“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
The Lord Jesus required that his followers believe in him, and that they obey all his teachings. This was the only way in which a person could prove his love for Christ. Salvation is by grace alone; but the believer is saved through God-given faith unto a life of good deeds—deeds that God has already prepared for him from eternity. (Eph. 2:4-10)
In this verse, Jesus gives a specific command to his disciples:
(12) “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (ESV)
Christ loved his own with an extraordinary and eternal love. He loved them so intensely, that—in obedience to his Father’s will—he was willingly to lay down his life to secure their redemption. Therefore, his redeemed people were to exhibit a kindred love for one another. (John 10:11,14,27-30; 1 John 3:16)
Granted, God’s children could not love to the extent that Christ loved. His was (and is) a perfect and perpetual love. However, as far as the capacities of their spiritually renewed natures allowed, they were to love one another. In obedience to Christ and his teaching, they were to minister to one another’s needs. They were to provide help and support for one another—physically, morally and spiritually. They were to encourage, exhort and rebuke one another—in a spirit of love, patience and understanding. (1 John 3:17-18; see also Deut. 15:7-8; Prov. 19:17; Matt. 25:34-40)
No limits were to be placed on their love for one another. Whatever was required for a fellow-believer’s welfare or encouragement, was to be provided in the name of Christ and in obedience to his commands. Therefore, Jesus says:
(12) “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
Then, in verse 13, the Lord adds:
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
Real love—self-sacrificing and self-giving love—knows no limit to how far or how deeply it will express itself. The ultimate test of a person’s love is whether he is willing—if need be—to forfeit his life for the one he loves. Even in ordinary human relationships, this principle has been clearly exemplified. When threatened with extreme danger or hazard, mothers have been known to sacrifice their lives for their children; so great was their love for them. On many occasions, people have been known to give up their lives to save the lives of those in danger or distress.
Wonderful as these expressions of human self-sacrifice may be, however, they pale into relative insignificance in the light of a far greater sacrifice and love. Shortly, the Lord would be going to the cross to lay down his life for his sheep. Like the disciples, these were his friends. These were the ones he had come to redeem. God so loved the world that he gave his only Son. Now, God’s only Son was about to lay down his life for his friends. (John 3:16; Rom. 5:6-8)
This demonstrates the fullness of God’s love. And, if God so loved us, we ought to love one another. Therefore, Jesus says:
(13) “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.” (ESV)
Then, in verse 14, the Lord explains what it means to be his friend:
You are my friends if you do what I command you.
How do we become a friend of Jesus? By doing what he commands. To be his friend, we must obey his Word, putting his teachings into practice in our everyday lives. Whatever he says, we must do. Whatever changes his Word requires of our conduct or lifestyle, we must implement. In all respects, we must not only listen to his Word, but we must also do what it says.
In this way, Abraham became known as the friend of God. In faith, Abraham obeyed God’s voice and did what God commanded him. He followed the will of God for his life. Because of his faith and obedience, he was known as the friend of God. (2 Chron. 20:7; Isa. 41:8; Jas. 2:23)
So it is with us. So long as we walk with the Lord in faith and obedience, we will be known as his friends. Therefore, Jesus says:
(14) “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (ESV)
(Extract from Expository Notes: Gospel of John, chapter 15 verses 12-14 ESV. To read or download these Notes in full, see above under NT Commentaries – Gospel of John).Follow @gordon_lyons