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John 15:16-21

16. You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you; and I have ordained you to go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should continue; that whatever you shall ask from the Father in my name he may give you. 17. These things I command you, that you may love another. 18. If the world hate you, you know that it hated me before it hated you. 19. If you were of the world, the world would love what was its own; but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. 20. Remember the word which I said to you, The servant is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my word, they will keep yours also. 21. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they know not him who sent me.

 

16. You have not chosen me. He declares still more clearly that it must not be ascribed to their own merit, but to his grace, that they have arrived at so great an honor; for when he says that he was not chosen by them, it is as if he had said, that whatever they have they did not obtain by their own skill or industry. Men commonly imagine some kind of concurrence to take place between the grace of God and the will of man; but that contrast, I chose you, I was not chosen by you, claims, exclusively, for Christ alone what is usually divided between Christ and man; as if he had said, that a man is not moved of his own accord to seek Christ, until he has been sought by him.

True, the subject now in hand is not the ordinary election of believers, by which they are adopted to be the children of God, but that special election, by which he set apart his disciples to the office of preaching the Gospel. But if it was by free gift, and not by their own merit, that they were chosen to the apostolic office, much more is it certain that the election, by which, from being the children of wrath and an accursed seed, we become the children of God, is of free grace. Besides, in this passage Christ magnifies his grace, by which they had been chosen to be Apostles, so as to join with it that former election by which they had been engrafted into the body of the Church; or rather, he includes in these words all the dignity and honor which he had conferred on them. Yet I acknowledge that Christ treats expressly of the apostleship; for his design is, to excite the disciples to execute their office diligently and faithfully. 8585     “Diligemment et fidelement.”

He takes, as the ground of his exhortation, the undeserved favor which he had bestowed on them; for the greater our obligations to the Lord, the more earnest ought we to be in performing the duties which he demands from us; otherwise it will be impossible for us to avoid the charge of base ingratitude. Hence it appears that there is nothing which ought more powerfully to kindle in us the desire of a holy and religious life, than when we acknowledge that we owe every thing to God, and that we have nothing that is our own; that both the commencement of our salvation, and all the parts which follow from it, flow from his undeserved mercy. Besides, how true this statement of Christ is, may be clearly perceived from the fact, that Christ chose to be his apostles those who might have been thought to be the most unfit of all for the office; though in their person he intended to preserve an enduring monument of his grace. For, as Paul says, (1 Corinthians 2:16,) who among men shall be found fit for discharging the embassy by which God reconciles mankind to himself? Or rather, what mortal is able to represent the person of God? It is Christ alone who makes them fit by his election. Thus Paul ascribes his apostleship to grace, (Romans 1:5,) and again mentions that

he had been separated from his mother’s womb,
(Galatians 1:15.)

Nay more, since we are altogether useless servants, those who appear to be the most excellent of all will not be fit for the smallest calling, till they have been chosen. Yet the higher the degree of honor to which any one has been raised, let him remember that he is under the deeper obligations to God.

And I have appointed you. The election is hidden till it is actually made known, when a man receives an office to which he had been appointed; as Paul, in the passage which I quoted a little ago, where he says that he had been separated from his mothers womb, adds, that he was created an apostle, because it so pleased God His words are:

When it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace,
(Galatians 1:15.)

Thus also the Lord testifies that he knew Jeremiah before he was in his mothers womb, (Jeremiah 1:5,) though he calls him to the prophetical office at the proper and appointed time. It may happen, no doubt, that one who is duly qualified enters into the office of teaching; or rather, it usually happens in the Church that no one is called till he be endued and furnished with the necessary qualifications. That Christ declares himself to be the Author of both is not wonderful; since it is only by him that God acts, and he acts along with the Father. So then, both election and ordination belong equally to both.

