Sunday, July 25, 2021



John 16

In this chapter, Jesus concludes his teaching of the disciples in preparation for his departure and their life without him. After this teaching, he will pray for them. Chapter 17 contains what we call Jesus’ “high priestly prayer”. Then, in Chapter 18, the events leading up to his death unfold.

The Reason For The Teaching


Jesus knew that the disciples would face hard times after his departure. By carrying on the message of Jesus and being known as his followers, they would become the object of all of the hate and anger that had been focused on Jesus. 

He has told them this truth. He said the world would hate them as it hated him. (15:18-19) The Jews would persecute the disciples as they persecuted Jesus. (20) The full meaning of this warning would only be known by the disciples after Jesus is tortured and executed. But, even at the point of telling, the words had to have sounded ominous.

So, Jesus said he told them why he told them these difficult things: it was to keep them from falling away when it happened. (1) Hard times can cause doubt. Hard times that are not expected can cause surrender and defeat. 

Jesus did not “sugar coat” it, or minimize it. He said they would be put out of synagogues and even killed. And those who did these things would think they were doing a service to God, (2), although Jesus pointed our that they did not know God the Father and they did not know him.  

The Book of Acts shows us that Jesus’ words were true. Peter and John were arrested during their second sermon on the temple grounds. They were jailed overnight, then required to appear before the high priest and the Sanhedrin. (Acts 4:5-6) This happened again in Acts 5, when many of the Sanhedrin wanted to kill them. (Acts 5:33) 

One of the great persecutors was Saul. He “ravaged” the church and put believers in jail. (Acts 8:3) Saul did this because he was “extremely zealous” for “the traditions of my fathers”. (Galatians 1:14) After his conversion, he then was run out of synagogues, stoned, beaten, and jailed several times before being executed. James the Apostle was murdered. (Acts 12:2) It went on and on. 

The assumption of Jesus here is that falling away is worse than death or persecution. Therefore, they must be ready. But, none of the Apostles fell away from the faith, because Jesus prepared them and the Holy Spirit helped them. By hearing these things in advance from Jesus, they knew that this persecution was not beyond the knowledge of Jesus and was not out of his control.

And that is a word for us. No persecution today is outside the knowledge of our Lord nor beyond his control.

The Holy Spirit


Jesus told the disciples again that he was returning to the Father (him who sent me) and that his talk of leaving made them sad. 

He challenged them on this point, saying it is to your disadvantage that I am leaving. It is to your advantage, because the Helper, the Holy Spirit, does not come to you until I return to heaven and send him to you. The Holy Spirit’s full time ministry in and with believers did not begin until Jesus’ earthly ministry ended.

The doctrine of the Trinity is displayed here. God the Son was with God the Father in heaven, then was sent into the world. When God the Son returns to God the Father in heaven, the Father sends God the Spirit into the world. 

What will the Holy Spirit do when he comes? Jesus said the Spirit will:

  1. convict the world concerning sin because they do not believe in him;
  2. convict the world concerning righteousness because Jesus returns to the Father and will no longer be with them; and
  3. concerning judgment because the ruler of the world, Satan, is judged. (8-9) 

We probably think and talk more of the Holy Spirit’s work in believers, but here Jesus is speaking of the Spirit’s work in the world, meaning those who have not come to faith in Jesus. 

First, the Spirit convicts the world of the sin of unbelief. Jesus told the Jews several times that they did not know him and, therefore, did not know the Father and could not come to him. The Spirit continues that work in the world by convicting a person of their sin of unbelief, and the need to believe, when they hear the gospel. That is why we sometimes say a person is “under conviction” when he or she begins to wrestle with the truth of the gospel for the first time. 

Second, Jesus also confronted the Jews about their righteousness being false, driven as it was by ceremony and works rather than faith. The Holy Spirit took over that role when Jesus ascended to the Father, showing people that their supposedly good works are not going to get them to heaven. They are, in fact, the filthy rags (KJV), or polluted garments (ESV), of Isaiah 64:6. 

Third, the Spirit convicts the world of its wrong and false judgment. It is opposed to the true judgment of Christ. The minds of the world have become darkened by their rejection of God as they suppress the truth. (Romans 1) And the source of the false judgment is Satan, whom Jesus called the ruler of this world. (11) Satan was judged by Jesus’ life of obedience to the Father, his death for our sins, and his resurrection from death to glorification in heaven. 

In verses 12 through 15, Jesus spoke of the work of the Spirit in the apostles, and through them to us as believers. The Spirit guides us into all the truth because, like Jesus, he speaks, not on his own authority, but of what he hears from the Father. (13) As the disciples were guided into the truth, so are we as we read the truths they passed down to us. 

One of the things the Spirit would hear and declare are the things to come. The Spirit revealed to the disciples much of what would happen in the world in their time and in the distant future. He reveals it to us as we read the words of the disciples. 

The Spirit always glorifies Jesus. The Father gave truth to the Son and the Spirit will take that and declare it to the disciples, who declared it to us. 

The work of the Spirit in the world gives us confidence to proclaim the gospel. The work of the Spirit in us gives us confidence to know God and serve him faithfully. 

