J. N. Darby.
(Notes and Comments Vol. 6.)
- 1. "I am." He speaks. Note "true." Compare Isaiah 5, and note "I"; and compare Isaiah 49 and 52, particularly latter parts.
- 2. "Not bearing fruit," the character of the branch. Also "not." Not it bears no fruit. "And every one bearing fruit," the fruit unto life eternal (see chap. 4:36).
261 - 3. "Already." Note, He says "abide." Compare chap. 14:24, and the instructive exposition of the 17th chapter particularly.
- 1. A general statement of the great bases of truth; verse 5, an application as regards them.
- 5. Note much, this is a promise from the author of it, who is able to give.
NOTE. - The fruit, souls unto life eternal; the end, the Father's glory by Christ Jesus.
- 6. Withering the consequence, for the sap of the divine Spirit is withdrawn, which flows to believers by their vital union with their great Head. Note the contrast: a branch in Him fruitful, productive; cast out as unfruitful, then it withered itself (compare Matthew 5:13). And you may note the order, the seemingly inconsistent but in truth deeply instructive note, "he is cast out"; I mean the way it is stated, indicating that it is declarative of the state of the case. Compare Matthew 7:15, etc., and to whom spoken, comparing chap. 5:1, also chap. 13:10, etc., and 1 Cor. 2, and then note chap. 14:29-31, and the note there.
The Lord, whose I am, and whom I serve, give grace to the least and unworthiest of His servants to minister to His glory in all the wisdom of the righteousness of the saints, gathering fruit unto His glory, which He has sown, and to obtain a place in the many mansions of His Father's house, through grace. Oh! for His appearing. Yet I know the love which causes Him to bear long. Lord's Day, April 8/27. See all 2 Corinthians.
- 7, 8. Note the order of the whole matter repeated as a foundation for "what ye will." Then verse 8: "Herein is my Father glorified" seems in sense parenthetical, and "that" as the end or result of what is noted in verse 7, and thus will ye be, and be manifested, My disciples, so that ye may say, "Let a man so account of us," etc. I find 2 Corinthians particularly a great illustration of our Lord's mind in this place; and, note, it was His own preparation for service: I will show him hosa dei pathein (how much he must suffer). But there are other things and a better purpose for His servants, as Acts 26:16-18; "and he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you," etc, and where is our present stay (see 1 Peter 1:5-6, and from verse 8).
I think the Lord has shown me His service; I mean simply preaching His gospel to every creature in the power of His grace and Spirit. I believe He is teaching me hosa dei pathein, and herein I humbly bless Him, presenting under the influence of His mercies my body a living sacrifice. But I look for ability in every thought simply as abiding in Him, and for direction simply to the will of God, proving it by the Spirit vouchsafed to us.
262 Having planted them in their personal associations, the Lord proceeds to show them their general position. This introduces our Lord as the Head of a new system. "I am the true vine," the remnant of Israel but the stock of every branch. [That] the use of the word is corporate and official character, must be known to every reader, as Psalm 80:8; Isaiah 5:1-2, etc.; Jeremiah 2; Ezekiel 15 to 17, etc. So Matthew 21:33. But our Lord closes all this in Himself: "I am the true vine," in Me the branches are to be. The Father is the husbandman. This is in many respects a blessed and very full instruction or revelation. Our Lord Himself thus (officially) becomes the immediate object of the Father's care. The care is coincident with such care as would be to it (Him). Hence He is the Vine, the perfectness and suitableness to Him is the standard care; the love, the perfect love, which exercises itself on it, but so as to preserve it in the character of holiness in its branches, which belonged to it. This is the truth, this is the office of the Father, in which He is bound to the Son, as He is, so to speak, bound to own the perfect righteousness of the people in the Son, or He would not be owning what must be owned, even Him, as righteous and just to forgive all their trespasses because of Him.
So here is the Father bound in this responsible office of love to take care of the branches according to the love, according to the character of the stock of the Vine in which they are grafted and are. How beautiful the committal of the office to the Father's care! What responsibility, I say, attached to the Father, being as regards the Son! It is indeed His own holiness. So we see in Hebrews 12:9-10. This then is the love, this the constitution, this the standard love proposes and acts upon; left in the hands of the Father's love, Holy Father, or the care of Him as the Vine exercised on the branches viewed as connected with Him. Further, we see the sureness of the work of the vineyard. There may be many husbandmen, but the real husbandman of the vine is the Father. Thank God for such a word. It is "I," also "My Father." Accordingly in result it is not in the imbecility of reputed husbandmen workmen, but in the certainty of the Father's perfectness and love to Jesus.
