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Bible Commentaries

Ironside's Notes on Selected Books

John 15

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-8

John 15:1-8

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 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. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. 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. 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. 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. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

It has been suggested, and probably with good reason, that our blessed Lord uttered these words as He and His disciples were passing through the city of Jerusalem, having left the Upper Room to go out to Gethsemane. As they went by the temple they noticed a beautiful golden vine sculptured upon one of the temple gates, and the Lord Jesus turned to His disciples and said, “I am the true vine” (v. 1). The emphasis would be on the word true. Israel was Jehovah’s vine. In the Eightieth Psalm we read, “Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt” (v. 8). That picture of the vine is used frequently in the Psalms and in the Prophets to represent the people of Israel. In separating Israel from the Gentile world it was the will of God that they should be His testimony in the earth, to bear fruit for Himself.

A vine is of very little use other than as a fruit bearer. You cannot build houses with the wood of a vine. You cannot make furniture from it. It is of very little use even as fuel, for when cast into the fire it flames up a moment or two, and then it is gone. A vine was intended to bear fruit. God intended Israel to bear fruit for Him to glorify His name before all the nations of the world. But He says sadly, through the prophet Hosea, “Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself” (10:1). That is, he had gone all to wood and leaves, but there was no real fruit for God. Isaiah pictures the vine in chapter 5, and Jehovah says, “I looked that it should bring forth grapes, [and] brought it forth wild grapes” (v. 4).

And so God rejected that earthly vine. It is no longer His specific testimony to the world. It is perfectly true that through all the centuries, in spite of their sufferings since Jerusalem was destroyed and the people of Israel have been scattered among the Gentiles, they have borne testimony to the unity of the Godhead. They have acknowledged the one true and living God, and that in spite of the sufferings that idolatrous nations have heaped upon them. But as to being Jehovah’s witnesses to the truth of the Messiah, the Savior that He had sent into the world, they have had no testimony. They have borne fruit unto themselves.

The Lord Jesus, foreseeing all this, says, “I am the true vine.” All else had failed, but He was to be the witness for God in the world. He was to bear fruit for Him. But He was going away. He was on His way already to the garden of sorrow, and then to the judgment hall, the cross, and then back to the glory. How should He take Israel’s place in testimony and bear fruit in the world?

Well, He says, “All my own are branches in the Vine, and will bear fruit for God here in the world.” So He pictures Himself as the Vine proper, and then all those redeemed to God by His precious blood who have found in Him their Savior and Lord as the branches in that living Vine here in the world to bear fruit for the Father.

Now mark, the great theme of these eight verses is fruit bearing, which is conditioned upon communion or fellowship with the Lord. It is a common thing for people who have certain doctrinal views in their minds to try to read those doctrines into every part of Scripture. For instance, the hyper-Calvinists, the extreme Calvinists, take it for granted that almost everywhere Scripture is treating of their five points. Recently I heard the fifteenth of Luke turned from its proper meaning, and the parable of the Prodigal Son made to represent the recovery of a backslider. They said the son was always a son, and no matter how far down he got among the swine he remained a son still, until eventually he repented and returned to his Father.

The Lord Jesus was not talking about the doctrine of eternal security in Luke 15. Personally I have no question of the scripturalness of that doctrine, but in Luke 15 we read that the scribes and Pharisees murmured and said, “This Man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them” (v. 2). He showed it is His glory to do that, for He came to seek sinners and to save them. He then gave the threefold parable of the lost sheep and the shepherd going out after it, the lost coin and the woman seeking it, and the lost son and the father’s welcome when he returned. All these were meant to indicate heaven’s interest in sinners repenting. What does it say? “[There is] joy… in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance” (v. 7). He was not talking about the recovery of the backslider, but of the salvation of the sinner.

Well, the hyper-Calvinist’s mind was so occupied with the one side of the doctrine of the eternal security of the believer that he could think that even in Luke 15 Christ was dealing with that question.

Our dear Arminian friends, who take the other extreme, are afraid, that once being saved, if they are not careful, something might come up to destroy their relationship with God. So they say, “Don’t you see, if the branch doesn’t bear fruit it is cut off from the vine,” and so they picture the Christian as lost forever if he does not bear fruit. In one case the Lord was showing the grace of God to sinners, and in this case He was telling of the importance of fellowship on the part of the saints and fruit bearing as the result of fellowship. So the Lord Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.” The Vine is up yonder, but we are linked with Him who is in heaven.

