Copyright © Rosemary Bardsley 2003



[This Study relates to Knowing Christ - Knowing God Worksheet 7 designed for use in group study situations. Some of the suggestions in the Study Tasks are specific for group study leaders; these can be adapted for personal study.]

In John's Gospel and first letter there is a deep and intimate association between Jesus Christ and life.

Task #1: Get the group to read and discuss the listed verses to identify the association between Jesus Christ and life, including the kind of life.
Significant point

John 1:3,4

Context before = physical life;
Context after = spiritual life.

John 3:15,16

Believing in Jesus - possessing eternal life (opposite of perishing')

John 4:10-14

Eternal life from the satisfying and life-giving 'water' given by Christ.

John 5:21-26

The Son has life in himself. He gives life to whoever he pleases. Those who believe the Father and the Son already possess eternal life, already have passed over from death to life.

John 5:39-40

Coming to Jesus means receiving the life promised in the Scriptures.

John 6:35

Permanent spiritual sustenance and satisfaction.

John 6:27-40

Eternal life the possession of all who believe in Jesus Christ, the Son

John 6:47-58

Eternal life the present possession of those who recognize God in the man Jesus.

John 6:63

Life linked to the words of Jesus.

John 7:37,38

Spiritual life [verse 39] for those who believe in Jesus Christ.

John 8:12

Life the opposite of darkness, through Jesus the light.

John 10:10

Abundant life the result of Jesus Christ's coming.

John 10:27-28

Eternal life the gift of Jesus Christ to those who follow him; it means never perishing and is secure.

John 11:25,26

Believing in Jesus causes life that transcends death.

John 12:49-50

'Eternal life' linked to the words of Jesus.

John 14:6

Jesus identified as 'the life'; 'the life' identified as 'coming to the Father'.

John 17:2,3

Eternal life is knowing Christ and knowing God.

John 20:31

'Life' is in the name of Jesus Christ.

1 John 1:1,2

'Eternal life' identifies with the Son, and as the content of gospel proclamation.

1 John 5:11-13

'Having' the Son = having eternal life.

1 John 5:20

Jesus Christ identified as 'the true God and eternal life'.


Task #2: The group is to check out the I AM claims of Jesus Christ [including 15:1,5 which is dealt with at the beginning of Section C below], to identify the appropriate human response to these claims and their significance for our spiritual life. In the human response the Greek tenses are of extreme significance for an accurate understanding of our response. With one exception they all call for a present tense response, that is, a response that by its very nature is on-going. You will need to do some teaching here.

Jesus made a number of significant claims in John's gospel:

Jesus' Claim
Human response

John 6:35

I am the bread of life

The one who comes

Present tense

Will never go hungry

The one who believes

Present tense

Will never be thirsty

John 8:12

I am the light of the world

The one who follows

Present tense

Will never walk in darkness, will have the light of life

John 10:7,9

I am the gate

If anyone enters

Aorist tense

Will be saved.

John 10:14,27,28

I am the good shepherd

My sheep hear my voice

Present tense

I give them eternal life (present tense); no one can snatch them ...

They know me

Present tense

They follow me

Present tense

John 11:25,26

I am the resurrection and the life

He who believes in me

Present tense

Will live

John 14:6

I am the way, the truth and the live

No one comes to the Father except ...

Present tense


With the exception of 'the gate', which of necessity can only be entered in a once-for-all, inceptive way, (as reflected in the Aorist tense, the right (and saving) human response to all of these claims is expressed in the present tense.

This indicates that a genuine response/relationship to Jesus Christ is one that is on-going: it involves an essential continuity. It is not enough to be able to say that we believed in or came to Jesus at such and such a point of time; what the Bible is interested in is whether or not we believe in, are following, are coming to Jesus Christ present tense. There is no such thing as a used-to-be Christian: if our believing/trusting is genuine today we will still be believing/trusting tomorrow. If our following today is genuine we will still be following tomorrow. If our coming to him today is genuine we will be still coming to him for our knowledge of God and our salvation tomorrow.

