Whoever has my commands and keeps them, he it is who loves me (John 14:21)?
John 14:21 “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”
To set the scene around this verse, we must read John 14. This chapter begins by Jesus comforting the disciples and their troubled hearts. Christ tells His disciple “let not your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1). Notice at this point in time, the scene is being set for Gethsemane, the denial, the mock trial, the scouring and the cross. With all this in view, Christ does not think of Himself or the comfort He requires, but He gives comfort to the disciples. His heart is full of sorrow for His disciples over His departure. So this chapter begins by Jesus comforting His disciples.
Then the next phase of the chapter moves to Jesus instructing His disciples. Jesus tells His disciples that if they asked anything in His name he would do it for them. Included in this instruction, He speaks to the the disciples about this very important message and reading that we are focusing on today, that if they love Him, they will keep His commandments and He would ask His Father to send a comforter to them.
The final phase of the chapter is a promise for the future. Jesus tells His disciples that He would not leave them comfortless. If they kept the word of God, then He, the Father and the Holy Spirit would abide with them and teach them all things. Jesus explains to them, that the reason He told them what was to come is so that they would believe when it happened.
In view of the whole chapter what does it mean, that “whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.” In fact in John 14, there are multiple references within this chapter that keeps re-iterating this very point of love and obedience. These references can be found in John 14:15,21,23,24,31. Jesus is trying to get a very important point across to his disciples, and to anyone who loves him.
1. Why love is important?
Let us begin by looking at why love is so important and the core through which obedience flows out.
a. The reason to love
Christian theology stresses the importance of love because God has revealed that he is love. 1 John 4:8 “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love, v16 says “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” Love is both what God is and what he has done; God always acts in love.
Love in the Bible is described as both personal (between persons) and also selfless (desiring the best for others). God has displayed His love for us His children by sending His Son to die on the cross.
Romans 5:8 “but God shows his love for us in that while we were yest sinners, Christ died for us.”
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
John 4:10 “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
As stated earlier in John 14 this message of love and keeping the commandments of God has been re-iterated multiple times in this chapter and this brings out the force of the words spoken. This in itself demands serious attention from the reader. These words are spoken to those who hold his word closely in their hearts and live by them and them alone. The promise given is for all who are His and there is no room for the half-hearted here. This is the real test of whether we love him. Do we fully do what he says?
We may sing and dance and shout praise to God, and all this is good, but means little by itself. The real test of love is by obedience and a desire to do what God wants. Love only has meaning when there is obedience associated to it. 1 John 2:3-4 says “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,”
So loving God and being His true disciple is not only an outward profession but it is also the inner possession of a living and true faith as it says in Luke 11:28 “But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!””.
The reason we love Jesus Christ is because we have found something that is precious and valuable in him. The following poem by Spurgeon explains it beautifully:
Whay do we love Jesus? By Spurgeon
Why do we love Jesus?
Because he “gave himself for us.”
We have life through his death;
We have peace through his blood.
Though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor.
Why do we love Jesus?
Because of the excellency of his person.
We are filled with a sense of his beauty!
An admiration of his charms!
a consciousness of his infinite perfection!
His greatness, goodness, and loveliness, in one resplendent Ray, combine to enchant the soul till it is so ravished that it exclaims,
“Yes, he is altogether lovely.”
Blessed love this – a love which binds the hearts with chains more soft than silk, yet more firm than adamant!
b. What are the properties by which love is distinguished.
- Love must be SINCERE. Romans 12:9 says “let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” We must possess a love that is genuine as it mentions in this verse. It is easy to have a hypocritical love, a love that wears a mask and one of empty professions. Let our love be sincere by loving God through obedience and loving our neighbors by acts of kindness and this is how we show that our love is sincere.
- Let love be SUPREME. Often our love to any object rises according to its worth. Our love to God must be supreme – with all the heart. We are not to love God as we love our friends, or relatives, or children, but must love Him above all things. He will allow no rival to share with Him the throne of your heart’s affection. Not even any lawful affection must set above that which we give to God, much less the love of sin or to worldly things. Deuteronomy 6:5 says “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
- Love must be CONSTANT. It must always be a strong and fervent love. A love with all your “might”. A love deeply rooted in the heart. A love so involved with your thoughts and feelings as to overcome the power of sin and Satan that you always walk with your mind set on Christ.
c. The test by which love is ascertained
John 14:21 tells us, it is whoever that has the commandments of God and keeps them, is the one that loves God truly. So what exactly is the keeping of the commandments of Christ?
