As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. These things I command you, that ye love one another.
The Holy Spirit has given us a wonderful privilege in allowing this last marvelous discourse of our Lord Jesus Christ to be put on record and preserved throughout all the centuries, that we might listen today to the tender gracious things that He said to His disciples just before He went out to Gethsemane and from there to the judgment hall and the cross.
Did you ever stop to ask how it was that after something like forty or fifty years the apostle John was able to give us a discourse like this in such detail? These words were spoken about A.D. 30, and John is supposed to have written this gospel somewhere within the eighth or ninth decade of the first century of the Christian era when he was an old man living in Ephesus. I have mentioned before that one of the old church fathers tells us that John was an adolescent when Jesus called him, and, therefore, we are not surprised to learn that he outlived all his fellow disciples. Peter, for instance, had been with Christ for some thirty or forty years when John wrote this gospel. Paul, who did not know Jesus on earth, died by martyrdom a year or two before. We are told that Matthew was slain by a lance in Scythia, and Thomas was killed in India where he had gone to preach Christ. All the others of the apostolic band had gone to be with Christ long ago. John was the only one left, and he could look back and think of the time when he was associated with the Lord Jesus Christ here on earth. Impressed by the Spirit he sat down to write this wonderful record.
He says, “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (Joh_1:14). John gives us details as to the Savior’s conversations such as we get nowhere else. His long conversation with Nicodemus, with the woman at the well, and with many other characters. And now in these marvelous chapters, 13-16, we have His last discourse, and His high-priestly prayer in chapter 17, all recorded with such remarkable detail after the lapse of nearly a half-century. Have you ever said to yourself, “How could he do it?” We need to remember the words of the Lord Himself, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (Joh_14:26). So when John sat down to write, doubdess these things which had become dim through the years were brought anew to his mind through the guidance of the Holy Spirit of God, who could reproduce them exactly as they were spoken by the Lord.
We are permitted, as it were, to sit in that Upper Room with the Lord and His disciples and to tread the way out to the garden of sorrows. And here we listen to these blessed unfoldings of His tender heart. Notice Joh_15:9-10, as He sets before them the love of the divine Savior. He says, “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” Jesus says, “I love you just as the Father loves Me.” We get the other side in chapter 17 when He said, “That the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me” (Joh_17:23). God, the Father, loves us-who believe in the Lord Jesus-just as much as He loves His Son. And the Lord Jesus Christ loves us as much as He loves His Father. What a wonderful circle that is!
In that circle of God’s favor,
Circle of the Father’s love;
All is rest and rest forever,
All is perfectness above.
It is one thing to talk about love and another to manifest it. I may say I love my mother and yet refuse to do anything for her when she is sick. Such love counts for very little. I am a father and say I love my children, but I may be so taken up with the things of the world that I don’t lift my hand to help them when they need it. Love is manifested by active benevolence and by obedience. The Lord Jesus says, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love,” that is, dwell consciously in the sense of His love. It was the delight of His heart to do the will of the Father. It will be the delight of our hearts to do the will of the Lord Jesus Christ if we really love Him.
We have already heard Him say, “My peace I give unto you” (Joh_14:27). Now in Joh_15:11 He speaks of sharing His joy with us: “These things have I spoken to you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” We are told in the Old Testament that the joy of the Lord is our strength. Joy is more than peace. Joy is peace bubbling up. The Lord would have us to be a joyful people. He Himself was like that. While it is true that He was the suffering One, the Man of sorrows, yet we never feel as we read the records penned by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John that we are reading of a sad man, but all the way through we are reading of One in whose heart there was fullness of joy.
No matter how things went outwardly He could always find His joy in the Father. The very time when He had to pronounce judgment upon the cities wherein most of His mighty works were done, we read at that time “Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes” (Luk_10:21). He says, in effect, “If you abide in fellowship with Me and make it the object of your life to glorify Me, you shall share My joy. The very joy that is Mine will be yours, that your joy may be full.”
You say, “What commandment does He mean?” What commandment? “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you” (Joh_15:12). You see, if we keep that commandment, everything else will be all right. You will never grieve the heart of God if you love one another. Love is the fulfilling of the law. Oh, if we would only test ourselves more. If we would ask ourselves, “Now am I doing this because I love my brother? Would I say that because I love my brother, or am I allowing myself to do things that are incompatible with love?” Love covers a multitude of sins we are told. If I really love my brother I shall never want to hurt him, or to shame and disgrace him. Even if he has been guilty of what is wrong, I will go to him and seek to restore him in tender love. We forget this so much, and deal with each other in such a reckless way.
If God dealt with us as we deal with each other, it would go very hard with us. But, ah, His abounding love-love that covers, love that, in grace, has overlooked so much in our life! Did you ever stop to think if every hidden thing you ever did was blazed abroad whether you would feel like facing the world again? So many things you have had to go to Him about, and He has kept them covered up. What a mercy! Do we deal with our brethren that way? Love covereth. “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Joh_15:12-13). Here, then, is the supreme test of his love. John, the apostle, says, “We ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1Jn_3:16). It is our duty to go so far as even to lay down our lives for them. Do we act on that? That is what Jesus did. Paul could say, “I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal_2:20).
Long years ago a missionary over in China was engaged in the work of translating the New Testament into Chinese. He had an eminent scholar to assist him, a Confucianist who had never heard of Christianity until this missionary had engaged him to help in the translation. He sat with him day after day, and together they went over the New Testament page by page and verse by verse. The Chinese scholar would suggest the proper Chinese word in order to make the meaning plain. The missionary was a painstaking person and anxious to produce a splendid translation.
