1.I am the true Vine. The general meaning of this comparison is, that we are, by nature, barren and dry, except in so far as we have been engrafted into Christ, and draw from him a power which is new, and which does not proceed from ourselves. I have followed other commentators in rendering ἄμπελος by vitis, (a vine,) and κλήματα by palmites, (branches.) Now, vitis (a vine) strictly denotes the plant itself, and not a field planted with vines, which the Latin writers call vinea, (a vineyard;) although it is sometimes taken for vinea a vineyard; as, for example, when Cicero mentions in the same breath,pauperum agellos et vlticulas, the small fields and small vineyards of the poor Palmites (branches) are what may be called the arms of the tree, which it sends out above the ground. But as the Greek word κλὢμα sometimes denotes a vine, and ἄμπελος,a vineyard, I am more disposed to adopt the opinion, that Christ compares himself to a field planted with vines, and compares us to the plants themselves. On that point, however, I will not enter into a debate with any person; only I wish to remind the reader, that he ought to adopt that view which appears to him to derive greater probability from the context.
First, let him remember the rule which ought to be observed in all parables; that we ought not to examine minutely every property ofthe vine, but only to take a general view of the object to which Christ applies that comparison. Now, there are three principal parts; first, that we have no power of doing good but what comes from himself; secondly, that we, having a root in him, are dressed and pruned by the Father; thirdly, that he removes the unfruitful branches, that they may be thrown into the fire and burned.
There is scarcely any one who is ashamed to acknowledge that every thing good which he possesses comes from God; but, after making this acknowledgment, they imagine that universal grace has been given to them, as if it had been implanted in them by nature. But Christ dwells principally on this, that the vital sap — that is, all life and strength — proceeds from himself alone. Hence it follows, that the nature of man is unfruitful and destitute of everything good; because no man has the nature of a vine, till he be implanted in him. But this is given to the elect alone by special grace. So then, the Father is the first Author of all blessings, who plants us with his hand; but the commencement of life is in Christ, since we begin to take root in him. When he calls himself the true vine the meaning is, I am truly the vine, and therefore men toil to no purpose in seeking strength anywhere else, for from none will useful fruit proceed but from the branches which shall be produced by me.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
1. I am the true vine] We have here the same word for ‘true’ as in Joh_1:9, Joh_6:32; Rev_3:14. Christ is the true, the genuine, the ideal, the perfect Vine, as He is the perfect Light, the perfect Bread, and the perfect Witness (see on Joh_1:9). “The material creations of God are only inferior examples of that finer spiritual life and organism in which the creature is raised up to partake of the Divine nature” (Alford). Whether the allegory was suggested by anything external,—vineyards, or the vine of the Temple visible in the moonlight, a vine creeping in at the window, the ‘fruit of the vine’ (Mat_26:29) on the table which they had just left,—it is impossible to say. Of these the last is far the most probable, as referring to the Eucharist just instituted as a special means of union with Him and with one another. But the allegory may easily have been chosen for its own merits and its O.T. associations (Psa_80:8-19; Isa_5:1-7; Jer_2:21; &c.) without any suggestion from without. The vine was a national emblem under the Maccabees and appears on their coins.
the husbandman] The Owner of the soil Who tends His Vine Himself and establishes the relation between the Vine and the branches. There is therefore a good deal of difference between the form of this allegory and the parable of the Vineyard (Mar_12:1) or that of the Fruitless Fig-tree (Luk_13:6). The word ‘husbandman’ occurs nowhere else in the Gospels except of the wicked husbandmen in the parable of the Vineyard.
The vine of the Lord of hosts (Psa_80:1-19.) brought forth wild grapes (Isa_5:1-30., Eze_19:10); Israel became “an empty vine” (Hos_10:1). The failure of Israel to realize the ideal leads our Lord, as the true Israel of God, to say, I am the veritable (or, ideal) vine, including (as the context shows) in the idea of his complete Personality all the branches that derive their life from him. I with the branches, I involving my relation to the branches, and theirs to me—I as the Life-principle of humanity, together with those who are living in me—constitute and are the veritable vine of prophecy, the true Israel of God. So that this passage, from Joh_15:1-10, denotes and expounds with all detail the idea elsewhere expressed by the head and the members of a body. Sometimes the idea of the parts predominates over the idea of the unity, and sometimes the unity triumphs over the parts; but in the relation between Christ and the people of his love they are often lost sight of in him, and he becomes the only Personality. The “I” of this passage is not that of the eternal Loges, nor is it the mere humanity, nor is it simply the Divine-human Personality, but the new existence which, by union with him, formed one personage with him,—the believer being united to him as he to the Father. My Father is the Husbandman, not simply the ἀμπελουργο ́ς, or vinedresser, but also γεωργός, the owner of the land as well. It is a term applied in connection with the traditional significance of the vine to the head of the theocratic family. In Isa_5:1-30. it is the “Lord of hosts;” in 2Ch_26:10 and in the parable of the vinedressers it is applied to the rulers of the people. The Arians were wrong in concluding from this a difference of essence between the Father and Son. The vine dearly includes the branches; and the owner of the vineyard, who is also the dresser of the vine, deals here with the whole reality. All, however, which the Husbandman is said in 2Ch_26:2 to effect is the taking away of the fruitless though proud branch, and the cleansing and gentle pruning of the branch that beareth fruit. Now, Christ, as the Son, has all judgment committed to him, and, as the great Organ of Divine providence and rule in the Church, he is the Administrator of discipline. Christ is not disclaiming the operations which he in other places assumes, nor representing his own Personality as perfectly passive in the matter, but he is claiming for Jehovah of hosts the same relation to the true vine as he sustained to the degenerate vine of the old covenant; but he calls him “my Father.” Alford says, “The material creations of God are only inferior examples of that finer spiritual life and organism in which the creature is raised up to partake of the Divine nature” (see Hugh Macmillan, D.D., ‘The True vine’).
2.Every branch in me that beareth not fruit As some men corrupt the grace of God, others suppress it maliciously, and others choke it by carelessness, Christ intends by these words to awaken anxious inquiry, by declaring that all the branches which shall be unfruitful will be cut off from the vine But here comes a question. Can any one who is engrafted into Christ be without fruit? I answer, many are supposed to be in the vine, according to the opinion of men, who actually have no root in the vine Thus, in the writings of the prophets, the Lord calls the people of Israel his vine, because, by outward profession, they had the name of The Church.
And every branch that beareth, fruit he pruneth. By these words, he shows that believers need incessant culture that they may be prevented from degenerating; and that they produce nothing good, unless God continually apply his hand; for it will not be enough to have been once made partakers of adoption, if God do not continue the work of his grace in us. He speaks of pruning or cleansing, because our flesh abounds in superfluities and destructive vices, and is too fertile in producing them, and because they grow and multiply without end, if we are not cleansed or pruned by the hand of God. When he says that vines are pruned, that they may yield more abundant fruit, he shows what ought to be the progress of believers in the course of true religion?
Cambridge Bible Plummer
2. Every branch] The word for ‘branch’ in these six verses occurs here only in N.T., and in classical Greek is specially used of the vine. The word used in the other Gospels (Mat_13:32; Mat_21:8; Mat_24:32; Mar_4:32; Mar_13:28; Luk_13:9), and in Rom_11:16-21, is of the same origin (from ‘to break’) but of more general meaning,—the smaller branch of any tree. So that the very word used, independently of the context, fixes the meaning of the allegory. It is every vine-branch, i.e. every one who is by origin a Christian. If they continue such by origin only, and give forth no fruit, they are cut off. The allegory takes no account of the branches of other trees: neither Jews nor heathen are included. Christ would not have called them branches ‘in Me.’
he taketh away] Literally, He taketh it away; in both clauses we have a nominativus pendens.
he purgeth it] Better, He cleanseth it, in order to bring out the connexion with ‘ye are clean’ (Joh_15:3). The Greek words rendered ‘purgeth’ and ‘clean’ are from the same root. There is also a similarity of sound between the Greek words for ‘taketh away’ and ‘cleanseth,’ like ‘bear and forbear’ in English (airei and kathairei). This may be intentional, but it cannot be reproduced in translation. By cleansing is meant freeing from excrescences and useless shoots which are a drain on the branch for nothing. The eleven were now to be cleansed by suffering.
bring forth] Better, as before, bear.
