Exegesis on the book of John Chapter 15: What is the meaning and what does it teaches us?
1. John 15:1-10 | Jesus encourages us to bear fruit, but warns those who do not
John 15:1-4 | Abide in me so you can bear fruit
15 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes (He cleans) it so that it may bear more fruit.
3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit [c]of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.
15:1, I am the true vine. This is the last of seven claims to deity in the form of “I AM” statements by Jesus in the Gospel of John (see 6:35; 8:12; 10:7, 9; 10:11, 14; 11:25; 14:6).
Through this extended metaphor of the vine and branches, Jesus set forth the basis of Christian living. Jesus used the imagery of agricultural life at the time, i.e., vines and vine crops (see also Matt. 20:1-16; 21:23-41; Mark 12:1-9; Luke 13:6-9; 20:9-16).
In the OT, the vine is used commonly as a symbol for Israel (Ps. 80:9-16; Is. 5:1-7; 27:2-6; Jer. 2:21; 12:10; Ezek. 15:1-8; 17:1-21; 19:10-14; Hos. 10:1, 2). Jesus specifically identified Himself as the “true vine” and the Father as the “vinedresser” or caretaker of the vine. The vine has two types of branches: (1) branches that bear fruit (vv. 2, 8) and (2) branches that do not (vv. 2, 6).
The vinedresser’s (Father God) goal is to make it more fruitful. The condition is for the branches (us) to abide (μείνατε or remain) in the vine (Jesus).
15:2 He takes away. The picture is of the vinedresser (i.e., the Father) getting rid of deadwood that has no use or benefits anyone (except perhaps to be burned). So that the living, fruit-bearing branches (Christians) may be sharply distinguished.
The branches that bear fruit are genuine believers. Though the focus is upon the eleven faithful disciples in the immediate context, the imagery also encompasses all believers down through the ages.
The branches that do not bear fruit are those who profess to believe, but their lack of fruit indicates genuine salvation has never taken place, and they have no life from the vine.
Judas was in view in the immediate context, but the imagery extends from him to all those who make a profession of faith in Christ but do not possess salvation. The image of non-fruit-bearing branches being burned pictures eschatological judgment and eternal rejection (see Ezek. 15:6-8).
15:3, Verse 2 presupposes that the branch (us) is already connected (ἐν ἐμοὶ) to the vine (Jesus) and by saying “we are already clean,” meant being saved or probably a professing Christian, therefore saved.
Does it mean that as Christians, if we do not remain in the vine (by disobeying Jesus’ commands), we can lose our salvation?
John MacArthur says this is a picture of apostate Christians who never genuinely believed and will be taken away in judgment (v. 6; Matt. 7:16; Eph. 2:10).
These are professing Christians whose life was never transformed by Christ, or never pulsated within them (8:31, 32; cf. Matt. 13:18-23; 24:12; Heb. 3:14-19; 6:4-8; 10:27-31; 1 John 2:19; 2 John 9). The reason the vinedresser (Father God) prunes (removes) them.
God removes all things in the believer’s life that would hinder fruit-bearing, i.e., He chastises to cut away sin and hindrances 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).
John 15:5-7 | Bearing much fruit
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.
15:4-6 Abide in Me. The word abide means to remain or stay around. The “remaining” evidence that salvation has already taken place (1 John 2:19) and not vice versa. The fruit or evidence of salvation is continued service to Jesus and His teaching (8:31; Col. 1:23; 1 John 2:24).
The abiding believer is the only legitimate believer. Abiding and believing actually address the same issue of genuine salvation (Heb. 3:6-19). For a discussion of the perseverance of the saints, see note on Matthew 24:13.
15:6 The imagery here is one of destruction (cf. Matt. 3:10-12; 5:22; 13:40-42, 50; 25:41; Mark 9:43-49; Luke 3:17; 2 Thess. 1:7-9; Rev. 20:10-15). It pictures the judgment awaiting all those who were never saved.
15:7-10 True believers obey the Lord’s commands, submitting to His Word (14:21, 23). Because of their commitment to God’s Word, they are devoted to His will. Thus, their prayers are fruitful (14:13, 14), which displays God’s glory as He answers.
15:9, 10 abide in My love. Cf. Jude 21. This is not emotional or mystical but is defined in verse 10 as obedience. Jesus set the model by His perfect obedience to the Father, which we will use as the pattern for our obedience to Him.
2. John 15:1-11 | To bear fruit is for God’s glory but also for our complete joy
John 15:8-11 | Glorify God by bearing much fruit
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.
John 15:10-11 | Joy made complete
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 joy may be made complete.
15:11 your joy may be complete. Just as Jesus maintained that His obedience to the Father was the basis of His joy, so also the believers who are obedient to His commandments will experience the same joy (17:13; cf. 16:24).