He says, “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” (John 15:2). “Fruit,” and “more fruit.” If we are branches in the living Vine, if we have trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, then the one great thing for which we are left in this world is to bear fruit to the glory of God. But someone says, “What do you mean by fruit?” We may think of it in a number of different ways. In Galatians 5:22-23 we see the fruit of Christian character that the Spirit of God produces in the life of the believer: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance [self-control].” All of these constitute fruit for the glory of the Father.

You profess that you have been saved through faith in the Lord Jesus? Is the fruit of the Spirit seen in your life? It will be if you are living in fellowship with Christ. If the contrary to these is manifest, then you may be sure of this, that even though you may have trusted Christ for salvation you are not living in fellowship with God. If instead of love there is bitterness, malice, unkindness; if instead of joy there is gloom; if instead of peace there is unrest; if instead of longsuffering there is impatience; if instead of gentleness there is harshness; if instead of goodness there is moral evil beginning to be manifested; if instead of faith, worry and lack of confidence; if instead of meekness, pride and haughtiness; if instead of temperance or self-control you are subject to the lusts of the flesh- then that tells the story that no matter what you profess, you are not living in fellowship with God. Because as we live in fellowship with Him and walk in the power of the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit is manifest in the life.

But then, fruit is also seen as the result of service. Sometimes we have heard it said we must distinguish between fruit and service. That is perfectly true in one sense of the word, but you remember the apostle Paul in writing to the Romans said, “ [I want to visit you], that I might have some fruit among you also” (1:13). He is thinking of the winning of precious souls and building up of the believers, and so this, too, is fruit for the glory of God. Surely if we have been saved ourselves we ought to be very much concerned about this aspect of fruit. We ought to be seeking so to honor God that we will have the joy of winning others to the Lord Jesus Christ. Service is one thing and fruit is another, but the results of faithful service will be precious fruit that will abide the coming day when we shall stand at the judgment seat of Christ. As branches in the Vine we are responsible to bear fruit. We ought to be exercised as to our true state or condition. We ought to be careful about the profession we make if our lives are not backing that profession. If people hear us talking about being saved by grace, and there is no evidence of it, men will indeed cast us into the fire and we will be burned, so far as our testimony is concerned.

Somebody says, “I do hope through grace I have been bearing a little fruit for God, but it seems so little.” Yes, the humbler we are, and the more we realize it, the more we will feel there has been very little fruit indeed compared with what there might have been. Let us take heart from this: “Every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” The Father is the Husbandman, and He is constantly looking after the branches of the living Vine, and if He sees a little fruit He says, as it were, “So far, so good, but I want a little more fruit.” So He prunes and purges with the spray of affliction and deep sorrow and grief in order to draw our hearts to Himself so that there may be increased fruit to His glory.

I suppose if a branch were a conscious thing, as it is a living thing, and the husbandman drew near with the big shears to clip and cut, and then to spray with some poisonous solution in order that all kinds of evil insect life might be destroyed, it might say, “Oh, dear, it’s all up with me now. What suffering I have to endure. What sorrow I have to go through. What pain is caused by the pruning, and then in what danger am I myself because of the spray!” But the branch would learn in due time that it was for increased blessing and for better fruit.

So it is in all God’s dealings with us. We should not be discouraged if we are called upon to pass through some very severe trials. You said you wanted to walk with God, you wanted to live for Him, you wanted Christ to be magnified in your experiences, whether by life or by death. God may give you some very strange and bitter and peculiar experiences in order that this wish of yours might be fulfilled.

I asked the Lord that I might grow

In life and faith and every grace,

Might more of His salvation know

And seek more earnestly His face.

’Twas He who taught me thus to pray,

And He I trust has answered prayer,

But it has been in such a way

As almost drove me to despair.

We hear the voice of the Spirit of God saying “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings” (1 Peter 4:12-13). It is a very interesting thing, a remarkable thing, that in this world God sometimes seems to treat His best friends worst, and He treated His own Son worst of all. And so when we have to pass through great trials, deep waters and many sorrows, it is not an evidence that He does not love us, that He does not care for us. He loved His own Son-shall I say?-if it were possible, more than He had ever loved Him when Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). But, oh, the precious fruit of

His death of pain and sorrow,

So like unto His birth,

Which would no glory borrow,

No majesty from earth.

