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John 15


Jesus the True Vine The True Vine The Pattern of the Christian Believer's Life Jesus the Real Vine The True Vine
15:1-10 15:1-8 15:1-11 15:1-4 15:1-17
  Love and Joy Perfected   15:5-10  
15:11-17     15:11-17  
The World's Hatred The World's Hatred   The World's Hatred The Disciples and the World
15:18-25 15:18-25 15:18-25 15:18-25  
  The Coming Rejection      
15:26-16:4a 15:26-16:4 15:26-27 15:26-16:4a  



This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. This is a wonderful and troubling passage! It gives believers great encouragement of God's love and the promise of effectiveness, but it also has dire warnings! Theological traditions are so difficult to discuss in this area; let me quote one of my favorite commentators, F. F. Bruce in his book Answers to Questions.

"John 15:4,6. 'What is meant by the expressions "unless you abide" and "if a man does not abide" in John 15:4,6? Is it possible not to abide in Christ?'

Passages like these are not difficult in themselves; the difficulty arises when we try to make them and other Scriptures square with our theology, instead of using them as the basis for our theology. At the very time when our Lord was speaking there was a glaring example of one who failed to abide in Him-Judas Iscariot, who had just left them. Judas was chosen as his eleven colleagues were (Luke 6:13; John 6:70); their association with the Lord brought them no privileges which were not equally open to him. The plain passages of Scripture which teach the final perseverance of the saints should not be misused as an excuse for soft-pedaling the equally plain passages which speak of the danger of apostasy" (pp. 71-72).

B. It is surprising how many aorist tenses are used in this context where one would theologically expect present tenses. The aorists seem to be used in the sense of summing up all of one's life and viewing it as a whole.


C. The paragraph divisions of chapter 15 are uncertain. John, like 1 John, is a tapestry of various colors. The patterns appear again and again.


D. The term "abide" (menō) is used in the NT about 112 times. Forty of these appear in John's Gospel and 26 in his letters. This is a major theological term for John. Although chapter 15 is the classic expression of Jesus' mandate that we abide in Him, this term has a wider focus in John.

1. the Law abides forever (Matt. 5:17-18) so too, the Christ (12:34)

2. the book of Hebrews points toward a new means of revelation, not through a servant but through an abiding Son (Heb. 1:1-3, so, too John 8:35)

3. Jesus is said to provide food that abides (6:27) and produces fruit that abides (15:16). Both of these metaphors express the same truth, our need for Christ both: (1) initially and (2) continuously (cf. John 6:53)

4. John the Baptist saw the Spirit coming down and abiding on Jesus at His baptism (1:32)


E. See Special Topic: Abiding at 1 John 2:10.


F. In verses 11-16 the disciples are promised Jesus' joy, while in verses 17-27 the disciples are promised Jesus' persecution. The context of persecution runs through 16:4a. However, through it all believers are to love one another as He loved them!



 1"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. 3You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. 7If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. 9Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. 11These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.

15:1 "I am the true vine" This is one of Jesus' famous "I Am" statements in John's Gospel (cf. John 4:26; 6:35; 8:12; 10:7,9,10,11,14; 11:25; 14:6). In the OT the grapevine was a symbol of Israel ( Ps. 80:8-16; Isa. 5:1-7; Jer. 2:21; Ezek. 15; 19:10; Hosea 10:1; Matt. 21:33ff; Mark 12:1-12, Rom. 11:17ff). In the OT these examples always have a negative connotation. Jesus affirms that He was the Ideal Israelite (cf. Isaiah 53). As Paul used the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, and the building of God as metaphors for the church, so John used the vine. This implies that the church is the true Israel because of its relationship to Jesus, the true vine, (cf. Gal. 6:16; 1 Pet. 2:5,9; Rev. 1:6). See Special Topic at John 6:55 and 17:3. See note at John 8:12.

Some interpreters have asserted that the upper room discourse ends with 14:31, "let us go from here." If so, then chapters 15-17 were taught along the way to Gethsemane. Again, if so, then possibly the "vine" imagery was a visual sign taken from the golden vines on the temple buildings as Jesus and the eleven walked through its courts that night.

"and My Father is the vinedresser" Again Jesus affirms His intimate relationship with the Father and at the same time His subjection to the Father's will.

