Insights into the Gospel of John: Chapter 15

By Lloyd Ellefson

"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser." (v.1) Our Lord is the true vine. Without a true vine, there can be no false ones. The Father planted Him, pruned Him, and caused Him to do His will on earth. Jesus came to reveal God as His Father and our Father. At a time when people believed in multiple gods, God revealed Himself to Abraham, the son of an idol-maker, as the one true God. Israel believes in only one God, but its idea of God is wrong. The church believes in three Gods, so its idea of God is also wrong.

"Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit." (v.2) Just as pruning is necessary in nature, so it is also for us. We grow in times and seasons. Every time we have produced fruit, a new cleansing is needed so we can get to a deeper level of understanding; this brings us into a new season of a more productive life. Only the branches that are in Him are productive. He takes away the branches that do not bear fruit; they then dry up and are burned. (v.6)

"You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you." (v.3) If we have been cleansed by the word, we know that something needed to be washed away. We need to be cleansed of our wrong conceptions and mistaken identity of who we are. Only by the washing of the word can we be cleansed of these! Without a true identity, there cannot be a false one, even as without true money there cannot be counterfeit money. The word which Jesus speaks to us needs to be heard. If we do not hear His word, it will not bring life and a new sense of being in us. Life releases us from all things which cause death, and from death itself.

Only those who are spiritual can hear spiritual words. The natural man cannot understand them, so he thinks he can never be clean. He remains full of guilt-consciousness or self-justification. Hopefully we recognize that we cannot cleanse ourselves from dead works, evil thoughts, lusts, and worldly desires! Trying to change ourselves does not work! Only the hearing of the word will cleanse us.

The parable of the vine and the branches, the cleansing and the purging, present spiritual concepts. Jesus Christ is a spiritual vine, and we are spiritual branches that grow out of Him. The branches that are cut off are put into the fire of judgment. All life comes from the Father, for He is the root, the source! His life comes to us through Christ, the vine, the Word of God. His words are spirit and are life, and THEY change us!

Our realization has been clouded by our finite minds and our lack of spiritual discernment. We have been born with faith in earthy things, so our hope is based on this understanding. We think that eternal life is linked to a resurrected physical body and to material prosperity. In Christ we are released from this, and in Him we come into a new dimension of understanding!

To the natural man statements like, "the meek will inherit the earth," and "you are a royal priesthood", do not make sense. These statements refer to God's understanding of heaven and earth; the new heavens and the new earth represent new dimensions of understanding. God understands all things, and He reveals them to Jesus Christ, and Christ reveals them to us. Jesus Christ operated in a higher dimension than we do. In Him we begin to grow into the realization which Christ has! God brings us further revelation of Himself in the Christ!

Christ was given to us while we were yet sinners. He promised that He would never leave us nor forsake us! This includes every level of relationship with Him, and every level of realization of Him. He is the truth - and truth can never forsake anything, for it will eventually destroy everything that is not truth. God's goal is to bring us into ALL TRUTH - all truth being Christ! He has provided the Spirit for that, and He has promised to lead us into all truth!

"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me." (v.4) Christ is the vine. It is impossible for us to bear fruit unless we abide in the vine, for the word of God comes to us through Christ. Through Christ we receive our ministry or priesthood, and through us it comes to the world. Our oneness with Christ remains even when we feel condemned. We do not understand our oneness with God if we think it depends on our prayers and Bible reading. Though we are not condemned because of our neglect, our true desire is to have a relationship with the Lord and to fellowship with Him!

"I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing." (v.5) This is figurative. We must come to the realization that without Christ, who is the truth and the Spirit of truth, we cannot be productive. Without Christ, the things we do will be subject to vanity, for they are done in vanity. Those efforts and works are futile because they are not produced by the life that is in the vine. We need to realize that our union with the vine is preserved without our efforts.

However, we don't always want this union because we want to take the credit for God's blessings. However, God's blessings are not the result of our good thoughts and deeds, nor do they give us brownie points with God. There is no blessing on self-enhancement, and we must be careful that we do not use the gifts of the Spirit for that purpose! All good deeds that are rooted in self-aggrandisement do not bear spiritual fruit. We need to be ruled by the Spirit of Christ. Deeds that have their source in Christ will bear fruit!