263 "Every branch," clearly, I think, "in me," the gist of the sentence rests on the connection in it: "I am the true vine," then, "Every branch in me." Next the point of question in the husbandman. Not bearing fruit, this the ground, not the work: it does not bear fruit; He takes it away. It was a branch in Christ apparently subject to the general influences of what flowed through the stock, the vine; but it proved not; it was taken away. Also note hence, as the vine, would lead us to suppose it is spoken corporately, not vitally; and every one bearing fruit, the fruit that is looked for from the tree. The tree is for fruit; the others did not bear fruit. The branch that bears fruit, to wit, that for which the vine was planted, it He purges. The fruit is the sign of vital union. On it the Father's, the husbandman's, care is spent, that it may bring forth more fruit. Deep comfort for them; standard for us practically! - "Already ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you." This is an important passage. Whenever there is vital union with the Lord, whenever there is any God-given faith, the first words of Christ received, so as to know and be identified with His Person, then there is cleansing: "Now are clean through the word."
There may be discipline for conformity, to subject old thoughts to new; but whenever in faith, in vital apprehension, the word has been received, we are pure. The word also, note, is the standard. We have this practically. Care acts in respect of this. It is that which expresses, as regards us, what the Father's care acts in reference to; so that, if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged of the Lord. He spoke: that was the power. The principle was there; they were sanctified. What He spoke was the standard: they were "clean," cleansed from; for His word bears nought of the world. There may be the purifying ministrations, husbandry of the Father, according to that to which we are united; that is, as to inconsistencies, with the emanencies of the old man, with the seed of eternal life planted by the word. And this is where sanctification works in the daily ordinary sense of the word. But we are clean through the word. This is also true in the relative sense of the word as exhibited chapter 13:10, in that blessed passage of the Lord's girded priestly care: "Already ye are pure through the word." The subsequent operation is for correction, subdual, purging, relative to our purity; and this is the true understanding of the common notion of sanctification; not to enter into it more at large here.
264 The word is the standard. The Spirit sanctifies us, begetting us by the word. Conformity to this is the ministration of the Father's care in rooting out the power and bringing into subjection the old man, and this "that more."
This is a very full subject, but we cannot enter into it here, only remarking that it is not only a sanctification of person but the principle of vitality of character from determining power which is here, so that we are "clean," so as to bring fruit suitable to the vine, because the vital principle, life from God, is in us, though there may be much to be subdued and purged, much to be brought into subjection which belonged to the old man, a vessel made to honour, fit for the Master's use, though this has different application. Compare with this passage 1 Peter 1:22-25. This purifying process of the Father's love is most important. All allowance of thoughts not of the resurrection vine (according to the knowledge especially vouchsafed) hinders fruit-bearing power; and hasteners show signs of not being vitally branches. The purging is applied to the branches, not to the fruit, as arid tends directly to the grieving of the Spirit, defiling the channels of its operation, and arresting the progress of the glory of the Father in our service. That which follows is the remedy, and is practical; that is, it is not the fact of the necessary security of vital union but the exercise of the Spirit so united: "Abide in me." It assumes connection: "Now … clean." It is not seek, apply to, or recur frequently, but "abide."
Now, this is a most important principle, the barrier to the inlet of evil, which chokes and defiles the channel of good from God. I do not say God may not overrule it, and is supreme to restore the soul. I know, know in humble dependence and blessing, He is. Still, I say, the portion of the Christian is abide, a most important and searching word of great power to meet Satan with: "Abide in me"; for the strength is great when (practically) it is unmixed, and the channels (as it were) open with God. The streams are then filled with water, and coming fresh. It is not when coming washing the channels, and showing even the mud it carries away (that may be benefit), but flows clear and refreshing, so that there is refreshment within and around, and the mud and dirt in the channel ever so, prove to it so, earthy, is not contracted. Now, the simple precept here is, "Abide in me, and I in you"; that is, as vitally united. This abiding in Christ is the order of His (thus) abiding in us. The abiding there is evidence, too, that we are vitally united. But here it is practically, and hence is the great principle, including most definitely, however, the latter force: It is in those who abide in Me that I abide. This is the verified "and I in you." "Abide in Me." It is in Christ.
