John 15

CHAPTER XV.

The union of Jesus Christ with his followers, represented by the

parable of a vine and its branches, 1-11.

He exhorts them to mutual love, 12.

Calls them his friends, and promises to lay down his life for

them, 13-15.

Appoints them their work, and promises them success in it, 16.

Renews the exhortation to mutual love, 17,

and foretells the opposition they would meet with from the

world, 18-21.

The sin of the Jews in rejecting Christ, 22-25.

The Holy Spirit is promised as a witness for Christ, and the

Comforter of the disciples, 26, 27.

NOTES ON CHAP. XV.

Verse 1. I am the true vine] Perhaps the vines which they met

with, on their road from Bethany to Gethsemane, might have given

rise to this discourse. Some of the disciples were probably making

remarks on the different kinds of them, and our Lord took the

opportunity of improving the conversation, according to his usual

manner, to the instruction of their souls. He might here term

himself the true vine, or vine of the right sort, in opposition

to the wild and barren vine. Some MSS. and several of the fathers

read the verse thus: I am the true vine, ye are the branches, and

my Father is the husbandman. Some think that, as this discourse

followed the celebration of the Eucharist, our Lord took occasion

from the fruit of the vine, used in that ordinance, to introduce

this similitude.

Verse 2. Every branch in me] I stand in the same relation to my

followers, and they to me, as the vine to the branches, and the

branches to the vine.

He taketh away] As the vine-dresser will remove every unfruitful

branch from the vine, so will my Father remove every unfruitful

member from my mystical body-such as Judas, the unbelieving Jews,

the apostatizing disciples, and all false and merely nominal

Christians, who are attached to the vine by faith in the word and

Divine mission of Christ, while they live not in his life and

Spirit, and bring forth no fruit to the glory of God; and also

every branch which has been in him by true faith-such as have

given way to iniquity, and made shipwreck of their faith and of

their good conscience: all these he taketh away.

He purgeth it] He pruneth. The branch which bears not fruit, the

husbandman αερειαυτο, taketh IT away; but the branch that beareth

fruit, καθαιρειαυτο, he taketh away FROM it, i.e. he prunes away

excrescences, and removes every thing that might hinder its

increasing fruitfulness. The verb καθαιρω; from κατα, intens.

and αιρω, I take away, signifies ordinarily to cleanse, purge,

purify, but is certainly to be taken in the sense of pruning, or

cutting off, in this text, as the verb purgare is used by

HORACE, Epist. lib. i. ep. vii. v. 51.

Cultello proprios purgantem leniter ungues.

"Composedly PARING his own nails with a penknife."

He who brings forth fruit to God's glory, according to his light

and power, will have the hinderances taken away from his heart;

for his very thoughts shall be cleansed by the inspiration of the

Holy Ghost.

Verse 3. Now ye are clean] καθαροιεστε, Ye are pruned. As our

Lord has not changed the metaphor, it would be wrong to change the

expression.

Through the word] διατονλογος, Through that word-that

doctrine of holiness which I have incessantly preached unto you,

and which ye have received. Perhaps our Lord more immediately

refers here to the words which he had spoken concerning Judas,

Joh 13:21-30, in consequence of which Judas went out and

finished his bargain with the chief priests; he being gone off,

the body of the apostles vas purified; and thus he might say, Now

ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.

Verse 4. Abide in me] Hold fast faith and a good conscience; and

let no trials turn you aside from the truth. And I will abide in

you-ye shall receive every help and influence from me that your

souls can require, in order to preserve and save them to eternal

life.

These two things are absolutely necessary to our salvation: 1.

That we continue closely united to Christ by faith and love, and

live in and to him. 2. That we continually receive from him the

power to do good; for as the branch, however good in itself,

cannot bear fruit from itself, through its own juice, which it has

already derived from the tree, and can be no longer supported than

it continues in union with the parent stock, neither can ye,

unless ye abide in me. As the branch partakes of the nature of the

tree, is nourished by its juice, and lives by its life, so ye must

be made partakers of my Divine nature, be wise in my wisdom,

powerful in my might, and pure through my holiness.