That you may go. He now points out the reason why he mentioned his grace. It was, to make them apply more earnestly to the work. The apostleship was not a place of honor without toil, but they had to contend with very great difficulties; and therefore Christ encourages them not to shrink from labors, and annoyances, and dangers. This argument is drawn from the end which they ought to have in view; but Christ reasons from the effect, when he says,

That you may bear fruit; for it is hardly possible that any one would devote himself earnestly and diligently to the work, if he did not expect that the labor would bring some advantage. Christ, therefore, declares that their efforts will not be useless or unsuccessful, provided that they are ready to obey and follow when he calls them. 8686     “A obeir et suyvre ou il les appellcra.” For he not only enjoins on the apostles what their calling involves and demands, but promises to them also prosperity and success, that they may not be cold or indifferent. It is hardly possible to tell how great is the value of this consolation against those numerous temptations which daily befall the ministers of Christ. Whenever, then, we see that we are losing our pains, let us call to remembrance that Christ will, at length, prevent our exertions from being vain or unproductive; for the chief accomplishment of this promise is at the very time when there is no appearance of fruit. Scorners, and those whom the world looks upon as wise men, ridicule our attempts as foolish, and tell us that it is in vain for us to attempt to mingle heaven and earth; because the fruit does not yet correspond to our wishes. But since Christ, on the contrary, has promised that the happy result, though concealed for a time, will follow, let us labor diligently in the discharge of our duty amidst the mockeries of the world.

And that your fruit may abide. A question now arises, why does Christ say that this fruit will be perpetual? As the doctrine of the Gospel obtains souls to Christ for eternal salvation, many think that this is the perpetuity of the fruit But I extend the statement much farther, as meaning that the Church will last to the very end of the world; for the labor of the apostles yields fruit even in the present day, and our preaching is not for a single age only, but will enlarge the Church, so that new fruit will be seen to spring up after our death.

When he says, your fruit, he speaks as if it had been obtained by their own industry, though Paul teaches that they who plant or water are nothing, (1 Corinthians 3:7.) And, indeed, the formation of the Church is so excellent a work of God, that the glory of it ought not to be ascribed to men. But as the Lord displays his power by the agency of men, that they may not labor in vain, he is wont to transfer to them even that which belongs peculiarly to himself. Yet let us remember that, when he so graciously commends his disciples, it is to encourage, and not to puff them up.

That your Father may give you all that you ask in my name. This clause was not added abruptly, as many might suppose; for, since the office of teaching far exceeds the power of men, there are added to it innumerable attacks of Satan, which never could be warded off but by the power of God. That the apostles may not be discouraged, Christ meets them with the most valuable aid; as if he had said, “If the work assigned to you be so great that you are unable to fulfill the duties of your office, my Father will not forsake you; for I have appointed you to be ministers of the Gospel on this condition, that my Father will have his hand stretched out to assist you, whenever you pray to him, in my name, to grant you assistance.” And, indeed, that the greater part of teachers either languish through indolence, or utterly give way through despair, arises from nothing else than that they are sluggish in the duty of prayer.

This promise of Christ, therefore, arouses us to call upon God; for whoever acknowledges that the success of his work depends on God alone, will offer his labor to him with fear and trembling. On the other hand, if any one, relying on his own industry, disregard the assistance of God, he will either throw away his spear and shield, when he comes to the trial, or he will be busily employed, but without any advantage. Now, we must here guard against two faults, pride and distrust; for, as the assistance of God is fearlessly disregarded by those who think that the matter is already in their own power, so many yield to difficulties, because they do not consider that they fight through the power and protection of God, under whose banner they go forth to war.

17. These things I command you. This too, was appropriately added, that the Apostles might know that mutual love among ministers is demanded above all things, that they may be employed, with one accord, in building up the Church of God; for there is no greater hindrance than when every one labors apart, and when all do not direct their exertions to the common good. If, then, ministers do not maintain brotherly intercourse with each other, they may possibly erect some large heaps, but latterly disjointed and confused; and, all the while, there will be no building of a Church.

18. If the world hate you. After having armed the Apostles for the battle, Christ exhorts them likewise to patience; for the Gospel cannot be published without instantly driving the world to rage. Consequently, it will never be possible for godly teachers to avoid the hatred of the world. Christ gives them early information of this, that they may not be instances of what usually happens to raw recruits, who, from wont of experience, are valiant before they have seen their enemies, but who tremble as soon as the battle is commenced. And not only does Christ forewarn his disciples, that nothing may happen to them which is new and unexpected, but likewise confirms them by his example; for it is not reasonable that Christ should be hated by the world, and that we, who represent his person, should have the world on our side, which is always like itself.