Every branch in me; i.e. this unity of life between me and mine is graciously handled by the Father—my Father! The branches are of two kinds—unfruitful and fruitful. The indefinite statement, in nominative absolute, calls great attention to it. “Every branch in me that beareth no fruit.” Then it is possible to come into this organic relation with the true vine, to be in it and to be a part of it, and to bring forth no fruit. If it were not for Joh_15:5 we might say that these branches were nations, customs, institutions, and the like; but the context forbids it. The relation to him must therefore be one that is insufficient to secure life, or fruit, or continuance. Baptized, communicating, professing, partially believing Christians there may be in abundance, who, though in him, yet cannot continue in him. (See stony ground, thorny ground, and unripe ears, of the parable of the sower; and the bad fish caught in the net (Mat_13:1-58.; 1Jn_2:19, etc.). He taketh away (cf. John the Baptist: “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down,” Mat_3:10; and Deu_32:32; Mic_7:1). What is done with the valueless prunings is said afterwards. Every branch that beareth fruit, he pruneth (or, cleanseth), that it may bring forth more fruit. Let the non-reappearance of ἐν ἐμοὶ be observed. The suavis rhythmus of Bengel is a mere accidental touch. The words αἴρει and καθαίρει rhyme with each other; but the latter word is not connected with καθαίρεω, a compound of αἵρεω, nor is it equivalent to καταίρει, the true compound of κατὰ with αἴρω; but it is derived from καθαρός, clean, and means “to cleanse with libations,” and perhaps “to prune with the knife.” The Husbandman aims at more fruit, more of meekness, gentleness, love, and faithfulness, in fact, all those fruits of the Spirit enumerated in Gal_5:22,Gal_5:23. The word κλῆμα, used for “branch” in these verses, occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. The word κλαδὸς, elsewhere used, means the smaller “branches” of a tree. The term means here vine-branch, the essential constituent elements of the vine itself, and is so used in Aristophanes, Aeschines, and Theophrastus (see LXX., Eze_15:2).
3.You are already clean, on account of the word. He reminds them that they have already experienced in themselves what he had said; that they have been planted in him, and have also been cleansed or pruned He points out the means of pruning, namely, doctrine; and there can be no doubt that he speaks of outward preaching, for he expressly mentions the word, which they had heard from his mouth. Not that the word proceeding from the mouth of a man has so great efficacy, but, so far as Christ works in the heart by the Spirit, the word itself is the instrument of cleansing Yet Christ does not mean that the apostles are pure from all sin, but he holds out to them their experience, that they may learn from it that the continuance of grace is absolutely necessary. Besides, he commends to them the doctrine of the gospel from the fruit which it produces, that they may be more powerfully excited to meditate on it continually, since it resembles the vine-dresser’s knife to take away what is useless.
Now ye are clean—pruned, purged, cleansed, of the Divine Owner—by reason of the word (λόγον) which I have spoken to you. The Father has been operating this cleansing process upon you by the whole of the ῥήματά (see Joh_15:7), which are gathered together into one mighty, quick, and active Loges. As we find in Heb_4:12, the Word is sharper than a two-edged sword, and capable of dealing summarily with “thoughts and intents of the heart.” Augustine, on this passage, admits that it is the Loges which gives all its value to the water of baptism. “This purifying, sanctifying process has been performed upon you,” says Christ. Then since “he who sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one,” this continuance remains as the gracious possibility. The vital sap proceeds from Christ alone, and not from our corrupted nature, which must be grafted into his life and become part of him. Many may seem to be a part of Christ, to be sacramentally or outwardly united to him, and even to be drawing some real advantages from the contact, and yet their end is fruitlessness, rottenness, removal, fire. The branches which bear fruit never bring forth all they might produce, never realize their ideal. The pruning, cleansing process must pass over every soul, that it may more adequately fulfill its destiny. The cleansing, searching power of the Word will be freely exercised by the Divine Husbandman.
4.Abide in me. He again exhorts them to be earnest and careful in keeping the grace which they had received, for the carelessness of the flesh can never be sufficiently aroused. And, indeed, Christ has no other object in view than to keep us as a hen keepeth her chickens under her wings, (Mat_23:37) lest our indifference should carry us away, and make us fly to our destruction. In order to prove that he did not begin the work of our salvation for the purpose of leaving it imperfect in the middle of the course, he promises that his Spirit will always be efficacious in us, if we do not prevent him. Abide in me, says he; for I am ready to abide in you And again, He who abideth in me beareth much fruit. By these words he declares that all who have a living root in him are fruit-bearing branches
Cambridge Bible Plummer
4. Abide in me, and I in you) See on Joh_6:56. ‘And I in you’ may be taken either as a promise (‘and then I will abide in you’) or as the other side of the command (‘take care that I abide in you’); the latter seems to be better.
except ye abide] There is this mysterious property in the branches of the spiritual Vine, that they can cut themselves off, as Judas had done. Nature does something, and grace does more; but grace may be rejected.
But there is a continuance of most intimate relations to be sustained between Christ and his disciples. If the two clauses are “imperative,” or rather concessive, as many suppose, the finest meaning is evolved. Let these be the reciprocal conditions, let it be that you abide in me, and I in you. (Meyer and Lange add to the second clause μενῶ, “I will abide in you,” making it into a promise following a command, and involving a very strong synergistic thought.) There is a mutual abiding or indwelling. The life-principle circulates through the branches, just as they perpetuate the living connection between the branch and the center of the life. The mutual relations show that human nature is in infinite need, and, apart from the new life-principle, will perish. The abiding of the branch in the vine suggests the continuance of vital connection’ with the living stem, and supposes that connection kept up by constant faith, so that the believer is in a position to draw life from the legitimate source. The abiding of the vine in the branch—”I in you”—is the perpetual inflow into the subordinate life, of the living grace which makes the believer’s life one with his Lord’s. As he said (Joh_14:19), “Because I live, and ye shall live;” so now, As the branch cannot bear fruit from itself—from its own inherent vitality—except it abide in the vine—except this connection is maintained—in like manner no more (or, so neither) can ye, except ye abide in me. The affirmation does not cover, as Augustine implies, the impotence of the natural man, but it asserts the unfruitfulness of the disciple in his own strength. Some have found here revindication of the place of the human will in the work of grace. Let it be seen, however, that it is the “good will,” the new nature, which has been wakened into normal activity, and which wills the thing most pleasing to the Divine Source of the life.
5.Without me you can do nothing. This is the conclusion and application of the whole parable. So long as we are separate from him, we bear no fruit that is good and acceptable to God, for we are unable to do anything good. The Papists not only extenuate this statement, but destroy its substance, and, indeed, they altogether evade it; for, though in words they acknowledge that we can do nothing without Christ, yet they foolishly imagine that they possess some power, which is not sufficient in itself, but, being aided by the grace of God, co-operates (as they say,) that is, works along with it; for they cannot endure that man should be so much annihilated as to do nothing of himself. But these words of Christ are too plain to be evaded so easily as they suppose. The doctrine invented by the Papists is, that we can do nothing without Christ, but that, aided by him, we have something of ourselves in addition to his grace. But Christ, on the other hand, declares that we can do nothing of ourselves. The branch, he says, beareth not fruit of itself; and, therefore, he not only extols the aid of his co-operating grace, but deprives us entirely of all power but what he imparts to us. Accordingly, this phrase, without me, must be explained as meaning, except from me.
