I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
Verses 1-10. -
(7) The parable of the vine and its branches. Incorporation of the disciples into one personality with himself. The image of the vine may have been suggested by some visible object. Either of the hypotheses of place would furnish a reminder of the nature and culture of the vine. Thus around the windows of the guest-chamber the vine may have thrown its tendrils, or on the slopes of Olivet the vineyards may have been prominent objects, or the burning heaps of vine-prunings may have suggested the idea. Again, if they were pausing in some apartments of the temple-court, the golden vine, the image of Israel, upon the gates may have supplied the point of departure. But our Lord needed no such help to his imagination, and it is by no means necessary to find an occasion for his imagery. The fact that he had the fruit of the vine before him, and had already made it symbolic of his sacrificial death, may have brought the thought nearer to the disciples. But the most simple explanation is that the vine was the image of Israel. The prophets and psalms abound with this reference (Isaiah 5:1, etc.; Ezekiel 19:10; Psalm 80:8-19), so that our Lord was giving a new meaning to a familiar figure. "The vine" was the beautiful image of that theocratic and sacramental community, which had its center in the altar and ark of testimony and the holy place; and the fruit of the vine was conspicuous in all the symbolic relations which, through priesthood and ritual enactments, brought individual Israelites into relation with the reconciled God. Here Christ says, "I;" but we see from Ver. 5 that the branches, which by reason of relation to him have and draw their life from him (or, to use his own words, "I and the branches," and "the branches in me"), constitute the veritable "vine" of the covenant. Verse 1. - The vine of the Lord of hosts (Psalm 80.) brought forth wild grapes (Isaiah 5, Ezekiel 19:10); Israel became "an empty vine" (Hosea 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 Vers. 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 Logos, 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 ἀμπελουργός, 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 Isaiah 5. it is the "Lord of hosts;" in 2 Chronicles 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 Ver. 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').
Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
Verse 2. - 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 Ver. 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 (Matthew 13; 1 John 2:19, etc.). He taketh away (cf. John the Baptist: "Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down," Matthew 3:10; and Deuteronomy 32:32; Micah 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 ρηψμε 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 Galatians 5:22, 23. The word κλῆμα, used for "branch" in these verses, occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. The word κλαδὸς, elsewhere used (Matthew 13:32; Matthew 21:8; Matthew 24:32; Mark 4:32; Mark 13:28; Romans 11:16-21), 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., Ezekiel 15:2).
Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
Verse 3. - 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 ῤήματά (see Ver. 7), which are gathered together into one mighty, quick, and active Logos. As we find in Hebrews 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 Logos 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.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
Verse 4. - 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 (John 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 (although it may suggest), 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.
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
Verse 5. - 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.
If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
Verse 6. - If any one abide not 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 life 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 (Matthew 13:42, 50; Matthew 25:41; Luke 16:24), and which the apostle of love described in Revelation 20:15; Revelation 21:8.
If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
Verse 7. - 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 (Hebrews 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 (1 John 5:14-16). This is the true philosophy of prayer. The psalmist had gone a long way in the same direction (Psalm 37:4, "Delight thyself in the Lord; and he shall give thee thy heart's desire").
Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
Verse 8. - Here the Lord shows what he knows will be and must be the dominant desire of the man who abides in himself, in whom his own word abides. Such a man will seek, yearn, ask, that he should bear much fruit. This prayer will be heard, and in this sublime synthesis between Christ and his disciples, says Christ, was my Father glorified. "In the fruitfulness of the vine is the glory of the husbandman," and in the answer of your prayers, and the regulation of all your desires, so ye shall become my disciples. "Discipleship" is a very large word, never altogether realized. Just as faith leads to faith, and love to love, and light to light, so does discipleship to discipleship. As Bengel says, discipleship is the fundamentum et fastigium of Christianity. On earth the vine reveals itself in the branches, and thus conceals itself behind them. "This explains why the diffusion of spiritual life makes such slow progress in the world - the Vine effects nothing but by means of the branches, and these so often paralyze instead of promoting the action of the Vine" (Godet). If the other text be maintained, Herein was my Father glorified, so that ye might bear much fruit, and that ye may become my disciples, the "herein" points back to the previous verse, and then the contemplated result of the arrangement, rather than the purpose of the glory, is the matter referred to.
