. First, he exposed sin. He told men of the things which grieved God and of the way in which God wished them to walk. He set the true way before men. Second, he provided the remedy for sin; and he did that in a double sense. He opened the way to forgiveness for past sin, and he provided the power which would enable a man to overcome sin and do the right. These were the privileges and the knowledge which he brought to men. Suppose a man to be ill; suppose he consults a doctor, and the doctor diagnoses what is wrong and prescribes a cure. If that man disregards the diagnosis and refuses to use the cure, he has no one to blame but himself if he dies, or comes to a condition which makes life wretched for himself. That is what the Jews had done. As John saw it, they had only done what it was foretold they would do. Twice the Psalmist had said: "They hated me without a cause" ( Psalms 35:19; Psalms 69:4).
It is still possible for us to do the same. Not many are actively hostile to Christ, but many live their lives as if Christ had never come and simply disregard him. But no man can know life in this world or in the world to come if he disregards the Lord of all good life.
WITNESS DIVINE AND HUMAN ( John 15:26-27 )
15:26-27 "When the Helper comes, the Helper whom I will send to you from my Father, I mean the Spirit of Truth who comes forth from the Father, he will be a witness about me. And you will be witness about me because you have been with me from the beginning."
Here John uses two ideas which lie very close to his heart and are constantly entwined in his thought.
The first is the witness of the Holy Spirit. What does he mean by this? We shall have occasion to think of this again very soon, but for the moment think of it this way. When the story of Jesus is told us and his picture is set before us, what makes us feel that this is none other than the picture of the Son of God? That reaction of the human mind, that answer of the human heart is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit within us who moves us to respond to Jesus Christ.
The second is the witness which men must bear to Christ. "You," said Jesus to his disciples, "win be witnesses about me." There are three elements in Christian witness.
(i) Christian witness comes from long fellowship and intimacy with Christ. The disciples are his witnesses because they have been with him from the beginning. A witness is a man who says of something: "This is true, and I know it." There can be no witness without personal experience. We can witness for Christ only when we have been with him.
(ii) Christian witness comes from inner conviction. The accent of personal inner conviction is one of the most unmistakable in the world. A man hardly starts to speak before we know whether or not he really believes what he is saying. There can be no effective Christian witness without this inner conviction which comes from personal intimacy with Christ.
(iii) Christian witness issues in outward testimony. A witness is not only someone who knows that something is true; he is someone who is prepared to say that he knows that it is true. A Christian witness is a man who not only knows Christ but wants others to know him too.
It is our privilege and our task to be witnesses for Christ in the world; and we cannot be witnesses without the personal intimacy, the inner conviction and the outward testimony to our faith.
-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Barclay, William. "Commentary on John 15:7". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://studylight.org/​commentaries/​dsb/​john-15.html. 1956-1959.
in me ... Jesus abides in us (v.5) by His words abiding in us. "If one feeds on the Word, I’m a great believer in following intuition." This is teaching and experience and wisdom at work (emotions). Jesus abiding in us, being led by his words, and the weight we give to them. See Ephesians 3:17
Two conditions are given for answered prayer: 1) abiding in Jesus, and 2) his words abiding in believers (thus transforming their thinking). Elsewhere Jesus says that believers must ask in his name (i.e., in accord with his character and for his glory; see John 14:13-14; John 16:23-24).
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on John 15:7". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://studylight.org/​commentaries/​gbc/​john-15.html. 2021.
If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you,.... Abiding in Christ is here explained by his words or doctrines abiding in his disciples; by which are meant his Gospel, and the truths of it. This abides when it comes in power, and becomes the engrafted word; and may be said to do so, when such, in whose hearts it has a place, and has taken deep root, continue to have a relish and savour of it, a true and hearty affection for it, esteeming it above their necessary food; when they hold fast the profession of it, stand fast in it, steadfastly abide by it, and constantly attend on it; all which is a considerable evidence that they do, yea, there is a promise that they "shall continue in the Son and in the Father", 1 John 2:24; The blessing and privilege that such shall enjoy is,
ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you; or, as some copies read it, "it shall be given you": but this must be understood not of temporal things, as riches, honours, profits, pleasures, or whatever even the carnal mind of a believer himself may sometimes desire; but of things spiritual, and with such limitations and restrictions as these; whatever is according to the will of God, for the Spirit of God himself asks for no other for the saints; whatever is for the glory of God, and for their own spiritual profit and edification; and whatever is agreeably to the words and doctrines of Christ, which abide in them. Every thing of this kind they ask in faith, and with a submission to the divine will, they may expect to receive.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Gill, John. "Commentary on John 15:7". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://studylight.org/​commentaries/​geb/​john-15.html. 1999.
|Christ the True Vine.|
1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 2 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. 3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 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. 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. 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. 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
Here Christ discourses concerning the fruit, the fruits of the Spirit, which his disciples were to bring forth, under the similitude of a vine. Observe here,
I. The doctrine of this similitude; what notion we ought to have of it.
1. That Jesus Christ is the vine, the true vine. It is an instance of the humility of Christ that he is pleased to speak of himself under low and humble comparisons. He that is the Sun of righteousness, and the bright and morning Star, compares himself to a vine. The church, which is Christ mystical, is a vine (Psalms 80:8), so is Christ, who is the church seminal. Christ and his church are thus set forth. (1.) He is the vine, planted in the vineyard, and not a spontaneous product; planted in the earth, for his is the Word made flesh. The vine has an unsightly unpromising outside; and Christ had no form nor comeliness,Isaiah 53:2. The vine is a spreading plant, and Christ will be known as salvation to the ends of the earth. The fruit of the vine honours God and cheers man (Judges 9:13), so does the fruit of Christ's mediation; it is better than gold,Proverbs 8:19. (2.) He is the true vine, as truth is opposed to pretence and counterfeit; he is really a fruitful plant, a plant of renown. He is not like that wild vine which deceived those who gathered of it (2 Kings 4:39), but a true vine. Unfruitful trees are said to lie (Habakkuk 3:17. marg.), but Christ is a vine that will not deceive. Whatever excellency there is in any creature, serviceable to man, it is but a shadow of that grace which is in Christ for his people's good. He is that true vine typified by Judah's vine, which enriched him with the blood of the grape (Genesis 49:11), by Joseph's vine, the branches of which ran over the wall (Genesis 49:22), by Israel's vine, under which he dwelt safely,1 Kings 4:25.
2. That believers are branches of this vine, which supposes that Christ is the root of the vine. The root is unseen, and our life is hid with Christ; the root bears the tree (Romans 11:18), diffuses sap to it, and is all in all to its flourishing and fruitfulness; and in Christ are all supports and supplies. The branches of the vine are many, some on one side of the house or wall, others on the other side; yet, meeting in the root, are all but one vine; thus all good Christians, though in place and opinion distant from each other, yet meet in Christ, the centre of their unity. Believers, like the branches of the vine, are weak, and insufficient to stand of themselves, but as they are borne up. See Ezekiel 15:2.
3. That the Father is the husbandman, georgos--the land-worker. Though the earth is the Lord's, it yields him no fruit unless he work it. God has not only a propriety in, but a care of, the vine and all the branches. He hath planted, and watered, and gives the increase; for we are God's husbandry,1 Corinthians 3:9. See Isaiah 5:1; Isaiah 5:2; Isaiah 27:2; Isaiah 27:3. He had an eye upon Christ, the root, and upheld him, and made him to flourish out of a dry ground. He has an eye upon all the branches, and prunes them, and watches over them, that nothing hurt them. Never was any husbandman so wise, so watchful, about his vineyard, as God is about his church, which therefore must needs prosper.
II. The duty taught us by this similitude, which is to bring forth fruit, and, in order to this, to abide in Christ.
1. We must be fruitful. From a vine we look for grapes (Isaiah 5:2), and from a Christian we look for Christianity; this is the fruit, a Christian temper and disposition, a Christian life and conversation, Christian devotions and Christian designs. We must honour God, and do good, and exemplify the purity and power of the religion we profess; and this is bearing fruit. The disciples here must be fruitful, as Christians, in all the fruits of righteousness, and as apostles, in diffusing the savour of the knowledge of Christ. To persuade them to this, he urges,
(1.) The doom of the unfruitful (John 15:2; John 15:2): They are taken away. [1.] It is here intimated that there are many who pass for branches in Christ who yet do not bear fruit. Were they really united to Christ by faith, they would bear fruit; but being only tied to him by the thread of an outward profession, though they seem to be branches, they will soon be seen to be dry ones. Unfruitful professors are unfaithful professors; professors, and no more. It might be read, Every branch that beareth not fruit in me, and it comes much to one; for those that do not bear fruit in Christ, and in his Spirit and grace, are as if they bore no fruit at all, Hosea 10:1. [2.] It is here threatened that they shall be taken away, in justice to them and in kindness to the rest of the branches. From him that has not real union with Christ, and fruit produced thereby, shall be taken away even that which he seemed to have,Luke 8:18. Some think this refers primarily to Judas.
(2.) The promise made to the fruitful: He purgeth them, that they may bring forth more fruit. Note, [1.] Further fruitfulness is the blessed reward of forward fruitfulness. The first blessing was, Be fruitful; and it is still a great blessing. [2.] Even fruitful branches, in order to their further fruitfulness, have need of purging or pruning; kathairei--he taketh away that which is superfluous and luxuriant, which hinders its growth and fruitfulness. The best have that in them which is peccant, aliquid amputandum--something which should be taken away; some notions, passions, or humours, that want to be purged away, which Christ has promised to do by his word, and Spirit, and providence; and these shall be taken off by degrees in the proper season. [3.] The purging of fruitful branches, in order to their greater fruitfulness, is the care and work of the great husbandman, for his own glory.
(3.) The benefits which believers have by the doctrine of Christ, the power of which they should labour to exemplify in a fruitful conversation: Now you are clean,John 15:3; John 15:3. [1.] Their society was clean, now that Judas was expelled by that word of Christ, What thou doest, do quickly; and till they were got clear of him they were not all clean. The word of Christ is a distinguishing word, and separates between the precious and the vile; it will purify the church of the first-born in the great dividing day. [2.] They were each of them clean, that is, sanctified, by the truth of Christ (John 17:17; John 17:17); that faith by which they received the word of Christ purified their hearts,Acts 15:9. The Spirit of grace by the word refined them from the dross of the world and the flesh, and purged out of them the leaven of the scribes and Pharisees, from which, when they saw their inveterate rage and enmity against their Master, they were now pretty well cleansed. Apply it to all believers. The word of Christ is spoken to them; there is a cleansing virtue in that word, as it works grace, and works out corruption. It cleanses as fire cleanses the gold from its dross, and as physic cleanses the body from its disease. We then evidence that we are cleansed by the word when we bring forth fruit unto holiness. Perhaps here is an allusion to the law concerning vineyards in Canaan; the fruit of them was as unclean, and uncircumcised, the first three years after it was planted, and the fourth year it was to be holiness of praise unto the Lord; and then it was clean, Leviticus 19:23; Leviticus 19:24. The disciples had now been three years under Christ's instruction; and now you are clean.
(4.) The glory that will redound to God by our fruitfulness, with the comfort and honour that will come to ourselves by it, John 15:8; John 15:8. If we bear much fruit, [1.] Herein our Father will be glorified. The fruitfulness of the apostles, as such, in the diligent discharge of their office, would be to the glory of God in the conversion of souls, and the offering of them up to him, Romans 15:9; Romans 15:16. The fruitfulness of all Christians, in a lower or narrower sphere, is to the glory of God. By the eminent good works of Christians many are brought to glorify our Father who is in heaven. [2.] So shall we be Christ's disciples indeed, approving ourselves so, and making it to appear that we are really what we call ourselves. So shall we both evidence our discipleship and adorn it, and be to our Master for a name and a praise, and a glory, that is, disciples indeed, Jeremiah 13:11. So shall we be owned by our Master in the great day, and have the reward of disciples, a share in the joy of our Lord. And the more fruit we bring forth, the more we abound in that which is good, the more he is glorified.
2. In order to our fruitfulness, we must abide in Christ, must keep up our union with him by faith, and do all we do in religion in the virtue of that union. Here is,
(1.) The duty enjoined (John 15:4; John 15:4): Abide in me, and I in you. Note, It is the great concern of all Christ's disciples constantly to keep up a dependence upon Christ and communion with him, habitually to adhere to him, and actually to derive supplies from him. Those that are come to Christ must abide in him: "Abide in me, by faith; and I in you, by my Spirit; abide in me, and then fear not but I will abide in you;" for the communion between Christ and believers never fails on his side. We must abide in Christ's word by a regard to it, and it in us as a light to our feet. We must abide in Christ's merit as our righteousness and plea, and it in us as our support and comfort. The knot of the branch abides in the vine, and the sap of the vine abides in the branch, and so there is a constant communication between them.
