The Gospel of John
(James J. Barker)

Lesson 38


(John 15:1-17)


1.    In the Gospel of John, there are recorded seven “I AM” statements from the lips of our Saviour, and the seventh is found here in John 15:1 (cf. 6:35; 8:12; 10:9,11; 11:25; 14:6).

2.    We have already studied the first six.  Tonight, Lord willing, we will look at the seventh.

3.    In the O.T., the nation of Israel was depicted as a vine planted by the Lord. But this vine proved to be “an empty vine” (Hosea 10:1). “Empty” signifies “useless.”  This is bad enough but God also says they had “turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine” (Jeremiah 2:21).

4.    They could try and clean themselves up but God says, “Yet thine iniquity is marked before me” (Jer. 2:22).

5.    As we read these Scriptures, let us pause and consider what the Lord must think of modern day America! How His heart must be grieved over the wickedness of our once great nation!  A land that once stood foursquare on the principles of God’s Word and which pledged allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ, has sunk into the depths of sin and degradation!  Oh, how sad!  How tragic!

6.    The same can be said for Great Britain.  The land that gave the world the King James Bible and John Bunyan and his Pilgrim’s Progress, and Spurgeon and the Wesley brothers, and George Whitefield and great missionaries like William Carey and David Livingston is now a wicked land that has turned its back on God.

7.    A country that has knighted wicked rock singers such as Mick Jagger and Elton John (who has recently “married” his sodomite partner).

8.    We are told in Isaiah 5 that Israel was the vine planted by God Himself, but they proved unfaithful (cf. Isa. 5:1-7, 11, 14, 20-25).

9.    Because Israel had proved unfaithful and unfruitful, the Lord Jesus Christ presented Himself to them as “the true vine” (John 15:1).

10. God the Father is “the husbandman” (the vine dresser).

11. In this passage we have a beautiful picture of Christ and His church (15:5).  Our union with Christ is one of the most precious doctrines taught in the N.T.

12. But while it is a precious doctrine, it is also a misunderstood doctrine. There are some born again people here tonight who may be unaware of their union with Christ. 

13. And perhaps there are some lost people here tonight who do not know Christ as their Lord and Saviour.







1.    Why is this union necessary?  Because unsaved man is separated from God (cf. Isa. 59:1, 2).  It is extreme folly to think that a man can live like the devil and still have union with Christ.  The Bible says, “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear” (Isa. 59:2; cf. vss. 3, 4).

2.    Unregenerate men who think they are saved because they prayed a little prayer or were baptized or joined a church or whatever, are “trusting in vanity” (Isa. 59:4).

3.    Not only is unsaved man separated from God, he is spiritually dead (cf. Eph. 2:1; 4:17-23).

4.    Well, if a man is separated from God, and he is dead, it stands to reason that he cannot bear any fruit (John 15:1-6).

5.    So our Lord says those without fruit are “cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned” (John 15:6).

6.    This was the message of the OT prophets.  This was the message of John the Baptist (Matt. 3:10).  And it was the message of our Lord (John 15:6).

7.    Our Lord’s warning in John 15:6 puzzles some people.  Some teach that Christ is warning backslidden believers that if they do not produce fruit they will perish.  But this would contradict many other Scriptures (John 3:16; 10:27-29).

8.    Some teach that Christ is warning backslidden believers that they will be chastised but still saved. Now the Bible certainly teaches that God chastises backslidden Christians.  But to be cast into the fire and burned is more than chastisement.  These words describe eternal damnation.

9.    I agree with Spurgeon who said: “My hearer, what if it should happen that you are only in Christ on a Sunday, but in the world all the week?  What if you are off and on with Christ? What if you play fast and loose with the Lord?  What if you are an outside saint and an inside devil?”

10. Spurgeon then went on to describe an experience he had in a hotel room in France.  The room was cold and so he asked the porter to start a fire. The porter lit the fire and Spurgeon started crying. As the porter got ready to throw a bundle of firewood into the fire, Spurgeon examined the wood and realized it was made of vine branches.  And John 15:6 came to his mind and he said these words: “Those vine shoots were parts of a good vine, no doubt – branches that once looked fair and green; but now they were fuel for the flame.  They had been cut off and cast off as useless things, and then men gathered them and tied them in bundles, and they were ignobly thrust into the fire!  What a picture!  There goes a bundle of ministers into the fire!  There is a bundle of elders!  There’s another bundle of deacons, a bundle of church members, a bundle of Sunday-school teachers!” 

11. Our Lord can distinguish the good branches from the ones that must go into the fire.  He said these words on the way to the Garden of Gethsemane, where He would be betrayed by Judas Iscariot. And for the last 2,000 years there have been many other “Judas Iscariots” in our churches.

