Summary: Jesus teaches that brotherly love in us is fruit that proves we are in him, partakers of the divine nature, and loved by God.
We’re in our study of John where Jesus comforts his disciples on the night before his death. Several of these upper room passages are misinterpreted for works, and they’re used with guilt to make people afraid. However, everything we find here is for comfort and joy (v. 11), and that’s possible simply because of our relationship with Christ. He describes it as a vine and branches. The vine really does all the work, but the branches bear its fruit as a natural result. Christ is the vine, and we are the branches in him that bear spiritual fruit, so we can rightly say that he’s the source of all spiritual life.
God isn’t waiting for us to get things right before he’ll start working in us; rather, it is he who works in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure (Phil 2:13). He starts this process while we’re sinners (Rom. 5:7-8) and before we start looking for him, so that we are purely his handiwork, and he alone gets the glory for the good works he prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:10).
If we move away from that as the foundation then the rest of these verses become works-oriented and cause fear, but if we stay centered on it, then we rejoice knowing that Christ loves us and is as pleased with us as the Father is with him.
Now he says:
This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. 13Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Now, we could forget all about the vine and the branches, and I could tell you that you need to straighten up and start loving your brother, but that would miss the point. He’s already said his disciples are clean and that he’s pleased. Commandment-keeping isn’t a threat of do or die; it’s indicative of his work in us. “You’ll have joy when you see my fruit in you because you’ll know that I love you.”
Now, specifically one commandment and fruit is that we love one another. We don’t just have a feeling for each other, and our love isn’t reserved for those who treat us the best. Even the Gentiles love their mothers, but Christ’s disciples love each other the same was he has loved us. Again, it’s not just an empty command or threat: it’s an indication!
Think of it this way: the vine pushes nutrients on down through the branches, and that’s how they bear fruit. Well, Christ pushes his “nutrients” through us. We were dead but now we’re alive. We’re a new creation with a new heart. Once we were hostile enemies, but now we’re friends and sons. This life and mind and attitude is shared with us so that it says:
Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, 3According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: 4Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 5And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. 8For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. 10Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall (2 Pt. 1:2-10).
He’s given us everything that pertains to life and godliness, and by these we’re partakers of the divine nature; if these are in us then we’ll never be barren or unfruitful in the knowledge of Jesus, and if we do them then we’ll never fall! Again, this isn’t about works; it’s about proof.
Now, there’s no example of love greater than when a man lays down his life for his friends, and this is what Christ has done for us. If love defines him (or if he defines love), then we expect to find that nutrient in the vine, and we expect that nutrient to be passed along through the branches and result in good fruit:
We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. 15Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. 16Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? 18My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. 19And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him (1 Jn. 3:14-19).