We are continuing our study of the Upper Room Discourse, which takes place in the last 18 hours of our Lord's earthly life. John chapters 13-17 give us the teaching of Yeshua to His disciples in His last hours before His execution. We are currently looking at John 15:1-17 which deal with the metaphor of the Vine and the Branches. The theme of this section is clearly fruit bearing. The word fruit occurs eight times in these seventeen verses. And only occurs two other times in this Gospel.
It is my understanding that this passage on fruit bearing deals with the subject of discipleship. Fruit bearing is a mark of discipleship:
By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. John 15:8 ESV
Disciple is from the Greek mathetes, which literally means: "a learner or follower." A disciple remains a disciple as long as he or she continues to follow the instruction of his or her teacher. When a person stops following faithfully, he or she ceases to be a disciple.
Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. John 15:3 ESV
This is our Lord saying to His disciples that they are clean, meaning they are believers. If we go back to chapter 13:10-11, we see that "clean" here clearly refers to salvation. I don't see any other way to take this verse than that Yeshua is telling those who He is speaking to that they are saved. So Yeshua then tells those who are clean, those who have believed in Him, His children to:
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. John 15:4 ESV
Yeshua is commanding believers to abide in Him. So those who are believers, those who have eternal life, which they can never lose, are told to abide in Christ. There is clearly a distinction between believing and abiding. The verb "abide" is the Greek meno. In John's Gospel, the term is used of "dwelling" in a certain place, of staying somewhere as one's dwelling place. So I think we could say that for Lazarus meno has the idea of "make one's home." To "abide" in Christ is to "make our home" in Him. Abiding in Him is not automatic; it is something which we are commanded to do, and which takes effort and action on our part.
In verse 4 He says:
Abide in me, and I in you… John 15:4 ESV
In verse 7 He says:
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you… John 15:7 ESV
So in verse 7 the phrase, "My words abide in you," is substituted for the phrase in verse 4, "I in you." So we could say that for Christ to abide in us is for His Word to abide in us. That is why it is so important for us to spend time in the Word of God. You can't abide in Christ if His Word doesn't abide in you.
In verse 9 Yeshua says, "Abide in my love." So how do we abide in His love? Yeshua is very clear on this matter. We abide in His love when we keep His commandments:
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. John 15:10 ESV
"If you keep my commandments" is a third class conditional sentence, which means: "potential action. Maybe you will, and maybe you won't." Remember Yeshua is addressing His own disciples, who are clean. So those who are clean, believers, may or may not "keep His commandments." And if they don't keep His commandments they will not abide in Him or in His love. It is not assumed that all believers will abide. So there must be some distinction between believing and abiding.
These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:11 ESV
So why was Yeshua saying these things to His disciples? So that His joy may be in them and that their joy may be full. "These things"—is everything He's just said in the previous ten verses. The truths of abiding in Christ, keeping His commandments. Believers to abide in Christ is to have joy. To live in obedience to the Lord's commands is to have joy. Joy doesn't come from doing your own thing, it comes from abiding in Christ.
"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. John 15:12 ESV
Yeshua summarizes His teaching with the command to "love one another". Here we see the reference to the commandments (plural) in 15:10 have been reduced to a singular commandment: the disciples are to love one another. This is a present active imperative, showing that love is to be the dominating, constant activity in our relationships.
Yeshua is repeating His command found in John 13:34, and He repeats it again in 15:17. Three times in this discourse Yeshua tells them to love one another. This is NOT a suggestion, it's a commandment. You cannot live out the Christian life, you cannot abide in Christ, you cannot be a disciple of Christ, without a commitment to loving other people.
Love-it's the most significant attribute Christians can offer the world. We need to love one another. To not be a loving person is not some small character flaw, it is to break the greatest commandment, it is to not love God. So, we must understand that love is a requirement.
Lazarus uses the word "love" seven times in this context. Maybe intended to draw attention to the significance of 7 as the number of fullness, completion, and/or spiritual perfection, and could point to the perfection of Christ's love for us.
