This statement by Jesus is found in John 14:15 which says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” To understand what Jesus meant, we need to examine the context and take a deeper look at what He was saying.
The Context of John 14
John 14 is part of Jesus’ farewell discourse to His disciples on the night before His crucifixion. He had just predicted His betrayal by Judas and Peter’s denial of Him. Jesus knew His time on earth was short, so He wanted to prepare and reassure His disciples before His death and resurrection. In John 14, Jesus emphasizes that He is going to the Father to prepare a place for them and that He will come back for them. He encourages them to trust in Him and obey His teachings.
Jesus’ Departure and Return
In John 14:1-4, Jesus tells His disciples not to be troubled because He is going to prepare a place for them in heaven. He promises that He will come back to take them there. But they do not know the way, so Jesus explains in verse 6 that He is “the way, and the truth, and the life.” No one can come to the Father except through Him.
Seeing the Father Through Jesus
When Philip asks Jesus to show them the Father, Jesus replies in verses 9-11 that whoever has seen Him has seen the Father because He and the Father are one. Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in Him. The words Jesus speaks and the works He does are from the Father living in Him.
Praying in Jesus’ Name
In verses 13-14, Jesus tells His disciples that they can ask for anything in His name and He will do it so that the Father may be glorified through the Son. This shows Jesus’ unity with the Father and His role as mediator between God and man.
The Meaning of “If You Love Me, Keep My Commandments”
It is in this context that Jesus makes the profound statement in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” As Jesus is about to leave His disciples, He wants to reassure them of His continuing presence through the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-18). However, to experience this presence, they need to demonstrate their love for Him through obedience. There are a few key points we can take away from this verse:
Love Comes Before Obedience
Jesus begins this statement with “If you love me…” Our obedience is to be motivated first and foremost by our love for Christ. It does not say “Obey me in order to love me.” Rather, our love is to compel our obedience. Jesus is calling His disciples to respond to His sacrificial love by loving Him in return.
Love Leads to Obedience
Jesus follows up by saying “you will keep my commandments.” If our love is genuine, it will naturally lead to obedience. A true love for Christ moves us to live according to His ways, not our own. As 1 John 5:3 says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.” Keeping God’s commandments is the fruit of a heart changed by His love.
Obedience Shows Our Love
While inner love motivates obedience, the reverse is also true – our obedience demonstrates the reality of our love. Jesus says we show our love for Him by obeying what He has commanded. Just as His own obedience proved His love for the Father (John 14:31), our obedience is evidence of our love for the Son.
Obedience Brings Abiding Presence
Jesus promises the Holy Spirit to those who love and obey Him. As we walk in obedience to Christ, we experience the manifest presence of God in our lives. Our loving obedience results in deep intimate fellowship with Jesus through the Spirit (John 14:21-23).
The Commandments of Jesus
When Jesus refers to “my commandments”, what specifically is He talking about? While this includes Jesus’ ethical teachings in the Gospels, it is not limited to these. The commandments of Jesus include the full revelation of God’s Word applied through the Spirit:
The Moral Law
Jesus taught that all the moral commandments in the Old Testament still apply under His new covenant (Matthew 5:17-19). This includes the Ten Commandments and all Biblical moral laws.
The Law of Love
Jesus fulfilled the Law by rightly emphasizing its foundation in love – love for God and neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40). His “new command” is to “love one another” as He has loved us (John 13:34).
Jesus’ Direct Commands
We obey Christ’s direct teachings to His disciples in the Gospels, such as the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Other examples include commands to forgive others (Matthew 6:14-15), care for the needy (Matthew 25:31-46), and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20).
The Leading of the Spirit
The Holy Spirit guides believers to understand and apply all Jesus taught and commanded (John 14:26). Part of keeping His commandments is obeying the promptings of the Spirit within us.
The Instruction of the Apostles
Jesus authorized His apostles to continue teaching all He had commanded them after His ascension (Matthew 28:20). Their writings in the New Testament Epistles are part of Jesus’ commandments for the church.
Blessings of Obeying Jesus’ Commands
As believers walk in obedience to Christ’s commandments, they experience profound blessings, including:
A Deeper Love Relationship
Obedience draws us closer to Jesus in intimate love and knowledge of Him (John 14:21). It allows us to encounter His presence and pleasure.
Jesus promises to answer prayers offered according to His will by those who keep His commandments (John 15:7, 1 John 3:22). Our obedience bears fruit in seeing prayers answered.
There is great joy in walking in obedience to Christ and growing in holiness. Jesus says His commands are not burdensome because they lead to life and fullness of joy (1 John 5:3, John 15:10-11).
Obedience positions us to receive God’s full blessings. It places us under the favor of both the Father and the Son (John 14:21, 23).
The Holy Spirit
Jesus promised the Holy Spirit – who teaches, guides, convicts and empowers – to those who love and obey Him (John 14:15-17).
At Jesus’ return, He will grant eternal life to those who demonstrated their love through a persevering obedience to Him (Matthew 25:21, 1 Corinthians 7:19).
Applying Christ’s Commandments Today
In today’s world, how do believers obey Christ’s commandments? Here are some ways we keep His commands:
Reading and Meditating on Scripture
We obey God’s written Word, which fully equips us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Regular Bible study and memorization is essential to know Christ’s commands.
Walking in the Spirit
We follow the Holy Spirit’s lead and promptings within us each day. This includes putting to death the misdeeds of the body (Romans 8:13).
We actively strive to purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit out of reverence for God (2 Corinthians 7:1). Holiness is obeying God’s moral commands.
Living in the Body of Christ
We live out Jesus’ “one another” commands in fellowship with other believers – serving, forgiving, rebuking, and carrying each other’s burdens.
Serving God and Others
We obey the many “commandments about love” in the New Testament by serving God and sacrificing for others (1 Timothy 1:5).
Sharing the Gospel
We obey Christ’s command to make disciples by sharing the gospel in word and deed (Matthew 28:19-20). Every Christian is called to this work.
Doing Justly, Loving Mercy
We live righteously by defending the oppressed, caring for the poor, and meeting the needs around us (Micah 6:8, Matthew 25:31-46).
Summary of Jesus’ Command to Love and Obey
When Jesus said “If you love me, keep my commandments”, He was preparing His disciples for His soon departure. He wanted to reassure them that although He was leaving, they could still experience His presence through the Spirit if they continued in love and obedience to Him. As believers today, we also show our love for Christ through obeying His Word under the Spirit’s guidance. This results in great blessing and the fullness of joy that comes from abiding in Jesus and His love.