John 15:4
If these words were spoken in the house, they may have been suggested by a creeping, Clinging vine trained against the wall; if upon the footpath, by the vineyards on the slope of Olivet; if in the temple, by the golden vine wrought upon the gates.

I. THE VINE IN ITSELF IS A SUITABLE EMBLEM OF CHRIST. Its beauty, as planted, trained, or trellised; its grateful shade; its fruit, whether fresh and luscious or dried; its wine," that maketh glad the heart of man;" -all render it not only interesting, but suitable to set forth in symbol the excellence of the Redeemer, his nobility, beauty, preciousness, and use to man. Palestine was a land of vineyards: witness the grapes of Eshcol; Judah binding his foal to the vine, etc. Hence most naturally the vine was used in Old Testament Scripture as an emblem of the chosen nation, and hence Jesus in his parables put the noble plant to the same use. No wonder that our Lord applied to himself and to his people a designation so instructive.

II. THE VINE IS AN EMBLEM OF CHRIST, ESPECIALLY AS THE SOURCE OF SPIRITUAL LIFE.

1. He is the divinely appointed Root and Stem upon which the branches depend; the Superior with which they, the inferior, are related in dependence. The vine-stock survives even if the branch be cut off and left to die. We are dependent upon Christ; he is not dependent upon us.

2. A close and vital union joins the branches to the vine, and Christians to their Lord. The life which is naturally Christ's becomes ours through our union by faith with him.

3. Yet it is a mutual indwelling. As Jesus himself has said, "I in you; you in me." What condescension and kindness in this marvelous provision of Divine wisdom!

III. THE BRANCHES ARE INDEBTED TO THE VINE FOR THEIR FRUITFULLNESS; SO ARE CHRISTIANS TO THEIR LORD. The branches of the living vine evince the life and health of the plant first by their vigor, their verdure, their luxuriance, their comeliness; signs of spiritual life are manifested in the Church of God by the peace, the cheerfulness, the spiritual prosperity, of its members. But the great aim of the husbandman's care and culture is that fruit may be yielded in abundance. What shall we understand by spiritual fruit, the fruits of the Spirit?

1. Perfection of Christian character.

2. Abundance in Christian usefulness.

IV. THE TREATMENT OF UNFRUITFUL AND FRUITFUL BRANCHES FIGURES THAT OF THE NOMINAL AND THE REAL DISCIPLES OF CHRIST.

1. The cause of unfruitfulness is stated. "Severed from me ye can do nothing."

2. The doom of unfruitfulness is anticipated. To be cast out and burnt, like the vine-parings in the Kedron valley.

3. The condition of fruitfulness is mentioned. Close union with Christ.

4. The means of increased fruitfulness is also explained. Divine pruning and discipline, i.e. affliction and trouble tending to spiritual strength and fertility.

V. THE MOTIVES TO CHRIST-ABIDING AND FRUIT-BEARING ARE URGED. Stress is laid here upon two.

1. Thus the heavenly Husbandman, the Divine Father, is glorified.

2. Thus Jesus secures for himself true and worthy disciples. What powerful motives to induce Christians to be "neither barren nor unfruitful"! - T.







Abide in Me, and I in you.
I. TO WHOM THE COMMAND IS GIVEN. To those who are already in Him.

1. We are at first in nature, possessed merely of the powers of nature, as understanding, will, affections; but we must be in grace, which raises us above nature, purifies all our faculties, and directs them to a proper end.

2. We are naturally in the flesh influenced and governed by the body, its appetites, and senses (Genesis 6:5; John 3:5, 6). We must be in the Spirit under the influence and government of His motions and graces.

3. We are naturally in Belial (Ephesians 2:2; 1 John 5:18); inspired, deceived, deluded, corrupted by him; but we must be in Christ.

4. How?

(1)By the knowledge of Him (Philippians 3:8);

(2)by faith in Him;

(3)love to Him;

(4)an interest in Him (Philippians 3:9).