Notice that Christ says we are to love, "as I have loved you"-in less than 18 hours Yeshua would show them the depth of His love by making the supreme sacrifice and dying for them. After that, they would not only have His command to obey, but also His example to follow. The love they/we are to have for one another is to be so great that it includes a self-sacrificial willingness to die for one another if necessary.
Leon Morris gives a good explanation of Christian love when he writes,
"Love in the Christian sense is not sentimentality; it is not a gushing, emotional indulgence of some loved one. Love is what we see in the cross. It is what Christ showed when he laid down his perfect life for sinners. It is important to bear in mind that it is love for sinners. Yeshua does not mean the kind of love that we so commonly have in mind when we use the term, a love for someone whom we find supremely attractive (sinners are not attractive to a holy God). Nor is it a love for those bound to us by natural ties, such as family members (God is not bound by natural ties to sinful people). Nor is it the love of friendship, a love drawn out from us by those we find congenial (God does not find sin or those who practice sin congenial). A love for sinners means a love that proceeds from the fact that God is love; he loves because it is his nature to love.
[Expository Reflections on the Gospel of John, 523-524]
Our love for others should be a reflection of Christ's self-giving, sacrificial love that was to take him to the cross at Calvary; a love that didn't count the cost; a love that reached out to the undeserving.
If you want to love as Yeshua loved, then actively meet the needs of those who may not do anything for you in return. Christian love does not have a stopping point. It goes to the extent of sacrificially dying for others.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV
Sacrificial love means that we are willing to be inconvenienced in order to demonstrate our love to others. Love will not always fit into your schedule or routine. Sometimes you will have to go outside of your comfort zone to love.
Two of the men that Yeshua was directly talking to when he said to love one another were Matthew the tax collector and Simon the Zealot! Think about this. The Zealots were a radical political party whose main objective was getting Roman rule out of the Holy Land. And they viewed tax collectors as despicable traitors who had sold their souls to Rome. They took advantage of their fellow Jews by milking them for excessive taxes that they pocketed. So I don't care what differences you have with your brothers in Christ you are to love them.
Commenting on this verse one teacher states, "A nature that has been regenerated by the Holy Spirit whose fruit is love, cannot help but to demonstrate genuine love." So he is basically saying if you are saved you will love. So is love automatic for believers? Why are we commanded to love if we "cannot help but love"? Believer, love is not automatic, selfishness is. That's why we are commanded to love. It is something that has to be worked at.
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13 ESV
In the context this must refer primarily to Yeshua's own self-sacrificial death on the cross on behalf of his followers. The laying down of Yeshua's life is spoken of as a command of the Father in:
No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father." John 10:18 ESV
Because Yeshua loved the Father he obeyed the Father even to the point of death. Later in his epistles Lazarus will write:
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:16-18 ESV
Laying down of one's life may include dying for the other, which is what Yeshua himself is about to do for them, but it includes that same attitude of humble service that Yeshua has already demonstrated in Chapter 13.
The word "friend" is the Greek word philos. It's from the Greek verb phileo which means "to love, to have affection for." So are we just to love our friends? In this context Yeshua is speaking to his disciples about their need to love one another. In different contexts we find Yeshua telling believers to love even their enemies:
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:43-48 ESV
Only Christians who are abiding in Christ can love like this, this is supernatural.
You are my friends if you do what I command you. John 15:14 ESV
This verse really explains 15:10, "If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love" in another way. "If you keep my commandments you are my friends." Those who keep Yeshua's commandments are called his friends.
"Friend" is another relative term such as "abiding" or "fellowship." A person can be an intimate friend, a close friend, a casual friend, or a Facebook friend, which can be someone you have never met. But friend is used here as an intimate friend.
