by Mike Ratliff
1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine-grower. 2 “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He cleans it so that it may bear more fruit. (John 15:1–2 Legacy Standard Bible)
Something has changed. Of course, I am sure the changes I am referring to have not suddenly taken place, but are, in fact, the result of years of God’s judgment upon nations, church groups (denominations), church leaders, and professing Christians because Christians at the core along with their leaders have compromised. Adherence to preaching Jesus and Him crucified has been replaced with feel good sermons that are designed to draw people in to large church bodies that have little to nothing to do with how the Bible defines the role of Christians and their relationships with Christ, each other and the world. Let us look at John 15, which was one of our Lord’s final teaching to His apostles just prior to going to the Cross.
The first part of John 15 in which our Lord teaches us of our relationship to Him is in vv1-11.
1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine-grower. 2 “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He cleans it so that it may bear more fruit. 3 “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit from itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. 7 “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. 9 “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10 “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11 “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:1–11 Legacy Standard Bible)
One vital teaching that is ignored in a huge part of today’s visible church is found in v2, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He cleans it so that it may bear more fruit.” The picture is of the vine-grower who is God the Father getting rod of dead wood while preserving the living, fruit bearing branches. The dead branches picture apostate Christians who never genuinely believed and will be taken away in judgment (v6, Mt 7:16; Eph 2:10). These apostates have never truly experienced the life of Christ within them (8:31,32, cf. Mt 13:18-23; 24:12; Heb 3:14-19; 6:4-8; 10-27-31; 1 Jn 2:19; 2 Jn 9). Look what He does to genuine believers, that is, those who do bear fruit. He cleans those branches. The word “cleans” in v2 of the LSB translates the Greek verb kathairei, the present tense, indicative mood, active voice, third person, singular form of kathairō, which means “prune,” however, in this analogy “clean” is what our Lord is referring to. The vine-grower would prune the healthy vines to make them produce more fruit, that is, he cuts away parts of the vine that hinder growth. In this analogy, the Father cleans away things from the believer’s life all things that hinder fruit-bearing, i.e., He chastises to cut away sin and hinderances that would drain spiritual life just as the farmer removes anything on the branches that keep them from bearing maximum fruit (Heb 12:3-11).
In v4 we have the wonderful word “abide.” Jesus says, “Abide in Me, and I in you.” Abide translates the Greek verb meinate the aorist tense, imperative mood, active voice form of menō, which means stay, remain, abide. However, we must look closer. The verb structure tells us what Jesus is talking about. The imperative mood tells us that this is a command. The active voice tells us that the subject of the sentence does the action. The aorist tense tells us that the time frame for this action is undetermined. Who is doing the action? We are to abide in Christ and He is to abide in us. We are both abiding in each other. Not only this, but this abiding or remaining is evidence that salvation has already taken place (1 Jn 2:19) and not vice versa. The fruit or evidence of salvation is continuance in service to Him and His teaching (8:31; Col 1:23; 1 Jn 2:24). The abiding believer is the only legitimate believer. Abiding believing actually are addressing the same issue of genuine salvation (Heb 3:6-19). Reading the rest of v4 we see, “As the branch cannot bear fruit from itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” This is why apostates who try to remain in a Church hate it when a preacher or teacher comes in who refuses to compromise the truth of Word of God. They become exposed because they have no fruit.
In v6 we see the imagery of destruction (cf. Mt 3:10-12, 5:22; 13:40-42,50; 25:41; Mk 9:43-49; Lk 3:17; 2 Th 1:7-9; Rev 20:10-15). This pictures the judgment awaiting all those who were never saved.
In these verses we see what our role is in this life with our Lord Jesus. We abide in Him, He abides in us, we are pruned or cleansed by the Father so we bear more fruit, we pray and receive from the Father (v7), out fruit-bearing brings glory to God, our abiding in Christ is abiding in His Love, then in v10 we are told that abiding in Christ means we also keep His commandments and finally, our abiding in Christ will bring us joy.