Verse 5. Without me ye can do nothing.] χωριςεμουουδυνασθε

ποιεινουδεν-Separated from me, ye can do nothing at all. God can

do without man, but man cannot do without God. Following the

metaphor of our Lord, it would be just as possible to do any good

without him, as for a branch to live, thrive, and bring forth

fruit, while cut off from that tree from which it not only derives

its juices, but its very existence also.

Nearly similar to this saying of our Lord, is that of Creeshna

(the incarnate God of the Hindoos) to his disciple Arjoon: "God is

the gift of charity; God is the offering: God is the fire of the

altar; by God the sacrifice is performed; and God is to be

obtained by him who maketh God alone the object of his works." And

again: "I am the sacrifice; I am the worship; I am the spices; I

am the invocation; I am the fire; and I am the victim. I am the

Father and Mother of this world, and the Preserver. I am the

Holy One, worthy to be known; the mystic figure OM; (see on

Joh 1:14;) I am the

journey of the good; the Comforter; the Creator; the Witness;

the resting-place; the asylum, and the Friend. I am the place

of all things; and the inexhaustible seed of nature; I am

sunshine, and I am rain; I now draw in, and now let forth." See

Bhagvat Geeta, pp. 54 and 80. Could such sentiments as these ever

come from any other source than Divine revelation? There is a

saying in Theophilus very similar to one of those above: θεοςου

χωρειταιαλλααυτοςεστιτοποςτωνολων.-God is not comprehended,

but he is the place of all things.

Verse 6. If a man abide not in me] Our Lord in the plainest

manner intimates that a person may as truly be united to him as

the branch is to the tree that produces it, and yet be afterwards

cut off and cast into the fire; because he has not brought forth

fruit to the glory of his God. No man can cut off a branch from a

tree to which that branch was never united: it is absurd, and

contrary to the letter and spirit of the metaphor, to talk of

being seemingly in Christ-because this means nothing. If there was

only a seeming union, there could be only a seeming excision: so

the matter is just where it began; nothing is done on either side,

and nothing said to any purpose.

He is cast forth] Observe, that person who abides not in Christ,

in a believing loving, obedient spirit, is-1. Cut off from Jesus,

having no longer any right or title to him or to his salvation. 2.

He is withered-deprived of all the influences of God's grace and

Spirit; loses all his heavenly unction; becomes indifferent, cold,

and dead to every holy and spiritual word and work. 3. He is

gathered-becomes (through the judgment of God) again united with

backsliders like himself and other workers of iniquity; and, being

abandoned to his own heart and Satan, he is, 4. Cast into the

fire-separated from God's people, from God himself, and from the

glory of his power. And, 5. He is burned-is eternally tormented

with the devil and his angels, and with all those who have lived

and died in their iniquity. Reader! pray God that this may never

be thy portion.

Verse 7. If ye abide in me, &c.] "Those," says Creeshna, "whose

understandings are in him, (God,) whose souls are in him, whose

confidence is in him, whose asylum is in him, are by the inspired

wisdom purified from all their offenses, and go from whence they

shall never return." Geeta, p. 59.

Observe, in order to have influence with God, we must-1. Be

united to Christ-if ye abide in me. 2. That in order to be

preserved in this union, we must have our lives regulated by the

doctrine of Christ-and my words abide in you. 3. That to profit by

this union and doctrine, we must pray-ye shall ask. 4. That every

heavenly blessing shall be given to those who continue in this

union, with a loving, obedient, praying spirit:-ye shall ask what

ye will, &c.

Verse 8. Herein is my Father glorified] Or, honoured. It is the

honour of the husbandman to have good, strong, vigorous vines,

plentifully laden with fruit: so it is the honour of God to have

strong, vigorous, holy children, entirely freed from sin, and

perfectly filled with his love.

Verse 10. If ye keep my commandments, &c.] Hence we learn that

it is impossible to retain a sense of God's pardoning love,

without continuing in the obedience of faith.

Verse 11. That my joy may remain in you] That the joy which I

now feel, on account of your steady, affectionate attachment to

me, may be lasting, I give you both warnings and directions, that

ye may abide in the faith.

