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BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION (11): If You Love Me


If you love me, you will obey my commandments. – John 14:15

Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. – John 14:21

If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. – John 14:23

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. – John 15:10

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. – John 15:13-14

But if anyone obeys His word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in Him. Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did. – 1 John 2:5-6

This is love for God: to obey his commands. And His commands are not burdensome. – 1 John 5:3

And this is love: that we walk in obedience to His commands. – 2 John 6

There may be other similar statements that I have overlooked. These verses equate loving God and obedience to Him. They describe the beautiful relationship that exists between God and all who lovingly believe in Him and walk with Him.

Yet, to see this beauty we must understand just what the apostle of love means when he says “obey His commands.” Does he mean we must keep in step with every nuance we – or anyone else – can infer from the Word of God? Or does he mean something else.

Context is all important. If we read these verses and conclude we must, for example, use wine as the fruit of the vine when we drink the cup at the Lord’s Table because that is what Jesus used at the Last Supper (though this is never stated in the Scriptures), have we made love for God depend on using wine instead of a non-alcoholic fruit of the vine? If we infer that only one container may be used to hold the fruit of the vine because the Bible speaks of drinking “the cup,” do we equate the use of one container (with all drinking from it) to loving God?

Now, when God has clearly said we should do something, we should do it. What I am talking about here is inferences we may draw from something God has said to bind something He has not said as a part of His “commands” to us. Has God commanded it when I infer it? Or is it just possible that I may have “read something into” what God said and come up with something God never intended?

When we look at the context of the above scriptures about loving God and obeying His commands, we will discover that there are two (and only two) commands in view in the immediate contexts.

In the gospel of John, Jesus had just given His disciples a new commandment:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. – John 13:34-35

He kept coming back to this new command in the discussion that followed:

As the Father has loved Me, so have I love 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…. My command is this: Love each other as I have love you. – John 15:9-10, 12

Similar statements are in the context of 1 John’s teaching that those who obey the commands are the ones who love God:

And this is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us. Those who obey His commands live in Him and He in them. And this is how we know that He lives in us: We know it by the Spirit He gave us. – 1 John 3:23-24

This is love for God: to obey His commands. And His commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. – 1 John 5:3-5

And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. – 2 John 5

To love God and to love one’s neighbor as one’s self are commands that embrace all of our duty to God and man.

The very nature of love is such that it cannot be contained within the bounds of rules and regulations. The limits of the love we are to have are as boundless as the love the Father had for His Son who became flesh and lived among us. This is not a legal system. Jesus came, not to destroy the law of Moses and give us a new law with different regulations, but to show us how to love.

A 7th Day Adventist once said to me that if you take away the 10 commandments, then we have no bounds. I replied that we are bound by the life and character of Jesus Himself, that we are to walk in Him loving one another as He love us. His reply? After he thought a moment, he said, “But that is even harder.”

One reason men like to make a legal system is that the rules spell out exactly what they are to do in every situation. The gospel of love, on the other hand, has no limits of what may be required of us. That makes it harder to follow – except for one thing: the contexts of these passages also speak frequently of Jesus sending His Spirit to live in us.

When the Holy Spirit lives within us, He pours the love of God into our hearts (see Romans 5:5). Love heads the list when Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22. The next thing Paul mentions in that list is joy. Whereas commandment keeping can become burdensome, living in love is joyous.

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. – Romans 14:17-18

Obeying commands without love may give external righteousness – but it does not give a deep, fulfilling joy nor does it provide peace that passes understanding. When faith works through love, joy and peace accompany the righteousness of God.

Yes, the person who loves God will obey His commandments. But the commands of God are that we love Him and believe in Jesus. We we do these things – with all that grows out of them – we will truly do far more than any who live by obeying rules and worrying about regulations. What is more, we will find joy and peace in doing so.

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