(2.) The necessity of our abiding in Christ, in order to our fruitfulness (John 15:4; John 15:5): "You cannot bring forth fruit, except you abide in me; but, if you do, you bring forth much fruit; for, in short, without me, or separate from me, you can do nothing." So necessary is it to our comfort and happiness that we be fruitful, that the best argument to engage us to abide in Christ is, that otherwise we cannot be fruitful. [1.] Abiding in Christ is necessary in order to our doing much good. He that is constant in the exercise of faith in Christ and love to him, that lives upon his promises and is led by his Spirit, bringeth forth much fruit, he is very serviceable to God's glory, and his own account in the great day. Note, Union with Christ is a noble principle, productive of all good. A life of faith in the Son of God is incomparably the most excellent life a man can live in this world; it is regular and even, pure and heavenly; it is useful and comfortable, and all that answers the end of life. [2.] It is necessary to our doing any good. It is not only a means of cultivating ad increasing what good there is already in us, but it is the root and spring of all good: "Without me you can do nothing: not only no great thing, heal the sick, or raise the dead, but nothing." Note, We have as necessary and constant a dependence upon the grace of the Mediator for all the actions of the spiritual and divine life as we have upon the providence of the Creator for all the actions of the natural life; for, as to both, it is in the divine power that we live, move, and have our being. Abstracted from the merit of Christ, we can do nothing towards our justification; and from the Spirit of Christ nothing towards our sanctification. Without Christ we can do nothing aright, nothing that will be fruit pleasing to God or profitable to ourselves, 2 Corinthians 3:5. We depend upon Christ, not only as the vine upon the wall, for support; but, as the branch on the root, for sap.
(3.) The fatal consequences of forsaking Christ (John 15:6; John 15:6): If any man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch. This is a description of the fearful state of hypocrites that are not in Christ, and of apostates that abide not in Christ. [1.] They are cast forth as dry and withered branches, which are plucked off because they cumber the tree. It is just that those should have no benefit by Christ who think they have no need of him; and that those who reject him should be rejected by him. Those that abide not in Christ shall be abandoned by him; they are left to themselves, to fall into scandalous sin, and then are justly cast out of the communion of the faithful. [2.] They are withered, as a branch broken off from the tree. Those that abide not in Christ, though they may flourish awhile in a plausible, at least a passable profession, yet in a little time wither and come to nothing. Their parts and gifts wither; their zeal and devotion wither; their credit and reputation wither; their hopes and comforts wither, Job 8:11-13. Note, Those that bear no fruit, after while will bear no leaves. How soon is that fig-tree withered away which Christ has cursed! [3.] Men gather them. Satan's agents and emissaries pick them up, and make an easy prey of them. Those that fall off from Christ presently fall in with sinners; and the sheep that wander from Christ's fold, the devil stands ready to seize them for himself. When the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, an evil spirit possessed him. [4.] They cast them into the fire, that is, they are cast into the fire; and those who seduce them and draw them to sin do in effect cast them there; for they make them children of hell. Fire is the fittest place for withered branches, for they are good for nothing else, Ezekiel 15:2-4. [5.] They are burned; this follows of course, but it is here added very emphatically, and makes the threatening very terrible. They will not be consumed in a moment, like thorns under a pot (Ecclesiastes 7:6), but kaietai, they are burning for ever in a fire, which not only cannot be quenched, but will never spend itself. This comes of quitting Christ, this is the end of barren trees. Apostates are twice dead (Jude 1:12), and when it is said, They are cast into the fire and are burned, it speaks as if they were twice damned. Some apply men's gathering them to the ministry of the angels in the great day, when they shall gather out of Christ's kingdom all things that offend, and shall bundle the tares for the fire.
(4.) The blessed privilege which those have that abide in Christ (John 15:7; John 15:7): If my words abide in you, you shall ask what you will of my Father in my name, and it shall be done. See here, [1.] How our union with Christ is maintained--by the word: If you abide in me; he had said before, and I in you; here he explains himself, and my words abide in you; for it is in the word that Christ is set before us, and offered to us, Romans 10:6-8. It is in the word that we receive and embrace him; and so where the word of Christ dwells richly there Christ dwells. If the word be our constant guide and monitor, if it be in us as at home, then we abide in Christ, and he in us. [2.] How our communion with Christ is maintained--by prayer: You shall ask what you will, and it shall be done to you. And what can we desire more than to have what we will for the asking? Note, Those that abide in Christ as their heart's delight shall have, through Christ, their heart's desire. If we have Christ, we shall want nothing that is good for us. Two things are implied in this promise:--First, That if we abide in Christ, and his word in us, we shall not ask any thing but what is proper to be done for us. The promises abiding in us lie ready to be turned into prayers; and the prayers so regulated cannot but speed. Secondly, That if we abide in Christ and his word we shall have such an interest in God's favour and Christ's mediation that we shall have an answer of peace to all our prayers.
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on John 15:7". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/​commentaries/​mhm/​john-15.html. 1706.
The Secret Power in Prayer January 8, 1888 by
C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)
© Copyright 2002 by Tony Capoccia. This updated file may be freely copied, printed out, and distributed as long as copyright and source statements remain intact, and that it is not sold. All rights reserved.
Verses quoted, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION © 1978 by the New York Bible Society, used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”--John 15:7
Beloved, the gifts of grace are not immediately enjoyed by new believers. Coming to Christ, we are saved by a true union with him; but it is by remaining in that union that we further receive the purity, the joy, the power, and the blessedness, which are stored up in him for his people. Notice how our Lord states this when he speaks to the believing Jews in the eighth chapter of this gospel, at the thirty-first and thirty-second verses, “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." We do not know all the truth at once: we learn it by remaining in Jesus. Perseverance in grace is an educational process by which we fully learn the truth. The emancipating power of that truth is also gradually perceived and enjoyed. “The truth will set you free.” One chain after another breaks, and we are truly set free. You that are new to the Christian life may be encouraged to know that there is still something better for you: you have not yet received the full reward for your faith. You will have joyful views of heavenly things as you climb the hill of spiritual experience. As you remain in Christ you will have firmer confidence, richer joy, greater stability, more communion with Jesus, and greater delight in the Lord your God. Infancy is troubled with many evils and problems from which manhood is exempt: it is the same in the spiritual as in the natural world.
There are these degrees of attainment among believers, and the Savior here motivates us to reach a high position by mentioning a certain privilege which is not for everyone who says that they are in Christ, but for only those who remain in him. Every believer must remain in Christ, but many have hardly earned the name yet. Jesus says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” You have to live with Christ to know him, and the longer you live with him the more will you admire and adore him; yes, and the more will you receive from him, grace for grace. Truly, for the person who is only a month old in grace, Christ is most blessed; but these babes can hardly tell what a precious Jesus he is to those who have known him for nearly half a century! To them Jesus grows sweeter and dearer, fairer and lovelier, day by day. Not that he improves in himself, for he is perfect; but that as we increase in our knowledge of him, we appreciate more thoroughly his unparalleled majesty and excellence. How vividly do his old acquaintances exclaim, “He is altogether lovely!” Oh, that we may continue to grow in knowledge of him in all things who is our master, so that we may treasure him more and more!
I ask for your serious attention to our text, begging you to consider with me three questions.
1. First, what is this special blessing? “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”
2. Secondly, how is this special blessing obtained? “If you remain in me and my words remain in you.”
3. Then, thirdly, why is it obtained in this way? Why is it that by remaining in Christ, and having his words remain in us, that we get this liberty and power in prayer?
Oh, that the anointing of the Holy Spirit which remains on us may now make this subject very profitable to us!
I. WHAT IS THIS SPECIAL BLESSING?
Let us read the verse again. Jesus says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”
Observe that our Lord has been warning us that, without him, we can do nothing, and, therefore, we might naturally have expected that he would now show us how we can do all spiritual acts. But the text does not run as we would have expected it to run. The Lord Jesus does not say, “Without me you can do nothing, but, if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you will do all spiritual and gracious things.” He doesn’t speak of what they themselves would be enabled to do, but of what would be given to them: “it will be given you.” He does not say, “Sufficient strength will be given to you for all those holy deeds of which you are incapable of apart from me.” That would have been true, and it is the truth which we expected here; but our most wise Lord goes well beyond what our hearts might have expected and says something even better. He does not say, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, you will do spiritual things”; but rather, “ask whatever you wish.” By prayer you will be enabled to do spiritual acts; but before all attempts to do them, “ask whatever you wish.” The choice privilege given here is a promise of powerful and successful prayers. Power in prayer is very much the gauge of our spiritual condition; and when that is highly evident in our lives, then we are blessed in every area of our lives.
One of the first results, then, of our remaining in Christ will be that we will pray to Him, “asking him whatever we wish.”
If others neither seek, nor knock, nor ask, yet we will. Those who stay away from Jesus do not pray. Those who neglect to have communion with Christ feel as if they are unable to pray; but Jesus says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish.” Prayer is spontaneous to those who remain in Jesus. Prayer is the natural outflow of a soul in communion with Jesus. Just as the leaf and the fruit will come out of the branch, without any conscious effort on the part of the branch, but simply because of its living union with the stem, so prayer buds, and blossoms, and fruits come out of souls remaining in Jesus. Just like stars shine, so do those who remain in Christ pray. It is their purpose and their second nature. They do not say to themselves, “Now it is the time for us to do our duty and pray.” No, they pray just like men eat, namely, when the desire comes upon them. They don’t cry out like those in bondage, saying, “I should be in prayer right now, but I do not feel like it. What a burden it is!” Rather they are happy and rejoice to go to the mercy-seat. Hearts that remain in Christ send forth supplications just like fires send out flames and sparks. Souls that remain in Jesus begin the day with prayer; prayer surrounds them like an atmosphere all day long; at night they fall asleep praying. I have known them to even dream a prayer, and, at any rate, they are joyfully able to say, “When I awake, I am still with you.” Habitual asking comes from remaining in Christ. You will not need to be urged to prayer when you remain in Jesus: he says, “Ask whatever you wish;” and depend on it, you will.
Another result of our remaining in Christ will be that we will most powerfully feel the necessity of prayer. Our great need of prayer will be clearly seen.
Do I hear you say, “I thought we have attained everything when we remain in Christ and his words remain in us?” Far from being satisfied with ourselves; it is then that we feel more than ever that we must ask for more grace. He that knows Christ best, knows his own needs best. He that is most conscious of life in Christ, is also most convinced of his own death apart from Christ. He who most clearly discerns the perfect character of Jesus, will be most urgent in prayer for grace to grow like him. The more I seek to remain in my Lord, the more I desire to obtain from him, since I know that all that is in him is put there for the purpose that I may receive it. The Bible says, “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another” [John 1:16 ]. It is in direct proportion as we are linked to Christ’s fullness that we feel the necessity of drawing from it by constant prayer.
Nobody needs to prove the doctrine of prayer to someone who remains in Christ, for we enjoy the personal experience of prayer itself. Prayer is now as much a necessity to our spiritual life as breath is to our natural life: we cannot live without asking favors from the Lord. “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish”: and you will not want to stop asking. He has said, “Seek my face,” and your heart will answer, “Lord, I will seek your face.”
We note next, that the fruit of our remaining in Christ is not only the exercise of prayer, and a sense of the necessity of prayer, but it also includes liberty in prayer: “ask whatever you wish.”
Haven’t you been on your knees at times without any power to pray? Haven’t you felt that you could not plead with God as you desired? You wanted to pray, but the waters were frozen, and would not flow. Sadly, you said, “I can’t pray.” The will was present, but not the freedom to present that will in prayer.
Dear friends, do you desire freedom in prayer, so that you may speak with God as a man speaks with his friend? Then here is the way to do it: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish.” I don’t mean that you will gain freedom as to mere eloquence of speech, for that is a very inferior gift. Eloquence in prayer is a questionable endowment, especially when it does not include the weight of thought and depth of feeling. Some Christians pray long prayers; but true prayer is measured by weight, and not by length. A single groan before God may have more fullness of prayer in it than a fine discourse of great length. Whoever dwells with God in Christ Jesus, they are the ones most active in prayer. They come boldly because they remain at the throne. They see the golden scepter stretched out, and hears the King saying, “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” It is the person who remains in conscious union with their Lord who has the greatest freedom in prayer. It is easy for them to often come to Christ, for they are in Christ, and remain in him. Don’t attempt to exercise this holy freedom by excitement, or presumption: there is only one way of really obtaining it, and here it is--“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish” Only by this way will you be enabled to open your mouth wide, so that God may fill it. Thus you will have power with God.
This is not all: those that remain in Christ have the privilege of successful prayer. “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”
You can’t get it on your own, but it will be given to you. You long to bear fruit: ask, and it will be given you. Look at the vine branch. It simply remains in the vine, and by remaining in the vine the fruit comes from it; it is given to it. Brothers and Sisters in Christ, the purpose of your life, its one object and aim, is to bear fruit to the glory of the Father: to gain this end you must remain in Christ, as the branch remains in the vine. This is the method by which your prayer for fruitfulness will become successful, “it will be given you.” You will have wonderful power with God in prayer, insomuch that before you pray he will answer, and while you are still speaking he will hear. “The desire of the righteous will be granted.” “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart” [Psalms 37:4 ]. There is great latitude in our text, “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” The Lord gives carte blanche to those who remain in him. He puts into their hand a signed check, and permits them to fill in any amount they wish.