You know. I have translated the verb γινώσκετε in the indicative mood, you know; but if any one prefer to translate it in the imperative mood, know ye, I have no objection, for it makes no change in the meaning. There is greater difficulty in the phrase which immediately follows, πρῶτον ὑμῶν, before you; for when he says that he is before the disciples, this may be referred either to time or to rank The former exposition has been more generally received, namely, that Christ was hated by the world before the Apostles were hated But I prefer the second exposition, namely, that Christ, who is far exalted above them, was not exempted from the hatred of the world, and therefore his ministers ought not to refuse the same condition; for the phraseology is the same as that which we have seen twice before, in John 1:27 and 30, He who cometh after me is preferred to me, (ὅτι πρῶτός μου ἦν,) for he was before me

19. If you were of the world. This is another consolation, that the reason why they are hated by the world is, that they have been separated from it. Now, this is their true happiness and glory, for in this manner they have been rescued from destruction.

But I have chosen you out of the world. To choose means here to separate Now, if they were chosen out of the world, it follows that they were a part of the world, and that it is only by the mercy of God that they are distinguished from the rest who perish. Again, by the term, the world, Christ describes, in this passage, all who have not been regenerated by the Spirit of God; for he contrasts the Church with the world, as we shall see more fully under the seventeenth chapter. And yet this doctrine does not contradict the exhortation of Paul,

Be at peace with all men, as far as lieth in you,
(Romans 12:18;)

for the exception which he adds amounts to saying, that we ought to see what is right and proper for us to do that no man, by seeking to please the world, may give himself up to its corruptions.

But there is still another objection that may be urged; for we see that it commonly happens that wicked men, who are of the world, are not only hated, but accursed by others. In this respect, certainly, the world loveth not what is its own. I reply, earthly men, who are regulated by the perception of their flesh, never have a true hatred of sin, but only so far as they are affected by the consideration of their own convenience or injury. And yet the intention of Christ was not to deny that the world foams and rages within itself by internal quarrels. He only intended to show, that the world hates nothing in believers but what is of God. And hence, too, it plainly appears how foolish are the dreams of the Anabaptists, who conclude, from this single argument that they are the servants of God, because they displease the greater part of men. For it is easy to reply, that many who are of the world favor their doctrine, because they are delighted at the thought of having every thing in shameful confusion; while many who are out of the world hate it, because they are desirous that the good order of the state should remain unbroken.

20. Remember the word. It might also be read in the indicative mood, You remember the word, and the meaning is not very different; but I think that it is more suitable to read it in the imperative mood, Remember the word. It is a confirmation of what Christ had spoken immediately before, when he said that he was hated by the world, though he was far more excellent than his disciples; for it is unreasonable that the condition of the servant should be better than that of his master Having spoken of persons, he likewise makes mention of doctrine.

If they have heard my word, they will keep yours also. Nothing gives greater uneasiness to the godly than when they see the doctrine, which is of God, haughtily despised by men; for it is truly shocking and dreadful, and the sight of it might shake the stoutest heart. But when we remember on the other hand, that not less obstinate resistance was manifested against the Son of God himself, we need not wonder that the doctrine of God is so little reverenced among men. When he calls it his doctrine and their doctrine, this refers to the ministry. Christ is the only Teacher of the Church; but he intended that his doctrine, of which he had been the first Teacher, should be afterwards preached by the apostles.

21. But all these things they will do to you. As the fury of the world is monstrous, when it is so enraged against the doctrine of its own salvation, Christ assigns the reason to be, that it is hurried on by blind ignorance to its own destruction; for no man would deliberately engage in battle against God. It is blindness and ignorance of God, therefore, that hurries on the world, so that it does not hesitate to make war with Christ. We ought, then, always to observe the cause of this conduct, and the true consolation consists in nothing else than the testimony of a good conscience. It should also excite gratitude in our minds, that, while the world perishes in its blindness, God hath given to us his light. Yet let it be understood that hatred of Christ arises from stupidity of mind, when God is not known; for, as I have often said, unbelief is blind; not that wicked men do not understand or know anything, but because all the knowledge that they have is confused, and quickly vanishes away. On this subject I have elsewhere treated more largely.


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