Sunday, July 18, 2021



 The Commandment


Having told the disciples that they would keep his commandments if they loved him, Jesus now tells them what his commandment is. They are to love each other as he has loved them. (12) 

Jesus said this previously, as recorded in 13:34: A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another”. The fact that Jesus said this twice, and that he called it his commandment, indicates the supreme importance of the command. 

The greatest expression of this love ss that a person lays down his life for his friends. (13) This is, of course, what Jesus did. He laid down his life for his friends. 

Jesus is speaking to the 11 apostles in this context. He says they are his friends if they do what he commands, if they obey him. This is another way of saying “if you love me you will keep my commandments”. 

Jesus then said these disciples were friends rather than servants. The difference between the two is revelation. Both servants and friends obey their master. But servants to not know the mind of the master. He does not explain to them why he wants them to do something. He tells them to do it and they obey. It is like your mother telling you to do something and when you ask why, she does not explain, but says “because I said so, that’s why!”. 

But, a master will tell a friend what is on his mind. Here, Jesus says he calls them friends because all he heard from the Father, he made known to them”. (15) Jesus loved and obeyed the Father and revealed to the disciples the things the Father revealed to him.  

And this explains the words “no longer”. In the old covenant, God’s people were given commandments to obey, but little in the way of information regarding God’s plan. In contrast, Jesus tells his new covenant disciples everything God revealed to him. 

The word “friends” is used here for the Greek word “philos”, which is a form of “philia”. “Philia” and “agape” are the two Greek words for love in the New Testament. It has been common to say that agape love is a higher form of love than philia. However, that is not consistently true in the New Testament and, specifically, in the Gospel of John.

At a minimum, philia means love for family members. For example, Hebrews 13:1 says “let brotherly love continue”. The Greek word for “brotherly love” is “Philadelphia”, a form of “philia”. 

That is why the city of Philadelphia Pennsylvania in the United States is called the city of “brotherly love”. So, it might be more appropriate to call the disciples “loved ones” than friends in our present use of those words. 

Jesus laid down his life for those whom he loved. Likewise, we should lay down our lives for our fellow believers. They are the ones we love if we are obeying Jesus’ command. 

So, Christians should be known for their love for Jesus, shown by their obedience to his commandments, and their love for each other, shown by laying down their lives for each other.

How do we lay down our lives for each other. Certainly, the ultimate expression of this is to die for someone else, as Jesus did. But, it can include anytime we give something of ourselves for each other. We give our time, our work, our energy, our prayers, for each other in love. 

The disciples have these revelations and understanding because Jesus chose them and set them apart to bear fruit. (16) In this context, “fruit” likely does primarily mean converts, people who will believe in Jesus. And he chose them and appointed them to bear fruit that would abide or last, meaning those who would believe in Jesus and follow him their whole lives, fruit that abides or lasts. 

Also, Jesus chose them so that whatever they asked the Father in Jesus’ name, the Father would give to them. (16) Fruitfulness still comes from the Father in response to our asking for it. 

The Opposition


In contrast to their love for each other, the disciples will learn that the world hates them because it hated Jesus. (15) Jesus chose and called them out of the world to be in his kingdom. They are no longer “of this world” they are “of Christ’s kingdom”. And, therefore, those of the world will often hate them for being different. They are not greater than their master in this sense; if they persecuted Jesus they will persecute his followers, those who identify with him.

Jesus said all of the things people would do to them on account of Jesus’ name was because they did know the Father who sent him. (21) This is particularly about the Jews, who claimed to know the Father, but persecuted Jesus and his disciples. But it is true of all people who deny Jesus as the Son of God. (Romans 1:18-23)

Since these people (the Jews) heard Jesus speak and saw him do miraculous works, they are guilty of sin by rejecting Jesus and persecuting him and his followers. (22) They show that they hate the Father by hating the Son. (24) This fulfills Old Testament scripture, such as Psalm 35:19.

The Holy Spirit will help them at these times. He will come to them and he will bear witness to Jesus. (26) The disciples will also bear witness to Jesus because they have been with him from the beginning. They are the ones who know Jesus best because they witnessed his whole ministry. (27) 

There are things given only to the apostles (the Twelve). But there are things here that apply to us as disciples, or followers, of Jesus: (1) we are to love one another:

(2) we have the Holy Spirit to help us; and

(3) we have a mission to bring the gospel to the world.

Sunday, July 11, 2021




Vine & Branches

Chapter 15 contains two sections that are related. First, Verses Jesus uses a metaphor of vines and branches. Second, he gives an explanation. So, Jesus did not leave us to our own devices to interpret the vine and branches. He explained it.

This image of grape vines would be very familiar to the disciples, since grape vines were plentiful in Israel and vital as a source of food and drink. They would be at least somewhat familiar with the work of the vinedresser. They knew the vine grew up and put out branches. The branches draw life from the vine. And it is on the branches that the grapes grow. 

Jesus said he is the true vine. (1) Some people slide by the word “true” here to get to the metaphor. But we must assume that Jesus said it on purpose.