And so the Father prunes and purges the branches of the living Vine that we may bring forth more fruit. Jesus said, “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you” (John 15:3). He was addressing His disciples. They were clean through the washing of water by the Word, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. They were clean, and now they were to abide in Him, cleansed by the Word, made conscious of the importance of fellowship. “Abide in me, and I in you” (v. 4a). Abiding speaks of “communion.” “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me” (v. 4b).

How forgetful we are of that! The preacher goes out to face his audience to whom he has preached so frequently through the years, perhaps often from the very same passage of Scripture. He goes out with self-confidence, forgetting the need of prayer, of being before God for a time of heart-searching lest anything, any root of bitterness, might have come up which might hinder the work of the Spirit of God. He rushes to the platform and delivers his sermon-but nothing happens. Nothing happens because he was not consciously abiding in the living Vine.

You have possibly heard the story of a young minister who had been called to be pastor of his first church. He was just out of seminary and had much confidence in his own ability. He had graduated with honors, and everybody felt sure that he was going to be a second Henry Ward Beecher. The people were watching him as he entered the pulpit with an air of self-importance. He read his text, and then his whole sermon went from him. The whole thing was gone. He read the text again, and still he could not recall the sermon he intended to preach. He tried the third time and said, “I want to read my text again,” hoping the sermon would come back to mind. But all was a blank so far as the sermon was concerned, and looking at his audience he said, “I am sorry, but I can’t speak to you this morning.” Down the stairs he went with bowed head and broken step. At the close an old church officer came to him and said, “Laddie, if you had gone up the way you came down, you might have come down the way you went up!”

You see, it is so easy to be self-confident and to believe that because we have done it before, of course we can do it again. So we forget the need of constantly abiding, of ever being before Him in communion. And it is the same in every detail of Christian life. We have had a great blessing and a wonderful day of victory, and in the power of that we try to live the next day, forgetting in the rush of things the necessity of being before God, of having a quiet time before Him. Then comes a crash and a failure, and we are heartbroken and wonder what is the matter. Jesus gives the answer, “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit” (vv. 4-5).

Now notice the order in verse 2: “Every branch… that beareth fruit,” and then in the next clause: “He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” See verse 5: “He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit.” It is “fruit,” “more fruit,” “much fruit.”

How often we have known those who walked with God in early days, lived in a sense in dependence upon the Lord, enjoyed communion and fellowship with Him in a wonderful way, manifested the fruit of the spiritual life, were used of God, won souls for Christ, and so had the fruit of a life that glorified the Father. Then something happened. No one else, perhaps, knew what it was. Outwardly the life was just as correct, the sermons were just as clear, but there was no longer that savor of Christ about them, no longer that evidence of walking in fellowship with Him-no power, no blessing. Why, it is the will of God that as the years go on there should be increased fruit, not less. Of the aged saints who walked with God through the years it says in the Psalms, “They shall still bring forth fruit in old age.” But this will only be as we continue to walk humbly before God.

What a lovely thing it is to see a saint of God, a man or woman, grow old gracefully. There are some who, as they grow old, seem to take age and its infirmities as an excuse for short tempers and unkind criticism, and all those things that make it so hard to get along with them. But what a lovely thing to see people going down the valley looking beyond the river to the Celestial City with the glory of heaven shining in their faces, the faith of God possessing their hearts, and the grace of Christ manifested in their lives! Bearing fruit in old age. “Fruit,” “more fruit,” “much fruit.”

Now if one fails here, if there is no communion, if fellowship is not maintained, if the spirit of prayer is lacking, if the Word of God is neglected, then the testimony soon counts for nothing. “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch [keep that in mind, for a branch should bear fruit], and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned” (v. 6). Men utterly ignore the testimony of those who profess to be Christ’s, but do not live in fellowship with God, do not manifest the Spirit of Christ. Their testimony counts for nothing.

I was trying to talk with a dear lad who had been brought up in what I supposed was a Christian home, and I said, “Isn’t your father a Christian?” He answered with a sarcastic twist of his lip, “Well, he says he is, but he ain’t working at it.” It was evident that that father’s testimony had no weight whatever with his boy. How often people try to say something for Christ, urged by the desire to help a needy soul, they want to say the right word, but if the life is not in harmony, it is as Emerson said once, “What you are speaks so loud that I can’t hear what you say.”

A life lived in fellowship with God gives power to the message. But “if a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch,” and men spurn such profession and refuse his testimony.

