John Chapter 15


God’s pruning of our lives can be painful. He may limit or remove achievements, objects, and abilities. These may not be wrong in themselves, but God knows they will detract from our fruitfulness. We must not resent God’s pruning. Instead, God’s discipline should cause us to turn to him with renewed desire to be productive.

This and other thought provoking *Life Applications are in today’s reading.

Jesus Teaches about the Vine and the Branches / 15:1-17

Jesus object lessons also provide vital resources for preparing future generations of disciples to grow in their faith.

15:1-2 The grapevine is a prolific plant; a single vine bears many grapes. In the Old Testament, grapes symbolized Israel’s fruitfulness in doing God’s work on earth. The prophets had written of Israel as God’s vine, carefully planted and cared for. But the vine was a disappointment because it yielded only rotten fruit; that is, they refused to give him love and obedience. This is very graphic and poignant in Isaiah 5:1-7, a passage Jesus seems to have drawn upon here (see also Jeremiah 2:2, 21; 6:9; Ezekiel 15; 17:5-10; 19:10-14; Hosea 10:1; 14:7). Jesus, with all believers “abiding” in him, is the true vine—the true fulfillment of God’s plan for his people (see Psalm 80:8-17). The new society of God’s people—Christians—originates from Christ and is united to him as branches to a vine. God is the gardener, the cultivator of the vine and the branches. Believers, both sincere and false, are pictured here as the branches.

The fruitful branches are true believers who, by their living union with Christ, produce much fruit. But this union can be broken. The Father cuts off every branch that doesn’t produce fruit. Those who become unproductive—those who turn back from following Christ after making a superficial commitment—will be separated from the vine (see 15:6 for more discussion on the specific identity of the unproductive branches). Unproductive followers are as good as dead and will be cut off and tossed aside. Fruit is not limited to soul winning. In this chapter, answered prayer, joy, and love are mentioned as fruit (15:7, 11-12). Galatians 5:22-24 and 2 Peter 1:5-8 describe additional fruit, explained as qualities of Christian character.

In contrast, he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. Successful gardeners know that pruning, cutting back the branches, increases fruit bearing. Each spring vinedressers cut back each vine to its root stock to enhance its fruitfulness. Sincere believers, the fruitful branches, will be “pruned,” meaning that God must sometimes discipline us to strengthen our character and faith. But branches that don’t bear fruit are “cut off” at the trunk and are completely discarded because they are worthless and often infect the rest of the plant. People who won’t bear fruit for God or who try to block the efforts of God’s followers will be cut off from his life-giving power.


The act of pruning appears harsh. The vinedresser cuts back the lush, growing branches just as they are about to flower. The wise gardener knows that good must sometimes be sacrificed for better. Grape branches or tendrils can grow very fast and very long (twelve to twenty feet). But as they develop length and size, they use resources that could be channeled into making fruit. Pruning focuses the growth and energy of the plant. A lush vine with little fruit has failed its purpose.

God’s pruning of our lives can be painful. He may limit or remove achievements, objects, and abilities. These may not be wrong in themselves, but God knows they will detract from our fruitfulness. We must not resent God’s pruning. Instead, God’s discipline should cause us to turn to him with renewed desire to be productive.

15:3-4 Jesus’ illustration here shifts to a different level. This pruning is spiritual, taking away the contamination of sin. This verse indicates that the disciples have already been pruned because they had accepted the Lord’s message; they were ready for greater fruitfulness. But not so with Judas, the betrayer; he was not clean—therefore, he was one of those branches that had been cut off.

Believers are to remain in Jesus, the vine, and he will remain in us. A vine branch can survive and produce foliage for a while after it has been severed, but it cannot produce fruit unless it is connected to a root stock. As Jesus had a living dependence on the Father (see 6:57), so believers in Jesus need to have a living dependence on him. “Remaining,” for the disciples and for all believers today, means to make a constant, moment-by-moment decision to follow Christ. And we must not be passive—believers don’t just sit and “remain” until they die. Instead, we must be active—we have a lot to do.


Remaning/Abiding in Christ means:

Each of these activities begins at some point, but the long-term (branch-to-vine) practice is “abiding.”

15:5-6 Each branch that continues to remain in the vine will produce much fruit. This “fruit” could be new converts (15:5), or “the fruit of the Spirit” (see Galatians 5:22), or both. The fruit of the Spirit displayed in our lives should attract people to Jesus and thereby make them new members of God’s vine. Jesus’ emphasis here was not to dwell on our glaring inadequacies, but to remind us of the incomparable adequacy that comes from our relationship with him. Apart from him, we can do nothing.


