THE TRUE VINE.
The solemnity of the moment, when the Redeemer
rose to leave the Upper Room where he had eaten the Passover, must have
produced a powerful effect upon the hearts of his disciples. Up to this
period they had been a united and a peaceful band, and the beloved Master
was yet with them; what a separation awaited them in a few hours! The
anticipation of this arrested their steps; the assembly broke up but
no one moved; they stood in silence around their Lord. Then it was that
he again opened his lips, and delivered the following discourses, which
made an indelible impression on the mind of the beloved disciple. It
may be that some incidental circumstance led Jesus to begin the comparison;
perhaps a twig stretched through the window into the room where he then
was, or the apartment was decorated with the foliage of the vine. According
to Josephus, on the door, 70 cubits high, which led into the Holy Place
of the temple, an artificial vine was spread out, the branches and leaves
of which were made of gold, and its clusters of diamonds and pearls.
Rosenmuller thinks that it was this that led Jesus to institute the
comparison before us.--Olshausen. I am of the opinion rather
that the comparison sprang from the juice of the grape which had just
been used to represent his blood. After the Lord choosing and distributing
the fruit of the vine to represent the blood that should cleanse from
all sin, and declaring, "I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until
the kingdom of God is come," what more natural than for him to say,
"I am the true vine?" As before stated, the Lord did not pass out over
the Kedron, until after  the discourses
of the 15th and 16th chapters and the prayer of the 17th. It is, then,
almost certain that these were spoken in the Upper Room. It then becomes
probable that the feast was broken up with the words that close chapter
14, the preceding discourse having been at table; that with the command,
Arise, all arose from table to prepare for departure, but as
they were standing the Savior, out of his full heart, spoke the words
that are contained in the three chapters, closing with the 17th. The
student is then to picture to himself the Master with the eleven apostles,
in the dimly-lighted chamber, standing, girt for departure; and they,
eagerly watching every look and gesture, and drinking in every word,
while he begins, "I am the true Vine."
1. I am the true vine. On the table from
whence they had just risen was the "fruit of the vine," and the Lord
had said that he would never drink it again upon the earth. That may
have been the occasion of the striking figure that he now uses, in which
he exemplifies union with Christ. In the Old Testament the Vine is often
used as the type of Israel, planted and tended by the Almighty as the
husbandman. See Isa. 5:1; Ps. 80; Jer. 2:21. Israel, however, had proved
a wild and fruitless Vine. Instead of it, therefore, Christ had now
been planted by the Father as the True Vine. He is the true Bread, the
true Light, as well as the Good Shepherd. All these figures fitly express
some of his relations to his people and the world. The Vine stands in
a much closer relation to the branches than the Shepherd to the sheep.
The latter cares for the sheep, but the Vine imparts its life to the
branches and there is one life in the whole, the branch having no life
except as it draws it from the vine. The relation is similar to that
expressed by Paul when he describes Christ as the Head of the body,
and the servants of Christ as the various members of that body, all
pervaded by the life and will of the Head. See Eph. 5:23, and Col. 2:19.
My Father is the husbandman. God had planted the old Jewish Vine,
which was not the True Vine, but "a figure of the true," Heb. 9:24,
and God had also sent his Son, the True Vine, into the world, or "planted"
him, and his care was always over the Son and has been ever since the
Vine was left to grow and fill the earth. "God giveth the increase."
2. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit
he taketh away. As the husbandman cuts off the unfruitful branches
of the vine, so the Father severs the unfruitful branches from his Son.
Judas, an unfruitful branch which did not have in it the life of the
Vine, had just been severed and had gone forth. So any branch that ceases
to have the life of the true Vine and bear fruit, that becomes lifeless
and barren, is cut off. It often dies and drops off from the Church,
which is the earthly representative of the True Vine, of its own weight
and is lost sight of. Sometimes it is needful to cut it off lest it
injure the other branches. Every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth
it. The husbandman prunes and dresses the branches in order that
they may be more healthy and fruitful. The Father 
cleanses, purifies, frees from sin, all who become branches of
the True Vine. This is done, not merely for their own sake, but that
they may be fruitful branches. The means employed to cleanse them from
sin and impurity is next described.
