then love is a thing mighty and irresistible, not a bare word, let us manifest
it by our actions.”
those few words Chrysostom proclaims the power of love and our reaction to it.
His comment was made in preaching on this chapter of John; we shall take it in
detail. We shall examine this chapter in three sections. First we shall
consider the relationship between a Christian and his Lord; then the
relationship of the church and her Lord; finally, the relationship of the
church to the world.
The Individual Christian
1“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every
branch that does bear fruit he prunes£
so that it will be even more fruitful. 3You are already clean because of the word I
have spoken to you. 4Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No
branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you
bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me
and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown
away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.
7If you remain in me and my words remain in
you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing
yourselves to be my disciples.
9“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved
you. Now remain in my love.
John 15:1 through John 15:9 (NIV)
Everyone gets cut
noticed in this passage that all the branches get cut? Some get cut off,
others get pruned – but the shears are applied to all. From the point of view
of the branch, all we can see is that we are separated. What does this mean?
- If you are
not producing the results of the Christian life. God eventually cuts you
off from the church. Note that the church may not throw you out – but God
- If you are,
God takes those results and removes them from you. Why? So you won’t be
bogged down with yesterday’s results. (It is also a help to keeping the
ego in check).
- Either way,
you are going to see a separation. People you know and love will leave,
find another class or whatever.
So how do I
know the difference between being pruned and being slashed off? By the results
in my life. Here are a few simple tests, taken from this section:
- Does your
life bear “much fruit?” Can you say how you have influenced others for
- Does God
prune that fruit? Does he remove the people you have ministered to, and
turn them over to someone else? (Usually a problem for teachers, but
applies to all).
- Do Christ’s
words remain in you? Are there Scriptures you have memorized which come
back at just the right moment?
- Does God
answer your prayers? When you ask something in his name, does he give it
- Does your
life bring glory to God?
so good? Let’s look at your relationship to Jesus Christ – for without the
vine, you’re firewood.
Relationship to Christ
describes the relationship as being one where he is in us, and we are in him
(in the singular). It’s as confusing as the passage where he proclaims that
God is in him, and he is in God. But let’s take that as our example. Christ
and the Father are one; yet each is a person in the Trinity. You and I are to
be in Christ, and have Christ in us, in the same way. That’s how close we are
to come to him. We want the same relationship between Christ and us that
exists between Christ and the Father.
preliminary step must be performed. We must be cleansed by the word. This
refers to baptism in the first place, and repentance later on. These steps
must be guided by what Christ has taught us.
If we do
this, we will remain with him. But he gives us a warning: he is the ”true”
vine – which means there are false ones. There is only one Christ:
- He is the
only Mediator between God and man, for he is the one who is both God and
Man. No one else qualifies.
- He is the
great source of life; he alone gives life. All others give us over to
- He is also
the head of the Church – which, as we shall see, means that we are to be
obedient to him.
Christ and the Church
helps to know your verbs. If the Church is to be what Christ wants her to be,
the key verb is “remain.”
9“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain
in my love. 10If you obey my commands, you will remain in
my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy
may be complete. 12My command is this: Love each other as I
have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that he
lay down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command.
15I no longer call you servants, because a
servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you
friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
16You did not choose me, but I chose you and
appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will
give you whatever you ask in my name. 17This is my command: Love each other.
18“If the world hates you, keep in mind that
it hated me first.
John 15:9 through John 15:18 (NIV)
Why is Christ
teaching his disciples this? Most of us listen to a teacher for our own profit
– so our parents won’t catch us playing hooky, or to learn a skill, or to
obtain a degree. This teaching was given for joy:
- First, that
Christ (as the head of the church) might have joy in us. Not just that he
would be pleased to have us around, but rather that his surpassing joy
would be found in us.
- To do this,
we must find our joy in him. There we have another “me in him, him in
me.” The joy of Christ and our joy in Christ are that close together…
How are we to
accomplish this? By being obedient to Christ. How obedient? As obedient as
Christ is to the Father. What are we commanded to obey? Love one another.
It sounds so
easy. But recall the example: Christ went to the Cross in obedience to the
Father. The example is the high, holy one.
Is there a
limit to this obedience? Yes, a perfectly natural one, and a perfectly divine
one. Christ laid down his life for his friends (that’s us). You cannot do
more than that, and that is the limit he gives to us.
The result of
this obedience to the command of love is a complete change in the relationship
between God and man. In the Old Testament we read a lot about people being
told to “choose you this day whom you will serve.” We sometimes miss the
phrase, “the chosen people.” Like Israel of old, we are the people chosen by
God – for a new relationship with him.
We are no
longer just servants of God. We are friends. How could this transition
happen? Only at the Cross, where Jesus reconciled mankind to God.
(Reconciliation is expensive, especially for the one doing the reconciling.)
The effect of this transition is awesome: the friends of God will receive
whatever they ask for in the name of Christ.
But does this
really work? Let’s take the test. Do we love each other?
- Do we love
each other in action? Can we say that we care for each other? Are we
known for the fact that the poor among us rely upon the church for
sustenance and aid?
- Do we love
each other in words? Is our speech about our fellow Christians gracious,
or are we constantly carping at someone in the name of Christ?
- Do we love
each other in prayer? Do we go to the throne of grace on behalf of our
fellow Christians, no matter what the circumstances? Robert E. Lee prayed
nightly for Abraham Lincoln.
Church and the World
We must now
take a good look at the relationship between the church and the world. It is
not a pretty sight.
18“If the world hates you, keep in mind that
it hated me first. 19If you belonged to the world, it would love
you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you
out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his
master.’£ If they persecuted me, they will persecute
you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not
know the One who sent me. 22If I had not come and spoken to them, they
would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. 23He who hates me hates my Father as well. 24If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be
guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated
both me and my Father. 25But this is to fulfill what is written in
their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’£
26“When the Counselor comes, whom I will send
to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he
will testify about me. 27And you also must testify, for you have been
with me from the beginning.
John 15:18 through John 15:27 (NIV)
The reality of the dichotomy
Christians, when first exposed to this concept, are puzzled. Why should there
be conflict between the church and the world? As Rodney King once put it,
“People, can’t we all just get along?” There are serious reasons for the
because the methods of the world are opposite the methods of the church.
The world enforces its order – by force. As Mao Tse-Tung once put it,
“power grows out of the barrel of a cannon.”
because the goals of the world are opposite the goals of the church. The
world seeks pleasure; the world seeks gain; the world seeks pride.
Christ’s church seeks the joy of God, the treasures laid up in heaven and
the humility to know who is God.
because the world claims moral supremacy (in one way or another) which
belongs only to God. There can be only one true moral authority.
We should not
be surprised that the world hates the church. It hated Christ first, before
the Church was formed. Why?
my Name.” The Name of God represents his authority to both reign and rule –
and the world claims both those as its own. It is a question of authority:
when God’s commands conflict with the world’s orders, who will be supreme?
But why the
church? Why not just Jesus? Because Jesus has chosen us. Not for our merits,
to be sure, but we are chosen nonetheless. Those in the church possess what
those outside cannot have; if they can’t have it, no one can.
it is because they have not believed God. Those who reject the Gospel are
their own condemnation. It is well said that God drafts no one for hell;
they’re all volunteers.
What should we do about it?
response to this hatred is well known. The true church:
this persecution. We’ve been warned.
when it comes – for it is a sure sign that we are indeed saved.
- Accepts it
with humility; it really belongs to Christ. We are privileged but a
little while to share his sufferings, and then to share his glory.