John 15:15
Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.
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(15) Henceforth I call you not servants.—Better, I call you no longer, or, I do not still call you, servants. (Comp. John 14:30.) For the word “servant,” as applied to them, comp. John 12:26; John 13:13. It is used again in this discourse (John 15:20), but with reference to an earlier saying. In John 20:17, he calls them brethren. The word here rendered “servant” means literally “bond-servant,” “slave.” He will not apply this to them, but the foremost Apostles felt that His service was perfect freedom, and it became the common title which they applied to themselves. (Comp., e.g., Romans 1:1; James 1:1; 2Peter 1:1; Revelation 1:1.)

For the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth.—The part of the slave is mechanical obedience, without any principle of love between his master and himself. He knows nothing of the purpose or aim of his master, and although he sees the deeds which are done, he knows not what his master doeth. There is no occasion to read the word “doeth” as though it were “will do” (future), which has not unfrequently been accepted as the explanation.

For all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto youi.e., He had treated them as friends and sharers in their common work. He has revealed to them the character and attributes of the Father, and kept back from them no truth of which they could understand the meaning. There is no contradiction with John 16:12. The reason He had not told them more was not on His part, but on theirs. They could not then receive more, but in the future He would by the Holy Spirit declare to them all truth.

15:9-17 Those whom God loves as a Father, may despise the hatred of all the world. As the Father loved Christ, who was most worthy, so he loved his disciples, who were unworthy. All that love the Saviour should continue in their love to him, and take all occasions to show it. The joy of the hypocrite is but for a moment, but the joy of those who abide in Christ's love is a continual feast. They are to show their love to him by keeping his commandments. If the same power that first shed abroad the love of Christ's in our hearts, did not keep us in that love, we should not long abide in it. Christ's love to us should direct us to love each other. He speaks as about to give many things in charge, yet names this only; it includes many duties.I call you not servants - This had been the common title by which he addressed them Matthew 10:24-25; John 12:26; John 13:13; but he had also before this, on one occasion, called them friends Luke 12:4, and on one occasion after this he called them servants, John 15:20. He here means that the ordinary title by which he would hence forth address them would be that of friends.

The servant knoweth not ... - He receives the command of his master without knowing the reason why this or that thing is ordered. It is one of the conditions of slavery not to be let into the counsels and plans of the master. It is the privilege of friendship to be made acquainted with the plans wishes, and wants of the friend. This instance of friendship Jesus had given them by making them acquainted with the reasons why he was about to leave them, and with his secret wishes in regard to them. As he had given their this proof of friendship, it was proper that he should not withhold from them the title of friends.

His lord - His Master.

I have called you friends - I have given you the name of friends. He does not mean that the usual appellation which he had given them had been than of friends, but that such was the title which he had now given them.

For all things ... - The reason why he called them friends was that he had now treated them as friends. He had opened to them his mind; made known his plans; acquainted them with the design of his coming, his death, his resurrection, and ascension; and, having thus given them the clearest proof of friendship, it was proper that he should give them the name.

That I have heard ... - Jesus frequently represents himself as commissioned or sent by God to accomplish an important work, and as being instructed by him in regard to the nature of that work. See the notes at John 5:30. By what he had heard of the Father, he doubtless refers to the design of God in his coming and his death. This he had made known to them.

15. Henceforth I call you not servants—that is, in the sense explained in the next words; for servants He still calls them (Joh 15:20), and they delight to call themselves so, in the sense of being "under law to Christ" (1Co 9:20).

the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth—knows nothing of his master's plans and reasons, but simply receives and executes his orders.

but … friends, for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you—admitted you to free, unrestrained fellowship, keeping back nothing from you which I have received to communicate. (Compare Ge 18:17; Ps 25:14; Isa 50:4).

By his saying, I call you not servants, he doth not discharge them of that duty and service which they owed to him; for in pressing them to obey his commandments, he declares that duty they owed to him; he only showeth that they were no ordinary servants, but taken into a state of dignity, favour, and familiarity, beyond that of servants, and that he had not treated them like servants, but like intimate, familiar friends. For look as ordinary masters in the world communicate their counsels and whole heart to their friends, especially in things which are of any concern, or may be of any advantage for them to know and understand; whereas they keep themselves at a distance from servants, and they only know so much of their minds as is by them to be done in their masters’ service: so he had not only revealed to them their duty, what was to be by them done in his service, but had been more free, giving to them to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, as he told them, Matthew 13:11; as well telling them his Father’s counsels on the behalf of them, and whatsoever he might communicate to them, as his Father’s will, what he would have them to do in obedience to his commandments.

