“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 to him.”
On that solemn and eventful night in which our Lord was betrayed, and but a little while before he suffered on the cross, these words were spoken by him to his disciples. Although pressed in spirit, crushed beneath the ponderous weight of all the sins of his people which were laid on him, groaning in spirit with his soul exceeding sorrowful even unto death, and having a baptism to be baptized with, and pressed until it should be accomplished, with all the mighty anguish of his own soul wringing from him, as it were, great drops of blood falling to the ground, he did not for a single moment forget the dear objects of his love for whom he was about to pour out his soul. As with his omniscient glance he comprehended the mighty billows of overwhelming surprise and grief into which they were about to be immersed, when they should see the dearest object of their love rudely torn away from them by a murderous mob, and see him buffeted, insulted, spit upon, and led like a lamb to the slaughter, nailed to the torturing cross, and put to death by wicked hands, when his dying groans should seem to put out the sun, and veil the earth in darkness, rend the rocks, startle the slumbering dead, and convulse the universe. Knowing, as he did, the willingness of their spirit, but the weakness of their flesh, he gave them words of comfort against the trying hour. “Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me.” How seasonable was this admonition. Nothing could be more directly calculated to shake their confidence in him as the Messiah whom they had believed him to be, and make them fear that they had mistaken his true character, than what they were now about to witness. They verily believed that it was he that should redeem Israel, that he possessed almighty power, but now to see the powers of earth and hell appear to prevail against him must certainly try their faith in him as the Mighty God and Everlasting Father. But though he bows his mighty head in death, his Father’s throne in heaven is not more firmly established than his ultimate and complete triumph over sin, death and the grave; nor is he less reliable for their faith and confidence than his Eternal Father. As they therefore believe in God, they have his warrant to believe in him. This assurance of faith should shield their trembling heart from trouble. Had they understood and remembered what he had told them, that he should rise again on the third day, and that it was expedient for them that he should suffer, and rise again, they would have been less disconsolate. And it is even so now with the saints, when our faith and confidence is unwavering in Jesus, our heart is protected from trouble. It is only when the surging waves of temptations and trials assault our faith that cruel doubts and fears prevail against us now. Whenever we believe as firmly in Jesus as our Savior as we believe in the existence and perpetuity of the government of the Eternal Father, our joys are unspeakable and full of glory.
Truly he was going away, but it was for them, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.” Could we but know and understand that our trials are all designed to secure this result, that where Jesus is, there we may be also, how cheerfully could we submit to them all. What trouble would be too great for us to endure, if necessary to secure to us the abiding presence of our dear Redeemer?
We love to trace the whole connection of his words of instruction and consolation recorded in this most interesting chapter, but we designed to dwell at this time more particularly on the text presented at the commencement of this article.
“He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me.” In the fifteenth verse he says, “If ye love me, keep my commandments,” and in this verse he tells us who they are that love him. It is sometimes a point we long to know, whether we love Jesus or not. Our love, if indeed we have any, seems to us so cold and languid that we can hardly satisfy ourselves that we are the people who are distinguished from all others by this peculiar mark. Let this question be settled, and all will be right with us. “We know that we have passed from death unto life, if we love the brethren,” and, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This very important question is settled by our Lord. “He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me.” Observe:
First. The commandments of Christ spoken of in this text are not the precepts of Moses, which were given to the carnal seed of Israel, unto whom pertained the covenants, the giving of the law, etc. (See Romans 9:4.) The law of carnal or fleshly commandments was given to them, and they had Moses preaching to them every Sabbath day; but they were not thereby characterized as lovers of Christ, for the law made nothing perfect. Nor yet the law under which the human family was created in Adam, for all have fallen and come short of the glory of God; but the commandments of Christ are those which indicate his spiritual dominion as the King of saints. And these embrace all his laws and ordinances which he has enjoined upon his redeemed, called and quickened subjects, as members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. A perfect record of his commandments are found in the New Testament, and a transcript, a perfect duplicate of them, is written in the hearts of his spiritual subjects, embracing all that he requires of them in faith or in practice. To neglect or disobey anything which he has commanded, or to do anything religiously that he has not commanded, is equally perverse and reprehensible.