- It means SEEKING them. How can we know them unless we find out. The only way to find out is by seeking them. 1 Chronicles 28:8 says “Now therefore in the sight of all Israel, the assembly of the Lord, and in the hearing of our God, observe and seek out all the commandments of the Lord your God, that you may possess this good land and leave it for an inheritance to your children after you forever.”
- It means seeking ALL of the commandments. This is a life long occupation. 1 Chronicles 28:8 says “…observe and seek out all the commandments…”
- It means OBEYING them. Not only to seek and find out all the commandments, but also doing them. James 1: 22 says “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”
- It means obeying them PROMPTLY. In Psalm 119:60 it says “I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments.”
- Finally it means, DELIGHTING in obeying God. Psalm 112:1 says “Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments!”
We need to have a heart to seek the commandments of God, to relish them and to obey them. Deuteronomy 5:29 says “Oh they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!”
d. The reward to which this love is connected
When we keep the commandments of God, there is a certain blessing that is poured out onto us. The favor of the greatest Father, His affection, the presence of a best friend. From this love, we begin to learn the insufficiency of external privileges and all that the world has to offer and Christ becomes our all in all. The Bible also tells us that we can expect:
- GLADNESS: The most joyful people in the world are those people in the world who are constantly seeking to keep God’s commandments and please Him. 1 Chronicles 16:27 says “Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his place.”
- GREAT PEACE: Having great peace is a priceless reward. How wonderful it is to enjoy such a peace even as we live in this word of trouble, a world of fear, a world of war, and a world of uncertainty. Yet for those who love they Lord and obey his commandments, they live with the peace of God. Psalm 119:165 says “Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.”
- ASSURANCE OF SALVATION: Many Christians lack the assurance of salvation. The reason for this is not knowing what the word says about those who are in Christ and what God has already done for us. In Colossians 3:3 says “For you have died with Christ and your life is hidden with Christ in God”. Now if we read 1 John 3:24 it says “Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit he has given us. Keep his commandments and you will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you have received salvation.
- ANSWERS TO PRAYER: This is a wonderful promise. The Bible tells us that if we seek to obey God, then he promises to answer our prayers. What a great reward. 1 John 3:22 says “and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.”
- CONSCIOUS PRESENCE OF CHRIST: Firstly we need to understand that the Lord is always with us when we have received him as our personal savior and Lord. But take note of what it says in John 14:21, where there is an emphasis on the word “manifest”. The word manifest means “clear or obvious to the eye or mind”. This means that when we obey Jesus Christ we not only know that he is with us but we are made really conscious of His presence. What a great reward.
2 Why is obedience important?
a. Obedience is a sign and test and proof of love
John 14:21 tells us that obedience is a sign and test of love. Whoever obeys the commandment of God is the one who loves God. This is the same message given in John 14:15 saying “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”, except that it is in reverse to what is said in John 14:21.
John 14:15 begins with the root and traces it upwards to its fruits. Love blossoming into obedience. Whereas our reading in John 14:21 does the reverse.
Here our Lord declares the possession of His commandments to be a sign of love to Him. The verse begins by saying “Whoever has my…”. Notice that there are 2 ways that you can “have”.
The first way you can have is to simply have the commandments in the Bible available for you. The words are there before your very eyes and you can see it as a law that you ought to obey.
The second way to have is to have His commandments, is in your heart. This is when His commandments are within your will, it becomes a power that shapes your will and your thoughts and your actions. Everything you do comes out of that which is in your very being. This is the kind of “having” that Christ regards as real and valid. Love possesses the knowledge of the loved ones will.
There are always two motives of keeping commandments. One simply because they are commanded and out of fear, works-based etc. and the other because of our love of Him that commands it. Notice, that one is “slavery” and the other is “liberty”. There is a sea of difference between the two.
1 John 4:18 says “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts our fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”
Love implies attraction, and fear repulsion and that is why fear cannot exist in love. This is the principle of love in general. It must not be limited to Gods love for us , or our love to God, or our love to one another. Love and fear only coexist when love is not yet perfect. Perfect love will absolutely exclude fear as surely as perfect union excludes all separation. A love that is self-interested is the love that fears; pure and unselfish love has no fear.
Many people affirm their love for Jesus Christ, but is this a genuine and sincere love? What is the proof of this professed love? John 14:21 says “..,he it is who loves me.” Notice here that Jesus is singling out that one person as the only true lover of God.
Let us not be misled of our love for Jesus. The following are just some ways in which we think we show our love for Christ, but is it really true love or are was misleading ourselves?
When we have strong, frequent feeling of sorrow or compassion for Christ as someone who was innocent and suffered a horrible death on the cross. This is an emotion and an element of love, but it is not love.
When we have an intellectual and moral admiration of Christ, this is also not love. Many unbelievers also may have the same opinion of Jesus.
