(Greek words can be viewed using the Symbol font)
Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
March 25, 2001
Love. Quite a word. It has a multitude of meanings depending on who uses it and the context in which it is used. It is a word that some people understand very well by experience and others have only the report others have told of it. Some have an abundance of it and share it freely, while others have little and keep it to themselves.
Often love is associated with romance, and the feelings that go with that which has been variously described. One person said love was “hearing bells ring, feeling butterflies in the stomach and acting as though bees were in your bonnet.” Another quipped, “love doesn’t really make the world go round, it just makes people so dizzy it looks that way.” Another defined it as “something that makes a fellow feel funny and act foolish,” while another said, “love is something different from delirium, but it is hard to tell the difference.” Many people have quipped that love is blind, one fellow added that it is deaf and dumb too.
Someone who saw through the feelings of romance wrote, “Love makes a man think almost as much of a woman as he thinks of himself.” Somebody else recognized the same truth and wrote, “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself” and then added, “If dogs can think, how can we account for their love for man?” But love is much broader than rush of feelings of romance.
Love is the glue that holds friendships together. It is the sunlight that kills the germs of jealousy and hate. It oils the gears of a household to keep it running smoothly. It covers a multitude of sins. It affects all our actions. “You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.”
God’s love for us is given to us. It is unmerited and unearned, but it can be spurned. Those that accept God’s love respond in love to Him and seek to fulfill His command to love Him with all their heart, soul, mind and strength and to love their neighbors as themselves (Mt. 22). That is not easy, for as someone said, “to love the world is not a chore, the problem is the miserable guy next door!” Yet, as Jesus said in Matt. 5, it is in loving even our enemies that we show that we are sons of God the Father. It is His loving flowing through us.
I agree with the fellow that said that love is the fairest of the flowers in God’s garden. I also agree with the fellow that said, “One of the tragedies of American life is that love is being defined by those who have experienced so little of it.” We do not want to be like that. We want to be those that do understand love and extend it to others.
Turn to John 15. Jesus has been preparing His disciples for His coming departure. He had warned them for quite sometime that when He came to Jerusalem He would be persecuted and eventually killed by the religious leaders. That time was now present. Jesus has met with the disciples in the Upper Room to celebrate what for Him would be His last Passover. He has shown them the example of humble service we are to have for one another by washing their feet. Judas has been revealed, at least to John, as the traitor, and Judas has now left to do his dastardly deed of arranging for the religious leaders to arrest Jesus in a quiet place away from any crowds. Jesus has instituted the Lord’s Supper or Communion. Now He is seeking to comfort and encourage them for the events to come in the next few hours and days.
He has promised them that while He was away, He would be in His Father’s house preparing a place for them and that He would return to take them there. Jesus would be working on their behalf by interceding with the Father. In addition, He would send the Holy Spirit to comfort them and enable them to fulfill the ministry Jesus calls them to do. Their part was to abide in Him the same way that a branch abides in a vine. As they continue to remain in relationship with Him they would bear much fruit for God. Jesus would leave them with His peace and wanted them have His joy in them.
As we come to 15:12 Jesus explains the relationship they are to have with each other.
John 15:12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. 14 “You are My friends, if you do what I command you. 15 “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. 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 remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you. 17 “This I command you, that you love one another.
LOVE ONE ANOTHER
Jesus has given this command before. In 13:34 Jesus described this as a “new commandment.” The command to love one another was not new, but the example of what that love was to be based on was new.
God gave many commands for people to love each other. As far back as Leviticus 19:18, God put this command into the law saying, 18 ‘You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord. James called this the “royal law” (James 2:8) and Jesus said it was the second great commandment, the first being to love God with all your heart, soul and mind. All the other laws were based on those two (Matt. 22).
What was new was the standard of that love. It would no longer be a person’s own innate selfishness, but the example of Jesus Himself. And Jesus’ example of love was far beyond the love that humans normally show. Jesus’ love was different in scope, depth, patience and commitment.
Scope – In Matthew 5:46 describes the normal love of humans – 46 “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? 47 “And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more [than others]? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Most people will love people that love them. We all tend to be friendly to those who are friendly to us. If we are honest we will admit that our preference is to be with people that we know like us.
Jesus’ love was greater in scope. He loved even those that hated Him. Paul points this out in Romans 5:8, But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. The love of God does not arise because of anything in us or something that we can give Him. Out of His own character He choose to love us in our sinful and rebellious state. Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost (Luke 19:10) and any love we have for God is simply a response to His love which came first (1 John 4:9).