Jesus is the true vine in comparison to Israel. In the Old Testament, Israel was several times portrayed as a vine or a vineyard. But Israel did not fulfill its role as the vine. It did not bear fruit by loving God and keeping his commandments. 

Psalm 80 shows us this. The Psalmist says Israel was a vine God brought out of Egypt and planted. But God let the vine be cut down and burned because it did not bear fruit for him.

In contrast, Jesus fulfilled the mission where Israel failed. He loved the Father and obeyed him. He built a new people of a new covenant and gave them a way to live in love and obedience.

So, Jesus is the true vine. (1) And the Father is the vinedresser, the who tends the branches if the vine. He removes, or cuts off, the branches that do not bear fruit. (Because every one who is in Christ bears fruit.) And every branch that bears fruit he prunes that it may bear more fruit. (2)

As the vinedresser, the Father prunes the branches that bear fruit. He does this in love so they branch can bear even more fruit. He often puts believers into situations where they learn to bear more fruit, such as learning to be patient by having to wait for something or learning to love by having someone not that lovable put into their lives. 

The Father also removes the branches that do not bear any fruit. There are no Christians that do not bear some fruit. If there were, Jesus could not be the true vine. Fruitfulness is the mark of true faith in Christ. 

John would later say this another way: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” (1 John 2:19)

Only when connected to the vine can a branch bear fruit. In other words, the vine bears fruit through the branches. Jesus had already told the disciples that they were in him and he in them. (14:20) He is now giving an illustration of this.

Jesus also told the disciples they were clean, repeating what he said when he washed their feet at the last supper. (13:10) Clean here refers to saved or being in Christ. They are clean because they have believed in Jesus and his word. (3) 

And so, being already connected to Jesus, he tells them to abide, or remain, in him. “Abide” means to dwell with, to stay connected with. Jesus makes it plain that they cannot bear fruit unless they are connected to him. In fact, they can do nothing on their own. (5) Notice that Jesus said this plainly and without metaphor so they would understand it. 

This shows us that we are not saved by grace to work on our own to bear fruit. It is Christ working in us that produces the fruit. So, by staying connected to him in prayer, in study of his word, and in worship, we experience the Spirit’s work in our life, producing fruit even as the Father works in us to make us bear more fruit. 

Paul wrote “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) 

I think it is the living without an abiding connection to Christ, and trying to work only in our own strength, that creates hypocrisy in the church. It allows our minds to be conformed to the world’s standards rather than the commandments of Jesus. We love only the lovable, we fellowship only with those who look like us or earn as much money as us. It allows us to be prideful about who and what we are and unsympathetic to those who stumble or suffer. 

In contrast to those who abide in Christ and bear much fruit, the one who does not abide in him is thrown away and withers, then is thrown into the fire. Those who are not in Christ cannot bear the fruit that Christ produces. They wither, a picture of spiritual death. And they are thrown into the fire and burned, a picture of judgment. (6)

Jesus may have been alluding to Ezekiel 15 here. In that passage God says he will take the vine, which is Israel, and give it to the fire. It was a picture of God giving Israel over to judgment by letting a nation conquer it and destroy it. 

Those who reject Christ, however, have a much greater judgment to face. Though many have sought to downplay this or deny the reality of eternal punishment, the Bible is clear that eternal punishment exists. Revelation 20:15 says, if anyone’s name is not found written in the book of life, he is thrown into the lake of fire for ever. 

But those who abide in Christ, there are many blessings. If we abide in Christ and his words abide in us, we may ask whatever we wish and it will be done for you. (7) When we abide in Christ, and his words abide in us, we will begin to think as he thinks and desire what he desires.

Because of that, we will not pray for a new Bentley automobile or to live in a huge house. We will pray for our needs to be met and trust God to do so. We will pray according to the Lord’s prayer, that his will be done and his kingdom come. We will pray for the salvation of souls and expansion of the kingdom. We will pray for our fellow disciples who are in trials. We will pray for Christ to make us more like him. 

When we abide in Christ, we also bring glory to the Father. Our love for each other and prayers glorify him. (8) Not only will we bring glory to the Father, we will prove that we are disciples of Jesus. Tertullian famously wrote that pagans would say “Look how they [Christians] love one another…and how they are ready to die for each other…” (Apologeticus, ch. 39, sect. 7)

Finally, as we abide in Christ we experience his love. He said he has loved us as the Father loved him. This is a perfect and complete love.  In that great love, we can abide. (9) We can feel happy and secure knowing he loves us. 

Part of how we abide in Christ is keeping his commandments. (10) This is how Jesus abided in the Father’s love. He was obedient to the Father. The Gospel of John repeatedly records Jesus saying he completely obeyed the Father in all he said and all he did. And again, we obey Jesus because we love him. 

And when we do this, we experience Christ’s joy in us and have it to the full. (11) Jesus’ obedience to the Father brought him joy. In fact, Hebrews 12:2 says “…Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God”. (Hebrews 12:1–2) 

We can have this joy to the full. All other joy in a fallen world is temporary and small compared to this. It only comes to those who abide in Christ.