John 14:15 (ESV) — 15“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
John 14:21–24 (ESV) — 21Whoever 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.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.
In our text today, it is absolutely essential that we account for the context or we will ask the wrong questions.
As the evening of the Last Supper progressed, Jesus has told them:
· Where He is going they can’t come.
· Judas will betray Him.
· Peter will deny Him.
· In other words, He is going to leave; He is going to die; they are going to fail.
In light of Jesus’ discouraging revelations, He then sought to comfort and equip the disciples.
· He did this by sharing the following profound truths:
· He is going to prepare a place for them.
· He will come back for them.
· He is the way to the Father.
· He has told them of the works and greater works they will do because He is going to the Father.
· He has told them He will do “whatever” they ask.
In light of the preceding contextual considerations, I think we have to assume that our text today is also meant to be a comfort.
· The main question, then, is how is our text a comfort to the disciples?
· It certainly doesn’t appear to be a comfort.
The first step in answering this question is to spell out exactly what the text appears to mean.
· And then discuss why it in fact doesn’t mean what it looks like.
· We will then figure out what it means and why it is a comfort, and follow a couple of rabbit trails.
1) WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE
Jesus words center around “loving” and “keeping”:
· “If you love” then “you will keep” (vs. 15)
· “keeps them” then “you love me” (vs. 21)
· “loves me” then “loved by my Father” (vs. 21)
· “loves me” then “will keep my word” (vs. 23)
· “keep my word” then “Father will love him” (vs. 23)
· “does not love me” then “does not keep my word” (vs. 24)
It appearsthat our text is saying at least two troubling things:
· 1) Jesus will love us only after we love Him.
o In other words, if we do what He says, He will love us and then the Father will love us.
· 2) We love Jesus by successfully keeping His list of do’s and don’ts.
o In other words, the act of completing His to-do list is what loving Jesus means.
I have said that in context, our text must be seen as a comfort to the disciples.
· How is it a comfort that their relationship with Christ is dependent on them?
· If God’s moving forward in a relationship with us is dependent upon our first loving Him and keeping His commandments, we are in a heap of trouble.
Jesus just pointed out that at least two of them will fail miserably.
· Judas will betray and Peter will deny – both choosing themselves over Jesus.
o Does this mean Peter doesn’t love Jesus?
o Is Peter therefore not loved by God and so not saved?
One would think Peter would take this as judgment upon himself and not as a comfort.
· It would seem that Jesus’ words torpedo any hope we have in the authenticity of our belief.
· This is simply because we sin.
· We fail in “keeping” his commandments.
Our temptation to read the text this way is also fueled by the following verses:
· John 3:36 (ESV) — 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
· Romans 2:8 (ESV) — 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.
· 1 John 2:3–6 (ESV) — 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,
We have to be honest.
· We don’t obey the Son.
· We are self-seeking.
o That is what sin is.
· We don’t obey the truth.
· We don’t keep His commandments.
Even if we were optimistic about our “keeping”, Michael Horton says the following:
· “Even when I have… [kept God’s commandments] …as far as other people are concerned, if my sincerity were weighed, it would actually count against my righteousness” – Michael Horton.
Are we, therefore, liars with no truth in us?
· We might feel that way on occasion.
And yet, we hope and have a sense that our text today clearly doesn’t mean what it appears to mean.
· We have certainly been told as much.
· Why is this so?
· What is the Scriptural reason for this?
2) WHAT THE TEXT DOESN’T MEAN
It is crucial that we address why the text doesn’t mean what it appears to mean.
· This is because we too often have a childish, superstitious view of keeping.
· We approach setbacks in our life as if they are payback for not “keeping” Christ’s commandments.
o Flat tire = payback
o Leaking sink = payback
o Car breaks down = payback
· We then begin to think, “Ok, if I keep God’s list better, I won’t have as many problems to contend with”.
· As a result we become legalistic-moralizers.
o Moralizers – be nice, do the right thing, obey God
o Legalistic – then think “keeping” these things is what renews and sanctifies us
· Living like this is certainly not a comfort or privilege.
· In fact, trying to love Jesus by commandment-keeping will make you miserable.
· And besides, if “loving” and “keeping” were the same, the world would often appear to love God more than we do!