"If you do what I command you"-this is a third class conditional sentence which means potential action. It gives the condition for friendship, which is obedience. So again these believers may or may not keep Yeshua's commandments and be His friends.No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. John 15:15 ESV
Even though Yeshua here elevates the disciples from being slaves to being friends, I think it is important to understand that the master-slave relationship is not eradicated. Just a few sentences later Yeshua implies that He is the master and they are His slaves:Remember the word that I said to you: '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. John 15:20 ESV
Paul, James, and Peter later all call themselves "slaves of Yeshua the Christ" (Rom. 1:1; James 1:1; 2 Pet. 1:1). There is a sense in which every Christian may legitimately be thought of as a slave. This is what Yeshua taught the disciples to call themselves:"So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, 'We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.'" Luke 17:10 NASB
I used the NASB here because it properly translates doulos as slave. The Greek word doulos meant: "slave" in classical Greek. It was a word used to describe slaves who had no rights. Their masters owned them, and their only justification for being allowed to live was that they fulfilled the wishes of their owners. Doulos has normally been seen as a reference to a bond slave, someone without legal standing or personal claims; someone owned by another, since that is what the doulos was in Graeco-Roman Society. Most Bible students see this meaning and would say a Christian has no rights. But the term doulos has at least two meanings in the Hebrew Scriptures. In the LXX it was used to translate the Hebrew word ebed. An examination of the Hebrew text of the Tanakh, particularly that of Isaiah, shows that ebed was a title for pious men. It was applied to Abraham, Moses, Joshua or David, and to the Servant of Yahweh.
The essential difference between the Hebrew slave, who is sold into the possession of another, and the slave of Yahweh is not merely the status of the owner. The essential difference is one of covenant.
In the LXX doulos described a relationship within the covenant that Yahweh had made with Israel. This is also the case in the New Testament, where the context normally shows it to describe a relationship within the New Covenant which Yahweh has established through Christ. This covenant use does not speak of someone who has no rights, but of someone who is showered with honor and privilege as a result of being a slave of the living Yahweh. We see this use in:Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. Isaiah 42:1 ESV
"Servant" here is ebed, which is a slave. The status of "slave" confers on the Church and her members the highest honor as she and they are called to serve the living God. Following the exodus type, Israel was Pharaoh's slave, but through her redemption she became Yahweh's slave. The same is true of believers, by faith we become Yeshua's slaves.
Your slavery to Christ results in a right standing with Yahweh. You are in union with Him who satisfied eternal justice on your behalf, so your union with Him results in full acquittal of your sins and God's declaration of righteousness. Christ accomplished all that was necessary for you to be declared righteous by God.No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. John 15:15 ESV
He calls them friends because "slaves" customarily receive orders without any explanations or reasons for their orders. But a friend is told what the master is doing. One of the differences between friends and slaves is the degree of intimacy they share with their Master.
Yahweh called Abraham "My friend" in Isaiah 41:8. And when He was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, He let his "friend" know what he was about to do:The LORD said, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, Genesis 18:17 ESV
We see the same kind of intimacy with Moses, Exodus 33:9-14. Abraham and Moses are both called the friend of God. In both cases, God reveals things to His "friend" that He does not reveal to others. And in both cases, on the basis of what God did reveal to His "friend," this "friend" petitioned God on behalf of others, and the petition was granted.
Well soon see in our text a promise of answered prayer to His friends.
Throughout the Gospels, we are told that the disciples did not know or did not understand much of what Yeshua had come to do. They misunderstood and misapplied just about everything that he taught them. But after His death and resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit, things changed, they now understood His mission and theirs.
These men went on to write the New Testament, So under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have passed on to us what they learned. And so from the time of Pentecost onward, any saint can be an informed "friend" of our Lord, knowing what He is doing, and why, through His Word.
Yeshua proved to His disciples that they were His "friends" as well as His slaves, but He pointed out that a master shares his plans with his friends but not with his slaves. He had told them what was coming, and thereby was treating them as His friends.
