John 15:9 – “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.”
As Jesus continues this heartfelt discourse with his disciples just before his death, he touches on the subject of love between the Father, Son and mankind.
This is a topic that even the best of writers, teachers and pastors could not ever hope to fully communicate. The love of God towards us is so profound, so deep and so past understanding that it seems almost futile to try and write about it. If you dwell on it too long, it almost blows your mind!
How can we understand (much less explain) a love so intense that the God of the universe was willing to give his own Son to die that our debt could be paid? How can we explain a love so profound that the Son of God was willing to lay aside his glory, come to earth in a human body and subject himself to pain and humiliation to atone for sin that WE committed? What kind of love allows Jesus to die at the hands of his own creation?
1 John 4:10 -In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
How can we account for a love that transcends all our faults and reinstates us as God’s children and heirs, instead of his slaves (or worse)? How fervent must God’s love for us be, if he guarantees each believer a place in his eternal kingdom? How can we hope to grasp a love so ardent that it allows for mercy to a thousand generations (Deuteronomy 7:9)?
We can’t explain the love of God, but that is okay… I am just glad it exists! It is always a reason to rejoice in the Lord and praise his name.
Jesus begins by telling us that the Father loves him; he was/is God’s beloved Son (Mark 11:1). Yet God also loved us – so much so, that he gave up his Son to deliver us from sin (John 3:16). Even in his humiliation as he bore the curse of our sin, Father God continually loved Jesus, and Jesus continually loved the Father.
John 15:10 – “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”
This steadfast and unchanging love was due (at least in part) to the fact that Jesus kept every single one of his Father’s commands. Jesus’ love of his Father was displayed in his obedience to all that the Father asked of him. The Father’s love and presence were always with Jesus because Jesus always did what was pleasing to Him.
Jesus goes on to reveal that he loves us the same way Father God loves him. Therefore, the love and presence of Jesus the Son (in the form of Holy Spirit) is always with us whenever we endeavor to be obedient to all he has commanded us.
Obviously, we will fall short in this regard, but as long as we are diligent and sincere in our service to Christ we don’t need to fear, because the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us through his sacrifice on the cross (Romans 4:21-24). Because of this, we are just as righteous as Jesus in the sight of God.
So, by keeping his commands we please Jesus and continue to abide in his love.
As we just mentioned, Jesus loves us with an eternal and constant love. We continue to abide/live in his love by keeping his commands. This is true because obedience is the way we demonstrate our true love for him (see the commentary on John 14:21).
However, we want to make an important distinction: We do not earn Christ’s love through works; works can never save us.
Ephesians 2:8-9 – For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
The keeping of Christ’s commands is an outward proof of the love we already have in our hearts because we have placed our faith in him as our Redeemer. It was his shed blood that redeemed us, not any works of obedience we might complete.
How do you feel about the concept of obedience?
- Does it conjure up memories of doing things you hated, like being forced to clean up your room as a child?
- Or do you think of obedience as an obstruction that prevented you from doing certain things you wanted to do?
- Does it remind you of a time when you had to comply with worthless or inane tasks assigned to you by an employer?
To be honest, obedience isn’t always fun. The act of obedience implies that you have submitted to the authority of someone else, and most people don’t like to do that. Most of us prefer to be our own ‘boss’ and do as we please.
In the spiritual realm, we are always under the authority and command of God (Father, Son and Spirit). But God has something that our earthly parents/bosses don’t have… perfection!
Because God loves us with a perfect and unfailing love, we can be confident that placing ourselves under his authority/command will result in our good.
Furthermore, scripture reveals that God places a very high value on obedience:
1 Samuel 15:22 – And Samuel said, has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.
Jesus is our ultimate example of obedience to God. He exhibited a perfect, sinless and willing submission to all of the requirements of his Father, including:
- Setting aside his glory and coming to earth.
- Taking on a human body of flesh.
- Subjecting himself to the authority of his parents, Mary and Joseph.
- Fulfilling the law.
- Allowing himself to be rejected by the Jews.
- Gathering and training his disciples.
- Being tempted by Satan.
- Bearing the burden of our sin, which caused him to be cut off from the Father.
- Allowing mortal men to crucify him, etc.
The obedience of Jesus is based upon his love for his Father. That love allows him to keep the Father’s commands, which in turn causes him to abide in his Father’s love.
In the same way, our obedience to Jesus is based upon our love for him. Because we love Jesus, we keep his commands and as a result we continuously abide in his love.
John 15:11 – “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
‘These things I have spoken to you’ – Because of the way our study is designed, we have broken chapters 14&15 up into several sections. But we must keep in mind chapters 14-17 were a single session between Jesus and the disciples. So when Jesus says ‘these things’ he is referring to all that he had spoken to them in chapters 14 and 15.
