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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

John 15

 

 

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Verses 1-27

John 15:1. I am the true vine. The vine through every age had designated the Hebrew church; here the Lord employs it to designate the Christian church, of which he is the head, and the source of life. He is that vine which gives vital juice to render all the branches fruitful, and whose fruits refresh and fill the heart with joy and gladness. 9:13. Psalms 104:15.

My Father is the husbandman, who takes care of these branches, cutting off the suckers and withered parts, pruning the vine, and purging the fruitful branches that they may bring forth more fruit. Grotius thinks, the occasion of this parable was taken from the Lord’s supper, which he had then celebrated, or was instantly to celebrate. As in chap. 6., when discoursing of his passion, he calls himself the true bread, so here he calls himself the true vine, nourishing the soul to life eternal, with the fruit of the living vine. Luke 22:18. It seemed necessary thus to speak of the effects of his death, because his disciples were offended at it, and their faith wavered on that account. Others think, that having spoken of Judas as a branch not purged but withered, and fit only for the fire, chap. John 13:10-11, he admonishes them to be careful that they become not such branches; and as he said there, John 15:10, so he repeats that saying here, John 15:3, “Ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.”

Observe here, how our blessed Saviour, under the metaphor of a vine, elegantly sets forth himself in his relation to the visible church, showing under that similitude what his Father meant to do with Judas, and with all unfruitful branches like him, even to take them away, cut them off, and throw them into the fire. But such as are fruitful he purges by his word and Spirit, by ordinances and providences, by mercies and afflictions, that they may be more abundantly and abidingly fruitful. Christ, in his offices and relations to his people, most fitly resembles a vine. The vine is weak, mean, and small in outward appearance, not like the cedar for height, or like the oak for strength; so was Christ in his state of humiliation; there was no beauty or comeliness in him. Isaiah 53:2. The vine is a fruitful plant, though it has little pomp, and is only useful in fruitbearing, bringing forth plenty and variety to make glad the heart of man.

Thus the fruits of Christ’s death, resurrection, ascension, and intercession, are many and great, delightful and sweet. As the fruit of the vine is pressed, that it may become drink to men; so Christ submitted to be trod in the winepress of God’s wrath, that thereby the sweetest fruit and benefit might redound to his people. As the vine is the root from which all the branches derive their nourishment and fruitfulness; in like manner is Christ the stock, into which all his members are engrafted; the root, in which they all subsist; and the fountain, from whence their spiritual life and fruitfulness proceed.

Christ is the vine, and his Father is the husbandman. He engrafts and implants all the branches into this vine: the plants of righteousness are of his own right-hand planting. He takes notice what store of fruit every branch brings forth; and it is his daily care to dress and dung, to purge and prune, to support and shelter his vineyard, that it may bring forth fruit abundantly.

There are two sorts of branches in this vine, some fruitful, others unfruitful. Some have the visibility, but not the reality of branches; some are branches only by external profession, others are so by real implantation.

The true touchstone whereby to discern one sort of branches from another, is not by the fair leaves of profession, but by the substantial proofs of a holy and righteous conversation.

The husbandman’s hand (God the Father’s) manages the pruning-knife of affliction, in order to his people’s improvement in grace and holiness; he had rather see his vine bleed, than see it barren.

After all the husbandman’s care, such branches as remain unfruitful shall finally be cut off and cast away, as was Judas, who in this discourse of our Saviour seems particularly and especially to be aimed at. He was a branch in him that bare no fruit, who was shortly after taken away, and went to his own place.

John 15:2. Every branch in me. The union with Christ and the church is represented by many figures, as the body and its members, the living temple composed of living stones, the family of God joined in one spirit to the Lord; and here, by the vine and its branches.

John 15:9. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you. There is not one honour enjoyed by the glorified humanity of Christ but he shares it with his people — the knowledge of God — adoption — session on his throne — a sight of his glory — a conformity to him in glory. What can love do more? All is yours, for ye are Christ’s. But the grace so great is connected with all the sweet constraining powers of obedience to his word.

