The Expository Files

 A Relationship Passage

John 15:9-17

9 “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 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.
11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.
12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I 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 the Father in My name He may give you. 17 These things I command you, that you love one another. [1]

In this section of the gospel of John, Jesus is with His apostles, telling them that His exit will not be abandonment. “I will not leave you orphans,” (Jno. 14:18).

There are at least two categories of expression of Jesus to His men: (1) Promise statements, and (2) Relationship statements. In the promise statements, Jesus tells them they will be supernaturally equipped to take the gospel to the lost; they would be given all the powers they would need to be apostles. The relationship statements constitute basic teaching about individuals in relationship with God through Christ. The promise statements find only an apostolic application (we are not apostles, not baptized in the Spirit as they were, not inspired to speak and write the truth as they were). The relationship passages are to be understood universally. For instance, in Jno. 14:15, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” should be true (not just of the apostles), but anyone who really loves Christ.

The above text (Jno. 15:9-17) is a relationship passage.

Just look down through this paragraph and pick out these phrases, which clearly identify RELATIONSHIP. “I also have loved you . . . abide in My love.” Further: Keeping command-ments, abiding in love, love one another, laying down your life, being a friend, bearing fruit, asking and receiving.

This is all about the close relationship of the Father and the Son, that here includes – by grace and the response of faith - the individual follower. God and Jesus through the Holy Spirit invite people into their fellowship. It is an invitation with terms, with an instructed response to begin your relationship with the Lord, and continue that life.

We have not been baptized in the Holy Spirit like the apostles. We do not work miracles and write inspired Scripture. Those were the apostolic promises that came to pass for those men. But, we can be children of God just like they were – In terms of one’s individual relationship with God – we can have what the apostles had – what is available to everyone willing to trust and obey Christ.

The specifics

Notice this, from verse 9 through verse 17, the word “love,” in one form or another eight times! This tells us, at the core, our relationship with God is about love. His love for us and the activity of His love for us, which came to pass in Christ’s love for us. THEN, as informed by the Holy Spirit, OUR RESPONSE OF LOVE TOWARD DEITY!

Remember, this is not a sentimental, ordinary, worldly love. That is just like a warm feeling or mood. This love is a mature state of mind, an attitude that always seeks the best interests of its’ object. This is an active, sacrificial, abiding love that is far richer than what is worldly or ordinary.

According to Jno. 3:16, it caused God to send His Son to die for us.

That’s the love of this text – that is at the core of God’s affection for us – and ought to be at the core, of our response to Him.

There is another specific here that ought to have our attention: Obedience is always a part of one’s relationship with God. Love is attractive! Everybody likes to talk about love; everyone wants to claim their interests in love and celebrate it.

Not as much emphasis is given to Obedience, and the very real character development that results from obedience to the Lord. But with Jesus – love and obedience were always connected; there was never – in the teaching of Christ – any distance between the two.

Look at this in verse 10: “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love…” This is too clear to debate or be denied. If I want to abide in the love of Christ, I need to be engaged with His teaching, through obedience (based on trust and love)!

It is popular on Facebook or other social media, to talk about Jesus and love, but without any reference to obeying His teaching (Jno. 15:10). Many computer users like to send emails, or post something on Facebook about Jesus – asking people to agree or share or forward, or join in the digital “assembly.” But when Sunday comes, they don’t join in. And when temptations come, they don’t resist and obey Him. And when churches need devoted members to do the work, edify the saints and reach the lost – few can be found.

The Bible teaches that love for Jesus is not just something you talk about – it is something you do. It is more than sharing a post, or forwarding an email. It is digging into the New Testament and discovering what He said we should do . . . and loving Him enough to do it.

Jno. 15:14

To have Jesus as a friend, He says: “do whatever I command.” Jesus is a divine, authoritative figure; a King; a Master, who was willing to lay down His life for us. Shouldn’t we be willing to obey His commands? These men – the apostles – would be obligated to do what Jesus said. And, as they preached the gospel, they would be telling others to do what Jesus says (Matt. 28:18-20).

So, the apostles’ friendship with Jesus needed to be obedient to Him; and, no different for us – we should want to observe all things commanded by Christ.

“Greater love has no one than this,
than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”

Jesus is not just talking about what He did. He is talking about what His disciples ought to be willing to do . . . and by application, what we ought to be willing to do. Friendship and love finds its’ perfect expression in the person and work of Jesus Christ – and should find such expression in our hearts. This, as I said earlier, is a relationship passage, and for there to be a genuine relationship with God through Christ – there must be the foundational principle of love. A clarification is needed here – and every time we speak of Christ’s love as our pattern.

We cannot exactly duplicate the ultimate expression of Christ’s love – because, the redemptive value of His death is singular, and cannot be repeated (Heb. 9 and 10 – singular; one offering).
But here’s the point – The attitude of love that took Him to the cross – should take us as far as we need to go, in our relationships with each other (1 Jno. 3:16).

By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 19.5; May 2012