265 Moreover, here is the emphasis, the point of association as the communion of all vital energy, the standard and communication of fulness, and thus all fulness is there. But as the branch bears nothing out of the vine, but withers itself, so we bear no fruit but as abiding in Christ, and this practically proportionately, for all the fulness is in Him. It is not merely the fact, but the exercise of the blessing. There is no fruit "of itself"; "unless … abide in me." But this, while it is vitally true, always is proportionately true daily. Then first the relationship between Him, as the Vine, and the Father. Then, as the conclusion of the practical result in this, being by His quickening word, "Abide in me." Then the relation between Him and the branches, the abiding in Him, the intimate connection of which we have seen, with the question of the Father's purging, is therefore thus shown to be the occasion of bearing much fruit; the force of which cannot be mistaken from what we have said, if we have seen internal purging the way for external fruit-bearing, and abiding in Christ the very power of keeping evil as mentally a stranger practically; and hence the flow of healthful sap, no cankered branch, alas, "apart from me."
But not only is this true as to one really in communion with Christ, but, however apparently planted, if one do not abide in Him, he is cast out as a branch not in the tree, withers, is dried up, there is no supply. They gather them, cast them into the fire, and burn them. All this parable brings in the end (in principle) in view, so as to show [it], for this shall be in [the] close. While the individual source of much fruitbearing strength is mentioned before, the Lord here seems to speak of what hung in a measure on their common position, as we know the force of agreement in this: "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done to you." There are two points referring both to their condition or state: "If ye abide in me" (a Church declaration, as it were), "and my words abide in you," if you walk together in fellowship, and My words continue in their power in you, and so the common course of your conduct, then I will answer everything: "Ye shall ask what ye will," seek what power, to carry into effect such a fellowship with Me, "and it shall be done to you." For it was His Father's glory which was just His service, and that He sought, that they should bear much fruit for the Father's glory, as the evidence of His grace was in His children: "And ye shall be my disciples"; ye shall have this also of blessing to your souls, even being my disciples; ye shall here show yourselves really such; and in this, that it was My whole service to glorify the Father upon earth, and in doing this you will show yourselves disciples of such a Master. Thus the double blessing.
266 Then another aspect of this question of the vine opened out: "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you." The Father's glory was in their fruitfulness, and they were His disciples. Well, as He in the world was loved of the Father, so they of Him. Then how had He continued in this love? Keeping His Father's commandments. If they kept His commandments they would abide in His love. All this shows the practical position of the vine under the care held to be over it; not here mystical, and sure in its results, but practical, and exhibited in its plain characters. The object of this was not requisition in judgment, but that His joy might remain in them, the joy of full communion with the Father, as in One that ever had the consciousness of pleasing Him. Christ's joy was to do His Father's will, and the perfect consciousness of His union with Him, and so doing His will.
Now, Christ's joy is our portion (Christ's joy was in His own blessedness of obedience, and His union with the Father), and not only to have the same joy, but to have His joy, and we do stand in Him as in the close: "Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord"; but here that it might abide in you, and so their joy might be full. He knew the blessedness of this earthly fellowship with the Father. In Him this was their portion, and so nothing would be wanting to their joy. But the manner of His joy was perfect obedience. He had loved them as the Father loved Him. If they walked in His commandments, as He in His Father's, the abiding of love would be theirs. Here was a full joy for a full communion. But the assertion was that thus it would be full.
267 There was another point connected with their so standing incorporated on earth, so as to have the full blessing: loving one another. "This," says our Lord, singling it out, "this is my commandment, that ye love one another, even as I have loved you." That is, self-giving-up love, true love. "Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." Now, the Lord is not here speaking of His love to enemies, the manner of God's love to the world, but His love to His friends, the peculiar application of it to them as developed in the previous verses, and connected with their keeping His commandments, universal obedience, which is obedience and nothing else. If I (knowingly) do not obey in one thing, I obey in none, for they are my will. On universality of obedience blessing hangs, and must hang; otherwise God would be showing blessing on what was not consistent with His character, which cannot be. There would be no blessing.
