In this chapter, Jesus says he is the true vine, the Father is the vinedresser, and the branches must dwell or live in the vine. The world hated him, and it will hate his disciples.
As I write in every introduction:
This translation and commentary are for everyone who needs an online reference, but the commentary is mainly for readers in developing and persecuting countries, where Christians cannot afford or do not have access to excellent printed Study Bibles or commentaries. The main goal is missional.
The translation is mine. I offer it only to learn what the Greek says. It tends to be literal, but complete literalness and readability are impossible, so I had to make adjustments.
Readers can go to biblehub.com and use the interlinear link to look up every Greek word, and then the links go to every occurrence of the word. They can also visit biblegateway.com for many translations.
A GrowApp section is offered after every passage of Scripture, which asks challenging questions for deeper discipleship.
Links are provided for further study.
Jesus Is the True Vine (John 15:1-10)
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me not producing fruit—he removes it. And every branch producing fruit—he prunes it so that it produces more fruit. 3 You are already clean by the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me and I in you. Just as the branch cannot produce fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so you do not unless you remain in me. 5 I am the vine, and you are the branches. The one remaining in me and I in him—he produces much fruit because apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Unless someone remains in me, he is tossed out like a branch and withers, and they gather them together and toss it in the fire and they burn. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask what you will, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified: that you produce much fruit and become my disciples. 9 Just 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, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and I remain in his love.”
Since the verb believe and the noun faith are so important in John’s Gospel, I would like to plant word studies at the beginning of each chapter. Then you can scroll back up here to read what the terms mean. I repeat this word study in nearly every chapter because this is online writing, so no need to worry about cost per printed page.
The verb believe (verb is pisteuō, pronounced pih-stew-oh) and the noun faith have to penetrate one’s whole being. Now let’s study them more formally. The noun faith is pistis (pronounced peace-teace or pis-tiss), and it is used 243 times. Its basic meaning is the “belief, trust, confidence,” and it can also mean “faithfulness” and “trustworthy” (Mounce p. 232). It is directional, and the best direction is faith in God (Mark 11:22; 1 Thess. 1:8; 1 Pet. 1:21; Heb. 6:1) and faith in Jesus (Acts 3:16; 20:21; 24:24; Gal. 3:26; Eph. 1:15; Col. 1:4; 1 Tim. 3:13). Believing (verb) and faith (noun) is very important to God. It is the language of heaven. We live on earth and by faith see the invisible world where God is. We must believe he exists; then we must exercise our faith to believe he loves us and intends to save us.
A true acronym:
Forsaking All, I Trust Him
One has to surrender to the Lordship of Jesus.
The bottom line is that for John’s Gospel believing and faith must not get stuck in an intellectual assent. “I believe that God exists and Jesus lived.” This may be a strong start, but everyone who believes or has faith must put their complete trust in God’s Son.
Now let’s move on.
Right off the top, let me say that the verb “remain” can be translated as “live” or dwell” or “abide.” You can certainly use those words if you want.
“The Gospel of John has already taken great care to describe how Jesus fulfills and replaces the old covenant persons and institutions of the temple (e.g. ch. 2), sacred places / mountains (e.g. ch. 4), Moses (ch. 5), and the Jewish feasts (e.g. ch. 6); as the true vine Jesus also supersedes Israel as the center and source of God’s people. The places (i.e. the land, Jerusalem, temple, altar) and the people (Israel, Jewish bloodlines, priestly heritage) have been fulfilled and replaced by one person: Jesus Christ” (Klink, comment on v. 1, emphasis original).
Here is the last “I Am” declaration. In Exod. 3:14, in the Septuagint (pronounced sep-too-ah-gent, a third to first century BC translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek), the Greek reads: “the LORD says, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’” (egō eimi, pronounced eh-goh-ay-mee) is used in the phrasing (along with ho ōn). This is high Christology.
JESUS’ SEVEN “I AM” SAYINGS IN JOHN
|1||I Am the Bread of Life (6:35, 48) and Living Bread (6:51)|
|2||I Am the Light of the World (8:12)|
|3||I Am the Gate (10:7, 9)|
|4||I Am the Good Shepherd (10:11, 14)|
|5||I am the Resurrection and the Life (11:25)|
|6||I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life (14:6)|
|7||I am the True Vine (15:1, 5)|
|BTSB, p. 2163, slightly edited|
Or Jesus may refer to the “I am he” passages in Is. 40-55, as he did at John 8:24. Here is a list (all NIV and emphasis added):
Who has done this and carried it through,
calling forth the generations from the beginning?
I, the Lord—with the first of them
and with the last—I am he.” (Is. 41:4)
10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord,
“and my servant whom I have chosen,
so that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
nor will there be one after me.
11 I, even I, am the Lord,
and apart from me there is no savior.
12 I have revealed and saved and proclaimed—
I, and not some foreign god among you.
You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “that I am God.
13 Yes, and from ancient days I am he.
No one can deliver out of my hand.
When I act, who can reverse it?” (Is. 43:10-13, see v. 25)
Even to your old age and gray hairs
I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you. (Is. 46:4)
“Listen to me, Jacob,
Israel, whom I have called:
I am he;
I am the first and I am the last.