"If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned." (v.6) If one of our extremities is separated from our body, it withers and dies. So anything separated from Christ, the living spiritual truth, will be in death. People who are in Christ, yet do not bear fruit, will be gathered and cast into the fire where they are burned. Fire represents judgment. The first they in this verse, refers to people of the world. The world will judge those who call themselves Christians, but don't live as if they have a God.

Christians who desperately try to change laws and legislate righteousness, are only working for external morality. Those who demonstrate against abortions, etc., even to the point of being destructive and abusive, show by their actions that they do not believe that God is at work. God is calling people out of the world; He is not changing the world, but He is changing us! He was not of this world and neither are we! If His kingdom were of this world, His servants would fight.

"If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you." (v.7) This is not meant to be taken legalistically. Saying the words, "In the name of Jesus", does not automatically ensure an answer to prayer. Many of these prayers have gone unanswered. When we abide in Jesus, His Spirit of understanding and His realization of God will cause us to pray according to the will of God, thereby bringing answers to our prayers. It is not begging, but abiding!

It is very difficult for us to wait for God to tell us what to pray! So often we tell God how our problems should be solved because we think we have the answer - a painless way! We think we know what will bring glory to His name. But in Romans 8 God tells us that we don't know how to pray! That is so hard for us to believe! We have to lay aside our own ideas and let the Holy Spirit bring us knowledge of His will. Seeing things from God's point of view, makes them look very different. The Spirit has to teach us how to pray for the solution of the problem. Only the Father has the answer, and this answer is conveyed to us by the Holy Spirit!

"My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples." (v.8) Disciples are learners. We learn by listening and obeying, thus bearing the fruit of the Spirit. This glorifies the Father!

"Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 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." (vv.9-10)

Notice how Jesus uses the word abide over and over again! Abiding in Him is the key to bearing fruit in Christ! Knowing the scriptures and having the various facts about Jesus at our finger tips, does not prove that we are abiding in Him. Abiding in Him means we are abiding in the Spirit of truth, life and resurrection. Jesus Christ has given up His individual entity to become a corporate entity - an omnipresent Spirit of truth and life. Abiding in His Spirit is abiding in Christ! Walking in His Spirit is walking in Him! Abiding in Christ is a life of oneness in subjection to Him. Christ reigns because of His subjection to the Father! We also reign because of our subjection to Christ! When all things have been subjected to Him, He will be most happy to turn everything over to the Father!

If our spiritual realizations are in the carnal mode, we get images instead of reality! An image is not the reality. In Christ we become mediators between natural man and the infinite God; so Christ, the Mediator, takes us out of the natural man and places us into the spiritual man! Our images disappear when we enter the holiest place, and are enveloped in life!

"These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." (vv.11-13)

We can only lay down that which we have, like money, time, opinions and earthly affection. God has poured out His love into our hearts through His Spirit, so we have it and can love with it. (Rom.5:5) This love is greater than any earthly love or affection. Jesus wants us to love others with the same kind of love with which He loved us! This love has been poured into our hearts by the Spirit for us to use.

We don't have the love of God in our old nature. Often we feel the pressure to overcome personal dislikes so that we can love others. Romans 3 tells us that no one is righteous and no one is good. The love we have for family, friends and relatives is not necessarily the love of God. All our natural love is a perversion of the love of God. If we don't understand what the love of God is, we'll use what we think is love. This necessitates a suppression of our desires and opinions, and we become hypocrites. This is not the love of God.

The love of God is more than natural love and affection; it is sacrificial love because it lays down its life. If we suppress something, we still have it; we are only keeping it in abeyance. In laying down our life we give it up completely. The love of God has God as its source, and it comes to us in the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ demonstrated God's love! Loving God means loving the same things He loves, like righteousness and truth. We love them in whatever way they are manifested. We cannot love the flesh, for God does not love the flesh; neither does He love evil. We are not to know anyone according to the flesh. We are to love the CHRIST in people!