These would include the promises of fruitfulness in the kingdom, the blessings of obedience, the victory of abiding in Christ as a branch, the gift of Holy Spirit and the boundless love of God.
‘That my joy may be in you’ – This statement is interpreted in different ways.
It may refer to a joy that Jesus experiences. In other words, the disciples’ obedience to their Christian duty is a continuous source of joy to Christ. He rejoices/delights in the faith, holiness and obedience of his people. His joy in us causes us to experience joy as well.
Alternatively, it may refer to a joy that Christians experience as a result of being obedient to the commands of Jesus. In this case, ‘my joy’ or the joy of Christ refers to a divine joy that Christ gives to the believer once he is redeemed from sin. Once we are saved, Holy Spirit drives dread and anxiety away from our hearts and replaces it with divine joy.
‘Your joy may be full’ – In either case, we can rest assured that when the joy of the Lord abides in us, it will be a full, overflowing joy. This kind of joy is not fleeting or temporary. It is not based on our outward circumstances. Since it is derived from a divine source, it never fails or passes away. It can be yours no matter what your circumstances look like, or what trial you may be experiencing.
John 15:12 – “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
Love to God and our fellow man is fundamental to true religion; it is an integral part of both Old Testament Law and New Testament grace. In fact, Jesus declared that all the Law and prophets hang upon love (Matthew 22:37-40, Mark 12:28-34).
Paul gives us an amazing discourse on love in I Corinthians 13. He teaches us that love is the greatest of all the Christian graces. It is greater than speaking with tongues, the gift of prophesy and even supernatural faith. It is even greater than all wisdom and knowledge. Paul goes on to say that even though all of these gifts/graces are desirable and useful, they are as nothing without love:
1 Corinthians 13:2 – And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing.
As love is the highest expression of God to mankind, it must also be the highest expression of man to his Creator and to his fellow man.
Can we be honest for a minute? Loving our fellow man may be the most difficult command Jesus gave us! Our fellow human beings are often selfish, disgusting, idiotic, lazy, irritating, cruel, evil or just plain mean. Sometimes they make bad decisions, do the wrong thing, or ‘throw us under the bus’.
But once again, our example must be Christ. We must show others the love which he exhibited towards us.
Jesus loved us before we loved him. While we were still separated from God, wallowing in the filth of our sin, Jesus loved us. His great love was evident when he agreed to die for us, so that we could be reunited to the Father. His love was evident when he took a severe beating/lashing so that we could be healed in every regard – physical, mental and emotional (Isaiah 53:5, I Peter 2:24).
Likewise, we should love others, even when they don’t love us.
Jesus loves us unconditionally. Regardless of what we have done in our past or what we will do in the future, he still loves us. As long as we sincerely repent of our sin, he will forgive us.
In light of what Christ has done for us, can we do any less for our fellow man? If Jesus has forgiven us, can’t we forgive others, and in so doing reflect the love that God has for them?
John 15:13-14 – “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”
Life is the most valuable thing we possess. We will do anything to preserve it (Job 2:4). Therefore, the highest expression of love is to lay down your life for another person.
We have people in our society that take this risk every day, such as policemen and women, firefighters and soldiers to name a few. Thankfully, they are always prepared to protect and serve us.
But what we don’t ordinarily see are people of great rank and power prepared to die for others. For instance, the president does not routinely put himself in harm’s way for a fellow citizen. In fact, the opposite is true – he has secret service people ready to die in order to protect him.
When viewed from this perspective, the love and sacrifice of Christ is all the more astonishing.
- He is a part of the living Godhead, incarnated in human form (Matthew 1:18-23).
- He was the co-creator of the world along with the Father and the Spirit (John 1:1-3).
- He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16).
- He is the head of the church (Ephesians 1:22).
- He has a name above every other name, and a time will come when every knee shall bow before him (Romans 14:11).
Even though Christ is infinitely greater than we are in every way, he was still willing to sacrifice himself for us. There is no greater love than this (John 3:16)!
With the love of Christ as an example, the disciples must be willing to put their lives in jeopardy in order to spread the gospel message to the uttermost parts of the world. History tells us that all but one of the disciples (John) was martyred for his faith in Christ.
But the mandate to show the love of God by laying down our lives did not end with the disciples. It continues even today. According to the group Open Doors USA, roughly 5600 Christians were murdered, more than 6000 were detained and another 4000 were kidnapped for their faith in 2021. That is an average of about 15 martyrs each day, worldwide.
When we love others as God commanded us (and Jesus demonstrated for us), God considers us his friend.
John 15:15 – “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”
Up to this point, Jesus had referred to his followers as servants (John 12:26, Matthew 10:24-25).
Servants are people who labor under the command of another. Because they are not of equal rank with their master they are not normally acquainted with the plans, wishes, councils or desires of their commander. They are not taken into his confidence.