On the other hand, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you”-that’s the secret-”my words abide in you.” Where do we get those words? Right here in God’s blessed Book. And so the believer who is abiding in Christ is the one who is feeding upon the Word and does not have just a head full of truth. Some people, if they were cut off at the neck, would lose all the truth of God, but take off the heads of others and the truth would still be in the heart!

“If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (v. 7). Here, then, is the secret of answered prayer. Why is it we ask God for so many things that we never receive? Why is it that so many of our prayers never seem to reach heaven? Well, it is because we are not abiding in Christ. God has never promised to answer the prayers of those who are out of communion.

“Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples” (v. 8). Shall we not challenge our own hearts, “Am I really abiding in Christ? Am I conscious of anything that is hindering communion, anything that comes up when I kneel in prayer that makes it hard to pray, that makes it seem as though the heavens are brass?” If so, then may God give us grace to judge it, and no matter if it is as near or dear as the right eye or the right hand, to pluck it out, that nothing may be allowed in the life that will in any way hinder fellowship with Christ, that thus we may bear much fruit to the glory of the Father.


Verses 9-17

John 15:9-17

As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. 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. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. 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. 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. These things I command you, that ye love one another.

The Holy Spirit has given us a wonderful privilege in allowing this last marvelous discourse of our Lord Jesus Christ to be put on record and preserved throughout all the centuries, that we might listen today to the tender gracious things that He said to His disciples just before He went out to Gethsemane and from there to the judgment hall and the cross.

Did you ever stop to ask how it was that after something like forty or fifty years the apostle John was able to give us a discourse like this in such detail? These words were spoken about A.D. 30, and John is supposed to have written this gospel somewhere within the eighth or ninth decade of the first century of the Christian era when he was an old man living in Ephesus. I have mentioned before that one of the old church fathers tells us that John was an adolescent when Jesus called him, and, therefore, we are not surprised to learn that he outlived all his fellow disciples. Peter, for instance, had been with Christ for some thirty or forty years when John wrote this gospel. Paul, who did not know Jesus on earth, died by martyrdom a year or two before. We are told that Matthew was slain by a lance in Scythia, and Thomas was killed in India where he had gone to preach Christ. All the others of the apostolic band had gone to be with Christ long ago. John was the only one left, and he could look back and think of the time when he was associated with the Lord Jesus Christ here on earth. Impressed by the Spirit he sat down to write this wonderful record.

He says, “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). John gives us details as to the Savior’s conversations such as we get nowhere else. His long conversation with Nicodemus, with the woman at the well, and with many other characters. And now in these marvelous chapters, 13-16, we have His last discourse, and His high-priestly prayer in chapter 17, all recorded with such remarkable detail after the lapse of nearly a half-century. Have you ever said to yourself, “How could he do it?” We need to remember the words of the Lord Himself, “But 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” (14:26). So when John sat down to write, doubdess these things which had become dim through the years were brought anew to his mind through the guidance of the Holy Spirit of God, who could reproduce them exactly as they were spoken by the Lord.

We are permitted, as it were, to sit in that Upper Room with the Lord and His disciples and to tread the way out to the garden of sorrows. And here we listen to these blessed unfoldings of His tender heart. Notice verses 9-10, as He sets before them the love of the divine Savior. He says, “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. 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.” Jesus says, “I love you just as the Father loves Me.” We get the other side in chapter 17 when He said, “That the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me” (v. 23). God, the Father, loves us-who believe in the Lord Jesus-just as much as He loves His Son. And the Lord Jesus Christ loves us as much as He loves His Father. What a wonderful circle that is!

In that circle of God’s favor,

Circle of the Father’s love;

All is rest and rest forever,

All is perfectness above.

It is one thing to talk about love and another to manifest it. I may say I love my mother and yet refuse to do anything for her when she is sick. Such love counts for very little. I am a father and say I love my children, but I may be so taken up with the things of the world that I don’t lift my hand to help them when they need it. Love is manifested by active benevolence and by obedience. The Lord Jesus says, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love,” that is, dwell consciously in the sense of His love. It was the delight of His heart to do the will of the Father. It will be the delight of our hearts to do the will of the Lord Jesus Christ if we really love Him.

We have already heard Him say, “My peace I give unto you” (14:27). Now in verse 11 He speaks of sharing His joy with us: “These things have I spoken to you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” We are told in the Old Testament that the joy of the Lord is our strength. Joy is more than peace. Joy is peace bubbling up. The Lord would have us to be a joyful people. He Himself was like that. While it is true that He was the suffering One, the Man of sorrows, yet we never feel as we read the records penned by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John that we are reading of a sad man, but all the way through we are reading of One in whose heart there was fullness of joy.

