It is to be remarked that in this part of the gospel of John you get, not the sovereignty of grace towards us which saves, but our individual responsibility and blessing consequent upon our known relationship with the Father as we walk in this place. Christ is looking for their walk as disciples consequent upon their position as clean through His word. “He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me; and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him and will manifest myself unto him.” This is the order here.
It is not “We loved him because he first loved us”; but “He that loveth me shall be loved.” He first puts us in a place of favour, and then there is the consequent responsibility. There is not, of course, any question of uncertainty as to salvation; but He has put us into a certain position as saved, in which, through grace, we are to glorify Him. The path in which He enjoyed His Father’s love was a path of unclouded joy, and it was a path of undivided obedience. He here shews His disciples if they are to walk in the light and favour of His countenance, they must walk in the same path as He did Himself. We should so walk, that we should have Christ’s joy fulfilled in us.
There are one or two details connected with this, to which I wish to refer. When I speak of an unclouded joy belonging to my place in heaven, it is another thing. We are simply perfect if looked at in Christ in heavenly places. Here He is looking at Himself as on earth, and we are also seen on earth, and it is as here below that He would have His joy remain in us and our joy full.
Christ here takes the place of the true vine in which Israel had totally failed. His disciples were the branches, and He looks at them to bear fruit down here. You find all through this chapter He puts our responsibility first. He says, “He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit.” He calls upon them to abide in Him in order that He may be able to abide in them. If we look at chapter 17 the order is reversed. There it is “I in them” first. It is not here a question of safety or of God’s keeping them on to the end, but entirely one of fruit-bearing. We are called in the active reverence of our hearts to stay continually with Christ; to abide in Him; to draw strength continually from Him in active diligence of heart. The words “I in you,” in this passage, are the consequence of our first abiding in Him. “Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself except it abide in the vine, no more can ye except ye abide in me.” “He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit.” That we may bear fruit is what He is thinking of here, and so be truly His disciples. “Herein is my Father glorified that ye bear much fruit.”
“If ye abide in me and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will and it shall be done unto you.” By abiding in Christ I get guidance of heart; for then the words of Christ direct all my thoughts. Here I also get the power of abiding. Complete dependence on Christ, and His words abiding in me, I can ask what I will, for it will be what He wills—and it shall be done. There is in this such dependence on, and living with Christ, that my mind, and will, and thoughts, are all formed by Christ’s words; and I have full power to ask what I will. He was constantly looking to, and living by, His Father; with Jesus, it was always perfect fruit-bearing; and we are His disciples if we follow Him in that path.
“As the Father hath loved me so have I loved you.” It is not here simply the eternal love of the Father to the Son, but divine love to one walking in this world, whose word was, “I do always those things that please him.” This was a love which took up the disciples as walking down here. He could put them in the same relation to Himself that He was in to His Father. “As the Father hath loved me (the Son) so have I loved you; continue ye in my love.” They were walking here on earth in that blessed relationship which He Himself had known. He wants us not only to abide in Him and get strength, so as to bear fruit to His and the Father’s glory, but that we may abide in the continual, uninterrupted sense and enjoyment of His love. He gives Himself as our example: “As I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” I need not say how He abode in it! “If ye keep my commandments ye shall abide in my love”: still our responsibility— obedience to Christ’s words. It is not here a question of the Father loving the Son, as from eternity the beloved One. It was as He is seen walking in this world in a path of perfect obedience, and abiding in Him. If there is in us a spirit of simple obedience to Him, we abide in His love. If we do a thing because He said it, we abide in His love.
“These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you” (that is, “abide in you”; it is the same word all through). He had no joy from the world. He had perfect joy in the Father. His joy was in bringing forth fruit to the Father’s glory. He is thus shewing to us how in fruit-bearing we can have joy and blessedness down here. “That your joy might be full.” That is what He wants us to have—fulness of joy: and it is not from the world, but the kind of joy He had. It is His desire that we should have His own joy. “That my joy should remain in you, and that your joy should be full.” So it is to the heart that is walking with and abiding in Him. If we have joy, it is His joy. If it is reproach, it is His reproach. It is His, whatever it is, to the heart that walks in the blessed consciousness of being in the same path that He trod here; and nothing else will do for the devoted heart. We ought not to be content without it, without the sense that we are abiding in His love, keeping His commandments, and walking like Him, in the fullest enjoyment of the Father’s love, taking His words as our guide, keeping His commandments, and abiding thus in Him, He puts this confidence in us, but all connected with responsibility.
“This is my commandment that ye love one another, as I have loved you.” If I look at the love of Christ for them, what I see in it is, that it was above all the wretchedness of the poor disciples—above all their failure. When I am not above a thing it acts upon myself, but when I am entirely above it I can think for it all, as well as with it. The Lord being above all the failure and wretchedness could, if a right feeling, feel with His disciples; if an infirmity, He could feel for them. He can enter into it all in a divine way, because of a divine mind; and with divine goodness, because He is above it all! His word to us is, “Love one another, as I have loved you.” By clinging close to Christ, and learning from Him, we can love in the same kind of way in which He loved; and in this way we can recognise anything good, and of Him in our brethren, and learn to esteem others better than ourselves; that is what He expects—looks for in us. It is impossible unless we keep with Christ. What a path was His here! There never was such an isolated man as Christ, and yet there never was one who felt for others as He did.
“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.” He does not say He is the friend of sinners here; He speaks of their being His friends if they did what He commanded. Still our responsibility. He is treating them with perfect confidence. The true disciple He treats with the confidence of being His friend, otherwise He was betraying the confidence of His Father in telling His secrets. If I go to a person on a matter of business, I merely tell him my business, and have done with him; but if I go to a friend, I can tell hini all that is on my own mind, even about what does not concern him at all, having full confidence in his love and his interest in what concerns me. “Henceforth I call you not servants but friends, for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” Whatever I have had in my heart I have told you. What a place He sets us in! How we ought to hate ourselves for the constant way in which self hinders us from this blessed place of enjoyment. But what a comfort to the restored soul it is to find, that when we have learnt totally to distrust ourselves, Christ strengthens us and trusts us. He did so to Peter by those three questions— “Lovest thou me?” When Peter replies, You know, Lord, that I love you, He puts confidence in him, and says, “Feed my sheep; feed my lambs.” But until all that is in us is perfectly humbled, He cannot put trust or confidence in us. How could He do it, when we cannot trust ourselves?
“If the world hate you, you know that it hated me before it hated you.” “If ye were of the world, the world would love its own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” Here we get the source of the world’s hatred. Not only is it our walk that the world does not like us for, but for the place Christ has chosen us for, “out of the world”—a peculiar place, that we may be a peculiar people. It is because they are Christ’s that the world cannot like them. We should let our fight shine forth, and our confession of Christ be so distinct, that the world might know who they are to reckon the good works to—that we belong to Christ. We must take that place as thus confessing Christ here. He takes us to be His people, and we walk upon that ground. Of course there must be consistency on it. He looks for it; so does the world! Whatever would not suit Christ would not suit the Christian. We should not take that name to dishonour it. He has called us out to go with Him. How far are our hearts prepared to take our place before all the world and say, I am Christ’s; I belong alone to Him? If, in reply, they ask you what right you have to take that place, and say, “We, too, belong to Christ,” you can ask them to come and take their place with Him, else how could you own them as His?
What we look for is to abide in Christ, and to bear fruit to His and the Father’s glory. It is a lowly place—a blessed place; one of entire dependence upon Him, for without Him we can do nothing. May we know its exceeding blessedness for His name’s sake. Amen.