Friends, however, are different. Friends are intimately acquainted with each other. Friends will often take other friends into their confidence and reveal their plans, goals and desires.
Jesus has treated his disciples as friends. He has shown them the plans of the Father concerning his Messianic office (his death, resurrection, ascension, etc). He explained to them that Holy Spirit would shortly come to comfort and guide them. He has assured them that he will go to prepare a place for them and subsequently bring them to heaven. He has revealed to them the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 13:11).
Furthermore, the life of Jesus was a full disclosure of the Father; Jesus told his disciples that anyone who knew him also knew the Father (John 14:9).
Having treated the disciples as friends, it only makes sense to give them the title as well. We might say that all Christ’s disciples are his servants and all his servants are his friends.
Interestingly, after his resurrection, Jesus further elevates his friends to the position of brothers/sisters:
John 20:17 – Jesus said unto her [Mary], Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.
See also Hebrews 2:9-13.
John 15:16 – “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”
‘You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you’ – Jesus reminds the apostles that they had not chosen him to be their teacher; he had chosen them to be his disciples. He set them apart to preach the gospel and help usher in a new dispensation of grace to the world. This honor was not due to their own merit, but to his grace and mercy.
This knowledge should spur the disciples on to execute their Christian duties faithfully and diligently.
Jesus has also chosen you and me to accomplish specific tasks and perform good works for his kingdom. We too were chosen by the grace of God, not because of any merit or skill on our part. In fact, God sometimes chooses us for certain tasks specifically because we are NOT as qualified as someone else. This allows his glory to shine through us in an even greater measure.
This knowledge should encourage us to do our best in performing our Christian duties, no matter what they may be.
‘That you should bear fruit and that your fruit should abide’ – Jesus has already set up his followers to be successful in his kingdom. They will not fail. They will preach the gospel, God will confirm the message with signs and wonders, and Holy Spirit will bring conviction which results in salvation. Thousands will accept Christ as savior and become ‘branches’ grafted into the ‘vine’ of Christ. Eventually they will also bear fruit.
The work of the disciples will not wither and die – it will be everlasting fruit.
‘So that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you’ – In order for us to be successful/fruitful in the kingdom of God, we are going to need assistance and resources. We have direct access to everything we need through Jesus. All we need to do is ask the Father in Jesus name (see the commentary on John 14:13-14), and the Father will provide it.
John 15:17 – “These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”
Jesus has been very clear on this point – mutual love among Christians is demanded above all other things. Love is the essential characteristic of the new kingdom.
John 13:35 – By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another.
The hidden love of the Father was manifested towards us in the love of Christ. Now we must pour that love out upon our Christian brothers and sisters. This witness of the love of God will draw others into the kingdom.
Love for one another will also ensure the unity of believers. Division is a lethal weapon in the hand of Satan – if we are at odds with each other, then the house of Christ is divided and it will not stand (Mark 3:25).
Sometimes love does not come easily – it must be a choice. Through the strength of Holy Spirit, we can choose to love the family of God, and please our Lord.
Let me offer you some encouragement:
Today’s post centers on the theme of God’s love. His love for us is absolutely unexplainable and incomprehensible. It is far deeper and more intense than we can imagine on this side of eternity. I suspect we will only know the fullness of it when we stand in his presence.
The idea of his boundless love should encourage our faith while bringing us peace and joy. Why not let his love be the basis of your praise and worship this week?
Let me offer you some relief:
Satan would love for you to believe that God does not love you, or that he loves others more than you. He would also like you to believe that God’s love for you is conditional – that it is somehow tied to your performance in life. These concepts are absolute lies!
God loves you completely, totally and perfectly. We should never, ever, ever doubt the love of God for us. And since God never changes, neither does his love for us, even when we fail. When those times of failure do come, let’s run to his love and forgiveness knowing that he wants to restore us.
Let me offer you some strength:
Jesus says that the greatest demonstration of love is to lay down your life for someone else. We generally take this to mean dying as a martyr for your faith, and all of us should be willing to pay that price, if asked. Through the strength of Holy Spirit, I believe we could.
However, there are other interpretations of ‘laying down your life’.
Think of it this way: What is the most precious commodity in this world?
Each of us has a certain preordained amount of time to live upon this earth. No matter how rich we become, we can’t buy more. Neither can we beg, borrow or steal it. Furthermore, we can only spend our time once. There are no refunds, exchanges or ‘do-overs’.
Therefore, to spend time in prayer interceding for the salvation of another person (or nation) is essentially laying down your life for them. You are sacrificing your time for them, which you can never receive back.
You and I may never be asked to die as martyrs, but we still have the opportunity to lay down our lives for our friends – through prayer, fasting and other intercessory activities.