Translations: Chinese GB Big5

John 15:1-27 (web)

Persevering in Christ

Persevering in the Vine

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the farmer.
Every branch in me that doesnít bear fruit, he takes away.
Every branch that bears fruit, he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
You are already pruned clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.
Remain in me, and I in you. As the branch canít bear fruit by itself,
unless it remains in the vine, so neither can you, unless you remain in me.
I am the vine. You are the branches. He who remains in me, and I in him,
the same bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
If a man doesnít remain in me, he is thrown out as a branch, and is withered;
and they gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned.

Persevering in Love

If you remain in me, and my words remain in you,
you will ask whatever you desire, and it will be done for you.
"In this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; and so you will be my disciples.
Even as the Father has loved me, I also have loved you. Remain in my love.
10  If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love;
even as I have kept my Fatherís commandments, and remain in his love.
11  I have spoken these things to you,
that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be made full.
12  "This is my commandment, that you love one another, even as I have loved you.
13  Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
14  You are my friends, if you do whatever I command you.
15  No longer do I call you servants, for the servant doesnít know what his lord does.
But I have called you friends,
for everything that I heard from my Father, I have made known to you.

Persevering in the Ministry

16  You didnít choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you,
that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain;
that whatever you will ask of the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

Persevering through Persecution

17  "I command these things to you, that you may love one another.
18  If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you.
19  If you were of the world, the world would love its own.
But because you are not of the world,
since I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
20  Remember the word that I said to you: ĎA servant is not greater than his lord.í
If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.
If they kept my word, they will keep yours also.
21  But all these things will they do to you for my nameís sake,
because they donít know him who sent me.
22  If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have had sin;
but now they have no excuse for their sin.
23  He who hates me, hates my Father also.
24  If I hadnít done among them the works which no one else did,
they wouldnít have had sin.
But now have they seen and also hated both me and my Father.
25  But this happened so that the word may be fulfilled which was written in their law,
ĎThey hated me without a cause.í (Ps 109:3)
26  "When the Counselor has come, whom I will send to you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will testify about me.
27  You will also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.


Discussion Questions

vs 1-6 How is it that in verse 5 he says that fruitfulness is inevitable for branches remaining in him, and yet in verse 2 he speaks of branches in him not bearing fruit?
What is the difference between being "in" him and "remaining in" him?
Are verse 2 and verse 6 speaking of the same people?
What physically causes a branch not to bear any fruit?
Is verse 6 speaking of losing your salvation?
How might these verses also be related to the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares of Matthew 13?
How about the Parable of the Sower of Luke 8?

vs 7-15 What further conditions are imposed upon the promise of answered prayer here and in John 14:12-14?
What is the correlation between bearing fruit and being Christ's disciple?
What is the fruit of which Jesus has been speaking?
How do we remain in God's love?
What is Jesus primary commandment?
What is the greatest form of love? And how did Jesus show it in practice?

vs 16 In what sense were the apostles chosen? (Luke 6:13; John 6:70)
And how again does this verse affect our perspective on the promise of answered prayer?

vs 17-25 What attitude can we, as followers of Christ, expect from the world towards us?
In what way can we say that we also are not of this world?
What can we say of those who claim to obey Jesus' commands, but reject the apostle's letters?

vs 26,27 What additional role of the Holy Spirit is mentioned here?


Comments

vs 1-6 Why does it say that he who remains in Christ  will bear fruit, then again there are those in Christ who don't bear fruit? What's the difference between "remaining in" and simply being "in"? If bearing fruit is inevitable for those who remain, then was it just a matter of time for those in Christ who didn't bear fruit before they would have? And if its a matter of time, then how long is a fruitless branch allowed to be in the vine before they're cut off and thrown into the fire? Secondly is the question as to what it means by being cut off and thrown into the fire. Is this talking about losing salvation? But if so, then is it making the maintaining of one's salvation dependent upon one's works?

All these questions are answered in a simple concept revealed in Matthew 7:
15  "Beware of false prophets,
who come to you in sheepís clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves.
16  By their fruits you will know them.
Do you gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles?
17  Even so, every good tree produces good fruit;
but the corrupt tree produces evil fruit.
18  A good tree canít produce evil fruit,
neither can a corrupt tree produce good fruit.
19  Every tree that doesnít grow good fruit is cut down, and thrown into the fire.
20  Therefore, by their fruits you will know them.

There are those who are Christians only on the surface, just as these false prophets are sheep on the surface, but inwardly are something else. Those in John 15 who are "in Christ" but who don't bear fruit are only "in Christ" on the face of things. They outwardly associate themselves with the Christian community, but inwardly they are not Christian. It is inevitable for those who are inwardly Christian to produce fruit because being a branch inwardly they have an open channel to the vine, which is Christ, through which the nutrients flow to produce fruit. Thus it is in the nature of such branches, given such a connection to the vine, that they will inevitably produce fruit. But there are those which are branches only on the surface, being dead branches. For though they are attached on the surface, yet inwardly are dead having their channel to the vine blocked. Such dead branches not only don't produce fruit, but even they themselves have a tendency to fall off of the vine, just as it is written.