I think that Christians today can be to casual in their relationship with Yeshua. He is not our home boy or buddy, He is our Lord. On Yeshua being our friend D.A. Carson writes, "Although Abraham and Moses are called friends of God, God is never called their friend; although Jesus can refer to Lazarus as his friend, Jesus is not called the friend of Lazarus. Neither God nor Jesus is ever referred to in Scripture as the 'friend' of anyone. [Carson, D. A. (1991). The Gospel according to John (pp. 518-531). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans.]. So Yeshua here calls the disciples His friends. But He is still their/our Lord and we are His slaves.Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV
We were bought by God out of the slave market of sin and are his slaves and He is our Lord. The difference between friend and slave is not at the point of obedience - both must obey. Rather, a master does not explain the "whys" to his slaves, but he does to his friends. The whole Last Discourse and especially the following section are part of Yeshua's explanation of "why" to his disciples. He is treating them as friends.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. John 15:16 ESV
"You did not choose me, but I chose you"-many will say here that Yeshua's primary reference here is to choosing these men as His disciples, not to their election to salvation (even Calvin says this). Maybe so, but there is no way this truth can be limited, this is a truth that is universal in the spirit world-God chooses. This is true of all Christians not just the disciples. The Scriptures are abundantly clear that God both chooses us for salvation and also sovereignly determines our spiritual abilities and station in life.
In the culture of the first century a disciple would look for and choose a rabbi, not the other way around. But in this case Yeshua had chosen them.
Yeshua says, "You did not choose Me," that's the negative. The positive is, "I chose you." The word for "choose," (EKLEGO) means simply to "pick or choose for one's self". The Greek translators of the Tanakh, the Septuagint, used it over 90 times to refer to God choosing someone or some people for His own purpose and glory. The word is not complicated. It means precisely what it says. Yeshua is quite emphatic in the way the Greek text reads, literally using a double "I" to emphasize that Yeshua is the one doing the choosing, not the disciples. This is the doctrine of election or divine calling or effectual calling. We have seen this all through our study of John.But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. John 6:36-37 ESV
Two verses earlier Yeshua had connected "coming" to Him to "believing in Him." So, since the crowd does not believe in Him, they have not "come" to Him. It is this unbelief, then, which Yeshua is addressing in this verse.
Why does any one come to believe in Yeshua? It is only because He was given by the Father to the Son. So the reason that anyone does not believe is because they were not given by the Father to the Son.
"All that the Father gives to me"—the ability to believe on Yeshua requires divine enablement. It is only those whom "the Father" enables to believe that "come to" Yeshua in faith. These are "all" the people whom "the Father gives" to the Son as gifts. Yeshua viewed the ultimate cause of faith as God's electing grace, not man's choice.
The order here is crucial. "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me"—Yeshua does not say that all who come to Him will then be given to Him by the Father. We do not determine by our response who will be the Father's gift to the Son. Rather our response is determined by the prior election of God. The word "gives" is a word of destiny. It's divine sovereign election.Yeshua answered them, "Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:43-44 ESV
Don't grumble, you can't come if you're not drawn. Who is the Lord talking to here? Unbelieving Jews. Did you ever learn this method in an evangelism training course? Have you ever been taught, when witnessing to the lost, tell them they have no ability in themselves to come to Christ ,and the only way they will ever believe in Him is if God sovereignly draws them? They don't teach this in evangelism classes, but this is Yeshua's method. You can't come unless you're drawn.
"No one, neither Jew nor Gentile, has the ability to come to Me." "Unless"-this word is a "necessary condition." Yeshua said that the necessary condition for someone coming to Him was God giving it to them. What does God give them? Ability. Simply put, God gives man the ability to come to Christ. Man, on his own, does not have that ability.
The Greek word translated "draws" is helkuo, which means: "to drag." The eight uses of this word in the New Testament make it very clear that helkuo means: "to draw by irresistible superiority." Please take the time to look up all eight uses of helkuo in the New Testament. They all have the idea of dragging, not inviting or calling.
Now let me ask you, Why does God have to drag men to himself? Why can't men come to Christ unless they are given and drawn. Why? The answer is simple and clear, it is because men are dead:And you were dead in the trespasses and sins Ephesians 2:1 ESVeven when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2:5 ESV
Paul is using an analogy here of death. When Paul says they were "dead," he means dead! Not physically dead, but spiritually dead. Their spiritual condition is analogous to being physically dead. To be dead is to be lifeless. To be dead is to be unable to help oneself. To be dead is to be absolutely powerless. To be dead is to be beyond hope, apart from the supernatural.
Physical death is an inability to respond, no matter what the stimulus is. Physical death means you can't react. You've been to enough funerals, and so have I, to know what physical death is. It doesn't matter what the stimulus is, no physically dead individual ever reacts to any stimulus.
