Ecclesiology 007John 15:1-17 • Dr. Andy Woods • December 10, 2017 • Ecclesiology
12-10-17 Lesson 7
Good to see you all; I hope you enjoyed the snow or the global warming. If you need a handout just put your hand up. And let me invite your attention to John’s Gospel, John chapter 15 and verse 1. If you have been tracking along with us in this study, we started a few weeks back a study called Ecclesiology, which is the doctrine of the church. It’s the area of systematic theology or biblical, topical type of study, trying to figure out what has God revealed about this church that we’re a part of, this new man, the body of Christ. We started off with a definition of the church, the church literally means called out ones. So the church would consist of all people, Jew and Gentile, on equal footing, who have trusted in the Messiah that was rejected by the leadership of first century Israel. They become part of this new man or body called the body of Christ.
And from there we spent some time looking at the distinction between the universal church and the local church. And we worked through that chart. And from there we move into, or have moved into Roman numeral III here, the word pictures of the church. You know, as the saying goes a picture paints a thousand words. And so what God has given us is about seven pictures of what the church looks like, word pictures of metaphors.
The first six of these we’ve already talked about which just leaves today number 7, which I think we can finish today. There was the shepherd/sheep imagery, we talked about that. The head/body imagery, also the bride/groom imagery and everything that entails. The temple imagery, the imagery of high priest/priesthood, which we talked about last time. And also the imagery of the church as the pillar of truth. That just leaves one more, right? So one of the images, the seventh image that God has given us in the New Testament concerning the church, is the image of the vine and the branches. And if you were with us when we were going through John’s Gospel we’ve done extensive teaching on it and I don’t want to reteach everything we did there but I do want to kind of bring, as Peter the Apostle said, bring some things to your remembrance concerning this seventh word picture, the vine and the branches.
The vine and the branches discourse, or information takes place in what is called the Upper Room Discourse. It’s called the Upper Room because Jesus taught these things where? In the Upper Room. And the things that He taught here are very, very different than what He taught on the Olivet Discourse, also delivered on the same week, the Passion Week, the final week of Christ’s life on earth prior to His crucifixion. The Olivet Discourse, given on the Mount of Olives, is in Matthew 24 and 25, and there He is basically outlining information about the nation of Israel and her future. The Upper Room Discourse is completely different, He is in a different location, it’s a different day although it’s the same week. And He is with the apostles (then disciples) in the Upper Room. The audience consists of just twelve people.
And very early on in this discourse Judas, the only unbeliever, leaves. You’ll see a record of that in John 13:19-21. So when Jesus starts to speak from that point on, including what He’s saying here about John 15, about the vine and the branches, He’s talking to eleven believers. And that becomes a big deal because that largely controls how you interpret this because what He’s going to deal with are branches in the vine and branches out of the vine. And people say that’s the difference between a believer and unbeliever, right? The branch in the vine is the believer; the branch out of the vine is the unbeliever and it gets tricky because he talks about a branch being thrown into the fire, verse 6, so people say well, the branch out of the vine must be an unbeliever that goes to hell. And to interject all of that into the Upper Room Discourse here in John 15 is to completely ignore the audience. He’s speaking to a specific audience of eleven saved people. The only disciple whose salvation is in doubt is Judas, who’s already left (in John 13).
So what I largely believe is happening here is in the Olivet Discourse He says farewell to Israel and outlines her future. But that’s not what he’s doing here in the Upper Room Discourse. He’s saying hello to the church. What triggered the Olivet Discourse, when you go back to the beginning of Matthew 24, were questions about the destruction of the temple. Jesus made a statement about the temple and He said all these stones will be left unturned. And they said tell us when these things will be and what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age. [Matthew 24:3, “As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?’”]
So Jesus says okay, let’s talk about that. And He talks about the tribulation period, the coming kingdom, the conversion of Israel in the tribulation period. So the conversation there… and I kind of struggle even with the term “Olivet Discourse” and “Upper Room Discourse,” we get the idea that it’s like the Sermon on the Mount where He’s standing in front of a bunch of people giving a sermon. And these things are probably better said the “Upper Room Conversation” or the “Olivet Conversation,” because He’s talking to a small group.
So the question was about the destruction of the temple and the end of the age and Jesus explains all of that in conversation form, in Matthew 24 and 25. And here, delivered a different day, same week, different location, is the Upper Room Discourse, which generally starts in chapter 13 and goes through chapter 17. And the question that triggered the whole thing is He is announcing His departure, and these disciples had been with Him for over three years and they were very troubled by the idea that He was leaving. And this is where He begins to explain, “Do not let your heart be troubled,” He begins to explain it’s actually to your advantage that I go away because when I go away, He, the Helper, or the Paraclete in Greek, or the one who comes alongside to assist (the Holy Spirit) will come to you and be in you for how long? Forever!
