John 14:15 – The Commands of Jesus

If God loves us unconditionally, how do we account for those scriptures that link His love with our obedience, like this one:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (Jn 14:15)

A legalist reads this backwards: “You will keep my commandments if you love me.”

In other words, we must prove our love for God by doing what He commands. Commandment-keeping is our duty, a condition we must meet if we are to enjoy His love.

But someone who is walking in grace reads it just as Jesus said it. He understands that keeping His commands is a by-product of love.  Paul explains this in Romans 8:3-4, but let me give you an everyday example inspired by something I read from Steve McVey.

Here in New Zealand we have a big problem with domestic violence. Consequently, there are many laws governing the responsibilities of fathers. Break any of these laws and you might go to jail or have your kids taken away. It’s a serious business. But to be honest, I couldn’t tell you what these laws are. I’ve never read them. Yet I can confidently declare that I am keeping every one of these laws. How do I know? Because I love my kids. I don’t keep the laws to show the authorities that I love my kids and I don’t relate to my children on the basis of these laws. I relate to them on the basis of love and keeping the laws of the land flows naturally from that love relationship. I know the laws serve a good purpose, but they weren’t written for me. They were written for fathers who don’t love their kids.

Similarly, the laws found in the Bible were not written for those who love Jesus (1 Tim 1:9). Contrary to what the legalist may tell you, keeping the laws to earn what He freely offers is a surefire sign that you don’t know the love of God. A legalist reads the words of Jesus above and sees a threat. Do the commandments or else! But love makes no threats. Jesus is returning for a bride and it won’t be a shotgun wedding.

What are the commands of Jesus?

The next time someone tells you that you must keep the commands of Jesus to prove your love, ask them, “what are the commands of Jesus?” They will probably respond with the greatest commandment which is, “love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul” (Mt 22:38). This is fine, I guess. But if you insert that command into the phrase above it becomes, “If you love me, you will love me with all your heart, mind and soul,” which is kind of redundant.

If you read John 14:15 in context, you will see that on this occasion Jesus is referring to two specific commands. Here’s the first:

“A new command I give you: Love one another….” (Jn 13:34)

And here’s the second:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me… Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves” (Jn 14:1,11)

How can we be certain that these are His commandments? Because John – who was there when Jesus spoke these words – says so in one of his letters:

“And this is His command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us.” (1 Jn 3:23)

What does it mean to keep His commands?

Lest we dilute His commandments to accommodate our experience, Jesus outlines His expectations of obedience for both. Here’s what He expects from the first:

“As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (Jn 13:34)

How did Jesus love us? By laying down His life for us (Jn 15:3). That’s a high standard of love! Indeed, there is no greater love. And what are His expectations regarding the second commandment:

“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these…” (Jn 14:12)

Believe in Jesus and you will do the works of Jesus. Put it altogether and Jesus is saying this:

“If you love me, you will love one another as I have loved you and your faith in me will lead to miracles like I have been doing and greater miracles still.”

If you’ve been in any church for at least five years, you will know that Jesus’ first commandment is pretty much humanly impossible to keep, while the second commandment is definitely impossible. So the next time someone tries to lay a heavy burden on you by telling you that you must keep Jesus’ commandments to earn God’s love, just ask them how many people they’ve raised from the dead! When they look puzzled, tell them that Jesus commanded us to believe in Him and He said that those who did would do the same works He did and greater works besides!

Now that we begin to understand what Jesus wasn’t saying – He wasn’t saying that we need to keep His commandments to prove our love – we’re ready to dig deeper into what He was saying. That’s the subject of the next post. You won’t want to miss it. When you see what Jesus was promising His disciples and you, it’s going to blow you away! Maybe you’ve been intimidated by John 14:15 and the other new covenant laws. If so, prepare to be set free. When you get a hold of the words of Jesus you’re going to be so pumped that you’ll want to frame them and hang them on your wall. Stay tuned!

28 Comments on John 14:15 – The Commands of Jesus

  1. Hi Paul,
    I really love your site,and have learned a lot. You are gifted at nailing ‘sacred cows’. Having said that I notice in the commands of Jesus post you mentioned that Jesus is “coming back for His bride”. Where is that in scripture? Surely He is coming back for The Church. The church is the body of Christ on earth and Jesus is the head. It was only recently I began to see this. The bride of Christ is Jerusalem surely,according to Rev.21:2. I would like your take on this if you would be so kind.Keep on with your excellent ministry-we all need to be challenged!
    Stay Blessed
    Ken Eden

    • Hi Ken,
      Thanks for the feedback. Is the Church synonymous with the Bride? I like being forced to think about things I’ve never thought deeply about before. My instinctive reaction (before this question is buried under all the other questions I’ve been sent this week) is that, yes, the bride is a metaphor for the church, as much as the body is also a metaphor. Indeed, Paul mixes both metaphors unblushingly in Ephesians 5:

      “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” (Eph 5:23-24)

      I understand that the new Jerusalem is described as radiant/prepared like bride (Rev 21:2), but what is a city without people? I think the wedding metaphor is a very apt description of the consummation of the ages and that it applies to the church, for 3 reasons: (1) John the Baptist said, “the bride belongs to the bridegroom” (Jn 3:29) and he wasn’t talking about cities. When some of his own disciples left him to follow Jesus and John was like, “that’s how it should be.” (2) Paul said to the Corinthians, “I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him” – sounds like bride talk. (See also Rms 7:1-2.) (3) What better reason for having Song of Solomon in the Bible except to convey the depth of the intimacy God desires to have with us, as between a Lover and His Beloved?