Second. These commandments of Christ were never given to the world, but to the subjects of this spiritual kingdom which is not of this world, which is diverse from all the kingdoms of this world, and which he has redeemed from the world. “Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples (Isaiah 8:16).” His commandments require spiritual action, and are totally inapplicable to all such as are not born of the Spirit. “The carnal mind is emnity against God; it is not subject to the law of God (to this law of the Spirit of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord), neither indeed can be.” Repentance, faith, spiritual mindedness, baptism, communion, fellowship with the Father, and with the Son, and with the church of God, are not given to the ungodly. They have never received, and therefore they who hate Christ have not his commandments. As the covenants of the law were placed carefully in the consecrated Ark of the testimony, so the laws of Christ are hidden in his church, and in the hearts of his people.
Third. The kingdom of Christ has its well-defined boundaries. “Judah was his sanctuary, and Israel his dominion (Psalm 114:2).” No one can so much as see this kingdom except he be born again; and except a man be born of the water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. The laws of no prince or potentate extend beyond the bounds of territory over which he presides. While Christ’s providential government extends over all beings, all worlds, and all events, his Mediatorial government, as the Prince and Savior of his people, is confined to his spiritual subjects, who are known in the scriptures as “A seed (that) shall serve him, and be counted to the Lord for a generation (Psalm 22:30).”
Fourth. In the preaching of Christ and his apostles, none of the commandments of Christ were ever addressed indiscriminately to saints and sinners. When the Good Shepherd putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and they follow him, and he leadeth them out. He knows his own sheep, and he is known of them. He calleth his own sheep by name, they hear and know his voice, and they follow him, and he giveth them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and none shall pluck them out of his hands. (See John 10.)
When, in the beginning of the gospel, John came from God with a commission to make ready a people prepared for the Lord, some who were not prepared for the Lord came to him for baptism, and although he had commanded those to whom he was sent to “repent and be baptized,” he demanded of the Pharisees and Sadducees who had warned them to flee from the wrath to come. They must first demonstrate to him that they were prepared for the Lord; that is, for the kingdom and spiritual government of Christ, by fruits meet for repentance, and think not to say that Abraham was their father. For Pharisees or Sadducees, willworshipers, or any who were not quickened, to be baptized would be to obey no command of Christ. He has never commanded any but believers who love him to be baptized. It would be sacrilegious for any but believers, whether infants or adults, to be baptized. Philip said to the eunuch, “If thou believest with all thy heart, thou mayest.” Let it be observed that the Holy Ghost sent Philip and inspired him to give this very answer to the direct question of the eunuch, “What doth hinder me to be baptized?” That which should hinder the eunuch would hinder any one else: and that which qualified him is a sufficient qualification for any one else. “If thou believest with all thy heart, thou mayest.” His profession of faith was plain and clear. “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” Enough; Philip is satisfied. The chariot stops, and the eunuch is baptized, and then goes on his way rejoicing; and the Spirit caught away Philip to labor elsewhere. Now the eunuch was not required to say, I feel worthy of the ordinance, I am satisfied I shall do honor to my profession, or I have Abraham to my father. He was a believer, which he could not have been if he were not born of God, and being a quickened believer, he had the commandment; he did love Jesus, and it was therefore his happy privilege. But to settle this matter effectually and forever, we have only to observe what Jesus says in verse fifteen, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” The commandments of Christ are given only to them that love him; they only have his commandments who love him; and they love him because he has first loved them. The commandments of Jesus are not confined to baptism, but all is embraced that he has enjoined on them. But baptism is the first in the order of the commands which are given to believers who love him; and they cannot live one hour after he has revealed his love in their hearts in neglect of the holy ordinances, where a door is open for them, without involving disobedience. His commandments which they have require them to deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and to follow the Lamb, to walk in love and fellowship with those in his church who have obtained like precious faith, and given evidence thereof by obedience in like manner to Christ. He commands them to be separate from the world, to renounce its vanities, to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints: but he commands them to use such weapons as belong to the armor of God; not carnal weapons, for they are forbidden to render evil for evil to any man, but to love their enemies, pray for them who despitefully use and persecute them. The whole code of Jesus’ commandments are now upon them. They take his yoke in baptism, and before heaven and earth declare their allegiance to him as their supreme Potentate and King. His vows are upon them, and it becomes their privilege, as it is their duty, to observe all things whatsoever he has commanded them, whatever amount of self-denial it may require, or whatever of persecution it may involve. But one preliminary question is allowed, “If ye love me?” This settled, and all his commands are imperatively binding on all such.