So it’s actually to your advantage that I’m leaving and in the process He starts to unveil the resources that are going to come upon the church, beginning in Acts 2, resources that they knew a little bit about but not really much. They knew about the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is active in the Old Testament. What they didn’t know is the Holy Spirit was going to live in them forever. So it’s actually to your advantage that I’m leaving, He says, because once I go the paraclete will come.
And in this whole conversation He starts to outline great truths of the church in seed form, yet to be born. And I think He says in this discourse three times, rough paraphrase here, I’ve got many things to tell you but you cannot bear it now. [John 16:12, “‘I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.  But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth….” So what He is doing is He is revealing in seed form truths about the church yet to be birthed, and it will be the responsibility of the apostles, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, to amplify these truths, to build on these truths, which they do in their 27 letters, particularly the epistles (or the letters) and particularly John is going to write five books. 1 John is, I believe an unpacking, or an amplification of what Jesus says here in John 15 concerning the vine and the branches.
So Lewis Sperry Chafer, in his systematic theology makes this statement which I agree with, he says: “The Upper Room Discourse, in which the above passage is found, is the seed-plot of that form of doctrine which is later developed in the Epistles. Is it not strange, therefore, that the Apostle Paul takes up this great theme further in elucidation.” It’s not just Paul that did it (and Paul, of course, wasn’t here when these things were said, but the Spirit came upon Paul that came upon all the others. So Paul is going to elucidate these truths; John is going to elucidate these truths, Peter is going to greater amplify and elucidate these truths. And so that’s why it’s completely valid, to my mind, to see the divine branches imagery as a portrait, a picture, a caricature in infant form of the coming church, explaining our relationship with the Lord.
So I have this list here and I’m not going to talk through the whole list, there’s four slides, but I just want you to be aware as you look at this how many doctrines we have in the New Testament epistles, letters, which owe their origin to this conversation here, called the Upper Room Discourse. And with each of these I have verses from the Upper Room Discourse and where that truth is later picked up in the epistles and developed further. So I won’t refer to all the passages, you can look up those on your own.
What are some of seed truths you find in the Upper Room Discourse that are later amplified in the epistles?
- The believer’s oneness in Christ. [John 17:20-23, Ephesians 2:11-22].
- The Spirit’s permanent residence in the believer. [John 14:16; Ephesians 4:30]
- The believer’s union with Christ, [John 14:20, Galatians 2:20, Romans6:1-14]
- The believer’s opposition to the world. [John 15:18-19; James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17]
- The necessity of the believer to stay in fellowship with Christ, that’s going to come out here in in the vine and the branches. [John 13:10; 15:1-7; 1 John 1:5-7, 9]
- Abiding in Christ, as a prerequisite for fruit bearing, we’re going to see that this morning, [John 13:1-20, Philippians 2:5-11]
- The believer’s election, [John 15:16, Ephesians 1:4]
- Christ as the ultimate model of sacrificial living and service, [John 3:1-20; Philippians 2:5-11]
- The necessity of divine discipline in the believer’s life, [John 15:2; Hebrews 12:5-11]
- Satan as the god of this age, [John 12:31; 14:30; 61:11, 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2]
- The defeat of Satan at the cross [John 12:31; 16:11; Colossians 2:15; Hebrews 2:14]
- The Spirit as the inspirer of New Testament Scripture [John 14:26; 16:13, 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20- 21
- The Spirit as the illuminator of all Scripture, [John 14:26; 16:13; 1 Cor. 2:14; 1 John 2:20, 27.]
- Christ’s provision of peace in the midst of adversity, [John 14:27; Philippians 4:7] You know, we think of Paul talking about that in Philippians but Paul is just building on what Christ said in John 14:27..
- The necessity of the Spirit’s convicting ministry as a prerequisite for salvation John 16:7- 11, 1 Corinthians 2:14; 2 Corinthians 4:4.
- The normalcy of trials and tribulations in the present age (John 16:33.
- The believer as the ultimate overcomer [John 16:33; 1 John 4:4; 5:4-5]
- Christ’s present session at Father’s right hand [John 14:12-14; 17:15, Hebrews 7:3b, 25.
- The power of prayer [John 14:12-14; Ephesians 6:18-20; James 5:16.