II. WHAT THIS COMMAND IMPLIES.

1. It implies that we are to retain this knowledge, faith, love, interest, union with Christ; which may be lost (Colossians 1:23; John 15:9, 10; Romans 11:22; Hebrews 10:38). Now, we retain these —(1) When we abide in Him in our thoughts; not only thinking highly of Him, but having our thoughts stayed upon Him.(2) When our desires, our designs, our will, both in its choice and resolution, and our affections, are set upon these things.(3) When we dwell upon them in our conversation, and manifest that we love Him, and cleave to Him in our behaviour.

2. To illustrate this: we must abide in Christ, as a branch in a tree, which is supported by it, adheres to it, grows in it, and becomes verdant and fruitful by the virtue derived from it; as a hand in a body, from which it receives its warmth, life, activity, and usefulness; as a man slayer in the city of refuge, for he would be safe only while abiding in the consecrated city; so we are in danger of being overtaken by the curse and wrath of God, unless we have fled to Christ and continue in Him; as a besieged citizen in a garrison, for we are surrounded and attacked by various enemies; as passengers in a ship, for we are on the sea of this world, tossed with the winds and waves, proceeding on our voyage for the port of eternal bliss, and our safety depends on being in the ship.

III. THE PROMISE MADE TO THOSE THAT KEEP IT; AND THE ADVANTAGES RESULTING THEREFROM.

1. Christ will abide in us —(1) By His word, teaching, instructing, directing, strengthening, supporting, encouraging, comforting us (Romans 15:4).(2) By His Spirit, in His witness as a Spirit of adoption, and in His fruits, which are "love, joy, peace," etc. (Romans 8:15; Galatians 5:22, 23).(3) By the efficacy of His body and blood (John 6:56, 57).(4) By His indwelling presence, as our "wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption" (1 Corinthians 1:30).(5) By permitting us to have followship with Him (Revelation 3:20).

2. Hence we shall have pardon, acceptance, adoption, safety, access. All our prayers shall be heard (ver. 7; Mark 11:24). We shall abound in the fruits of righteousness (ver. 5, 6; 2 Corinthians 9:8).

IV. HOW WE MAY BE ENABLED TO KEEP THE COMMAND.

1. By abiding in a belief of His word, and holding fast all the doctrines, precepts, promises, and threatenings of the Scripture. By continuing to attend the ordinances, public, domestic, social, and private.

2. By guarding against hypocrisy, formality, and lukewarmness, in the use of all ordinances, and maintaining sincerity, spirituality, and fervour therein.

3. By conscientiously keeping His commandments, carefully shunning sins of commission and omission, and whatever is calculated to grieve His Spirit.

4. By guarding against an evil heart of unbelief (Hebrews 3:12), and "holding fast our confidence." By guarding against the love of this present world.

(J. Benson.)

"I am the True Vine."

I. Christ sets forth the GENUINENESS of His union with His disciples.

II. In the REALITY AND COMPLETENESS of His life-giving power Christ infinitely excels all His forerunners and types.

III. This relationship is much NEARER than that of the shepherd with the sheep.

IV. This union is COMPREHENSIVE, embracing many besides those who are usually recognized as believers. "Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit."

V. Our union with Christ should be CONSTANT. Twelve times in this allegory the word "abide" is used. They were in danger of unfaithfulness and apostasy. Christ sought to fortify them. He assured them that He would keep them if they would trust Him.

VI. This communion is one of LOVE (vers. 9-16). "As the Father hath loved Me, even so have I loved you." "Abide in My love." The believer lives in the love of Christ. Christ loves all men; but He manifests His love in a peculiar manner to those whose hearts are given to Him. If we love God, we will delight in His character, we will be drawn by those Divine attributes which Jesus reveals. Love of a holy Being implies hatred of sin. The Spirit convicts the loving heart of sin. Is my fruit recognized as Divine fruit, such fruit as Christ bore?