3. Now ye are clean through the word which
I have spoken unto you. The spoken word is the instrument appointed
by God for the cleansing of the soul. He who hears the word, believes
it, receives it into his soul, obeys it and makes it the rule of his
life, is "cleansed," or freed from sin. The "Word" tells the sinner
what to do in order to the remission of sins. See Mark 16:16 and Acts
2:38. It is God in Christ who cleanses, but the means employed is the
"Word," which must be received in obedient faith.
4. Abide in me, and I in you. The idea
is, Abide in me that I may abide in you. Christ abiding in us is dependent
on our abiding in him. We abide in him by keeping his words, or having
his "word abide in us" (verse 7), and all who "keep his sayings" (chap.
14:23) will have Christ abide in their souls. We must prepare for the
presence of Christ by loving him, for he can find no congenial home
in any heart that does not love him, but he says, "If a man love me
he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come
to him, and make our abode with him." See the steps: 1. Love
of Christ; 2. Keeping the words of Christ; 3. The Father's love; 4.
The Father and Son come to abide with the one who loves and obeys.
To abide in Christ and to have his life in us is needful, because "As
the branch cannot bear fruit without the vine," as an its life and strength
and fruitfulness comes from the vine, and it dies if severed, so No
more can ye, except ye abide in me. We are dead, fruitless branches,
without the Christ-life. The whole history of the world demonstrates
that fruitfulness is only found in union with Christ. Where are the
colleges, hospitals and benevolent institutions that have been reared
by infidelity? What fallen and savage race has infidelity lifted up?
What has it done for mankind? Where are its fruits, or the benevolent
fruits of heathenism or false religions? There was not a hospital or
benevolent institution in Rome, the capital of the world, when it was
visited by Paul. The fruit of pure, holy, sweet lives, full of helpfulness
to the race, is borne by abiding in Christ, living with his life, being
moved by his Spirit.
5. I am the vine; ye are the branches.
He has already declared (verse 1) that he is the True Vine, but he had
not yet declared that every disciple is a branch of the Vine. Had he
not declared, "Ye are the branches," they might have concluded when,
a little later, separate congregations were organized in various portions
of the earth, that these were the branches; or denominationalism might
 have a little warrant for speaking of
"branch churches of Christ;" but the relation is a much nearer, sweeter
one. Every Christian is a branch of the Vine. His life is drawn directly
from the Vine. If he clings to the Vine, keeps Christ's words, so that
Christ abides in him, and has the life of the Vine, the same bringeth
forth much fruit. But the branch that is severed from the vine is
not only fruitless but dies. So the disciple, without Christ, can
do nothing. Paul declared, "I can do all things through Christ who
6. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth
as a branch, and is withered. The lifeless, fruitless branches in
the vineyard are lopped off and carried out, and wither and are burned.
So, too, any one who does not abide in Christ, is severed from the Vine,
and they (the angels at the great day, not men as in the Common
Version. See Revision.) cast them into the fire and they are burned.
The Lord sweeps on over time to the eternal judgment and fate of the
dead branches. Note 1. These have been branches of the Vine; 2. They
did not "abide" in the Vine (Greek remain); 3. Hence they were
cast forth; 4. Hence at the end they are gathered, by the angels, to
be burned. Hence there may be a falling away by those who have been
branches of the Vine, or "a falling from grace," and hence the need
of watchful, prayerful diligence that we may abide in the Vine.
7, 8. Ask what ye will, and it shall be done
unto you. The condition of this blessed promise is that we abide
in the Vine, by having Christ's words abide in us. If we maintain thus
the life union so that we are alive with the Christ life, from his presence
in us, then whatsoever we ask will be granted. Do you ask whether God
hears prayer? I answer, "If we abide in Christ and he in us." Has he
heard your prayers? Are you thus united to Christ? But this "effectual
prayer" is needful to our fruitfulness in Christ and the glorification
of the Father. For herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much
fruit. The best comment on this is the Savior's injunction, "Let
your light so shine before men, that they, seeing your good works, shall
glorify your Father who is in heaven." Those who are fruitful show that
they have the life of the Vine and thus demonstrate that they are true
disciples. "So shall ye be my disciples."