Next follows another sophism; for they allege that the branch has something from nature, for if another branch, which is not fruit-bearing, be engrafted in the vine, it will produce nothing. But this is easily answered; for Christ does not explain what the branch has naturally, before it become united to the vine, but rather means that we begin to become branches at the time when we are united to him. And, indeed, Scripture elsewhere shows that, before we are in him, we are dry and useless wood.
Christ returns to the main theme of the previous verse, but here discriminates more forcibly the vine from the branches, and yet holds and binds them into a unity. I am the vine, ye are the branches; which shows that he treated the disciples themselves as the organs of his earthly fruit-bearing; and then draws a larger circle and makes a complete and comprehensive statement on which the very existence of the “true vine,” the “body of Christ, including the Head,” depends, viz. He that abideth in me, and I in him—i.e. whenever the conditions of which I have spoken to you are fulfilled; wherever there are human souls deriving from their connection with me the full advantage of the life ever streaming forth from me—the same beareth much fruit; the entire end of their new life is secured. He beareth “much fruit.” In other words, many of those blessed fruits of the supernatural life appear, which the great Husbandman desires to receive. And this strengthens the position of the previous verse, which threatened excision from the vine to such as bear no fruit. Such, though in one sense “in the vine,” do not abide in him. Because apart from —severed from—me ye can do nothing. The ὅτι suggests the question—Can the negative result justify the positive assertion? It does in this way. There are two premises: the first is,” I am the vine, and ye are the branches,” and the second is, “Severed front me a branch can effect nothing,” having no independent fruitfulness or stability. All its powers are derived from this supernatural source, and depend on Christ’s faithfulness to his own nature and functions; therefore, “He that abideth in me, and I in him, bringeth forth much fruit.” The language here does not repress the endeavor of the human will after righteousness, nor pronounce a judgment on the great controversy between Augustinians and Pelagians. These words are not addressed to unconverted men, but to disciples, who have to learn their constant need of spiritual contact with their invisible Lord. Let a believer, let an apostle, sever himself from Christ, and live on his own past reputation or his supposed strength, on the clearness of his intellect, the vigor of his body, the eminence of his position, he can and will do nothing.
I am the vine – Joh_15:1.
Without me ye can do nothing – The expression “without me” denotes the same as separate from me. As the branches, if separated from the parent stock, could produce no fruit, but would immediately wither and die, so Christians, if separate from Christ, could do nothing. The expression is one, therefore, strongly implying dependence. The Son of God was the original source of life, Joh_1:4. He also, by his work as Mediator, gives life to the world Joh_6:33, and it is by the same grace and agency that it is continued in the Christian. We see hence:
1. That to him is due all the praise for all the good works the Christian performs.
2. That they will perform good works just in proportion as they feel their dependence on him and look to him. And,
3. That the reason why others fail of being holy is because they are unwilling to look to him, and seek grace and strength from him who alone is able to give it.
6.If any one abide not in me. He again lays before them the punishment of ingratitude, and, by doing so, excites and urges them to perseverance. It is indeed the gift of God, but the exhortation to fear is not uncalled for, lest our flesh, through too great indulgence, should root us out.
He is cast out, and withered, like a branch. Those who are cut off from Christ are said to wither like a dead branch; because, as the commencement of strength is from him, so also is its uninterrupted continuance. Not that it ever happens that any one of the elect is dried up, but because there are many hypocrites who, in outward appearance, flourish and are green for a time, but who afterwards, when they ought to yield fruit, show the very opposite of that which the Lord expects and demands from his people.
6. he is cast forth] The verb is in a past tense; he is already cast forth by the very fact of not abiding in Christ. This consequence follows so inevitably that to state the one is to state the other. The same remark applies to ‘is withered.’ But the cast-out branch may be grafted in again (Rom_11:23) and the dead branch may be raised to life again (Joh_5:21; Joh_5:25). The rest of the picture looks forward to the day of judgment. ‘Men gather’ should be quite indefinitely, they gather (see on Luk_12:20).
they are burned] Or, they burn.
If any one abide net in me, he is cast forth as the branch—perhaps away from the vineyard, as well as from proximity to the vine—and is withered. The two aorists, ἐβλήθη and ἐξηράνθη, are simply cases of a common daily experience. These are the inevitable consequences of not abiding in the vine. We may imagine two ways in which this non-abiding in Christ, this severance from him, may be effected:
(1) the pruning-knife may have lopped them off because of their lack of fruitfulness; or,
(2) they may have withered on the stem, and, by their deficiency of strength and life, have suffered from some external assault which they have not had energy to resist. Lucke, Winer, Tholuck, and Hengstenberg regard the aorists as indicative of what will happen should branches in Christ cease to derive limb from him. Calvin is satisfied that the expression cannot refer to the elect, but to the hypocrite, while Alford is as confident of its repudiation of unconditional election. In my opinion it keeps clear of both suggestions. And they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. The vine is one of the noblest of all trees, and produces the most abundant fruit; but it is one of its peculiarities that all its strength is spent on the fruit, and that its branches are utterly valueless for all other purposes. Heaps of burning vine-prunings may have suggested the awful image which the embodied Love of God here adopts. Some have supposed (Meyer and Alford) that the fire is here the last judgment, which our Lord looks upon as come. But the present tense, following the two aorists, suggests the immediate consequence of such severance from Christ—the fiery trials, the fierce temptations, the terrible judgments, always overtaking the unfruitful and unfaithful servants, and preluding the awful consummation of Divine judgment, of which our Lord had often spoken (Mat_13:42, Mat_13:50; Mat_25:41; Luk_16:24), and which the apostle of love described in Rev_20:15; Rev_21:8.
7.If you abide in me. Believers often feel that they are starved, and are very far from that rich fatness which is necessary for yielding abundant fruit. For this reason it is expressly added, whatever those who are in Christ may need, there is a remedy provided for their poverty, as soon as they ask it from God. This is a very useful admonition; for the Lord often suffers us to hunger, in order to train us to earnestness in prayer. But if we fly to him, we shall never want what we ask, but, out of his inexhaustible abundance, he will supply us with every thing that we need, (1Co_1:5.)
If my words abide in you. He means that we take root in him by faith; for as soon as we have departed from the doctrine of the Gospel, we seek Christ separately from himself. When he promises that he will grant whatever we wish, he does not give us leave to form wishes according to our own fancy. God would do what was ill fitted to promote our welfare, if he were so indulgent and so ready to yield to us; for we know well that men often indulge in foolish and extravagant desires. But here he limits the wishes of his people to the rule of praying in a right manner, and that rule subjects, to the good pleasure of God, all our affections. This is confirmed by the connection in which the words stand; for he means that his people will or desire not riches, or honors, or any thing of that nature, which the flesh foolishly desires, but the vital sap of the Holy Spirit, Which enables them to bear fruit.
In this verse he returns once more on the principle of union with himself, and of what will come out of it. The disciples may be sorely distressed at this possible doom, for whatever may be the lot of those who do not obey the gospel and are ignorant of the Law of God, the curse here uttered fails heavily upon those who have been once enlightened, etc., and have apostatized (Heb_6:4-6). The anxiety of the apostles ]s grievous, and they desire deliverance from this doom. And our Lord next unfolds the principle of prayer which laid such hold on the mind of the Apostle John: If ye abide in me (and then, instead of adding, “And I abide in you,” he says); and my words abide in you; i.e. if my teaching so abide with you as to control your thoughts and ideas, remain in you as your guide and inspiration, then ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done to you. A timid interpretation of this promise limits the “whatsoever” to deeds of service in the kingdom of God, and fears, with Augustine, to trust the sanctified will of the believer. But in such harmony with Christ as these words supply, all the conditions of acceptable prayer are present. The believer in Christ, full of his words, evermore consciously realizing union with Christ, charged with the thoughts, burning with the purposes, filled with words of Jesus, will have no will that is not in harmony with the Divine will. Then faith is possible in the fulfillment of his own desire, and prayer becomes a prophecy and pledge of the answer. The apostle, after many years of pondering and of putting these principles into practice, confirms the truth of them (1Jn_5:14-16). This is the true philosophy of prayer. The psalmist had gone a long way in the same direction (Psa_37:4, “Delight thyself in the Lord; and he shall give thee thy heart’s desire”).