1. One of the fruits of union with Christ according to this lesson is patience under discipline (vers. 1-3). "My Father is the Husbandman." "He purgeth it," etc. "Ye are clean through the Word," etc. The lot of Jesus was one of severe trial." He was made "perfect through suffering." Those who become Christ-like must expect Christ-like trials. The believer can maintain his union with Christ only by uncompromising opposition to every form of evil.

2. Another result of this union is the spirit of dependence on Christ (vers. 4, 5). "Apart from Me ye can do nothing." This sense of dependence on Christ, instead of paralyzing human energy, becomes the source of its power. It enables the soul to look up and confidently exclaim with the apostle, "I can do all things in Him that strengtheneth Me."

3. This suggest another fruit of union with Christ, namely, life (vers. 6-8). "If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered." Christ came that we might have life. All the vital juices of the branch and its power to bear fruit come from the vine. So, for every good desire we ever formed, or good word we ever spoke, or good deed we ever did, evidencing a renewed life in us, we are indebted to Christ. He "is our life."

(G. H. Cheney.)

"Believe on Christ" is the gospel to the world. "Abide in Christ" is the gospel to the Church. We cannot think too much of Christ for us, but we may think far too little of Christ in us; yet for perfect salvation we need both. Notice that this is —

I. A CALL TO CONSCIOUS VITAL UNION WITH OUR LORD. This implies —

1. A realization that of ourselves we can do nothing, that we are mere dead branches apart from Him! We live too much as though we were trees, as though by our own power we were to do God's will, and we have striven, and then groaned over the inevitable failure. Now, says Christ, be satisfied to be a branch.

2. An assurance that the fulness of Christ is ours. That is involved in the figure, and is stated in the chapter. He goes on to say (as its consequence) that what He has, they share. They are to share —(1) His joy — "that My joy might abide in you";(2) His love — "that ye love one another as I have loved you";(3) His knowledge — "all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you";(4) His rights — "that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in My name, He may give it you";(5) His persecutions — "if they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you";(6) His work — "the Spirit shall bear witness of Me, and ye also shall bear witness";(7) His glory — "the glory which Thou gavest Me, I have given them."

3. A surrender of ourselves to Christ for His purposes. For the branch exists for the tree.

II. THE FIGURE OF THE VINE SUGGESTS HOW THIS CALL MAY BE FULFILLED. The words show that the responsibility is with us. Christ can only bless according to our willingness; and willingness is proved by readiness to seek the blessing. "Abide in Me, and I in you" is a command; it is ours, therefore, to fulfil it. And we ask How? Remember there are degrees in this union; some are more closely joined to Christ than others, and receive more of His life; and this is due to their growth into Him, they have struck the fibres of their spiritual being deeper and yet deeper into His being, and thus are close knit to Him.

1. We need the cords of meditation and prayer to bind us to Him more firmly. The formal prayer, the ill-studied Bible, the almost deserted closet, are the destruction of the hopes held out in the text. The weather soon loosens the old cords, and through perpetual communion they must be perpetually renewed.

2. We need the putting away of whatever would come between Christ and us. Sin hinders Christ giving, for He will not give to sin. Sin weakens our desire and faith, that is, our power of receiving. So everything in any degree contrary to Christ must be put away.

3. We need the ceaseless drawing by faith on His fulness.

III. FROM THIS WOULD COME THAT SPIRITUAL FRUIT BEARING WHICH IS GOD'S WILL. There would be —

1. The natural growth of personal holiness. It is a common thought that before Christ can enter into us we must put out evil. That is not the order. Let Christ in and He will put out the evil, as light puts out darkness.

2. A heart at rest. The poverty of our resources is our perpetual fear; loneliness and care are with some a perpetual grief. But would not that be altered if we consciously abode in Christ?

3. Christ's power working through us. Think of being the channel for the will of Jesus.

(C. New.)