John wrote, "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us..." (1 John 4:10) Humanity does not know how to love God. It only has natural affection. We can only possess the love of God after it has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. We know God does not love the things of this world. 1 John 2:16 says, "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world." These things bring forth a world system - a rulership which is not from God. Jesus has overcome that rulership! He said, "Fear not, for I have overcome the world."

We are to overcome just as He overcame! He overcame all the lusting of the flesh, the pride of life, etc. The affection of the world found no place in Him. When the affection in the world system blossoms, it becomes lust and results in divorces and abuse. Family life disintegrates. Our nation is suffering from this because people are living in, and according to the world system. The corruption in the world is not going to decrease, for corruption cannot put on incorruption. We overcome the rule of the world by receiving the rule of the Spirit - just as Jesus did!

In the book of Revelation the expression, "Come up hither" or "Come up here" is frequently used. This is the call to go where Christ is living, that we may be where He is! The call of the Spirit is ascending us out from among the dead, and into a spiritual realization. This gives us a new understanding and grasp of things and new desires. Legalism is different; it demands that we negate our love for the world, suppress our own desires, and be martyrs bound to the legal requirements of the law. If we have died to our old nature, those desires are gone! We keep His commandments out of a desire to do what He wants us to do.

"You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you." (vv.14-15) The law makes servants, but the Spirit makes sons. Christ's relationship to the Father had an effect on the disciples. Jesus Christ came to express God - not Himself. Since the Son alone knows the Father, He is the only one who can reveal Him! Christ brings us to the Father, and reveals what the Father has said.

The love of God is expressed through us as we love the same things Christ loved. Israel didn't have the love of God because they were constantly rejecting Jesus and the things He said. This rejection proved they did not love God, for had they loved Him, they would have kept His commandments. We can't force people to love God; God's love has to come to us from God and we lavish it on others. It is manifested in us as we love the things God loves.

"You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you." (v.16) Jesus chose His disciples! God also chooses us to be the bride of His Son! Jesus Christ spoke of eternal things - of fruit that remains! Earthly affection is not fruit that remains, for it cannot be trusted, and it passes away. When we produce spiritual fruit, our petitions will be according to the nature of Christ, and these prayers will be answered!

"This I command you, that you love one another. If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you." (vv.17-18) We are to love the Christ in one another. The world hates Jesus. Everything that comes out of the world is anti Christ. The world hated Jesus and it will also hate us because we have Christ within us. It hated Christ from the beginning; it is not going to change, so why try to change it?

"If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you." (v.19) If the world loves you, you have a problem, for then you are of the world. This world is a system of material things, governed by earthy thoughts, by a god of this world who cannot operate in spiritual things. It does not have an understanding of God so it only has a faith system that works through natural things. This constitutes the rule of this world. This rule will never change for the better.

However we are not of this world; we are of God! We have been taken out of it by experiencing a death to the humanity that loves this world and feeds on it. Therefore we can readily understand that Jesus will not come back to change the world. He comes to us spiritually to take us out of this world and to put us into another world.

The faith of Jesus Christ displaces all worldly things. The world is at enmity with the things of Christ; it constantly urges us to rely on self to make us happy, healthy and rich. We have to battle against these things. The faith that is in Jesus Christ works in us to overcome this world system, so we can truly trust God! That is why we have to abide in Christ! Then we won't worry or be anxious for the things of this world.

"Remember the word that I said to you, `A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also." (v.20) They will persecute us even as they persecuted Jesus; but those who keep His word will also keep ours. Isn't that wonderful!

"But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me." (v.21) The world does not know God, regardless of the number of cathedrals they build and the amount of knowledge they accumulate. The world pressures us to think as it thinks, to trust its system and receive its counsel. If we abide in Christ we will not listen to the world, so it will persecute us. We are not of this world - we are Christ's!

History reveals that people did not know God until Jesus Christ came. People try to know God through meditation, visualization and metaphysical thinking. However, a true desire for God can only be fulfilled in Jesus Christ! Spiritual fulfillment can only come through the revelation of Jesus Christ. There is no true fulfillment in the occult, Eastern religions, transcendental meditation, etc.