9. As the Father hath loved me, so I have loved
you. The Father loved the Son and dwelt in him as the Son in the
Father, because of their mutual love. Love opens the heart of the disciple
to Christ that he may abide there (chap. 14:23) and hence the union
of the disciple with Christ may be as close as that of Christ with the
Father. Hence he enjoins: Abide ye in my love. This is the Revision
and is better than the Common Version, the Greek word being that before
 rendered abide. The Lord next tells
how they shall "continue" or abide in his love.
10. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide
in my love. He abode in the love of the Father by a life of perfect
obedience. So we must abide in his love. The wilful, disobedient disciple
cannot dwell there. Only he in whose heart Christ is enthroned as King
and who has an absolute empire over the soul. To keep Christ's commandments
is, not to obey those that suit us, but to follow him and obey all he
says. Some set aside his commandment to be baptized. Such do not keep
his commandments. Some obey it faithfully, but fail to observe the other
things he has commanded, and especially the great law of love. Such
do not keep his commandments.
11. These things have I spoken . . . that my
joy might remain in you. Strange words, that one about to be crucified
should speak of his joy! His joy was union with and the presence of
the Father. He had "anointed him with the oil of gladness above his
fellows." He desired his disciples to have that joy, the constant consolation
of the sense of the presence of Christ. If Christ abode in them, his
joy would remain in them. All spoken above was that they might have
this joy. If this is realized their joy will be fulfilled. They "shall
see the travail of his soul and be satisfied." The soul that has Christ
in it is "full."
12. That ye love one another, as I have loved
you. The greatness of his love for the disciples has been shown.
Thus they must love one another. The thought developed is, 1. Love the
bond that unites Father and Son. 2. Such love the bond that unites the
Son and the disciples. 3. How much love must also exist between the
disciples in order to unite them? Mutual love, instead of an iron chain
of commands, binds them together.
13, 14. Greater love hath no man than this,
that a man lay down his life for his friends. The highest human
exhibition of love that earth has ever seen was this. Damon had been
ready to die for Pythias; fathers had died for their families; mothers
for their children. Christ was about to exhibit this highest human type
of love by dying for his friends. He did even more, as Paul shows us,
Romans 5:6; he died for enemies, something that man had never done.
The Lord here, however, points his disciples to his love for them. They
are his friends, if they obey him. That is the condition. One may "lay
down his life for another" without dying. If he lives to consecrate
his life to his welfare, he gives, if possible, a higher proof of love.
15. I call you not servants . . . I have called
you friends. Christ's disciples serve him, but their service is
not bondage, but that of love. Hence, they are friends instead of servants.
They have his presence abiding in them and the will of the Father is
made known to them.
16. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen
you, and ordained you. Each one of the eleven apostles present had
been chosen, called, by the Lord, from among his disciples. They did
not choose him, but he them, in order that they might bring forth abundant
fruit in the conversion of the world. The same is true, in part, of
each disciple. Christ calls them by the gospel, and if they hear and
obey, then they are called and chosen to his work. These words, however,
have a special, rather than a general signification. The Lord selected
every apostle, and called them to become his representatives in the
church when he had ascended his heavenly throne. Peter, Andrew, James
and John were taken from their boats and nets at the Sea of Galilee;
Matthew from his place at the receipt of custom, the rest of the eleven
from their various callings, and, last of all, Saul of Tarsus was arrested
by the Lord himself on the way to Damascus and told that he was to become
"a minister and a witness" to the Gentiles. As God chose Noah to build
the ark, Abraham to found the Jewish nation, Moses to be its law-giver,
David to leave his flocks and be its king, the Baptist to prepare the
way for Christ, so the Lord chose out the apostles and ordained (appointed)
them to their special work. So, too, I cannot doubt that he chooses
servants in all ages to become the leaders in great works which are
called for by the interests of his kingdom. Whatsoever ye shall ask
in my name. They were ordained to "go forth and bring forth fruit."
While engaged in that work they are promised the divine help. If at
any time their own arms are too short they are authorized to call for
the help they need in Christ's name. This help is to the end that they
may bear fruit, or be efficient in the work of converting men. The principle
that underlies the promise is of general application. The men of prayer
have in all ages been those that have been most abundantly fruitful
in their labors.