In order to dispel any notion that the text doesn’t mean what it appears we need to answer two questions.
· 1) Why is it not true that Jesus will love us only after we successfully love Him?
· 2) Why is it not true that we love Jesus by successfully keeping His list of do’s and don’ts?
First Question Answered – God First Loved Us:
The answer to our first question is simply that God loved us (believers) first.
· John 13:34 (ESV) — 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
o Jesus loved first, and then asked us to follow His example as we love one another.
· Romans 5:8 (ESV) — 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
o We were loved before we believed; while we were still slaves to sin.
o Before we were even capable of loving Him.
· 1 John 4:19 (ESV) — 19 We love because he first loved us.
o His love is the necessary context for our love for Him to even exist!
o We cannot love until He has loved.
o In fact, Galatians 5:22 tells us that love is a fruit of His Spirit.
So, why is it not true that Jesus will love us after we successfully love Him?
· Because He first loved us!
· Before we were even capable of living in the light, He first loved us.
· Before we were even capable of obedience, He first loved us.
· Before we even had the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, He first loved us.
· Before we even had the moral ability to believe, He first loved us.
Now what of our second question, why is it not truethat we love Jesus by successfully keeping His list of do’s and don’ts?
Second Question Answered – 3 Reasons Love and Keeping are Different Things:
1) “Keep” simply doesn’t mean “Love”
· “Keep my commandments” defined:
· “Keep” in our text is referring to the idea that we are “to persist in obedience” – BDAG.
· There is also an element of the word that denotes that we are to “apply oneself to” something – TDNT
· These two together can be stated this way – “to keep” is to have a desire (that which we apply ourselves to) to “persist in obedience” to Jesus’ commandments.
· There is nothing at all about the Greek word for “keep”, “tereo”, that means love.
In fact, I think you can see a progression quite nicely from the above definition which will show “love” has to be something quite different.
· To “keep” is “to persist in obedience”.
· We “persist in obedience” to that which we “apply ourselves to”.
· We “apply ourselves to” that which we desire.
o BTW – we always do what the heart desires.
· We desire what we love.
· So “love” is primary and “keeping” follows from it down the line.
2) Scripture treats them as different things
· That “to love me” and “keep my commandments” are different things is also fleshed out in Deuteronomy 11.
· Deuteronomy 11:1 (ESV) — 1 “You shall therefore love the Lord your God and keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments always.
· Deut. 11:1 clearly treats “love the Lord” as a separate commandment from “keep his charge”.
· We are to obey God by loving Him AND by keeping “his charge”.
· So this further solidifies that “loving” and “keeping” are two different things.
3) They have different causes
· Another reason that “loving” and “keeping” are different is that they have different causes.
· We just saw in our progression above that “keeping” comes from “loving”.
· The “loving” is the cause and the “keeping” is the effect.
But what is the cause of our loving?
· Deuteronomy 30:6 (ESV) — 6 And the Lordyour God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.
· 1 John 4:7 (ESV) — 7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
· The cause of our “loving” God is a regenerated heart – heart of stone changed to a heart of flesh.
· If “loving” and “keeping” are the same thing, they would have the same cause.
o But they do not.
So, why is it not true that we love Jesus by successfully keeping His list of do’s and don’ts?
· “Keeping” does not mean “loving”.
· Scripture and Jesus clearly treat “loving” God as something different from “keeping” His commandments.
· “To love” is a separate commandment from “keeping” His commandments.
· “Loving” God is the primary context in which meaningful “keeping” can occur.
· And “loving” and “keeping” have different causes.
· Therefore, I think we have seen definitively that “loving” and “keeping” are NOTthe same.
· Our “keeping” His commandments flows from our “loving”; it is not the “loving”.
· Keeping is responding “with a life of submission and service” with our “hearts regenerated” and our “minds renewed” as “new creatures in Christ” – John MacArthur.
· “The lover of Jesus will live in the light of… [the commandments] …guidance and their power” – Beasley-Murray.
Knowing definitively that “keeping” is not “loving” frees us from the legalistic-moralism we talked about.
· This is our first hint to the meaning of Jesus’ words and why they would be a comfort to the disciples.
· But it raises a couple of new questions.
· What does it mean to love God?
· What is the relationship between loving God and commandment keeping?