- The inerrancy of Scripture, [John 17:20; 2 Timothy 3:16]
- Disclosure of what we would call Eschatology or things to come [John 16:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12.
And that’s just a list that I created, I found at least 21 ideas and you could probably go through here and find more. But there are, as Lewis Sperry Chafer said, “Seed Truths” which would be later watered and amplified the apostles. And one of those seed truths is this imagery of the vine and the branches. So with that introduction in mind we’re just going to kind of move today, verses 1-17 of John 15 and I can’t comment on every little concept here but I’ll bring up things as they are appropriate.
Notice, if you will, John 15and verse 1, “I am the true vine, my Father is the vinedresser.” So we have two characters here, we have the vine. The vine would be who? Jesus Christ. Now the Father is the caretaker of the branches that come from the vine, so who would those branches be? That would be us, believers in Christ. So who is He speaking to here? He’s speaking to eleven saved people. So the eleven saved people, and us by way of extension or the branches, the vine is Jesus Christ and the caretaker of the branches emanating from the vine is the Father.
And then notice, if you will, verse 2, it says, “Every branch in Me,” now that prepositional phrase “in Me” is a big deal because when you study this out in John’s Gospel what you’ll discover is that the same prepositional phrase is used to describe members of the Trinity. Jesus, all of the tiime, talked about the Father in Me, I in the Father. Now would you say that the Son is pretty safe in His position in the Trinity? I mean, is the Son going to lose His place in the Trinity? I don’t think so! That’s an eternal relationship. So when Christ here takes the exact same prepositional phrase “in Me” and applies it to the Christian even though these verses talk about pruning and fire and all kinds of things, what He’s saying here is you’re eternally secure. The eleven that he’s talking about are just as eternally secure as is the Son in the relationship to the Father. See that?
And if you’re a student of John’s Gospel it doesn’t come as any front page news does it because back in John 10:27-29 Jesus makes a statement there that’s one of the strongest verses on eternal security in the whole Bible. He says in John 10:27, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;  and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish;” that’s a double negative in Greek, a double negative is this can never happen, they can “never perish,” it’s the strongest negation you can have. It’s like no with five exclamation points after it. The Spanish version is no way Jose. “I give them eternal life, they shall never perish, neither shall anyone” now what would “anyone” include? It would include the devil, it would include the world system, it would include unbelievers, it would even include yourself. Doesn’t “anyone” include “anyone”? “…they shall never perish, neither shall any one snatch them out of My hand.  “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” And we’ve done strong teachings on John 10 in our series on soteriology, going into the Greek and all of that kind of stuff.
So by the time you get to John 15 there shouldn’t be any doubt in anybody’s mind that if you’ve trusted in Christ you’re eternally secure. And this prepositional phrase “in Me” that’s used to describe members of the Trinity in their relationship with one another, cements the deal, seals the deal. So he says, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away.” Now the better translation is not “takes away” but “raises up.” And when we were in John we talked about the Greek there and that’s a better translation, “raises up” meaning that’s what you did with these branches in the ancient world. You raised them up if they weren’t fruitful so that they could become fruitful; you’d adjust their position so that they can become fruitful. And this is what the vinedresser, the Father, is doing in all of our lives. He is at work all of the time raising us up, rearranging things so that we can be more dependent on Him, not for purposes of salvation but for purposes of fellowship and fruit bearing, so that fruitless vines can become more fruitful.
And he says, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away and every branch in me that bears fruit He” what? “prunes,” now what would that be? A lot of things; that could be problems, it could be divine discipline, it could be any number of things that the vinedresser, the Father, is at work in our lives, the branches. Why? To make us miserable? No, “so that it may bear more fruit.” So you might be saying to yourself well Lord, I’m already bearing fruit for You, how come all of these problems have occurred in my life? Well, maybe God wants you to bear even more fruit so He’s got to bring you to even a greater place of dependency upon Him.
So this is the normal activity of the Father in the life of the children of God. And as you go down to verse 3 it’s very clear that the branches are saved because the eleven He is addressing are saved. He said, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” Now when you go back to John 13, which comes before John 15 and you look at John 13:10, this is before Judas left the picture, “Jesus said to him, ‘He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean;” see, this is imagery that goes back to the Greco-Roman bath house, where what happened is you put your robe on or your toga or whatever it is and you go down to this communal kind of bathhouse and you get washed and that’s what’s meant by you become clean. The problem is you’ve got to walk home, don’t you, in the dirt, and by the time you get home what’s happened to your feet? They got dirty.