Ask whatsoever ye will (ho ean thelēte aitēsasthe). Indefinite relative with ean and present active subjunctive of thelō, to wish, to will, and aorist middle imperative of aiteō, to ask. This astounding command and promise (genēsetai, future middle of ginomai, it will come to pass) is not without conditions and limitations. It involves such intimate union and harmony with Christ that nothing will be asked out of accord with the mind of Christ and so of the Father. Christ’s name is mentioned in Joh_15:16; cf. Joh_14:13; Joh_16:23.
8.In this my Father is glorified This is a confirmation of the former statement; for he shows that we ought not to doubt that God will listen to the prayers of his people, when they desire to be rendered fruitful; for this contributes very greatly to his glory. But by this end or effect he likewise kindles in them the desire of doing good; for there is nothing which we ought to value more highly than that the name of God may be glorified by us. To the same effect is the latter clause, that you may become my disciples; for he declares that he has no one in his flock who does not bear fruit to the glory of God.
Pop Comm Bible Schaff
Joh_15:8. Herein was my Father glorified, that ye might bear much fruit and become my disciples. The last verse had expressed the highest and closest communion that can be established between the believer and the Father revealed in the Son,—a communion so high, so close, that the former asks whatsoever he will and it is done unto him. But that is the attainment of all God’s purposes, the issue of all His dealings, with His people. The ‘Herein’ of this verse is, accordingly, not to be explained by the words that follow, as if the meaning were that the glory of God is found in His appointing His people to bear much fruit and be disciples of Jesus. That is the result of His purpose rather than the purpose itself. The purpose is union, communion, fellow ship; and out of these flows an ever-increasing bearing of fruit (‘much fruit’), and an ever-growing conformity (‘become’ not ‘be’) of the believer with his Lord, alike in privilege and in life. Herein was my Father glorified belongs, therefore, to the previous verse,—to that abiding in Jesus, and that asking and receiving in Him, which expressed the purpose of the Father (comp. chap. Joh_14:13). At the point we have reached this is supposed to be accomplished, and as a consequence of such abiding fellowship with the Father and the Son comes the growing fruitfulness, the deepening discipleship, of those who are true branches of the fruitful vine. Hence the rendering ‘was glorified’ seems preferable to ‘is glorified,’ which we retain in chap. Joh_13:31. It is an ideal state of things with which we are dealing; and the much fruit and the discipleship referred to do not belong only to the present, but, like the ‘cleanness’ spoken of in Joh_15:3, are also future and continuous.
Herein (ἐν τούτῳ)
Commonly referred to what follows. My Father is glorified in this, namely, that ye bear much fruit. It is better to refer it back to Joh_15:7. In the perfect unity of will between the Son and the disciple, which results in the disciple’s obtaining whatever he asks, the Father is glorified. To this effect is Joh_14:13, “Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” The design of this glorification is that (ἴνα) you may bear much fruit. This retrospective reference of ἐν τούτῳ, in this, or herein, occurs in Joh_4:37; Joh_16:30; 1Jo_4:17.
Is glorified (ἐδοξάσθη)
The aorist tense; was glorified. As in Joh_15:6, marking the point when the Father’s glory was realized in the perfect union of the believer’s will with Christ’s.
So shall ye be (καὶ γενήσεσθε)
Literally, and ye shall become. Some editors, however, read γένησθε, and connect, in the same construction with the preceding clause, rendering, “Herein is (was) my Father glorified, that ye might bear much fruit and become my disciples.” Note that the word is become, not be. Christian discipleship implies progress and growth.
9.As the Father hath loved me. He intended to express something far greater than is commonly supposed; for they who think that he now speaks of the sacred love of God the Father, which he always had towards the Son, philosophize away from the subject; for it was rather the design of Christ to lay, as it were, in our bosom a sure pledge of God’s love towards us. That abstruse inquiry, as to the manner in which the Father always loved himself in the Son, has nothing to do with the present passage. But thelove which is here mentioned must be understood as referring to us, because Christ testifies that the Father loves him, as he is the Head of the Church. And this is highly necessary for us; for he who without a Mediator, inquires how he is loved by God, involves him in a labyrinth, in which he will neither discover the entrance, nor the means of extricating himself. We ought therefore to cast our eyes on Christ, in whom will be found the testimony and pledge of the love of God; for the love of God was fully poured out on him, that from him it might flow to his members. He is distinguished by this title, that he is the beloved Son, in whom the will of the Father is satisfied, (Mat_3:17.) But we ought to observe the end, which is, that God may accept us in him. So, then, we may contemplate in him, as in a mirror, God’s paternal love towards us all; because he is not loved apart, or for his own private advantage, but that he may unite us with him to the Father.
Abide in my love. Some explain this to mean, that Christ demands from his disciples mutual love; but others explain it better, who understand it to mean the love of Christ towards us. He means that we should continually enjoy that love with which he once loved us, and, therefore, that we ought to take care not to deprive ourselves of it; for many reject the grace which is offered to them, and many throw away what they once had in their hands. So, then, since we have been once received into the grace of Christ, we must see that we do not fall from it through our own fault.
The conclusion which some draw from these words, that there is no efficacy in the grace of God. unless it be aided by our steadfastness, is frivolous. For I do not admit that the Spirit demands from us no more than what is in our own power, but he shows us what we ought to do, that, if our strength be deficient, we may seek it from some other quarter. In like manner, when Christ exhorts us, in this passage, to perseverance, we must; not rely on our own strength and industry, but we ought to pray to him who commands us, that he would confirm us in his love.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
9. As the Father, &c.) The Greek construction is ambiguous. It would be quite possible to translate, Even as the Father loved Me and I loved you, abide in My love. But our version is better as keeping in due prominence the main statement, that the love of Christ for His disciples is analogous to that of the Father for the Son. In any case ‘abide’ is better than ‘continue;’ the same Greek word is used throughout these verses (4–16), a fact which our translators obscure by giving three English words, ‘abide,’ ‘continue,’ and ‘remain,’ and that in three consecutive verses (9–11). Throughout the Gospel ‘abide’ should be maintained as the rendering of S. John’s favourite verb μένειν (see on Joh_1:33). The whole should run, Even as the Father loved Me, I also loved you (comp. Joh_17:18, Joh_20:21); abide in My love. The verbs are aorists, not perfects, and Christ’s work is regarded as a completed whole, already perfect in itself. But perhaps this is just one of those cases where the English perfect may be allowed to translate the Greek aorist: see on Joh_8:29.
in my love] The Greek might mean ‘the love of Me,’ but ‘My love’ for you is more natural and suits the context better, which speaks of His love towards them as similar to the Father’s towards Him. The other, however, need not be altogether excluded. See on Joh_14:27.
