by Steven Chan
In John 15, Jesus described the relationship between His disciples and Him in terms of the vine (the plant; not the fruit of the vine) and its branches. He said that He was the true vine and that His disciples were the branches of that vine (John 15:5). Jesus also said that His Father was the vinedresser or the keeper of the vine in that He is the Owner and also the One who takes care of the vine. This is a three party relationship. Jesus then explained the Nature and Terms of the relationship so that His disciples would have a better understanding of the relationship they need to have with Jesus and with the Father. He also explained the challenges that the disciples would have with the world, those who are not His disciples. In discussing the relationships, Jesus used “If” statements. These are conditional statements which implies certain consequences/results under those conditions (if they are met). Let’s consider His conditional statements:-
- “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw theminto the fire, and they are burned” (John 15:6)
The required condition: ”Abide in Me”
The consequence for failing to abide in Jesus: “cast out”, “withered” and “burned”.
In 1 Cor 9:27, the apostle Paul wrote about the possibility of him being a ‘castaway’: “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” It is necessary to keep ourselves in subjection to the will of God and thereby abide in Him. Failure to do or stay in the will of God has serious consequences. This conditional statement emphasizes the effort required on our part as disciples of Christ to “abide” in Him.
- “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7).
The positive benefit of “abiding in Jesus” and having “His Words abide in us” is the assurance of God’s favourable response to our prayers. It is important to note that one cannot reasonably expect God to act on our behalf if we claim to “abide in Jesus” but we failed to “let His Word abide in us”. The Bible says in 2 John 9: “Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God: he that abideth in the teaching, the same hath both the Father and the Son.” This conditional statement emphasizes the necessity of abiding in Jesus as well as being guided by His teachings (and not one’s own ideas).
- “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:10).
This conditional statement emphasizes the necessity of “keeping the commandments of Jesus” so that we can “abide in His love”. This debunks the idea that the teaching of Jesus is all about “Grace” and no requirement to keep the commandments of God. Failure to keep the commandments would result in one no longer abiding in the love Jesus. So, while the Bible says that “neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:38-39), it does not follow that if one can still abide in God’s love even when does not keep His commandments.
- “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.”(John 15:14)
Many claim to be friends of Jesus but they refuse to do what Jesus has commanded. They claim that there is no need to keep His commandments for we are all under “grace”. But listen to what Jesus said in Luke 6:46: “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” This conditional statement emphasizes that we can only claim to be friends of Jesus so long as we are willing to be obedient to His teachings.
- “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hatedyou. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own.”( John 15:18-19)
Followers of Christ should not be surprised if the world or unbelievers do not love them or are antagonistic towards them. They have rejected Jesus; that’s why they will also not be friendly towards His followers.
- “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also” (John 15:20)
There are people who will act aggressively against those who are followers of Christ. Jesus said that if they behaved antagonistically towards them, it is because they had already rejected His teachings. So, likewise they will also reject the teachings of the disciples. If one claims to keep the teachings of Jesus, then one will also keep the teachings of the apostles as the witnesses of Jesus (John 15:27) and “the things which I (Paul) write to you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Cor 14:37).
- “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin” (John 15:22)
This does not mean that if Jesus had not come into the world, the world would have no sin! For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). The world has no excuse for the sin of rejecting the salvation offered by God because Jesus had personally come into the world and gave evidence by the miraculous works that He had performed: John 15:24: “If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father.”(John 15:24)
Let us be reminded of the nature and terms of our relationship with Jesus and the Father. We need to abide in Jesus and be His friends by keeping His Words/ His Commandments so that we will remain in His love as well as receive His guidance and blessings. Then we will also be able to bear much fruit (John 15:5, 8).
Failure on our part to abide in Jesus will result in us being of no use to Jesus (apart from Me, you can do nothing – John 15:5; 2 Pet 1:8) and being at risk of being castaway to be burned. The “if” statements remind us of what we need to in order to continue to remain in the love of Christ (John 15:10) as well as to be able to bear much fruit to glorify God (the fruit of the Spirit; the fruit of good works; the fruit of righteousness, and the fruit of soul-winning (John 4:34-38; 6:27; 15:16; Matt 28:19-20; Rom 1:13)