13 My own hand laid the foundations of the earth,
and my right hand spread out the heavens;
when I summon them,
they all stand up together. (Is. 48:12-13)
12 “I, even I, am he who comforts you.
Who are you that you fear mere mortals,
human beings who are but grass,
13 that you forget the Lord your Maker,
who stretches out the heavens
and who lays the foundations of the earth,
that you live in constant terror every day
because of the wrath of the oppressor,
who is bent on destruction? (Is. 51:12-13)
Whether Jesus is referring to these verses in the “I Am” statements or not, this is high Christology.
Now let’s use the two-level, uncomplicated diagram, to be read from the bottom up:
2.. What Does It or He Symbolize?
1.. Physical Object or Person
Let’s fill it in:
The vine connects to the soil and provides life-giving nutrients to the branches.
Here is another metaphor. Let’s fill it in:
2.. The Father
In Greek the noun means “farmer” or more literally “earth worker,” but in English we don’t translate a “vineyard caretaker” with that word. Instead, we say “vinedresser.” Speaking of “vineyard caretaker,” Novakovic translates “vine” as “vineyard.” So she goes all in, probably because of the OT allusions to the vineyard = Israel. But let’s narrow the OT references to Israel being a vine:
8 You transplanted a vine from Egypt;
you drove out the nations and planted it.
9 You cleared the ground for it,
and it took root and filled the land.
10 The mountains were covered with its shade,
the mighty cedars with its branches.
11 Its branches reached as far as the Sea,
its shoots as far as the River.
12 Why have you broken down its walls
so that all who pass by pick its grapes?
13 Boars from the forest ravage it,
and insects from the fields feed on it.
14 Return to us, God Almighty!
Look down from heaven and see!
Watch over this vine,
15 the root your right hand has planted,
the son you have raised up for yourself.
16 Your vine is cut down, it is burned with fire;
at your rebuke your people perish.
17 Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand,
the son of man you have raised up for yourself.
18 Then we will not turn away from you;
revive us, and we will call on your name.
19 Restore us, Lord God Almighty;
make your face shine on us,
that we may be saved. (Ps. 80:8-19, NIV)
In that long passage, Israel is a vine brought out of Egypt, yet enemies have stomped and ravaged it. The Psalmist prays for restoration. In v. 18 he prays that God would give Israel life. God provides life to the plant. But the vine, Israel, eventually becomes corrupt. In contrast, Jesus is the true vine, and he replaces Israel (Carson, comment on vv. 1-2).
So what else does the vinedresser do? Let’s look at vv. 2-3 to find out.
At first Jesus does not tell who or what the branches are. He speaks of the necessity of the branches remaining on the vine, so they can receive sustenance. Branches have to remain or dwell or live in Christ, so they can receive life-giving sustenance. When they do, they produce or bear much fruit.
What does it mean to be cleansed by the word or message? In Greek there is a play on words with “prune” and “cleanse.” It is as if to prune off the dead, unproductive branches, the vinedresser “cleanses” the one section of the vineyard and certainly the branch.
To be cleansed by the word or message is to hear and obey it. It sanctifies the listener / disciple because it produces in him repentance—turning away from one’s old life and the changing of one’s mind—and the new life and strength to follow Jesus. The word or message cleanses and renews the mind. “Left to itself a vine will produce a good deal of unproductive growth. For maximum fruitfulness, extensive pruning is essential. This is a suggestive figure for the Christian life. The fruit of Christian service is never the result of allowing the natural energies and inclinations to run riot” (Morris, comment on v. 2).
I recall an illustration of a man from Oregon (a state in USA), where many fruit trees grow in large orchards. The orchardman cuts the smaller branches down to nothing, and this means the life-giving sap can flow in a directed and focused manner. In a few years the fruit are filled with nutrients and are rich, large and sweet.
John 13:10: “You also are clean, but not everyone.” That line from 13:10 refers to the foot-washing ceremony, and the one who was not clean was Judas, even though his feet had been washed.
Mounce: “God’s ‘pruning’ is his gracious way of directing the flow of spiritual energy in order that his plans for our lives will be realized. While pruning is painful, it serves the necessary purpose or removing those branches that would otherwise absorb our time and energy in unproductive pursuits” (comment on v. 2). He goes on to comment on v. 3: “For a branch to bear fruit, it must share the life of the vine. Likewise, for believers to bear fruit they must remain in Christ. All spiritual power for living out the Christian life comes from God. There is only one way for a believer to receive this power, namely, to remain in unbroken fellowship with the source of power.” Then he reminds us of Gal. 2:20, which says that Paul had been crucified with Christ; he no longer lives, but Christ lives in him. Perfectly said, Prof. Mounce.
Now let’s look more deeply at the noun “word” or “message,” as I do in this entire commentary series. First, recall that the Logos became flesh (John 1:1-4, 14). But here it refers to the message or teaching of Jesus.
The noun logos is rich and full of meaning. It always has built into it rationality and reason. It has spawned all sorts of English words that end in –log-, like theology or biology, or have the log– stem in them, like logic.