"They went out from us, but they didnít belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have continued with us. But they left, that they might be revealed that none of them belong to us." 1John 2:19
And so also in 2Peter 2:
20  For if, after they have escaped the defilement of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein and overcome, the last state has become worse with them than the first.
21  For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after knowing it, to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.
22  But it has happened to them according to the true proverb, "The dog turns to his own vomit again," and "the sow that had washed to wallowing in the mire."

"knowledge" here is "epignosis". "Epi" refers to surface like epidermis or skin, and "gnosis" is knowledge. They had only a surface knowledge of Christ. They wore sheep skin, but inwardly were dogs. And thus living the Christian life was unnatural to them, as they were not born of the Spirit. And so when they were done "playing" Christian, they returned to doing what was natural to them.

There are many who simply play Christian for a time. By their fruits you shall know them. But also notice John's emphasis here in John 15 on "remaining". The word being used is "meno" in the Greek. It refers to dwelling in a place for the long term. It's the difference between have causal friendships and having a marriage relationship. It's the difference between renting and buying. It's the difference between visiting and settling in. There are those who are casual Christians who are just experimenting with this Christianity thing. They want to just try it out and see what happens, but don't have a faith characterized by convictions. Their renting Christianity as one would rent a video, but they don't put themselves in the movie. They're dating Christ, but won't commit themselves to get married. They allow Christ to visit them, but don't allow him to move in and be master of the house.

But on the other hand there are many who in fact start off the Christian life in such a state in which they associate outwardly with the Christian community, but are dead inside, but who nonetheless along the way become born anew and are made alive in Christ, and as such produce fruit. Christians who are only so on the surface I sometimes refer to as "nominal Christians", being so in name only. For such people their destiny is uncertain. God gives them time to experiment with Christianity, but if they don't become fruitbearing through a living relationship with the Lord, they will suffer condemnation.

But fruitbearing is not a requirement to maintain one's salvation. Rather it is a revealing of who has a vital relationship with Jesus Christ. All who are true believers are true branches internally and inevitably produce such fruit. Thus it is not only true that once saved alway saved, but once saved it is inevitable that one will produce fruit and endure to the end, just as John also says in 1John 2:19. Thus while Eternal Security is an absolute truth, yet one's Assurance of Salvation is based upon a relative measure of the outworkings of one's faith. This correlation is known as the Perseverance of the Saints. (See also the 1st John Study) And thus to paraphrase the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares of Matthew 13
 

The kingdom is like a man who had sown 
Wheat in his field to reap after it's grown 
But while still seed an enemy came 
To sow weeds in the field that looked quite the same 
The man's servant offered to pull the weeds out 
But he might pull the wheat just as it sprout 
No, safer to let the two grow together 
And in harvest to reap in just the right weather 
Put the wheat in the barn, tie the weeds to be burned. 
Now let us consider what lesson we learned.

Jesus is sowing his seed on the earth 
But the weeds are the ones whom the devil gave birth.
Difficult at times to distinguish the two, 
Between a false Christian and one who is true.
When they are young they have only roots. 
But you shall know them by their fruits. 
The weeds will not last, they will be thrown out 
Into a furnace in anguish no doubt. 
But the righteous will shine just like the Son. 
But of these two seeds, you are which one?

vs 2 speaks of fruitful branches being pruned. Pruning may be a painful process, but must not be confused with the painful condemnation to be experience by the branches which are taken away to be burned in the fire. For one is to edification and the other to condemnation. Thus for example, "godly sorrow works repentance to salvation, which brings no regret. But the sorrow of the world works death." 2Cor 7:10 Pruning may involve conviction of sin, but there are many other kinds of pruning. For God may have us suffer loss just to remove distractions so that we may more efficiently carry out our fruitbearing. Or He may have us go through circumstances to develop our maturity as branches. We notice in the Parable of the Sower that there were seeds which germinated in good soil and produced much fruit, but then there were also seeds which germinated among thorns. They themselves were not the thorns, but growing up among thorns they were choked and produced only immature fruit as Luke 8:14 says. They did bear fruit, but were unfruitful only in the sense of the relative maturity of the fruit produced. By removing the thorns around us and breaking up the soil under us, God makes us capable of bearing mature fruit. But while there is a distinct difference between being alive and being mature, yet identifying the two in the Christian community may not be that easy as it says above:

"Difficult at times to distinguish the two,
Between a false Christian and one who is true.
When they are young they have only roots.
But you shall know them by their fruits."
vs 7 The promise here is not to be taken as a carte blanche, but rather it is to be taken in the context of having God's word dwelling in us. In such a state our desires will be God's desires and we will ask things of God in accordance to his will to carry out our responsibilities as servants of God. And that is why he gives the promise in the first place. He has given us a job to do, but being the vine we need his assistance in carrying it out. And thus fruitfulness is a synergistic process in the Christian life. We shouldn't view ourselves as being alone in this. Nor do I mean that we should just rely on help from other branches. Rather we should receive life from the vine itself - which is Christ - to produce our own fruit.