Jesus’ love is greater in scope because it extends to the unlovely, the downtrodden, the weak, the despised (1 Cor. 1:26-28), and His enemies. Even while on the cross, Jesus asked the Father to forgive those who were crucifying Him (Luke 23:34).
Jesus wants us to have the same scope in our love. In Matthew 5:44 He said, “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you 45 in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
If Jesus’ example of love to them includes loving His enemies, then how much more compelling should the command in verse 12 be that we love one another? That certainly should be a lot easier than loving those who hate you and may even want to kill you.
Depth. The depth of Jesus’ love is also greater. It is one thing to tolerate other people. It is another to actually care for them. It is still another to sacrifice yourself for them. The depth of Jesus’ love is seen in His sacrifice of Himself on our behalf. Paul points out in Phil. 2 that Jesus set aside His glory in heaven in order to become a man and take the form of a bond-servant. He then willingly died in our place. Jesus brings that out here in verse 13 in reference to His own coming death, “greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” The example of countless Christian martyrs, many of whom died in either proclaiming the gospel or in trying to protect others, sets the example for us that this command can be followed. What is the depth of your love?
Patience. Jesus’ love was also superior in patience. How many relationships have you had in which there has been frustration and irritation? How many of them have ended because of that? A common joke among pastors is that “ministry would be great if it weren’t for the people.” People got on Jesus’ nerves at times too. He lamented about “how long” He would have to “put up” with an unbelieving and perverted generation (Luke 9:41). He also expressed grief about the disciples “little faith” (Matt. 8:26) and their slowness of heart (Luke 24:25). Yet, He continued to love them to the end (John 13:1). Even after Jesus’ physical departure, He kept His promise to “never leave them or forsake them” (Heb. 13:5) through the ministry of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16; 16:7).
We are to follow that example of love. We are to forbear with one another (Eph. 4:2) and learn to put up with the idiosyncracies we all have, for love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). When there is sin that needs to be dealt with, we speak the truth in love, bearing one another’s burden in helping them out of their sin (Gal. 6:1-4). We never give up on those who continue to work at following Christ. We keep the door open for those that do to come back at work at it again.
Commitment. Jesus’ love is also superior in commitment. Human’s are innately selfish which leads to a low commitment. It is common for us to set aside or even discard relationships when we are no longer getting what we want out of them. We look out for ourselves and not for the other person. Jesus’ love was for the benefit of those He loved. He gave freely of Himself. That is the nature of true love.
Jesus commands us to love one another as He has loved us. Jesus’ example of superior love is the example and the standard of love for all Christians. We are to be committed to one another. Heb. 10:24,25 calls on us to “consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging [one another]; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.” That takes commitment. It is wonderful that each of you are here this morning, but what about those that are not here? What about the times you don’t come just because you don’t feel like it or there is something you would rather do? True love takes a commitment that often requires to do things you don’t care to do for the benefit of others.
I have often thought that the reason the Lord allows us to have children is so that we learn to love. Consider it. What does an infant do for you? They eat, cry and give you dirty diapers. We know that there will be heartache in raising them. We are going to spend a lot of time and money in raising them knowing that there will be quite a few heartaches along the way. So why do parents love their children? Because there is a commitment to that little one’s welfare. Good parents will often sacrifice to provide for their children what they themselves would do without.
That should be the type of love we have for one another as Christians. It is not about what we get out of it. It is about what we give to others. How can and will the Lord use you in someone else’s life? In the process of loving others we find fulfillment and receive love ourselves. Beloved, never let a relationship end because of your lack of love. If it ends, let it because the other person refuses to receive your love. Is not that the example Jesus set for us even with Judas when at the last supper Jesus had given him the place of honor and gave a final warning? The relationship that Christians are to have with one another is one of a love that follows the example of Jesus. It gives of itself sacrificially.
How are you doing at loving others? Where do you lack? What do you need to do to change things? Perhaps there is someone you need to get things right with so that you can love in this manner. Today is the day to do it, don’t put it off any longer.
In verse 14 & 15 Jesus makes clear the new relationship that He has with the disciples. The nature of their relationship could have been marked by the superiority of Jesus over them. He was the master. They were the servants or slaves. The same is true of us. Not only has Jesus created us, but He has also bought us with the price of His precious blood. That makes us His property. We belong to Him. We are His servants, His slaves. Yet, that is not the relationship to which Jesus calls us if we will follow Him.