John 15:16. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you. Matthew says, that in the nomination of the twelve, Jesus called unto him whom he would, as he had called the prophets in the ancient church. He ordained the apostles with pastoral powers, that they should go out and preach, and bring forth fruit to God; that they should also form churches, in which young converts might be nourished, that so their fruit might remain. One grand cause of ministerial success is prayer, which brings the soul into closer fellowship with God. The man of devotion ascends the pulpit full of the grandeur of the supreme Being, and speaks with a majesty and power of eloquence which the rhetors of this world cannot teach.

John 15:17. These things I command, that ye love one another. In this they obeyed. The apostles in Jerusalem were of one heart and one soul. Peter uses the phrase, our beloved brother Paul; and Paul’s epistles close with greetings and salutations. How different were the primitive from later times, when heresies, councils, and excommunications rent the seamless coat of Christ. The unity of the church consists in brotherly love, and in being joined in one bond and one spirit to the Lord.

John 15:18-19. If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. We may observe with what fervency and importunity our Lord inculcated and pressed upon his disciples the duty of mutual love, in the foregoing verse: “I command you that ye love one another.” The argument which he uses to press his disciples in general, and his ministers and ambassadors in particular, to love each other, is, because the world would certainly hate them. Learn hence, that the world’s hatred of the members and ministers of Christ, is to be esteemed by them a strong argument to excite and persuade them to love one another; for this is subjoined, to excite mutual love, that we are sure to meet with the world’s hatred.

The several arguments, by way of encouragement, which Christ proposes to comfort his members and ministers against the world’s hatred, are deserving of particular attention. The first is taken from his own lot and usage: while in the world he met with the very same before them. “The world hated me before it hated you.” Hatred and persecution from the world need not therefore seem hard to the saints, if they consider what a portion of it Christ had himself endured. He is the prime object of the world’s hatred; and they who hate him much will hate his members more, because of their likeness and resemblance to him.

A second argument of comfort under the world’s hatred is, that it will evidence they are not of this world, but chosen out of the world: John 15:19. Because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hate you. The children of God, we see, though in the world, are not of the world; they have not the spirit of the world, nor is the conversation of the world led by them. The difference betwixt them that are of the world, and those that are chosen out of the world, is of God’s making. I have chosen you out of the world. Such christians as are separated from the world, in judgment, in affection and practice, must for that reason expect to be hated and persecuted by the world. Because ye are not of the world, therefore the world hates you.

The third argument for consolation and support under the world’s hatred, is taken from our relation to Christ, as servants to a master: John 15:20. Remember the servant is not greater than his lord; as if Christ had said, Ought ye to expect better treatment than myself, either as to your persons or ministry; or that the world would better receive your doctrine than it did mine before you? Neither the members nor ministers of Christ can or ought to expect better entertainment in and from the world, than their Master found before them. The servant is not above his master, nor greater than his lord.

A fourth argument to support them under the burden of the world’s hatred, is taken from the goodness of the cause for which they were to suffer; namely, for Christ’s name’s sake: John 15:21. All these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake. Hence it is the duty of all, especially of the ministers of Christ, to own their Lord, to stand up in defence of his name and truth, his glory and honour, what opposition soever they may meet with for the same. The great quarrel of the world against the disciples of Christ is for the name of Christ; whatever may be pretended, this is the ground of the quarrel.

John 15:20. If they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. The church is a new community, established under the royal charter of heaven: by her glory and beauty she eclipses and shames the ungodly world. They hate us because we testify that its works are evil. So they hated the Lord, but hated him without a cause. We must not then be discouraged, for he shunned not the high duty of declaring the whole counsel of God, amidst all the enmity and opposition of the unbelieving jews.

John 15:22. If I had not come and spoken to them all the pleasure of the Father, as Messiah, they had not had sin, the sin of unbelief, which will prove their utter ruin. In my public disputations, I told them that I was from above; that I and the Father are one; that in works, I did whatsoever the Father did; so that they are left without excuse.

John 15:26. The Comforter — the Spirit of truth. He is himself the truth essentially, the inspirer of prophets and all holy men, revealing to them the counsels of heaven, that by manifestation of the truth they might commend themselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. It is also the office of the Holy Spirit to perfect every grace in the believer’s heart, and confer every endowment on the church, as is more fully stated in the next chapter.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on John 15:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/john-15.html. 1835.

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