Two ways of explaining this verse: Even as—inasmuch as—the Father hath loved me, and as I have loved you, abide in my love; i.e., as Grotius has put it, the first clause suggesting accordance with the mystery of the Trinity, and the second the mystery of redemption: “So do ye continue, or so do ye abide, in the amplitude of this double love which is mine, dwell in it as in a holy atmosphere, breathe it and live by it.” But there is another and more satisfactory way of translating the passage: Even as the Father loved me, I also loved you; a fact of stupendous interest and transcendent claim. Heaven had opened over the incarnate Word, and other ears as well as his own had heard the Father say, “Thou art my beloved Son,” etc. The Lord was conscious of being the Object of this infinite love before the foundation of the world (Joh_17:24), and of reciprocating and responding to it; and this love of the Father to him on his assumption of his mediatorial functions was the well-spring of his obedience unto death and after it (see Joh_10:17, note). Now, if the κἀγὼ is to be translated as above, Christ declares that even as the Father has loved him, he has’ loved his disciples. Again and again he has emphasized this love to them (Joh_13:34), but here he asserts a loftier claim, viz. that his love to them corresponds with the eternal Father’s love to himself. The one great fact is the ground on which he commands them to abide in his love. This is obviously a more explicit and more intelligible form of the commandment to abide in him. With Olshausen and Westcott, “The love that is mine “is not the love to Christ, nor the love of Christ exclusively, but a blending of the active and passive idea in “the love that is mine”—in the “love” lavished upon me from eternity, and to which I have eternally responded, which I have made known to you and expended on you and received back again from you. Abide in that love that is mine.
10.If you keep my commandments. He points out to us the method of perseverance. his, to follow where he calls, for, as Paul says, They who are in Christ walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit, (Rom_8:1.)
For these two things are continually united, that faith which perceives the undeserved love of Christ toward us, and a good conscience and newness of life. And, indeed, Christ does not reconcile believers to the Father, that they may indulge in wickedness without reserve, and without punishment; but that, governing them by his Spirit, he may keep them under the authority and dominion of his Father. Hence it follows, that the love of Christ is rejected by those who do not prove, by true obedience, that they are his disciples.
If any one object that, in that case, the security of our salvation depends on ourselves, I reply, it is wrong to give such a meaning to Christ’s words; for the obedience which believers render to him is not the cause why he continues his love toward us, but is rather the effect of his love. For whence comes it that they answer to their calling, but because they are led by the Spirit of adoption of free grace?
But again, it may be thought that the condition imposed on us is too difficult, that we should keep the commandments of Christ, which contain the absolute perfection of righteousness, — a perfection which far exceeds our capacity, — for hence it follows, that the love of Christ will be useless, if we be not endued with angelical purity. The answer is easy; for when Christ speaks of the desire of living a good and holy life, he does not exclude what is the chief article in his doctrine, namely, that which alludes to righteousness being freely imputed, in consequence of which, through a free pardon, our duties are acceptable to God, which in themselves deserved to be rejected as imperfect and unholy. Believers, therefore, are reckoned as keeping the commandments of Christ when they apply their earnest attention to them, though they be far distant from the object at which they aim; for they are delivered from that rigorous sentence of the law, Cursed be he that hath not confirmed all the words of this law to do them, (Deu_27:26).
As I also have kept my Father’s commandments. As we have been elected in Christ, so in him the image of our calling is exhibited to us in a lively manner; and therefore he justly holds himself out to us as a pattern, to the imitation of which all the godly ought to be conformed. “In me,” says he, “is brightly displayed the resemblance of those things which I demand from you; for you see how sincerely I am devoted to obedience to my Father, and how I persevere in this course. My Father, too, hath loved me, not for a moment, or for a short time, but his love toward me is constant.” This conformity between the Head and the members ought to be always placed before our eyes, not only that believers may form themselves after the example of Christ, but that, they may entertain a confident hope that his Spirit will every day form them anew to be better and better, that they may walk to the end in newness of life.
Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown
If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love – the obedient spirit of true discipleship attracting and securing the continuance and increase of Christ’s loving regard.
Even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. What a wonderful statement is this which Christ makes about Himself. In neither case, it will be observed, is obedience the original and proper ground of the love spoken of. As an earthly father does not primarily love his son for his obedience, but because of the filial relation which he bears to him, so the love which Christ’s Father bears to Him is not primarily drawn forth by His obedience, but by the Filial relation which He sustains to Him. The Son’s Incarnation neither added to nor diminished from this. But it provided a new form and manifestation of that love. As His own Son in our nature, the Father’s affection went out to Him as the Son of Man; and just as a human father, on beholding the cordial and constant obedience of his own child, feels his own affection thereby irresistibly drawn out to him, so every beauty of the Son’s Incarnate character, and every act of His Human obedience, rendered Him more lovely in the Fathers eye, drew down new complacency upon Him, Human obedience, rendered Him more lovely in the Fathers eye, drew down new complacency upon Him, fresh love to Him.
Thus, then, it was that by the keeping of His Father’s commandments Jesus abode in the possession and enjoyment of His Father’s love. And thus, says Jesus, shall it be between you and Me: If ye would retain My love to you, know that the whole secret of it lies in the keeping of My commandments: Never need ye be without the full sunshine of My love on your souls, if ye do but carry yourselves in the same obedient frame toward Me as I do toward My Father.
11.These things I have spoken to you. He adds, that his love is far from being unknown to the godly, but that it is perceived by faith, so that they enjoy blessed peace of conscience; for the joy which he mentions springs from that peace with God which is possessed by all that have been justified by free grace. As often, then, as God’s fatherly love towards us is preached, let us know that there is given to us ground for true joy, that, with peaceable consciences, we may be certain of our salvation.
My joy and your joy. It is called Christ ’s joy and our joy in various respects. It is Christ ’s, because it is given to us by him; for he is both the Author and the Cause of it. I say that he is the Cause of it, because we were freed from guilt, when the chastisement of our peace was laid on him, (Isa_53:5.)
I call him also the Author of it, because by his Spirit he drives away dread and anxiety in our hearts, and then arises that calm cheerfulness. It is said to be ours for a different reason; because we enjoy it since it has been given to us. Now since Christ declares that he spake these things, that the disciples might have joy, we conclude from these words, that all who have duly profited by this sermon have something on which they can rest.
That my joy may abide in you. By the word abide he means, that it is not a fleeting or temporaryjoy of which he speaks, but ajoy which never fails or passes away. Let us therefore learn that we ought to seek in the doctrine of Christ the assurance of salvation, which retains its vigor both in life and in death.
That your joy may be full. He adds, that this joy will be solid andfull; not that believers will be entirely free from all sadness, but that the ground forjoy will be far greater, so that no dread, no anxiety, no grief, will swallow them up; for those to whom it has been given to glory in Christ will not be prevented, either by life, or by death, or by any distresses, from bidding defiance to sadness.
11. These things have I spoken] The verse forms a conclusion to the allegory of the Vine. Comp. Joh_15:17, Joh_16:25; Joh_16:33.
might remain] Better, may abide: but the reading is doubtful, and perhaps ought to be simply ‘may be;’ that My joy (see on Joh_14:27) may be in you. This does not mean ‘that I may have pleasure in you;’ but that the joy which Christ experienced through consciousness of His fellowship with the Father, and which supported Him in His sufferings, might be in His disciples and support them in theirs. Here first, on the eve of His sufferings, does Christ speak of His joy.
might be full] Or, may be fulfilled. This expression of joy being fulfilled is peculiar to S. John (comp. Joh_3:29, Joh_16:24, Joh_17:13; 1Jn_1:4; 2Jn_1:12). The active occurs Php_2:2; ‘make my joy full;’ but nowhere else. Human happiness can reach no higher than to share that joy which Christ ever felt in being loved by His Father and doing His will.
These things I have spoken, and am still speaking, to you (perfect, not aorist) with this purpose, that the joy that is mine may be in you. This is variously explained. Augustine, “My joyfulness concerning you,” which is scarcely the burden of the previous verses; Grotius, “Your delight in me,” which would be somewhat tautologous; Calvin and De Wette, “The joyfulness capable of being produced in you by me, might be in you.” But the words are more simply explained by Lange, Meyer, Lucke, Westcott, Alford, and Moulton, as the communication to his disciples of his own absolute and personal joy. “The joy that is mine,” like “the peace which is mine,” is graciously bestowed. A joy was set before him, the joy of perfect self-sacrifice, which gave to his present acts an intensity and fullness of bliss. It was this, in its motives and character and supernatural sweetness, which would be in them. If they receive his life into them, it will convey not only his peace, but that peace uprising and bursting into joy; and he adds, in order that your joy may be fulfilled, i.e. perfected, reach its highest expression, its fullness of contents and entire sufficiency for all needs. 1Jn_1:1-4 is the best commentary on this last clause. The Old Testament prophets had often spoken of Jehovah’s joy in his people, comparing it to the bridegroom’s joy, and the bride’s (Isa_62:5; Zep_3:17). This entire idea is linked with 1Jn_1:10; where the keeping of his commandments, from motives of love, will enable the disciples to “abide in his love.” He now passes the whole law of the second table into the light of his joy and the power of his example.