That your joy might be full.] Or, complete-πληρωθη, filled

up: a metaphor taken from a vessel, into which water or any other

thing is poured, till it is full to the brim. The religion of

Christ expels all misery from the hearts of those who receive it

in its fulness. It was to drive wretchedness out of the world that

Jesus came into it.

Bishop Pearce, by joining ενεμοι to χαρα, and not to μεινη,

translates the verse thus: These things have I spoken, that my joy

in you may remain-which is according to the meaning given to the

first clause.

Verse 12. That ye love one another] See Clarke on Joh 13:34.

So deeply was thus commandment engraved on the heart of this evangelist

that St. Jerome says, lib. iii. c. 6, Com. ad Galat., that in his

extreme old age, when he used to be carried to the public

assemblies of the believers, his constant saying was, Little

children, love one another. His disciples, wearied at last with

the constant repetition of the same words, asked him, Why he

constantly said the same thing? "Because (said he) it is the

commandment of the Lord, and the observation of it alone is

sufficient." Quia praeceptum Domini est, et, si solum fiat,

sufficit.

Verse 13. That a man lay down his life for his friends.] No man

can carry his love for his friend farther than this: for, when he

gives up his life, he gives up all that he has. This proof of my

love for you I shall give in a few hours; and the doctrine which I

recommend to you I am just going to exemplify myself. There are

several remarkable cases, in heathen antiquity, where one friend

offered his life for another. The two following will not stand

dishonourably even in the book of God; became every thing loving

and pure, in heathen, Jew, or Christian, must come from the God

of love and purity.

When Cyrus had made war on the king of Armenia, and had taken

him, his wife, and children, with Tigranes his son, and his wife,

prisoners; treating with the old king concerning his ransom, he

said, How much money wilt thou give me to have thy wife again? All

that I have, replied the king. And how much wilt thou advance to

enjoy thy children again? All that I can produce, answered the

king. By reckoning thus, said Cyrus, you prize these at twice as

much as you possess. Then, turning to Tigranes, he said, How much

wilt thou give as a ransom, that thou mayest have thy wife? (Now

Tigranes had been but lately married, καιυπερφιλωντηνγυναικα,

and loved his wife exceedingly.) He answered, I will indeed, O

Cyrus, καιτηςψυχηςπριαιμην, ransom her even with MY LIFE, that

she may be no longer in thraldom. See XENOPH. Cyrop. lib. iii. c.

2.

The second example, which is too long to be inserted, is that

affecting account of the friendship of Nisus and Euryalus, given

by Virgil, in the ninth book of the AEneis. These two friends,

leagued together, had slain many of the Rutulians in a night

attack: at last Euryalus was taken prisoner. Nisus, concealed in a

thicket, slew several of the enemy's chiefs with his javelins:

Volscens, their general, not seeing the hand by which his officers

were slain, determines to wreak his vengeance upon his prisoner.

Nisus, seeing his friend about to be transfixed with the sword,

rushing out of the wood where he lay hidden, suddenly cries:-

ME! ME! adsum qui FECI! in ME convertite ferrum,

O Rutuli! MEA fraus omnis:-nihil ISTE-nec ausus,

Nec potuit-Caelum hoc, et conscia sidera testor!

TANTUM infelicem NIMIUM DILEXIT AMICUM.

AEN. lib. ix. l. 427, &c.

"ME! ME! he cried, turn all your swords alone

On ME!-the fact confess'd, the fault my own.

HE neither could, nor durst, the guiltless youth;

Ye moon and stars, bear witness to the truth!

His only crime (if friendship can offend)

Is too much love to his unhappy friend."

DRYDEN.

Those who understand the beautiful original will at once

perceive that the earnestness, confusion, disorder, impatience,

and burning love of the FRIEND, are poorly imitated in the above

tame translation.

The friendship of David and Jonathan is well known: the latter

cheerfully gave up his crown to his friend, though himself was

every way worthy to wear it. But when all these instances of rare

friendship and affection are seen, read, and admired, let the

affected reader turn his astonished eyes to Jesus, pouring out his

blood, not for his friends, but for his ENEMIES; and, in the

agonies of death, making supplication for his murderers, with,

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!-and then

let him help exclaiming, if he can,

"O Lamb of God, was ever pain,

Was ever LOVE like THINE!"