Does the text mean what it says? I never knew my Lord to say anything he did not mean. I am sure that he may sometimes mean more than we understand him to say, but he never means less. Mind you, he does not say to all men and women, “I will give you whatever you ask.” Oh no, that would be a cruel kindness: but he speaks to his disciples, and says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” It is to a certain class of men and women who have already received abundant grace at his hands--it is to them that he gives this marvelous power of prayer. O my dear friends, if I may earnestly desire one thing above every other, it is this; that I may be able to ask what I wish of the Lord, and have it given to me. The minister who is diligent in prayer is the man that will find success in his preaching, for he should be able to prevail with man for God when he has already prevailed with God for men. This is also true for the man facing difficulties in any line of business; for what can baffle him when he can take everything to God in prayer? This kind of man or woman in a church, is worth ten thousand of us common people. In these we find the nobility of the skies. In these are the men and women in whom is fulfilled God’s purpose concerning mankind, whom he made to have dominion over his creation. The stamp of sovereignty is on the foreheads of these men and women: they shape the history of the nations, they guide the current of events through their power in prayer with the Almighty God. We see Jesus with all things put under him by the divine purpose, and as we rise into that image, we too are clothed with dominion, and are made kings and priests unto God. See Elijah, with the keys of the rain swinging at his side: he shuts or opens the windows of heaven! There are such men and women still alive today. Aspire to be such men and women, I beg you, that in you, the text may be fulfilled. “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”
Additionally, the text seems to imply that, if we reach this point of freedom in prayer, this gift will be continual: “Ask,” you will always ask; you will never stop asking, but you will ask successfully, for “ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” Here we have the gift of continual prayer.
This prevailing power in prayer is not just for a week of prayer, nor for a month of prayer, nor just for a few special occasions; but you will possess this power with God as long as you remain in Christ, and his words remain in you--read the Bible, memorize Scripture, love the Word, love Christ with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength! God will put his omnipotence at your disposal: The entire Trinity will be available to fulfill the desires which the Holy Spirit has planted in you. I wish I could make this jewel glitter before the eyes of all the saints till they cried out, “Oh that we had such power in prayer!” This power in prayer is like the sword of Goliath: may every David say, “There is none like it; give it me.”
This weapon of prevailing prayer defeats the enemy, and, at the same time, enriches its possessor with all the wealth of God. How can anyone lack anything to whom the Lord has said, “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”? Oh, come, let us seek this blessing. Listen, and learn the way. Follow me, while by the light of the text I point out the path. May the Lord lead us in it by his Holy Spirit!
II. How does one obtain the privilege of having powerful prayers? The answer is, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you.” Here are the two feet by which we climb to power with God in prayer.
Beloved, the first part of our text tells us that we are to remain in Christ Jesus our Lord. It is taken for granted that we are already in him. Can it be taken for granted in your case too, dear listener? If so, you are to remain where you are. As believers we are to remain tenaciously clinging to Jesus, lovingly knit to Jesus.
We are to remain in him, by always trusting him, and him only, with the same simple faith which joined us to him in the beginning.
We must never admit any other thing or person into our heart’s confidence as our hope of salvation, but rest alone in Jesus as we received him at the first. His divinity, his manhood, his life, his death, his resurrection, his glory at the right hand of the Father--in a word, Jesus himself must be our heart’s sole reliance. This is absolutely essential. A temporary faith will not save: a continuing faith is needed.
But remaining in the Lord Jesus does not only mean trusting in him; it includes our yielding ourselves up to him to receive his life, and to let that life work out its results in us.
We remain in him when we live by him, for him, and to him. We feel that all our separate life has gone: for “we have died, and our life is now hidden with Christ in God.” [Colossians 3:3 ] We are nothing if we do not remain in Jesus; we would be withered branches, and fit only to be thrown into the fire. We have no reason for existence except that which we find in Christ; and what a marvelous reason that is! The vine needs the branch as truly as the branch needs the vine. No vine ever bore any fruit except on its branches. Truly it produces all the branches, and so produces all the fruit; but yet it is by the branch that the vine displays its fruitfulness. Thus believers that remain in Christ are necessary to the fulfillment of their Lord’s design. What a wonderful statement, that the saints are also essential to their Savior! The church is his body; His fullness fills everyone. I want you to recognize this, so that you may see your blessed responsibility, your practical obligation to produce fruit, that the Lord Jesus may be glorified in you. Remain in him. Never cease from being dedicated to his honor and glory. Never dream of being your own master. Don’t be the servant of men, but remain in Christ. Let Jesus be the object, as well as the source, of your existence. Oh, if you can so dedicate and consecrate yourselves that you achieve perpetual communion with your Lord, then you will soon realize a joy, a delight, a power in prayer, such as you never knew before.
There are times when we are conscious that we are in Christ, and we know and sense our fellowship with him; and oh, the joy and the peace which we drink from this cup! Let us remain there. “Remain in me,” says Jesus. You are not to come and go, but to remain. Let that blessed sinking of yourself into his life, the spending of all your powers for Jesus, and the firm faith of your union with him continually remain in you. Oh, that we might attain to this by the Holy Spirit!
As if to help us to understand this, our gracious Lord has given us a delightful parable. Let us look through this discourse of the vine and its branches. Jesus says, “…every branch in me that bears…fruit [I will] prune so that it will be even more fruitful” [John 15:2 ]. Be careful that you remain in Christ when you are being pruned. “Oh,” someone says, “I thought I was a Christian; but, sadly! I now have more troubles than ever before: men ridicule me, the devil tempts me, and my business affairs go wrong.” Brother, if you are to have power in prayer you must be careful that you remain in Christ when the sharp pruning knife is cutting everything away. Endure the trial, and never dream of giving up your faith because of it. Say, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” [Job 13:15 ] Your Lord warned you when you first came into the vine that you would have to be pruned and cut closely; and if you are now feeling the pruning process, you must not think that some strange thing has happened to you. Don’t rebel because of anything you may have to suffer from the dear hand of your heavenly Father, who is the cultivator of the vineyard. No, but cling to Jesus all the more closely. Say to him, “Cut, Lord, cut to the quick if you wish; for I will still cling to you. To whom shall I go? You have the words of eternal life.” Yes, cling to Jesus when the pruning knife is in his hand, and then “ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”
Also be careful that when the pruning operation has been carried out, that you still cleave to your Lord.
Notice the third and fourth verse: “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you” [John 15:3 ]. “Remain in me, and I will remain in you” [John 15:4 ]. Remain after the cleansing where you were before the cleansing. When you are sanctified, remain where you were when you were first justified. When you see the work of the Spirit increasing in you, don’t let the devil tempt you to boast that now you are somebody, and don’t need to come to Jesus as a poor sinner, and rest alone in his precious blood for salvation. Still remain in Jesus. As you stayed in him when the knife cut you, stay in him now that the tender grapes begin to form. Don’t say to yourself, “What a fruitful branch I am! How greatly I adorn the vine! Now I am full of energy and vitality!” My friend, you are nothing and nobody. Only as you remain in Christ are you one bit better than the scrap wood which is burned in the fire. “But don’t we make progress?” Yes, we grow, but we remain: we never go an inch further, we remain in him; or, if not, we will be cut off and will become withered. Our only hope lies in Jesus during our best times as well as during our worst. Jesus said, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I have remained in you” [John 15:3-4 ].
We must remain in Christ in order to bear fruit.
“No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.” We cannot bear fruit unless we remain in Christ. Someone cries out, “Great! Then, I have something to do.” Certainly you have, but not apart from Jesus. The branch has to bear fruit; but if the branch thinks that it is going to produce a cluster, or even a single grape, all by itself, it is utterly mistaken. The fruit of the branch must come out of the stem. Your work for Christ must be Christ’s work in you, or else it will be good for nothing. I pray that you see to this. Your Sunday-school teaching, your preaching, or whatever you do, must be done in Christ Jesus. You can not win souls by your natural talent, nor can you save men and women by your own plans. Beware of homemade schemes. Do for Jesus what Jesus commands you to do. Remember that our work for Christ, as we call it, must be Christ’s work first, if it is to be accepted by him. Remain in him if you ever wish to bear fruit.
Yes, remain in him as to your very life.
Don’t say, “I have been a Christian man now for twenty or thirty years, I can do without continued dependence upon Christ.” No, you cannot do anything without him, even if you were as old as Methuselah. Your very being as a Christian depends on your still clinging, still trusting, still depending; and this he must give you, for it all comes from him, and him alone.
To sum it all up, if you want that splendid power in prayer of which I just now spoke, you must remain in a loving, living, lasting, conscious, practical, remaining union with the Lord Jesus Christ; and if you attain that by divine grace, then you may ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.
But there is a second qualification mentioned in the text, and you must not forget it-- “…and my words remain in you...”
How important, then, are Christ’s words! He said in the fourth verse, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you,” and now as a parallel to this it is, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you.” What? Are Christ’s words and his person identical--one and the same? Yes, practically speaking. Some people talk about Christ being their Master, but they don’t care what his word declares about doctrines. So long as their hearts are right towards his person they claim freedom of thought. Yes, but this is a mere ploy. We cannot separate Christ from the Word; for, in the first place, he is the Word; and, in the next place, how dare we call him Master and Lord and do not obey his commands, and reject the truth which he teaches? We must obey his commands or he will not accept us as disciples. Especially that command of love which is the essence of all his words. We must love God and our brothers and sisters; yes, we must take pleasure in loving everyone, and seek their good. Anger and hatred must not be a part of us. We must walk even as he walked. If Christ’s words don’t remain in you, both as to belief and practice, then you are not in Christ. Christ and his gospel and his commands are one. If you will not have Christ and his words, neither will he have you nor your words; and you will ask in vain, you will in time give up asking, you will become like a withered branch. Beloved, I am persuaded of better things in your case, and things that accompany salvation, that is why I speak as I do.
Oh for grace to pass through these two gates, these two golden doors! “If you remain in me and my words remain in you.” Push through the two doors, and enter into this spacious room--“Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”
III. Lastly this morning, a question, WHY IS IT THAT BY REMAINING IN CHRIST, AND HAVING HIS WORDS REMAIN IN US, THAT WE GET THIS LIBERTY AND POWER IN PRAYER?
Why is this extraordinary power of prayer given to those who remain in Christ? I pray that what I have to say may encourage you to make the glorious attempt to win this pearl of great price!
1. I answer, first, we get this liberty and power in prayer because of the fullness of Christ.
You can ask whatever you wish, when you remain in Christ, because whatever you may require already resides in him. Do you desire the grace of the Spirit? Go to your Lord’s anointing by the Holy Spirit at his baptism. Do you seek holiness? Go to his example. Do you desire pardon of sin? Look to his blood. Do you need mortification of sin? Look to his crucifixion. Do you need to be buried to the world? Go to his tomb. Do you want to feel the fullness of a heavenly life? Behold his resurrection. Would you rise above the world? Note his ascension. Would you contemplate heavenly things? Remember he sits at the right hand of God, and know that God has “raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms.”
It is clear why the branch gets all that it wishes while it abides in the stem, since all it could ever wish is already in the stem, and is placed there for the sake of the branch. What does the branch want more than the stem can give it? If it did want more it could not get it; for it has no other means of living but by sucking its life out of the stem. O my precious Lord, if I want anything which is not in you, then I will always desire to be without it. I desire to be denied a wish which wanders outside of you. But if everything I need and wish for is already in you, waiting to be given to me, why should I go elsewhere? You are my everything; where else should I look? Beloved, “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Christ” [Colossians 1:19 ], and the good pleasure of the Father is our good pleasure also: we are glad to draw everything from Jesus. We feel sure that we can ask whatever we wish, and it will be given to us, because he has it ready for us.
2. The next reason why we get this liberty and power in prayer is because of the richness of the Word of God.
Catch this thought, “If my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” The best praying Christian is the one who knows and believes in the promises of God. After all, prayer is nothing but taking God’s promises to him, and saying to him, “My Lord, do as you have said that you would do.” Prayer is the promise utilized. A prayer which is not based on a promise has no true foundation. You that have Christ’s words remaining in you are equipped with those things which the Lord pays close attention too. If the Word of God remains in you, you are the person that can pray, because you commune with the great God of the universe using his own words, and thus overcome omnipotence with omnipotence. You put your finger down on the very lines, and say, “Father, do as you have said you would.” This is the best praying in all the world. O beloved, be filled with God’s Word. Study what Jesus has said, what the Holy Spirit has had recorded in this divinely inspired Book, and in proportion as you feed on the Word, and are filled with the Word, and retain the Word in your faith, and obey the Word in your life--in that same proportion you will be a master in the art of prayer. You have acquired skill as a wrestler with the covenant angel in proportion as you can plead the promises of your faithful God. Be well instructed in the doctrines of grace, and let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, that you may know how to prevail at the throne of grace. Remaining in Christ, and his words remaining in you, are like the right hand and the left hand of Moses, which were held up in prayer, so that the Amalekites were destroyed, Israel was delivered, and God was glorified.