The degree to which we bear fruit will show the degree of our identification with Christ. Christ is the truth, and He and the Father are one! The Holy Spirit teaches us that there is only one true God; this causes us to give up our multitudinous natural ideas about God. Living and abiding in Jesus Christ proves that we have been chosen by Him and are receiving the things of God. God has all authority, and He has given all judgment to the Son. That means people will only be judged by the Son - not by the occult, nor by their own ideas, standards and religions; they will all be judged by the truth - by the revelation that is in Jesus Christ!

Jesus came as an individual, gave up His individuality, and became a corporate Man. He is the last Adam because the first Adam ends in Him. He is the antithesis of the first Adam, for in him all die, but in Christ all are made alive; in Adam death spread upon all men, and in Christ life spread upon all men! The exchange from the death realm of the carnal mind to the life realm in Jesus Christ comes to us in a conscious realization. In Christ we are edified, ascended and enlightened by the Spirit of God! Here we see the Father of all things - the Father of all spirits, for He has brought us into being. He is one God and the only source of truth and power! The one true revelation of God in Jesus Christ will judge all men.

"If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin." (v.22) If Christ had not come, people would be completely engulfed in their own realizations - engulfed in what they have, what they have conceived in their natural mind, and the messages they have received from different spirits. Now that Christ has come as the truth, it is being revealed who has a heart for God and who doesn't. Some only want religion and heaven, and are satisfied with a God who will burn people in hell forever. Others want to love God and abide in Christ, so they unflinchingly take the persecution from the world and from worldly Christians. He who has set his hand to the plow and looks back is not worthy of the kingdom!

Before Christ came, people were in ignorance, and this ignorance was an excuse for their sin. Now that Christ has come as the truth and life, they no longer have that excuse. So man no longer has a cloak to cover his wrong thinking about God. He may think he does, but he doesn't. Light has come to shine into the darkness of man's ignorance, that he may receive truth.

"He who hates Me hates My Father also." (v.23) Those who reject Christ, also reject the Father, for Christ was the exact expression of the Father. Those who reject Him, actually hate Him.

"If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well." (v.24) The works Jesus did were basically done in Israel. Great miracles had been done in the past; but such miracles as Jesus performed had never been witnessed before; nor had such complete confidence and faith in the Father ever been manifested!

We need a mind to perceive and respond to what is being said. But Jesus did miracles where there was no mind to bring forth a response! For example, Lazarus and the widow's dead son did not have a mind to perceive what Jesus said to them. Neither did the sea that He stilled, nor the withered hand that He healed. Yet His word brought life to Lazarus and a dead boy, restored the withered hand and stilled the sea. God's unlimited power did not depend upon the mind's ability to receive. It came from Christ's realization of who God is and the greatness of His power! The helpless man at the pool of Bethesda was looking for help from the water. Jesus did not try to change this man's mind, but spoke a creative word which brought life!

One of our biggest problems consists of trying to convince carnally-minded people to receive spiritual truth. We are constantly at odds with those who hold the things of Christ in their carnal minds. Paul told us to let the same mind be in us which was in Jesus Christ. Jesus revealed what was in His mind when He declared that He did not depend upon Himself. How hard it is for us to subject ourselves completely to God! We always want to depend on our own thoughts of how God will help us when we are ill or in some kind of trouble. When we let the mind of Christ dwell in us, we will subject ourselves to God and His desire for us. At this point you may say, "Wait a minute. God has promised to give us our heart's desire." This is true. But if we abide in Christ, we will want the same things He wants for us, and God will be very happy to oblige us!

We have a problem with abiding in Christ and letting His mind rule us. We first want to understand what God wants to accomplish before we trust Him. Christ, who is our life, mediates the same word of life which came to Him. This word cannot be processed by the carnal mind because that mind wants to be in control. In fact, the natural mind cannot believe it. For example, the natural mind could not comprehend the calming of the sea. Seeing a boisterous sea from a boat makes us realize our helplessness! But Jesus was not bothered by outward appearances, because He was not harboring human concepts in His mind. He was releasing Himself to God, for He wanted God to do His work! He was careful not to adulterate the things God was saying.

