Jesus’ exhortations as recorded in the present passage are part of His lengthy discourses given in His final moments with the disciples. As we have seen in chapter 14, He first comforted their hearts and assured them of His return and abidance. When He had finished His first farewell discourse, He led the disciples away from where they were (14:31). The words of Jesus which this study focuses on build on the preceding farewell discourse. On the one hand, the disciples must remain in the Lord and go forth and be fruitful as a result. On the other hand, they also need to be prepared for the hostilities of the world against them.
Did You Know...?
1. “He takes away… He prunes” (15:2): “The vinedresser does two things to ensure maximum fruit production. In the winter, he cuts off the dry and withered branches. This may involve pruning the vines to the extent that only the stalks remain. Later, when the vine has sprouted leaves, he removes the smaller shoots so that the main fruitbearing branches receive adequate nourishment.” [ref] According to Leviticus 25:3, the pruning of vineyards is a part of the agricultural cycle.
- Relationship of Believers to Jesus (15:1–11)
- Relationship of Believers to One another (15:12–17)
- Relationship of Believers to the World (15:18–16:4a)
How are the vine and the branches an apt analogy of our relationship to the Lord Jesus?Hide Answer
Just as the vine sustains its branches, the Lord Jesus is our source of life. Our very spiritual existence and all the good works we do depend on Him. We are intimately connected to Him. Apart from Him, we can do nothing (15:5); we become completely useless, and are cast out from the Father’s presence like withered branches that are severed from the vine (15:6).
In what sense is Jesus the “true” vine?Hide Answer
The word for “true” denotes more than being real or genuine as opposed to being only imaginary, but also includes a sense of trustworthiness or certainty. It had also come to represent that which is eternal (e.g. The “true tabernacle” in Hebrews 8:2 and Hebrews 9:24 is heaven; “true” in this context is the opposite of being man-made and temporary). God is “true” (Jn 17:3; 1 Thess 1:9; 1 Jn 5:20) not simply in the sense that He is different from false gods, but also in contrast to what is human and earthly. This usage helps us better understand the descriptions in John of Jesus as the “true Light” (Jn 1:9) and the “true bread from heaven” (Jn 6:32). In Him alone can we find eternal life and put our trust. In the present passage, we learn further that He is the “true vine.” The word “true” emphasizes the divine and eternal nature of Jesus as the sole source of believers’ spiritual life.
What does our Father expect of us who are believers of Christ?Hide Answer
He wants us to bear much fruit, by which He is glorified (15:2, 8).
In what ways does our Father “prune” us?Hide Answer
The word for “prune” is literally “cleanse,” and is the verb form of “clean” in 15:3. This tells us that the Father prunes us through the word of our Lord Jesus. His word penetrates our soul and spirit to expose the thoughts and intents of our hearts, enabling us to see any impurities within us (Heb 4:12, 13). Also, when we meet with obstacles and trials as we carry out the Lord’s word, the suffering we experience in the process can be considered a form of pruning. Although it is painful, the pruning by God shapes our character and trains us to bear fruit of righteousness (Heb 12:1–11).
What enables us to bear fruit?Hide Answer
The only way for us to bear fruit is to abide in Jesus the true vine (15:4–6).
How do we abide in Jesus and in His love?Hide Answer
We are to abide in Jesus’ love and keep His commandments in the same way that Jesus kept His Father’s commandments and abided in His love (15:9, 10; cf. 1 Jn 2:24; 3:6, 24). Jesus knew that everything the Father entrusted Him to do was out of the Father’s love for Him (Jn 3:35; 5:20). Because of this understanding, He willingly and totally committed Himself to keeping His Father’s will. Likewise, we ought to view Jesus’ commandments with the same attitude, recognizing that His words to us are out of His love for us. Then we will gladly keep His words as if we are preserving and guarding something dear to us.
How does this segment elaborate on the meaning of bearing fruit?Hide Answer
Looking at the parallel between verses 16 and 17, it is clear that bearing fruit, in concrete terms, means obeying Jesus’ commandment to love one another.
What makes Jesus’ joy remain in us and complete our joy?Hide Answer
The Lord Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (15:11). By “these things,” Jesus was alluding to what He had said in the previous segment, i.e., that the disciples ought to abide in His love by keeping His commandments. In other words, keeping Jesus’ commandments is the way to abide in Jesus’ love, and its outcome is being filled with Jesus’ joy.