12.This is my commandment. Since it is proper that we regulate our life according to the commandment of Christ, it is necessary, first of all, that we should understand what it is that he wills or commands He now therefore repeats what he had formerly said, that it is his will, above all things, that believers should cherish mutual love among themselves. True, the love and reverence for God comes first in order, but as the true proof of it is love toward our neighbors, he dwells chiefly on this point. Besides, as he formerly held himself out for a pattern in maintaining the general doctrine, so he now holds himself out for a pattern in a particular instance; for he loved all his people, that they may love each other. Of the reason why he lays down no express rule, in this passage, about loving unbelievers, we have spoken under the former chapter.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
12–17. The Union of the Disciples with one another in Christ
12. This is my commandment] Literally, This is the commandment that is Mine (see on Joh_14:17). In Joh_15:10 He said that to keep His commandments was the way to abide in His love. He now reminds them what His commandment is (see on Joh_13:34). It includes all others. A day or two before this Christ had been teaching that all the Law and the Prophets hang on the two great commands, ‘love God with all thy heart’ and ‘love thy neighbour as thyself’ (Mat_22:37-40). S. John teaches us that the second really implies the first (1Jn_4:20).
That ye love one another] Literally, in order that ye love one another: this is the purpose of the commandment. See next verse and on Joh_15:8, Joh_6:29, and Joh_17:3.
as I have loved] Even as I loved; comp. Joh_15:9. Christ looks back from a point still further.
13.Greater love hath no one than this. Christ sometimes proclaims the greatness of his love to us, that he may more fully confirm our confidence in our salvation; but now he proceeds further, in order to inflame us, by his example, to love the brethren. Yet he joins both together; for he means that we should taste by faith how inestimably delightful his goodness is, and next he allures us, in this way, to cultivate brotherly love. Thus Paul writes:
Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and sacrifice to God of a sweet-smelling savor, (Eph_5:2.)
God might have redeemed us by a single word, or by a mere act of his will, if he had not thought it better to do otherwise for our own benefit, that, by not sparing his own well-beloved Son, he might testify in his person how much he cares for our salvation. But now our hearts, if they are not softened by the inestimable sweetness of Divine love, must be harder than stone or iron.
But a question is put. How did Christ die for friends, since we were enemies, before he reconciled us, (Rom_5:10;)
for, by expiating our sins through the sacrifice of his death, he destroyed the enmity that was between God and us? The answer to this question will be found under the third chapter, where we said that, in reference to us, there is a state of variance between us and God, till our sins are blotted out by the death of Christ; but that the cause of this grace, which has been manifested in Christ, was the In this way, too, Christ laid down his life for those who were strangers, but whom, even while they were strangers, he loved, otherwise he would not have died for them.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
13. that a man lay down] Literally, in order that a man lay down: the greatest love is that of which the purpose is dying for those loved. On ‘lay down his life’ see note on Joh_10:11.
for his friends] Needless difficulty has been made about this, as if it were at variance with Rom_5:6-8. Christ here says that the greatest love that any one can shew towards his friends is to die for them. S. Paul says that such cases of self-sacrifice for good men occur; but they are very rare. Christ, however, surpassed them, for He died not only for His friends but for His enemies, not only for the good but for sinners. There is no contradiction. Nor is there any emphasis on ‘friends;’ as if to suffer for friends were higher than to suffer for strangers or enemies. The order of the Greek words throws the emphasis on ‘life:’ it is the unique character of the thing sacrificed that proves the love. Christ says ‘for His friends’ because He is addressing His friends.
14.You are my friends. He does not mean that we obtain so great an honor by our own merit, but only reminds them of the condition on which he receives us into favor, and deigns to reckon us among his friends; as he said a little before,
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, (Joh_15:10.)
For the grace of God our Savior hath appeared, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly desires, we should live soberly, and righteously, and piously, in this world, (Tit_2:11.)
But ungodly men, who, through wicked contempt of the Gospel, want only oppose Christ, renounce his friendship.
Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you—just because I command you. So the natural conclusion will be, “I am showing you the highest possible fruit of my friendship—I am laying down my life for you. This is how I have loved you; therefore after this manner you are to love one another” (1Jn_3:16; Eph_5:1, Eph_5:2). Our Lord then explains more and more to them how they can and do claim this glorious designation.
(1) They will vindicate the position for themselves if they are absolutely trustful and obedient.
(2) But they can have a new and nobler proof.
15.Henceforth I will not call you servants. By another argument he shows his love toward the disciples, which was, that he opened his mind fully to them, as familiar communication is maintained among friends. “I have condescended,” he says, “far more to you than a mortal man is wont to condescend to his servants Let this be regarded by you, therefore, as a pledge of my love toward you, that I have, in a kind and friendly manner, explained to you the secrets of heavenly wisdom which I had heard from the Father.” It is indeed a noble commendation of the Gospel, that we have the heart of Christ opened (so to speak) in it, so that we can no longer doubt of it or perceive it slightly. We have no reason for desiring to rise above the clouds, or to penetrate into the deep, (Rom_10:6) to obtain the certainty of our salvation. Let us be satisfied with this testimony of his love toward us which is contained in the Gospel, for it will never deceive us. Moses said to the ancient people,
What nation under heaven is so highly favored as to have God near to them, as God talked, with you this day? (Deu_4:7.)
But far higher is the distinction which God hath conferred on us, since God hath entirely conveyed himself to us in his Son. So much the greater is the ingratitude and wickedness of those who, not satisfied with the admirable wisdom of the Gospel, fly with proud eagerness to new speculations.
All that I have heard from my Father. It is certain that the disciples did not know all that Christ knew, and indeed it was impossible that they should attain to so great a height; and because the wisdom of God is incomprehensible, he distributed to each of them a certain measure of knowledge, according as he judged to be necessary. Why then does he say that he revealed all things ? I answer, this is limited to the person and office of the Mediator. He places himself between God and us, having received out of the secret sanctuary of God those things which he should deliver to us — as the phrase is — from hand to hand. Not one of those things, therefore, which related to our salvation, and which it was of importance for us to know was omitted by Christ in the instructions given to his disciples. Thus, so far as he was appointed to be the Master and Teacher of the Church, he heard nothing from the Father which he did not faithfully teach his disciples. Let us only have an humble desire and readiness to learn, and we shall feel that Paul has justly called the Gospel wisdom to make men perfect, (Col_1:28.)
Cambridge Bible Plummer
15. Henceforth I call you not servants] Better, No longer do I call you servants (comp. Joh_14:30 and see on Joh_8:34). He had implied that they were servants before (Joh_12:26, Joh_13:13-16). Perhaps the gentler word ‘servant’ is better here, although ‘bond-servant’ would bring out the contrast more strongly. Where the Apostles and others use it of themselves the gentler rendering is certainly to be preferred (Rom_1:1; Gal_1:10; Jas_1:1; 2Pe_1:1; &c. &c.).
what his lord doeth] To be taken literally. The slave or servant may see what his master is doing, but does not know the meaning or purpose of it. ‘Doeth’ need not be made equal to a future.
I have called you friends] Or, you have I called friends; ‘you’ is emphatic. He who wills to do His will as a servant, shall know of the doctrine as a friend (Joh_7:17).
