Early Church Fathers
John XV. 8-10.
1. The Saviour, in thus speaking to the disciples, commends still more and more the grace whereby we are saved, when He says, "Herein is my Father glorified,1 that ye bear very much fruit, and be made my disciples." Whether we say glorified, or made bright, both are the rendering given us of one Greek verb, namely doxazein (docazein). For what is doxa (doca) in Greek, is in Latin glory. I have thought it worth while to mention this, because the apostle says, "If Abraham was justified by works, he hath glory. but not before God."2 For this is the glory before God, whereby God, and not man, is glorified, when he is justified, not by works, but by faith, so that even his doing well is imparted to him by God; just as the branch, as I have stated above,3 cannot bear fruit of itself. For if herein God the Father is glorified, that we bear much fruit, and be made the disciples of Christ, let us not credit our own glory therewith, as if we had it of ourselves. For of Him is such a grace, and accordingly therein the glory is not ours, but His. Hence also, in another passage, after saying, "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works;" to keep them from the thought that such good works were of themselves, He immediately added, "and may glorify your Father who is in heaven."4 For herein is the Father glorified, that we bear much fruit, and be made the disciples of Christ. And by whom are we so made, but by Him whose mercy hath forestalled us? For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.5
2. "As the Father hath loved me," He says, "so have I loved you: continue ye in my love." Here, then, you see, is the source of our good works. For whence should we have them. were it not that faith worketh by love?6 And how should we love, were it not that we were first loved? With striking clearness is this declared by the same evangelist in his epistle: "We love God because He first loved us."7 But when He says, "As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you," He indicates no such equality between our nature and His as there is between Himself and the Father, but the grace whereby the Mediator between God and men is the man Christ Jesus.8 For He is pointed out as Mediator when He says, "The Father-me, and I-you." For the Father, indeed, also loveth us, but in Him; for herein is the Father glorified, that we bear fruit in the vine, that is, in the Son, and so be made His disciples.
3. "Continue ye," He says, "in my love." How shall we continue? Listen to what follows: "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love." Love brings about the keeping of His commandments; but does the keeping of His commandments bring about love? Who can doubt that it is love which precedes? For he has no true ground for keeping the commandments who is destitute of love. And so, in saying, "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love," He shows not the source from which love springs, but the means whereby it is manifested. As if He said, Think not that ye abide in my love if ye keep not my commandments; for it is only if ye have kept them that ye shall abide. In other words, it will thus be made apparent that ye shall abide in my love if ye keep my commandments. So that no one need deceive himself by saying that he loveth Him, if he keepeth not His commandments. For we love Him just in the same measure as we keep His commandments; and the less we keep them, the less we love. And although, when He saith, "Continue ye in my love," it is not apparent what love He spake of; whether the love we bear to Him, or that which He bears to us: yet it is seen at once in the previous clause. For He had there said, "So have I loved you;" and to these words He immediately adds, "Continue ye in my love:" accordingly, it is that love which He bears to us. What, then, do the words mean, "Continue ye in my love," but just, continue ye in my grace? And what do these mean, "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love," but, hereby shall ye know that ye shall abide in the love which I bear to you, if ye keep my commandments? It is not, then, for the purpose of awakening His love to us that we first keep His commandments; but this, that unless He loves us, we cannot keep His commandments. This is a grace which lies all disclosed to the humble, but is hid from the proud.
4. But what are we to make of that which follows: "Even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in His love"? Here also He certainly intended us to understand that fatherly love wherewith He was loved of the Father. For this was what He has just said, "As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you;" and then to these He added the words, "Continue ye in my love;" in that, doubtless, wherewith I have loved you. Accordingly, when He says also of the Father, "I abide in His love," we are to understand it of that love which was borne Him by the Father. But then, in this case also, is that love which the Father bears to the Son referable to the same grace as that wherewith we are loved of the Son: seeing that we on our part are sons, not by nature, but by grace; while the Only-begotten is so by nature and not by grace? Or is this even in the Son Himself to be referred to His condition as man? Certainly so. For in saying, "As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you," He pointed to the grace that was His as Mediator. For Christ Jesus is the Mediator between God and men, not in respect to His Godhead, but in respect to His manhood.9 And certainly it is in reference to this His human nature that we read, "And Jesus increased in wisdom and age, and in favor [grace] with God and men."10 In harmony, therefore, with this, we may rightly say that while human nature belongs not to the nature of God, yet such human nature does by grace belong to the person of the only-begotten Son of God; and that by grace so great, that there is none greater, yea, none that even approaches equality. For there were no merits that preceded that assumption of humanity, but all His merits began with that very assumption. The Son, therefore, abideth in the love wherewith the Father hath loved Him, and so hath kept His commandments. For what are we to think of Him even as man, but that God is His lifter up?11 for the Word was God, the Only-begotten, co-eternal with Him that begat; but that He might be given to us as Mediator, by grace ineffable, the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.12