And we cannot but remark how obedience is insisted on here, the preliminary of blessedness, the order of abiding blessedness. The state of the matter is stated in verse 6. Persons in Him, or as in Him, are spoken of; then the practical order; then abiding in Him, and His words in us, is the source of all fruitfulness; then comes the love of it: "Abide in me." But then I have loved: "abide in my love." "If ye keep my commandments," etc. In Christ, and His words the director of our minds, we ask what we will. What lack, then, of fruit, if indeed seeking the Father's glory, as His disciples? Loved of Christ, and abiding in His love, Christ's joy abides in us, and our joy is full. This, while it hangs immediately on the last matter, yet flows from all that precedes in the chapter. Then in the order of it, while it flows from that, it is, "This is my commandment," the central point of this blessing, "that ye love one another, as I loved you." The name of servant (though indeed he is His servant, and nothing but His servant in willingness) no longer attaches to the disciple. He is not set in the place of a servant. He cannot be, for he is a son, a branch, one with Jesus the Vine. He is not so dealt with of the Lord; no longer because they were now viewed (as faithful, obedient servants) as planted in the Vine.
Obedience was the order, but He recognised them as friends. Then He makes known His mind. He tells them all things He had heard of His Father. What friendship! What friend to whom we could tell all things? I am that blessed friend. But the Lord tells all that, indeed known only to Him, and could be known only by Him, He tells it all to them. What friendship! How must the secret of the Father's love be in Him, and on us too; exercised in Him, that we should be the confidants of all that the Father makes known to Him! It was a great and astonishing endearment, and yet Lordship of friendship thus to communicate all His mind. And what was it but all the glory, not merely sent by Him, not in Jewish service to God, though by grace His servants, but as planted in the character of the resurrection friends of Christ?
268 But, though friends, it does not put them in equality of circumstances, though of blessing; there is blessed sureness of grace in it: "Ye have not chosen me." It was not their choice of Him that put them in this position, but that which, while it infinitely enhanced the blessing, gave it the sure settledness of divine love. They could not have put themselves in the place of friends by their choice of Him. They had nothing to communicate to Him, unless their sorrows and their sins, when He had opened His heart in friendship to them. He had treated them as friends, having chosen them as such. In the sovereign certainty of His own choice they had all the blessing. There is always a certain superiority in friendship, lasting friendship. Here, as perfectly lasting, it was entire and perfect superiority, but it brings into the equality of love, and shows its greatness in bringing up into it; not conferred acts (that is God's love to us; though we have fellowship with the Father also), but bringing us into the apprehension of all His will, and Himself treating us on this ground. The sign of friendship is making known one's thoughts, which He does not to others; of perfect friendship, if such could be, unreserve. Christ's is perfect; it has no reserve; nothing which it need, nothing which it wishes, to keep back one point; and in that love [that] is not knit there is a holding back of the heart from another. But Jesus has none such. His love is perfect, and He makes us its sure objects; and the greater the superiority the greater the blessing. And here is the amazing exaltation of the believer, the secret intimacy of all Christ's mind. Amazing love! How is the tone of mind exalted, however little we realise it; how, if we really in any sort fully did so!
So the necessity of God's intercourse with Abraham. He had made him the subject of His purposes, and was bound in His sovereign ways (in love) to him: "Shall I hide from Abraham the thing that I do? seeing," etc.
269 And the same Lord here, the very same Lord in like faithfulness of communion, shall we not say greater majesty, for who is so great a God, who yet humbleth Himself to behold, and treats us [as] His friends, in full unmeasuredness of communion? For why should He keep back anything when He had not kept back Himself? And Abraham was called "the friend of God."
And here note the difference of dispensation; then ordering his children after him, because it was successional; here personal and full unreserved obedience (of heart) to Jesus, so manifested in the flesh, and presenting the way of godliness, personal obedience and affiance to Him. Such is the position and order: friends, and friends to Jesus, and friends in obedience. Here is the only rightful place of friendship; and to this end here that we should go, chosen and set for this purpose, that we should go, and bear fruit, and that the fruit should remain; for it was of living power, so that thus whatever we should ask, being friends, the Father, in His name, He might give it them. They were thus spending their friendship in fruit-bearing to the Father's love to Jesus, and the purpose of divine love in the accomplishment, by the grace of Jesus, of the divine purpose in union with and sent by Him, so that as friends they might ask what they would, and it should be given to them; a sure sign of friendship and unity of spirit. To deny anything in the way of friendship therefore in obedience, as to reserve anything, is to deny the bindingness of love. Still it is, "I have chosen." Being thus knit to Jesus, and bearing the fruit, they were the objects of the Father's necessary care and love. And their being in the way of His purpose (through this grace and the choosing of Jesus) knit up with His glory, He must as it were give them in boundness to Jesus, whatsoever they ask. This is the result of the commandments.