What is the basis of the commandment to love one another?Hide Answer
Jesus loved His disciples and laid down His life for them (15:12, 13). Jesus’ unsurpassable love for His own brings the community of believers together, and therefore serves as the motivation and foundation of love within this community.
How does the contrast between servant and friend teach us about our relationship with the Lord?Hide Answer
A servant, in this context, represents a person who obeys out of coercion because of his subservient status (cf. Jn 8:35). A friend, on the other hand, gladly does the wish of his friend out of love and trust. Through His death for us, the Lord Jesus has given us the love of a dearest friend. We, in turn, ought to obey Him, not because we fear His punishment, but because we honor Him and love Him.
What truths are behind Jesus’ statement “You did not choose me, but I chose you”?Hide Answer
Jesus’ statement to the disciples that they did not choose Him, but He chose them, first of all expresses the Lord’s sovereign choice over man’s will. It is by God’s grace, not by our works, that we have been chosen (cf. Rom 9:11; Eph 1:5). Because it is the Lord who chose us and appointed us, He would also empower us to accomplish the purpose for which He chose us if we abide in Him (Jn 15:16).
How does bearing fruit relate to the promise of 15:16?Hide Answer
Jesus’ promise that whatever His disciples ask the Father in His name the Father would give them was spoken in connection to His choosing and appointing the disciples to bear fruit. In other words, when we seem unable to keep Jesus’ commandments, we may ask help from the Father in Jesus’ name. Whatever we ask Him will be given to us on account of Jesus. Nothing is insurmountable for believers who make it their goal to love others.
How does this segment sharply contrast with the previous?Hide Answer
Whereas the previous segment speaks of the love among believers on the basis of Jesus’ love for them, this segment turns to the topic of the hatred of the world against believers.
What does “the world” represent?Hide Answer
In the Gospel according to John, the term “world” refers to the world God created and loves (Jn 1:10; 3:16, 17; 4:42; 6:33, 51, etc.). However, because of the general unbelieving attitude of the people, “the world” had increasingly come to also represent unbelievers (Jn 7:7; 8:23; 12:31; 14:17; 16:20; 17:14). It is in this latter sense that the Lord Jesus spoke of the hatred of the world.
According to Jesus, why would the world hate the disciples?Hide Answer
The world would hate the disciples of Jesus because they are not of the world but have been chosen by the Lord out of the world (15:19).
What are some ways in which you have experienced such hatred from the world?
How has Jesus’ coming revealed the sin of the world?Hide Answer
The Lord Jesus had proclaimed the truth and shown His works to the world. But the world refused to accept Him despite what it had seen and heard. The world’s unbelief became its own condemnation and revealed its sinfulness (cf. Jn 6:36–38; 8:43, 44; 10:37, 38).
How does the Holy Spirit testify of Jesus?Hide Answer
The Holy Spirit testifies of Jesus through the witnessing of the disciples (15:27). Our Lord Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit in order to empower us to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8). The Holy Spirit teaches us all things and reminds us of the words of the Lord (Jn 14:26). He would give us the words to speak, especially when faced with the hostility of the world (Mt 10:16–20; Mk 13:9–11; Acts 6:9–10).
How does the role of the Holy Spirit relate to the context of this segment?Hide Answer
In this segment, the Lord Jesus foretold of the hatred from the world against the disciples. When placed in such a situation, the Holy Spirit, who is their advocate and helper, will speak through them when they are confronted with the opposition from unbelievers (Mt 10:16–20; Mk 13:9–11). Thus, the Holy Spirit will testify of Jesus to an unbelieving world through the words of the disciples.
What would lead someone to such a misguided zeal as described in 16:2?Hide Answer
A person who is devoted to a religion but does not know the Father or Jesus His Son may persecute believers of Jesus (16:2). Paul was formerly in such a camp when He persecuted Christians (Acts 26:9–11; 1 Tim 1:13).
Why did the Lord emphasize the fact that He had told the disciples what was coming?Hide Answer
By remembering that the Lord Jesus had already foretold of the persecutions that would face believers, the disciples would not stumble but be assured that Jesus was indeed the sovereign Lord (16:1, 4; cf. Jn 13:19). Even though they may suffer persecution now for Christ’s sake, they can take heart knowing that He had overcome the world (Jn 16:33).