Beginning at the End of Ourselves
This chapter begins with another “I am” statement from Jesus. These statements are always used by Jesus to describe who He is. In the case of John 15:1, Jesus says that He is the “true vine.” Those raised in an Israeli home would understand this imagery as the Old Testament describes the nation of Israel as being the vine or God’s vineyard (Isaiah 5:1-7; Jeremiah 2:21; Hosea 10:1; Psalm 80:8). So Jesus is the true vine or the true Israel. Jesus also describes His Father God as being the “vinedresser.” This insinuates that God the Father prunes the branches of His vineyard and makes them beautiful. In order for a garden to be fruitful, the gardener must tend to the garden and take care of it. It is the same with God. He tends to His branches and prunes them so that they may be fruitful. We are the branches that need the care that only God can provide.
There are two types of branches that Jesus states is within the vine that the vinedresser (God) must deal with. One, the branch that does not bear fruit is removed from the vine. If a vinedresser or a gardener notices a branch in the vine or garden that is without fruit, he will remove this branch from the vine and get rid of it. In the same way, Jesus is teaching us that God the Father notices those who claim to be in the family of God by faith in Jesus Christ, but in reality bear no fruit. They do not demonstrate any proof that they are followers of Christ so God removes them and separates them from His true disciples, who are described in the latter part of this verse. On the flip side of this, there are also branches in a vineyard that do in fact bear fruit. When a vinedresser or gardener notices this, he will prune this branch and prepare it to produce even more fruit. They gardener can use the branch that bears fruit, unlike the branch that does not bear fruit which the gardener cannot use. Jesus is saying in the second part of this verse that those who claim to follow Him and actually are true devoted disciples, God will prune them and prepare them to bear even more fruit than they already are. For, God can use those who bear fruit by demonstrating their faith in Jesus Christ. This pruning or cutting away may not be pleasant. It may be spiritually painful, yet this discipline of pruning causes a “harvest of righteousness” to be produced in our lives. Check out what Christ says of this in Revelation 3:19 (Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline).
In verse 3, it seems inaccurate at first since the word “clean” is used after the two previous verses discuss pruning. Actually, the word “prune” and the word “clean” come from the same root word before it was translated. Therefore, it could just as easily say, “Already you are pruned…” The importance of this verse is the tool or means that God uses to prune us as followers of Christ. What does Scripture say God, the vinedresser uses to prune us, the branches in Jesus, the vine? Simply, His Word. Because of the words and teachings of Christ, we are pruned so that we can bear more fruit. Therefore, apart from the Word of God, we cannot bear this fruit or be pruned by God since He Himself states that it is the means by which He prunes us. How can a branch be pruned in a vineyard without the proper tool? It cannot. It will become just like the other branches that produce no fruit and will eventually be thrown away. It is the same with us. How can we be pruned and bear any more fruit without the Word of God? We cannot. We will become like those who produce no fruit and will be separated from the presence of God.
This verse conveys the very purpose of our study this week. Apart from Christ and abiding in Him, there can be no relationship with Him and therefore no possible way to be in the presence of God. This passage shows more than any other that God is at work in producing fruit in us. We have to be certain to get this right that we do not bear fruit ourselves. We cannot do any good deed or act that is good enough to produce fruit that is acceptable to God. The opposite is actually true. By abiding in Christ, we are able to bear fruit. Apart from Christ we cannot bear fruit. This is a very important distinction to notice. Scripture does not say that we can abide in Christ when it is convenient for us and depend on ourselves when at other times. This cannot be the case if we are to produce fruit. When we abide in Christ, He abides in us. And it is that person who bears much fruit. This set of Scripture makes it clear that “apart from [Christ] you can do nothing.” Verse 6 describes the important distinction mentioned above. You either abide in Christ or you do not. If you do, you will produce fruit (John 15:4-5). If you do not, you will be thrown away into the fire and burned. Very strong imagery, and yes, Jesus meant this literally. Evidently, those who do not fully abide in Him are doomed to an eternal hell apart from the presence of God. This is hard to accept when we know people who have died that we know did not abide in Christ. These verses indicate that in order to be a Christian, you must abide in Christ so that God will prune you and produce fruit in you which will be evidence of your devotion to Christ.
The only way to have genuine prayer is to pray through Jesus Christ. When you are abiding in Christ, following His teachings, and hiding His words in your heart, you may be confident in your prayers. One thing that will be certain is that you will be in close relationship with God by abiding in His Son and His Word. We all seek the will of God in our life. Verse 7 gives us the confidence that we will know His will through prayer and be aware of all of His promises. We will know these things because when we abide in Christ and allow His Word to abide in us, we will know the nature of God and what He desires through our understanding of the Scripture that we have devoted ourselves to. When we abide in Christ, we will be able to pray effectively with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Verse 8 gives a direct inclination of what brings God glory and how we are identified as His children and followers of Jesus Christ. According to this verse, God is glorified when followers of Christ bear fruit, which shows evidence of the work of Christ in them. We do not cause this to happen. Our faith in Christ allows Him to work in our lives and evidence of this is the fruits of a devoted and committed relationship with Him. These fruits are the evidence of our salvation, not the cause of it.
The Greek word for “love” used in this verse is “agape.” Agape love is perfect love. It always seeks the best for its recipient. It is total self-less, unconditional love not seeking anything in return. This is the love that God the Father has for the Son Jesus Christ. This same amazing love is what Jesus says He has for us and He commands us to abide in it. How could we ever refuse that? It is very comforting to know that God loves us as much as He loves His Son, who was blameless.
Verse 10 gives light into what Jesus says we are to do in order to abide in His love. Simply put, Jesus says we are to keep His commandments. In other words, we are to obey His teachings. We can be encouraged that we have the greatest example to follow. We are to abide in Christ’s love as He abides in the Father’s love by obeying His commandments. Jesus obeyed the will of the Father while He was on earth and gave us this example to follow as we are to submit to the Father’s will and obey His commandments. In doing this, we will be abiding in the love of Jesus Christ. Love breeds obedience just as obedience breeds love. You cannot have one without the other when it comes to following Christ.
In the eyes of our culture and what our society rejoices in, these previous ten verses would not seem like they would produce much joy. Jesus, however, claims in verse 11 that the very reason He spoke these ten verses was to give us not only joy, but the greatest joy there is, the joy of Jesus Himself. He gave us these teachings and truths so that our joy would be full. The life of a follower of Christ consists of, without question, to accept discipline, be fruitful in doing God’s will, stay close to Jesus, and keep (obey) His commandments. This is a very demanding and as we saw last week, not an easy life. Even though the Christian life is not easy, the way to true joy is rooted in these demands of Christ.
Written by: Mathew Gilbert
References: Life Bible Study: Radical the Bible Study