As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
Verse 9. - 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 (John 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 John 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 (John 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.
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.
Verse 10. - If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love. This is the method and secret, the stimulus and proof, of abiding in the love of Christ. This is not exactly the converse (Westcott) of "If ye love me, keep my commandments." Doubtless there is a love which dictates obedience to the loved One's will. Our Lord here avers, however, something further, viz. that obedience issues in a higher love. The obedience here described is the outcome of love, but the power is thus gained to continue, dwell, in the Divine love, to abide, that is, in the full enjoyment and fullness of my Divine love to you. This is obvious from the confirmatory clause: Even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. The Lord kept the Father's commandment always, doing those things which please him, offering up his precious life, laying it down that he might take it again; and the consequence is that he then and there knew that he was filled with all the fullness of the Divine love. The very impressive line of thought pervades this passage, that what the Father was to him, that he would prove to his disciples. What the love of God was to the Christ, the love of Christ was to his disciples.
These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
Verse 11 - John 16:6. -
(8) The results of the union between Christ and his disciples. Verses 11-16. - (a) To themselves. The Lord moves into another and wider development of the union between himself and his disciples. He drops the metaphor of the vine and the branches, and comes to the essence of the relation between them; that is, he does much to explain the meaning and nature of his abiding in them, and the character of the fruit which they were expected by the great Husbandman and Father to bring forth and ripen. A connection between the second section and the first is revealed in the new beginning. Verse 11. - 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. 1 John 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 (Isaiah 62:5; Zephaniah 3:17). This entire idea is linked with Ver. 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.
This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
Verse 12. - This is my commandment, that ye love one another, even as I loved you. This (John 13:34) was given as a "new commandment;" now he gathers the many commandments into one, as though all were included in it (1 John 3:16). This thought is further vindicated by an endeavor to explain in what sense and way he was loving them.
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Verse 13. - Greater love than this (love) no one hath, namely (ἵνα), that one should lay down his life for his friends. Meyer and Lange endeavor to maintain even here the telic force of ἵνα, "The love to you is of so consummate a character, that its object and purpose is seen in my laying down my life for my friends;" and Hengstenberg thinks so because probably a reference here is made to Isaiah 53:10, that our Lord was pointing to his atoning death - to a death needed alike by enemies and friends. Such an interpretation supposes the lofty purpose of the greatest love. To me, however, it seems more probable that the translation given above places the argument upon a surer; because more common, human, experience. The disposition to die for ungodly and for enemies is exalted by St. Paul (Romans 5:8) above the self-sacrifice involved in dying for the good. Still, which may be shown, and has often been shown in self-sacrificing death for those who are beloved, whatever other and wider ends may be discerned afterwards and spoken of in other connections, he is here asserting that the love of friendship is quite strong and intense enough to secure such a sacrifice. And he adds -
Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
Verse 14. - 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" (1 John 3:16; Ephesians 5:1, 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.
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.
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.
Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
Verse 16. - 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; he 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... ἐξελεξάμην are 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 1 Corinthians 12:28; 1 Timothy 1:12; Hebrews 1:2; Acts 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 John 14:13 and John 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 interpretatio," see John 16:24.)
These things I command you, that ye love one another.
Verses 17-27. - (b) The results of this union with Christ to the unbelieving world. Verse 17. - These things do I command you - clearly pointing back to Ver. 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 (Ver. 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.
If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
Verse 18. - You need net be surprised if the world hate you. "The world," κόσμος (five times used in strongly emphatic manner), is humanity apart from grace. This world will despise and hate your mutual love, will scorn your love to itself for my sake; will detest the higher and unworldly standard which you will set up. But here is some consolation. Know (γινώσκετε imperative, as μνημονεύετε in Ver. 20) that it has hated me before (it hated) you. "Me first, me most" (Lange). "The superlative contains the comparative" (Tholuck). "This hatred is a community of destiny with me" (Meyer). You know how it has hated me, and hunted me from Bethlehem to Egypt, from Nazareth to Capernaum, from Gergesa to Jerusalem. Be not surprised if it hate you.