So this is used as a picture of a Christian who is already saved, they’ve been “washed” but what has happened is their feet got dirty and their feet need to be washed as well. So the feet getting dirty is not loss of salvation; the feet getting dirty is the believer, because of sin, not losing salvation but falling out of fellowship with Christ. At that point the branch becomes disconnected from the vine and is not disqualified from salvation, which can never be taken away, but is disqualified from discipleship or abiding in Christ or fellowship, or fruit bearing. So “clean” in this imagery is used to describe a Christian who’s been justified before God.
“Jesus said to him, ‘He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet.” So what happens when your feet get dirty? You need 1 John 1:9. 1 John 1:9 basically restores, not salvation, not position, but broken fellowship. [1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”]
So it’s like getting into a disagreement or some kind of tension happens in your marriage, someone says something that’s insensitive to the other or does something that’s insensitive to the other and what got broken there is not the marriage, you’re still positionally married. What got broken there is moment by moment fellowship. So you need to, assuming it’s you that’s the bad person, which in my marriage it usually is, I need to apologize, I need to say I’m sorry I said this or did this and I’m repentant, I’m not going to, under God’s power, not going to do that anymore. So what does that do? That doesn’t make me more married than I already was; what it does is it restores broken fellowship and my moment by moment enjoyment with my spouse.
So that’s what happens when our feet get dirty and that’s the significance of 1 John 1:9 in our lives. 1 John 1:9 to the Christian says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” When John wrote that he’s writing to saved people in 1 John. And it’s not a big surprise, is it, that John would write that because he was sitting here 60 years earlier in the Upper Room when Christ began to explain these things. And the Spirit did come upon John and he did become the Apostle John and he did write 1 John to elucidate a seed truth that’s been planted here in the Upper Room Discourse.
John 13:10, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are already clean, but not all of you.” So “clean” is salvation which they already had; “not all of you” because who hasn’t left the room yet? Judas, he doesn’t leave until around John 13:29-31. [John 13:29, “For some were supposing, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus was saying to him, “Buy the things we have need of for the feast”; or else, that he should give something to the poor.  So after receiving the morsel he went out immediately; and it was night.  Therefore when he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him;”]
So when Jesus makes this statement in John 15:3 , you are already clean, he is rehearsing what he already said back in John 13:10, that these eleven are justified before God. Whether they go to heaven is not an issue any more is what I’m trying to get at. What is an issue is their moment by moment fellowship with Christ. Their discipleship is an issue and their fruit bearing is an issue. That’s what’s at stake here. It has nothing to do with heaven or hell.
And that’s how it is with you as a Christian; your salvation, once you trust in Christ is never again an issue because that was given to you by grace faith. What is an issue is whether you’re going to become a disciple of Christ, whether you’re going to bear fruit that lasts or not. And Jesus had to talk this way with these guys because He’s leaving and they’re all He’s got. I mean, if these guys don’t bear fruit the whole, what we call Christianity, dissolves. That’s why He was very clear when He said at another point, do not leave Jerusalem until you are what? Clothed with power from on high, speaking of the Holy Spirit. [Luke 24:49, “And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”] You need to have the Holy Spirit in you and you need to be walking with Me moment by moment or this new movement that we call Christianity will never get anywhere, even though these guys could have all died and gone to heaven. See that? That’s the significance of this pivotal time in Christ’s life.
And then He says, John 15:3, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” Now He gives them a command. What does He say? Get saved you guys? He doesn’t say that, they already have been saved. What He says is [John 15:4]“Abide” that’s the Greek verb menō, “Abide in” what? Abide in your denomination? Abide in your favorite understanding of your favorite end times chart. Abide in your title. Abide in your gifting. He never says that. He says, “Abide in Me, and I in you.” In other words, the fellowship that I want with you is the same kind of fellowship that I have with the Father, who is also in Me. See that? Moment by moment. “Abide in Me. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” So you cannot expect a branch disconnected from the vine to produce anything, can you? How can an orange branch disconnected from an orange tree produce oranges? That branch could have all of the self-control and self-will in the world, self-discipline but there can’t be any oranges unless the orange branch is connected with the orange tree.
So this is sort of the plight of a lot of Christians; they’re out there trying to do all this stuff for Jesus and their efforts really aren’t going anywhere. They’re expending a lot of energy and the reason is because we’ve ignored the fundamental command He’s given, which is to abide in Him. If fellowship is regular with Christ then the oranges on an orange branch come automatically. They come spontaneously. They come naturally. And if you as a Christian make fellowship with Christ your life’s priority then guess what? Everything God wants to do in your life will naturally come about. And we’re very confused about this and I think it’s related to our pride and our works orientation, where our focus becomes activity.
