John’s Gospel Chapter 15
E. L. Lovering, Ilfracombe
Subject - THE TRUE VINE. The Seventh Wonderful Saying.
Study Portion - Chapter 15.
A lesson in fruit-bearing
The Figure Employed
THE SYMBOL OF THE VINE was one familiar to Jewish ears both in Old and New Testament days. It became the recognized emblem of the nation and a golden vine adorned the Temple gate in our Saviour’s day. Mention of the vine occurs in Psalm, Prophecy, and Parable. Here are some examples -
The Song of the Vineyard, Isa. 5. Observe in this chapter –
Jehovah’s Choice - His vineyard - Relationship.
Jehovah’s Charge - Six woes - Rebellion.
Jehovah’s Chastisement - historically and spiritually - Retribution.
We note that the vineyard was –
Chosen, v. 1. Israel was ‘His’ vineyard, cf. Deut. 7. 6-8, ‘The LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: but because the Lord loved you …’. John 15. 16, ‘Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you … that ye should bring forth fruit’.
Cultivated, v. 1. ‘In a very fruitful hill’, that is, in fertile soil.
Verse 2. ‘Fenced’ - God gave Israel His law, separating them from all other nations.
Choice, v. 2. ‘He planted the choicest vine’ - noble vine. (This word only found elsewhere in Gen. 49.11 and Jer. 2.21).
Cleansed, v. 2. ‘And gathered out the stones thereof – the Canaanites who rendered the land barren were cast out.
Cherished, v. 2. ‘And built a tower in the midst of it’ - the central city of Jerusalem, where He would place His name. From this vantage point, priests and prophets could guard against spiritual foes. See Prov. 18. 10, ‘The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe’. ‘… and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes’ - that is, He looked for worship and praise from His temple, but alas, instead of luscious grapes there were only small bitter berries of a wild vine.
Condemned, vv. 4-6. ‘What could have been done more to my vineyard? I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down: And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged: but there shall come up briers and thorns’. Read also Song of Solomon 2. 15.
Israel is called -
A vine out of Egypt, Ps. 80. 8.
A degenerate vine, Jer. 2. 21.
A useless vine, Ezek. 15. (The vine is essentially for fruit; it is useless for the simplest piece of furniture, even a peg on which to hang a vessel v. 3; failure to produce fruit, makes it fuel for the fire).
A luxuriant vine, Hosea 10. 1. Israel bore fruit for her own selfish pleasures; ‘the more his fruit increased, the more altars he built’ - as his country improved he improved his pillars - ‘the Lord will break down their altars and destroy their pillars’ (R.S.V.).
The Lord Jesus related several parables connected with vines and their culture, e.g. Matt. 20.1-16; 21.28-32; 21.33-46; Luke 13. 6.
The Failure Explained
Isaiah 5 recounts Israel’s failure as God’s vineyard, and the reasons for the absence of fruit to Himself –
Covetousness and greed, w. 8-10. They joined house to house, field to field, thus creating
a monopoly and violating the law of property as given in Num. 36. 7. The result was poverty, for the land was not theirs, but His.
Self indulgence and pleasure seeking, w. 11-17. This led to bondage ‘without knowing it’, v. 13, and their spiritual discernment of God’s ways became dull. Only as we seek to do His will, shall we know it. He that willeth to know shall know, John 7. 17.
Defiance and presumption against God, w. 18, 19. Woe to them that scoff and deride God’s word; and there shall be such in the last days (2 Pet. 3. 3).
Moral principles subverted, v. 20. ‘They call evil good and good evil and put darkness for light and light for darkness; bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter’. Distinguish between black and white, in a day when much is garnished with grey.
Pride and self-complacency, v. 21. ‘Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and shrewd in their own sight’ (R.S.V.), cf. Prov. 3. 5, 7.
Bribery and corruption, vv. 22, 23. ‘Woe to them who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink; who acquit the guilty for a bribe and deprive the innocent of his right!’ (R.S.V.). Much of what is called worldly ‘diplomacy’ comes under this heading and many a ‘deal’ is sealed with a ‘drink’. The Christian should at all times hold to his integrity.
The Fruit Expected
In direct contrast to the failure of Israel, stands the One who is The VINE, the TRUE. The Father, who is the husbandman, derived abiding pleasure from His Son, John 15. 1. Note in the chapter, first -
‘In our orchards, the golden apples are evidences of the tree’s species and of its life, but a wooden label could tell us the species and the leaves can tell the life. The fruit is more than label or leaf; it is the thing for which the tree is there. We who believe are “chosen” and “ordained” to bring forth fruit (John 15,16), fruit much and lasting’. - H. C. G. Moule.
Fruit, v. 2. ‘Every branch in me’ - No one can bear fruit unless he is ‘in Christ’. Union with Him is an absolute necessity.
More Fruit, v. 2. The branch that is cleansed or purged will bring forth ‘more fruit’ - ‘ye are clean through the word’. v. 3.
Much Fruit, vv. 5, 8. Abiding in Christ produces much fruit and the Father is glorified thereby.
Abiding Fruit, v. 16. In the parable of the sower, there was fruit (thirtyfold), more fruit (sixtyfold) and much fruit (hundredfold); there was also abiding fruit, which affliction, persecution, the deceitfulness of riches and the lusts of other things could not destroy. May our fruit ‘to Him’ be both abiding and abundant.
Note the frequent occurence of the word ‘abide’ and its equivalent in this chapter, e.g., continue, vv. 4, 5, 6, 7, 9; remain, 10, 11 and 16.
Here is the thought of communion. ‘To abide in Christ is, on the one hand, to have no known sin unjudged and unconfessed, no interest into which He is not brought, no life which He cannot share. On the other hand, the abiding one takes all burdens to Him, and draws all wisdom, and life and strength from Him’. - Scofield.
Note the progressive intimacy in fellowship with Christ expressed in the Gospel –
- As My Sheep, 10. 14, 15, we share His life.
- As My Servant, 12, 26, we share His place.
- As My Disciples, 8. 31; 13. 35; 15. 8, we share His teaching. ‘So shall ye be my disciples’ -
- If ye abide in my word, 8. 31.
- If ye love one another, 13. 35.
- If ye bear much fruit, 15. 8.
- As My Friends, 15. 4, 15, we share His intimate secrets.
- As My Brethren, 20.17, we share His family relationship.
The indwelling of His words in them, and their abiding in Him, would secure the harmony of their desires with His divine will; His will would also be theirs -
v. 7. ‘Ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you’. v. 16. ‘That whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you’. The reader would now do well to study Gal. 5. 22, 23; Eph. 5. 9; and 2 Pet. 1. 4-8. ‘The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance’.