15:2 "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away . . .that bears fruit" The present passive participle occurs twice in this verse. Fruit bearing, not germination, is the evidence of salvation (cf. Matt. 7:16,20; 13:18ff; 21:18-22; Luke 6:43-45). The context implies that Jesus was speaking of (1) Judas' betrayal (cf. John 15:6; 13:10; 17:12) or (2) false disciples (cf. John 2:23-25; 8:30-47; 1 John 2:19; 2 Peter 2). There are levels of belief in John.

▣ "He prunes it" This is literally "cleanses." The word was used by Philo for pruning grapevines (BDBD 386). It is found only here in the NT. It is another word chosen by John for its dual connotations (i.e., pruning and cleansing, cf. John 15:3; 13:10). This is a present active indicative. Suffering has a purpose in believers' lives (cf. John 15:17-22). It maximizes fruit bearing, exposes fakes, and keeps them dependent on God (cf. Matt. 13:20-23; Rom. 8:17; 1 Pet. 4:12-16). For two good practical books on this difficult subject see (1) Principles of Spiritual Growth by Miles Stanford and (2) The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life by Hannah Whithall Smith.

It is possible because of the unified context of chapters 13-17 to relate this cleansing back to the foot washing of chapter 13. They were already bathed (saved), but their feet needed to be washed (continual forgiveness). This present tense verb addressed the disciples as 1 John 1:9 seems to confirm. It is not only obedience that is required for "abiding," but also ongoing repentance!

The purpose of suffering in the life of the believer may have several aspects.

1. develop Christlikeness (cf. Heb. 5:8)

2. temporal punishment for sin

3. simply life in a fallen world

It is always difficult to identify God's purpose, but #1 is always a possible result.

15:3 "You are already clean" The term "prunes" (kathairō) in John 15:2 is the same Greek root as "clean" (katharos). This entire context contains the evidences of true discipleship. The term "already" is emphasized in the Greek text which gave the remaining eleven disciples confidence of their secure position in Christ (compared to the same root used of Judas Iscariot in John 13:10).

▣ "because of the word which I have spoken to you" (cf. John 17:17; Eph. 5:26; 1 Pet. 1:23).


NASB, NKJV"Abide in Me, and I in you"
NRSV"Abide in Me, as I abide in you"
TEV"Remain united to me, and I will remain united in you"
NJB"Remain in me, as I in you"

This is an aorist active imperative plural (cf. John 6:56; 1 John 2:6). The grammatical question is whether the second phrase is a description or a comparison. Numerous times in this passage the theological doctrinal emphasis on perseverance of the true saint is stressed (cf. John 15:4,5,6,7,9,10,14; Mark 13:13; 1 Cor. 15:2; Gal. 6:9; Rev. 2:7,11,17,26; 3:5,12,21; 21:7, see Special Topic at John 8:31). True salvation is both an initial and a continuous response. This theological truth is often ignored in our enthusiasm for personal assurance of salvation. Biblical assurance is linked to

1. perseverance in faith

2. a lifestyle of repentance

3. ongoing obedience (cf. James and 1 John)

4. fruit bearing (cf. Matt. 13:23)

See Special Topic on "Abiding" at 1 John 2:10.

▣ "the branch cannot bear fruit" This shows the priority of divine provision. For "fruit" see note at John 15:5.

▣ "unless it abides. . .unless you abide" These are both third class conditional sentences, which means potential action. Our spiritual effectiveness is linked to our continuing relationship with Jesus.

15:5 "he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit" This is a present active participle followed by a present active indicative. The continual fellowship (i.e., personal faith relationship) is the source of continual fruit. Fruit could refer to believers' attitudes as well as actions (cf. Matt. 7:15-23; Gal. 5:22-23; 1 Corinthians 13). Believers are promised effective, lasting fruit if they abide (cf. John 15:16).

▣ "for apart from Me you can do nothing" This is a strong double negative. This is a negative statement of the positive truth of John 15:5 and Phil. 4:13.

15:6 "If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown away" This is a third class conditional sentence. Vine wood was useless for any domestic purpose (firewood) because it burned too fast and too hot (cf. Ezek. 15). This seems to be a reference to Judas and possibly Israel. If not, it must refer to false faith (cf. Matt. 13:41-42,50; and 1 John 2:19).

This is surely eschatological imagery! There will be a "gathering day" and a "burning day." How we live reveals the source of our lives (i.e., God or Satan). By ones fruit you know them (cf. Matthew 7; Gal. 6:7).

"fire" See Special Topic below.


15:7 "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you" This is a third class conditional sentence which means potential action. Prayer is not automatically answered! Jesus switches metaphors from Himself abiding in the disciples to His words abiding. Jesus reveals the Father and, so too, do His teachings. They are interchangeable sources of revelation. The gospel is both a person and a message.