The voluntary though obedient love of Christ was shown even unto death, and so our portion; He towards the Father, we to Him. We should lay down our lives for the brethren. But it is in obedience His perfect love above and beneath, and shown beneath, was shown in death, shown in love to those loved of the Father as of Himself. So we to those loved of Him, as in some sort by His Spirit of ourselves. But the track of this was in long previous patience of perfect love, while that was the Father's commandment, exercising His patience, but knitting His love to them, with Him in His tribulations. He could not gallantly show out His love at a moment's effort. It was far more perfect than this; but having patiently "loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end." The Father had loved Him, yet not so but that He should pass through the appointed trial, wherein and whereby in His own case it was all drawn out. So we; and the path of this is the path of His commandments, the unwearied patience of God's will. He kept His commandments, and abode in His love.
270 And thus the way of Christ's commandments is the present exercise of that fruit-bearing love in which, abiding in it, we find ourselves, and have grace to go through, by His power in us, His service to the brethren to the end. It is the way of that love, where we find the grace that carries us on. And observe the order. Jesus loves us as the Father loved Him; says, "Abide," and "the way"; "If ye keep my commandments, as I my Father's." Well, then, it is not a mere titual legal precept, but "he that hath my commandments." Well, then, this is matter of the spiritual knowledge of love. Then these things are for our joy, and exercised in, and shown in, loving one another as He loved us; that is, to death as His friends. But this was in the Father's will in a course of obedience. Well, He still keeps at the measure of His love here. Whatsoever He hath heard of His Father He hath made known unto us; friends, if we do what He commands; treated as friends in the communication of all His Father has told; thus set in the path of glory, and thereon the other fruit of blessing in it, if identified friendship with Himself, in His name, as placed in the place of labour and fruit; whatsoever we ask to have done of the same Father, our Father, and His Father, and He so give it. Blessed truth!
All this was for their knitting up together as one body, as is manifest from the very position it puts us in, as common partakers of the love of Him as the Father loved Him, set in this common bond. True, the love might be mutually weak when there was feebleness or failure and indeterminateness in keeping the track of love and fellowship, the commandments. But He stated it for them now. This was the way of it, the force, the order of it. So it was with Him as with His people. He had chosen them for this, that they might be as one in the way of it. Their identity with Jesus was the great secret of it, loved of Him as He of the Father. If the world therefore hated them it was no marvel; it hated Him before. If brought into His blessing no marvel if sharing the enmity of what hated the source of it. But it was the secret of love. The secret of love therefore was proved by it: they were not of the world. If they were, the world would have loved it. It had its necessity of love. But they were not, and this broke all their joys, a sad witness in the midst of them. But there was more in it than this: "But I have chosen you out of the world." This, the secret consciousness of this, what the devil was conscious of, of this the leader of the world: "Therefore the world hateth you." No marvel ground of hatred be whose they were. Christ, besides His glory, was God's Elect, and therefore also the world hated Him. This they had to keep in mind; for it would prey otherwise upon their faith. The servant was not greater than his Lord, if identified with Him; of this, their joyous portion, they would have His portion, identified there where His service was. "If me," "you," "if my word," "yours." Blessed identity! (Lord, make it utterly so.) And the reason runs to the source: they will do it for My name's sake. So it has its glory. And this to the fullest point of question: "Because they have not known," what? "Him that sent me."