Spiritual death is an inability to respond to things of the spirit:The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14 ESV
The natural man is spiritually dead. The very picture of being dead and the need for God to impart new life strongly implies a lack of ability on the part of the dead sinner to do anything to effect his own spiritual life.
Notice what Paul is NOT saying, he is not saying that we were handicapped. He did not say that we were sick. He did not say that we're misguided by our social surroundings. He says we were dead! We were without any spiritual life at all.
Those who do not like the truth of God's absolute sovereignty in salvation try to come up with ways around it. They make up strawman arguments like Michael Heiser does on his Naked Bible Podcast #208. Where he says,
"Calvinists, of course, make spiritual deadness about an inability to believe, based on the idea that dead people can't do anything. They're dead! But that presses the focal point of the metaphor (a dead body) into an unnecessary service. That is, it takes all the aspects of the metaphor and then loads them into the discussion. That's an intentional but unnecessary use of the metaphor, so I have a bone to pick with the Calvinists here. The spiritual death topic ultimately hinges on how one defines death. For Calvinists, death is the absence of conscious life. You see what they did there? They loaded consciousness onto the idea of death."
What? No Calvinist believes that when the Bible says that man is dead that that means that he has no conscious life. Consciousness is being aware of one's environment and body and lifestyle. Spiritual dead man is very aware of his environment he is just unaware of the spiritual realm because he is spiritually dead.
Heiser continues, "In other words, if you define spiritual death based on all of the elements of a dead body (a dead body obviously has no conscious life)… If that's how you frame spiritual deadness—that you're unable to believe because dead bodies don't do anything and they can't make decisions…"
Calvinists don't define spiritual death based on all of the elements of a dead body, the dead body is an analogy of a spiritual condition. Man is spiritually dead. He cannot respond to God.
Heiser goes on to say, "You have human beings that are no longer self-aware in a Calvinist system, prior to regeneration. It just doesn't make any sense." Self-awareness is having conscious knowledge of one's own character and feelings. Spiritual dead beings are self aware they just aren't God-aware. This is a total strawman argument by a man who is way to smart to be doing this. No Calvinist believes what he says we do.
So all of us fall into the category of chapter 15, and verse 16: "You did not choose Me, but I chose you." All who believe were chosen of God.
"Appointed you that you should go and bear fruit"-the best Greek texts record that Yeshua chose them and set them apart (ethka) that they might go and bear fruit. This verb also occurs in verse 13: Yeshua "sets apart" or "sets aside" his life for others. The verb commonly occurs, with a personal object, in contexts where people are being "set apart" for particular ministry (Acts 13:47 [citing Is. 49:6]; 1 Tim. 1:12).
Yeshua had also "appointed" them to a specific task. They had a job to do as His slaves, they had a mission to fulfill. The purpose for which the disciples were appointed is that they go and bear fruit which remains. The idea of "going" suggests that the fruit is something more than just character qualities in the disciples' own lives, this is a reference to Christian converts. The disciples training was complete, and they would soon be to sent off on a mission, so He was commissioning them.
"So that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you"-the Greek begins with hina ('that') these words remind the reader that the means of the fruitfulness for which they have been chosen is prayer in Yeshua's name. As we have seen in the other prayer promises in this discourse these promises are given to help them on there mission of spreading the gospel. I don't believe that this is a promise that we can claim.
Our Lord is saying, "I appointed you that you that you would go." And then to make sure that they would have everything they need he says, "Whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give it to you."These things I command you, so that you will love one another. John 15:17 ESV
How many times has Yeshua issued this new commandment to love in the Upper Room Discourse? This is the third time (13:34; 15:12).
This brings to a close the metaphor of the Vine and the branches which is all about fruitbearing which is about abiding in Christ. So let me ask you, How much time do you spend in the pursuit of Christ? I was thinking about story of Mary and Martha in Luke chapter 10:But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her." Luke 10:41-42 ESV
What was "the good portion" that Mary chose and that Martha neglected? It was simply "abiding" in Christ, sitting at His feet, enjoying Him?