3. John 15:12-17: | Jesus gives a “new command” to love and bear fruit, as testimony of His followers
John 15:12-17 | My commandment
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.
15:12 (Cf 13:34, 35) Jesus’ new commandment meant fresh in quality. Something that replaces something else that has been worn out. The commandment of love was new because Jesus personified love in a fresh, new way, and it was shed abroad in believers’ hearts (Rom. 5:5) and energized by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22; 1 Thess. 4:9).
He raised love to a higher standard for the church and commanded His disciples to imitate His love (“as I have loved you” cf; 3:16; John 13:34). The command was also old because the OT commanded love (Lev. 19:18; Deut. 6:5), and the readers’ ofJohn’ss epistle had heard about Jesus” command to love when they first heard the gospel.
15:13 This references the supreme evidence and expression of Jesus” love (v. 12), His sacrificial death upon the Cross. Christians are called to exemplify the same kind of sacrificial giving toward one another, even if such sacrifice involves the laying down of one’s own life in imitation of Christ’s example (cf. 1 John 3:16).
15:14, 15 friends. Just as Abraham was called the”friend of God” (2 Chr. 20:7; James 2:23) because he enjoyed extraordinary access to the mind of God through God’s revelation to him which he believed, so also those who follow Christ are privileged with unique revelation through the Messiah and Son of God and, believing, become” friend” of God also. It was for His”friend” that the Lord laid down His life (v. 13; 10:11, 15, 17).
John 15:16-17 | Go and “Bear Fruit”
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 remain, 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.
15:16 I chose you. Cf. Verse 19. In case any pretense might exist among the disciples in terms of spiritual pride because of the privileges they enjoyed, Jesus made it clear that such privilege rested not on their own merit but His sovereign choice of them. God chose Israel (Is. 45:4; Amos 3:2), but not for any merit (Deut. 7:7; 9:4-6). God elected angels to be forever holy (1 Tim. 5:21).
He elected believers to salvation apart from any merit (Matt. 24:24, 31; see notes on Rom. 8:29-33; Eph. 1:3-6; Col. 3:12; Titus 1:1; 1 Pet. 1:2 ). Bear fruit. One purpose of God’s sovereign election is that the disciples who have been blessed with such revelation and understanding should produce spiritual fruit.
The NT describes the fruit as godly attitudes (Gal. 5:22, 23), righteous behavior (Phil. 1:11), praise (Heb. 13:15), and, especially, leading others to faith in Jesus as Messiah and Son of God (Rom. 1:13-16).
4. John 15:18-27 | Jesus encourages His discipleship in the midst of perscution
John 15:18-21 | Christians will be hated
18″ If the world hates you, you know that it had 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 would also persecute you; if they kept My word, they would 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 sinned, but now they have no excuse for their sin.
15:18, 19 Since Satan is the one who dominates the corrupt world system in rebellion against God (14:30), the result is that the world hates not only Jesus but those who follow Him (2 Tim. 3:12). Hatred toward Jesus also means hatred toward the Father who sent Him (v. 23).
15:20 servant . . . master. Also spoken in 13:16, that axiom reflects the obvious truth that led Jesus to inform His disciples. They could expect to be treated like He was treated because those who hated Himdon’tt know God (v. 21) and would hate them also; and conversely, those who listened with faith to Him would hear them also.
15:22-24, they would have no sin. He did not mean that if He had not come, they would have been sinless. But, His coming incited the severest and most deadly sin, that of rejecting and rebelling against God and His truth.
John 15:23-25 | They hated Jesus without a cause
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 they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ”They hated Me without a cause.”
15:23-24 It was their decisive” sin of rejection,” The deliberate and fatal choice of darkness over light and death over a life of which He spoke. He had done so many miracles and spoken innumerable words to prove He was Messiah and Son of God, but they were belligerent in their love of sin and rejection of the Savior. (Hebrews 4:2-5; 6:4-6; 10:29- 31)
15:25 Jesus quotes Psalms 35:19; 69:4. The logic here is that if David, a mere man, could have been hated in such a terrible manner by the enemies of God, how much more would the wicked hate God’s Son who was the promised king that would confront sin and reign forever over His kingdom of righteousness (see 2 Sam 7:16).
5. John 15:26-28 | The role of the Holy Spirit
John 15:26-27 | Our helper
26″ When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, 27 and you will testify (to bear witness) also because you have been with Me from the beginning.
15:26, 27 when the Helper comes. Again, Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit (7:39; 14:16, 17, 26; 16:7, 13, 14). This time He emphasized the Spirit’s help for witnessing and proclaiming the gospel. See note on 16:7.
v 16 – Word “fruit” is singular. Galatians 5:22 enumerates seven fruits – love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness. But these are taken as a”singular fruit” of the Holy Spirit.
v 26 – Greek Paracletos, one called alongside to help; or Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor.
Commentary on John Chapter 15 was based on the exegesis of apologist John MacArthur.