If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
Verse 19. - If ye were of the world - i.e. still a part of it, deriving your life, maxims, and pleasures from it; if you could sympathize with its vulgar passion, and its temporary fleeting excitements, partisanships, and bigotries - the world would be loving (ἐφιλεὶ, notice the form of the conditional sentence, a supposition contrary to fact, therefore anticipating the negative clause that follows, "but ye are not of the world;" notice also that φίλεω, the love of affection, not ἀγαπάω, the love of reverence and profound regard, which you are to show to one another and to me) - would be loving its own. The world loves its priests and mouthpieces, its own organization ("Caiaphas, Pilate, Herod, and Judas, and all devils," Luther); the world loves its own offspring. But because ye are not of the world, but I chose you, withdrawing you for my service, out of the world (the two meanings of ἐκ here differ; the first ἐκ denotes origin, the second corresponds with the compound ἐκ in ἐκλέγομαι), therefore the world hateth you. I have caused you to break with it, and you are no longer "its own." Just in proportion as you are one with me, you draw upon yourself its hatred of me. "The offence of the cross" is not ceased. Thoma comments on the harmony between this statement and that of the Acts, Epistles, and Apocalypse, whose colors and features are here, as he thinks, drawn upon. It is profoundly interesting to trace the fulfillment of the Lord's prescient words in earlier Scripture (1 Peter 4:17; Romans 8:17; Galatians 6:17; Philippians 3:10; Hebrews 12:3).
Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.
Verse 20. - Remember the word which I spake to you (see Matthew 10:24, but especially John 13:16, where Christ used the proverb), The servant is not greater than his lord. In John 13:16 the idea was used to enforce the spirit of humility and mutual service; it applies also here, but in another sense. The disciples are not to expect better treatment from the world than their Lord met with. If they (used of "the world 7, in its special concrete manifestations; "they" of Nazareth and Capernaum and Jerusalem correspond with the "they" of Lycaonia, Ephesus, Thessalonica, and Rome) persecuted me, they will persecute - drive away from them - you also. The "if" is remarkably explicit; there is no doubt about it in Christ's case, and the supposition is one of definite and acknowledged fact, and the conditional sentence most positively assures them of antagonism and persecution. It is probable, though not certainly known, that these disciples all endured a living martyrdom, if not a cruel death in his cause. Then follows a sentence which has by some unwisely been supposed to be ironical, and by others to refer to another subject. If they - others, or many, or some - kept (i.e. "observed," "obeyed," not as Bengel supposed, "laid in wait," or "kept maliciously") my word, they will keep yours also Why should irony be interpolated here? Surely the whole con[act with the world was not an utter failure. Christ did win persons from all classes, and they loved him, with a passionate love; and so the apostles, and all who "go forth to bear fruit," may hope for some victories, and will travail in birth with the souls of men.
But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me.
Verse 21. - But all these things will they do unto you. By way of consolation, he added, in view of the antagonism which the world would deliberately pursue towards them, For my Name's sake. Many suppose that the consolatory element is emphasized in this clause. However, the idea contained in the διὰ τὸ ὀνομά μου has been already expressed in the previous verses, and the whole of the verse so far merely gathers it up for a new and suggestive explanation. For the Name of Christ these disciples will not only pray, labor, suffer, and die, but in the power of it they will transmute their sorrows into raptures, their tribulations into glory. Because they know not him that sent me. If they had known the heart and nature of the Sender, they would have understood the mission of the Savior, and would neither have hated him nor his representations. (Here Lucke, Hengstenberg, Luthardt, and Lange are preferable to Meyer and Godet.) It is utter grief to Jesus that the world has been ignorant of the Father. This ignorance explains its antagonism to the representatives of Christ, and is the most appalling witness to its own depravation. No fact is more patent in the entire history of human thoughts about God than this, that "the world by wisdom knows him not," nay, it travesties his Name, misrepresents his character, distrusts, fears, and flees from the face of God. It was left to Christ to reveal the Father. In many different mental tendencies even Christendom has obscured or denied the Fatherhood.
If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin.