No matter how things went outwardly He could always find His joy in the Father. The very time when He had to pronounce judgment upon the cities wherein most of His mighty works were done, we read at that time “Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes” (Luke 10:21). He says, in effect, “If you abide in fellowship with Me and make it the object of your life to glorify Me, you shall share My joy. The very joy that is Mine will be yours, that your joy may be full.”

You say, “What commandment does He mean?” What commandment? “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12). You see, if we keep that commandment, everything else will be all right. You will never grieve the heart of God if you love one another. Love is the fulfilling of the law. Oh, if we would only test ourselves more. If we would ask ourselves, “Now am I doing this because I love my brother? Would I say that because I love my brother, or am I allowing myself to do things that are incompatible with love?” Love covers a multitude of sins we are told. If I really love my brother I shall never want to hurt him, or to shame and disgrace him. Even if he has been guilty of what is wrong, I will go to him and seek to restore him in tender love. We forget this so much, and deal with each other in such a reckless way.

If God dealt with us as we deal with each other, it would go very hard with us. But, ah, His abounding love-love that covers, love that, in grace, has overlooked so much in our life! Did you ever stop to think if every hidden thing you ever did was blazed abroad whether you would feel like facing the world again? So many things you have had to go to Him about, and He has kept them covered up. What a mercy! Do we deal with our brethren that way? Love covereth. “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (vv. 12-13). Here, then, is the supreme test of his love. John, the apostle, says, “We ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16). It is our duty to go so far as even to lay down our lives for them. Do we act on that? That is what Jesus did. Paul could say, “I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Long years ago a missionary over in China was engaged in the work of translating the New Testament into Chinese. He had an eminent scholar to assist him, a Confucianist who had never heard of Christianity until this missionary had engaged him to help in the translation. He sat with him day after day, and together they went over the New Testament page by page and verse by verse. The Chinese scholar would suggest the proper Chinese word in order to make the meaning plain. The missionary was a painstaking person and anxious to produce a splendid translation.

One thing he thought he had better not do was to talk religion with his helper. So he was very careful, and never said a word to the man about his need of Christ and the salvation of his own soul. But, finally, when they had finished, he thought he ought to say something. He said, “You have been a great help to me. I could not have gotten along without you. Now I would like to ask, as we have come along through the New Testament, has not the beauty of Christianity appealed to you? Would you not like to be a Christian?” The scholar looked at him and said, “Yes, it does appeal to me. It is the most wonderful system of ethics and philosophy I have ever known. I think that if I could once see a Christian I might become interested.” “But,” said the missionary, “I am a Christian!”

“You,” said the Chinese scholar, “are you a Christian? Oh, no. Pardon me, I don’t want to offend you, but I have observed you and listened to you all the way along. You are not a Christian. If I understand aright, a Christian is a follower of Jesus, and Jesus says, ‘A new commandment give I unto you, that you might love one another.’ But I have listened to you talk about others who were not present, saying unkind things about them. You are not a Christian. And then I have noticed too that Christianity teaches perfect trust, and I translated for you a passage that says, ‘My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.’ You are told to trust and not be afraid, but you don’t do that. If your check is a little late in reaching you, you are dreadfully worried and you wonder what you are going to do.” And he went on with a number of things like that, ending with, “I have had to conclude that you are not a Christian. I think if I could see a Christian, I would like to be one.”

The poor brokenhearted missionary! He sobbed before the Lord and said, “Oh, I have been so careless.” He just broke down and had to ask forgiveness for his coldness and neglect. The scholar went away and said, “Well, I wonder if, after all, I haven’t seen a Christian.” You see Christians are not perfect as the world expects perfection, but we should grow more like our Master every day.

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus says, “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:14). We do not become Christians by doing His commandments, but we become manifestly His friends by obeying His words. We show that we are really friends to Christ by walking in obedience.

“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” (v. 15). (The word for servants is “bondmen.”) Jesus says, in effect, “I love to take you into My confidence.” “I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” You know how you feel about your friends. Most of us do not have a great many friends. There are just a few folks whom we take right into our hearts, and we talk of them as our friends. We do not like to share our secrets with everyone. But when we get a real, intimate friend, we love to share the secret things of our heart with that friend. So the Lord Jesus Christ says, “I am calling you My friends.” Oh, how He opens up His heart and makes known His precious things to His friends.