If you abide in Christ the activity, or inactivity, or whatever is supposed to happen in your life is automatically going to be produced. Don’t worry about the works. We’re never told to worry about the works. Worry about your relationship with Him, not in terms of salvation but in terms of moment by moment fellowship.
Verse 4, “Abide Me, as 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.” Now you see this expression, “bear fruit”? He says this all the way through, bear fruit, bear fruit, bear fruit. Now notice it doesn’t say produce fruit; there is no single verse in the Bible where the Christian is told to produce fruit. And this is sort of a big deal for me because I was confused about this for years. I thought I was supposed to get out there and produce fruit. Well, show me a single verse that tells us to produce fruit. What it says is to “bear fruit” which is very different than producing fruit. Producing fruit is nothing I engineer through the fleshy activity; bearing fruit is fruit that comes automatically because I’m walking in fellowship with Him. See that?
Verse 4, I think we read. Verse 5, just to rehearse the right relationship, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears” a few shriveled grapes… it doesn’t say that! “… bears much fruit,” so what does God want to do through your life? He wants you to bear much fruit, not to prove you’re a Christian but to prove you’re an abiding disciple. So what is your life verse? It’s John 15:5, that’s your goal. God wants to, in your life, bear… not a few shriveled grapes but “much fruit,” but He’s very clear “without Me you can do” what? “nothing.” “Nothing” is translated “no thing you can do.”
Now the first time I read this it kind of bothered me because I said well, I can do a lot without Christ. I mean, think of all of these unsaved people that start businesses and start charitable foundations and Jesus is coming along and saying I can’t do anything without Him. Well, you have to interpret “nothing” based on how the term is defined or the idea is defined in verse 16. He’s not saying you can’t do anything at a human level. What He’s saying is you can’t do anything at an eternal level without menō or moment by moment abiding.
Look at verse 16, “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit,” see the repetition of “bear fruit” there? Not produce fruit, “bear fruit and that your fruit would” what? “remain,” aha, that’s the difference. An unsaved person or an out of fellowship Christian can produce a lot of activity but the reality of the situation is the fruit they produce won’t remain. Why is that? What does it say in Genesis 1:21, the creation account? Each produced “after its own kind. [Genesis 1:21, “God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good.”]
So we would expect monkeys to produce humans… right? NO! Monkeys produce monkeys because monkeys are a different species than humans. Humans produce humans; elephants produce elephants, rhinoceros produce rhinoceros, Mr. and Mrs. Giraffe produce baby giraffes. And this is where evolution, I don’t want to go too far that direction, has it all confused because they say one species can produce a completely different species over billions of years. Well I’m sorry, the Bible contradicts that on page 1—each produced “after its own kind.”
So if each thing produces after its own kind, how can you in your life produce anything eternal that will last, that will eternally impact other people unless you are connected to Jesus Christ by way of fellowship and Jesus Christ is what? Eternal, see the connection there? Only if we are connected to eternal Christ by way of fellowship can I produce anything in my life which has eternal significance. George Soros and all of these extremely rich, effective, successful people who have no connection to God at all, they’re producing a lot of stuff but it’s not fruit that remains. In fact, the Bible is very clear that all that stuff is going to be put through a fire. 2 Peter 3:10. [2 Peter 3:10, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.”]
You say well, do you believe in global warming? Yes I do, it’s in 2 Peter 3:10, it’s God’s global warming. Everything is going to go through a fire and it will be consumed in the fire. Only the things that are produced via a connection to eternal Christ, only those things will survive the fire. So when he says you can’t do anything he’s not talking about nothing ever; he’s talking about the capacity to produce fruit which has an eternal consequence.
John 15:6, “If anyone does not abide in Me,” oh-oh, “he is cast out as a branch and is withered and they gather them and throw them into the fire and they are burned.” Now your systematic theologian who wants to quote that verse to prove their theology and doesn’t want to give you the background that I gave you concerning who he’s talking to, and the preposition “in Me”, doesn’t want to do that background verse, just wants to quote a verse to prove his theology, that either you can lose salvation or if you don’t have any fruit you never had salvation (Calvinism versus Arminianism). They quote this verse all the time.