Many people try to be good, honest people who do what is right. But Jesus says that the only way to live a truly good life is to stay close to him, like a branch attached to a vine. Apart from Christ our efforts are unfruitful. Are you receiving the nourishment and life offered by Christ, the Vine? If not, you are missing the key to living the Christian life.

Each branch that does not continue to remain in the vine is removed from the vine. The branch seems physically attached, but it is not organically part of the plant because it does not participate in the life-giving flow of the vine. Sooner or later, that branch will drop off and have to be thrown away. Three traditional interpretations have tried to identify who these useless branches might represent:

  1. For some, these branches are true believers who have lost their salvation because they were cut off from Christ.
  1. For others, these burned branches are Christians who will lose rewards but not salvation on the day of judgment (1 Corinthians 3:15). But this is probably not true because Jesus was speaking of dead branches.
  1. For still others, these burned branches refer to those professing to be Christians who, like Judas Iscariot, are not genuinely saved and therefore are judged. Judas, a disciple of Jesus, seemed like a branch, but he did not truly believe. Therefore, he was cut off; his fate was like that of a dead branch. Given John’s concern to make committed disciples of his readers and Jesus’ goal to bring people into a continuing relationship with himself, this view provides a healthy balance. It keeps the decision of destiny as God’s responsibility while preserving an emphasis on our responsibility to “remain” in the relationship. In any case, the verse is not so much aimed at creating discomfort and doubt as it is in teaching the importance of daily connectedness with Christ.

15:7-8 True disciples do more than just believe what Jesus says; they let Jesus’ words remain in them. Then they can ask any request of him and it will be granted. In this passage and in 14:13-14, “asking God” is connected with fruit bearing and doing greater things for God. When a believer remains in Christ and Christ’s words remain in him, that person’s prayers will be answered. This does not mean that all requests are granted—for the context suggests that the prayers should pertain to fruit bearing (either helping others believe, or showing more of the fruit of the Spirit in one’s life) and glorifying the Father. An essential part of being a disciple requires bearing fruit for the Lord. And in order to pray for results, a person must remain in Christ. For when we remain in him, our thoughts and desires conform to his, and we can pray “in his name” (14:13), knowing that our requests please God. We can be assured then that whatever we ask will be done.


How do we let Jesus’ words remain in us? Jesus’ words remain in us when we know what he said and did, and when we allow those words and actions to affect the way we live. By reading and memorizing, we take in God’s Word; by obeying, we indicate that the words abide in us:

  • We learn from Jesus’ actions and teaching what to do.
  • We learn from his responses how we should respond.
  • We learn from his compassion how we should love others.
  • We learn from his obedience how we should submit to the Father.
  • We learn from his self-control how to stay pure and strong.

A vine that produces much fruit glorifies God, for daily he sends the sunshine and rain to make the crops grow, and he constantly nurtures each plant and prepares it to blossom. What a moment of glory for the Lord of the harvest when the harvest is brought into the barns, mature and ready for use! He made it all happen! This farming analogy shows how God is glorified when we come into a right relationship with him and begin to “bear much fruit” in our lives.

15:9 Believers must remain in Jesus (15:4), remain in his words (15:7), and remain in his love. For the Son to love us in the same way that his Father loves him means we receive the greatest love possible. We should respond with total dedication, commitment, and obedience.

15:10 We can remain in Jesus’ love by obeying his commands—just as he obeyed his Father’s commands. If we do so, we will experience the daily joy of obedience to our Lord. Jesus himself modeled two important behaviors for true disciples: (1) since he obeyed his Father’s commands, we can obey his; (2) and he loved them, so they should love one another. Jesus not only tells us what to do; he shows it through his life.


When things go well, we feel elated. When hardships come, we sink into depression. But true joy rises above the rolling waves of circumstance. Joy comes from a consistent relationship with Jesus Christ. When our lives intertwine with his, he helps us walk through adversity without sinking into debilitating lows, and we can manage prosperity without moving into deceptive highs. The joy of living with Jesus Christ daily keeps us levelheaded no matter how high or low our circumstances.

15:11 Jesus does not call Christians to a dull existence of being hated by the world, obeying commands, and waiting to get to heaven. Instead, he offers us fullness of joy! Nothing else in all the world can bring the joy that we find in serving, abiding in, and obeying Christ.

15:12-13 Jesus commanded his followers to love each other as he loved them. The highest expression of love people could have for others is to lay down their lives for them—just as Jesus did for those he loved. We must love each other sacrificially, as Jesus loved us. He loved us enough to give his life for us (see Romans 5:7-8). We may not have to die for someone, but we can practice sacrificial love in many other ways: listening, helping, encouraging, giving. We do not need to feel love for everyone. Some people will be difficult to love, but still we are commanded to act lovingly toward our fellow believers.