And then another thing, we give our friends privileges that we do not give to strangers. So He says, “For all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. 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” (vv. 15-16). In other words, He wants His own to enter into such an intimate sense of fellowship and communion with Himself that they may go to the Father in His name and, as friends, offer their petitions in that name, and the Father will delight to hear and fulfill because it glorifies the name of Jesus.

I may have a friend and write a little note and say, “This will introduce you to so-and-so, who is also a friend of mine. If you can do what he or she desires, I shall esteem it as though it were done for me.” And that one goes to my friend, who says, “I am a friend of his, and I will be a friend to you.” That is what Jesus says. He means, “Tell the Father I sent you.” You see some people believe that to pray in Christ’s name merely means to close by saying, “These things we ask for the name and sake of the Lord Jesus Christ.” If you are not saved you are not authorized to go to God in Christ’s name, and if you are not in fellowship with God neither are you authorized to go to God like that. People who are living selfish, worldly lives are not authorized to go to God in this way. If you are abiding in Him you can go to the Father by His authority, and He will guide your petitions. He delights to answer, because in answering He is showing His love for and confidence in His own blessed Son.

But there is something here in verse 161 must not pass over. What does He say? “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.” Did not they choose Him? Did not you choose Christ? Yes, but not before He chose you.

’Tis not that I did choose Thee,

For, Lord, that could not be;

This heart would still refuse Thee,

But Thou hast chosen me.

’Twas the same love that spread the feast,

That gently forced me in,

Else I had still refused to come,

And perished in my sin.

Long before my heart was inclined to come to Christ, He touched me by the blessed Holy Spirit. At last when I was utterly broken down and brought to repentance, and cried to Him in shame, “Save, Lord, or I perish,” He took me in and made me His own.

And then when it is a question of service, it is He who chooses for this or that special work. And it is He who selects our sphere of ministry, whether at home or abroad. You remember the man who wanted to follow the Master, and the Lord said, “[No], go home…, and [show] how great things the Lord hath done for thee” (Mark 5:19). We can glorify Christ in whatever place we may be and we must recognize that He chose that task for us. “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you.”

Many people are troubled about ordination. Folks ask, “Has any one a right to preach who has not been ordained?” In this Book you do not read of people being ordained to preach the gospel. You never get the word ordination connected with the actual setting apart of a man to preach the gospel. What about Timothy? The word ordained was not used in Timothys case. “Well,” you say, “did you forget about Paul and Barnabas?” No, but they had been preaching a long time in Antioch before the elders laid their hands on them. Nobody authorized them by any service of ordination to go out and preach. That is the Lord’s prerogative. He said, “I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit.” The word ordained means “set apart.” “I have chosen you.” It is good to be able to say,

Christ, the Son of God, has sent me,

Through the midnight lands;

Mine the mighty ordination

Of the pierced hands.

That is the ordination that counts. All that the elders or others can do is to recognize what God has done already. The Lord said in regard to Paul, when he was still Saul of Tarsus, “He is a chosen vessel unto me, to [bring] my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). And to Paul himself He said, “I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee” (26:16). It is the Lord Himself who makes ministers, who gives men first to know Christ as their own Savior, and then sends them forth to preach. “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.”

He concludes this particular section with these words, “These things I command you, that ye love one another” (John 15:17). Ah, that is the final test. Love is the evidence of grace working in our souls. So the passage closes as it began.


Verses 18-27

John 15:18-27

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. 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. 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: but now they have no cloak for their sin. He that hateth me hateth my Father also. 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. But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause. 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: And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.

These words acquire a peculiar solemnity when we recall the fact that they were uttered by our Lord Jesus Christ when the dark shadow of the cross, which expressed the world’s hatred toward Him, was already falling across His pathway. On ahead He saw Calvary where He, the sinless One, was to be made sin for us. And there He was to experience all the hatred and malignity that man, activated by demon power, could heap upon Him. He had no illusions as to His future. He knew from the first just how His earthly ministry would end. He came from heaven to close it in that very way. He said, long before, “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45). He knew that He would meet with rejection on every side, but He came to die for those who hated Him, for those who trampled upon the love and grace of God as seen in Him.