1. The life of the branch springs from the life
of the vine. The branch does not give life to the vine, but the vine
to the branches. So Christ is our life.
2. If the connection between the branch and the
vine is severed it will at  once die. As
the sap must flow from the vine into the branch to give it life and
keep it alive, so the life of the True Vine must flow into our souls.
Christ is not only the fountain of our life, but we must abide in him
in order to maintain it. If we let sin come between and cut us off we
3. Whatever works of beneficence and love are
done by the church, or by Christians, serve to honor and glorify Christ,
because it is his life in us that works and bears fruit. Without him
we can do nothing.
4. Christ and sin cannot abide in the heart together.
If sin abides there, Christ will not enter; if Christ abides there,
sin can find no room.
5. The beneficent work of Christ for man.
Now, if there were to be made two maps of the world, one showing the
happiness, comforts, morality, good deeds, benevolent gifts, means of
innocent enjoyment, the light shades showing the countries in which
a large degree of happiness is enjoyed, and the shades growing darker
as the blessings grow less; the other map showing the prevalence of
Christianity, the lands where the purest Christianity is most prevalent
being represented in white, and the shades darkening as the lands have
a less pure Christianity, or it is less prevalent, down to the blackness
of utter heathenism,--it would be found that these two maps almost exactly
THE CHURCH AND THE WORLD.
17. These things I command you that ye love
one another. "These things" are all the precepts the Lord had spoken
since the interview began with chapter XIII. It is remarkable how frequently
and with what emphasis he enforces this duty. Indeed, to fill the heart
with earnest, active love, love to God and to man, is the great end
of the mission of Christ. "We know that we have passed from death unto
life because we love the brethren." 1 John 3:14. See also Matt. 22:37-40;
Rom. 13:8-10; 1 Cor., chapter XIII, etc. In the next verse the powerful
need of his disciples being indissolubly bound together by love is pointed
out in the fact that they shall be hated by the world.
18. If the world hates you, ye know that it
hated me. The world, as used by the Savior, means the unconverted,
unspiritual, sensual, selfish and worldly portion of mankind, nearly
all of our race at the time that he spoke. Of that world the spirit
of evil was the prince, and the kings and rulers of the earth were his
willing servants. When the Lord was about to begin his ministry the
prince of the world tempted him with the offer of worldly glory and
empire, and when the offer was rejected became his bitter enemy. The
world hated him because he rebuked its sins, rejected him and crucified
him. His disciples, who bear his likeness, have his spirit and speak
his words, will also be a constant rebuke to the lusts and wrongs of
the world and, hence, will not enjoy its favor. When they are hated
they can remember that the world hated their Lord also. 
19. If ye were of the world, the world would
love his own. It is the nature of all intelligent persons to love
best what is in sympathy with themselves. Christ loves most tenderly
the disciples who obey his commandments and seek to be like him. The
world loves those best that are in harmony with its ambitions, aims
and pleasures. Hence, when the church lowers itself to a worldly standard,
is complaisant toward sin, and full of the worldly spirit, it will not
come into collision with the world. It is the servants who are "chosen
out of the world," who are not of the world and who testify against
it, that it hates. This has been illustrated in all ages. John the Baptist
and Christ might have chosen smooth paths that would have secured worldly
favor, but their rebukes of sin brought them to death, and in every
generation the faithful servants, such men as Huss, Waldo, Wickliffe,
Savonarola, Luther, Roger Williams, and the great army of martyrs, have
been hated and persecuted. See chapter 7:7 where Christ shows that the
world cannot hate those who act in accordance with its worldly policy
and principles, and also, 1 Peter 4:12, 13; 1 John 3:13, 14, and 4:4,
20. Remember the word, . . . The servant is
not greater than his lord. For this admonition to which the Lord
refers see John 13:16; Matt. 10:24; Luke 6:40. The servants who represent
the Master, show his spirit, obey his commands and do his work, must
expect similar treatment to that which the world would award to the
Master himself. They represent a spirit and policy that comes into direct
collision with the world. Those who would persecute the Lord will persecute
the disciples also. Those who would receive the Lord's words will also
receive and keep their words also. Some will persecute; others will
accept the gospel. The disciple must expect both results, persecution
and glad reception. This has been the experience of all devoted proclaimers
of the gospel, from Paul down to our own day. See in Paul's experience,
21. All these things will they do unto you
for my name's sake. The name of Christ, so sweet to his followers,
is an object of hatred to his enemies. Not many months passed after
these words were uttered until those that now heard Christ were under
arrest by the Sanhedrim and were asked by the high priest, "By what
power, or by what name, have ye done this?" Then Peter answered, "By
the name of Jesus Christ, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the
dead, even by him doth this man stand before you 
whole." Then, after a conference, the Sanhedrim "commanded them
not to speak at all, nor teach in the name of Jesus" (Acts, chapter
IV). Again, Acts 5:28, "The high priest asked, Did we not straitly charge
that you should not teach in this name?" And they departed from the
presence of the council rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer
shame for his name (verse 41). See also 1 Pet. 4:14 and Rev. 3:8. What
was true of the first age of persecution has been true of later ages.
