“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever.” John 14:15
“He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” John 14:21
“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.” John 15:10
These three verses regarding the necessity of keeping the commandments of God are found in the heart of John’s gospel and are part of Jesus final words for His disciples. Yet, these three verses are some of the most misunderstood verses in the entire Gospel of John.
Many Christians equate these three verses automatically with the keeping of the Ten Commandments and if you don’t keep those commandments then you do not love God and cannot abide in His love. But, the question we should ask is, are the Ten Commandments what is being spoken of here or is God speaking of other commandments?
One of the clues we could look at in the text is that all three quotes equate the keeping of the commandments with love for God. In John 14:15 the verse is introduced by, “If you love me,” and in verse 21 after the statement regarding the keeping of the commandments we read, “he it is who loves me.” Similarly in John 15:10 we are told, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.”
The first two references regard our love for God and the last text (15:10) is about our abiding in God’s love. There is little doubt that the keeping of the commandments revolves around our loving God and His loving us.
In Chapter 13 of John we are introduced to Jesus’ last great discourse to his disciples. This talk is recorded in Chapter 13 through 16 and takes place near the close of Jesus ministry and just before His arrest and crucifixion. Jesus sets the stage for this section of Scripture by washing the feet of the disciples and taking communion with them.
Notice the opening words of Chapter 13, “Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own, who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” (v. 1) Everything that Jesus is about, to suffer and sacrifice, is because He loves us. Remember, God doesn’t love us because Jesus died for us, Jesus died for us because the Father loves us. It was the love of the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit that sent Jesus to the cross and brought the gift of salvation to a lost world.
Love is the motivational element that offers us redemption from our sins and our guilt. It is love that lifts us up out of the gutter of despair and failure and gives us hope and assurance in the promises of God. And it is love that God calls us to reflect back to the world around us.
The same night Jesus washed the feet of the disciples and took communion with them Judas went out to the Pharisees to betray Him. After Judas leaves Jesus turns to the eleven remaining disciples and unfolds for them what is about to happen to Him. He makes it clear that He will no longer be with them and at this time they cannot follow. And with His death on Calvary’s cross, the resurrection and His return to Heaven they will be left to carry on the ministry of reconciliation.
What will be the sign that these disciples are the true representatives of Jesus once He is gone? Jesus gives us the answer, “A new commandment I give to you; that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34, 35
Wow, we can’t miss it, can we? How will the world know we are disciples and followers of God? By our love they will know we are the followers of Jesus. This is the great commandment given to the disciples and to all of us who would be disciples of Jesus. Just as Jesus washed the feet of the disciples as a form of service born out of love, so we are to serve and care for our society.
Christianity isn’t a bunch of people running around saying I am keeping all the Ten Commandments perfectly. That is impossible because Jesus tells us in the Sermon of the Mount that even our thoughts condemn us when it comes to the Ten Commandments.
True discipleship is not about striving to keep ten laws, but about loving the unlovable, caring for those who are broken and defeated. Discipleship is about self- sacrifice and pouring love out to people who are indifferent and mock us for our faith. Discipleship is carrying the heavy load of other people’s pain and reflecting the grace, mercy and love of God back to all we meet.
To love one another calls for a change of heart. It calls for us to become born again and fully surrendered to Christ. It calls for us to put our own ambitions aside and follow Jesus wherever He should lead us. You see, it is easy to say we keep the Ten Commandments if we see them as just words written on stone, but it is difficult to love unconditionally because they are the words of Jesus written on our hearts.
In John 14:12-14 are these tantalizing words, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.” What an amazing promise! Let’s put it in context to the commandment to love in chapter 13 to understand what Jesus is telling us.
If we believe in Jesus we will do the works that He did. All these works are to glorify the Father through Jesus. Then we are told, “if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.” OK, is Jesus saying that if you ask for a new car He will provide it or if you ask for a million dollars it will come pouring out of Heaven? No. Everything is in context to our loving each other through service. As disciples of Jesus we will long for what is best for our loved ones and our neighbors. We will pray for their salvation, their accepting the love of Jesus into their hearts and that they will change their attitudes towards God.
The great work that Jesus did was sacrifice His all for us, and it was because He loved us that He gave His all. How wonderful it is that Jesus promises us that when we ask for our children’s salvation, the redemption of a neighbor or a distant friend He is willing to answer that prayer. To see your son or daughter in the kingdom is a million, billion more wonderful than trying to make these verses out to be about getting stuff. These verses (v. 12-14) are a reminder to pray for others and show them love instead of condemnation and blame.
Let’s look at John 14:15 again in light of what we have just said about love. We could paraphrase the verse as, “If you love me, you will love others like I love you.” And likewise we could say about John 15:10, “If you love one another, you will abide in my love, just as I have manifested the love of the Father for you through the cross and abide in His love.”
Do you think this is far fetched? Let me put your mind at ease. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. 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 it known to you” John 15:12-15
It is only when we become servants through love to each other that we become known as the friends of Jesus. Jesus laid His life down for us in love and through that love we became His friends. As we serve others in love we wear the title, friend of God.
* Our Christian brothers and sisters in Christ, friends of God, who are being persecuted for their faith in many countries around the world are our friends in Christ and need our prayers. Some of their heart breaking stories can be found at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/