  2. Linde Nicolay // June 3, 2011 at 11:29 am // Reply

    As usual thank you Paul for this. I was taught all those years that MUST keep the commandments to prove to Jesus thatI love Him. I got to share with you Paul.I am nearly 70 years and it is wonderful and liberating to be set free from all legalistic tradidional bondages. Oh, I suffered so much-never knowing if God really does love me. But I KNOW now. Through your teachings I am changing effortlessly. I do not have to strife and earn my Love from God. Thank you Paul., I regard you as a dear Friend and Mentor. God bless you in all things.

  3. Linde Nicolay // June 3, 2011 at 11:47 am // Reply

    Thanks Paul. Yes, no matter what age we are. God wants to set us free and uses His people. I am grateful to Him for having led me to your site.

  4. Very well said Paul. I’ve been believing and saying this for a few years now. You put it into words and gave great examples in a very easy to understand fashion.

  5. Re the line below… I LOVE THIS AND AM QUOTING YOU.

    “But love makes no threats. Jesus is returning for a bride and it won’t be a shotgun wedding.”

  6. dreamer007 // June 5, 2011 at 5:11 pm // Reply

    Thank you Paul for sharing this. I was raised very much so in legalism so when I read this I didn’t quite see it.
    But I hung in there and read it a second time. Later that day I was putting together something for someone and God gave me this verse:
    God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them.
    Hebrews 6:10 (NIV)

    He stressed “the love you have shown Him”…it just about floored me. When we bless others we are saying to Jesus we love you!

  7. It’s (John 15:13), found the typo, alright!!

    Very encouraging Paul, the message I mean lol.

  8. I am blessed by all your posts, i am very convinced about this verse but how do i interpret John 14:21, Hope you could help me out on this. Thanks alot Paul

    • I would interpret John 14:21 the same way I interpret John 14:15 (see above). They are both saying the same thing. And John 14:23 for that matter. Jesus is describing a fact – He’s making a promise; He’s not making threats. I talk more about this in the next post and this one.

  9. One of the commands of Jesus is to forgive those who sin against me. Therefore if I do not forgive them I am not being obedient to Jesus. This is a test of my love for Jesus because if I truly love Jesus I would surely obey him especialy when I consider how much he loves me and forgave me. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (Jn 14:15) Therefore keeping the commandments of Jesus is a show of my love for him. This does not mean Jesus does not love me because I refuse to obey his command because he loves me unconditionally. We are called to be disciples of Jesus which should result in us holding to his word and teachings and commands. This process of discipleship is ongoing.

  10. As you well know, there are many many commands Jesus gave to His disciples. When I started to dig into those commands, I began to view them as “God’s love language” and not in legalistic terms. Therefore I am happy and free to dig into these various commands and seek to obey them…i know His heart swells when i do this!

  11. Paul, “These things and greater things shall ye do”. The key to that is found through studying, knowing, and living John chapter 17. Memorizing parts of that chapter helps. The entire reason why we are doing this is spelled out there beautifully, so that we will be One inside Him, in His love. God bless you Paul. The great key that unlocks the door which is the first verse above is Chapter 17, and in “keeping” (keeping your mind on Him and His name as one Way to pray without ceasing) His name in Exodus 13,14,15. Paul, the Lord is obviously the One doing The Work through you, thus you are not the doer, He is. Thank you for keeping your mind on Him and surrendering every day to Him. It is helping so many.

  12. “keeping His commands is a by-product of love.” Yes. Jesus gave many commands to those that identify as His disciples. Here are some examples: Keep Your Word Matt 5:37, Honor Your Parents Matt 15:4, Despise Not Little Ones Matt 18:10, Go to Offenders Matt 18:15, Honor Marriage Matt 19:4-6, Bring In the Poor Luke 14:12-14, Feed My Sheep John 21:15-16.

    If you look at everything He ever commanded, you will notice they are simply manifestations of the Law of Love. They are God’s ‘Love Language.’ I never viewed these things as ‘doing for Jesus to earn His affection,’ but as ‘Wow! I am One with Christ, and He motivates me to show love in these ways!’

    ‘Obedience’ is a dirty word to many because it raises slave-ish imagery. I don’t think we should throw out the baby with the bath water; the word that means literally to obey is used in the New Covenant. Walking out obedience is simply the empowerment and manifestation of Love in our lives. As I see it currently. Where am I missing it? Thoughts?