▣ "ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you" This is an aorist middle imperative (cf. John 15:16). This phrase has been badly proof-texted. Be careful to seek the teaching of all Scripture and do not emphasize isolated texts (cf. note on 14:13). See Special Topic: Prayer, Unlimited Yet Limited at 1 John 3:22.

15:8 "My Father is glorified" Believers Christlike living brings glory to God and proves that they are true disciples. In John 13:31-32; 14:13; 17:4; and Matt. 9:8; 15:31 the Father was glorified in the Son's work and now in the believer's works (cf. Matt. 5:16). See note at John 1:14.

NASB"so prove to be My disciples"
NKJV"so you will be My disciples"
NRSV, TEV"become my disciples"
NJB"be my disciples"
REB"so be my disciples"
Goodspeed"showing yourselves to be my disciples"
NET Bible"show that you are my disciples"
JB"then you will be my disciples"

The differences are caused by a tense variation in the verb.

1. aorist subjunctive, MSS P66, B, D, L

2. future indicative, MSS א, A

The lives (fruit) of believers reveal who they are! The verb tense is not as important as the reality of a changed and effective life of love, obedience, and service. These are marks of a true believer! We are not saved by our love, obedience, service (cf. Eph. 2:8,9), but they are the evidence that we are believers (cf. Eph. 2:10).

The term "disciples" is used in John's Gospel to denote those true believers and followers who do God's will and reflect His character. John does not use the term "church" (ekklēsia) even one time, therefore, "disciples" becomes the way he denotes Christian fellowship and gatherings. Discipleship is the daily life of the new age lived out in the old age. It is supremely characterized by love, light, obedience, and service! By these others know them as Jesus' disciples.

15:9 "Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you" This chain of loving relationships characterizes God's family; the Father loves the Son, the Son loves His followers, His followers love one another.

▣ "abide in My love" This is an aorist active imperative. Believers are commanded to abide in

1. prayer (John 15:7; 14:14)

2. obedience (John 15:10, 14, 17, 20; 14:15,21,23,24)

3. joy (John 15:11)

4. love (John 15:12; 14:21,23,24)

These are all evidences of a personal relationship with God. See Special Topic: Abiding at 1 John 2:10.

15:10 "If you keep My commandments" This is a third class conditional sentence which means potential action. Obedience is evidence of true discipleship (cf. John 8:31; 14:15-21, 23-24; Luke 6:46). Jesus uses it as an example of His fidelity to the Father.

▣ "love" This Greek term for love (agapē) was not used much in Classical or Koine Greek literature until the church began to use it in a specialized sense. It began to be used as selfless, sacrificial, loyal, active love. Love is an action, not an emotion (cf. John 3:16). The NT term agapē is theologically analogous to OT term hesed, which meant covenant love and loyalty.

▣ "just as I have kept my Father's commandments" This is a perfect active indicative. As Jesus relates to the Father, believers are to relate to Him. There is a unity between Father and Son that is meant to be reproduced among believers (cf. John 14:23).

15:11 "your joy may be made full" Believers are to have Jesus' joy (cf. John 17:13). Joy is another evidence of true discipleship (cf. John 15:11 [twice]; 16:20,21,22,24; 17:13). In this world there are pain and crises; in Christ there is joy, full joy, His joy.

The NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 741, has a good comment about how "joy" and "full" are used together in John's writings.

"In Jn. and the Johannine letters there is a frequent connection between → joy (chara) as a subject and the vb. plēroō in the pass., to be filled. This joy is the joy of Jesus (Jn. 15:11; 17:13) which he brings through his coming (3:29), his words (15:11; 17:13), and his return (16:22) to his disciples (15:11; 17:13). It replaces the sorrow that fills their hearts (16:16, 20). Thus Christ's joy becomes their joy (15:11; 16:24; cf. I Jn. 1:4). This joy characterizes the life of the disciples in their walk with Jesus; it becomes complete (Jn. 3:29; 15:11; 16:24; 17:13; I Jn. 1:4; 2 Jn. 12). The pass. underlies the fact that it is God who completes this joy."


   12"This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. 14You are My friends if you do what I command you. 15No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. 17This I command you, that you love one another."

15:12 "This is My commandment" Jesus repeated this theme often (cf. John 13:34; 15:17; 1 John 3:11,23; 4:7-8, 11-12, 19-21; 2 John 5).