Though certain Renewalists may not like to hear it, there is a rational side to the Word of God, and a moment’s thought proves it. The words you’re reading right now are placed in meaningful and logical and rational order. The Bible is also written in that way. If it weren’t, then it would be nonsense and confusing, and we couldn’t understand the gibberish. (Even your prophecies have to make logical and rational sense on some level.) Your Bible studies and Sunday morning sermons have to make sense, also. Jesus’s words also have Bible-based logic and rational argumentation built into it. People need to be ministered to in this way. God gave us minds and brains and expects us to use them. Your preaching cannot always be flashy and shrieky and so outlandishly entertaining that people are not fed in the long term. Movements like that don’t last over the years without the Word. I have observed this from firsthand experience in certain sectors of the Renewal Movement.
People have the deepest need to receive solid teaching. Never become so outlandishly supernatural and entertaining that you neglect the reasonable and rational side of preaching the gospel and teaching the Bible. Yes, the Gospels are very charismatic, but they are also very orderly and rational and logical.
On the other side of the word logos, people get so intellectual that they build up an exclusive Christian caste of intelligentsia that believe they alone can teach and understand the Word. Not true. Just study Scripture with Bible helps and walk in the Spirit, as they did in Acts. Combining Word and Spirit is the balanced life.
It should be pointed out that Jesus often uses another noun for word: rhēma (pronounced rhay-mah). In John’s Gospel, synonyms are used often, so let’s not make a big thing of the nuanced differences. In any case, I wanted to point out for today’s Bible teacher in my corner of the church world that we must have better teaching or doctrine whether it is the logos or the rhēma.
Every farmer (general term) or vinedresser (vineyard caretaker) understands this reality. When the branches are connected to the vine—or the branch of any tree is connected to the trunk—then the branches can produce good fruit. If they are not producing fruit, then they are pruned off or removed. They must not take up or draw away life-giving sustenance from the productive branches, the ones that produce much fruit.
One more time, the two-level, uncomplicated diagram:
So what do the branches do? All they do is receive the life-giving nutrients from the vine. They do not have to struggle to produce fruit, but only if they stay connected. If they do not bear fruit because they have become detached from the branch, then they are taken off the vine, wither or dry up, bundled together, and tossed in the fire. John 14:20: “In that day, you will know that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.” “In that day” refers in 14:20 to the crucifixion and resurrection. The point to my quoting this verse is to show the life connection between the Father, the Son, and the disciples.
John 1:1-10 damages the belief that no true Christian can fall away. It is clear that he can.
Let’s discuss the imagery of fire, as if it means the ultimate punishment. Carson says the fire is the fire of judgment and may not refer to final judgment and punishment. Nonetheless, if it does refer to those events, let’s get into the theology of it all.
Please see my three posts on the topic and the Scriptural support for each theory:
First, eternal conscious torment, which says unredeemed people burn forever in the fires of hell, even Hitler and your kind and generous but unredeemed grandmother, bobbing up and down, next to each other. This is the traditional or standard view.
Second, terminalism or conditionalism, which says the eternality of the soul depends only on God or is conditional only on God. The soul is not automatically eternal by virtue of being a soul. People are punished in hell for a time suitable to their good or bad deeds, but then they pass out of existence or their soul is destroyed. The ending may not be a happy one, but this theory eliminates the eternal torment.
Third, universal reconciliation or restoration, which says that each unredeemed person is punished in hell for a duration suitable to their good or bad deeds; then they are brought into God’s presence and restored and reconciled to him.
Whichever theory you choose, please don’t call the other two heretical or make this doctrine a test for orthodoxy. All three have Scriptural support. Personally, I believe that the topic of punishment in the afterlife is secondary or nonessential, so I like this saying: “in essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity (love).” Give people space to choose one of these nonessential, Bible-supported theories.
Once again, the kingdom subject has the chance to repent, so his being thrown into Gehenna is not a done deal. King Jesus is simply teaching his kingdom subjects that they better make things right, or else their punishment will be severe.
One last word about punishment in the afterlife.
Charismatic theologian and Presbyterian minister J. Rodman Williams (d. 2008) says fire and darkness are just metaphors, which cannot be taken literally, for separation from God and punishment:
These two terms, “darkness” and “fire,” that point to the final state of the lost might seem to be opposites, because darkness, even black darkness, suggests nothing like fire or the light of a blazing fire. Thus again we must guard against identifying the particular terms with literal reality, such as a place of black darkness or of blazing fire. Rather, darkness and fire are metaphors that express the profound truth, on the one hand, of terrible estrangement and isolation from God, and on the other, the pain and misery of unrelieved punishment. It is significant that Jesus in His portrayals of darkness and fire often adds the statement “There men will weep and gnash their teeth.” This weeping and gnashing … vividly suggests both suffering and despair. So whether the metaphor is darkness or fire, the picture is indeed a grim one, even beyond the ability of any figure of speech to express.
One further word: both darkness and fire refer to the basic situation of the lost after Last Judgment. However, we have already observed that there will be degrees of punishment; hence in some sense the darkness and fire will not be wholly the same. Some punishment will be more tolerable than other punishment: some people will receive a greater condemnation, while some (to change the figure) will be “beaten with few blows” [Luke 12:48]. Thus we should not understand the overall picture of the state of the lost to exclude differences in degree of punishment. Even as for the righteous in the world to come, there will be varying rewards, so for the unrighteous, the punishment will not be the same. (Renewal Theology, vol. 3, 470-71).