But, let us go a little further: you still may say you do not quite see why a person who remains in Christ, and in whom Christ’s words remain, should be allowed to ask whatever they wish, and have it given to them.
3. I answer you again: we get this liberty and power in prayer, because in such a man as that there is a abundance of grace which causes him to have a renewed will, which is according to the will of God.
Suppose a man of God is in prayer, and he desires a certain thing, yet he remembers that he is nothing but a babe in the presence of his all-wise Father, and so he submits his will, and asks the Father what he should ask for. Even though God commands him to ask whatever he wishes, he shrinks back and cries out, “My Lord, here is a request which I am not quite sure about. As far as I can tell, it is a desirable thing, and I wish to have it; but, Lord, I am not fit to judge for myself, and therefore I pray that you do not give me what I wish, but what you will.”
Dear friends, don’t you see that, when we are in such a condition as this, our will is God’s will? Deep down in our hearts we wish for only that which the Lord himself wills; and what is this, that all we have to do is to ask whatever we wish, and it will be given to us? It is safe for God to say to the holy Christian, “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you.” The heavenly instincts of that man leads him in the right direction; the grace that is within his soul suppresses all greedy lusts and evil desires, and his will is the actual shadow of God’s will. The spiritual life is the master within him, and so his aspirations are holy, heavenly, and Godlike. He has been made a partaker of the divine nature; and as a son is like his father, so now in desire and will he is one with his God. As the echo answers to the voice, so does the renewed heart echo the mind of the Lord. Our desires are reflections of the divine will: ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.
We can clearly see that the holy God cannot say to an unbeliever, “I will give you whatever you wish for.” What would he ask for? He would ask for another drink, or permission to enjoy himself in evil lust. It would be very unsafe to trust the wishes of most unsaved men and women. But when the Lord has taken a person, and has made them a new creation, and has formed them in the image of his dear Son, then he can trust them! Behold, our Father in heaven treats us as he treats his Firstborn. Jesus could say, “I know that you always hear me” and the Lord is teaching us the very same assurance. We can say with confidence, “My God will hear me.”
Don’t your mouths water for this privilege of prevailing prayer? Don’t your hearts long to get at this? It is through holiness, it is through union with Christ, it is by permanently remaining in him, and obediently holding firm to his truth, that you are to come to this privilege. It is the only safe and true way. Once we truly walk in that way, we will then find that it is a most sure and effectual way of gaining substantial power in prayer.
4. I am not quite done yet. A man or woman we get this liberty and power in prayer when their faith is strong; and this is the case with those who remain in Jesus.
It is faith that prevails in prayer. The real eloquence of prayer is a believing desire. “Everything is possible for him who believes” [Mark 9:23 ]. A man remaining in Christ with Christ’s words remaining in him, is eminently a believer, and consequently eminently successful in prayer. He surely has strong faith, for his faith has brought him into vital contact with Christ, and he is therefore at the source of every blessing, and may drink as much as he wants at the well itself.
5. Such a person, once more, will also possess the indwelling of the Spirit of God.
If we remain in Christ, and his words remain in us, then the Holy Spirit has come and taken up his residence in us; and what better help in prayer can we have? Isn’t it a wonderful thing that the Holy Spirit himself makes intercession for the saints in accordance with the will of God? He “himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” [Romans 8:26 ]. “Who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” [1 Corinthians 2:11 ]. The Spirit of God knows the mind of God, and he works in us to will what God wills, so that a believing man’s prayer is God’s purpose reflected in the soul just like in a mirror. The eternal decrees of God project their shadows over the hearts of godly men and women in the form of prayer. What God intends to do he tells to his servants by inclining them to ask him to do what he himself is resolved to do. God says, “I the LORD have spoken, and I will do it,” but then he adds, “I will yield to the plea of the house of Israel and do this for them” [Ezekiel 36:37 ].” Beloved, how clear it is, that if we remain in Christ, and his words remain in us, we may ask whatever we wish! For we will only ask what the Spirit of God moves us to ask; and it would be impossible that God the Holy Spirit and God the Father would ever be in opposition to one another. What the one prompts us to ask, the other has assuredly determined to bestow.
I just said something just now to which I must return for a single moment. Beloved, don’t you know that when we remain in Christ, and his words remain in us, the Father looks upon us with the same eye with which he looks upon his dear Son? Christ is the vine, and the vine includes the branches. The branches are a part of the vine. God, therefore, looks on us as part of Christ--members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. Such is the Father’s love to Jesus that he denies him nothing. He was obedient to death, even the death of the cross; therefore his Father loves him as the God-man Mediator, and he will grant him all his petitions. And is it true, that when you and I are in real union with Christ, the Lord God looks on us in the same way as he looks on Jesus, and says to us, “I will deny you nothing; you will ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you”? This is how I understand our text.
I call your attention to the fact that in that fifteenth chapter, the ninth verse, which I did not read this morning, it says: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.” The same love which God gives to his Son, the Son gives to us; and therefore we dwell in the love of the Father and of the Son. How can our prayers be rejected? Will not infinite love have respect for our petitions?
O dear brothers and sisters in Christ, if your prayers are not quickly answered at the throne, suspect that there is some sin that hinders them: your Father’s love sees a necessity for disciplining you in this way. If you don’t remain in Christ, how can you hope to pray successfully? If you pick and choose his words to believe, and doubt this or that verse, how can you hope to be successful at the throne? If you are willfully disobedient to any one of his words, won’t this account for failure in prayer? But remain in Christ and hold on firmly to his words, and be a totally committed disciple, then he will hear your prayers. Sitting at Jesus’ feet, hearing his words, you may lift up your eyes to his dear face, and say, “My Lord, hear me now”; and he will graciously answer you: he will say to you, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” Oh for power at the mercy-seat of God!
Beloved friends, don’t listen to this sermon, and then go away and forget it. Try to reach this place of unlimited influence with God. What a church we would be, if you were all mighty in prayer! Dear children of God, do you want to be half starved? Beloved brothers and sisters, do you desire to be poor, little, puny, babbling children, who will never grow up into men and women? I pray that you aspire to be strong in the Lord, and to enjoy this exceptional privilege. What an army we would be if we all had this power with God in prayer! It is within your reach, you children of God! Only remain in Christ, and let his words remain in you, and then this special privilege will be yours. These are not tiresome duties, but they are in themselves a joy. Do them with your whole heart, and then you will get this added to you, that you will ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.
Sadly, for some in this congregation my text says nothing at all; for some of you are not even in Christ, and therefore you cannot remain in him. O people, what will I say to you? You seem to me to be missing the very opportunity for heaven. Even if there were no hell to come after this life, it is hell enough not to know Christ now, not to know what it is to prevail with God in prayer, not to know the choice privilege of remaining in him, and his words remaining in you.
Your first priority right now is that you believe in Jesus Christ in order to save your souls, yielding your souls to his cleansing, your lives to his commands and authority, God has sent him into the world as a Savior, accept him. Receive him as your Teacher; yield yourself up to him as your Master. May his gracious Spirit come and do this work upon you now; and then, after this, but not before, you may aspire to this honor. First of all--“You must be born again.” I cannot say to you as you are now, “Grow,” because you will only grow into a bigger sinner.
No matter how much you may grow and develop, you will only grow and develop what is in you: and that is, you will become more a child of the devil and thereby receive more and more the wrath of God. You must become a new creation in Christ: there must be an absolute change, a reversal of all that you are, thus making you a new creature in Christ Jesus; and then you may aspire to remain in Christ, and let his words remain in you, and the resulting power with God in prayer will be yours.
Gracious Lord, help us this morning. Poor creatures that we are, we can only lie at your feet. Please come, and lift us up to yourself, for your mercy’s sake! Amen.
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on John 15:7". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://studylight.org/​commentaries/​spe/​john-15.html. 2011.
In John 15:1-27 our Lord substitutes Himself for Israel, as the plant of God, responsible to bear fruit for Him on earth (not merely for man, as such, openly sinful and lost). He takes the place of that which most put itself forward as being according to God here below. As our Lord Himself said (in John 4:1-54), "Salvation is of the Jews:" this place of privilege and promise made their actual condition so much the guiltier. Our Lord, therefore, sets aside openly, and for ever, as regards those that He was now calling out of the world, all connection with Israel. "I am the true vine," He says. We all know that Israel of old is called the vine the vine that the Lord had brought out of Egypt. But Israel was empty, fruitless, false: Christ was the only true vine. Whatever might be the responsibility of Israel, whatever their boasted privileges (and they really were much every way), whatever the associations and hopes of the chosen people, all outside Christ had fallen under the power of the adversary. The only blessing for a soul now was found in Christ Himself; and so He opens the discourse (or, as we saw, closes what went before) with "Rise up: let us go hence." There was an abandonment, not only for Himself, but for them, of all connection with nature, or the world, even in their religion. It was Christ now, or nothing. As in the beginning of John 13:1-38, He had risen up anticipatively as a sign of His work for them on high; so here He calls them to quit all their earthly belongings with Himself; they were now definitively done with. Thus we have the Lord taking now the place substitutionally of all that had exercised religious power over their spirits. It was now proved to be neither a blessing nor even safety for a soul on earth.
"I," He says, "am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman." He puts Himself in the place of all to which they had been attached and belonged here below, and the Father in lieu of Almighty God, or the Jehovah of Israel. So had He been known. to the fathers and the children of Israel; but it was His Father, as such, to whose care He commends them now. "Every branch in me that beareth not fruit;" for fruit was what God looked for, not merely acts or obligations, but bearing fruit: "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." This is the general statement. There is a two-fold dealing with those who took the place of being branches of the true vine. Where no fruit was borne, there was judgment in excision; where fruit appeared, purging followed, that there might be more.
The Lord applies this truth particularly: "Already ye are clean through the word that I have spoken to you. Exhortation follows in verses 4, 5; the results distinctively for "a man," for any one ( τις ) who does not abide, and for the disciples who do, are found respectively in verse 6, and in verses 7, 8.
In this chapter it is never simply a question of divine grace saving sinners, blotting out iniquities, remembering sins and transgressions no more; but the power of the word is morally applied to judge whatever is contrary to God's character displayed in Christ, or, rather, to the Father's will revealed in Him. No standard less than this could be entertained, now that Christ was revealed. They then (for Judas was gone) were already clean through the word Christ had spoken to them. The law of Moses, divine as it was, would not suffice: it was negative; but Christ's word is positive. "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me." It is not what God is in grace towards those that are outside Him and lost, but the appraisal of the ways of those associated with Christ, the dealings of God, or more strictly of His Father, with those who professed to belong to the Lord. I say "professed," because it is to me evident that He does not contemplate in His view those exclusively who really had life everlasting. Still less do branches of the vine mean the same thing as members of Christ's body, but His followers, who might even abandon Him, as some in the earliest days walked no more with Him. This alone explains our chapter, without forcing it.
The Lord, then, has in view those who then surrounded Him, already branches in the vine, and, of course, in principle, all that should follow, including those that would nominally, and at first to all appearance really, abandon Israel and all things for Him. It was no light matter, but one of much seriousness; and surely, therefore, if a man did thus come out from all that claimed his affections and conscience, from his religion; in short, if a man came out at the cost of every thing, finding most of all foes in those of his own household, there was that which presumed sincerity of conduct, but had still to be proved. The proof would be abiding in Christ. There is no word more characteristic of John than the very word "abiding," and this in the way both of grace and of government. Here it is the disciples put to the proof. For Christianity is the revelation, not of a dogma, but of a person who has wrought redemption; doubtless, also, of a person in whom is life, and who gives it. Thence flows a new sort of responsibility; and a very important thing it is to see this most strikingly kept up in him, who, of all the evangelists, most strongly brings in the absolute unconditional love of God. Take the early part of the gospel, where the gift of Jesus in divine love, the sending Him into the world not to judge, but to save, makes known what God is to a lost world. There we have grace without a single thought of any thing on man's part, save the depth of need. "For God," He says, "so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." (John 3:16-17) But here the ground is different. We see those who had come out to Christ from all that they had previously valued in the earth. Alas! flesh is capable of imitating faith; it can go a long way in religiousness, and in renunciation of the profane world. Soon there would be multitudes who would come out from Israel and be baptized unto Christ; but still they must be fully tested. None would stand by baptism, or by any other ordinance, but by abiding in Christ.
"Abide in me, and I in you." Here He always puts man's part first, because it is a question, as we have seen, of responsibility; where it is the grace of God, His part is first necessarily, and, further, it necessarily abides. Whereas, if man's responsibility is before us, it is evident that there can be no necessary permanence here: all turns on dependence on Him who always abides the same yesterday, today, and for ever. Thus the reality of God's work in the soul proves itself, so to speak, by continual looking and clinging to Christ. In verse 4 it is not, "Except I abide in you," but, "Except ye abide in me."