But a text without a context is a pretext for someone’s preexisting theological system. If you look at this in context… and people say well why do you teach the Bible verse by verse, verse by verse and it gets worse and worse people say. Because only verse by verse teaching is going to give you the context. You can’t get the context cherry-picking verses. And it’s very clear as you look at this in context that he’s not dealing with unsaved people. He’s not dealing with people that lost their salvation. He’s not dealing with people that never had salvation. All that stuff is imported and is completely foreign to what Christ is communicating here.
What He’s dealing with is in fellowship/out of fellowship believers. So everything I do as a Christian rooted in human effort or pride while I’m out of fellowship with Him, no matter how hard I try, and how much energy I expend, will be put into the fire and the fire will test its quality. You say well, where are you getting this from? I’m getting it from 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, a doctrine of the Bema Seat Judgment that Jesus is unfolding here for the first time, that the Apostle Paul explains with greater clarity later on.
[1 Corinthians 3:10-15, “According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it.  For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,  Each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.  If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward.  If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”]
Paul is very clear that the Christian in heaven following the rapture at the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ will have their works, NOT them, their works put through a fire to ascertain their quality. And everything that’s wood, hay and stubble… by the way, what do hay and stubble have in common? They’re combustible. Everything that’s wood, hay and stubble goes into the fire and is destroyed. Everything that is represented by gold, silver and costly stones, what do those have in common? Non-combustible, the only thing the fire can do is refine metal, it can’t destroy it, will go into the fire and will survive the fire. That’s why he talks here in verse 16, “your fruit that should remain,” remain what? Remain after the fire finishes its work. [John 15:16, “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.”]
So everything that I do as a Christian, while I’m out of fellowship with Christ, is going to be burned is what He is saying. I’m not going to be burned, my works are going to be burned. And He talks about people suffering loss, 1 Corinthians 3:15 is very clear on this, and He talks about some that are saved but it’s as though they are escaping a burning building. He’s talking about people that are in heaven by the grace of God yet they smell the smoke on their garments. They’re there by the grace of God and they’re eternally secure but they look back on their life, which was done or executed independently of Christ’s instructions in John 15, where they never really stayed in fellowship with Christ, they just did a bunch of stuff in Christ’s name.
And He talks about those people suffering loss. So it’s sort of like man, I’m glad I’m in heaven, but what could have happened in my life had I followed the instructions in John 15? What could have been? And there’s sort of a moment of regret as you look back. You say well, Lord, I was busy for You, and Jesus says very sweetly, well, I never called you to be busy for Me, what I called you to do was to abide in Me. [John 15:4, “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.”] Your business, that’s going to take care of itself as you follow the command of abiding.
And here’s the reality of the situation, folks; I don’t like it any more than you do but the fact of the matter is God does NOT recognize works that we do for Him through human power alone. He doesn’t recognize it. And that’s a principle that’s about as old as the patriarch Abraham because remember Abraham was called to sacrifice Isaac around 2000 B.C. on what today is the city of Jerusalem. Genesis 22:2 says, “He said,” God to Abraham, “‘Take now your son,” now who would that son be? Isaac. Look at this: “Take now your son, your only son,” Isaac, wait a minute, only son Isaac, I mean, I thought Abraham had another son whose name was Ishmael.
Well why in the world would God recognize Isaac but he didn’t recognize Ishmael in this statement “your only son.” Because as you know the story in Genesis, Ishmael was produced through human manipulation and scheming, wasn’t he! I mean, Abraham and Sarah were a bit past child birthing age and didn’t want to rest in the promise of God that God was going to give life through Sarah’s womb and they would have this child, Isaac, that doesn’t occur until Genesis 21. So all those years of waiting what do they do? Well, we’re going to have to help God out, poor God, poor God is senile, He’s forgotten what He promised to do; here’s what we’ll do. And they hatched up this scheme where Abraham would impregnate Hagar, Hagar being the bondservant there in the household, and through that transaction, that relationship, came forth Ishmael. And Abraham in Genesis 17 stands before the Lord and says Lord, look what I did for You. Let me break my arm patting myself on the back, look at how I’ve executed Your plans.
And God is very clear that NO, Ishmael is not the chosen, the chosen is going to come through Isaac, not the child of works but the child of faith or promise, and you have to wait on Me. So you see, we do a lot of Ishmael type stuff as Christians and what God is saying is forget all that stuff, it’s not going to amount to a hill of beans. In fact, a hill of beans isn’t even left when the fire finishes, it’s reduced to nothing. What you’re going to have to do is you’re going to have to walk with Me by faith, menō, abide, and then the eternal things that I produce through your life as a consequence of the fact that you are in fellowship with the eternal Christ, that’s what’s rewarded. See that! So this is the significance of things being put into the fire.