This is because our spiritual life is never something separate from Jesus Christ. He is the life (John 14:6); he is our life (Col 3:4;); he is life and eternal life (1 John 5:12,20). It is not that [1] we believe in him and [2] he gives us something called 'life'. Rather, in believing in him, in receiving him, that is, in acknowledging God in Christ, we are in that act of faith and repentance, brought back to life (regenerated by the Spirit of God) by being reconnected with God, the author and source of all life. The death which overtook us concurrently with, and in our act of rejection of God in Genesis 3 is here reversed: life is again ours, concurrent with, and in our act of returning to God in Jesus Christ.

We must never think that our repentance, our returning, our faith, is a meritorious action on our part which in itself gains for us the reward of life. While we see each of these, and others, as individual elements in a process of salvation, they are from God's viewpoint, all concurrent in terms of time, though sequential in terms of theological significance. Consider:

The Scripture teaches that in ourselves we are:

  • Dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1,5; Colossians 2:13)
  • Powerless and unable to do anything (Romans 5:6; John 15:5)
  • Unable to come to Christ (John 6:44)
  • Unable to know the Father or the Son (Matthew 11:27)
  • Unable to see or enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3,5)

Obviously then, it is impossible for unsaved persons to recognize Jesus, repent, return to God or believe. Everyone is trapped in a no-win situation. If a person has done these things it is because:

  • God made us alive in and with Christ (Ephesians 2:5; Colossians 2:13)
  • God exerted his own great power on our behalf (Romans 1:16; 5:6; 8:3)
  • God dragged us to Christ (John 6:44)
  • The Father revealed the Son to us and the Son revealed the Father to us (Matthew 11:27; John 12:44-46; 14:7-9)
  • God put us into the kingdom (Colossians 1:13).

In addition, the Scripture teaches that:

  • Faith (the act of believing) is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8)
  • Repentance is a gift of God (Acts 5:31; 2 Timothy 2:25)
  • Regeneration is the work of God (John 1:12; 3:1-8; 1 Peter 1:3)
Task #3: Here the group looks at the logical opposites of life in Christ either expressed or inferred in the IAM claims of Christ. Further relevant truths can be added from the teaching material above. It is important that the group understands that the opposite of abiding/remaining/dwelling in Christ is not being an inferior Christian, but being an unbeliever, as the following sections make clear.


This essential continuity and permanence of true faith, and this essential absolute dependence on God for our existence as people who live in God's presence [in contrast to being people who are spiritually dead] is further expressed in the final 'I AM' claim that is recorded in John's gospel:

John 15:1,5

I am the true vine

The one who remains in me

Present tense

Will bear much fruit

[It is perhaps unfortunate that the English word 'remain' that is used here automatically makes us think of the possibility of not remaining - of the opposite of remaining, and that its use here makes us think that it is possible for a believer to not 'remain' in Christ, or, that there are two levels of Christians: those who 'remain' in Christ, and those who don't 'remain' in Christ.]

'Remaining' in Christ is in this verse, the equivalent of 'believing' 'following' 'coming' and 'knowing' in Christ's other claims. It is the present, continuous state of existence of the genuine believer. The Greek word, meno means to dwell, to abide, that is, to have one's 'abode'. Where is the place that the believer lives (dwells, abides)? It is always, ever and only in Christ (as Paul confidently asserts in his letters). The believer has no spiritual life apart from his union with Jesus Christ. This is clearly taught by Christ in his image of the vine. From this teaching in John 15, and then from elsewhere in John's writings, we learn the following positive facts about this faith union with Christ the source of our spiritual life (words translating meno are in bold):

Task #4: Task #4 looks at the significance of meno in John's gospel and letter, requiring the group to look up most of the texts in the three tables below, and to categorize what these verses teach about [1] salvation facts about all genuine believers; [2] the essential facts about the lifestyle that flows out from dwelling in Christ; [3] the facts about all non-believers, including non-genuine Christians. The group will need assistance with this task in verses where meno is obscured by the English translation. You may choose to have the group do this task before, after or while you teach Section C and D.

The believer in Christ - Christ in the believer


I am the true vine

The concept of the vine is rich with Old Testament meaning. Israel is called 'the vine' - usually in verses where God is expressing disappointment or judgement because as his vine or vineyard Israel was unfaithful. [For instance: Deut 32:32; Psalm 80:8-15; Isaiah 5; Jer 2:21; Ezek 15:1-8; Hosea 10:1]. Just as Jesus is the real bread come down from heaven (John 6) in contrast to the symbolic bread (manna), and just as he is the true Shepherd of the sheep (in contrast to the OT shepherds to failed to lead Israel), even so he is the real or true vine. In him alone is the purpose of God fulfilled; he is the one true Israelite, the one true man, in contrast to all the failed men who have gone before. All other men, including Israel, failed to produce the 'fruit' which God expected them to produce. It is not belonging to Israel, the faithless vine, that counts in the presence of God, but belonging to, being united to, Jesus Christ, the true vine.