I have made known unto you] As they were able to bear it (Joh_16:12). After Pentecost they would be able to bear much more. Both verbs are aorists;—I heard—I made known: comp. Joh_15:9; Joh_15:12.
No longer do I call you servants, bond-slaves. True, he had in this very discourse spoken of them as his δοῦλοι, (Joh_13:13, Joh_13:16). Again and again in his parabolic teaching he had spoken of his disciples as servants of a Lord (Mat_13:27; Mat_22:4; Luk_12:37; and Joh_12:26, where another word is used). And moreover, later on in this very chapter (Joh_15:20), the word and thought return, so that this relation to him, gloried in by St. Paul (Php_1:1; 1Co_7:22), St. James (Jas_1:1), Jude (Jud Jud_1:1), and even St. John (Rev_1:1), could be sustained in its integrity, even after it had been transfigured, and penetrated through and through with the light of love. Because the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth. The slave is an instrument, doing by commandment, not from intimate knowledge, his Lord’s behests. But you I have called (εἴρηκα)—on previous occasions (see Luk_12:4; and cf. Joh_11:11, “Our friend Lazarus”)—friends, for whom it is joy to die, and I have effected the transfiguration of your service into love. I have raised you by the intimacy of the relations into which 1 have drawn you from the position of slave to that of friend. You may be, you must be, my servants still; I am your Master and Lord; but you will be servants from a higher motive and a more enduring link and bond of union. For all things which I heard of my Father. Notice the source of the Savior’s teaching. He was sent from God, trained and taught, as a man; he chose thus, humanly, to learn step by step, thing by thing, what to reveal of his own nature, of his purpose and plan in redeeming men, concerning the essence of the Father himself, and the entire significance of his self-manifestation. That which I heard I made known unto you. This is only in apparent contradiction with Joh_16:12, where he implies that there will be more for them to learn in the future, when the mystery of his death, resurrection, and ascension shall have been accomplished. The limitation of the πάντα ἂἤκουσα does not consist in doctrines as opposed to practical duties, nor in the plan of salvation for individuals as antithetic to principles of his kingdom, nor in principles as distinguished from what may ultimately be found in them, but in the capacities and circumstances of the disciples themselves (Joh_16:12 is a corollary of this solemn assurance). The reason of the present assertion is the proof that it thus supplies of their dearness to him. “Ye are my friends.” He had told them all that they could bear. He had lifted the veil high enough for their truest joy and noblest discipline. He had bared his heart to them. He had kept back nothing that was profitable. He had proved his own friendship, and thus given a conclusive reason for his complete self-devotion on their account.
16.You have not chosen me. He declares still more clearly that it must not be ascribed to their own merit, but to his grace, that they have arrived at so great an honor; for when he says that he was not chosen by them, it is as if he had said, that whatever they have they did not obtain by their own skill or industry. Men commonly imagine some kind of concurrence to take place between the grace of God and the will of man; but that contrast, I chose you, I was not chosen by you, claims, exclusively, for Christ alone what is usually divided between Christ and man; as if he had said, that a man is not moved of his own accord to seek Christ, until he has been sought by him.
True, the subject now in hand is not the ordinary election of believers, by which they are adopted to be the children of God, but that special election, by which he set apart his disciples to the office of preaching the Gospel. But if it was by free gift, and not by their own merit, that they were chosen to the apostolic office, much more is it certain that the election, by which, from being the children of wrath and an accursed seed, we become the children of God, is of free grace. Besides, in this passage Christ magnifies his grace, by which they had been chosen to be Apostles, so as to join with it that former election by which they had been engrafted into the body of the Church; or rather, he includes in these words all the dignity and honor which he had conferred on them. Yet I acknowledge that Christ treats expressly of the apostleship; for his design is, to excite the disciples to execute their office diligently and faithfully.
He takes, as the ground of his exhortation, the undeserved favor which he had bestowed on them; for the greater our obligations to the Lord, the more earnest ought we to be in performing the duties which he demands from us; otherwise it will be impossible for us to avoid the charge of base ingratitude. Hence it appears that there is nothing which ought more powerfully to kindle in us the desire of a holy and religious life, than when we acknowledge that we owe every thing to God, and that we have nothing that is our own; that both the commencement of our salvation, and all the parts which follow from it, flow from his undeserved mercy. Besides, how true this statement of Christ is, may be clearly perceived from the fact, that Christ chose to be his apostles those who might have been thought to be the most unfit of all for the office; though in their person he intended to preserve an enduring monument of his grace. For, as Paul says, (1Co_2:16,) who among men shall be found fit for discharging the embassy by which God reconciles mankind to himself? Or rather, what mortal is able to represent the person of God? It is Christ alone who makes them fit by his election. Thus Paul ascribes his apostleship to grace, (Rom_1:5,) and again mentions that he had been separated from his mother’s womb, (Gal_1:15.)
Nay more, since we are altogether useless servants, those who appear to be the most excellent of all will not be fit for the smallest calling, till they have been chosen. Yet the higher the degree of honor to which any one has been raised, let him remember that he is under the deeper obligations to God.
And I have appointed you. The election is hidden till it is actually made known, when a man receives an office to which he had been appointed; as Paul, in the passage which I quoted a little ago, where he says that he had been separated from his mother ’s womb, adds, that he was created an apostle, because it so pleased God His words are:
When it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, (Gal_1:15.)
Thus also the Lord testifies that he knew Jeremiah before he was in his mother ’s womb, (Jer_1:5,) though he calls him to the prophetical office at the proper and appointed time. It may happen, no doubt, that one who is duly qualified enters into the office of teaching; or rather, it usually happens in the Church that no one is called till he be endued and furnished with the necessary qualifications. That Christ declares himself to be the Author of both is not wonderful; since it is only by him that God acts, and he acts along with the Father. So then, both election and ordination belong equally to both.
That you may go. He now points out the reason why he mentioned his grace. It was, to make them apply more earnestly to the work. The apostleship was not a place of honor without toil, but they had to contend with very great difficulties; and therefore Christ encourages them not to shrink from labors, and annoyances, and dangers. This argument is drawn from the end which they ought to have in view; but Christ reasons from the effect, when he says,
That you may bear fruit; for it is hardly possible that any one would devote himself earnestly and diligently to the work, if he did not expect that the labor would bring some advantage. Christ, therefore, declares that their efforts will not be useless or unsuccessful, provided that they are ready to obey and follow when he calls them. For he not only enjoins on the apostles what their calling involves and demands, but promises to them also prosperity and success, that they may not be cold or indifferent. It is hardly possible to tell how great is the value of this consolation against those numerous temptations which daily befall the ministers of Christ. Whenever, then, we see that we are losing our pains, let us call to remembrance that Christ will, at length, prevent our exertions from being vain or unproductive; for the chief accomplishment of this promise is at the very time when there is no appearance of fruit. Scorners, and those whom the world looks upon as wise men, ridicule our attempts as foolish, and tell us that it is in vain for us to attempt to mingle heaven and earth; because the fruit does not yet correspond to our wishes. But since Christ, on the contrary, has promised that the happy result, though concealed for a time, will follow, let us labor diligently in the discharge of our duty amidst the mockeries of the world.
And that your fruit may abide. A question now arises, why does Christ say that this fruit will be perpetual? As the doctrine of the Gospel obtains souls to Christ for eternal salvation, many think that this is the perpetuity of the fruit But I extend the statement much farther, as meaning that the Church will last to the very end of the world; for the labor of the apostles yields fruit even in the present day, and our preaching is not for a single age only, but will enlarge the Church, so that new fruit will be seen to spring up after our death.
