What does John chapter 15 mean?John chapter 15 is a unique section of the Bible. Chapter and verse divisions were not original to the text; they were added centuries later to make it easier to find certain statements. Still, this is one of the few chapters composed entirely of words ascribed to Jesus Christ. Some, like John chapters 14, 16, and 17, come very close, but not every single word in those texts is something spoken by Him. Leading up to this text, Jesus has been teaching about His status as the Way, Truth, and Life (John 14:6), and the work of the Holy Spirit.
This chapter begins with one of Jesus' most famous analogies. His description of Himself as the True Vine, God as the Vinedresser, and human beings as branches has a specific context that makes its lessons clearer. Just as some branches are "in" a vine, but not connected to the lifegiving aspects, so too can people be "in" a church, or a Christian community, and not be truly saved. The evidence separating these two is fruitfulness: branches that aren't legitimately part of the "true vine" are barren, eventually cut off, and destroyed. This is not about a loss of salvation: the discarded branches were never meaningfully part of the life of the vine in the first place (John 15:1–6).
As He does often in this discourse, Jesus connects obedience to love. Those who truly love and "abide in" Him will naturally adhere to His teachings. Those who don't follow His teachings show, through disobedience, that His words are not abiding in them. This analogy also involves the depth to which born-again believers can access God's power, in order to accomplish His will (John 15:7–11).
Jesus also repeats His earlier command: that Christians are to show love to each other (John 13:34). This love is mostly practical; it's a matter of what we do, not necessarily about the emotions we feel. It is also meant to emulate the love Christ showed for us. That love is sacrificial, humble, and constant. Offering one's life for the sake of others is the ultimate expression of this love; however, Jesus does not mean that Christian love is only shown in grand gestures. Rather, it's to be the pattern of our entire lives (John 15:12–13).
Part of friendship with God is honoring His teachings. It also means God communicating with us in something more than simple orders. Abraham's friendship with God (James 2:23) was demonstrated in God's willingness to speak with Abraham. So too does Christ speak to us. His work in choosing us, saving us, sanctifying us, and teaching us is merciful and amazing (John 15:14–17).
As much as Christ loves believers, the world hates them. In this case, "the world" refers to the unbelieving, godless nature of humanity in general. Just as we should expect to serve as much as our Master served (John 13:15–16), we should expect to be hated just as our Master was hated. The world's hatred is irrational and spiteful—driven by anger and conviction over sins which Christians do not endorse or join in (John 15:18–25).
Part of our help in enduring that persecution is the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit provides a reminder of Christ's teachings. In a similar way, Christians serve to remind the world of Christ's message (John 15:26–27).
In the next segment, Jesus will more explicitly describe the persecution Christians may endure from the unbelieving world.