Verse 7, “If you abide in Me,” see the “if” there? Maybe you’re going to do it, maybe you’re not. Maybe you’re going to be My disciple and become a fruit bearer, maybe you’re not. “If you abide in Me and My Words abide in you, ask whatever you desire, and it will be done for you.” So part of this abiding process is allowing the Word of God to richly dwell within us so we understand His will.
We have a lot of people at Sugar Land Bible Church that are very busy people and I guess praise the Lord, we need busy people or nothing would ever get done here, but they use service projects, whatever they may be, to kind of get out of going to Bible study. You know, I’m too busy with this over here to go to Sunday School, to attend the main service because I’m tired. Well, the reality of the situation is you’re not making yourself available to the words of God which God desires to dwell richly within you so that you know the revealed will of God, so that you start to obey the revealed will of God through His power and you start to abide in Him. And then you disqualify yourself; if you won’t submit to that process you disqualify yourself from eternal fruit bearing.
“If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, ask whatever you desire, and it will be done for you.” You wonder why your/our prayers are never answered? Because we pray for things amiss James says. [James 4:3, “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.”] We pray for things outside of the will of God. 1 John says, “If we ask according to His will, He hears us.” [John 5:14, “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”] So a sign of an abiding Christian is they’re praying for things within God’s will because they know God’s Word, God’s Word is important to them and as they pray within the will of God as revealed in the Word of God what starts to happen? Prayer requests start getting answered.
Look at this, “By this my Father is” what? “glorified.” Now if it’s not me producing the good works but my works come as a consequence of my abiding relationship with Him who gets the credit here? God does; I don’t get any credit at all. All I did was hang around Jesus and works that He wanted to produce came forth spontaneously and natural. This is why we don’t like this teaching, if we’re completely honest with ourselves, because I want a little credit, I mean, look at the hard work I put in. I hear a lot of I there, I, I, I, I, look at what I did, look at what I did for the Lord. And human pride is such that we think we can pull it off on our own and you might be able to execute something, depending on your level of talent, but it’s nothing that remains.
“By this My Father is glorified that you bear” a few shriveled grapes… NO, “that you bear” what? “much fruit.” Why is God glorified in my “much fruit”? Because it’s not my fruit. See that? I’m just a vessel. Now notice what this says, “By this My Father is glorified that you bear much fruit so that you will be My disciples.” Now Calvinism and Arminianism wants this verse to read: By this My Father is glorified that you bear much fruit proving that you’re believers. It doesn’t say that.
When you “bear much fruit” it doesn’t prove you’re a believer, it proves you’re a disciple. You say what’s the difference? Plenty, all disciples are believers but not all believers are necessarily disciples. What’s the difference. A disciple is not someone who has simply trusted in Christ’s (singular) command for salvation but a disciple is someone who under His power, we don’t do this through human effort, is availing themselves to Christ’s, not command but what? Commands. A lot of people are saved because they believed or they executed the command for salvation which is faith alone but then Jesus says okay, now that you’ve executed that command here are some commands, plural.
We’ve just gone from “command” to “commands.” Wipe that gossipy tongue that you have… boy, I’m really going to the jugular today aren’t I? You read James 3 and say wow, I’ve been saying a lot of nasty things about a lot of people, I guess God doesn’t like that.. I guess He doesn’t like all this sarcasm and short-temperedness. God, can You help me with this? So you’re submitting now to a command, commands plural, under His divine resources.
Well guess what? You’re not just a disciple, a believer, but you’ve not migrated into that inner circle where you’re a disciple. And God is not going to bear fruit just through the believer, He’s going to bear fruit through the who? The disciple.
Verse 9, “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you;” see how He keeps coming back to this, “abide in My love.” Verse 10, “If you keep My commandments,” is that singular or plural? Plural, they already fulfilled the command “believe,” now it’s “fulfill” the commandments, plural, and “you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” So love is more than a euphoria, it’s more than a feeling, it’s an active obedience to the things of God.
Now you’ll be looking at all of these things that God asks you to do and you say to yourself there is no way I can do this and you would be correct because you can’t do it and I can’t do it but under His provision of the Spirit suddenly it becomes possible. See that?
These things I have spoken to you that my” what? happiness… it doesn’t say that, does it. “…that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be” 85%… NO, “might be full.” What is joy? Joy is an internal satisfaction that God is at work in your life, “the peace of God which transcends all understanding when all hell is breaking loose in your life. That’s joy. [Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”] Joy is being asleep in the boat as the storm is raging, which is what Jesus did. Now He lives in you and wants to do it through you. Happiness is I can feel good about things as long as circumstances are lining up. Happiness comes from the word happenstance which means luck or circumstance. That’s the only thing the world can offer. Only the disciple experiences joy and complete joy.
