with Alan Bailey
Welcome to this Bible Study. Read what I have written slowly. If you have a Bible look up the reference verses given, and allow the Holy Spirit to minister to your soul through them.
All of these verses are the words of the Lord Jesus. He is speaking to His twelve disciples, preparing them for His departure from this scene. The messages of chapters 14 to 16 are vital for all Christians as they reveal the close relationship that exists between Christ and those who belong to Him. Only true believers can claim this closeness. They can also be assured that the relationship is a permanent one.
In the passage we are looking at now, Jesus presents us with an allegory. An allegory is a word picture used to illustrate a truth. In this case Jesus uses grape-growing as a picture of the cultivating of the Christian life.
Verse 1 ‘I am the true vine and My Father is the vinedresser.’
Grape vines were common in Israel, so His hearers were familiar with the way they grew and the way they produced fruit. The expression ‘I am…’ is a familiar one to us. Already in this Gospel He has said, ‘I am the bread of life’ (6:35); ‘I am the light of the world’ (8:12); ‘I am the door’ (10:9); ‘I am the good shepherd’ (10:11); ‘I am the resurrection and the life’ (11:25); ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’ (14:6).
Jesus is like a vine in that He was planted by God to be the source of new life to many.
God the Father is the One who oversees the whole operation and gains what He wants from it.
Verse 2 ‘Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.’
From the main part of the vine, the stock, the branches grow. Any branch that does not produce is not a true, living branch and must be removed out of the way. True, fruitful branches are pruned to make them more fruitful. This is the way a vinedresser gains most from the vine. At certain times he cuts the branches back causing more vigorous growth.
The thought here is that Christians will at times be dealt with severely by God for their betterment. The treatment may seem harsh but is meant for overall improvement. The wording in the original includes the thought of cleansing the vine. He goes on to say more about that.
Verse 3 ‘You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you’
Jesus’ messages have had the effect of purifying the disciples. His words take away wrong thinking and acting and put His right and true ways in their place.
Verse 4 ‘Abide in Me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.’
To abide or remain in Him means to keep the connection with Jesus current, moment by moment, day by day. It means to walk in fellowship with Him, relying on Him for strength and for His own life to flow through ours. Just as a vine branch must draw from the vine, so must we draw from Christ. Without the vital union, all is lost. There will be no production. What is the kind of fruit He wants? He wants qualities like His own.
Love is one virtue He has already emphasized. In Galatians 5:22 we read of ‘Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.’ They are called the fruit of the Spirit.
Verse 5 ‘I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in Him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
As we have power to make decisions about how we live, it is possible for us to stray from our reliance upon Jesus and try to go it alone. Christians will confess that this happens all too often. Looking back on such times, we see how fruitless they were. We need to understand clearly that we cannot produce anything of spiritual value without the enabling power of the Lord.
Verse 6 ‘If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.
This is a warning for those who are pretenders, not genuinely branches united to Christ. The separation spoken of here will be eternal in the end. A terrible fate.
Verse 7 ‘If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.’
Jesus now refers to prayer. Note that it is a promise with conditions. Receiving direct answers to prayer depends on being close to our Lord and desiring the things that He desires. If we are abiding in Him and living by His Word we will not ask for wrong things out of wrong motives.
Verse 8 ‘By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so will you be My disciples.’
Christians growing and flourishing are the work of the grace of God. Therefore God is glorified, having saved them from their lost condition. Now they belong to their Lord.
Verse 9 ‘As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.’
Here we see the intimacy into which believers have been introduced. What love this is! Divine love for undeserving ones! No wonder He says that we should remain in awareness and appreciation of that love.
Verse 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.’
This abiding includes a careful attention to obedience. His words, His commands, should be the rule of our lives. In this way we will enjoy His love.
Verse 11 ‘These things I have spoken to you that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.
Joy is the result of abiding and obedience. So simple yet we so often fail to comply and thus lose joy. How wonderful that the Lord has our joy as His aim! Finally, it will be joy that never ends in His presence!
Verse 12 ‘This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.’
In chapter 13 was read how Jesus emphasized this with His disciples. It is not enough to be loved and appreciate it; we are called to love others in the same way Jesus loves. This may mean loving unlovely people but that can be done with God’s help.
Verse 13 ‘Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.’
This verse is often quoted in connection with the sacrifice of soldiers in war. True, men lay down their lives for others and should be acknowledged. Jesus challenges His hearers to love even to the extent of dying if necessary. He is the great example. In His case, however, He died for enemies, those who had no love for Him.
Verse 14 ‘You are my friends if you do whatever I command you.’
Once again He makes it clear that obedience is essential in this relationship. Servants do not contradict their master.
Verse 15 ‘No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.’
These men were certainly servants of their Master, but Jesus takes them a step further. They are brought into the circle of divine favour and called friends. Servants are simply told what to do, no more. But Jesus lets them hear secrets from the Godhead. What a wonder!
Verse 16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.’
Again we see what a great privilege it is to be a believer. All the blessing that is ours in Christ comes to us through pure grace. It was not through any good thing we did or because we deserved to be blessed. God began the process and He keeps it going. These disciples surely did produce fruit later on as they lived and died serving the Lord and bringing many others to Him. The fruit was lasting. God’s blessing comes through answered prayer.
This section of John gives us a glimpse of the seemingly limitless grace of God in bringing mere mortals into such a close relationship with Himself. It is important to be sure that we are in this inside group –to be certain that we are counted as disciples. As Christians, we need to thoroughly learn about our place in Christ and carefully live in harmony with Him.
As we go on in this book of John, we will learn more about the great help we are given to live this kind of life.
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