Remain in me and I in you (KJV, follows the Greek)

This is an Aorist Imperative - indicating not the when of time but the how of time - it commands an action that is regarded as a single event. Jesus here commands the disciples to take up their abode, their place of residence, in him. The natural, automatic and essential flipside of this truth is that he abides in them. A branch abiding in a vine automatically has the life of the vine within it: that is the very nature of a vine and its branches. It is not possible for the second part of this sentence to be absent if the first part of the sentence is present.

No branch can bear (present tense) fruit by itself; it must remain (present tense) in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain (Aorist) in me.

Jesus here makes two simple statements: for a branch to bear fruit it must be in continuous connection with (dwell in') the vine. Similarly, for people to 'bear fruit' they must be connected with (dwell in) Jesus Christ. The Aorist is an Aorist subjunctive, which makes reference simply to an event without any time significance.


I am the vine; you are the branches.

The vine is the essential and permanent life-source of the branch.

If a man remains in me and I in him he will bear much fruit;

There is no 'if' in the Greek, nor is this in the subjunctive mood. It is simply 'ho menon'- the one remaining. Again we have the natural, automatic and essential co-truth of Jesus also remaining in the believer. It is impossible to have one of these truths in place without the other. This mutual dwelling in the other has the stated consequence (and it is not in any doubt or question) that the person so remaining (dwelling) in Christ, (and Christ in him) will bear (future tense, indicative mood - a statement of what will happen, not what might happen) much fruit.

... apart from me you can do nothing.

= 'without me - separate from me - you are not able - you do not have the power (from dunamai)- to do (present continuous tense) anything (= nothing). (There is a double or successive negative - which in Greek intensifies the power of the negative. Here Jesus stresses the sheer and absolute impossibility, incapability, of anyone achieving anything at all of spiritual significance, or to do with spiritual life, if they are not connected with him - if they do not have their life, their spiritual dwelling place, in him, and he in them.

The believer in Christ - Christ's words in the believer


If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.

If a person dwells, has their abode or place of residence, in Christ, and his words reside in them (which is part of his indwelling them), Jesus says that whatever is asked for will be given. This is equivalent to the asking in the name of Jesus in John 14:14, and 15:16. The person who prays in the name of Jesus, as with the person who is indwelt by the words of Christ, will only pray in line with the mind of Christ. The bearing of fruit, prayers being answered, and the bringing of glory to the Father all hang together (14:12-14; 15:5-816-17).

The believer in Christ's love


As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.

Statement of fact

Now remain in my love.

A command ( Aorist Imperative, which indicates an action regarded as a single event) to once-and-for-all take up residence in Christ's love.


If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love.

'Obey' is Aorist Subjunctive - making reference to an event without any time significance. This obeying or keeping the commands of Christ is not saying 'if you continue to keep/obey my commands; there is no thought of continuity in this verb. Rather there is the thought This verse is saying 'if this is the state of affairs, then this will be the accompanying effect.

It is instructive here to note the emphasis that Jesus Christ put on the right response to his word/command/teaching; the outcome of this right response is the same as the outcome of true faith:

  • John 5:24: eternal life, no condemnation, crossed over from death to life;
  • John 8:31: really his disciples;
  • John 12:48: rejecting his word = rejecting him, and coming under judgement;
  • John 14:21: being loved by the Father and the Son;
  • John 14:23: indwelling by Father and Son;

Receiving, hearing, obeying the word/commands/teaching of Christ are inseparable from believing in and receiving him; it is impossible to genuinely receive him without receiving, hearing, obeying his words/commands. True faith of necessity includes, and is expressed and evidenced by, the right relationship to his words. Indeed if we have not obeyed the word of the Gospel which commands to repent and believe that Christ is the one he claimed to be, then we are not Christians at all.


I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

Permanent and complete joy, which is the promise of the Gospel (Luke 2:10), is experienced by those who 'remain in his love' (have the right response to his words).