Verse 22. - If I had not come, as the incarnate Word of God, if I had not fulfilled the promises and come forth from God into the world to reveal the Father, and spoken to them, made known to them the thought and Spirit of God, made it possible for them to know the essence of the only true God, they had had no sin; they would not have resisted the highest love, their alienation in this respect would not have been a violation of the most solemn and gracious demands of the Father. The greatest sin is the refusal of the most complete revelation, and by the side of this all other sin becomes comparatively trivial. Our Lord could not have spoken of the hatred of himself or his disciples (so Lucke and Meyer) as this sin, because it would have been obviously impossible to hate a non-existent revelation or revealer. It is the deeper fall which is consequent upon a deliberate rejection of the highest love. Formerly, they would have been in the condition of those whose sins of ignorance God overlooks (Acts 17:30), and to whose ἁμαρτήματα in the past God has exercised πάρεσις, in anticipation of the coming grace. But now (Luke in numerous places uses this expression to form a strong contrast) they have no excuse or pretext for their sin, or concerning their sin. They can plead no justification. The word πρόφασις is an λεγόμενον, and is not "cloak or covering," but "palliation or excuse" for manifest sin. So long as men have seen no deeper into the nature of God than they can go with the aid of mere phenomena or ratiocination on the details of creation, their fears and even their hatreds formulated into grim legend, or uncouth idols, or repellent hypothesis, are a natural outcome of a nature so corrupt; but they ought to have found in Christ a deeper revelation, a summons to service and adoring love. In rejecting the idea of God which I have set before them they have no excuse. St. Paul (Romans 1:20) declares that those who have defamed the great characteristic of God which may be learned from nature are without excuse. Certainly our Lord does not say this here.
He that hateth me hateth my Father also.
Verse 23. - He that hateth me, and by implication will hate you, hateth my Father also. The hatred of goodness in me, the refusal to accept my representation of their Father and mine, becomes a distinct hatred of God himself as I have revealed him. A God of war, a God of partisan jealousy for the honor of Israel, a God who would palliate fratricidal feud, and overlook blasphemous indifference to his true character, they might have tolerated; but the Father-God, whom they might have heard and seen in Christ, is hated by them.
If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.
Verse 24. - If I had not done among them works which none other did Here he comes down from "Word" to "work," and indicates the lower agency, that of works, which are neither inoperative nor valueless, and which transcend all other similar deeds. They are works of the Son of God, works of creation and of healing, triumphant conflict with the forces of nature and the malice of the devil, of a kind which may be compared with, but which exceed all human and angelic ministry. They had not had sin, but now they have both seen and hated both me and my Father. The works as well as the words of Christ might have softened their hearts, but the Divine claims, which were thus pressed home upon the conscience, provoked their malice. "They took counsel to kill him;" "They took up stones to stone him." They hated God as God, and goodness and truth just because they were goodness and truth. The awful condemnation is here pronounced, "that men loved darkness rather than light." They positively saw their Father, and hated him. This is the most terrible condemnation that can be pronounced on moral beings.
But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.
Verse 25. - Strange is it that even here the ancient psalmist, in portraying the ideal Sufferer (Psalm 69:4; Psalm 35:19), bad seized this feature, and thus anticipated the treatment of the Son of God. But this cometh to pass (some clause of this kind must be introduced to give true force to ἀλλὰ and ἵνα) that the word might be fulfilled that has been written in their Law. Not only here but elsewhere Jesus speaks of the Psalms as a part of the Law (see note, John 10:34). Other passages may, from their similarity, have been in Christ's mind, as receiving fulfillment or abundant illustration in their conduct. The use of the expression, "the Law," has been pressed by many as proof that the writer of this Gospel did not regard himself as a Jew at all. Such numerous indications occur of the opposite conclusion, that this expression must receive the more rational interpretation - the Law in which they pride themselves, the Law which is ever in their mouths, the Law which itself contains the portraiture of their spirit: They hated me gratuitously; causelessly. The true Christ was, when he came, the object of reason-less, causeless hate and opposition. Jesus knew, when he claimed to be the Christ, that he would have to complete and fulfill the solemn portraiture of the suffering, burden-bearing, and rejected Christ, as well as that of the triumphant Christ and King.
