No Greater Love
The opening expression of this passage holds a promise, but a promise with a condition. The promise is of power from on high-- that we shall ask what we will and will receive it. Sounds good, doesn't it? But don't overlook the condition: "if you abide in Me." That's not hard; abiding in Jesus is where Christians would rather be than anywhere else, right? Maybe!
Jesus continues to explain more about this "abiding" and the love which it offers through verses 8 and 9. It seems to get better and better: we abide in Him, we bring forth much fruit, so that the love of the Father may be extended to us through the Son. But wait; verse 10 looms as a barricade to this line of abiding>blessing>love. You see it really isn't a line, it's a circle!
- John 15:7-17
- If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my 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. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
- My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
- Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.
If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love." We are heirs to the love from the Father to the Son when and if we inherit the obedience that passes the same track. What commandments are we to obey? Just the ones written in red letters in our Bible? Hardly, but that's a very good place to start. If we, as Christians, and particularly as Baptists, believe that in Jesus dwells all of the fullness of G-d, then we must admit that the commandments found in Genesis to Malachi are as much from Him as those found in this passage. As we walk in obedience to the Law of the L-rd, we abide in His love.
In this position, we may proceed to verse 11 that the joy of the L-rd might remain in us so that our joy may be made full. Our joy is derived when we abide in the love of the L-rd. We abide in that love as we obey His commandments. Then, we may accomplish verse 12: "love one another as He has loved us." He has loved us as the Father has loved Him, because He is obedient to the commandments of the Father. In being imitators of that obedience, we can be imitators of that love.
Before going on to verse 13, let's look at the first mention of this love in scripture. The original text from which Jesus is teaching this important lesson is found in Leviticus 19:18,19. In verse 18, G-D's instruction is clear: "love thy neighbor as thyself." But the message does not stop there. It continues with the reminder that "I am the L-rd." But the instruction actually concludes in verse 19 with this injunction, "Ye shall keep My statutes." There is no further instruction. Indeed there is none required, for a statute is a commandment given without explanation. It is like a parent telling a child "Because I said so!"
Throughout the Old Covenant, G-d instructs His people "Just because I said so." These statutes were very difficult for Israel, so they were disobedient. In Jesus, the fullness of G-d is revealed. Back in John 15, He continues: "I have called you friends." No longer should our love for one another be based upon a statute. Rather, Jesus takes pain to tell us not only why, but also how we are to show our love to Him and to one another. We are still to obey, but now we know why, and how.