For the record, Williams did not believe in annihilationism (or terminalism or conditionalism) or universal reconciliation (or restorationism).
If you want to take the imagery of fire and darkness literally, you certainly can. It’s up to you.
Now let’s move on.
This is a wonderful promise about prayer, but it has a condition attached: his words (the Greek noun is plural for rhēma) must live or abide or dwell or remain in the disciples (you and me). As I noted in the parallel verses in John 14:13-14: Does this request mean that disciples can ask for anything at all, to suit their greed / desires? No, of course not.
2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (Jas. 4:2-3, NIV)
The context of these seemingly carte blanche verses we surrender to him. We do not strut up to the Father’s throne by our own power and in our own name and ask anything that strikes our fancy. All our “anything” prayer requests have to bring glory to the Father, which means the miraculous works that we do together in unity. Our prayer request should help people in need, not help ourselves in greed. We are about to learn in v. 16 that we are to bear abiding fruit so that what we ask the Father in Jesus’s name, he will give it to us. Our prayer requests come from high-quality fruit or character (see 16:23).
Our prayers come from an understanding of his words, which means we become disciples. Disciples learn from him and his words. Disciples bear fruit, and then the Father is glorified.
This verse reminds me of these in the Sermon on the Mount: “In this way, let your light shine before people, so that they see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Fruit must be seen in good works, and then the Father is glorified.
“disciples”: The noun is mathētēs (singular and pronounced mah-they-tayss), and it is used 261 times in the NT, though many of them are duplicates in the three synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. BDAG says of the noun (1) “one who engages in learning through instruction from another, pupil, apprentice”; (2) “one who is rather constantly associated with someone who has a pedagogical reputation or a particular set of views, disciple, adherent.”
Here in John, the fruit is produced by the sap of the vine, which is tended by the Father. In the Epistles, after Pentecost, producing fruit is the work of the Spirit. 22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23, NIV).
1 Fruit of the Spirit: Love (this link begins a nine-part series)
This a remarkable, stunning promise for all disciples of all times. People must believe that Jesus loves them, just as the Father loves his Son. Love is transmissible. It flows from the Father to the Son and to us. We saw this word in John 14:15. Let’s again look more closely at this verb love.
It is the verb agapaō (pronounced ah-gah-pah-oh). BDAG says that the verb means, depending on the context: (1) “to have a warm regard for and interest in another, cherish, have affection for, love”; (2) “to have high esteem for or satisfaction with something, take pleasure in; (3) “to practice / express love, prove one’s love.” In most instances this kind love in Scripture is not gooey feelings, though it can be a heart-felt virtue and emotion, as we see in the first definition. Rather, mostly love is expressed by action. If you have no gooey feelings for your enemy, do something practical for him.
Both the noun agapē (pronounced ah-gah-pay) and the verb mean a total commitment. For example, God is totally committed to his church and to the salvation of humankind. Surprisingly, however, total commitment can be seen in an unusual verse. Men loved darkness rather than light (John 3:19), which just means they are totally committed to the dark path of life. Are we willing to be totally committed to God and to live in his light? Can we match an unbeliever’s commitment to bad things with our commitment to good things?
Agapē and agapaō are demonstrative. This love is not static or still. It moves and acts. We receive it, and then we show it with kind acts and good deeds. It is not an abstraction or a concept. It is real.
It is transferrable. God can pour and lavish it on us. And now we can transfer it to our fellow believers and people caught in the world.
Please see my word study on the different loves in the NT:
This verse does not exactly teach that God’s love is conditional, as if we can earn it. Instead, the verse teaches us that first we have God’s love, and then his love enables and empowers us to keep his commandments. Then, when we keep his commandments, we will remain or dwell or abide or live in his love. It’s a “precious circle” (not a vicious circle). The Son is our example for keeping the Father’s commandments. In this context, the main and highest commandment is to go to the cross. The Son kept the Father’s commandments throughout his life, so he remains or abides or lives or dwells in his love.
So once again, the believer or disciple has a role to play to maintain his abiding in the Son / Vine. Life in the Son is not entirely passive.
This verse reminds me of the ones here:
24 Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and does them shall be like a prudent man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down and the flood came and the winds blew and beat upon that house. And it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26 And everyone hearing these teachings of mine and does not do them shall be like the foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain came down and the floods came and the winds blew and beat on that house, and it fell. And great was its collapse! (Matt. 7:24-27)
Walking with Jesus and loving him demands obedience.
However, Klink reminds us that we cannot get the order wrong. Wrong: we keep his commands, and then he loves us (comment on v. 10).
That is, obedience springs from and is a response to love, not the reverse. This pericope has been intentional to make God the cause and the disciple the effect (cf. vv. 4, 6, 7); God is the source and the disciples are the passive recipients but also active respondents. Reversing the order makes the disciple the active agent, the one to whom God responds, but this is not so. For God demonstrated and initiated his love for us “while we were still sinners” (Rom. 5:8). It is never that we obey in order to receive God’s love but rather that we obey because we have received God’s love. We obey because God is love, and our obedience returns to him what is rightfully his and shared with us through Christ, who exemplified love and obedience to the Father on our behalf (see 14:31).