“This is My commandment, that you…” oh my goodness, how do I know if I’m walking in fellowship with God? Because I love others the way God loves them. [John 5:12, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.”]
1 John 4:8, “God is” what? “love.” Well, if I am in moment by moment abiding fellowship with Him I start to love people that I didn’t love before. See that? In fact, John, who is going to amplify this truth 60 years later in Asia Minor says things like well if you hate your brother who you can see how can the love of God be abiding in you. I’m not giving the verse exactly right, this is a paraphrase, that you cannot see. [1 John 4:20, “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.”]
All John is doing is giving greater clarity to what he heard 60 years earlier in the Upper Room. “This is My commandment,” notice it’s not a suggestion, hey, try this out and see if it works. NO, this is something that automatically comes if you’re abiding with the God of love. “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” [John 13:19-21] So someone cuts you off on the way here and you’re just so mad you’re going to confront that person, give that person a piece of my mind, how dare they take my parking space. Then the Holy Spirit says just let it go…just let it go, look at all the things I’ve forgiven you of God says; can’t you let someone else off the hook from a minor infraction? You’re no longer a believer, just a believer, when you respond to that, you’re now walking out discipleship. And as you walk that out what begins to manifest itself is fruit begins to take place naturally.
And then He explains what love is, since most of us get our theology from the Love Boat and we don’t really even know what love is. “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” Aha, so love is sacrificial. Verse 13, “Greater love has no one than this, than he that is willing to lay down his life for his friends.” You start becoming a disciple under God’s power and you find yourself sacrificing for the benefit of other people. You say I can’t do that. You’re right, you can’t! But if you respond to the promptings of the Spirit who is prompting you to do this and empowering you to do this suddenly you can start doing it. Does that make me a believer? No, you already are a believer. Does that make me a candidate for heaven? No, that’s already guaranteed. What it makes you a candidate for is discipleship, abiding, menō, and now you become a candidate for fruit bearing, not human activity but fruit that will last.
Verse 14, “You are My” oh my goodness, “friends if you do whatever I command.” So are we saying here that not all believers are necessarily friends with God? I’m not saying it; it’s what Jesus is saying. All believers are no longer enemies of God but friendship is a little different, isn’t it? Do you remember what Jesus said back in John 2:23? “Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He did.  But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men,  And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.”
There’s a lot of people that trusted in Christ but Jesus never entrusted Himself to. And people say well, those people weren’t saved. Yes they were! How do I know that? Because it says, “believed in,” pisteuō eis, believed in His miracles, pisteuō eis which is the exact construction that’s used all the way through John’s Gospel to describe saved people. In fact, John’s Gospel is written to convince people of who Christ is based on His miracles. So these were saved people if words mean anything.
Well why does it say that He didn’t entrust Himself to them? Because they did not graduate into friendship yet. They were believers, they were saved, they were going to heaven but they were not yet disciples. They had salvation secure, praise God for that; they weren’t candidates for fruit-bearing because they were holding onto a bunch of stuff in their lives that they wouldn’t give over to God even though they were saved.
Verse 14, “You are My friends,” a friend is a disciple, “if you do whatever I command.” Verse 15, “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant 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.” What is a friend of Christ qualified for that a mere believer is not qualified for? Insight into things. You know, there are some Christians that just don’t have the foggiest idea what’s going on… bless their hearts! They’ve been saved for years and they just don’t have the foggiest idea of anything. Why is that? It is not related to a lack of intelligence; it’s related to a lack of submission in terms of abiding and discipleship and fellowship. You start to abide in Christ and suddenly your mind is filled with ideas and insights into the things of God that you never even thought about before.
Verse 16, “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.” Verse 17, These things I suggest to you…. NO, “These things I command you, that you love one another.” So look at that; look at all the imagery that’s unpacked there just from this very simple metaphor or word picture in the vine and the branches. And I’m sorry, once again I talked too long but we’ll try to do some question and answer next time. And after we do that we’re going to be moving into the origin of the church. When did the church start exactly? Can we figure that out?
Let’s pray. Father, we’re grateful for Sunday School class this morning, grateful for everything that is revealed in this ancient metaphor. And help us to remain in these things this week as we seek to walk in fellowship with You. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus name, and God’s people said… Amen.