271 What follows is a deduction that it does involve them in the whole question. They cannot reject Him or hate Him without hating His Father. They do not know, says the Lord, Him that sent Me. But then is this all? Nay, but Jesus had manifested Him, had spoken unto them: "If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin; but now they have no cloke for their sin." His word had been ample to judge all their acts. They had no excuse, for He, the Truth, had spoken. This led His sheep. But he that hated Him hated His Father also. It was true as the Son. But, then, how manifested? Even in doing works which none other man did. The Father's glory and hand were here shown forth, He the Son in unity with Him: "Therefore if I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin; but now they have both seen and hated both me and my Father," for the Father's glory was shown in the works, the Son's working, the voice and the works. But however the voice led, and they inexcusable, yet more might have been done. If no cloak, there might have been, it might be supposed, power to bring out. But what none other man did had been done among them, and the Father's glory shown. They saw and hated both Him and His Father. It was no longer merely the Son's voice, with the Father yet behind, but the works witnessing the Father added. They saw and hated. They were in utter alienation from seen blessedness of all the revelation in Him of the Father and the Son.
272 And why was their evil present offence? The love was gratuitous, and here was the desperate evil: "They hated me," the predicted state, gratuitously, freely, "without a cause." Oh, what a word, a sad and awful, perplexing word, for man, as humbling us as to man's evil nature and corruption! They hated the blessed perfectness of Jesus, freely and gratuitously, "without a cause," as the portion of the saints was "without a cause," so as surely there was no cause of hatred in Jesus. They hated the Lord freely, the uncaused movements of positive evil, free evil; a remarkable word, the reward alike in both a sad and predicted state: "They hated me without a cause," and their reward accordingly. Thus was Christ rejected; thus would the world reject them. But the Father had not. When the Comforter, He who should take their part, was come, whom Christ sent from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who comes forth from the Father, He would bear witness. All this is the answer of testimony to what was rejected, the Son, and the Father in Him, and so they. To them the Spirit was sent, the Witness, the Comforter, "whom I will send to you."
The connection was between Christ and them; hence the appositeness of this. As the Comforter He came from Him, but from the Father, or the testimony asserted by Him would not have been complete thus as to union and testimony from the Lord to them. As the Spirit of truth He cometh forth from the Father; for the witness is to Christ, the Father's witness, the witness of truth from Him, bound to vindicate His glory by reason of His humiliation. The testimony was perfect from the Father. He would witness to Christ to them and to the world, in a just way with them in witness sent of Christ from the Father, when He was to the world, who had not received Him, the sure and certain witness of His glory. They also should bear witness, for they had been with Him from the beginning.
There was to be the double witness of the exalted glory in oneness with the Father which the Spirit sent of Him and from the Father would testify of, which indeed was the glory which He had with the Father before the world was, and of the manifestation of Christ in the flesh, known in all the human life in which both the exercise, the perfectness, the human spotlessness, and the graciousness were brought all out to human manifestation and apprehension, that which, while it was the common spiritual food of every believer, yet in its order is, the one glory, the other Jewish perfectness; so the witness is double. The Spirit, He alone witnesses from above, and the disciples the proper witness from below; that is, upon earth, the actual witnesses as with Him "from the beginning." We may trace this (thereby marked to be Jewish in character) [in] Acts 1:21-22 and chap. 15:28, where the former is introduced. The expression is remarkable, and strongly indicative of the latter and its connection. But it is sufficient to have alluded to this here.
273 John 15:4. No fruit without Christ, not abiding in Him. Verse 5, Abiding in Him, much fruit. Verse 7, Asking what we will, if His words also abide in us. Verse 8, closes this part. Verse 9, Divine love. By this joy full. Verse 12, Brotherly love, perfect through grace. Verse 16, The Father, if true to Christ's actings, must minister all needed power to us, to make things good. Verse 17, Commanded for mutual love; then the world.
In John 14 we have Christ taking His relationship with the Father. First displaying them on earth: "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father," and then (as Man) as Intercessor on high obtains the Spirit, whom the Father sends. Still He is Son of God, a divine Person: He comes, manifests Himself, and the Father and He come and make their abode. And He puts them in His own place on earth, and they ought to rejoice in His going up to His in heaven. It is (as ever in John) the Son, but the Son as Man; but here in relationship with His Father; the Son, who is a Man on earth and in heaven. In chapter 15 it is His own place on earth and in heaven; His official, not personal place. On earth He is the True Vine. Israel was not. His followers are in relationship with Himself in the place He is in. So, gone on high, He sends the Comforter, who testifies of Him, so exalted. He is among His disciples or exalted in chapter 15; in relationship with His Father in chapter 14 and puts us so; Himself being Son withal, by whom we are so.