▣ "that you love one another" This is a present active imperative, a continual command. Love is the fruit of the Spirit (cf. Gal. 5:22). Love is not a feeling, but an action. It is defined in practical terms (cf. Gal. 5:22-23; 1 Cor. 13).

▣ "just as I have loved you" This is an aorist active indicative. This was possibly a figurative reference to the cross (cf. John 15:13). Again, it was Jesus' special type of self-giving love that believers are to exhibit (cf. 2 Cor. 5:14-15; Gal. 2:20; 1 John 3:16).

15:13 "that one lay down his life for his friends" This refers to Jesus' vicarious, substitutionary atonement (cf. John 10:11,15,17,18; Mark 10:45; Rom. 5:7-8; 2 Cor. 5:21; Isaiah 53). This is love in action! This is what disciples are called on to do (cf. 1 John 3:16).

15:14 "You are my friends" This is the Greek noun philos, which is often associated with friendship love (phileō). In Koine Greek "agapaō " and "phileō " are often synonymous verbs for divine love (compare 11:3 [phileō] and 5 [agapaō]); phileō also is used of God's love in John 5:20.

▣ "if you do what I command you" This is a third class conditional sentence which means potential action. It gives the condition for friendship, which is obedience (cf. John 14:15, 23-24; 15:10; Luke 6:46). As Jesus abided in the Father and remained in His love, so too, must His disciples!

15:15 Jesus informs the disciples of (1) truths about God and (2) future events. He demonstrates His power so that the disciples will grow in faith and trust. Jesus shared with His disciples what He had heard from the Father (cf. John 3:32; 8:26,40; 12:49; 15:15); they were to pass this on to others (cf. Matt. 28:20).

15:16 "You did not choose Me, but I chose you" There are several key grammatical items.

1. both verbs are aorist middle indicative - Jesus, Himself, once and for all chose them (cf. John 6:70; 13:18; 15:16,19)

2. the strong "alla" (but) adversative

3. the emphatic "ego" or "I" statement

Here is the balance between human response and election. Both are biblical teachings. God always initiates (cf. John 6:44,65; 15:16,19), but humans must respond (cf. John 1:12; 3:16; 15:4,7,9). God's dealings with mankind are always in a covenant relationship ("if. . .then"). See Special Topic at John 3:16.

The verb "chosen" in this context refers to the Twelve. The term "chosen" has the connotation of "chosen for service" in the OT and only in the NT does the added concept of "chosen for salvation" come into the semantic range. NT believers are chosen for Christlikeness which is service, selflessness, and sacrifice for the Kingdom of God, the body of Christ, the corporate good. It is a clear demonstration that the self-centeredness of the Fall has been broken.

It is characteristic in John that what Jesus says regarding the Twelve has implications and applications to all believers. They represent the first fruits of discipleship, but their relationship is

1. unique in its eyewitness testimony (i.e., inspiration)

2. applicable to all believers in that Jesus' will for them is His will for all who believe and follow


▣ "appointed you that you would go and bear fruit and that your fruit would remain" These are three present active subjunctives: (1) go; (2) bear fruit; and (3) fruit remains (abides). Believers are on a mission (cf. Matt. 28:19-20; Luke 24:46-47; Acts 1:8). The theological aspect of the term "appointed" can be seen in Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 12:28; 2 Tim. 1:11. It was also used of Christ's death on believers' behalf (cf. John 10:11,15,17-18; 15:13).

▣ "in My name" Believers are to reproduce Jesus' character. This phrase is synonymous with "the will of God" in 1 John 5:14. Love and answered prayer are linked here as in John 14:13-15. See Special Topic: The Name of the Lord at John 14:13-14.

15:17 "This I command you , that you love one another" See note on verse 12. Answered prayer is linked to love and mission!

   18"If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. 20Remember the word that I said to you, 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. 22If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23He who hates Me hates My Father also. 24If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. 25But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, 'They hated Me without a cause.'"

15:18 "If" This is a first class conditional sentence, which is assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purpose. The world, a fallen human system, hates the followers of Jesus.

▣ "the world" John uses this term in several ways: (1) the planet, as a metaphor for all mankind (cf. John 3:16) and (2) as human society organized and functioning apart from God (cf. John 10:8; 1 John 2:15-17). See Special Topic at John 14:17.

▣ "hates you" This is a present active indicative; the world continues to hate (cf. John 15:20).

▣ "you know" This is a present active imperative. Believers' knowledge of the NT truths will help them face a fallen world's persecution.

