James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.John 15:1-16:33
CENTRAL TEACHING CONTINUED
The fundamental subject of this discourse is that of the relation of believers to Jesus Christ in respect to practical life under the coming dispensation:
1. The relation of members who share in His life and thereby bring forth fruit unto God (John 15:1-8).
2. The relation of friends who share in His love and maintain its continuance and manifest its effect by love to each other (John 15:9-17).
3. The relation of followers who share in His work toward the world, and therefore in its enmity (John 16:16).
4. The relation of adherents on whom He bestows a share in His own Spirit, the comforter, advocate and teacher (John 16:4-15).
Then follow answers to thoughts raised in the minds of His hearers, renewed warnings, promises and assurances, closing with a sad intimation of desertion, which passes again into a note of peace and victory.
Under the first of the above relationships (John 15:1-8), we learn that the union between Christ and His true disciples is a living one the branch lives in the vine and the vine in the branch. All the meaning that can be gathered out of that simile belongs to the Christian’s faith. We learn also, that there are false Christians as well as true ones, branches which appear to be joined to the vine and yet bear no fruit. Further, we are taught that the only satisfactory evidence of being a true Christian is fruit. Again, that fruitfulness is increased in such by God’s providential dealing with them.
John 15:7 is a distinct promise of power and success in prayer as a result of fruit bearing.
Under the second relationship (John 15:9-17) think of the measureless compass in the words, “Even as the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you” (John 15:9); think how simple it is to continue in that love, just to keep His commandments; and the two-fold motive for so doing, that He may have joy in us, and that our own joy may be filled full. Note the high privilege of a believer in John 15:15 and compare it with Genesis 18:17.
As to the enmity of the world, how kind that our Lord should relieve His disciples of fault or blame in the promises (John 15:18-21)! John 15:22 does not teach that they would not have been sinners at all had not Christ come, but they would have had a less degree of guilt (compare John 9:41).
In the teaching about the Holy Spirit there is a mysterious saying at John 16:7. It is hard to understand why it could be good for Christ to go away from His disciples, but the fact remains that when He went away and the Comforter came at Pentecost the faith of the disciples became a new thing altogether. The Acts of the Apostle will teach us this. If Christ had remained bodily with them he could not have been in more places than one at the same time, and there would have been far less room for the exercise of their faith, and hope and trust. And what about His exalted life in heaven as our High Priestly intercessor? How could His people have continued without that? John 16:8 is also mysterious. As commonly understood, it describes the ordinary operation of the Holy Spirit in saving sinners, but there is more in it. Bishop Ryle thinks it means that when the Spirit came at Pentecost He would stop the mouths of enemies, and oblige them however unwillingly, to think of Christ and what He taught very differently from what they were thinking now. The Acts illustrates this for there was a peculiar irresistible power accompanying the work of the Apostles which neither the heathen nor the unbelieving Jews were able to resist or gainsay. Witness the stoning of Stephen, Acts 7, and Pliny’s famous letter to Trojan about the Christians. John 16:12-13 of this chapter are Christ’s preauthentications of the New Testament. He would leave many things to be revealed for example, and this revelation would be completed after the Spirit came (compare 1 Corinthians 14:37 and Revelation 22:19).
But there is nothing in this sublime discourse of more practical value than what it teaches about prayer. See John 14:13-14; John 15:16; John 16:23-27. To ask the Father in Christ’s name is in advance of asking for His sake. To ask in His name is as though He asked Himself with all the assurance of answer which such a fact implies. This is the privilege of the true believer who is thus a member of Christ’s body, and of Him only, and it is a revelation of truth which Christ at no time had made known to His followers until now doubtless because they were not prepared to receive it.
1. Name four different relations of believers to Christ treated in this discourse.
2. What are the subjects concluding chapter 16?
3. What do we learn from the parable of the vine and the branches?
4. What is the high privilege of a believer as stated in John 15:15?
5. Explain John 15:22.
6. Explain John 16:7-8.
7. How would you characterize John 16:12-13, and why?
8. What does it mean to pray in Christ’s Name?