GrowApp for John 15:1-10
A.. How do you remain attached to the vine?
B.. Do you believe that the Son loves you as the Father loves the Son? Why or why not do you believe this?
C.. How do you become a disciple?
You Are My Friends (John 15:11-17)
11 I have spoken these things to you so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. 12 This is my commandment: that you love one another just as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this: that someone would lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you slaves, because a slave does know what his master is doing. But I have called you friends because everything I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you and I have appointed you so that you should go produce fruit, and your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he would give to you. 17 I have commanded you these things: that you would love one another.
Jesus says here in vv. 10 and 11 that he gives us his love and joy. In John 14:27 he said that he bequeaths us his peace. The goal of Jesus’s words is to chase away the concern and anxiety about Jesus’s imminent departure.
The Lord had said we have his love (v. 8). Now we transmit the love to each other. As Jesus has loved the disciples, they should love each other. But how deep does this love go? It goes all the way to laying down their lives for their friends. If we set Rom. 5:8-10, which says God loved his enemies and Christ died for them, against this passage here in John we miss the point of both passages. Jesus speaks in an intimate setting is about to lay down his life for his friends, his disciples, while Paul was talking about the call of salvation to the whole world, even when the world was God’s enemies.
We are his friends if we do what he commands us to do. Once again, love must demonstrate obedience. This fact takes love out of a gooey feeling, an overworked emotional response. Love does. Love acts.
In a household, a slave does not share in the intimate goings on of the family. He stands outside and waits for orders. He serves the family. A fifty-year-old slave even has fewer privileges than a five-year-old son, ultimately. The master does not have to explain why he says, “Do this!” Or “Lay down your life!” Now Jesus invites the disciples into the Father-Son relationship, so they are no longer called slaves. He revealed everything there is to know about joy, peace and love and his impending death. But they do not know everything yet (16:12), but he has lifted their aim and expanded their horizon.
In John 2 and 3 Jesus called the disciples, and he called rest of the twelve, whose earlier stories were not recorded. He chose them; they did not choose him. We should be careful about over-applying these verses to the entire doctrine of salvation. Jesus simply chose his disciples, and they decided to follow them. “It was common practice for a disciple to choose the rabbi under whom he wished to study. Not so in the case of Jesus’s disciples … In spiritual matters the initiative is always God’s. Our activity is a response to his prior action. The election spoken here was not to eternal life but to fruit bearing. They were chosen and appointed ‘to go and bear fruit.’” (Mounce, comment on v. 16).
I like how Jesus says to go and produce fruit. Fruit is produced in the going. A disciple who hibernates has shall inferior fruit, not tested by stormy weather.
He appointed them to produce fruit, which will happen at Pentecost., when the disciples were filled with the Spirit, and then they evangelized and spread out, eventually, to their known world. When the disciples remain in Christ, their fruit will remain. Remember the fruit is both good character and good works.
In v. 7, Jesus promised answers to prayer if the disciples remain in him and his words were to remain in them. Here we have the same promise from another angle. When their fruit remains, then the Father will see good character in his Son’s disciples and gladly answer prayers that flow out of this ripe and nutritious fruit. The deeper and better the character and good works, the more likely the disciples will see their prayers answered. These disciples will be mature, so the Father can trust them with his answered prayer.
The commandment is to love one another. A subset of the commandment to love is to obey commandments (plural), so grace teachers should not misinterpret this one command and claim that all the commandments are actually reduced to this one commandment to love. Remember the Great Commission:
19 Therefore, as you go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything that I commanded you. (Matt. 28:19-20)
The disciples are to teach people everything he commanded them, as seen for example in the Sermon on the Mount.
Yet, if the one commandment to love is followed, then the other commandments will be easier. Love summarizes the entire law. So Jesus wraps us this section with the renewal of the command to love one another.
“name”: Believing in his name means to believe in him, his person, his character, and his being—who he is, the Lord, the Son of God and the Messiah. The noun name stands in for the person—a living, real person. Let’s develop this thought, so it can apply to you.
What’s in a name?
You carry your earthly father’s name. If he is dysfunctional, his name is a disadvantage. If he is functional and impacting society for the better, then his name is an advantage. In Jesus’s case, he has the highest status in the universe, next to the Father (Col. 1:15-20). He is exalted above every principality and power (Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:20-23; Heb. 2:14; 1 John 3:8). His character is perfection itself. His authority and power are absolute, under the Father. In his name you are seated in the heavenly places with Christ (Eph. 2:6; Col. 3:1). Now down here on earth you walk and live as an ambassador in his name, in his stead, for he is no longer living on earth, so you have to represent him down here. We are his ambassadors who stand in for his name (2 Cor. 5:20). The good news is that he did not leave you without power and authority. He gave you his. Now you represent him in his name—his person, power and authority. Therefore under his authority we have his full authority to preach the gospel and set people free from bondages and satanic spirits and heal them of diseases.
Remember that believing in his name is more than just intellectual assent or agreement with a doctrine. Belief has to go from the head to the heart (1:6-8), or so says the entirety of the Gospel of John. Pray confidently in the name of Jesus.