You are my friends if you do what I command - I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

Jesus points to the connection between knowing/obeying his words and being his 'friends'.

C.1 Other relevant use of meno in John's Gospel:


... nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent.


Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him


If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.


Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it for ever.


I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.


... he will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever - the Spirit of truth. ... you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

C.2 The use of meno in John's letters (all words in bold are translated from the Greek meno).

1 John


Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus walked


Whoever loves his brother lives in the light ...


... and the word of God lives in you ...


... the man who does the will of God lives forever


... if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us ...


See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father.


... the anointing you have received from him remains in you ... just as it has taught you, remain in him


And now, dear children, continue in him ...


No one who lives in him keeps on sinning.


No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning because he has been born of God.


We know we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death.


Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murder has eternal life [dwelling - omitted in NIV] in him.


If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?


Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gives us.


No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.


We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.


If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.


Whoever lives in love, lives in God, and God [lives - not in NIV or KJV, but in Greek, Amp. And GNB] in him.

2 John


... because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever.


Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son


The opposite of living/remaining in Jesus Christ, the true vine, is not some inferior kind of Christian life: it is to not be a Christian at all. This is quite clear when we look at John's use of the concept of 'remaining'. From all of the above in context we understand that if a person does not have their place of spiritual residence or life in Christ (who in John 15 is the Vine) with its essential flipside of Christ dwelling in them, then:

  • They to do not believe in Christ
  • They to not have eternal life
  • They are not really Christ's disciples
  • They do not belong to God's family
  • They have not acknowledged that Jesus is the Son of God
  • They do not have God
  • They do not have the Spirit of God
  • Their life reflects a rejection of the words and teaching of Christ
  • Their life reflects that they are strangers to the love of Christ.


Task #5: On the basis of the analysis done in Task #4 this task looks at three issues: [1] the issue of the 'fruit' of obedience in the Christian's life, which is the essential evidence and validation of one's claim to believe in Christ; [2] the problem of sin in the Christian - does it mean that one is not a Christian? [3] the issue of a person claiming that he 'used to be a Christian'. The material below has bearing on these issues, and can be taught either before or in conjunction with this task.

Scattered through the Scriptures the image of 'fruit' is used to portray the essential God-honouring lifestyle of obedience that accompanies genuine faith in God, that is, that accompanies and expresses a genuine connection with Jesus Christ, the true vine.

Selected from Old Testament:

Psalm 1:1-3

'Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked ... . But his delight is in the law of the Lord ... he is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season'

Isaiah 5:2,4,7

'Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit ... When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad? ... he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.'

Jeremiah 17:7,8

'Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water ... it ... never fails to bear fruit.'

Hosea 10:1

'Israel was a spreading vine; he brought forth fruit for himself. As his fruit increased, he built more altars ... '

Hosea 10:12,13

'Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love ... but you have planted wickedness, you have reaped evil, you have eaten the fruit of deception ... '

Hosea 14:8

'O Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols? ... I am like a green pine tree; your fruitfulness comes from me.'

Amos 6:12

' ... you have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into bitterness ... '

Micah 7:1-2

'What misery is mine! I am like one who gathers summer fruit at the gleaning of the vineyard; there is no cluster of grapes to eat, none of the early figs that I crave. The godly have been swept from the land; not one upright man remains. All men lie in wait to shed blood; each hunts his brother with a net ... the best of them is like a brier, the most upright worse than a thorn hedge.'

Selected from New Testament:

Matthew 3:8,10

'Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. ... the axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.'



'Watch out for false prophets ... By their fruit you will recognize them. ... every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus by their fruit you will recognize them.' [Verses 21-23 clarify that the 'fruit' is doing the will of the Father.]

Matthew 12:33-35

'Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.'



[This is the parable of the sower; only the genuine believers produce 'fruit'. The second and third seeds represent non-genuine believers whose non-genuine faith/following was brought to light by the cares of this world and/or trials and tribulations.]

Romans 7:4

' ... you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.'

Galatians 5:22

'The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.'

Ephesians 5:9

'For the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth'

Hebrews 12:11

' ... discipline ... later on ... produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.'