Maybe we strive to keep the commands and laws of God, for an outwardly appearance so that we may get praise from a worldly perspective, but this again is more of a self-love than a real love of Christ.
The Bible tells us the proof of love is when we are obedient to the following:
1 John 4:20 “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
We can see the point stressed in this verse, that we may look religious outside, and we may talk religiously and speak the words, but all of this amounts to nothing if it does not produce practical deeds of love, not just empty talk. John actually calls this a lie.
Are you someone who sings to the Lord saying “I love you, Lord, and I lift my voice to worship you…”, and at the same time you have bitterness in your heart towards others and forgiveness. Then what you are really singing is a lie. It is just mere words and nothing else. It is just a outwardly show not an inwardly transformation.
The proof is in, how you treat those whom you see and interact with. Your brothers and sisters in this world. The love that you show to them is the proof of whether you really delight in your invisible Father and cherish his promises.
Ultimately what is being said here is that if you really love God, with your words and in your heart then you will rest and delight in all that God is for you, in all his amazing promises, and you WILL love your brother. You will be so full of hope and joy and freedom that you will love to spread the good things of God to as many people as possible.
Since you cannot see God, there is no way to really know if you love God since he is not around to see. The only way to know whether your claim to love God is true, is in the way you relate to people you can see. If you don’t love your brother or sister you can see, then there is open evidence that you cannot be telling the truth when you talk about the invisible workings of your heart toward an invisible God.
3. Christ is known only to the loving.
John 14:21 tells us that if when we obey His commandments, it shows our love for God and to those who do this, Christ will manifest himself to them.
Notice here that He is not talking about a mystical vision or appearance where we see Him physically, rather He reveals Himself to us by giving us deeper insight into knowing God through His word. Jesus is saying here that when we obey Him, then He will share more of Himself with us. Again this isn’t a mystical, extra-biblical knowledge, rather the knowledge of Him through His Word.
Jesus as we read in the beginning of John 14, Jesus spoke these words to comfort the disciples in their time of trouble, likewise a deeper revelation of Christ through the Scriptures will comfort us in our trials.
In John 14:22 Judas (not Iscariot) asks Jesus a question, “”Lord , how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?”” The Jews thought that the Messiah would reveal Himself openly and rule a political kingdom. When Jesus entered triumphantly into Jerusalem, the disciples would have thought that He would soon establish the Kingdom and be seated on the throne. They did not understand that in the first coming of Jesus, His kingdom was not of this world. John 18:36 says “Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”
Jesus responds to Judas’ question, but He completely ignores the question asked by Judas. In John 14:23, Jesus responds by saying, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” Here Jesus is saying the He will not reveal Himself to a rebellious world, but only to those who obey Him. Again Jesus gives a final warning in John 14:24 saying “…and the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.” This shows the enormity of the world in rejecting Christ. They are not only rejecting Him, but also God Himself. How can the living God make His home with such rebels? Obedient believers enjoy a relationship with God that the world cannot know.
Through Jesus’ answer you could also see that God will reveal Himself to the world through those who obey Him. As people see Christ in us, many will be drawn to our Savior. Matthew 5:16 says “…Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” The matter of the fact is that our lives may be the only Bible that many people read. If we joyfully obey Christ and enjoy His abiding presence, we will be His channel for revealing Himself to this disobedient world.
4. Character and privilege of true Christians.
The character of a true Christian is that, they simply love Jesus Christ. We love Him as a divine person who is glorious in moral perfection and loveliness. We love Him as the image of God, God who humbled Himself and took on the nature of a servant, loving Him will all our heart and might and soul and strength. We love Him as our mediator and whose very nature is love.
The character of a true Christian is one who has His commandments, His words, His sayings. They hunger and thirst for more of Him and His word.
The character of a true Christian is one who keeps His commandments. It is by having the words of Christ that people come to love Him, so also it is by keeping His words that they manifest and prove their love to Him.
When we come into such a love relationship with Christ our Lord and Savior, then there is the privilege of being loved by the Father and the Son. This love is discovered in the Son manifesting Himself to us and the Father and the Son coming to us and making their home in us.
In conclusion we see here that not only did Jesus teach and command these beautiful truths to us, but in fact he was an example to us showing us what real obedience is. Closing in John 14:31, Christ said “but i do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.”
How beautiful are the words and character of Christ. He was the perfect example. He was obedient to the Father so as to the point of death that he was glorified above every other name.
Philippians 2:5-11 says
“5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
May we truly love Jesus, the He may manifest Himself to us.
The Biblical Illustrator, Pulpit,
R. Allen M.A. (Supreme love) – Bible Hub