  13. rlemere3@gmail.com // June 5, 2013 at 5:58 am // Reply

    You are correct Paul that obedience is a byproduct of love. The problem is that too many Christians stop at love and the byproduct of obedience is nowhere to be found. Christians are always judged by their actions and when their actions mirror those of the world and not those of Jesus then they appear as hypocrites. James says this best when he states that faith without works is dead. Obedience is following the commands of Jesus which is reflected in the fruit that we will bring forth. If the world cannot tell you apart from the unbelievers what does that say about the believers love?

    • chrisvanrooyen // June 5, 2013 at 6:02 pm // Reply

      The real problem is that obedience is not a byproduct of love it is the evidence of real love, what adds to the problem is that real love has only one source. This put,s you back on the road to Jesus it is all about him and sustained by him there is no escape.

    • chrisvanrooyen // June 5, 2013 at 7:46 pm // Reply

      We love Jesus through his love for us without this supply we cannot love him, we have to accept all of his love to be able to love all of him.
      We are unable to love him apart from him.

    • james is talking about faith from the law written in the stone not to the law of love.. if you have faith in the law you must work because it is required to do….

  14. Really like this post. I’ve heard Wommack refer to this as spiritual dyslexia, but never quite understood his point until now. Thanks!

    I would, however, appreciate your thoughts on the fact that the word typically translated “keep” or “obey” in both the OT (shamar) and NT (tereo) actually means “to guard” (as in “to keep safe”, “preserve” or to guard in one’s heart). This is consistent with Deut 11:18-20 (“Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates…), as well as almost all of the 176 verses of Psalm 119.

    I’m not disagreeing with your excellent post. I do want to identify that the word “keep” is often misused to mean “obey”, and when we actually keep (preserve) God’s Word in our hearts, we receive the revelation of His love, and the Holy Spirit uses that Word to communicate clearly and without deception.

    Thanks!

    • For some, the word “obey” is read through an old covenant lens as in “these are the rules and you must obey them or else.” That way lies misery and death for no one can keep all the rules. Our flesh is simply not up to it. As I explain elsewhere, obedience is a fruit that grows out of trust – the kind trust of trust that is grounded in a relationship of unconditional love. To be blunt, God is not as much interested in our obedience as we think. He is much more interested in our hearts. There are some who obey out of fear and unbelief. This doesn’t please the Lord.

      Another word for tereo which I like is the old word “hearken.” I love and trust my wife so I hearken to what she says – I listen carefully, with eagerness and joy, and happily do what she asks.

  15. This summer, I led someone to Jesus who had a bad record of law keeping- in actual fact, he had done PRISON! So the idea of not being under law (which, even by Canadian legal standards, he had broken) but under GRACE had big appeal! Then, when I told him to be very careful about not using grace as an excuse (Jesus comes in as LORD, not just SAVIOUR!!), he said “Well, Jesus IS Lord, I don’t have to MAKE Him Lord, He just IS. And if I believe He is who He said He is, He becomes my Lord automatically. But my behaviour doesn’t all automatically change overnight, just as you’d renovate an old house ONE room at a time.” The difference is we’re under new management, and HIS presence (not all our hard work (s) makes the change.

  16. Wow – it’s taken me a long time to get back to this and read your reply!

    I’m not confident that I was clear in my post. I’m going to use you as an example: I’m betting you didn’t understand God’s love for you until you began to know Him through His Word. Your obedience didn’t do it. It was guarding, keeping His Word in your heart. Renewing your mind.

    I like the fact that the longest chapter in the Bible is Psalm 91, and virtually every verse speaks of guarding God’s Words (meditating on it.) I believe that is the key to success (Joshua 1:8 “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”)

    In other words, we renew our minds by guarding (keeping) God’s Word. As our mind is renewed, we “know” (ginosko – John 17:3) Him , and the Holy Spirit makes the change.

    Ultimately, we cannot change ourselves. But we can “repent” (change our thinking) by renewing our mind. And that change results in changed actions. Speaking of wives, I was initially attracted to mine by her reputation, then her appearance. It was only after I acquainted myself with her that our love began to grow and I began to trust her.

    Hope this makes sense. I’d appreciate your feedback because I’m putting together a talk in a few months and this is the central theme.

    By the way, I’m reading “The Gospel in Ten Words.” I truly envy your ability to make the Gospel as simple as it should be. Your clarity of thought, and ability to put it in writing, is something I wish I could do!

    • The word cuts both ways, and only when read through grace is there freedom, so just to say the word renews is incorrect.Some spend a lifetime of devotion to the written word and are pulled deeper into darkness, we need relationship.Meeting the word reveals the word.

  17. Yes, you are right. Though my wife acted as if she was in love with me but still continued to have the affair and what do you will call this? Just because I was loving her and was faithful and expect the same can we call that my love is demanding and with conditions?

    A servant cannot serve two masters, at one time fully.

    Every one of us are bound by responsibility and duties when we are given with freedom.
    How many of us acknowledge this.

    What is wrong in following the commandments which is for our good?

    Can we blame the traffic police who insist us to follow lane discipline?

    Or…
    Can you love God unconditionally? without any demand!

  18. when you accept Jesus you are no longer under the law but under grace. According to James 2: 14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?
    Our works do not save us but they show that we have faith.
    For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Eph. 2: 8-9

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