I. THE DUTY ENJOINED.

1. Abide in Me. It has been justly said, that the command is not abide with Me — near Me — or under Me; but, in Me. The fruit-bearing branch is not only in the same place with the vine — near it, under its shadow — it is in it, and it abides in it. The ideas suggested are, residence and continuance. It is as if he had said, "Think as I think; feel as I feel; will as I will; choose as I choose; and let My views of all objects and all events be yours, because they are Mine; let My feelings, My volitions, My choices, all be yours, and let them be yours because they are Mine. Prosecute My ends — use My means — rely on Me, entirely on Me. Let My wisdom be your wisdom — My righteousness your righteousness — My strength your strength. Come out of yourselves. Come out of the creature. Come into Me." It is faith that thus unites us to the Saviour, and it is continued faith which keeps us thus united to the Saviour.

2. Let Me abide in you. What is meant by Christ's abiding in His people? The best answer is at the seventh verse, and 1 John 3:24. Christ abides in His people, by continuously making them, through the agency of the Holy Spirit, and the instrumentality of His word, understood and believed under His influence, think along with Him — feel, choose, enjoy along with Him. Christ is so "formed in them" that it is not so much they who live, as Christ who lives in them.

2. What is the import of the injunction, "Let Me dwell in you"? Christ never does come into any man, so as to dwell in him, against the man's will Were the thing possible, it would be to degrade man into a mere machine, and involve the incongruity, than which none can be greater, that He who of old inhabited His own eternity, and has heaven for His throne and earth for His footstool, should, as if in want of a house, force an entrance where He was not desired. But His language is, "Behold, I stand at the door," etc.

3. The two parts of the injunction are closely connected. Christians will abide in Christ just in the degree in which they let Christ abide in them.

II. THE MOTIVES BY WHICH THE INJUNCTION IS ENFORCED.

1. Compliance with the injunction is necessary to prevent unfruitfulness and its fearful consequences. A vine branch by itself can bring forth nothing, not even blossoms or leaves. All men are naturally unholy and unprofitable. There is no way in which they can be made fruitful, except by being cut off from their original stock, the first Adam, and being grafted into Him who is the True Vine. When men are awakened to a sense of the dangers of a state of spiritual barrenness, they often endeavour to become "fruitful of themselves." They go about to make themselves holy by the works of the law: but the thing is impossible. There is no good fruit but what is the product of Divine influence; and no channel for Divine influence to flow into the human heart, but the mediation of Jesus Christ. It is not, "Without Me ye can do little"; it is, "Without Me ye can do nothing." It is not, "Without Me ye will do nothing" — that is true too — but it is, "Without Me ye can do nothing." It is not, "Without Me you can accomplish — finish — nothing"; it is, "Without Me ye can do nothing."

2. Compliance with this injunction alone can, and certainly will, secure fruitfulness, with all its blessed results. No stream without a fountain; no fountain, unless obstructed, without a stream. Three effects are mentioned by our Lord —

(1)The answer of whatever prayers we present to God;

(2)The glorification of God;

(3)The clearly proving to ourselves and others that we are really the disciples of Christ.

(J. Brown, D. D.)

It is, of course, possible to attach a bough or branch either to the stem of a vine or the trunk of any other tree by artificial means, and so to secure a kind of external union therewith. A length of cord or iron wire may accomplish a poor and pitiful result like that; but the stem knows it not and the branch is withered, however painfully and skilfully art may struggle to endorse the lie. In the same way we may be mechanically and externally united to the visible Church of Christ. That is entirely an affair of contrivance, a mere matter of ligature or glue. It is altogether and at most a concern of nomination, register or ceremonial. But let it be remembered that this is in itself stark naught. Never a rotten branch on the floor of a forest, a branch that breaks and crackles beneath the foot of a passer-by, is more dead than we are, if the hasp and staple of Church membership, if the hook and eye of registration, if the glue of mere sectarian adhesion, if the paint of mere external profession are all that holds us on to the Christ of God.

