For an introduction to this series, click here.
May 14, 2007
Here we are again. This is another chapter of discourse either in the Garden or on the way there.
The first half of this chapter is the discourse on the True Vine. The main controversy about this section deals with two verses: "Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit." (15:2) "If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned." (15:6) There are good commentators who believe the branches that are taken away and burned are unsaved people, and there are just about as many who believe they are Christians. I guess the question is what it means to abide. I happen to think the most consistent position, especially based on the rest of John's writing, is to say that those who do not abide are lost. John makes these sort of contrasts between the saved and lost all the time, especially in his first epistle. But if you think the branches that do not abide are believers, I'm not going to start a fight over it.
Especially look at verse 8: "By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples." I think this is the key verse. Jesus seems to say in this verse that all of His true disciples will bear fruit, and the earlier verses are clear that none of the branches that bear fruit are taken away. But they are pruned, and that can be tough. We don't like to experience these things, but they are for our benefit.
Here is a famous verse from this chapter: "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends." (15:13) Contrast this with I Corinthians 13, where Paul says it is possible to give your life without love. I think if we put these two together, you end up with the old trite but true phrase: you can give without loving, but you can't love without giving.
"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you." (15:16) I couldn't let this one pass by. We don't understand what we are involved in with salvation, or at least I don't, but I am thankful that the Lord made the choice, and that He chose me.
The conclusion of this chapter has Jesus warning the disciples that the world will hate them: "A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me." (15:20-21) Jesus promises there will be persecution from the world. I don't think I have experienced much of it, and that's probably a sad commentary on my Christian life. But I think too many times people confuse a natural reaction from people with persecution. If you are obnoxious, people are going to be offended, but not because of the Lord Jesus. Persecution and opposition for Jesus' sake will be rewarded. Mistreatment for stupid behavior is just a stumbling block in the way of everyone.