Verse 15. Henceforth I call you not servants] Which he at least

indirectly had done, Joh 13:16; Mt 10:24, 25; Lu 17:10.

I have called you friends] I have admitted you into a state of

the most intimate fellowship with myself; and have made known unto

you whatsoever I have heard from the Father, which, in your

present circumstances, it was necessary for you to be instructed

in.

Verse 16. Ye have not chosen me] Ye have not elected me as your

Teacher: I have called you to be my disciples; witnesses and

depositories of the truth. It was customary among the Jews for

every person to choose his own teacher.

And ordained you] Rather, I have appointed you: the word is

εθηκα, I have PUT or placed you, i.e. in the vine.

Theodorus Mopsuensis, as quoted by Wetstein, observes that εθηκα

is here used for εφυτευσα; (I have planted;) "and, in saying this,

our Lord still makes use of the metaphor of the vine; as if he had

said: I have not only planted you, but I have given you the

greatest benefits, causing your branches to extend every where

through the habitable world."

The first ministers of the Gospel were the choice of Jesus

Christ; no wonder, then, that they were so successful. Those whom

men have since sent, without the appointment of God, have done no

good. The choice should still continue with God, who, knowing the

heart, knows best who is most proper for the Gospel ministry.

To be a genuine preacher of the Gospel, a man must-1. Be chosen

of God to the work. 2. He must be placed in the true vine-united

to Christ by faith. 3. He must not think to lead an idle life, but

labour. 4. He must not wait till work be brought to him, but he

must go and seek it. 5. He must labour so as to bring forth fruit,

i.e. to get souls converted to the Lord. 6. He must refer all his

fruit to God, who gave him the power to labour, and blessed him in

his work. 7. He must take care to water what he has planted, that

his fruit may remain-that the souls whom he has gathered in be not

scattered from the flock. 8. He must continue instant in prayer,

that his labours may be accompanied with the presence and blessing

of God-Whatsoever ye shall ASK. 9. He must consider Jesus Christ

as the great Mediator between God and man, proclaim his salvation,

and pray in his name.-Whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my

name, &c. See Quesnel.

Verse 18. If the world hate you] As the followers of Christ were

to be exposed to the hatred of the world, it was no small

consolation to them to know that that hatred would be only in

proportion to their faith and holiness; and that, consequently,

instead of being troubled at the prospect of persecution, they

should rejoice, because that should always be a proof to them that

they were in the very path in which Jesus himself had trod. Dr.

Lardner thinks that πρωτον is a substantive, or at least an

adjective used substantively, and this clause of the text should

be translated thus: If the world hate you, know that it hated me,

your CHIEF. It is no wonder that the world should hate you, when

it hated me, your Lord and Master, whose lips were without guile,

and whose conduct was irreproachable. See the doctor's vindication

of this translation, WORKS, vol. i. p. 306.

Verse 19. Ye are not of the world-therefore, &c.] On this very

account, because ye do not join in fellowship with those who know

not God, therefore they hate you. How true is that saying:-

"The laws of Christ condemn a vicious world,

And goad it to revenge!" GAMBOLD.

Verse 20. If they have kept my saying] Or, doctrine. Whosoever

acknowledges me for the Christ will acknowledge you for my

ministers.

Some translate the passage thus: If they have WATCHED my

sayings, i.e. with an intent to accuse me for something which I

have said, they will WATCH yours also: therefore be on your guard.

παρατηρειν has this sense, as we have had occasion to observe

before; and perhaps τηρειν has the same sense here, as it is much

more agreeable to the context.

Verse 21. Because they know not him that sent me.] This is the

foundation of all religious persecution: those who are guilty of

it, whether in Church or state, know nothing about God. If God

tolerates a worship which professes to have him for its object,

and which does not disturb the quiet or peace of society, no man

has the smallest right to meddle with it; and he that does fights

against God. His letting it pass is at least a tacit command that

all should treat it as he has done.