The Roman emperor, Diocletian, declared that he "would abolish the Christian
name from the face of the earth." The infidel Convention of France,
at the time of the Reign of Terror, tried to destroy all that would
recall his name, and there is nothing that excites the animosity of
the haters of Christ more intensely than his name. One ground of the
intense hatred of the Jews to "the name" was that Jesus proclaimed himself
to be the Christ predicted by the prophets, and the use of this "name"
was a constant indictment of them for crucifying the "Holy One" of Israel.
They had rejected him because they knew not God, God who had sent Jesus
into the world, though they professed to honor him.
22. If I had not come and spoken . . . they
would not have had sin. There are three principles involved in this
declaration. 1. The degree of sin is determined by the measure of our
opportunities. Those in total darkness cannot be blamed for not seeing
unless they are responsible for being in the darkness. Those who have
had no light from heaven will be lightly judged for breaking laws of
which they could have no knowledge. 2. Increased opportunities bring
the consciousness of sin. A ray of sunlight in the chamber reveals,
but does not create, the motes. They were there before. So, too, the
motions of sin in the soul are imperfectly recognized until the light
comes, but in that light they are seen to be sin, and the conscience
is alive to sin. "Without the law sin is dead. For I was alive without
the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died."
Rom. 7:8, 9. So the knowledge of Christ, flooding the soul with light,
brings sin into full view and takes away all excuse for continuance
therein. Henceforth it is known, conscious sin. 3. The sin of sins is
the rejection of Christ. He is the Lamb of God that taketh away the
sin of the world. He has not only shed his blood to cleanse from all
sin, but comes to men and pleads with them to let him be their Savior.
He who refuses him chooses, deliberately chooses sin, as his portion.
He declares by the rejection of Christ that he clings to his sins and
will abide by their consequences. He not only willfully retains his
past sins but he adds to them the fearful sin of rejecting heaven's
offer of mercy as embodied in the gospel. By the rejection of Christ
he shows himself a stubborn and determined rebel against the King of
kings. Had heaven offered no mercy, showed no love, sent no Lamb of
God to take away sin, there might have been less, or even no responsibility
for sin, because many were so in darkness that they knew not sin, but
now they have no cloke for their sin. There is no excuse for it,
no shelter, no covering, nothing that can extenuate sin. Ignorance might
be an excuse, but when the offer of pardon is 
made and refused ignorance cannot be pleaded. Christ's offer takes
away every excuse and leaves the sinner at the judgment day to the sentence
of condemnation. Men are lost because "they will not have life." Luther
says: "No man shall die in his sins, except him who, through unbelief,
thrusts from him the forgiveness of sin, which, in the name of Jesus
Christ, is offered to him. This is the real sin that contains all others.
For if the word of Christ was received every sin would be forgiven and
remitted, but since men will not receive it this constitutes a sin which
is not to be forgiven."
23. He that hateth me hateth my Father also.
This follows from the fact that Christ is Immanuel, God with us, the
manifestation of the Father. As Christ is revealed to us, so is the
Father. Every one who hates God in Christ, hates the Father who sent
him. The Jews thought they did not, but they did. They knew not God,
but worshiped another god whom their own imaginations had created. Christ
was the manifestation of the God of their Fathers, but when they saw
him they hated him.