Bible study is a priority. "Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation." 1Peter 2:2 But it must be application oriented Bible study and directed by the Holy Spirit to be effective. "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are children of God." Rom 8:14

vs 9,10 As in verse 4 where he commands, "remain in me" so also here he commands "remain in my love." Yet commands imply freedom to disobey. But if it is the case that if they are true branches and they cannot but remain, then why command them at all. Don't such commands call into question the concept of Eternal Security? No, rather obedience is itself a fruit. As John writes, "His commandments are not grievous. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world." 1John 5:3,4 It is natural for those born of God to love God and to love other children of God. And it is also nature to obey God. These are effects, fruits, of being born of God. But obedience cannot be applied if there is no command. Jesus himself was also given commands by His Father as he says in verse 10 and elsewhere. But there is little debate as to whether he would ultimately carry out such commands or end up rebelling against his Father. So also with all those born of God. You shall know them by their fruits.

vs 11 "joy" in this sense is not the quite same concept as used in the world. For it is written that of Jesus, "who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Heb 12:2 Yet in his crucifixion we don't see Jesus laughing and jumping for joy and such. In fact in bearing the cross he appears rather miserable. Thus Christian joy though at times expressed exuberantly, is primarily internal and spiritual.

vs 12-15 Here we have a repeat of his commands concerning loving one another which he gave in the previous chapter. And also again just as in John 14:21, he makes friendship with himself contingent upon obedience. If you've accepted Jesus as Savior, but are still holding off on accepting him as Lord, then you are not yet his friend.

vs 16 Jesus had quite literally chosen these men among his disciples to be his apostles. But this should not be confused with idea of election by grace. For he also choose Judas, and yet Judas betrayed him. They were chosen and appointed as apostles. They did not elect themselves to be apostles. But this idea of chosing does not violate the principle of free will. Jesus speaks of his chosing them to give them the sense that their position was one of authority given from above. And it is in that sense in which he tells them to go and bear fruit and to pray. He wanted to give them a sense of their legitimate authority endowed upon them. So also in Matthew 28:18,19 "All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.  Therefore go, and make disciples of all nations."

vs 17-20 Being as Christ in the world, they will experience similar things as Christ. They will be hated and despised by the world. But most interesting is Jesus' expression "because you are not of the world", which he will also speak of in chapter 17. Those who are God's sheep are not of this world, but are as strangers and aliens on this planet. And thus the world hates us as outsiders and as those who despise the things of this world. Jesus experienced such contempt even from his own brothers in John 7 where he responds, "The world canít hate you, but it hates me, because I testify about it, that its works are evil." So also we testify that its deeds are evil. But "consider him who has endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, that you donít grow weary, fainting in your souls." Heb 12:3 As Christ was treated so will the true believers be treated. But the flip side is that those who listen to Christ will also listen to us. "They are of the world. Therefore they speak of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God listens to us. He who is not of God doesnít listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error."1John 4:5,6

vs 21 "for my name sake" - people who hold Jesus in contempt will end up persecuting those who go by his name, namely "Christians". For such people, though they may be Muslims and Jews or others who claim to know God, yet they really don't know God.

vs 22-25 If Jesus had not revealed what he did to the Jews who were persecuting him, they could not be held responsible for the sins being committed against himself. This is not to say that they would be innocent of all sin. But rather he is speaking of the sins they were committing against him. For the more we know, the more we will be held responsible for. Thus evangelism is a serious thing. For not only are we trying to save the lost, but by telling them the gospel we impart even greater responsibility upon our hearers.

"That servant, who knew his lordís will, and didnít prepare, nor do what he wanted, will be beaten with many stripes, but he who didnít know, and did things worthy of stripes, will be beaten with few stripes. To whoever much is given, of him will much be required; and to whom much was entrusted, of him more will be asked."Luke 12:47,48
And furthermore he not only spoke to them but also affirmed his word by miracles, which incurred even greater responsibility as he said, "You, Capernaum, who are exalted to Heaven, you will go down to Hades. For if the mighty works had been done in Sodom which were done in you, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom, on the day of judgment, than for you."Matt 11:23,24

And again in verse 25 concerning the prophecy, this was predicative and descriptive, but not causative. For if determinism were the case, it would eliminate human responsibility reckoning God to be responsible for people's sinful attitudes and actions logically nullifying God's holiness.

vs 26,27 In John 14:26 he also mentioned sending them the Holy Spirit in a similar context. For the Holy Spirit was to teach them, helping them to recall what Jesus said and its application. But the Holy Spirit also testifies through us to the world, of which he will speak of further in John 16 in which the Spirit convicts the world of sin, righteousness and the judgment to come. And the Apostles also testify personally of Christ in the gospels, which testimony has also been propagated by the Christians through the ages. (And thus that generation has never passed away. For they remain through the Word)



The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Jul 29,2015