▣ "that it has hated Me before it hated you" This is a perfect active indicative. The pronoun "Me" is emphatic (cf. John 7:7). This reveals the world's opposition to God, His Messiah, and His people (cf. John 17:14; 1 John 3:13).

Believers are one in Christ's love and one in Christ's persecution (cf. Rom. 8:17; 2 Cor. 1:5,7; Phil. 3:10; 1 Pet. 4:13). Identification with Christ brings peace, joy, and persecution, even death!

15:19 "If" This is a second class conditional sentence which is called "contrary to fact." This should be translated "if you were of the world, which you are not, then the world would love you, but it does not."

15:20"Remember" This is a present active imperative , like John 15:18, or a present active indicative, possibly a question (LB).

▣ "a slave is not greater than his master" When one compares this verse with 13:16, it becomes obvious that Jesus used proverbial sayings in different ways.

▣ "If they persecute Me. . .if they kept My word" These are two first class conditional sentences which are assumed to be true from the author's perspective. The term "persecuted" means to pursue as a wild animal. Persecution is the norm for followers of Christ in a fallen world (Matt. 5:10-12; John 16:1-3; 17:14; Acts 14:22; Rom. 5:3-4; 8:17; 2 Cor. 4:16-18; 6:3-10; 11:23-30; Phil. 1:29; 1 Thess. 3:3; 2 Tim. 3:12; James 1:2-4; 1 Pet. 4:12-16).

However, notice that although some will reject the Apostles' words and even persecute them, there will be others who will hear and respond! They themselves are proof of this reality!

15:21 "they do not know the One who has sent me" This obviously refers to the Father. It implies that the Jews as well as Gentiles do not know God. "Know" is used in its Semitic (OT) sense of personal relationship (cf. Gen. 4:1; Jer. 1:5). The lost world persecuted believers because (1) they belong to Jesus, who they also persecuted and (2) they do not know God!

15:22 "If I had not come" This is another second class conditional sentence, which means "contrary to fact." It should be translated "If I had not come back and spoken to them, which I did, then they would not have sin, which they do." Responsibility is related to knowledge (see SPECIAL TOPIC: THE UNPARDONABLE SIN at John 5:21). In this context the fruitless branches (i.e., Judas and the Jews) had great opportunity for knowledge, much more than those who only had natural revelation (i.e., Gentiles, cf. Ps. 19:1-6; Rom. 1:18-20 or 2:14-15).

15:23 The continual opposition to Jesus is continual opposition to God (cf. John 15:24).

15:24 "If" This is another second class conditional sentence which means "contrary to fact." It should be translated "If I had not done the works among them which no one else did (but which I did), then they would not have sin, which they do."

Light brings responsibility (cf. John 1:5; 8:12; 12:35,46; 1 John 1:5; 2:8,9,11; Matt. 6:23).

▣ "they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well" These are both perfect active indicatives which show a settled attitude. To reject Jesus is to reject the Father (cf. 1 John 5:9-13).

15:25 It is surprising that the term "Law" or "Torah" is used to describe a quote from Ps. 35:19; 69:4. Usually the term is used of the writings of Moses, Genesis through Deuteronomy.

The mystery of the Jewish rejection of Jesus in the face of such obvious revelation was attributed to willful unbelief (cf. Isa. 6:9-13; Jer. 5:21; Rom. 3:9-18).

   26"When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, 27and you will bear witness also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.

15:26 "When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you" Both the Father and the Son send the Spirit (cf. John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7). The work of redemption involves all three persons of the Trinity.

▣ "the Spirit of truth" This is used in the sense of the Holy Spirit as the revealer of the Father (cf. John 14:17,26; 15:26; 16:13). See Special Topic on Truth at John 6:55 and 17:3.

▣ "He will testify about Me" The Spirit's task is to witness to Jesus and His teachings (cf. John 14:26; 16:13-15; 1 John 5:7).

15:27 "you will bear witness also" The "you. . .also" is emphatic. This is a present active indicative. This must refer to the inspiration of the authors of the NT (i.e., Apostles and their friends) who were with Jesus during His earthly life (cf. Luke 24:48). See Special Topics: Witnesses to Jesus at John 1:8 and The Personhood of the Spirit at John 14:26.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. What does "abiding" involve?

2. What if a believer ceases to abide? What if a believer has no fruit?

3. List the evidences of true discipleship.

4. If suffering is the norm for Christians, what does that say to us today?

5. Explain John 15:16 in your own words