Henceforth I call you not servants,.... As they and the rest of the people of God had been, under the legal dispensation; for though they were children, yet differed nothing from servants; and were very much influenced and impressed with a servile spirit, a spirit of bondage unto fear, being kept under tutors and governors by a severe discipline; but now Christ being come in the flesh, and being about to lay down his life, and make reconciliation for them, henceforward he would not use, treat, or account them as servants:

for the servant knoweth not what his Lord doeth; designs to do, or is about to do; he is not made privy to all his counsels and purposes; these are only opened to him as necessity requires; which was pretty much the case of the Old Testament church, who, comparatively speaking, were used as servants; and had not the knowledge of the mysteries of grace, and of the counsels of God, as they are now laid open under the Gospel dispensation:

but I have called you friends; that is, accounted, reckoned of them, used them as his friends and familiar acquaintance; whom he told all his mind unto, and would go on to treat them as such; by leading them more and more, as they were able to bear it, into the designs of his grace, and the doctrines of his Gospel: just as Abraham was called the friend of God, and proved to be so, by his not concealing from him the thing he was about to do:

for all things I have heard of my Father, I have made known unto you; not all that he knew as the omniscient God, for there was no necessity that all such things should be made known to them; but all things which he had delivered to him as man and Mediator, by his Father, respecting the salvation of men; all things which he himself was to do and suffer, in order to obtain eternal redemption; and the whole of the Gospel, as to the essential and substantial parts of it, they were to preach; for otherwise, there were some things which as yet they were not able to bear, and were reserved to another time, to be made known unto them by his Spirit.

{4} Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

(4) The doctrine of the gospel, as it is uttered by Christ's own mouth, is a most perfect and absolute declaration of the counsel of God, which pertains to our salvation and is committed unto the apostles.

John 15:15. The dignity, however, which lies in this designation “friends,” was to become known to them.

οὐκέτι] No more, as before (John 12:26, John 13:13 ff.). No contradiction to John 15:20, where Jesus does not anew give them the name of δοῦλοι, but only reminds them of an earlier saying; nor with Luke 12:4, where He has already called them friends, which, however, is also not excluded by the present passage, since here rather the previous designation is only indicated a potiori, and the new is intended in a pregnant sense, which does not do away with the objective and abiding relationship of the disciples, to be δοῦλοι of Christ, and their profound consciousness of this their relationship (Acts 4:29; Romans 1:1; Galatians 1:10; Php 1:1, et al.); as generally Christians are at once δοῦλοι and ἀπελεύθεροι κυρίου (1 Corinthians 7:22), at once δοῦλοι and yet His brothers (Romans 8:29), at once δοῦλοι and yet His συγκληρονόμοι (Romans 8:16).

αὐτοῦ ὁ κύρ.] Although he is his lord.

τί ποιεῖ] Not: what he intends to do (Grotius, Kuinoel, and several others), which is not appropriate in the application to Jesus, whose work was in full process of accomplishment, nay, was so near to its earthly consummation, but the action itself, whilst it is going on. The slave, although he sees it externally, is not acquainted with it, does not know the proper nature of the action of his master (comp. Xen. ep. i. 3), because the latter has not taken him into his confidence in respect of the quality, the object, the means, the motives, and thoughts, etc.; “servus tractatur ut ὄργανον,” Bengel.

εἴρηκα] John 15:14. πάντα ἃ ἤουσα, κ.τ.λ.] does not refer to all the doctrinal teaching, nor again is it elucidated from the quite general saying, John 8:26 (Tholuck); and just as little does it require the arbitrary and more exact definition of that which is necessary to salvation (Calvin), of the principles (De Wette), of that designed for communication (Lücke, Olshausen), by which it is sought to avoid the apparent contradiction with John 16:12; but[167] it alludes to that which the Father has laid upon Him to do, as appears from the context by the correlation with ὅτι ὁ δοῦλος οὐκ οἶδε, κ.τ.λ. He has made known to the disciples the whole saving will of God, the accomplishment of which had been entrusted to Him on His being sent from the pre-existent state into the world; but that does not by any means also exclude instructions standing in the context, which they could not bear at the present time, John 16:12.

[167] This, at the same time, in answer to Beyschlag, p. 101, who considers a reference here to the pre-existent state as absurd. Comp. also against the same, Johansson, de Chr. praeexistentia, p. 14.