12. So we can certainly see the need for our union with Christ.  Jesus said, “For without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).

13. Without genuine faith in Christ, men are cast off into the fire like a bundle of old firewood (15:6).  We see the necessity for this union; now let’s look at the means of this union.



1.    Before one grows a vine, he must first plow the soil in preparation for the planting.  Spiritually this can only be done through the convicting work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:7-11).

2.    When I started this church I went out six days a week knocking on doors handing out Gospel tracts. Sometimes people would ask me what I was trying to accomplish and I would show them Jeremiah 4:3 and Hosea 10:12.

3.    And as we broke up the fallow (uncultivated, inactive) ground, the Lord blessed and we began to see souls saved and a church organized.

4.    This is the means of our union with Christ.

5.    The seed that we use is the Word of God (I Peter 1:23-25).

6.    And the soil is the hearts of men (Luke 8:11-15).

7.    Beloved, there is no other way to have union with Christ.  Sinners must repent and receive the Word of God.  They must receive Christ as their Lord and Saviour.



1.    There must be fruit (John 15:1-8, 16).  If there is no fruit, it is not a genuine conversion.  Fruit is more than just showing up for church once in a while.  Notice the progression here: “no fruit,” “fruit,” and “more fruit” (15:2).  Then finally we see “much fruit” (15:5, 8).

2.    Nothing delights a pastor more than seeing the members bearing much fruit.  Beloved, are you bringing in “no fruit” or “much fruit”?

3.    You may have to be pruned once in a while but it is for your own good.  God wants you to bear much fruit and sometimes this involves pruning.

4.    Just as a real vine must be cleaned from insects, mildew, and fungus, so Christians must be cleansed from worldly things that cling to us.  That’s why we must stay in the Word of God (15:3).

5.    Our union with Christ is a living union, so that we may bear fruit. Some Christians are obviously more fruitful than others (cf. Matt. 13:23).  But there must be some fruit.  Otherwise, it is not a genuine conversion. God wants us to “bear much fruit” (John 15:8).

6.    As a pastor, one thing I look for is the fruit of holiness (Rom. 6:22).  Sanctification is a process that begins at conversion. New believers can start practicing Biblical holiness, and they will if they are taught correctly.  Remember, Christians are not “of the world” (John 15:19).  This must be taught.  (Illustration: Bro. Jennings’ phone conversation with a worldly church member.)

7.    Another key to our union with Christ is found in John 15:4.  Our Lord said, “Abide in me, and I in you.” Beloved, the vine and the branches are one.  One is part of the other.  It is a vital union.

8.    The word “abide” is used 11 times in this passage.  It is translated “continue” in 15:9 and “remain” in 15:11.

9.    To abide in Christ means to stay in fellowship with Him so that we will walk in the Spirit and produce fruit that glorifies God (15:8).

10. We are just branches; our Lord is the vine (John 15:4,5).  By itself, a branch is weak and useless.  The branch cannot produce its own life; it must draw that life from the vine.

11. This precious truth should affect every aspect of our Christian life.  For example, it ought to affect our Bible reading and prayer life.  The Lord says, “Now ye are clean through the word…” (John 15:3).

12. If we are clean and there is no unconfessed sin in our lives we can go to the Lord in prayer and He will answer our prayers (John 15:7, 16; 16:23, 24).  “That your joy may be full” (16:24b).

13. Another result of our union with Christ is joy (John 15:11). And there will be love (15:9, 12).  The most loving and joyful people I know are Christian people.  Love, joy, and peace are the first three fruit of the Spirit named in Galatians 5.

14. Another result of our union with Christ is obedience (John 15:10, 14).   The words “disobedient Christian” do not sound right to my ears.  It’s like talking about a holy devil.  Just yesterday I met an angry, disobedient woman who claimed to be a Christian. 

15. And finally, here is one more result: communion and fellowship (15:15).  First comes union, then communion.  Union must proceed communion.



1.    M. R. De Haan told a story about a Christian gardener who worked for a wealthy man, who was very religious but lost.  The gardener tried over and over to show his employer that religion without Christ, no matter how sincere, was not enough. But he got nowhere.

2.    One day the gardener got an idea. In the garden was a barren tree which never bore fruit.  He hung upon the tree artificial wax fruit.  The proprietor came out later and was delighted to see such beautiful fruit hanging from his tree, but was very disappointed when he tried to pick the fruit and found out it was not real.

3.    Beloved, what about you?  Is there fruit in your life, and is your fruit real?  In which category do you fit – no fruit, more fruit, or much fruit? (15:2, 5, 8).

4.    If there is no fruit then you will be cast off into the fire (15:6).

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