It is important to note that the statement in verse 14 is conditional. They were Jesus’ friends if they would do what He commanded. If they did not, then they could not be considered Jesus friends. In 14:21,23 we saw that the love of Jesus was tied directly to obedience to Him. Those that obey love Him. Those that love Him obey Him. Those that do not love Him will not obey Him. We also saw in the first part of chapter 15 that those who obey Jesus are those who abide in Him. It is only those who abide in Jesus that will bear fruit. All those that do not abide in Him will not bear fruit, and those that do not bear fruit are cast away. They do not belong.
The statement is conditional because while Jesus is a “friend of sinners, not all sinners are His friends. You may be a friend to those who do not love you, but that does not make them your friends. You are their friend, but they are not your friend. Here, Jesus marks the relationship that He has with those that love Him and obey Him. Not only is He their friend, but He considers them to be His friends.
Part of the nature of friendship is the nature of the communication they enjoy with one another. A master simply tells a slave what to do without explanation and the slave must obey. Within a friendship, there is a cooperation that occurs. Plans are disclosed and discussed as to their reasoning and purpose. In verse 15 Jesus adds that this part of the friendship is also true. He has made all things He has heard from the Father known to them.
The importance of the revealed Word of God cannot be stressed enough. God could have just given law without explanation or an offer of a relationship with Him, and He would have been just to hold to that law and condemned us for breaking it. But God has done much more than that. He has given much explanation for His various commands, and more importantly, He has revealed Himself in Jesus that we might have a personal relationship with Him. That is a reason why Jesus made such an emphasis in chapter 14 that those who have seen Him have seen the Father. There is a friendship relationship that He desires to have with us and we can have it through Jesus Christ. The evidence of that friendship on our part will be our loving obedience to Him.
CHOSEN BY JESUS
In verse 16 Jesus makes is clear how this relationship came about. “You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and [that] your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you.”
There are many that do not like the doctrine of election because they incorrectly think that it somehow detracts from the offer of salvation. On the contrary, it enhances it and stresses the grace involved in it.
The Scriptures are clear that there is a universal offer made to all mankind in regard to salvation. It is to the “whosoever will” believe in the Lord Jesus Christ that salvation is granted (John 3:15,16; 11:26; 12:46; Acts 2:21; 10:43). We also find that God commands people to seek Him (Isa. 55:6; Jer. 29:13; Amos 5:6) and to repent (Acts 17:30; Mt. 4:17; Mk 16:12) The problem is the Scripture is also clear that people will not do that on their own. Romans 3:10-12, quoting from Psalm 14:2,3, states it plainly. “There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.” The natural man will not accept the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to him (2 Cor. 2:14). That is a consequence of being dead in trespasses and sin (Eph. 2:1).
Salvation is according to God’s sovereign choice made before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:7). The disciples may have thought they were the ones that had chosen Jesus, but the reality was the opposite. You may think that you chose Jesus and made a decision for Him, but the reality is that you simply responded to what He has already done. Men do not like this because it strikes against our pride, but that is why it enhances the offer of salvation.
If salvation were dependent upon man’s choice, there would be two problems. First, the man would become the judge of God and His offer, but man can only come to God as one who cries out for mercy for his sin. It is the poor in Spirit that gain the kingdom of God (Mt. 5:3). It was the penitent publican that cried out, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner,” that went home justified (Luke 18:13,14). God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5). There is nothing you can offer or bargain with to gain God’s favor. It is in the mystery of His love, grace and mercy that it is offered to sinners. Man does not judge God. God judges man. Election forces a person to either proudly reject God or to humbly cry out to Him for mercy.
Second, man’s salvation would then be dependent upon His own actions. In this case, his choice. Yes, God commands to repent and seek Him and man will be held accountable for not doing so. But man does not seek God apart from the Holy Spirit. Man does not choose to follow God apart from the regeneration by the Spirit (Titus 3:5). If a man’s choice is the basis, then such salvation can be later lost when the man changes his mind. Those chosen by Jesus Christ are never lost (John 10). Our security is wrapped up in God’s sovereignty.
Jesus had chosen the disciples, and He has chosen those that are His followers in our time. He chose His disciples for the purpose that they might bear fruit that would remain. That is still His purpose. Ephe 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. He wants us to bear fruit for the glory of God.
God does not bring people to salvation in Jesus Christ so that they can get their fire insurance and then live however they desire. Salvation in Christ is from sin unto righteousness. That is why there is also salvation from the consequence of sin which is eternal punishment in Hell. Those that are chosen by Jesus are truly saved, they will abide in Jesus resulting in much godly fruit in their lives. They will love Jesus and demonstrate that by their obedience to His commands.
There is another confidence such people will have. Jesus adds here again His statement concerning the prayers of those who bear fruit. The Father will grant the request made to Him in Jesus name. Such a person will be asking according to Jesus’ will (1 John 5) and not to consume it upon their own desires (James 4).