Verse 22. But now they have no cloke for their sin.] They are

without excuse. See the margin, and

See Clarke on Joh 9:41.

Christ had done such works as demonstrated him to be the

Messiah-yet they rejected him: here lay their sin; and this sin,

and the punishment to which it exposed them, still remain; for

they still continue to reject the Lord that bought them.

Verse 25. Written in their law] See Clarke on Joh 10:34. These

words are taken from Ps 69:4. This psalm is applied to Christ,

Joh 2:17; 19:28; to the vengeance of God against Judea,

Ac 1:20. The psalm seems entirely prophetic of Christ. His deep

abasement is referred to, Ps 69:2-5; his

prayer for his disciples and followers, Ps 69:6; that for

himself, in the garden of Gethsemane, Ps 69:15-19; his

crucifixion, Ps 69:20-22; the

vengeance of God against the Jews, from Ps 69:23-29; the

glorious manner in which he gets out of all his sufferings,

Ps 69:30; the

abolition of the Mosaic rites and ceremonies, Ps 69:31,

compared with Isa 66:3; and, finally, the

establishment of the Gospel through the whole world, in

Ps 69:33 and following verses. The reader will do well to

consult the psalm before he proceeds.

Verse 26. But when the Comforter is come]

See Clarke on Joh 14:16.

Ver. 26. - 27. He shall testify and ye also shall bear

witness] He shall bear his testimony in your souls, and ye shall

bear this testimony to the world. And so they did, by their

miracles, their preaching, their writings, their lives, and by

their deaths. Our Lord appears to reason thus: In every respect

the unbelief of the Jews is inexcusable. They believe not my

doctrine, notwithstanding its purity and holiness. They believe

not in the Father who sent me, notwithstanding I have confirmed my

mission by the most astonishing miracles. One thing only remains

now to be done, i.e. to send them the Holy Spirit, to convince

them of sin, righteousness, and judgment; and this he shall do,

not only by his influence upon their hearts, but also by your

words: and when they shall have resisted this Spirit, then the cup

of their iniquity shall be filled up, and wrath shall come upon

them to the uttermost.

BUT in what sense can it be said that Christ wrought more

miracles than any other had done, Joh 15:24?-for Elijah and

Elisha raised the dead; cured diseases; and made fire to come down

from heaven. Did Christ do greater miracles than Moses did in

Egypt-at the Red Sea-at the rock of Horeb, and at the rock of

Kadesh? Did Christ do greater miracles than Joshua did, in the

destruction of Jericho-in the passage of Jordan-in causing the sun

and moon to stand still? To all this it may be answered, Christ's

miracles were greater: 1. As to their number. 2. As to their

utility-they were wrought to comfort the distressed, and to save

the lost. 3. Christ wrought all his miracles by his own power

alone; and they wrought theirs through his power only. 4. Christ

wrought his numerous miracles in the space of three or four years,

and in the presence of the same people; and the others mere

wrought from time to time in different centuries.

Some critics have confined the whole of this chapter to the

apostles of our Lord, and the work of propagating Christianity to

which they had been called. The whole comment of Rosenmuller on

this chapter proceeds on this plan; and at once shows how nugatory

it is. What learned labour has there been in the world, to banish

the spirit of Christianity from the earth, while the letter was

professed to be scrupulously regarded! 1. The spiritual union

spoken of by Christ is not merely necessary for his primitive

disciples, but also for all who would be Christians on earth, and

beatified spirits in heaven. 2. The brotherly love here inculcated

is the duty and interest of every Christian soul on the face of

the earth. 3. The necessity of adorning the Christian profession,

by bringing forth corresponding fruits, is the duty of all who

name the name of the Lord Jesus. 4. The appointment to, and

preparation for, the work of the sacred ministry, must ever be

primarily with Christ: for those who have no higher authority than

that which they derive from man are never likely to be useful in

Christianizing the world. 5. The persecution to which the apostles

were exposed has been the common lot of Christians from the

foundation of Christianity. 6. The consolations and influences of

Christ's Spirit have not been the exclusive privileges of the

apostles; they are the birthright of all the sons and daughters of

God.

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