In John chapter 15, Jesus presents Himself as the Vine that we are to abide in. He also implies that we can abide in the Vine that He is and yet be cast out if we do not bear fruit. Is this possible? He also speaks to us, commanding us to love one another as He loved us. Can we love, substantively love each other as Christ loves us? Jesus loved His disciples, even though one of them was a devil. Can you love even when you know as Jesus knew that betrayal was your portion? These are the commands that Jesus gives to us in our chapter study today.
[Jhn 15:1-12 KJV] 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. 9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. 10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. 11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and [that] your joy might be full. 12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
In v. 1 of John 15, Jesus declares to His disciples, “I am the vine…” He says that He is the “true vine.” What does that mean? What was the significance of the vine in ancient times in Israel? Rabbinical sources in antiquity believed that the Tree of Life was a grapevine. Therefore, when Jesus was saying “I am the vine” or “I am the true vine,” He is saying that He is, in His person, the tree of Life in the midst of the garden. He is also, through veiled reference, declaring Himself to be the Messiah. There were many pretenders to being the Messiah in His day, some even mentioned in scripture. In Acts 15:36 Gamaliel, a Jewish authority advocating for the disciples of Jesus before the Sanhedrin made the following observation:
[Act 5:36 KJV] 36 For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought.
After Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, there was a pretender by the name of Bar Kopa who led a rebellion against the Romans and successfully drove them out of Judea for ten years. The very priest class and rulers of Judea that wanted Jesus crucified for sedition called this man Bar Kopa “king of kings” and “Lord of lords.” The end of Bar Kopa was his own destruction and the total destruction of ancient Jewry as a nation and province of Rome. He was a false vine. Jesus is the true vine, but He doesn’t take us where we want to go, He presents Himself on His own terms, and it is up to us to accept Him not just as Savior, but as Lord. That means our lives are subject to His authority and not merely adding Jesus as an enhancement to our own self-directed lives.
Verse 2 tells us that every branch in Jesus (and we are the branches, v. 5 tells us), every branch in Jesus that doesn’t bear fruit is taken away. Specifically, the unfruitful branches are taken away by removing them out of the way or “taking away.” That phrase “taketh away” means to “put away… such as a husband putting away his wife”. That suggests that an unfruitful Christian can find himself divorced from grace.
Now that is a sobering thought, expressed by Jesus Himself. You can be “in Christ” or “in the vine” but be put out or put away from Christ if we do not bear what Jesus considers to be good fruit. How do those that believe “once saved always saved” answer this? To be in Christ constitutes being born again and on our way to heaven. To be outside of Christ is condemnation and consignment to outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Even those who are in Christ and bear fruit will be subject to purging. Every branch that doesn’t bear fruit is put away, and every branch that bears fruit is purged. That word purge means to “purge from filth or impurity, to cleanse by fire.” What is the fire by which God cleanses us? Is it hellfire? Is it God putting on us what the Cross is intended to take away from us, such as sickness or poverty? Many believe this is so. They believe that the purging of God in our lives means that God will refrain from healing or blessing us, regardless whether or not we have faith because He wants to use cancer, or poverty, etc., to cleanse us, or perfect our character? If this is so, and sickness or poverty is God’s hand working to purge us from impurity, then why do we resist God’s will by trying to get better by going to the doctor or working for a living? Why not, if cancer comes, to refuse the doctor’s treatment if indeed the sickness originates in God’s purpose to purify and cleanse us from impurity? Why not, if poverty purges and prunes us in God, why not forsake our jobs and our creature comforts and live in squalor and homelessness if in so doing we would be cooperating with God’s hand working to purify and purge us. The suggestion is ridiculous.
Verse 3 tells us how God purifies us. It is by the fire of His word. We are cleansed not by sickness, or poverty, or any work of God to suspend the merits of the Cross in our lives, but as Jesus clearly says in contradiction to what modern theology teaches – we are clean, how? By the word that Jesus speaks to us! When Jesus speaks His word to us, what is to be our response? Verse 4 tells us that He is looking and longing for us to abide in Him. What does this mean? The word abide means to “remain, continue, to be present, to endure, or to stand…” We can apply this to our lives in very practical ways. When you are under pressure in life, you choose to stand within yourself, remaining in a place of confidence in Christ. In effect, to abide in Christ means that you may be struggling and facing a great challenge, but your inner resolve is “I will endure and stand steadfast in My trust in God… I will not cave in to fear or resort to the works of the flesh to get through this…” That may not be pleasant to us, but heaven takes notice, and the pronouncement of the throne when we maintain this inner resolve is that we are “abiding in Christ,” and therefore, God will see to it that we come into the place of bearing MUCH FRUIT.
When we abide in Him, of necessity, we must come to the deep down conviction expressed in v. 5 “without Him, we can do nothing…” Before we can arrive at that, we must identify those things that we do that are without Him and reject them as strategies, attitudes or actions that we will allow ourselves to resort to. We want to be those who can say we are so abiding in Him that we can do nothing without Him. Firstly, however, we must admit that without Him we can and have on many occasions done many things that we not in Christ. We can lie, cheat, steal, hate our brother without a cause, all of these things we can and have without Him been capable of and have in fact done. There must come such a desire to abide in Him that we will never move away from that abiding place to indulge in the works of the flesh. Then we can say as Jesus we are those that are so ensconced spiritually IN HIM that we will not, no, in fact, we CANNOT do anything without Him because that would require us to go FROM HIM and that we will not do not only because we don’t want to but actually have a testimony evident in our lives and noted by others that we will do nothing outside abiding in Christ.