The faith of the disciples would begin a great period of testing in only a couple of hours. Jesus would be arrested that night, tried and crucified the next day. They would be confused and frightened. On the third day Jesus would rise from the dead and then all of His words would begin to make sense to them. These things spoken here would be very comforting to them. Yes, Jesus was going away, but He was their friend and He considered them to be His friends. They had not been fooled by the words of a teacher into believing something false. The sovereign God had chosen them and had revealed the truth to them. They had instructions on how they were to live and an example of how to live that way. They could be confident that they could live that way because God had also appointed them to bear such fruit. They could also have confidence that the Father would answer them when they prayed.
In verse 17 Jesus repeat His command that they love one another. As Jesus had already pointed out in 13:35, it will be our radically different love for one another that will reveal to others whether we are Jesus’ disciples or not.
Over my years of being a Christian I have met many people who have fooled me for some period of time about their true relationship to Christ. People can mimic love for awhile simply being nice and keeping relationships somewhat shallow. But eventually there comes hard issues that will test the love they profess for Christ. It is only then that you know who is genuine and who is not. Jesus said that we would know them by their fruit. There will be issues that will challenge their faith. The godly may struggle, but they will mature in the process (James 1; Romans 5). The ungodly will turn away. There will be issues that will reveal their selfishness. The godly may stumble, but they will eventually apologize and seek what is best for the kingdom of Christ. They work through problems. The ungodly will give excuses and blame others. Amazingly, they will often even take a self-righteous stand while doing this. There will be issues that will require sacrifice of one’s self. The godly may hesitate, but they will go forward. The ungodly will retreat and become defensive.
The bottom line of practical Christianity is the demonstration of a love of God, for other Christians and for a lost and dying world. James 1:27 states, This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of [our] God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, [and] to keep oneself unstained by the world. Love for God is demonstrated in holy living first. There is a place for sacrificial giving and service, but obedience must come first or the sacrifices made are done in rebellion, not love. The extension of our love for God flows out to others and is demonstrated in humble and sacrificial service to them. Orphans and widows in distress have nothing to repay your deeds toward them.
Those who love Jesus Christ will keep His commandments (14:21,23). They will abide in Him and bear much fruit (15:5). They will have Jesus’ peace (14:27) and joy (15:11). They will have confidence in prayer (14:13,14; 15:7,16). Jesus will call them His friends (15:14). Can Jesus call you His friend? Do you abide in Him? Do you keep His commandments?
What does your life say about your profession to love God? It will not be perfect, but is it changing to match the profession? If not, there is a problem. Those who are godly will seek help to overcome the problem whatever it is. Those who are not will retreat and try to hide the problem. Your actions will be the revelation of what is really in your heart. I pray your response will be one of humility.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times the word “friend” is used 2) Talk with your parents about what it means that Jesus can be your friend and how you can be His friend.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. How would you define love? How do you think Jesus would define love? What is the context of John 15:12-17? What is the example of love that we are to have for one another? Describe how Jesus’ love differs from what is common to man in scope, depth, patience and commitment? How are you doing at loving others in this manner? Where do you lack? What needs to change? What is your plan to make those changes? What is the relationship Jesus has to the unsaved? What is the relationship Jesus has to the saved? Why is it so significant that Jesus calls the disciples “My friends?” What is the prerequisite for Jesus to call someone “My friend?” Describe the difference in communication level you have with different types of “friends” – (acquaintances, casual friends, close friends, intimate friends). What kind of friendship does the Lord want with you? What level of friendship do you have with the Lord? Why is the Word of God so important to your relationship with the Lord? What is the significance of Jesus choosing His disciples? What two problems would there be if divine election were not true and man chose God? What confidence can Jesus’ friends have in prayer? What does your life demonstrate about your relationship with God?
God’s love for us
Our love for one another
Context (Chapters 13,14,15)
Love One Another (vs. 12,13)
Depth – Phil. 2:5-11; vs. 13
Commitment – Heb. 10:24,25;
Never let a relationship end because of your lack of love. If it ends, let it because the other person refuses to receive your love.
Jesus’ Friends (vs. 14,15)
Jesus is our creator. We belong to Him. We are His slaves, yet He desires a relationship of friendship.
Conditions of Friendship – (vs. 14)
Benefits of Friendship – (vs. 15)
Chosen by Jesus (vs.16)
Election: Eph. 1:7
His purpose in choosing – Eph. 2:10
Confidence in Prayer
Conclusions (vs 17)
Repeating the command to love one another
What does your life say about your profession to love God? Is your life changing to match the profession?
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