Thus we see that inasmuch as the commands of Christ are restricted to those exclusively who love him (for he will have no subjects in his kingdom but such as love him), therefore he that hath them, ‘and keepeth, or obeyeth them, is really and manifestly him that loveth him, and to all such loving and obedient children the gracious assurance of our text belongs.
“And he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father.” This is an assurance and guarantee of the perpetuity of the love of God to all such as bear the description already given. Not by any means as a consequence of their love to Christ, nor to be regarded as a reward of merit, for:
1st. God’s love is eternal, immutable, sovereign and self-moving, beyond the power of any influences that can possibly be brought to bear upon it. Had this not been the case, it could never have reached any of the degenerate and guilty sons of men. “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) (Ephesians 2:4-5).”
2nd. The love of God the Father was given to the saints, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love (Ephesians 1:3,4).” And in John 17:23,24, “I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovest me before the foundation of the world.” The positive declaration that God’s love to his people was before the foundation of the world forbids the idea that it was ever induced by any influence brought to bear since the foundation of the world.
3rd. It is of too high and holy a character to be moved by influences necessarily of an inferior order. Besides, if it could have been induced by any agency whatever, it might by the same agency be repelled or wholly withdrawn.
One may then inquire, why is it thus said, “And he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father.” We understand it to be given as a comforting assurance of the perpetuity of the love of the Father to those who are so clearly identified as the members of Christ. As the love of the Father to them is even with, or equal to, his love to Christ, although they may seem to themselves, and to the world, so unworthy of such manner of love as God has bestowed on them, that they should be called his sons, still the world shall know that God has loved them even as he has loved Christ. And furthermore, we understand the declaration to embrace the manifestations of his love to them. Many things occur to make us fear that God’s mercies are, so far as we are concerned, clean gone forever, and that he will love us and be gracious to us no more. So it appeared to the reasoning capacities of the Jews in regard to our suffering Redeemer on the cross. “He trusted in God, let him deliver him now, if he will have him; for he said, I am the Son of God.” His sufferings were regarded by carnal men as evidence that God did not love him, and so our own carnal reason insinuates to us that if God loved us, he would save us from such dreadful temptations as we sometimes endure; but to fortify the disciples for the dreadful trial, he assures them that his Father will love them. How inspiring the assurance! What could so well fortify us for sore afflictions, bitter persecutions, or strong temptations, as the assurance that God will manifest his love to us? If then we have the commandments of Jesus, and are enabled through abounding grace to obey them, such manifestations of the love of the Father are made to us as to revive our faith, confirm our hope, and banish our doubts and fears.
“And I will love him, and manifest myself to him.” Even when he rebukes and chastens his people for their disobedience, or for the trial of their faith, he loves them, and in love he scourges them for their good; but the tenderness of his love to them is not so manifest to their understanding as when they have his commandments, and walk in obedience to him. “The way of the transgressor is hard,” but the pathway of the righteous shines brighter and brighter. The experience of all the children of God agrees with this instruction. We cannot expect to enjoy the smiles of our Savior, and realize the glowing manifestations of his love flowing into our hearts when we forsake his law, and walk not in his judgments, when we break his statutes and keep not his commandments; for then he will, in covenant faithfulness, visit our transgressions with the rod, and our iniquity with stripes. He will not only give to his obedient children gracious and cheering manifestations of his love, but he will manifest himself to them. “I will not leave you comfortless; I will come unto you.” He comes by his Spirit, in his word, and manifests himself as their Prince and Savior, the Captain of their salvation; as their Deliverer, their Protector, and their all. In all his relations to them, he manifests himself, and in all his offices he reveals himself to them for their comfort, safety and encouragement.
It is a blessed thing to have his commandments; to be a subject of his spiritual government; to feel his love shed abroad in our hearts, drawing us to his embrace, and inclining us to honor and obey him. Thrice blessed to abide in his love; for he says, “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 (John 15:10).”
September 15, 1866.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 6
Pages 377 - 384