GrowApp for John 15:11-17
A.. How much joy do you have? Very little? Can you be joyful that you were saved?
B.. Do you see a connection between mature fruit and answered prayer in your life?
C.. How are you at loving each other in your church?
The World’s Hatred (John 15:18-27)
18 If the world hates you, know that it hated me before you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own, but because you are not of the world, but instead I have chosen you out of the world, and because of this the world hates you. 20 Remember the statement which I said to you, ‘The servant is not greater than his master.’ If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they have kept my message, and they will keep yours too. 21 However, they will do all these things to you because of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin. Yet now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 The one hating me also hates my Father. 24 If I had not done the works among them which no one else has done, they would not have sin. But now they have seen and have hated both me and my Father. 25 However, in order for the message in their law may be fulfilled, it is written, ‘They hated me without a cause.’ [Ps. 35:19; 69:4]
These verses remind me of a clause in 13:1: “And having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” That context was humble service. Here the statement comes in the context of persecution. Jesus humbly washed his disciples’ feet in John 13, and he has been hounded by the Jerusalem establishment. Jesus changes from his deep love for his disciples, and the commandment that they should love one another to the world’s hatred of them.
But why the hatred? First, the name of Jesus provoked opposition that crossed over into hatred among the Jerusalem establishment and many ordinary Jews. A name stands in for the person and his work.
Let’s explore this noun “name” more generally and apply it to our lives. This noun stands in for the person—a living, real person. You carry your earthly father’s name. If he is dysfunctional, his name is a disadvantage. If he is functional and impacting society for the better, then his name is an advantage. The Father has the highest status in the universe, before and above the entire universe, which he created. His character is perfection itself. Now down here on earth you walk and live as an ambassador in his name, in his stead, for he is no longer living on earth through his Son, so you have to represent him down here. We are his ambassadors who stand in for his name (2 Cor. 5:20). The good news is that he did not leave you without power and authority. He gave you the power and authority of his Son Jesus. Now you represent him in his name—his person, power and authority. Therefore under his authority we have his full authority to preach the gospel and set people free from bondages and satanic spirits and heal them of diseases.
After that interruption, let’s get back to the question: Why the hatred? The followers of Jesus have been chosen out of the world, so they behave differently. They do not participate in all the worldly paganism and temple processions and religious festivals honoring this or that Greek deity in the Greco-Roman world. And they even no longer participate in Judaism. The break from the synagogue was widening by the time John wrote. Paul had a special call to go into the synagogue and preach Jesus (many references in Acts), because the message about the Messiah was still new. But after the destruction of the temple when John wrote, the Jewish synagogue had become better informed. Now hostility emerge. And let’s not sugarcoat what happened to Paul either. Jewish opposition became intense. Jesus had predicted that synagogue rulers would drag the converts to the Jesus Movement into court and flog and even worse, kill them.
As a matter of fact, the entire pericope here (pronounced puh-RIH-koh-pea) or unit or section of Scripture reminds me of this passage in Matt. 10:17-23:
17 Be on your guard against people, for they shall betray you to their councils, and in their synagogues they shall flog you. 18 You shall be brought before governors and kings because of my name, for a testimony to them and the Gentiles. 19 When they betray you, do not be anxious how and what you might speak, for it shall be given you at that moment what should you should speak, 20 for you are not the ones speaking; instead the Spirit of your Father is the one speaking in you.
21 Brother shall betray brother to death and a father a son, and children shall rise in rebellion against parents and put them to death. 22 Moreover, you shall be hated by everyone because of my name, but the one who endures to the end—this one shall be saved. 23 When they persecute you in this town, flee to another. (Matt. 10:17-23)
So here in Matthew’s Gospel, this hatred resulted in active persecution (v. 21). The original statement was spoken in 13:16: “I tell you the firm truth: A servant is not greater than his master, nor is the one who is sent greater than the one who sent him.” So they have first persecuted Jesus, and since he is greater than his disciples, the opposition will persecute them too. Jesus and the Father are one (10:30). Therefore, if the opposition hates and persecutes Jesus, they hate the Father—and persecute the Father through his perfectly united Son. It is a persecution through the one whom the Father has sent. Call it an intermediary persecution of the Father.
These verses in Matthew’s Gospel is relevant:
24 A disciple is not above the teacher, nor is the servant above his master. 25 It is sufficient for the disciple to be like his teacher and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the household Beelzebul, even more so his household members!” (Matt. 10:24-25)
Calling Jesus such a bad name is a form of persecution.
But Jesus also has a positive message. If they have kept his word or message, they will keep the apostles’ message. Jesus is commissioning the disciples here. But they must be sure to preach his message. Let’s remember that thousands of Jerusalem and Judean Jews did convert after the ascension (Acts 2:41; 4:4; 6:7 [large number of priests]; 21:20).
“statement … message”: it is the same Greek word logos, and see vv. 2-3 for more information.
In v. 25, the Law stands in for the whole Hebrew Bible.
Now we come to an interesting part of Scripture. What does it mean that the opponents of Jesus do not “have sin”? This does not mean that they have been sinless, but it is best to interpret it to mean they would not have incurred sin, if he had not come and speak. But since he did speak to them his message, and they said no, they have incurred sin. In other words, their opposition to him was sin itself, and they stand guilty of sin and are without excuse.