"I am the vine, and 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." (Verse 5) It is not here believing, but "doing," though faith be the spring, of course. The Lord would have us bear much fruit, and the only way in which fruit is to be borne is by abiding in Him in whom we believe. What can be a weightier consideration for us, after receiving Christ! Do you go after some other thing or person in order to bear fruit? The result in God's sight is bad fruit.
Thus Christ is not only everlasting life to the soul that believes in Him, but He is the only source of fruit-bearing, all the course through, for those that have received Him. The secret is the heart occupied with Him, the soul dependent on Him, Himself the object in all trials, difficulties, and duties even; so that, though a given thing be a duty, it be not done now barely as such, but with Christ before the eye of faith. But where there is not a life exercised in self-judgment and in enjoyment of Christ. as well as prayer, men get tired of this; they turn away from Him to the nostrums of the day, whether novel or antique, moral or intellectual. They find their attraction in religious feelings, experiences, frames, or visions; in imagining some new good self, or in anatomizing the old bad self; in sacerdotalism, ordinances, or legalism, of one sort or another. Thus they really return, in some shape or degree, to the false vine, instead of cleaving to the true. They lose themselves thus. It may even be a slip back into the world, into the open enemy of the Father; for this is no uncommon result, where there is for a time an abandonment of the old fleshly vine, the religion of ordinances, of human effort, and of assumed privilege. All this was found in its fulness and apparent perfection in Israel; but it was now discovering its utter hopeless hollowness and antagonism to the mind of God; and this was manifested, as we shall find later on in this chapter, in their causeless hatred of the Father and the Son. Christ is ever the test, and this the close declares, as much as the beginning sets Him forth as the only power of preparing for, and producing fruit.
This appears again in the sixth verse, and remarkably too: "If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch." Apply such language to life everlasting, or, still more, to union with Christ, and there is nothing but endless confusion. Where Scripture speaks of union with Christ, or, again, of life in Him, you never have such a thought as a member of Christ cut off, or one that had eternal life losing it. It is very possible that some who have accurate knowledge might give it, or plunge into all; and this is what Peter speaks of in his second epistle. There is no preservative energy in knowledge ever so full. Such might allow stumbling-blocks, disappointments, etc., to hinder their following Christ, and so practically abandon what they know, the result of which would be the surest and most disastrous ruin. They are worse even than before. So Jude speaks of men twice dead; and, in fact, experience proves that men who have no life in Christ, after having professed awhile, become fiercer adversaries, if not grosser sinners, against the Lord than before any such profession was made.
This is the case our Lord describes here: "If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned." It was one who had come out from the world, and had followed Christ. But there was no attraction of heart, no power of faith, and consequently no dependence on Christ; and this is the Lord's sentence pronounced on all such, whether in that day or in any other.
On the other hand, He says, "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." Not only is the heart occupied with Christ, but also His words weigh there. The Old Testament alone would not suffice. It had been used of God when there was nothing more. Blessed of God at all times it would surely be; and he that valued Christ's words would never slight those that witnessed of Christ before He came. But the soul that would make light of the words of Christ, or do without them, after they were communicated, would evince its own faithlessness. The Christian that really prizes the word of God in the Old Testament would still more set his heart on that in the New. He that had no more than a naturally reverent attachment to the law and the prophets, without faith, would prove his real condition by inattention to Christ's words. Thus, to this day, the Jews are themselves the great witness of the truth of our Lord's warning. They are clinging to the empty vine; and so all their religious profession is as empty before God. They may seem to cleave to the words of Moses, but it is mere human tenacity, not divine faith: else the words of Christ would be welcome above all. As the Lord had told them at an earlier moment, had they believed Moses, they would have believed Christ. for Moses wrote of Christ: in truth, there was no divine persuasion as to either. Again, the great test now is Christ's words abiding in us. Old truth, even though equally of God as the new, ceases to be a test when new truth is given and refused, or slighted; and the same thing is true not merely of God's word as a whole, but of a particular truth, when God reawakens it at any given time for the actual exigency of the Church or of His work. It is vain, for instance, to fall back now on the principles put forward and acted on two or three hundred years ago. Of course it is right and of God to hold fast all He gave at any time; but if there be real faith, it will be found out ere long that the Holy Ghost has before Him the present need for the Lord's glory in the Church; and those that have real confidence in His power will not merely hold fast the old but accept the new, in order so much the more to walk in communion with Him who ever watches and works for the name of Christ and the blessing of His saints.
In this case, however, it is the larger subject the all-importance of Christ's words abiding in us: "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you." There is first the person, then the expression of His mind. Prayer follows: "Ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." It is not prayer first (for this should not take the place either of Christ or of intelligence in His mind), but Christ Himself, the prime object; then His words, as forming fully the heart, according to His thoughts and will; and, lastly, the going out of the heart to the Father, on the ground both of Christ and of His revealed mind, with the annexed assurance that so it should come to pass for them. (Verse 7)
The prayer of Christians is often far from this. How many prayers are there where nothing seems to be done! This way be true, not merely of poor failing souls, such as any of us here; but even an apostle might find the same thing in his course, and God Himself be the witness of it. Indeed, the apostle Paul is the chronicler of the fact to us, that his prayers were not always in this communion. We know he besought the Lord thrice to take away that which was an immense trial to him, making him despicable in the eyes of the less spiritual. We can understand this: nothing is more natural; but, for that very reason, it was not all in the power of the Spirit of God, with Christ as the first object. He was thinking of himself, of his brethren, and of the work; but God graciously brought him to Christ, as the One sustained and sustaining object to abide in Him, as it is said here, and to have Christ's words abiding in himself, and then all the resources of God were at his command. "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (Compare also Philippians 4:6-13) It is only so that there is the certainty of the answer, at least, of what we ask being done.
The object is to show how God the Father answers and acts in accordance with those who are thus practically associated in heart with Christ. And so it is written, "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit, and ye shall become my disciples." (Verse 8) "Disciples," be it noted; for we must carefully bear in mind that we have not the Church as such here, and, indeed, we have never the Church, strictly speaking, in John. The reason is manifest, because the object of this gospel is not to point out Christ in heaven, but God manifesting Himself in Christ on the earth. I do not mean that we have no allusion to His ascent or presence there; for we have seen that there is here some such allusion, especially when the Holy Ghost replaces Him here, and we shall have it repeatedly in what follows. At the same time, the main testimony of John is not so much Christ as man in heaven, but God in Him manifest on the earth. It is evident that, He being the Son, the special place of privilege found in the gospel of John is that of children not members of Christ's body, but sons of God, as receiving and associated with the Son, the only-begotten Son of the Father.
Here He speaks of them as disciples; for, in point of fact, the relationship of which John 15:1-27 speaks was already true. They had already come to Christ; they had forsaken all to follow Him, and were then around Him. He was the Vine now and here. It was not a new place He was going to enter. They, too, were branches then, and more than that, they were clean through the word He had spoken to them. Not that they were then cleansed by blood, but, at least, they were born of water and of the Spirit. They had this cleansing, this moral operation, of the Spirit wrought in their souls. They were bathed or washed all over, and henceforth needed not save to wash their feet.
"As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue [abide] ye in my love." (Ver. 9) It is all a question of the Father's government and the disciples' responsibility; not of a people having to do with a governor nationally, as Jehovah was to Israel, but of Christ's disciples in relation with the Father, according to the revelation of Himself in Christ. Nor is it here His grace delivering souls, but, what is true along with that, the full maintenance of individual responsibility, according to the manifestation of His nature and relationship in Christ here below. Thus, as compared with the past, the standard is raised immensely. For when once God had brought out Christ, He neither could nor would go back to anything less. It is not merely that He could not own anything short of Christ as a means of salvation, because this is always true; and never was any one brought to God at any time since the world began save by Christ, however scanty the testimony or partial the knowledge of Him. Under the law there was, comparatively speaking, little or no acquaintance with His work as a distinct thing, nor could there be, perhaps (at any rate there was not), even after He came, till the work was done. But here we have God's ways and character as manifested in Christ, and nothing less than this would suit His disciples, or be agreeable to the Father. As already remarked, the application of this to life everlasting only induces contradiction. Thus, if we suppose that the subject of the chapter is, e.g., life or union with Christ, just see into what difficulties this false start plunges one at once: all would be made conditional, and those united to Christ might be lost. "If ye keep my commandments" what has that to do with life eternal in Christ? Does union with Christ, does life eternal, depend on keeping His commandments? Clearly not; yet there is a meaning, and a most weighty meaning for those that belong to Christ, in these words. Apply them, not to grace but to government, and all is plain and sure and consistent.
The meaning is, that it is impossible to produce fruit for the Father, impossible to keep up the enjoyment of Christ's love, unless there be obedience, and this to Christ's commandments. I repeat, that he who values the Master will not despise the servant; but there are many who do acknowledge their responsibility to the law of Moses without appreciating and obeying the words of Christ. He that loves Christ will enjoy all truth, because Christ is the truth. He will cherish every expression of God's mind; he will find guidance in the law, the prophets, the psalms everywhere; and so much the more where there is the fullest revelation of Christ Himself. Christ is the true light. Therefore, as long as Christ is not the One in and through whose light the Scriptures, whether old or new, are read, a man is but groping his way in the dark. When he sees and believes in the Son, there is for him a sure way through the wilderness, and also a bright way in the word of God. The darkness passes away; bondage is no more; there is no condemnation, but, on the contrary, life, light, and liberty; but, at the same time, it is a liberty used in the sense of responsibility to please our God and Father, measured by the revelation of Himself in Christ.
So the Lord says, "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." The consequence is, that where there is carelessness in one who belongs to Christ, in a living, branch of the vine, the Father as the husbandman deals in purging judgment. Where habitual obedience is found, there is habitual enjoyment of Christ's love. "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full."
Supposing that for a time there is a departure from Christ, what is the effect of it? No matter how really a man may be a child of God, he is miserable; the more real, the more miserable. One that had not a conscience exercised before God might sleep over sin and accustom himself to evil for a while; and an unreal disciple would grow. tired of carrying on the profession of Christ along with indulged evil; nor would God allow it to go beyond a certain point as an ordinary rule. But for a saint, true-hearted in the main, nothing is more certain than that Christ would deal with him, and that he would lose meanwhile all sense of the love of Christ as a present practical thing. It is a matter of communion, not of salvation. And surely it ought to be so, and we would not desire it to be otherwise. Who would desire an unreal thing the keeping up an appearance, the parade of words and sentiments beyond the heart's state? There is nothing more calamitous for a soul than to be going on badly, and withal keeping up a vain, exaggerated semblance of feeling, where there is a scanty answer to it within.
With the enjoyment of Christ's love, then, goes obedience; and where the disciple fails in obedience, there cannot be a real abiding in His love. Here it is not a question of love everlasting, but of present communion. He only abides in Christ's love who walks in His will faithfully. We must discriminate in the love of Christ. Unconditionally, of pure grace, He loved them that were His. Again, there was love, in a broad sense even for those that were not His, as we have seen more than once. Besides, there is the special personal love of approbation for him who is walking in the ways of God.
Some there are a little sensitive on these subjects. They do not like to hear, save of eternal love of the elect; and certainly, if this were weakened or denied, they might have reason to resent it. But as it is there cannot be a more painful proof of their own state. The reason why they cannot bear this farther truth is because it condemns them. If these things are in Scripture, (and deny them who dares?) our business is to submit; our duty is to seek to understand them; our wisdom is to correct and challenge ourselves, if peradventure we find insubjection within us to anything that concerns Him and our own souls. Not to speak of Christ, even on the lowest ground, we are depriving ourselves of what is good and profitable. What, indeed, can be more ruinous than putting aside that which condemns any state in which we find ourselves?
I need not enter into all the details of our chapter, though I have rather minutely gone over it thus far, believing it to be of special importance, because it is so much and generally misunderstood. Here the Lord presents Himself as the only source, not of life, as elsewhere, but of fruit-bearing for disciples, or His professed followers. What He shows is, that they need Him just as much for every day as for eternity; that they need Him for the fruit the Father expects from them now, just as much as for a title to heaven. Hence He speaks of that which pertains to a disciple on the earth; and accordingly the Lord speaks of having Himself kept His Father's commandments, and of His own abiding in His love; for, indeed, He had ever been here below the dependent man, to whom the Father was the moral source of the life He lived; and so He would have us now to live because of Himself.
I entreat any who have misread this chapter to examine thoroughly what I am now urging on my hearers. It is incalculable the quantity of scripture that is passed over without distinct exercise of faith. Souls receive it in a general way; and too often one reason why it is received so easily is, because they do not face the truth, and their conscience is not exercised by it. If they thought, weighed, and let into their souls the real truth conveyed, they might at first be startled, but the way and the end would be blessed to them. What a return for these wondrous communications of Christ, just to slip over them perfunctorily, without making the light our own! Our Lord then clearly shows that He, as man here below, had Himself walked under the government of His Father. It was not merely that He was born of a woman, born under the law, but, as He says here, "Even as I have kept my Father's commandments." It went much farther than the ten words, or all the rest of the law; it embraced every expression of the Father's authority, from whatever quarter it came. And as He could not but perfectly keep His Father's commandments, He abode in His love. As the eternal Son of the Father, of course He was ever loved of the Father; as laying down His life (John 10:1-42), He was therefore loved of His Father; but, besides, in all His earthly path, He kept His Father's commandments, and abode in His love. The Father, looking upon the Son as man walking here below, never found the slightest deflection; but, on the contrary, the perfect image of His own will in Him who, being the Son, made known and glorified the Father as He never was nor could be by any other. This was not simply as God, but rather as the Man Christ Jesus here below. I admit that, being such an One, there could be no failure. To suppose I will not say the fact, but the possibility even, of a flaw in Christ, either as God or as man, proves that he who admits the thought has no faith in His person. There could be none. Still, the trial was made under the most adverse circumstances; and He who, though God Himself, was at the same time man, walked as man perfectly, as truly as He was perfect man; and thus the Father's love rested governmentally upon Him fully, unwaveringly, absolutely in all His ways.
