The 15th chapter of John’s gospel account is a part of what is known as the Upper Room Discourse. Chapters 13 through 17 constitute this “witness of the Lord to His witnesses.” The subject of these five chapters is the love of Christ for those who are His own. The astounding conclusion to John 17:23 is: “that the world may know that thou (God) hast sent me (Christ) and hast loved them (those who are in Christ), as thou hast loved me.” 

We do not understand how it could possibly be that God loves true believers equally as much as He loves His only begotten Son. We must take this ever so gladly by faith and thank God that it is settled because it is declared in His Word.

Four major discourses are given by the Lord, three of which are found in the book of Matthew. The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) comes first. The Mystery Parables Discourse in Matthew 13 tells us about the kingdom of heaven, and then the Olivet Discourse is found in Matthew 24 and 25. These discourses are so named because of their importance in content, extent and intent.

The Upper Room Discourse (John 13-17) is the longest of the major four teachings of Christ. It is most meaningful to us became Jesus took “His own” into the places recorded and revealed new truths to them. They are also for you, if you will accept His payment on the cross for your debt of sin. We can all be comforted to know that “the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). It never tarnishes as it ages, but rather grows fresher and even more special as it is proven and preserved over time.

The public ministry of the Lord had come to an end by our arrival at John 13. His mission puts Christ on the way to the cross. He had been rejected by the unbelieving world system and has no message here for its religious powers or political ruler. Somewhere, as they walked between the Garden of Gethsemane and the Upper Room, we find the words were spoke in John 15 and 16. As they moved from the Upper Room, they passed by the vineyards in the hills and valleys of that area. Jesus took the opportunity to speak about vineyards in the application that they hold forth

Israel was pictured in the Old Testament as the vine brought out of Egypt to begin taking root and filling the land given to them by God (Psalm 80:8,9). Isaiah writes that “the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel” (Isaiah 5:7). Things changed for the nation Israel in regard to their pleasantness and fruitfulness for God. They became disobedient and rebellious by intermingling with surrounding cultures that God had forbidden for them to do.

By intermarriage and idol worship, Israel had moved into counterfeit religion that held only face value. Jeremiah writes in prophecy: “Yet I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed: how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me?” (Jeremiah 2:21) Hosea
records God saying that “Israel is an empty vine … Their heart is divided; now they shall be found faulty” (Hosea 10:1,2).

The Jewish concepts and thought patterns had been governed by the Old Testament, and now Jesus declares that the rudiments of this world and the religious traditions of men are not the essentials we really need if we are to please God.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husband man.” This announcement by Jesus in John 15:1 is revolutionary and perhaps incredible, both then and now. The real issues of life come out of our hearts and not from off the top of our heads (Proverbs 4:23). The important stipulation of eternity is that we be related to God spiritually, through faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ. Our identifications with religions, ceremonies, organizations and citizenships are external. The degrees and accolades of the world will not promote us to a right relationship with the Heavenly Father. We are sinners, and we need forgiveness and redemption if we are to be born into God’s family.

Our self-righteousness must be repented of and replaced by God’s righteousness. It is wonderful to know that He requires perfect righteousness and then to realize that He provides it through faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:16). Otherwise, we would be hopeless in a futile attempt for Heaven. We are made to be “the righteousness of God in him (Jesus Christ)” because God “hath made him to be sin for us … (because Jesus) knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21). His perfect righteousness is imputed onto our sin account as if it were ours. Holiness is not imparted to us, but rather imputed from Christ. We are justified in our standing before God – “just as if I’d” never sinned!

God’s ferocity of judgment is satisfied in Christ. The wages of sin is death, and we all have sinned because we are sinners. We owe a debt we cannot pay – but then Christ paid that debt He did not owe! Has your greatest debt been paid, or is it still one you will be trying to pay for all of eternity in the fires of Hell? There will be no success in settling life’s biggest “account due” if you will not turn it over to Christ. Just ask Him in all seriousness from the depths of your heart to forgive your sin and make you His child. He promises to turn away no one who comes to Him in faith.

The song “No, not one!” was written around 1900 and still holds true today. Verse four asks two questions:

“Did ever saint find this Friend forsake him?

Or sinner find that He would not take him?”

The resounding answer exclaims “No, not one!” again and again. The conclusion is: “There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus – No, not one! No, not one!” Johnson Oatman, Jr. gave the words that still thrill and encourage our believing hearts today.

Christ was using the vineyards as a teaching tool for His disciples as they walked. The lesson was that we must be identified with Christ, entering that spiritual relationship by the baptism of the Holy Spirit the instant we trust Christ as our Savior and are born again as a child of God. We are to
become a fruit-bearing branch on the vine of Christ (John 15:2). We are to be connected by faith in His blood, and the life-giving riches of His power can then flow in our veins.

This all was new to Jewish thought, and we can see how it would be received with reluctance in that day. The entire spectrum of it all is covered by the two tiny words in verse two: “in me.” You can be as the branch that is connected to the true vine and which then bears fruit in the lives of others. Are you found to be “in Christ” today? Find your abode there, dig into your Bible and you will see what God wants to do in and with your life. You are promised that it all will work itself together for your good.

R.D. “Bob” Hottle is a retired schoolteacher, farmer and pastor of the Anchor Baptist Church.