“The true source and authority for the evaluation and condemnation of sin was not the law of Moses, but the law of Christ” (Klink, comment on v. 22).
As we just noted in the previous pericope, the Father and Jesus are one (10:30), so whoever hates Jesus hates his Father also. Extra-devout Jews and Muslims who are counter-missionaries (oppose gospel outreach to them) believe they are doing God a great service by persecuting Christians, but they really oppose God and his Son, who was the fullest and clearest revelation of the Father. Therefore, without Jesus, Jews and Muslim are deprived of the fullest and clearest knowledge of who God truly is. They act of out zealous ignorance which can sometimes turn deadly.
“So tightly is Jesus bound up with his Father, both in his person (1:1, 18; 8:58; 20:28) and in his words and deeds (5:19-30), that every attitude directed toward him is no less directed toward God.. This is profound Christology, attested not only by the flow of the argument but also by the almost incidental ‘my Father’ (as opposed to ‘the Father’), accounts for the persecution which Jesus’ followers will face (v. 21)” (Carson, comments on vv. 22-24).
Jesus also did mighty works among the people of his generation, which no else did—not even Elijah did the same things, and his works were mighty, in his generation. Therefore, the Jewish opposition to Jesus was motivated out of irrational hatred. Parallel verse: “Even though he did so many signs in front of them, they did not believe in him” (12:37). Then John 12 goes on to quote Is. 53:1 and 6:10, which say that their eyes were blind even though they thought they could see clearly spiritual things. He spoke indirectly by illustrations, and they did not have as much insight to understand as they believed that they had.
Therefore, there is still a principle that when people have a greater knowledge of God and his light and still walk away, they incur a stronger, severer judgment. People who enjoy the brightest light have the potential to have the greater knowledge of God and stay in the light, enjoy greater privileges.
This passage or pericope reminds me of the passage in Matthew 11:20-24, when Jesus pronounces curses on some important towns he lived in.
20 Then he began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles were done, because they did not repent. 21 Woe to Chorazin, woe to you Bethsaida! Because if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, long ago they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes! 22 However, I tell you it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you! 23 And you Capernaum: Will you be exalted to the heavens? You will go down to Hades! [Is. 14:13, 15] Because if the miracles done in you had been done in Sodom, it would remain to this day! 24 However, I tell you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day judgment than for you!” (Matt. 11:20-24)
There will degrees of punishments and rewards on the last day.
GrowApp for John 15:18-25
A.. Have you ever been hated for accepting the gospel of Christ? How did you respond?
The Paraclete Will Testify about Jesus (John 15:26-27)
26 When the Paraclete comes, whom I will send to you from my Father, the Spirit of truth who goes from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 You also will testify because you have been with me from the beginning.
These two verses may seem out of place, since the flow is about persecution in the previous section and the next four verses in John 16. However, these verses appear in the larger context of Jesus going away (see John 14), so why would persecution continue? The Paraclete will testify about Jesus, so the world will hate the disciples and their Spirit-filled testimony about him (see the quotation of Acts 5:29-32, below). Then in John 16:5-11, the Spirit will convict the world, just as Jesus did when he was on earth (HT: Carson, comments on vv. 26-27).
This is the third Paraclete saying:
All of them present a consistent unity, not only in the Fourth Gospel, but also in the Synoptic Gospels. Jesus will baptize with the Spirit (Matt. 3:11-12; Mark 1:7-8; Luke 3:16-17). The Spirit will aid the disciples as they testify about Jesus and make their defence in court (Matt. 10:20; Mark 13:11). (HT: Bruce, comments on 14:16-17).
Next, let’s define the term “Paraclete.” It is related to the verb parakaleō (pronounced pah-rah-kah-leh-oh), which literally means “called” (-kaleō) and “alongside” (para). The verbal adjective Paraclete is used in vv. 16 and 26 and 15:26; 16:7. It is pronounced pah-rah-kleet or less formally, pair-uh-kleet. BDAG, whom many regard as the authoritative lexicon of the Greek NT, says that originally the verbal adjective means “someone who is called to someone’s aid.” It rarely means a “lawyer” or “attorney.” In the few places outside the NT, whether pre-Christian or extra-Christin contexts, it means in a general sense: “one who appears in another’s behalf, mediator, intercessor, helper.” Then the editors of BDAG leave it at that.
Novakovic refers to the linguists and translators Louw and Nida who say that the translation “Comforter” is too limited and “Helper” is highly generic (apparently meaning too vague). And “legal advocate” is too restrictive. Along with Novakovic, I chose “Paraclete” (pp. 126-28), but following BDAG, you may certainly translate it as “Mediator,” “Intercessor,” or “Helper.”
Jesus says, “another Paraclete,” implying that he was the first Paraclete, though the Fourth Gospel does not say this. However, 1 John 2:1 says that Jesus is the Paraclete, and many translations say “advocate,” so you don’t have to give up on the “lawyer” image if you don’t want to.
John had already introduced the Spirit. Jesus was about to baptize in the Spirit, said John (1:32). Nicodemus and we must be born again of the Spirit (3:5-8). We must worship in Spirit (or spirit) (4:23-24). The Spirit gives life (6:63) The Spirit, however, had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified (7:39).