What happens to us if we choose to act outside of abiding in Him? Verse 6 tells us if we choose to do anything other than abiding in Christ, we will be gathered by men and cast into the fires of their own burning. This is not talking about hell. This is talking about being manipulated by sinful men for their own sinful means. Look around you at the church. Do you see the church gathering itself to men from time to time? They gather themselves to great and successful preachers because they do not abide in Christ. They gather themselves to political Messiahs because they are not abiding in Christ. They gather themselves to the latest and greatest Christian leadership figure and cling to him as their life’s breath because they have no root in Christ. Those who abide in Him, those who abide in Christ, will not be seen rushing to and fro, pursuing after the works of men, the personalities of men, or the manipulations of men. They are abiding in Christ and have no need of spoil. Men can not manipulate them because they know that man cannot afford them what they have found by abiding in Christ.
How can you identify one who has failed to abide in Christ and been gathered by men? Verse 6 tells us. They get burned. Has the church burned you? Has a pastor burned you? Are you “church hurt”? Have you been disappointed by men? This is symptomatic of those who do not abide in Christ. What does this mean? We have to learn not to look to man for what we ought to look to God for. When we look to man for what we ought to look to God for we are committing adultery against God. What happens? We will find ourselves put away. Cast into the fires of men’s burning. Marginalized and offended. Incapable of producing fruit until we come to ourselves and forsake the false dependencies of outward things and say in our souls, “I will abide in Him, I will abide in the Vine and no longer be gathered by men or burned by men…” This will immunize you from political manipulation or spiritual manipulation. Others may run to and fro and declare the name of their false Messiah more than the name of Jesus, but YOU are abiding in Him, and in Him, you will be held safe and secure from the machinations of sinful flesh to use you for their own ends.
[Jhn 15: 13-27 KJV] 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. 15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. 16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and [that] your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. 17 These things I command you, that ye love one another. 18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before [it hated] you. 19 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. 20 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. 21 But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin. 23 He that hateth me hateth my Father also. 24 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. 25 But [this cometh to pass], that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause. 26 But 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: 27 And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.
In verse 13, Jesus calls upon us to lay down our lives one for another. We are to love one another even as Jesus has loved us. How has Jesus loved us? He has laid down His life for us. Likewise, we are to lay down our lives one for another. You cannot do this in theater-style seating, looking at the back of someone’s head once a week while the figure on the raised platform entertains us with spiritual banter and revelry. You are the friend of God. Jesus calls us His friends in v. 15. That word meant something different in Jesus’ day than it does in our day. Today, being someone’s friend means you like them, and they like you – until they don’t and until you don’t. The word friend as Jesus uses it here comes from the Arabic “afendi,” and it means “covenant brother.” Jesus cut covenant with us on the Cross and gave Himself and all that He is to us by covenantal abandonment. He is calling us likewise to walk in covenant with one another in Christ. He will never leave us, and He will never forsake us because of the covenant. Likewise, our posture, the gold standard of the love of God in our hearts toward our brothers and sisters in Christ, is “I will never leave you – I will never forsake you…” This is stunning. We can only stand in mute silence, unable to form the words because we know they would be hypocrisy on our lips. We have not intention to love others in Christ with that level of commitment. That isn’t how church is done today. That kind of love is diametrically opposed to the character of Christian culture as we know it. Yet Jesus plainly confronts us with the command to LOVE ONE ANOTHER as He has loved us – and He loved in this manner even though one of those He loved was a DEVIL!
Why don’t we want to love as Jesus loved? Because we don’t want to be betrayed. Yet Jesus exemplifies for us that betrayal can and will happen but He calls upon us IF WE ARE HIS DISCIPLES to love, even when we know betrayal can and will come. This is more than a suggestion. In v. 17, Jesus plainly says, “these things I COMMAND YOU…” Are you a disciple? Then there is only one response – we must obey. We must obey or exclude ourselves from His company. What will be the result? Verse 18 says that this level of commitment to each other and obedience to Christ will cause the world to hate us. Do you understand this? The world tolerates us because we DON’T love each other. In verse 19 Jesus says if we were of the world then the world would love us and tolerate us. In the early church society around them would not tolerate them. They were persecuted, hounded, harassed, martyred wholesale because they were a people evidently by their love for God and for one another NOT OF THE WORLD. Today the world tolerates us because they see something of themselves in us. What is the remark often made by those in the world? They often say, “you are just like us – you are no better than us…” Why? Because they see something in us that they are familiar with. It was not that way in the early centuries of the church. Churches stand on every street corner in America and the Western World as a testament to the fact that we are more like the world than we are of Christ. What can we do? We cannot change others we can only change ourselves. We must say each and every day, “I will be a part of the solution and not part of the problem…” How? By loving with the love that Jesus loved with – even if you have a Judas in your inner circle.
How can we move forward with this kind of love? Verse 26 tells us, only with the help of the Comforter. The Comforter, the Holy Spirit, comes to lead us in the love life that Jesus speaks of. The comfort doesn’t come because everyone loves us back. The comfort comes because the Comforter comes alongside and helps us and braces us against the indignities of loving and not being loved in return. He will come when we embrace the love life of Jesus. He will come and bear witness and testify to us of Jesus and give us what cannot be found behind any pulpit or reading some book. He will bear witness of Christ in us and through us and to us beyond any expectation we could ever imagine.
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