John 15:15. “Friends” who may expect all the good offices of their Friend, not “slaves,” is the character in which alone you can carry on my work: οὐκέτι ὑμᾶς λέγω δούλουςὑμῖν. The designation “slave” is no longer (οὐκέτι) appropriate, cf. John 13:16 and Jam 1:1, Php 1:1, etc. It is not appropriate, because ὁ δοῦλος οὐκ οἶδε τί ποιεῖ αὐτοῦ ὁ κύριος “the slave knows not what his lord is doing,” he receives his allotted task but is not made acquainted with the ends his master wishes to serve by his toil (“servus tractatur ut ὄργανον”. Bengel). He is animated by no sympathy with his master’s purpose nor by any personal interest in what he is doing. Therefore “friends” is the appropriate designation, ὑμᾶς δὲ εἴρηκα φίλους, “but I have called you friends”. Schoettgen quotes from Jalkut Rubeni, 164, “Deus Israelitas prae nimio amore primo vocat servos, deinde filios, Deuteronomy 14:1”. Other remarkable passages on God’s calling the Israelites “friends” are also cited by him in loc. For the peculiar use of εἴρηκα, cf. John 10:35 and 1 Corinthians 12:3; and for parallels in the classics, see Rose’s Parkhurst’s Lexicon. ὅτι πάντα ἃ ἤκουσα παρὰ τοῦ πατρός μου, ἐγνώρισα ὑμῖν. Jesus had opened to them the mind of the Father in sending Him to the world, and as this purpose of the Father had commended itself to Jesus, and fired Him with the desire to fulfil it, so does He expect that the disciples will intelligently enter into His purposes, make them their own, and spend themselves on their fulfilment.

15. Henceforth I call you not servants] Better, No longer do I call you servants (comp. John 14:30 and see on John 8:34). He had implied that they were servants before (John 12:26, John 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 (Romans 1:1; Galatians 1:10; James 1:1; 2 Peter 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 (John 7:17).

I have made known unto you] As they were able to bear it (John 16:12). After Pentecost they would be able to bear much more. Both verbs are aorists;—I heard—I made known: comp. John 15:9; John 15:12.

John 15:15. Δούλους, servants) So for instance He had called them, ch. John 13:16; John 13:13, “The servant is not greater than His Lord:” “Ye call Me Master and Lord; and ye say well, for so I am.” And the former sentiment is repeated in this chapter, at John 15:20, but in a milder tone.—ὅτι, because) This particle being employed twice in this verse, renders the antithesis very beautifully striking.—οὐκ οἶδε, knows not) The servant is treated as a mere instrument, ὄργανον.—τί) What kind of thing, and for what cause.—εἴρηκα, I have called you) just now, by a new appellation, John 15:13, and that appellation used in a more choice sense than in Luke 12:4, “I say unto you, my friends, Be not afraid of them,” etc.; where there is no contrast intended, as here, of this appellation with the nomenclature of a servant.—ὅτι, because) Comp. Genesis 18:17, where God says, “Shall I hide from Abraham [called peculiarly “the Friend of God,” Jam 2:23] that thing which I do?” Psalm 25:14, “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him.”—ἃ ἤκουσα) which I have heard, as things to be done by Me [Supply the latter clause from the previous, “What His Lord doeth”].

Verse 15. - No longer do I call you servants, bond-slaves. True, he had in this very discourse spoken of them as his δοῦλοι, (John 13:13, 16). Again and again in his parabolic teaching he had spoken of his disciples as servants of a Lord (Matthew 13:27; Matthew 22:4; Luke 12:37; and John 12:26, where another word is used). And moreover, later on in this very chapter (Ver. 20), the word and thought return, so that this relation to him, gloried in by St. Paul (Philippians 1:1; 1 Corinthians 7:22), St. James (James 1:1), Jude (Jude 1:1), and even St. John (Revelation 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 Luke 12:4; and cf. John 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 John 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 α} ἤκουσα 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 (John 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. John 15:15Henceforth - not (οὐκέτι)

Rev., better, no longer. No longer servants, as you were under the dispensation of the law. Compare Galatians 4:7.

Servants (δούλους)

Strictly, bond-servants.

Knoweth not (οὐκ οἶδέ)

Has no instinctive perception. See on John 2:24.


The position of the pronoun in the Greek is emphatic: "You I have called friends."

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