Klink (p. 633), who argues for translating the term as Paraclete and not the restrictive terms “Helper” or “Advocate” or “counselor” and so on, points out three roles of the Spirit anticipated in this verse and the other four passages. First, the Paraclete is still to come. He has been active because looking at Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 12:34, anyone who says Jesus is Lord by the Spirit shows the Spirit has been at work. But the Paraclete comes when Jesus departs, and the Paraclete begins the era of the New Covenant and new life in Christ. Second, the Paraclete has an active place in the hearts of the disciples. They will know the Paraclete just as they know the Father and Son. He will remain with them forever. Third, the Paraclete convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgment (16:8).
The Spirit proceeds from the Father. In 14:26, the Father sends the Spirit in Jesus’s name, but here the Son sends him. Similarly in Acts 2:33, the Son receives the promise of the Spirit from the Father and pours out what the people see and hear—the gift of the Spirit. I like Bruce here on the meaning of 15:26: “The statement that the Spirit ‘proceeds from the Father’ has probably no metaphysical significance: it is another way of saying that the Spirit is sent by the Father.” Then he goes on to say that the expansion to ‘proceeds from the Father and the Son may be justified by the biblical verse that says the Son also sends the Spirit. The objection to the expansion was that the western church did not consult the rest of the church. Mounce identifies the dispute with the Council of Nicea in 325, where the words proceeds from the Son” were added (the filoque “and the Son” clause.) To me, it is not the right doctrine to fight about. Maybe if the quarrelers had experienced the fulness of the Spirit, as revealed in Acts and the Epistles, the quarreling would never have started in the first place.
“the Spirit of truth”: the phrase “of truth” may be an objective genitive, so it may be translated as “the Spirit who communicates truth.” The phrase could be attributive (adjectival) and thus could be translated as “the true / truth-giving Spirit.” Or the phrase could be translated as the so-called “epexegetical (explanatory or clarifying) genitive, thus: “The Spirit, who is the truth.” I just went traditional and translated it was “the Spirit of truth,” and you can work out the other grammatical possibilities on your own.
Testifies: “The theme of witness pervades the whole Gospel. The witness to the truth of God’s self-revelation in the Word is manifold: it comprises the witness of the Father (5:32, 37; 8:18), of the Son 8:14, 18), of the Spirit (15:26); the witness of the works of Christ (5:36; 10:25), the witness of the scriptures (5:39), the witness of the disciples (15:27), including the disciple whom Jesus loved (19:35; 21:24). The purpose of this manifold witness, as of John’s witness, is ‘that all might believe’: it is the purpose for which the Gospel itself was written (20:31)” (Bruce, comment on 1:6-8). The terms “witness” or “testimony” carries a legal meaning “of testifying or bearing witness to the true state of affairs by one who has sufficient knowledge or superior position (Klink, comment on 1:7).
There is a remarkable fulfillment of this verse in Acts 5:29-32:
29 But in reply [to the Sanhedrin], Peter and the apostles said: “We must obey God rather than man! 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had done away with by hanging him on wood. 31 It is this man whom God exalted the Overall Ruler and Savior at his right hand, to grant repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we and the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to all who obey him, are witnesses of these words!” (Acts 5:29-32, my tentative translation)
The key verse is v. 32, because the apostles and the Spirit witness to the resurrection. Did the Sanhedrin keep the words of the apostles? No, of course not. At first they wanted to kill them (v. 33), but then were persuaded by Gamaliel to stop. Instead the Sanhedrin flogged the apostles (v. 40).
Finally, Jesus chose his apostles from the beginning. Acts also upholds this requirement: “Therefore we must [select] from men who went with us all the time when the Lord Jesus went in and out as our head, beginning with the baptism of John until the day he was taken up from us, a witness with us of his resurrection—to become one of us.” (Acts 1:21-22, my tentative translation). Acts 1:2 says, “everything which Jesus both began to do and teach.” The first-tier apostles—the twelve—met this requirement which not even Paul could meet.
GrowApp for John 15:26-27
A.. How do you tell the difference between the Spirit of truth and man’s falsehoods?
B.. How has the Spirit testified about Jesus in your own heart and life?
Beasley-Murray George R. John. Word Biblical Commentary. Rev. ed. Zondervan, 1999.
Borchert, Gerald L. John 12-11. New American Commentary. Vol. 25b. Broadman and Holman, 1996.
Bruce, F. F. The Gospel of John: Introduction, Exposition, and Notes. Eerdmans, 1983.
Carson, D. A. The Gospel according to John. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Eerdmans, 1991.
The Greek New Testament. Fifth Revised Edition by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger (United Bible Society, 2014).
Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of John: A Commentary. Vol. 1. Baker Academic, 2003.
Novakovic, Lidija. John 11-21: A Handbook on the Greek Text. A Handbook on the Greek Text. Baylor UP, 2020.
Klink, Edward W. John. Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Zondervan, 2016.
Morris, Leon. The Gospel according to John. Rev. ed. Eerdmans, 1995.
Mounce, Robert H. John. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Rev. ed. Zondervan, 2007.