We are powerless to obey Jesus’ command to love unless he lives within us. He must enable us to love in his way. Consider all the provisions he gives us to enable us to love others:

  • He frees us from the tyranny of self-love.
  • He frees us from crippling guilt.
  • He focuses our thoughts on others, not on our own problems or shortcomings.
  • He restrains our selfish desires.
  • He comforts us by the Holy Spirit.
  • He challenges us with his own example of patience and concern for others.
  • He encourages us with the support of Christian brothers and sisters.

With his powerful life within us, we can be channels for his love to others.

15:14-15 In those days, the disciples of a rabbi were considered his servants. Jesus changed that relationship; the disciples were not his servants but his friends. Jesus considered them his friends because he had told them everything he had heard from the Father. This showed that Jesus trusted them to receive these communications and then pass them on to others as the gospel. In fact, he had chosen and appointed them for this task.


What kind of relationship do you have with Jesus? Do you picture yourself as a reluctant servant or an intimate friend? The following questions will help you determine the quality of your relationship with Jesus:

  • Do you do what he commands? (He wants you to love him enough to love others.)
  • Do you know what he wants to do in the world? (He wants others to experience his love and know who he is.)
  • Do you know how Jesus thinks? (He wants you to be familiar with what he heard from the Father.)

15:16 Jesus chose these disciples and appointed them to spread the gospel and produce fruit for God’s Kingdom. The Lord chooses each believer to be a branch in the vine—a branch that bears fruit that will last. The remaining, or lasting, fruit means either new believers whose faith perseveres, or the enduring quality of the fruit of the Spirit—especially brotherly love.

Then, Jesus speaks of making requests to the Father: “That the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.” As in verses 7-8, Jesus linked the request making with the fruit bearing. The Father would answer their requests in order to help them accomplish the mission he gave them—to produce “fruit that will last.”


Jesus made the first choice—to love and to die for us, to invite us to live with him forever. We make the next choice—to accept or reject his offer. Unless he chose us, we would have no choice to make.

15:17 This verse capsulizes the theme that Jesus introduced in verse 12 and yet also serves as a contrast for what follows. The disciples must love each other because they would take Jesus’ message to a world that despised them. Christians get plenty of hatred from the world; from each other we need love and support.

Jesus legislated love. He required his disciples to make peace with one another, to place the interests of others above their own, and to solve differences quickly. He knew they were diverse in background, but he ordered them to love each other. Jesus knew that setting this high standard was essential to preserving the unity of the church. If he required it, the believers would accept and live out this standard. Backbiting, disrespect, and bitterness toward fellow believers strips the church of its power.


Our world wants love to be spontaneous and driven by feeling. But Jesus knows our deeper need. We know we ought to love even when we don’t feel like it because we want others to love us when we are unlovable. In Jesus we find both the supreme model for loving and the supreme resource. He commands us to love, and he helps us accomplish his command.

Jesus knew that if we would practice love, then the feelings of love would follow naturally. If we waited to be motivated by affection for others, we would never love others. Treating others with honor and respect (even when we don’t feel they deserve it) may generate good will and affection. If we understand how deeply we are loved by God in spite of our sin, we will be pushed in the direction of loving others ourselves. Those who do not realize God’s love for them find it difficult to love others.

Jesus Warns about the World’s Hatred / 15:18—27

Jesus called the disciples to abide in him and to love one another. But their relationship with the world would be entirely different. Because they loved Christ and were so like him, the world would transfer its hatred of Christ to the disciples. Yet they must take the Good News to the world. This section explains how the disciples, with the help of the Counselor, would continue Jesus’ work of glorifying the Father in a hostile world.


Though people cannot always verbalize why they reject Christ our belief in him they have specific reasons. Christ threatens the systems of this world. Here are several reasons the world rejects Christ and his followers:

  • Christians’ values contradict the values of those who do not follow Jesus. The world rejected the way Jesus lived, and will reject the way we live, if we live like Jesus.
  • Christians submit to God in a world that deifies either independence or rigid conformity to a human system. Christians are free from all authority except God (and those authorities that God has ordained). The world resented Jesus’ freedom; it will resent ours.
  • Christians believe in absolutes in a world that proclaims absolute pluralism and the absence of divine standards.
  • Christians return love for hatred and are therefore hated even more. Jesus forgave those who crucified him. Christians who show Jesus’ kind of love are misunderstood and hated even more.