Now we, too, are placed upon the true ground as the disciples, strictly speaking, who were then there; but, of course, the same principle applies to all.
Another thing comes in after this. Gathered round Christ, the disciples were called on by Christ to love one another. (Ver. 12) Loving one's neighbour was not the point now; nor is it so here. Of course, loving one's neighbour abides always, but this, no matter how accomplished, ought not to be enough for a disciple of Christ. Such a demand was right and seasonable for a man in the flesh for a Jew especially; but it could not suffice for the heart of a Christian, and, in fact, he who denies this, quarrels with the Lord's own words. A Christian, I repeat, is not absolved from loving his neighbour nobody means that, I trust; but what I affirm is, that a Christian is called to love his fellow Christian in a new and special manner, exemplified and formed by the love of Christ; and I cannot but think that he who confounds this with love to his neighbour has a great deal to learn about Christ, and Christianity too.
The Lord evidently introduces it as a new thing. "This is my commandment." It was His commandment specially. He it was that first gathered the disciples. They were a distinct company from Israel, though not yet baptized into one body; but they were gathered by Christ, and round Himself, severed from the rest of the Jews so far. "This is my commandment, that ye love one another." But according to what measure? "As I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." Shall I be told that any man ever loved, before Christ came into the world, as He loved? If a man will be ignorant, let him be ignorant, and show his unbelief by such an assertion, if he will. Now I say that there is a love looked for, such as could only be since Christ manifested it, and that His love fills and fashions after its own nature and direction. The disciples were now to love one another according to the pattern of Him who laid down His life for them as His friends. Indeed, He died for them when they were enemies; but this is out of sight here. They were His friends, if they did whatever He commanded them. (Ver. 14) He called them friends, not slaves; for the slave knows not what his master does; but He called them friends, for He made them His confidants in all He had heard of His Father. They had not chosen Him, but He them, and set them to go and bear fruit, abiding fruit, that He might give them whatsoever they asked the Father in His name. 'These things I command you, that ye love one another." (Verses 15-17)
And truly they would need the love of one another, as Christ loved them. They had become objects of the hatred of the world. (Verses 18, 19) The Jews knew no such experience. They might be disliked of the Gentiles. They were a peculiar people, no doubt, and the nations could ill brook a small nation raised to such a conspicuous place, whose law condemned them and their gods. But the disciples were to have the hatred of the world, of the Jew as much or more than of the Gentile. They had this indeed already, and they must make up their minds to it from the world. The love of Christ was on them, and, working in them and by them, would make them the objects of the world's hatred, and after that sort which He had Himself known. As He says here: "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." I refer to this for the purpose of showing, that the revelation of Christ has brought in not merely a total change in the consciousness of eternal life and salvation when the work was done, as well as the overthrow of all distinctions between Jew and Gentile, which we find, of course, in the epistles but, besides that practically, has 'brought in a power of producing fruit that could not be before, a mutual love peculiar to Christians, and a rejection and hatred from the world beyond all that had been. In every way possible Christ gives us now His own portion, from the world as well as from the Father. "Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also." (Verse 20)
Fully do I admit that there were works of faith, deeds of righteousness, holy, wise, obedient ways, in saints of God from the beginning. You could not have faith without a new nature, nor this again without the exercise practically of that which was according to God's will. Therefore, as all saints from the beginning had faith, and were regenerate, so also there were spiritual ways in accordance with it.
But God's revelation in Christ makes an immense accession of blessing; and the consequence is, that this brings out the mind of God in a way that was not and could not have been before, just because there was no manifestation of Christ, and nobody but Christ could bring it adequately out. With this revelation the hatred of the world is commensurate; and the Lord puts it in the strongest possible way. "But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me. If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin." (Ver. 21, 22) What can be plainer than the enormous change that was coming in now? We know that there had been sin all along, in the dealings of God with His ancient people; but what does the Lord here mean? Are we to fritter away the meaning of His language? Are we not to believe that, whatever there was before, the revelation of Christ brought sin to such a head, that what had been before was, comparatively speaking, a little thing when put beside the evil that was done against, and measured by, the glory of Christ the Son, the rejection of the Father's love; in short, the hatred shown to grace and truth yea, the Father and the Son fully revealed in the Lord Jesus? Clearly so. It is not, then, a question of judging sin by right and wrong, by law, or by conscience all well and in place for Israel and man as such. But when One who is more than man comes into the world, the dignity of the person sinned against, the love and light revealed in His person, all bear on the estimate of sin; and the consequence is, there could be no such character of sin till Christ was manifested, though, of course, heart and nature are the same.
But the revelation of Christ forced everything to a point, sounded the condition of man as nothing else could, and proved that, bad as Israel might be, when measured by a law a holy, just, good law of God, yet, measured now by the Son of God, all sin previously was as nothing compared with the still deeper sin of rejecting the Son of God. "He that hateth me hateth my Father also." (Ver. 23) It is not merely God as such, but "my Father" that was hated. "If I had not done among them" not now His words only, but works "if I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father." (Verse 24) There was a full testimony, as we have seen already, in John 8:1-59; John 9:1-41. (His words in John 8:1-59, His works in John 9:1-41); but the manifestation of His words and of His works only brought out man thoroughly hating the Father and the Son. Had they only failed to meet the requirements of God, as man had done under the law, there was ample provision to meet him in mercy and power; but now, under this revelation of grace, man, and Israel most of all, the world (for in this they are all merged now) stood out in open hostility to, and implacable hatred of, the fullest display of divine goodness here below. But this dreadful hopeless hatred, evil as it was, ought not to surprise one who believes the word of God; it was, "that the word might be fulfilled which was written in their law, They hated me without a cause." (Verse 25) There is nothing that so demonstrates man's total alienation and enmity. This is precisely what Christ here urges. The disciples accordingly, having received this grace in Christ, were called into a like path with Him, the epistle here below of Christ who is above. Fruit-bearing is the great point throughout John 15:1-27, as the end of it and John 16:1-33 bring before us testimony. "When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning." Here is a twofold testimony that of the disciples who had seen Christ and heard His words. Hence they were called to bear witness of Him "because ye have been with me from the beginning." It was not only the great manifestation at the end, but the truth from the beginning, grace and truth always in Him. Dealing differently, no doubt, according to that which was before Him; still it was in Christ ever the value of what came, not what He found, which was the great point. And to this testimony (for He is showing now the full testimony which the disciples were called to render) the Holy Ghost would add His, (wondrous to say and know it true!) as distinct from the witness of the disciples. We know right well that a disciple only renders testimony by the power of the Holy Ghost. How, then, do we find the Holy Ghost's testimony spoken of as distinct from theirs? Both are true, especially when we bear in mind that He would testify of the heavenly side of truth. In John 14:26, it was said, "The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." There the Holy Ghost is both a teacher and helper. As it is said, "He will teach you all things" what they never knew, besides bringing to remembrance things that they had known.
In the end ofJohn 15:1-27; John 15:1-27 there is a good deal more. The Holy Ghost, "when he is come," (not "whom the Father will send," but) "whom I will send from the Father." (Ver. 26) The Holy Ghost was both sent by the Father, and sent by the Son; not the same thing, but quite consistent. There is a distinct line of truth in the two cases. You could not transplant from John 15:1-27 into John 14:1-31, nor the reverse, without dislocating the whole order of the truth. Surely it all deserves to be weighed, and demands from us that we should wait upon God to learn His precious things. In John 14:1-31 it is evidently the Father giving another Comforter to the disciples, and sending Him in Christ's name: Christ is looked at there as One who prays, and whose value acts for the disciples. But in John 15:1-27 it is One who is Himself everything for the disciples from on high. Here He was the one spring of whatever fruit was borne, and He is gone on high, but is the same there; and so not merely asks the Father to send, but Himself sends them from the Father the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from with the Father, if so literal a turn may be allowed. His own personal glory on high is in full view, and so He speaks and acts, while the connection with the Father is always kept up. Still, in the one case it is the Father who sends; in the other, the Son; and this last, where the point is to show the new glory of Christ above. "He shall testify of me, and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning." There would be the testimony of the Holy Ghost sent from the Son, and bearing witness of Him according to the place whence He came to replace Him here. The Holy Ghost, sent thus from above, would bear witness of the Son in heaven; but the disciples also would bear witness of what they knew when He was upon the earth, because they had been with Him from the beginning ( i.e. of His manifestation here). Both we have in Christianity, which not only maintains the testimony of Christ, as manifested on the earth, but also the Holy Ghost's witness of Christ known on high. To leave out either is to strip Christianity of half its value. There is that which never can make up for Christ on the earth; and certainly there is that revealed of Christ in heaven which no manifestation on the earth can supply. They have, both of them, a divine place and power for the children of God.
John 16:1-33 seems to be based rather on this last. The main difference is, that the Holy Ghost is more spoken of here apart from the question of who sends. It is more the Holy Ghost coming than sent here; that is, the Holy Ghost is looked at not certainly as acting independently, but yet as a distinct person. He comes, not to display His own power and glory, but expressly to glorify Christ. At the same time, He is looked at in more distinct personality than in John 14:1-31; John 15:1-27. And our Lord had the wisest reason for making known to the disciples what they had to expect. They were now entering on the path of testimony, that always involves suffering We have seen what should befall them in bearing fruit as Christ's disciples and friends. This is enough for the world, which hates them as Him, because they are not of it, but are loved and chosen of Christ. These two things unite the disciples. The hatred of the world and the love of Christ press them so much the more together. But there is also the hatred which befalls them in testifying, not as disciples so much as witnesses. Witnessing as the disciples did of what they had known of Christ here, witnessing of what the Spirit taught them of Christ on high, the consequence would be, "They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service." It is clearly religious rancour created by this full testimony, not the world's general ill-feeling, but special hatred to their testimony. Hence, it would be putting them, not merely into prisons, but out of the synagogues; and this under the notion of doing God service. It is religious persecution. "And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. How perfectly the truth shines here on Christian as well as on Jewish hatred of all full testimony to Christ! Spite of the liberalism of the day, this peeps out where it dares. They talk about God; they speculate about the Deity, providence, fate, or chance. They may even be zealous for the law, and tack on Christ to it. There a great deal of the world's religion ends. But they know not the Father nor the Son. It is irreverence to draw near and cry, Abba, Father! It is presumption for a man in this life to count himself a child of God! The consequence is, that wherever there is this ignorance of the Father and the Son, there is inveterate hostility against such as are joyful in the communion of the Father and the Son. This hatred every true witness, without compromise, and separate from the world, must more or less experience. The Lord would not have them surprised. Jewish brethren might have thought that, having received Christ, everything was to be smooth, bright, and peaceful. Not so. They must expect special and increasing, and, worst of all, religious hatred. (Verses 1-4)
"But now I go my way to him that sent me." The path lay through death, no doubt; but He puts it as going to Him that sent Him. Let them be comforted, then, as surely they would if they rightly thought of His Father's presence. But "none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou?" (Ver. 5) They felt natural sadness at the thought of His departure. Had they gone a step farther, and asked whither He was going, it would have been all right, they would have felt glad for Him; for though it were their loss, it was most surely His gain and joy the joy that was set before Him, the joy of being with His Father, with the comfort for His own of an accomplished redemption (attested by His thus going on high). "But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you." (Ver. 7) It is the Comforter coming. No doubt Christ sends; and there lies the connection with the end of John 15:1-27. Still there is the special form of presenting Him as one that comes, which is confirmed in the next verse. "And when he is come, he will reprove [or convince] the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment." (Ver. 8) This is a sentence much to be pondered. It is now God's Spirit dealing according to the gospel with individual souls, which is perfectly true and most important. Conviction of sin is wrought in all who are born of God. What confidence could there be in a soul professing to have found redemption, even forgiveness of sins, through His blood, unless there were an accompanying sense of sin? The Spirit of God does produce this. Souls must be simple and distinct in it as truly as in believing in Christ Jesus. There is a real individual work in those, yea, in all brought to God. For a sinner, repentance remains an eternal necessity.