When he says, your fruit, he speaks as if it had been obtained by their own industry, though Paul teaches that they who plant or water are nothing, (1Co_3:7.) And, indeed, the formation of the Church is so excellent a work of God, that the glory of it ought not to be ascribed to men. But as the Lord displays his power by the agency of men, that they may not labor in vain, he is wont to transfer to them even that which belongs peculiarly to himself. Yet let us remember that, when he so graciously commends his disciples, it is to encourage, and not to puff them up.
That your Father may give you all that you ask in my name. This clause was not added abruptly, as many might suppose; for, since the office of teaching far exceeds the power of men, there are added to it innumerable attacks of Satan, which never could be warded off but by the power of God. That the apostles may not be discouraged, Christ meets them with the most valuable aid; as if he had said, “If the work assigned to you be so great that you are unable to fulfill the duties of your office, my Father will not forsake you; for I have appointed you to be ministers of the Gospel on this condition, that my Father will have his hand stretched out to assist you, whenever you pray to him, in my name, to grant you assistance.” And, indeed, that the greater part of teachers either languish through indolence, or utterly give way through despair, arises from nothing else than that they are sluggish in the duty of prayer.
This promise of Christ, therefore, arouses us to call upon God; for whoever acknowledges that the success of his work depends on God alone, will offer his labor to him with fear and trembling. On the other hand, if any one, relying on his own industry, disregard the assistance of God, he will either throw away his spear and shield, when he comes to the trial, or he will be busily employed, but without any advantage. Now, we must here guard against two faults, pride and distrust; for, as the assistance of God is fearlessly disregarded by those who think that the matter is already in their own power, so many yield to difficulties, because they do not consider that they fight through the power and protection of God, under whose banner they go forth to war.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
16. Ye have not, &c.] Better, Ye chose Me not, but I chose you: ‘Ye’ and ‘I’ are emphatic; there is no emphasis on ‘Me.’ The reference is to their election to be Apostles, as the very word used seems to imply (comp. Joh_6:70, Joh_13:18; Act_1:2); therefore the aorist as referring to a definite act in the past should be preserved in translation.
ordained you] Better, appointed you (as 2Ti_1:11 and Heb_1:2), in order to avoid an unreal connexion with ordination in the ecclesiastical sense. The same word used in the same sense as here is rendered ‘set’ in Act_13:47 and 1Co_12:28, ‘ordained’ 1Ti_2:7, and ‘made’ Act_20:28.
go and bring forth fruit] ‘Go’ must not be insisted on too strongly as if it referred to the missionary journeys of the Apostles. On the other hand it is more than a mere auxiliary or expletive: it implies the active carrying out of the idea expressed by the verb with which it is coupled (comp. Luk_10:37; Mat_13:44; Mat_18:15; Mat_19:21), and perhaps also separation from their Master (Mat_20:4; Mat_20:7). The missionary work of gathering in souls is not specially indicated here: the ‘fruit’ is rather the holiness of their own lives and good works of all kinds. ‘Bring forth’ should be bear as in Joh_15:5.
should remain] Better, should abide (see on Joh_15:9). Comp. Joh_4:36.
whatsoever ye shall ask] See on Joh_15:7 and Joh_14:13.
he may give it] The Greek may also mean ‘I may give it’ (comp. Joh_14:13), the first and third persons being alike in this tense; and several ancient commentators take it as the first.
From the thirteenth to the fifteenth verse, our Lord, in a brief digression, has justified a portion of the great commandment of mutual love. That love is to correspond with his love to the disciples, and to explain his self-sacrifice to them; tie proves to them that they are his “friends,” and therefore the objects of his dying love. Then the appeal is still further clenched by showing the origin and purport of his friendship for them. Ye did not choose me (ἐξελέξασθε … ἐξελεξάμηνare middle, “you chose … I chose … for yourselves or for myself”), but I chose you. I selected you as individuals, not excluding thereby a gracious choice of other souls; I destined you to accomplish work dear to me and essential to my kingdom. Christ has already told them that he must “go away” from’ them to the Father, and that they “cannot follow him now, but afterwards;” and he has also convinced them that, though he go away, he will “come again, and abide with them,” and also that “severed” from him they can “do nothing.” Consequently when he adds, I appointed you (see 1Co_12:28; 1Ti_1:12; Heb_1:2; Act_20:28, for similar use of τιθέναι)as my apostles and representatives, to do work in my Name, there is no contradiction in his adding, that ye should go forth, depart into the world with my message and in my Name, as I am “departing” to the Father, to rule over you from a higher and more august position. And bear fruit. A passing reference to the imagery of the first part of the chapter, showing that their “going forth or away” upon this mission would not separate them from his Spirit, or divide the link without which they could bear no fruit at all. The “fruit” may here, in its issues, suggest another class of ideas. In the first case the “fruit” was the “fruit of the Spirit,” but here it would seem to be the abiding consequence of the “greater works” which they would be called upon to do. This rich fruit includes all the victories they were to win over souls, and all the effects of their ministry. “Fruit” in either case is only valuable when it is utilized by the Husbandman and according to his purpose. “Fruit” is a Divine self-exhaustion of the living organism; it does no good to the branch nor to the stem; it is the sacred property of the husbandman, whether for his own joy or for fresh seed. In this case your fruit will abide for ever, not in the branch, but in the Father’s hands, that (ἵνα) whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my Name, he may give it you. It now becomes a question whether the second ἵνα introduces a clause which is co-ordinate with the former or one logically depending on the preceding. Meyer concludes the first, viz. that the granting of prayer brings about the fruit and its continuance (so De Wette, Lucke, Stier, Godet); and Olshausen maintains the second, viz. that by going and bringing forth fruit we enter into that relation with God from which proceeds the prayer in the name of the Son which the Father will grant, thus bringing the passage into close relation with Joh_14:13 and Joh_16:23. Hengstenberg says, “By their fruit they would show themselves to be true disciples of Christ, and to such the Father can deny nothing.” But Westcott and Lange endeavor to combine both ideas. The co-ordination of the two clauses requires the inversion of their order, or the introduction of καὶ before the second ἵνα. Moreover, the thought that Christ chose and appointed them in order that whatsoever they should ask God would give, is out of harmony with “the conditions of acceptable prayer” elsewhere insisted on; while the bearing of fruit—in both senses,
(a) that of Christian grace and
(b) Christian usefulness
—completes the idea in a concrete form of abiding in Christ and having his words abiding in them. Surely the view that the second clause is conditioned by the first, is far from obscure, as Luthardt says, while he virtually accepts the same interpretation: “If they cause themselves to be found in the right service of Jesus, then will be granted to them what they ask in the name of Jesus.” Moulton confirms the same interpretation. (On the clause, “in my Name,” see Joh_16:24.)
17.These things I command you. This too, was appropriately added, that the Apostles might know that mutual love among ministers is demanded above all things, that they may be employed, with one accord, in building up the Church of God; for there is no greater hindrance than when every one labors apart, and when all do not direct their exertions to the common good. If, then, ministers do not maintain brotherly intercourse with each other, they may possibly erect some large heaps, but latterly disjointed and confused; and, all the while, there will be no building of a Church.
These things do I command you—clearly pointing back to Joh_15:12—that ye may love one another. This entire meditation culminates where it began. The digression comes back to the main theme Westcott regards it as the starting-point of a new theme, but our Lord did not return upon the idea of mutual love, but discusses the effect upon the world of that love to each other and to him which blended their personalities into one mystic unity. This verse shows how the new topic links itself with the previous discussion. His dying for them, thus proving his friendship for them, and all the other signs of his interest and confidence, have been set before them to this great end; for while the world is full of outrage and mutual animosities, the motive of his own entire self-manifestation is to awaken a new and higher type and model of humanity. Well may the familiar legend of St. John in the churches of Ephesus confirm this sublime truth. From this point to the end of the chapter (verse 27) Christ unfolded the consequences, to the unbelieving world, of the sacred union between himself and his disciples, and he discussed the reciprocal relations between his own disciples and the world, seeing that they are united with him in such a close incorporation.