12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. 14 “You are My friends if you do what I command you. 15 “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16 “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would abide, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. 17 “This I command you, that you love one another. (John 15:12–17 Legacy Standard Bible)
In this section of John 15 we have the Believers relationship with other Believers. The word “love’ translates the Greek verb agapate, the present tense, subjunctive mood, active voice form of agapaō, which means “to love.” The following is an excerpt from Mounce’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words for this word.
(Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words) Verb: ἀγαπάω (agapaō), GK 26 (S 25), 143x. agapaō is one of four Gk. verbs meaning “to love.” In secular Greek especially before the time of Christ, it was a colorless word without any great depth of meaning, used frequently as a synonym of erōs (sexual love) and phileō (the general term for love). If it had any nuance, it was the idea of love for the sake of its object. Perhaps because of its neutrality of meaning and perhaps because of this slight nuance of meaning, the biblical writers picked agapaō to describe many forms of human love (e.g., husband and wife, Eph. 5:25, 28, 33) and, most importantly, God’s undeserved love for the unlovely. In other words, its meaning comes not from the Greek but from the biblical understanding of God’s love.
A biblical definition of love starts with God, never with us (1 Jn. 4:9-10). God is love itself; it is his character that defines love. Because he is love 4:8, using the related noun agapē), he acts with love toward an undeserving world (Jn. 3:16; 1 Jn. 3:1, 16), to save them from their sins and reconcile them to himself (Rom. 5:8). The pure and perfect love of God is typified in the love relationship between God the Father and God the Son, which Jesus shows to his disciples (Jn. 17:26).
In response, people are to love God. “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 Jn. 4:7-8). They are in fact to love God above everything else, which is the greatest commandment (Mk. 12:30, 33), and then to love one another (Mt. 19:19; 22,39; Mk. 12:31; Rom. 13:8; 1 Jn. 3:11, 23), especially their spiritual family (Gal. 6:10; 1 Jn. 2:10).
If a person loves God, he or she will also love other people (Gal. 5:6; 1 Thess. 3:6; 1 Jn. 4:20). Loving the other person is an outflow of God’s love for you (“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another,” Jn. 13:34; cf. 15:12; 1 Jn. 4:11) and sums up the entire law (Rom. 13:7; Gal. 5:14) and is the “royal law” (Jas. 2:8). “Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother” (1 Jn. 3:10). Our love toward Christ is demonstrated by our obedience to his teachings (Jn. 14:21, 15, 21, 23; 15,10; 1 Jn. 2:5; 5,3; 2 Jn. 6). In return, this obedience invokes the blessing, of God’s love for us (Jn. 14:21). No wonder that love stands at the head of the list of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22) and is the greatest of all that will last for eternity (1 Cor. 13:13, both using the noun agapē).
But disciples are not only to love God and fellow believers; they are to love all people (1 Cor. 16:14; 1 Thess. 3:12; 2 Pet. 1:7) as especially their enemies. “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt. 5:44; cf. Lk. 6:35).
The very foundation of salvation is grounded in the realization that God’s unmerited love toward us is greater than any other power—including death (Rom. 8:37-39; 1 Cor. 15:55-57).
The evidence of genuine salvation is that we will love one another just as Jesus loved us.
18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. 20 “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21 “But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. 22 “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 “He who hates Me hates My Father also. 24 “If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. 25 “But this happened to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘THEY HATED ME WITHOUT CAUSE.’ (John 15:18–25 Legacy Standard Bible)
In this last section of “relationships” we will look at vv18-25 which shows us the Believer’s relationship to the World. I for one have been experiencing this more and more the older I get or maybe the more mature I become as a believer the more I am aware of it. What is Jesus telling us? If we are in Christ then we are not of the world, therefore, the world hates us because it hates the real Christ. Oh, it loves the fake Christs people make up, but the real Christ, they hate. Why? The real Jesus is all about forgiving people of their sin and when these people come to Him and are saved they forsake their sin. The world hates that. Therefore, we must not become anxious or fret or become angry, or fight back the way the world does, or use the same tactics or ways of the world. No, we simply obey our Lord, love our brethren and show Christ’s love to everyone and watch as He saves some.
Soli Deo Gloria!