One thing he thought he had better not do was to talk religion with his helper. So he was very careful, and never said a word to the man about his need of Christ and the salvation of his own soul. But, finally, when they had finished, he thought he ought to say something. He said, “You have been a great help to me. I could not have gotten along without you. Now I would like to ask, as we have come along through the New Testament, has not the beauty of Christianity appealed to you? Would you not like to be a Christian?” The scholar looked at him and said, “Yes, it does appeal to me. It is the most wonderful system of ethics and philosophy I have ever known. I think that if I could once see a Christian I might become interested.” “But,” said the missionary, “I am a Christian!”
“You,” said the Chinese scholar, “are you a Christian? Oh, no. Pardon me, I don’t want to offend you, but I have observed you and listened to you all the way along. You are not a Christian. If I understand aright, a Christian is a follower of Jesus, and Jesus says, ‘A new commandment give I unto you, that you might love one another.’ But I have listened to you talk about others who were not present, saying unkind things about them. You are not a Christian. And then I have noticed too that Christianity teaches perfect trust, and I translated for you a passage that says, ‘My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.’ You are told to trust and not be afraid, but you don’t do that. If your check is a little late in reaching you, you are dreadfully worried and you wonder what you are going to do.” And he went on with a number of things like that, ending with, “I have had to conclude that you are not a Christian. I think if I could see a Christian, I would like to be one.”
The poor brokenhearted missionary! He sobbed before the Lord and said, “Oh, I have been so careless.” He just broke down and had to ask forgiveness for his coldness and neglect. The scholar went away and said, “Well, I wonder if, after all, I haven’t seen a Christian.” You see Christians are not perfect as the world expects perfection, but we should grow more like our Master every day.
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus says, “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (Joh_15:14). We do not become Christians by doing His commandments, but we become manifestly His friends by obeying His words. We show that we are really friends to Christ by walking in obedience.
“Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you” (Joh_15:15). (The word for servants is “bondmen.”) Jesus says, in effect, “I love to take you into My confidence.” “I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” You know how you feel about your friends. Most of us do not have a great many friends. There are just a few folks whom we take right into our hearts, and we talk of them as our friends. We do not like to share our secrets with everyone. But when we get a real, intimate friend, we love to share the secret things of our heart with that friend. So the Lord Jesus Christ says, “I am calling you My friends.” Oh, how He opens up His heart and makes known His precious things to His friends.
And then another thing, we give our friends privileges that we do not give to strangers. So He says, “For all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you” (Joh_15:15-16). In other words, He wants His own to enter into such an intimate sense of fellowship and communion with Himself that they may go to the Father in His name and, as friends, offer their petitions in that name, and the Father will delight to hear and fulfill because it glorifies the name of Jesus.
I may have a friend and write a little note and say, “This will introduce you to so-and-so, who is also a friend of mine. If you can do what he or she desires, I shall esteem it as though it were done for me.” And that one goes to my friend, who says, “I am a friend of his, and I will be a friend to you.” That is what Jesus says. He means, “Tell the Father I sent you.” You see some people believe that to pray in Christ’s name merely means to close by saying, “These things we ask for the name and sake of the Lord Jesus Christ.” If you are not saved you are not authorized to go to God in Christ’s name, and if you are not in fellowship with God neither are you authorized to go to God like that. People who are living selfish, worldly lives are not authorized to go to God in this way. If you are abiding in Him you can go to the Father by His authority, and He will guide your petitions. He delights to answer, because in answering He is showing His love for and confidence in His own blessed Son.
But there is something here in Joh_15:16 must not pass over. What does He say? “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.” Did not they choose Him? Did not you choose Christ? Yes, but not before He chose you.
Tis not that I did choose Thee,
For, Lord, that could not be;
This heart would still refuse Thee,
But Thou hast chosen me.
’Twas the same love that spread the feast,
That gently forced me in,
Else I had still refused to come,
And perished in my sin.
Long before my heart was inclined to come to Christ, He touched me by the blessed Holy Spirit. At last when I was utterly broken down and brought to repentance, and cried to Him in shame, “Save, Lord, or I perish,” He took me in and made me His own.
And then when it is a question of service, it is He who chooses for this or that special work. And it is He who selects our sphere of ministry, whether at home or abroad. You remember the man who wanted to follow the Master, and the Lord said, “[No], go home…, and [show] how great things the Lord hath done for thee” (Mar_5:19). We can glorify Christ in whatever place we may be and we must recognize that He chose that task for us. “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you.”
Many people are troubled about ordination. Folks ask, “Has any one a right to preach who has not been ordained?” In this Book you do not read of people being ordained to preach the gospel. You never get the word ordination connected with the actual setting apart of a man to preach the gospel. What about Timothy? The word ordained was not used in Timothys case. “Well,” you say, “did you forget about Paul and Barnabas?” No, but they had been preaching a long time in Antioch before the elders laid their hands on them. Nobody authorized them by any service of ordination to go out and preach. That is the Lord’s prerogative. He said, “I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit.” The word ordained means “set apart.” “I have chosen you.” It is good to be able to say,
Christ, the Son of God, has sent me,
Through the midnight lands;
Mine the mighty ordination
Of the pierced hands.
That is the ordination that counts. All that the elders or others can do is to recognize what God has done already. The Lord said in regard to Paul, when he was still Saul of Tarsus, “He is a chosen vessel unto me, to [bring] my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (Act_9:15). And to Paul himself He said, “I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee” (Act_26:16). It is the Lord Himself who makes ministers, who gives men first to know Christ as their own Savior, and then sends them forth to preach. “I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.”
He concludes this particular section with these words, “These things I command you, that ye love one another” (Joh_15:17). Ah, that is the final test. Love is the evidence of grace working in our souls. So the passage closes as it began.