(J. J. Wray.)

Of the precise origin of the late civil war in America I am not quite sure; but I am told it was a perverse misunderstanding on the subject of slavery. The North was against the slave trade, the South for it; and so both parties appealed to arms. But be that as it may, one thing is clear: not many months passed before the question of slavery was swallowed up in the most important question of the Union — the Union of the States. Who is for or against the slave? There the conflict began. Who is for or against the Union? There it finished. Neither am I quite certain of the first cause of the prolonged controversy between earth and heaven, man and God. A rumour was afloat in my native neighbourhood that it all began in a slight misunderstanding touching a certain apple tree in the garden of Eden. But be that as it may, the question of the apple tree has been long ago swallowed up in the more important question of the union — the union with the Son. Salvation hinges not on such questions as what was the first sin, or who is the greatest sinner? but upon the simple straightforward question — Who is for or against the union with Jesus Christ? Do you believe in the only-begotten Son?

(J. C. Jones, D. D.)

The villages in Persia may be derided into two classes: those of the plains, treeless, sterile and poor; and those of the mountains, where the springs and torrents encourage the growth of plane, mulberry, poplar trees, and orchards, and allow channels for the nourishment of plantations. Elevation means fertility here.

(H. O. Mackey.)

S. S. Times.
I. CHRIST IN THE BELIEVER.

1. How.

2. When.

3. Why.

II. THE BELIEVER IN CHRIST.

1. How.

2. When.

3. Why.

(S. S. Times.)

1. A spiritual union (1 Corinthians 6:17; 1 Corinthians 12:13; 1 John 3:24; 1 John 4:13).

2. A vital union (John 14:19; Galatians 2:20).

3. It embraces our entire persons, our bodies through our spirits (1 Corinthians 6:15, 19).

4. It is a legal or federal union, so that all of our legal or covenant responsibilities rest upon Christ, and all of His legal or covenant merits accrue to us...

5. This union is between the believer and the person of the God-man in His office as mediator (John 14:23; John 17:21, 23).

(A. A. Hodge.)

Be like Milton's angel, who lived in the sun. Abide in Christ, and let His words abide in you. Closer, closer, closer, this is the way to spiritual wealth.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

1. "Without Me," in ver. 5, should rather be rendered, "Apart from Me," "separate from Me," "in state of independence on Me." "Without" the assistance of a strong person, a weak one cannot lift a heavy weight; but the dependence of the weak on the strong in order to lift the weight, is not the dependence which the word here employed indicates. "Apart from" the soul the body is motionless, and cannot stir a finger. This is the sort of dependence indicated here.

2. The subject brought before us is, that the sanctification of the Christian, like his justification, is entirely dependent upon our Lord. As regards our justification, this is clearly seen (at least in the Reformed Churches) and generally admitted. But it is thought that, unlike justification (which is something that passes on the sinner externally to him, a sentence of acquittal in consideration of Our Lord's merits), sanctification is an achievement mastered — much as a lesson is mastered — by a variety of exercises, prayers, almsdeeds, sacraments, etc., and when mastered, a sort of permanent acquisition, which goes on increasing as the stock of these spiritual exercises accumulates. It is not regarded in its true light as a momentary receiving out of Christ's fulness grace for grace, as the result of His inworking in a heart, which finds the task of self-renewal hopeless, and makes itself over to Him, to be moulded by Him.