In John 15:1-17



From Barnes:

'That beareth not fruit - As the vinedresser will remove all branches that are dead or that bear no fruit, so will God take from his church all professed Christians who give no evidence by their lives that they are truly united to the Lord Jesus. He here refers to such cases as that of Judas, the apostatizing disciples, and all false and merely nominal Christians (Dr. Adam Clarke).

He taketh away - The vine-dresser cuts it off. God removes such in various ways:

1. by the discipline of the church.

2. by suffering them to fall into temptation.

3. by persecution and tribulation, by the deceitfulness of riches, and by the cares of the world Mat 13:21-22; by suffering the man to be placed in such circumstances as Judas, Achan, and Ananias were such as to show what they were, to bring their characters fairly out, and to let it be seen that they had no true love to God.

4. by death, for God has power thus at any moment to remove unprofitable branches from the church.'


From Barnes:

'He purgeth it - Or rather he prunes it, or cleanses it by pruning. ... God purifies all true Christians so that they may be more useful. He takes away that which hindered their usefulness; teaches them; quickens them; revives them; makes them more pure in motive and in life. This he does by the regular influences of his Spirit in sanctifying them, purifying their motives, teaching them the beauty of holiness, and inducing them to devote themselves more to him. He does it by taking away what opposes their usefulness, however much they may be attached to it, or however painful to part with it ... He removes the objects which bind their affections, and which render them inactive. He takes away the things around man, as he did the valued gourds of Jonah John 4:5-11, so that he may feel his dependence, and live more to the honor of God, and bring forth more proof of humble and active piety.'


All genuine believers are already clean on account of the word/message of Christ which they have heard, received and believed. Therefore his words here in John 15 must never be understood to be a threat to true believers. Note that Judas has already left the company. Previously, when Judas was still present on this same occasion, Jesus said 'You are clean, though not every one of you'. As John comments: 'he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.' [13:10,11]


The bearing of fruit is impossible apart from union with Christ.


The person who dwells in Christ will bear much fruit.


The person outside of Christ can do nothing [in the way of producing spiritual fruit]: he simply does not have any power to do so (ou dunasthe).


The person outside of Christ [not dwelling/abiding/remaining in Christ] has been cast outside like a fruitless branch. The verb eblethe is Aorist Indicative Passive: it is something that has already been done to such a person, not something that is a future possibility. The person who presents as being in Christ, but in reality is not in Christ, and has already been 'cast out' - such a non-genuine believer will not survive - they 'wither' away. [Refer to parable of the sower.]


When we consider the issue of people who are assumed to be Christians, but then 'fall away', we are faced with a number of explanations:

  • That they were in fact genuine believers but they have now lost their salvation. The teaching of the New Testament makes it clear that such a thing is not possible. [See study on Assurance of Salvation on this website.]
  • That they were and still are genuine believers, but are going through a period of temporary rebellion or superficial doubt, in which they are being sorely put to the test by the devil to give up on their faith. Underneath they still really believe in Jesus Christ. If such is the case, they are still in Christ and he will restore them as he did Peter.
  • That they never were believers in the first place - as in the case of Judas, the second and third seeds in the parable of the sower, and the people referred to in Matthew 7:15-27, John 2:23-25, 6:60-71 and 1 John 2:18-19.

The many warnings and exhortations is Scripture are there to encourage us to keep on believing in Christ and to make sure our faith in him is genuine. [See Studies in Hebrews on this website; the whole letter to the Hebrews was written to people on the brink of rejecting Christ the one great high priest and the one true sacrifice, and reverting to reliance on Jewish sacrifice and priesthood. The letter to the Hebrews is littered with warnings against such a sin of unbelief in and disobedience to the Gospel that would have identified their profession of faith in Christ worthless.]


In conclusion we return to the essential connection between life and Christ, and the essential nature of true faith. The person who has true faith will always have true faith, for such is the nature of true faith that it endures. Similarly, the person who is united to Christ by true faith in him, will always have this life in Christ, because the life that Christ gives is eternal life. The person who has true faith will also have the 'fruit' because such is the nature of true faith that it does not exist without the 'fruit' of obedience. It is only this person, who lives in Christ and in whom Christ lives, who can evidence in his life the 'fruit' of true obedience and faith of which the Scriptures speak. This obedience is no more perfect obedience than our faith is perfect faith, but it is real faith, that is faith in Jesus Christ, and it is real obedience, that is obedience that is God-focused, not self-focused.