And now He calls upon those who trust Him to walk with Him, recognizing the fact that this world system is incurably evil, that it can never be improved but will ever stand in opposition to God. Many Christians have imagined that it can be improved. Many have supposed that it was the program of the church to make the world over, and so, to make it better. But as you look out upon this world today after nineteen hundred years of gospel preaching it is still the most wicked of all possible worlds. And it is just as evil now as it ever was. People ask, “But is not the world better, because of so many millions of Christians in it?” They forget that Christians are not of the world, for the Lord Jesus Christ tells us right here that He has chosen us out of the world. So when you want to see whether the world is any better than it was when it crucified the Lord of glory, subtract the church and everything connected with it, and all you have left is the world in its stark hideousness and hatred of God-just the same wicked world today as when its representatives cried in Pilate’s judgment hall, “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15), and as for Jesus, “Crucify him! crucify him” (Luke 23:21; John 19:6)! And so these words come down to us, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18). And we need to remember that we begin our Christian life by choosing One whom the world rejects. We identify ourselves with Him by faith. That is why the Spirit of God elsewhere says, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 John 2:15-17). Some people are perplexed when we use this term, the world. They ask the question, “Just what do you mean when you speak of Christians not loving the world and Jesus choosing us out of the world. What world do you mean? Do you mean the universe as such?” No “Do you mean the globe?” No, not that. “What, then?” This order or system of humanity that has turned its back on God. That is the world. And that world, I repeat, is just the same today as it ever was. When a Christian tries to be a friend of the world, he constitutes himself, at least in that act, into an enemy of God. Scripture uses strong language for those of His children who try to be friends of the world. In James we read, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (4:4).

We have pledged ourselves to the One whom the world rejects. Therefore, we are guilty of spiritual adultery if we throw our arms about the world that has refused Him. Oh, if every Christian could realize that he is called out of the world. If we only understood the heavenly nature of our calling, we would not raise so many questions as to whether there is any harm in this or that. The one great question would be, “Is this of the Father, or is it of the world?” If it is for the glory of God, I can go on with it gladly, but if not, then it should have no place in my life as a Christian.

This world hates Christianity. We see many examples of that today. How Christians are suffering in various parts of the world where once they seemed to have a welcome! Only a few years back Japan was heartily patronizing Christianity, and today they are declaring that it is an enemy of the State. The last word we hear is that all Christian missionaries are ordered to leave the land. Why? Because they know that Christianity is the very antithesis of the theories that they are now advocating and by which they hope to dominate eastern Asia. We see the same attitude on the part of other great world powers. Christ is still the hated One. The opposition to Him becomes more and more intense. It behooves us to ask ourselves if we are really prepared to stand with and for Him no matter what attitude men may take round about us. They hate our Lord. They hate His very grace and lovingkindness because it is such a reflection upon their pride and spirit of warfare that is opposed to the humility of Jesus. Men detest Him for His very lowliness.

He says, “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” (John 15:19). What a wonderful thing to be chosen out of the world! I am sure when we look forward and think of the judgment, we can thank God that we have been chosen out of the world.

But what shall we say of those who hope to be delivered and who profess to be Christians, but who are now seeking to get all the pleasure and good times the world can give them. One thinks of Lot and his family so long ago. They moved down to Sodom in order that they might participate in worldly things, tired of the life of separation lived up there on the hills of Palestine. Step by step downward, until they became ensconced in Sodom. Then came the day when the judgment of God was about to fall upon that guilty city and the angels came to bring the message, “Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed” (Genesis 19:17). We are told the angels commanded Lot to go to his relatives in the city, men who had married his daughters and tell them that tomorrow the judgment was to fall. But they mocked Lot when he talked to them about judgment. Why? Because he had lived so much like the rest of them. And now they thought he was demented.

Are you and I so living that our testimony really counts when we warn men to flee from the wrath to come, or are we living so near to the edge of the world, are we so much like those around us, that others question whether we really believe what we are professing? Oh, if there ever was a day when God is calling to absolute separation from this world, this is the time!

“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” (John 15:20). There you have the two classes, those who are subject to Him and those who refuse to own his authority. The lines are being drawn closer and closer, and will be drawn more and more definitely. As we read our Bibles and the newspapers and look around about us, we cannot help but believe that even now, perhaps, we are moving right on toward the darkness and horrors of the Great Tribulation. And if that be so, the hour when the Lord Jesus Christ “shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:16) must be very close at hand. Let us see that we so live, so behave ourselves, so use the talents that God has entrusted us with in order that our actions toward those about us, in the family, in the professing church and in the world around, will carry weight. That when we hear that voice, that shout, that trump, we will go with gladness and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.