Here, however, the Holy Ghost is not spoken of as dealing with individuals when He regenerates them and they believe, but as bringing conviction to the world of sin because of unbelief There is no real conviction of sin unless there be faith. It may be but the first working of God's grace in the soul that produces it. There may not be faith so as to have peace with God, but assuredly enough to judge of one's own ways and condition before God; and this is precisely the way in which He does ordinarily work. At the same time there is also the conviction of which the Lord speaks: the Holy Ghost, when He is come, will convince the world of sin. Why? Because they have broken the law? Not so. This may be used, but is not the ground nor the standard when Christ is the question. The law remains, and the Spirit of God often employs it, specially if a man be in self-righteousness. But the fact is clear, that the Holy Ghost is sent down; as it is also clear, that the Holy Ghost, being here, convicts the world i.e., what is outside where He is. Were there faith, the Holy Ghost would be in their midst; but the world does not believe. Hence Christ is, as everywhere in John, the standard for judging the condition of men. "When he is come, he will convince the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, [not when they begin to believe in me, but] because they believe not in me." Again, the conviction of righteousness is equally remarkable. There is no reference even to the blessed Lord when on earth, or to what He did here. "Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more." (Verses 8-10)
Thus there is a twofold conviction of righteousness. The first ground is, that the only righteousness now is in Christ gone to be with the Father. So perfectly did Christ glorify God in death, as He always did in life the things that pleased His Father, that nothing short of putting Him as man at His own right hand could meet the case. Wondrous fact! a man now in glory, at the right hand of God, above all angels, principalities, and powers. This is the proof of righteousness. It is what God the Father owed to Christ, who had so perfectly pleased and so morally glorified Him, even in respect of sin. All the world, yea, all worlds, would be too little to mark His sense of value for Christ and His work nothing less than setting Him as man at His right hand in heaven. But there is another though negative, as that was the positive, proof of righteousness that the world has lost Christ, "and ye see me no more." When Christ returns, He will gather His own to Himself, as inJohn 14:1-31; John 14:1-31. But as for the world, it has rejected and crucified Christ. The consequence is, that it will see Christ no more till He comes in judgment, and this will be to put down its pride for ever. Thus there is this double conviction of righteousness: the first is Christ gone to be with the Father on high; the second is Christ seen no more consequently. The rejected Christ is accepted and glorified in the highest seat above, which condemns the world and proves there is no righteousness in it or man; but more than this, the world shall see Him no more. When He returns, it is to judge man; but as far as concerns the offer of blessing to man in a living Christ, it is gone for ever. The Jews did and do look for Him; but when He came, they would not have Him. The best of the world, therefore, the choicest and most divinely privileged of men, have turned out the most guilty. A living Messiah they will never see. If any have Him now, it can only be a rejected and heavenly Christ.
But there is another thing the Spirit will convince the world "of judgment." What is the conviction of judgment? It is not the destruction of this place or that. Such was the way in which God manifested His judgment of old; but the Holy Ghost bears witness now, that the prince of this world is judged. He led the world to cast out the truth, and God Himself, in the person of Christ. His judgment is sealed. It is fixed beyond hope of change. It is only a question of the moment in God's hands, and the world with its prince will be treated according to the judgment already pronounced. "Of judgment," He says, "because the prince of this world is judged." (Verse 11) In John we have the truth, without waiting for what will be manifest. The Spirit here judges things at the roots, dealing with things according to their reality in God's sight, into which the believer enters.
Thus everywhere there is absolute opposition between the world and the Father, expressed morally when the Son was here, and proved now that the Spirit is come. The great mark of the world is that the Father is unknown. Hence, like Jews, or even heathen, they can pray to Almighty God to bless their leagues, or their arms, their crops, their herds, or what not. Thereby they flatter themselves perhaps that they may do God service; but the Father's love is unknown never in such a condition can He be fully known. Even when we look at children of God, scattered here and there in the waste, they are trembling and fearful, and practically at a distance, instead of consciously near in peace, as if it were God's will that His children should now stand off in Sinai distance and terror. Who ever heard even of an earthly father, worthy of the name, so sternly repelling his children? Certainly this is not our Father as we know Him through Christ Jesus. Brethren, it is the spirit of the world which, when sanctioned, invariably tends to destroy the knowledge of the Father, and of our proper relationship, even among His real children, because it necessarily slips more or less into Judaism.
But the Holy Ghost has another work. He convinces the world of the truth they do not know, by the very fact that He is outside the world, and has nothing to do with it. He dwells with the children of God. I do not deny His power in the testimony of the gospel to souls. This is another thing not spoken of here. But, besides, we have His direct immediate action among the disciples. "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth." (Verses 12, 13) Thus the disciples, favoured as they were, were far from knowing all that the Lord desired for them, and would have told them if their state had admitted of it. When redemption was accomplished, and Christ was raised from the dead, and the Holy Ghost was given, then they were competent to enter into all the truth, not before. Hence, Christianity awaits not only Christ's coming, but the accomplishment of His work, and also the mission and personal presence of the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, consequent on that work. But He would take no independent place, any more than the Son had. "He shall not speak from himself; but whatever he shall hear, he shall speak: and he will report (or announce) to you things to come. He shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine, and shall report it to you." (Verses 13, 14)
It is not said, as some think, that He shall not speak about Himself; for the Holy Ghost does speak, and tells us much concerning Himself and His operations; and never so much as under the Christian revelation. The fullest instruction as to the Spirit is in the New Testament; and, pray, who speaks of the Holy Ghost if it be not Himself? Was it merely Paul? or John? or any other man? The fact is, that the Authorised Version gives rather obsolete English. The meaning is, that He shall not speak of His own authority, as if He had nothing to do with the Father and the Son. For He is come here to glorify the Son, just as the Son, when here, was glorifying the Father. And this explains why, although the Holy Ghost is worthy of supreme worship, and of being, equally with the Father and the Son, personally addressed in prayer, yet, having come down for the purpose of animating, directing, and effectuating the work and worship of God's children here, He is never presented in the epistles as directly the object, but rather as the power, of Christian prayer. Therefore, we find them praying in, and never to, the Holy Ghost. At the same time, when we say "God," of course we do mean not only the Father, but the Son, and the Holy Ghost too. In that way, therefore, every intelligent believer knows that he includes the Spirit and the Son with the Father, when he addresses God; because the name "God" does not belong to one person in the Trinity more than to another. But when we speak of the persons in the Godhead distinctively, and with knowledge of what God has done and is doing, we do well to remind ourselves and one another, that the Spirit has come down and taken a special place among and in the disciples now; the consequence of which is, that He is pleased administratively (without renouncing His personal rights) to direct our hearts thus towards God the Father and the Lord Jesus. He is thus (if we may speak so, as I believe we may and ought reverentially) serving the interests of the Father and the Son here below in the disciples. The fact we have noticed, the administrative position of the Spirit, is thus owing to the work He has voluntarily undertaken for the Father and the Son, though, of course, as a question of His own glory, He is equally to be adored with the Father and the Son, and is always comprehended in God as such.
The rest of the chapter, without entering into minute points, shows that the Lord, about to leave the disciples, would give them a taste of joy a testimony of what will be. (Verses 16-22) The world might rejoice in having got rid of Him; but He would give His own joy, which would not be taken from them. In measure, this was made good by our Lord's appearing after He rose from the dead; but the full force of it will only be known when He comes again.
Then there is another privilege. The Lord intimates a new character of drawing near to the Father, which they had not yet known. (Verses 23-26) Hitherto they had asked nothing in His name. "In that day," He says, "ye shall ask me nothing." 'We are in "that day" now. "In that day" does not mean in a future day, but in one that is come, Instead of using Christ's intervention as Martha proposed, instead of begging Christ to ask* the Father, demanding each thing they needed of Christ Himself, they might reckon on the Father's giving them whatsoever they should ask Him in Christ's name. It is not a question of a Messianic link to get what they wanted, but they would be able to ask the Father in His name themselves. How blessed to know the Father thus hearkening to the children asking in the Son's name! It is of children on earth now the Lord speaks, not of the Father's house by-and-by. Evidently this is a capital truth, bearing powerfully on the nature of the Christian's prayers, as well as on his worship.
*It is remarkable that Martha puts a word ( αἰτήσῃ ) into Christ's mouth (that is, uses an expression for asking the Father), which is never used nor warranted by Himself. It makes the Lord a mere petitioner, lowering the glory of His person, and obscuring, if not denying, the intimacy of His relationship with the Father.
It is exactly what accounts for the fact, that we are here on ground quite different from that of the precious and blessed form of prayer which the Lord gave His disciples when they wanted to know how to pray, as John taught his disciples. The Lord necessarily gave them that which was suited to their then condition. Now, I believe, it is little to say that there is not, nor ever was, a formula of prayer comparable with the Lord's prayer. Nor is there, to my thinking, a single petition of that prayer which is not a model for the prayers of His followers ever since; but all remains true and applicable at all times at least, till our Father's kingdom come. Why, then, was it not employed formally by the apostolic Church? The answer lies in what is now before us. Our Lord here, at the end of His earthly course, informs the disciples that hitherto they had demanded nothing in His name. They had, no doubt, been using the Lord's prayer for some time; nevertheless they had asked nothing in His name. In that day they were to ask the Father in His name. What I gather from this is, that those who had even used the Lord's prayer, as the disciples had done up to this time, did not know what it was to ask the Father in the Lord's name. They still continued at a comparative distance from their Father; but this is not the Christian state. By the Christian state I mean that in which a man is conscious of his nearness to his God and Father, and able to draw near in virtue of the Holy Ghost even. On the contrary, prayers that suppose a person to be an object of divine displeasure, anxious, and doubtful whether he is to be saved or not such an experience supposes one incapable of speaking to the Father in Christ's name. It is speaking as still tied and bound with the chain of their sins, instead of standing in known reconciliation, and, with the Spirit of adoption, drawing near to the Father in the name of Christ. Who can honestly, or at least intelligently, deny it? Thus, whatever the blessing through the Lord's ministry, there was certainly an advance here foreshown, founded on redemption, resurrection, and the Spirit given. Why should men limit their thoughts, so as to ignore that incomparable blessing to which even in this gospel Christ was ever pointing, as the fruit of His death and of the presence of the Comforter who would bring in "that day"? It was impossible to furnish a prayer which could reconcile the wants of souls before and after the work of the cross, and the new place consequent on it. And, in fact, the Lord has done the contrary; for He gave the disciples a prayer on principles of everlasting truth, but not anticipating that which His death and resurrection brought to view. Of these new privileges the Holy Ghost sent down was to be the power. Be assured this is no secondary matter, and that traditional views slight unwittingly the infinite efficacy and value of what Christ has wrought, the results of which the Holy Ghost was sent down to apply to our souls. And the gift of that divine person to dwell in us is this, too, a secondary matter? or is there no radical change which accompanies the work of Christ when accomplished and known? If, indeed, everything be secondary to the supply of man's need, if the unfolding of God's glory and ways in Christ be comparatively a cipher, I understand as much as I hate a principle so base and unbelieving.
It appears to me that the Lord Jesus Himself clearly sets forth the new thing at the highest value, which no general reasonings of men ought to weaken in the least. That immense change, then, let us accept on His authority who cannot deceive us, assured that our brethren, who fail to see how full association with the efficacy of His work and the acceptance of His person, made good in the presence of the Spirit, accounts for the difference between prayer before and prayer after, put no intentional slight on His words in this chapter, or on His work of atonement. But I beseech them to consider whether they are not allowing habits and prejudices to blind them to what seems to me the mind of Christ in this grave question.
In the close ofJohn 16:25-33; John 16:25-33, the Lord puts, with perfect plainness, both their coming position in His name, and as immediate objects of the Father's affection, and His own place as coming from and going to the Father, above all promise and dispensation. This the disciples thought they saw distinctly; but they were mistaken: their words do not rise higher than "We believe that thou camest forth from God." The Master thereon warns them of that hour, even then come in spirit, when His rejection should prove their dispersion deserted, yet not alone, "because the Father is with me." He spoke, that in Him they might have peace, as in the world they should have tribulation. "But be of good cheer: I have overcome the world." It was an enemy of the Father and of them, but an enemy overcome of Him.
On John 17:1-26 I must be brief, though its treasures might well invite one to devote ample space to weigh them. A few words, however, may perhaps give the general outline. The Lord, lifting up His eyes to heaven, no longer speaks to the disciples, but turns to His Father. He lays a double ground before Him: one, the glory of His person; the other, the accomplishment of His work. He seeks from the Father for His disciples a place of blessing in association with Himself suitable both to His person and work.