274 Note, in John 15:22, fol., it is not sins, but sin. Sins, no doubt, they had; but they were not held definitively in the state of sin, had they not rejected Jesus. If man was recoverable, administrative forgiveness would have sufficed (not that the thing was, or really could be, but supposed). But their state before God was a condition of absolute sin, uncloaked hatred, alas! when there was adequate manifestation of Him, of the Son and of the Father. It is a terrible position.
In John 15, we cannot understand the last verses without taking in the aim of the whole chapter. Israel was not the true vine, but had been planted as God's vine under its responsibility. Christ was the True Vine. But how did Israel lose this place (which it had externally) of God's vine? By breaking the law? No. Christ had come, and revealed the Father perfectly. The True Vine was Christ; the Father the husbandman. Israel was cast out, and rejected (as, in Isaiah 49, Christ, who had laboured in vain in Israel, replaces Israel as the servant), not owned as the vine. Christ (the Son) was the Vine; His disciples the branches. It was the presenting of Christ the Son, revealing the Father in word and work, which brought them under this sin and rejection. The old apparent relationship would have continued, and the sin which involved their rejection not been committed, if Christ had not come, and revealed the Father by word and work. Patience could and would support the breach of the law. The coming of Christ proved it. The reception of Christ (the Son revealing the Father) would have superseded the breach of the law. Israel would have been proved not completely evil, man's state remediable, and governmental pardon sufficient and granted. But the revelation of the Father in the Son brought out the full hatred of man's heart against God. There was no cloak or excuse for their sin. They are set aside, and the True Vine brought out to light.
275 John 15. The force of "I am the true vine," and the expression "vine," which does not entirely go out of His Jewish or present association, though taking a new heading of it, and so passing consequently into the Church filled with the Spirit; hence obedience and abiding are pressed; and that as before the Holy Ghost is spoken of as One who would come; but before that the Lord says, "I am the true vine."
The connection of the True Vine with what was Jewish is familiar in Scripture. Psalm 80 may be referred to as the type of this expression. But Israel had failed; it was "the degenerate plant of a strange vine to Jehovah." Christ took the place of this, having left Israel, but Himself the true stock of it; not a Messenger, or Messiah, come to it in that character. He had been rejected, and revealed therein in the previous chapter, the Father; and Himself as the Truth, and object of faith; and the Comforter as the power of known communion with them. Here it was what He came as, but what took the place of what He came to, and was the truth of which it was the form in responsibility. He was not now seeking fruit of the vine. It was degenerate and strange. He only was the True Vine to God. The disciples were the branches, were clean, through the word spoken. It was not branches recognised as such because there. That was the Jewish principle, and so after the flesh. But branches not bearing fruit would be taken away by the Father, to whom Jesus was the True Vine.
Jehovah did not do so with Israel. There was no individualised question of men fruit-bearing (though individuals were cut off for unrighteousness, or even ceremonial evil committed or unrepaired). Branches there might bear no fruit, and remain; but branches in Me, in the True Vine, in Christ, could not. The Father exercised pruning and discipline, and He taketh away fruitless branches. It is the character of the dispensation in the Father's dealings. The power of unity by the Spirit, in the power of the Spirit, was not yet set forth, but the principle of the Father's dealings with branches in Him the True Vine was; which True Vine (the whole scene with Israel being finished) He could now state He was. The Father had respect to fruit-bearing now; fruit-bearing suited to the True Vine; and purged fruit-bearing branches, that they might bring forth more. This was still not yet exactly the power and energy of the Spirit, though by it; He also might work in ministration; but the word Jesus had spoken they were clean by, already clean. This then was said as to Christ and the word before the promise of the Comforter was accomplished, which was the power of unity in His absence. The professed association of Israel with Him formed a vine and its branches, so far as any did so profess. Thus it was true of the disciples. But there was another truth as to them: they were clean by the word.
276 They were to "abide" in Him. If one of them set up for himself to lead, he could not bear fruit. It was not only the truth they were to testify of, but they must have Him as the source of strength and competency also. Without Him they could do nothing. They must be united as well as, and to, be witnesses, to bear fruit; for sap and life was only in Him. The Holy Ghost might be the power of this, as it was of knowledge and communion with the Father and the Son; but as the Father and the Son were the objects presented in the beginning of that chapter, and afterwards the Comforter as the power, so here. It is presented as the True Vine. The power of the Comforter in this properly was reserved for the development of the Gentile admission as one body, a mystery not revealed till the Spirit came. His power as a witness is spoken of afterwards in these chapters. That might be developed in the unity of the body, but was an independent and, indeed, antecedent subject. They were clean, and they were to abide; so He tells them.