One thing I am sure of is that there will never be a Christian in that day who will wish he had been a little more worldly or enjoyed more of the frivolity of the present moment. But there will be tens of thousands of believers who will in that day be willing to give almost anything if they had been more interested in the things of the Lord during the little time that they spent in this scene. God give us to live as those who have been chosen out of the world! When we came to Christ we said farewell to the world. We left it all for His name’s sake. Oh, how can we then go back on that which meant so much to us in the hour of our first love.

Let us search our hearts, and if we find that the world means more to us now than it did then, let us repent and “do our first works over again” that we may have His approval in the coming day.

The world hates God; it will hate us. If we are seeking its love, it will only be at the cost of faithfulness to Christ. That is the trouble with the world. It does not know God. Do we know Him? We never can know Him if we reject Jesus Christ. He says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). He came to reveal the Father. He has told out all that God is, and if men spurn Him, it is because they know not God. When we receive Him, we receive eternal life. “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).

“If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin” (15:22). Responsibility increases with knowledge. People have said to me, “If that is true, then what about the heathen? Are not the heathen all right just as they are? Why should we go to them with the gospel? For if we do not go, they will not have sin. Does that mean that the heathen are saved without the gospel?” Not at all. The first chapter of the epistle to the Romans explains that. It is not because of what they do not know-not because of the rejection of the Savior of whom they have never heard-but because of what they do know, because of the light of conscience which they already have that they are condemned. They are doing day by day the things that their own consciences tell them are wrong.

The Christian is to go to them with the gospel and proclaim a full and free salvation through the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ, bringing a message of joy and happiness such as they never have known in their idolatry. When they hear, they are responsible to accept the gift of God. Every time we preach the gospel here at home we must remember that to some it is “the savour of death unto death; and to others the savour of life unto life” (2 Corinthians 2:16). Men, hearing the message, either accept Christ as Savior or spurn the Word and increase their condemnation. It is a solemn thing when life is offered and men refuse it. That is what we are told in the earlier part of this book when Jesus was speaking to Nicodemus. He said, “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God” (John 3:19-21).

And so the greatest condemnation rested upon those who heard and rejected Christ when He came. He came and revealed God. They rejected Him, and thus rejecting Him they had no cloak for their sin, for in hating Him they hated His Father also.

“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” (15:24). That is, the Lord Jesus Christ not only ministered by word of mouth but He authenticated His teaching by His acts of power, and every miracle wrought by Christ proved that He was what He professed to be, the holy, spotless Son of God. The people went in crowds to see His miracles, but they rejected the One who wrought these works and therefore, added to their own condemnation. Of this He says, “But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause” (v. 25). He quotes from Psalm 69, where we have a wonderful prophetic picture of His dying on the cross for our sins. It is in that connection we read, “They … hate me without a cause” (v. 4). There was no reason why Jesus should be hated. He came with a heart full of love for mankind and went about doing good. Men spurned Him because His very purity brought their impurity out into the light, His very holiness accentuated their unholiness, His perfect righteousness but manifested their unrighteousness. They said, “Get Him out of the way!”

There is a story told of an African chiefess who happened to visit a mission station. The missionary had a little mirror hung up on a tree outside his cabin. The chiefess happened to look into the mirror and saw herself reflected there in all her hideous paint and evil features. She gazed at her own ugly, grotesque countenance, started back in horror, and said, “Who is that horrible looking person inside that tree?” “Oh,” they said, “it is not in the tree. The glass is reflecting your own face.” She could not believe it until she held that mirror in her hand. She said, “I must have the glass. How much will you sell it for?” “Oh,” he said, “I don’t want to sell it.” But she insisted and begged, until finally he thought it might be best to sell it to her to avoid trouble. So he named the price, and she took it. Then as she said, “I will never have it making faces at me again,” she threw it down and broke it to pieces.

That is the way people treat the Bible and Jesus Christ. The Word of God shows up men’s wickedness. They say, “Down with Christ! We don’t want your Bible, and we don’t want your Christ.”

But now, what is our power for testimony as we go to meet a world like this? In the last two verses Jesus again refers to that blessed One whose coming He had promised in the earlier part of His discourse. “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: and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning” (vv. 26-27). We have no power in ourselves. As Christians we are weak and have no ability to stand against the enemy, but “greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). And so our reliance is upon the Divine Comforter, the third person of the Trinity, who has come to take the Savior’s place and to empower us to go forth and bear witness that through this testimony men may be saved.

 


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Bibliography Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on John 15:4". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/isn/john-15.html. 1914.

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