Be it observed, that from verse 6 He develops the relationship of the disciples with His Father, having manifested the Father's name to those who were the Father's, and given them the words which the Father gave Him, and spoken as He did now that they might have His joy fulfilled in them. From verse 14 He develops it with the world, they being not of it, and wholly sanctified from it, while sent into it like Himself. And observe, here, that He has given them the Father's word ( λόγον ) for their testimony (as before His words, ῥήματα ), but sanctifies them, not by this only, which kept them from the evil of the world, but by Himself, always separate from sin, but now made higher than the heavens, so as to fill them with an object there that could engage and expand and purify their affections. From verse 20 He extends this place of privilege and responsibility to those who should believe on Him through the word of the apostles, the moral unity of verse 11 being now enlarged into a unity of testimony, that the world might believe that the Father sent the Son; and carried onward, even to the display of glory "I in them, and thou in me" when they shall be perfected into one, and the world shall know (not then "believe") that the Father sent the Son, and loved them as He loved Him. (Compare 2 Thessalonians 1:10)
Lastly, from verse 24 to the end, we have, if possible, deeper things than even these; and here the Lord expresses His heart's desire, for it is no longer, as before, in the form of a request ( ἐρωτῶ ) but, "Father, I will," or desire ( θέλω ). This word indicates a new character of plea: "I desire that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am." The earlier section laid His person and His work as the ground for His being glorified on high, according to the title of the one, and in the accomplishment of the other. Verse 24, as it were, takes up that position of glory with the Father before the world was, into which Christ has gone, with His heart's expression of desire that they should be with Him where He is, that they might behold His glory, which the Father gave Him; "for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world." Thus, if the central portion gave us the disciples on the earth in relation with the Father on the one hand, and in total separation from the world on the other, with subsequent believers brought into one, both in testimony and in glory by-and-by before the world, the closing verses take up Christians, as it were, with the Father in an unearthly, heavenly glory, and His desire that they should be with Him there. It is not merely sought for them, that they should be thoroughly, as far as, could be, in His own place of relationship with the Father, and apart from the world, but also that they should be brought into intimacy of nearness with Himself before the Father. Then, in verse 25, the breach between the world and the Father and the Son being complete, He says, "O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee; but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me." There is always this opposition between the Father and the world, proved by His person in the world. But the disciples had known that the Father sent the Son, as the Son knew the Father. He had made known to them the Father's name, and would yet more, "that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them;" this last verse bringing into them, as it were, the Father's love, as the Son knew it, which was the secret source of all the blessing and glory, and Christ Himself in them, whose life by the Spirit was the sole nature capable of enjoying all. Thus they should have a present enjoyment of the Father, and of Christ, according to the place of nearness they had as thus associated with Him.
On the concluding chapters of our gospel I cannot speak particularly now. Yet I must, in passing point out that even in these solemn closing scenes the glory of the Son's person is ever the prominent figure. Hence we have no notice of His agony in the garden, nor of God's forsaking Him on the tree. Matthew depicts Him as the suffering Messiah, according to psalms and prophets; Mark, as the rejected Servant and Prophet of God; Luke, as the perfect and obedient Son of man, who shrank from no trial either for soul or body, but even on the cross prayed for His enemies, filling a poor sinner's heart with the good news of salvation, and committing His spirit with unwavering confidence to His Father. The point here is the Son of God with the world, the Jews especially being His enemies. Hence, John tells us (John 18:1-40) what no other gospel does, that when the band came to take Jesus, led by one who knew too well the spot where His heart had so often, poured itself out to the Father, at once they went backward, and fell to the ground. Do you suppose Matthew let it slip? or that Mark and Luke never heard of it? Is it conceivable that a fact so notorious the very world being the objects of the divine power that cast them prostrate to the ground could be hidden from, or forgotten by, friends or foes? Or if even men (not to speak of the Spirit's power) would forget such a thing, did the rest think it too slight for their mention? All such suppositions are preposterous. The true explanation is, that the gospels are written with divine design, and that here, as everywhere, John records a fact which falls in with the Spirit's object in his gospel. Did these men come to seize Jesus? He was going to be a prisoner, and to die; in the one case, as much as in the other, He would prove it was not of man's constraint, but of His own will and in obedience to His Father's. He was a willing prisoner, and a willing victim. If none could take His life unless He laid it down, so none could take Him prisoner unless He gave Himself up. Nor was it simply that He could ask His Father for twelve legions of angels, as He says in Matthew; but, in John, did He want angels? They might and did ascend and descend on Him as Son of man; but He had only to speak, and it was done. He is God.
The moment He said, "I am he," without lifting a finger, or even audibly expressing a desire, they fell to the ground. Could this scene be suitably given by any other than John? Could he leave it out who presents his Master as the Son and the Word who was God?
Again, we have our Lord's calm rebuke to Peter, who had cut off the ear of Malchus. Let Luke alone tell us of the Lord's gracious healing (for Jehovah's power to heal was not absent); John alone adds, "The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" He preserves throughout His personal dignity and His conscious relationship, but withal in perfect submission to His Father.
Then follows the notice of Peter's sad history with that other disciple which was known to the high priest. Next, our Lord is before the high priest, Caiaphas, as previously before his father-in-law Annas, and, finally, before Pilate. Suffice it to say, that the one point which meets us here, as distinct from the other gospels, is His person. Not that He was not King of the Jews, but His kingdom is not of this world, not from hence, and He Himself is born and come into the world to bear witness to the truth. Here it is the Jews insist He ought by their law to die, because He made Himself the Son of God. (John 19:1-42) Here, too, He answers Pilate, after scourging and mockery, "Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin." (Verse 11) It was the Jews, led on by Judas, that had this greater sin. The Jew ought to have known better than Pilate, and Judas better than the Jew. The glory of the Son was too bright for their eyes. Afterwards there is another characteristic scene, the blending of the most perfect human affection with His divine glory He confides His mother to the disciple whom He loved. (Verses 25-27)
The gospel which most of all shows Him to be God is careful to prove Him man. The Word was made flesh.
"After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst." I know not a more sweet and wonderful proof of how completely He was divinely superior to all circumstances. He had before Him with perfect distinctness all the truth of God. Here was a scripture which He remembers as unaccomplished. It was a word in Psalms 69:1-36. It was enough. "I thirst." What absorption in His Father's will! "Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished." (Verses 29, 30) Where could such a word as this be but in John? Who could say, "It is finished," except Jesus in John? Matthew and Mark both give our Lord saying, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" This could not be in John. Luke gives us, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit," because there the perfect man never abandons His perfect reliance on God. God must, in the judgment of our sins, forsake Him, but He would never forsake God. The atonement would not have been what it is unless God had thus forsaken Him. But in Luke it is the sign of absolute trust in His Father, and not God's abandonment. In John He says, "It is finished," because He is the Son, by whom all worlds were made, Who but He could say it? Who but John could mention that He delivered up ( παρέδωκε ) His spirit? In every point of difference the fullest possible proof of divine glory and wisdom appears in these gospels. Put to death no doubt He was but at the same time it was His own voluntary will; and who could have this about death itself but a divine person? In a mere man it would be sin; in Him it was perfection. Then come the soldiers, breaking the legs of the others crucified with Him; but finding Jesus dead already, one pierces His side, land forthwith came thereout blood and water. And he that saw it bare record."
Thus a double scripture is fulfilled. The apostle John does not quote many scriptures; but when he does, the person of the Son is the great point. Accordingly this was the case now; for not a bone was to be broken. It was true. Nevertheless, He was to be pierced. He was singled out from the others, even while dead between the dying thieves. He has a place even here that belonged to Him alone.
Joseph charges himself with the body too; and Nicodemus, who came first by night is here by day, honoured by association with Jesus crucified, of whom he had been ashamed once, spite of the miracles He was doing.
In John 20:1-31 is the resurrection, and this in a remarkable light. No such outward circumstance is here as in Matthew, no soldiers trembling, no walk with disciples, but as ever the person of God's Son, though disciples prove how little they entered into the truth. Peter "saw, and believed. For as yet they knew not the Scriptures, that He must rise again from the dead." (Verses 8, 9) It was evidence; and there is no moral value in accepting on evidence. Believing the word of God has moral value, because it gives God credit for truth. A man gives up himself to confide in God. Believing the Scriptures, therefore, has another character altogether from a judgment formed on a matter of fact. Mary Magdalene, with as little understanding of the Scriptures as they, stood without at the sepulchre weeping, when they went to their own homes. Jesus meets her in her sorrow, dries her tears, and sends her to the disciples with a message of His resurrection. But He does not permit her to touch Him. In Matthew the other women even retain Him by the feet. Why? The reason appears to be that in the earlier gospel it is the pledge of a bodily presence for the Jews in the latter day; for whatever be the consequences of Jewish unbelief now, God is faithful. The gospel of John has here no purpose of showing God's promises for the circumcision; but, on the contrary, sedulously detaches the disciples from Jewish thoughts. Mary Magdalene is a sample or type of this. The heart must be taken off His bodily presence. "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father." The Christian owns Christ in heaven. As the apostle says, even if we had known Christ after the flesh, "henceforth know we him no more." The cross, as we know it, closes all connection with even Him in this world. It is the same Christ manifested in life here upon earth. John shows us, in Mary Magdalene contrasted with the woman of Galilee, the difference between the Christian and the Jew. It is not outward corporeal presence on earth, but a greater nearness, though He is ascended to heaven, because of the power of the Holy Ghost. "But go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God." (Verse 17) Never had He put Himself and His disciples so together before.
The next scene (verses 19-23) is the disciples gathered together. It is not a message individually, but they are assembled on the same first day at evening, and Jesus stands, spite of closed doors, in the midst of them, and showed them His hands and His side. "Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained." It is a picture of the assembly that was about to be formed at Pentecost and this is the assembly's function. They have authority from God to retain or to remit sins not at all as a question of eternal forgiveness, but administratively or in discipline. For instance, when a soul is received from the world, what is this but remitting sins? The Church again, by restoring a soul put outside, puts its seal, as it were, to the truth of what God has done, acts upon it, and thus remits the sin. On the other hand, supposing a person is refused fellowship, or is put away after being received, there is the retaining of sins. There is no real difficulty, if men did not pervert Scripture into a means of self-exaltation, or cast away truth, on the other side, revolting from the frightful misuse known in popery. But Protestants have failed to keep up consciously the possession of so great a privilege, founded on the presence of the Holy Ghost.
Eight days after we have another scene. (Verses 24-29) One of the disciples, Thomas, had not been with the others when Jesus had thus appeared. Clearly there is a special teaching in this. Seven days had run their course before Thomas was with the disciples, when the Lord Jesus Christ meets his unbelief, pronouncing those more blessed who saw not, and yet believed. Of what is this the symbol? Of Christian faith,? The very contrary. Christian faith is essentially believing on Him that we have not seen: believing, "we walk by faith, not by sight." But the day is coming when there will be the knowledge and the sight of glory in the earth. So the millennium will differ from what is now. I deny not that there will be faith, as there was faith required when Messiah was on earth. Then faith saw underneath the veil of flesh this deeper glory. But, evidently, proper Christianity is after redemption was wrought, and Christ takes His place on high, and the Holy Ghost is sent down, when there is nothing but faith. Thomas, then, represents the slow mind of unbelieving Israel, seeing the Lord after the present cycle of time is completely over. What makes it the more remarkable is the contrast with Mary Magdalene in the previous verses, who is the type of the Christian taken out of Judaism, and no longer admitted to Jewish contact with the Messiah, but witnesses of Him in ascension.
Mark, too, the confession of Thomas; not a word about "My Father and your Father," but, "My Lord, and my God." Just so the Jew will acknowledge Jesus. They shall look on Him whom they pierced, and own Jesus of Nazareth to be their Lord and their God. (See Zechariah 12:1-14) It is not association with Christ, and He not ashamed to call us brethren, according to the position He has taken as man before His and our God and Father, but the recognition forced on Him by the marks of the cross, which drew out the confession of Christ's divine glory and Lordship.
In John 21:1-25, the appended scene is the fishing. After a night of failure, a vast multitude of fish is taken in the net, without breaking it or risking the ships (Luke 5:1-39), or the need of gathering the good into vessels and of casting the bad away. (Matthew 13:1-58) This I conceive to be a gathering in from the Gentiles. The sea is continually used in contrast to the land in prophetic Scripture. Thus, if the last was the Jewish scene when the Church state closed, this is the figure of the Gentiles in the great day of the earth's jubilee, the age to come contrasted with this age. From verse 15 to the end is the deep personal dealing of our Lord with Peter; also John's place. As I have no doubt there is a significance typically in what we have just glanced at, so it appears to me with regard to this also. The intermediate ministry of Paul is, of course, not here noticed; for he was the witness of Christ glorified in heaven Head of the Church His body, wherein is neither Jew nor Gentile. To Peter, the Lord, thoroughly restoring his soul after proving him to the core, commits His sheep and lambs (His Jewish flock, as we know from elsewhere). A violent end comes, though to God's glory. But if the full heavenly testimony is left for its own due place in Paul's completing the word of God that hidden mystery, John is seen witnessing in principle to the end. (Compare verses 22, 23 with the Revelation) However, I do not enlarge here, but rather apologise for the time that I have occupied in going over so large an extent of God's word. I pray the Lord that even these suggestions may be blessed of God in stirring up fresh desire to study, and weigh, and pray over these precious gospels. Surely it will be sweet reward now, if God deign thereby to give some of His children to approach His word with more reverence and a more childlike trust in every word He has written. May He vouchsafe this through Christ our Lord.
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Kelly, William. "Commentary on John 15:7". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://studylight.org/​commentaries/​wkc/​john-15.html. 1860-1890.