He then introduces further precision of application to themselves, but (that being established) not with the same contrast with the Israelitish formal vine. It is not "I am the true vine," but "I am the vine; ye are the branches": you are mere branches; "apart from me ye can do nothing." Though the source of blessing, Jesus had not yet left the place of subjection, as He received all the Father brought to Him; come to do the will of Him that sent Him (though, equally true, He quickened whom He would). So He was a vine, and they branches; and the Father took away, and purged, according to the wisdom in which He judged of fruit. Christ is not entirely gone out of this character, though passing, as it were, into the source of blessing. Hence, note also, the vine is planted on earth, whereas the Church is set in heaven. So fruit-bearing is on earth, and in every aspect the vine is on earth.
277 Note, in John 15 to verse 8, it looks upward in dependence; from verse 9 downwards in love. In verse 16, as Christ had chosen them to go and bring forth fruit; and of course His choice was owned, and the Father would do all for Him (and indeed was Himself glorified by it, v. 8), they, in pursuit of their mission, had only to ask the Father in His name, and He would do whatever they asked. This, in our little measure, so far as we are sent, is a very great comfort. Note also the difference between verses 2, 6, and 4, 7. In the last two the question is of fruit-bearing and help, not of cutting off. Verses 2, 6, it is taking away, casting off. But query further: is not the passage, in its first words, much more Jewish than we have at all yet supposed? I mean in this, Israel (as often observed) was, though a vine, not the true vine. Messiah, called as Jehovah's Son out of Egypt, was the True Vine. But, as first so looked at, are not all professing Jews then in the land at first sight branches in Him; His Father, whom they called their God, the husbandman? Those now therefore who did not bear fruit (not merely such as Judas), all who did not bring fruit (which they could not do unless deriving living grace from Christ) were cut off. The Jews have been so. But there were some (the eleven, and others) who did. These Jehovah, His Father, purged.
Now, this, as to them, had already taken place by His own word to them. They were not therefore to be thus cut off. But then another exhortation comes to abide in Him, so as to bear fruit. Leaving at any time deprived a man of any possible fruit-bearing. In verse 5 a new paragraph begins, where the disciples alone are taken up as branches; and thence professing disciples then (and afterwards) on the earth come on the scene. Verse 5 gives the way, and exclusive way, of blessing; verse 7 the extent of it. From verse 4 on we easily see abiding is the question. Verses 1 and 2 is what was. Verse 3 makes the distinction of the disciples. Verses 1, 2, we have Israel. Verses 3, 4, now they are clean the need of abiding not to be in the case of verse 2.
If any exclude open adversaries as already distinct from branches, and reckon only those who in a public way (the world had gone after Him, followed Him), I have nothing to say. It does not, to my mind, alter the case: but I add that the epistle seems to me to go greatly on this ground; only, of course, further on in the history; only abiding was the grand question; but even then not of neglecting the great salvation preached by the Lord; though, on the other hand, the heavenly character of the calling is pressed, and they were then pressed to go outside the camp, bearing Christ's reproach. Still, as to the past position (now breaking up) they are told that Jesus suffered without the gate, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood. Adversaries, of course, have for themselves taken an outside position; but the non-abiders seem then to get into it. On the whole, the path is dependence and obedience; the comfort, full supply, and perfect love. The position of the Lord in the seven churches is not the exercise of judgment; but He stands in a judicial position, and takes judicial cognisance of them.
278 It is remarkable, the severity with which He speaks, compared with His patient and forgiving grace to individual saints; because it is the professing Church, and a public witness to be given to the glory of God. Losing first love is enough to warn of excision, in spite of labour and toil and patience. But there is a great principle in this. It was departure, the great principle of ruin in the creature. Indeed, in Laodicea this is the ground of judgment. "Kept my word" is a great thing at the close; for "he that keepeth my commandments, he it is that loveth me." The Judge, too, is remarkably characterised. Not Jehovah and the Son of Man, but the divine Person of the Son of Man. So He judges, and from the beginning I rather think somewhat is right, chap. 2:4; compare verses 14-20; for there "oti" seems better translated "because."