This should also be our concern. Our part is to present the truth; changing other people's minds is up to the Holy Spirit. Glory belongs to the Lord. We continue to testifying of who God is, etc., for we want our words to create a new sense of reality in them. Spiritual words will create a new sense of realization in us in areas where we are not really abiding in Christ.

"But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, `They hated Me without a cause'." (v.25) The people hated Jesus without a cause! Just think, the people crucified someone who was kind to people and healed them. He did not demand anything from the government. He was not armed, He did not have an army, nor did He start a revolution. There was no cause to hate Him; their fears were unfounded for He never planned to take over the kingdom of this world. Since Christ's kingdom is not of this world, His disciples had no reason to fight, and Pontius Pilate and the people had no reason to worry. People simply hated Him for demonstrating a true realization of God!

People are still hating Him without a cause! We are not to give people a cause to hate us! They will simply hate us because their ideas belong to this world's system and ours don't. The same world system that rejected Jesus Christ, rejects us! I'm sure we have all experienced this to a greater or lesser degree.

However, the Jews were afraid that they would lose the authority of the law of Moses and their ideas about the law. Certain offenses, like adultery, carried the death penalty by stoning. But the REAL penalty for disobeying the law of God is spiritual death, and they already carried that penalty within them! They were already experiencing the death that is in the carnal mind without being stoned physically. When Christ released the woman caught in adultery from the death penalty, He knew that all people are guilty and already under the death penalty. This is spiritual. In Adam we are all dead!

"When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me." (v.26) Here Jesus again mentions that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. In Acts 2:33, referring to Christ, Peter said, "...and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit..." Jesus received the promised Holy Spirit at the Jordan River. At that time He came out of the law into sonship, and received the Holy Spirit. The Father gave the Spirit to Christ, and Christ gives Him to us. The Christ in us has the ability to communicate a new realm of understanding to us and to others.

Truth is in the spiritual realm. The Spirit of truth is truth itself, and proceeds from the Father who is the source of all truth. The Holy Spirit is the Comforter, the Helper. So truth helps us and comforts us! Christ baptizes us in the Holy Spirit and with fire - fire being spiritual judgment. The anointing we receive leads us into all truth because it testifies to truth. Spiritual gifts and prophetic utterances are no excuse for pride.

"He will testify about Me." (v.26b) Who is this "Me"? Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was also the Son of Man. The Son of Man is a corporate man. When Jesus received the Holy Spirit, He received the testimony of sonship, and Jesus testified to His sonship by calling God His Father. When we receive the Holy Spirit, we also receive this testimony, for the Spirit causes us to cry, "Abba! Father!"

Paul said we should prophesy according to our faith. Unless we have an understanding of the Spirit of truth, we will prophesy according to natural thinking, i.e., the physical return of Jesus to change the world, the restoration of natural Israel, the rebuilding of the temple, going to heaven and living in the city of gold. He will not bring us fantasies, such as visions of people picking blossoms, saying that this typifies what God will cause to blossom in their life. These are carnal thoughts and are not conceived by the Spirit of truth!

The Spirit of truth is truth, and He is the truth in us, bearing testimony of Christ! As He testifies, He takes the things of Christ and gives them to us. By bringing us spiritual truth, He leads us into all truth. The word "Messiah" means "anointed". He will never be greater than He is right now, for He never changes - He always remains the same. Our desire for deeper truth is often expressed as a desire for a greater anointing. But if we want a greater anointing, we actually want a greater Christ. So we don't need a greater anointing; however we do need a greater desire for truth! We need to realize that all truth is Christ! Spiritual truth opposes natural truth, and natural truth opposes spiritual truth! The flesh and the Spirit always oppose each other; they are enemies. The flesh lusts against the Spirit! So the battle rages on. Since the flesh only has natural truth, Christ has to bring us spiritual truth!

"And you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning." (v.27) They had been with Him from the beginning of His ministry, so they could testify of Him!

God bless you! Amen.

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