3. Let us take two illustrations —(1) His own. "As the branch", etc. The circulating sap, which is the life of the tree, is indeed in the vine branch, so long as it holds of the stem; but in no sense whatever is it from the vine branch. Cut off the branch from the stem, and it ceases instantaneously to live, for it has no independent life. Even so the fruits of the Spirit, while of course our hearts are the sphere of their manifestation, are in no sense from our hearts; but a righteousness outflowing continually from the fulness of grace which is in Christ.(2) When we walk abroad on a beautiful day, our eye catches a variety of colours lying on the surface of the landscape, — there is the yellow of the golden grain, the green of the pasture land, the dark brown of those thick-planted copses, the silver gleam of the stream which winds through them, the faint blue of distant hills seen in perspective, the more intense blue of the sky, the purple tinge of yonder sheet of water — but none of these colours reside in the landscape. Now, apart from the sunlight no object has any colour; as is shown by the fact that, as soon as light is withdrawn from the landscape, the colours fable from the robe of nature. The difference of colour is produced by some subtle difference of texture or superficies, which makes each object absorb certain rays, and reflect certain others in different proportions. Now Christ is the Sun of righteousness, in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, the fair colour of every grace and Christian virtue. When Christ is shining upon the heart, then these virtues are manifested there, by our Christian graces of one description, by another of another, according to their different receptivity and natural temperament. The great secret, then, of bringing forth much fruit, or of all advance in holiness, is a constant keeping open the avenues of the soul towards Him. If a vine branch is to sprout, the tube by which it communicates with the stock of the tree must adhere tightly to the stem, and be well open for the passage of the sap. If you desire to see the colours of furniture in this room, whose shutters are closed, throw open the shutters, and admit the full flood of sunlight. And if you desire to see the dead heart, put forth the energies of spiritual life, and the dark heart illumined by the fair colours of spiritual grace, throw wide open the passage of communication between Christ and it, and allow the Life which is in Him, and the Light which is in Him, to circulate freely through it.

I. Take heed, first, that YE ABIDE IN ME. This is done by faith. As we first consciously entered into fellowship with Christ by faith, so there is no other way to abide in Him, than by repeated exercises of the same faith. The faith which enables the soul to abide in Christ is nothing else than an assured trust and confidence that, as He has already wrought out for us our acceptance with God, so He will work in us every gracious disposition which is necessary to qualify us for glory. It is not enough to supplicate these graces; we must lean upon Him for them, and fix the eye of expectation upon the promise of His new covenant: "I will put My laws into their mind," etc. And as without holiness no man shall (or can) see the Lord, must not Christ be much more earnestly anxious to make us holy, than we can be to be made so? If we do not believe in this earnest anxiety of His, do we believe in His love at all? Ah! what if these struggles to be holy should themselves be in a certain sense a token of unbelief? What if the poor bird imprisoned in the cage should be thinking that, if it is ever to gain its liberty, it must be by its own exertions, and by vigorous and frequent strokes of its wings against the bars? If it did so, it would ere long fall back breathless and exhausted, faint and sore, and despairing. And the soul will have a similar experience, which thinks that Christ has indeed won pardon and acceptance for her, but that sanctification she must win for herself, and under this delusion beats herself sore in vain efforts to correct the propensities of a heart which the Word of God pronounces to be "desperately" wicked. That heart, — you can make nothing of it yourself; — leave it to Christ, in quiet dependence upon His grace. Suffer Him to open the prison doors for you, and then you shall fly out and hide yourself in your Lord's bosom, and there find rest.

II. LET ME ABIDE IN YOU. Christ thus teaches us that ordinances, as well as faith, form part of His religion. In order to fruitfulness the sap must rise from the vine stock, and pass into the branch, this is the abiding of the vine in the branch. Similarly Christ must continually send up into our heart a current of holy inspirations, new loves, good impulses, devout hopes — i.e., communicate Himself to the soul by the continual influx of the Holy Ghost. And this is made specially in the Supper of the Lord. Of course the Divine allegory quite precludes the supposition that without faith in the recipient the Holy Supper will avail anything. The vine stock may push upwards its sap in strong current, at the first outburst of the genial spring; but what will that avail the branch, which does not hold closely to the tree, which is half broken off from the stem, and the fracture filled up with dust, or corroded by insects? Christ may offer Himself to us in the Lord's Supper; but, if the soul cleaves not to Him, if the avenues of the heart are not open towards Him, how can He enter?

(Dean Goulburn.)

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