24. If I had not done . . . they had not had
sin. The attestation of his divine mission was such that they were
without excuse. His whole life work, including his sinlessness, his
beneficence, his divine teaching and his superhuman signs, were such
as no man had ever shown. They therefore demonstrated that he was more
than man. Sometimes cavilers call for a scientific argument that Jesus
is divine. The Savior here gives it. The syllogism is as follows: 1.
No man that ever lived was sinless, was a teacher who never erred, or
unlocked the portals of the dead, or made those whose souls were dead,
live again as new creatures in a new and beautiful life. 2. Jesus of
Nazareth did and does all these things. 3. Therefore, he is more than
man and is divine.
25. They hated me without a cause. He had
just stated that "they hated both him and his Father." This hatred was
without any justifiable cause, and therefore fulfilled of Psalm 35:19.
"These words (Christ's words from verse 21 to 26) are perhaps the most
terrible words in the Old or New Testament. No description of divine
punishment which is written anywhere can come into the least comparison
with them in awfulness or horror. This gratuitous hatred, this hatred
of Christ by men because they hate God, this hatred of God because he
has manifested himself and proved himself to be love, is something which
passes all our conception, and yet which would not mean anything to
us if our conscience did not bear witness that the possibility of it
lies in ourselves. Such a hatred is only possible to nations which,
like the Jewish, is full of religious knowledge and of religious profession."--Maurice.
26. When the Comforter is come. For discussion
of the Comforter, his nature and work, see
notes on the preceding chapter. In chapter 14:26, he says that the
Father will send the Comforter in his name, while here he says that
he will send him from the Father. These passages are in harmony and
merely show how intimate the union between the Father and the Son. What
one does the other may be said to do, for the same mind is in each.
Christ often emphasized the fact that what he did and said was done
by the Father. In Acts 2:33, when this promise was first fulfilled,
Peter declared that it was Christ "which hath shed forth this, which
you now see and hear." Which proceedeth from the Father. Christ
attributes all the blessed and redemptive powers to his Father as the
final cause. As he came himself from the Father so the Holy Spirit is
from the Father. He is called the Spirit of God, and also the Spirit
of Christ (Rom. 8:9; Gal. 4:6; Phil. 1:19; 1 Peter 1:11.) He shall
testify of me. One principal office of the Spirit is to testify
of Christ. See chapter 16:13-15. Nor is it difficult to ascertain how
the Spirit testifies. Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the
Holy Spirit. On the day of Pentecost the apostles "spake as the Spirit
gave them utterance." Testimony is given in words, or by acts, and the
Spirit speaks through the saints whom he chooses as his agents. Hebrews
10:15, 16, shows how the Spirit bears witness: "Whereof the Holy Spirit
is a witness to us; for after that he said before, This is the covenant,"
etc. The words which the Holy Spirit "said before" and by which he became
"a witness" were spoken by the prophet Jeremiah. There is not an example
recorded in the Bible of the Spirit testifying otherwise than in words
spoken by those moved by his power, and in the lives of those in whom
he dwells. I emphasize this fact because there is much idle speculation
and error on the subject.
27. Ye also shall bear witness. The apostles
were double witnesses. They had been with Christ "from the beginning"
and knew all the facts. If he had been a deceiver they would have known
it. If he was true they knew it. When he was risen they were witnesses
of the fact. If they had never received the Comforter they could have
been witnesses of the facts of his life, death and resurrection. But
when the Holy Spirit was given, the dark things made plain, the Scriptures
understood, power from on high sent upon them, and when they could speak
with tongues and work miracles, then also the Holy Spirit in them bore
witness. There was their witness as men, eleven competent witnesses
to every fact, and then in addition there was the divine witness through
them. They still testify, and added to this, there are those in whom
Christ dwells by his Spirit. Every true Christian life is a witness
to the living power of Christ. It must be kept clearly in mind that
there is not the slightest intimation in the Scriptures of a testimony
independent of those who have received the Spirit through the acceptance
of Christ.