But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:
Verses 26, 27. - A new source of consolation now appears. Already twice over he has spoken of the Paraclete (John 14:16 and 26),
(1) as being sent by the Father in answer to his prayer, to be the compensation to his disciples for his personal departure, and also
(2) as the Instructor and Leader into all truth. Once more he promises great things and mighty aid in their conflict with the world's hate by the mission of the Comforter. This great mission is said to be his own. Whensoever the Paraolete of whom I have spoken shall have come, whom I will send to you from (the side of, παρὰ) the Father, the Spirit of the truth, which proceedeth from (παρὰ) the Father, he (ἐκεῖνος) shall bear witness concerning me, and you also bear witness because ye are with me from the beginning of the Messianic work (ἀπ ἀρχῆς, not ἐν ἀρχῆ). This is the great text on which the Western Church and the Greeks have alike relied for their doctrine concerning the "procession of the Spirit," the timeless, pre-mundane relations among the Personalities of the Godhead. The expression ἐκπορεύεται only occurs in this place, and from it ἐκπορεύσις became the ecclesiastical term for the relation which the Holy Spirit sustains to the Father, just as γεννήσις was the especial term to denote the peculiarity of the Son, and just as ἀγεννήσια, the condition of unbegottenness and paternity was that used to denote the Father's own hypostatic distinction. The Holy Spirit is ever proceeding, issuing forth from, sent by the Father on his work of Divine self-manifestation and Divine activity in the universe. Of this there can be no question, and the Nicene symbol originally expressed it without amplification, and the Greeks founded upon it their conception of the Trinity. The relation of the Son and Spirit to the Father were believed to be co-ordinate; and, though both were of the same eternal substance, yet both were equal to the Father. But the Western Church in after-years - notwithstanding the tremendous anathemas against all alteration which guarded the Nicene and Chalcedonian formulae - felt that the whole truth concerning the Divinity of the Son was concealed, if the idea was not also conveyed which our Lord utters side by side with the ἐκπορεύεται παρὰ τοῦ Πατρός in this verse. Christ says, "I will send him παρὰ τοῦ Πατρός," and this must be compared with (John 14:26), "whom the Father will send in my Name;" and the Latins, to express this thought, added filioque to the phrase, "proceeding from the Father," and claimed our Lord as equally the Source of the Divine Spirit with the Father, so that it runs, "proceeding from the Father and the Son." In the endless discussions that arose, the two Churches probably meant to effect the same thing, viz. to affirm the glory and perfect Deity of the Lord Christ. The Greeks, in ancient times, never limited their statement to proceeding from the Father only;" nor did they object to add, "through or by the Son;" but it is probable that Augustine and the Western Church, and the liturgical forms that arose in it, approach a little more closely to the reality and quality of him who said, "I and my Father are one" in this respect, that the Spirit proceedeth from the Father and Son, when he comes into human hearts and testifies of Christ. There are those (Beza, Luthardt, Alford, Meyer) who urge that these passages do not bear at all upon the internal relations of the Godhead, but simply refer to the temporal mission of the Holy Spirit. "The words," says Luthardt, "must be understood historically, not metaphysically," and much may be said in favor of this view. If this verse does not furnish the basis of an argument, there is no other which can be advanced to establish the view either of the Eastern or Western Church. The witness of the Paraclete is said here to cover the gravest difficulties and provide the richest consolations. If the Lord intended to teach the fundamental nature of the Holy Spirit, the literal statement would be a powerful defense of the Greek doctrine; but if the passage here speaks of the official work and temporal mission, the words have no direct bearing upon that doctrine. The denial of the filioque has the logical tendency to make the Spirit and Son co-ordinate and subordinate emanations of the Father, and so to go back to the monarchianism from which the Church escaped at Nicaea. (See Pearson on the Creed, art. 8; 'Dict. Christian Biography,' art. "Holy Ghost;" Smeaten, 'Doctrine of the Holy Spirit;' Hagenbach, 'History of Christian Doctrines.') The supernatural power of the Holy Spirit will counteract the hatred in the world by regenerating individuals within it. More than that, said Christ, he (ἐκεῖνος) will bear witness to me, in the Divine strength and courage which he will give to you, in the new and corrective ideas which he will supply, in the great works seen to be mine, which you will have grace to initiate (see Acts 1:8 , - passages where the "Acts of the Apostles" are seen to be "Acts of the Risen Jesus"); and ye also bear witness, etc. Your own experience of me from the commencement of my ministry will give you a class of testimony which will leave an indelible impression on the heart of the world.
And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.