15:18-19 Jesus was hated from the very beginning (when Jesus was a young child, King Herod sought him out to kill him—Matthew 2:13-16). He was hated at the end when the people rejected him as the Savior and called for his crucifixion. The same world would surely hate those who proclaim allegiance to the crucified Lord. Jesus wants believers to be distinctive; he sets us apart from the world. His choosing and setting us apart makes us holy and helps us grow. Our very separation from the world arouses the world’s animosity. The world would prefer that we were like them; since we are not, they hate us (see 1 Peter 4:3-4).


Jesus taught us to expect rejection. Rejection may be difficult to take, but if we never experience it, we may be hiding our belief from others. If we profess Christ and are warmly embraced by the world, we should reexamine our commitment and life-style. If we remain silent about our faith in order to gain acceptance by the world, we have made a poor trade. In fact, we are being dishonest in two ways: We deny the faith we claim as central in our lives, and we deceive those whose acceptance we want by not revealing our Christian faith. The Scriptures warn us, “Friendship with the world is hatred toward God” (James 4:4 niv; see also 2 Timothy 3:10-12; 1 John 2:15-17; 3:1; 4:5-6).

15:20-21 Jesus had told the disciples this earlier that evening (13:16; also Matthew 10:24). He had been speaking of their need to imitate his acts of humble service. They also needed to understand that, if their Lord was not respected or honored by the world, they should expect even harsher treatment. To persecute believers is to persecute Christ because believers are an extension of Christ, as branches are an extension of the vine. Yet despite certain persecution, believers are called to share the gospel—this includes not just telling the story, but giving the invitation to accept Jesus as Savior and Lord. While they will face those who hate them because they belong to Christ, it would also be true that those who would have listened to Jesus will listen to the disciples.


Every believer is a witness for Jesus—either good or bad. Unbelievers will develop their opinion about Jesus by watching Jesus’ followers. If you are following Jesus and trying to be a good witness for him, you will encounter some who will scoff, some who will ignore your witness, and some who will downright hate (even persecute) you. But there will also be those who will believe, turn to Christ, and find salvation. Each day, ask God to help you see those people he wants you to reach!

15:22-25 Jesus said that the Jews would not have been guilty of rejecting God if they had not rejected Jesus Christ—who was God in the flesh. But since they did reject Jesus, who came to reveal God the Father to all humanity, they had no excuse for their sin. Their rejection of Jesus caused their sin to be fully exposed because, as Jesus said, “Anyone who hates me hates my Father, too.” They actually hated the Son and the Father—even after seeing the marvelous works Jesus performed.

The entire nation should have recognized and responded to the Messiah. Ironically, their own Scriptures predicted this rejection and hatred. Jesus knew the hatred fulfilled what the Scriptures said (see Psalm 69:4). The Jews had no reason to hate Jesus—he came as their Savior, fulfilling their Scriptures, doing miraculous signs, and promising eternal life to those who believed in him. Yet the people thought they were serving God by rejecting Jesus, when in reality, they were serving Satan (8:44).

15:26-27 In 14:26 Jesus had said that the Father would send the Counselor, the Spirit of truth. The word Counselor conveys the helping, encouraging, and strengthening work of the Spirit as he represents Christ. The Spirit of truth points to the teaching, illuminating, and reminding work of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit ministers to both the head and the heart, and both dimensions are important. The Spirit would come to the disciples and tell them all about him. These disciples were the vital link between Jesus Christ and all subsequent believers. They would need the Holy Spirit to remind them so that as they preached, taught, and wrote, they would spread the truth of the gospel. The Holy Spirit would see to it that their witness would not be impaired by persecution. Jesus has already forewarned these men about the persecution to come so that they would not be surprised.

The disciples would tell others that Jesus is the Messiah. The Holy Spirit would testify by preparing people’s hearts and minds, persuading them of the truth of the gospel, and enabling them to receive the message. By application, this verse extends to all Christians. All Christians are called to testify of Jesus, allowing the Holy Spirit to help them through times of persecution and to remind them of the truth of God’s word and work in the hearts and minds of their listeners.

“As Christians, we are tempted to make unnecessary concessions to those outside the Faith. We give in too much.   Now, I don’t mean that we should run the risk of making a nuisance of ourselves by witnessing at improper times, but there comes a time when we must show that we disagree. We must show our Christian colours, if we are to be true to Jesus Christ. We cannot remain silent or concede everything away.”  C. S. Lewis

— Life Application Bible Commentary
 — Life Application Concise New Testament Commentary

About dkoop

Lead Pastor of Upwards Church: Leander & Jarrell, TX
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