Love and Obey, for There is No Other Way

John 14:15-31

Jesus has just made a comprehensive promise. He will do “whatever you ask in my name,” (13, 14) for in this the Father is glorified. How does the disciple ask in His name? Why does this glorify the Father?

I. The Father’s Prerogative

All of this is premised on the love that the disciple has for Christ (14:15). Since we could not love unless God had first loved us (1 John 4:7-11), we must look at these following verses within a realm of reciprocity of blessings, rewards, and further manifestations of spiritual truth and life. All of this comes as God rewards in us the presence of those graces that he first gives us. In Charity and Its Fruits, Jonathan Edwards contended that “love is the sum of all Christian graces, however many names we may give them.” All the graces are resident in the new nature that is given us in regeneration; regeneration is the existential manifestation of that love that operated in eternity past as election. He loved, and so we love. We obey because we love, and because we obey, he loves.

A. Sends the Spirit 16, 17, 26 – In light of Jesus’ return to heaven, the Spirit comes in a more powerful way and in a different context.

    1. He comes as a comforter, or advocate, now that Jesus has gone to the Father’s side and intercedes for us as our propitiation and advocate. The Spirit can now impress on the minds of believers that Christ’s blood and righteousness are eternally sufficient for the presence and enjoyment of eternal life. When Jesus’ work reached its fullness in his ascension, the Spirit’s work can also reach its fullness in assurance and granting of gifts for the development of the Church as the body of Christ.
    2. As the Spirit of truth, he reveals all those elements that are necessary to understand the mysteries of the gospel. According to verse 26 “He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” and then in 16:13, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” The gift of the apostolic ministry for the exposition of the meaning of Jesus as the Christ in his work as Prophet, Priest, and King is peculiarly a new covenant blessing that can only be completed after Christ’s ascension. This is one way in which the Spirit has been given in a way that He was not before, that is, peculiarly as the revealer of the meaning of all those events included in this startling proposition, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth” (1:14).
    3. The world cannot receive the Spirit in any of his functions. We see how Jesus uses sensory language in a spiritual way when he notes that the world “neither sees nor knows him.” Of course, no one has ever seen the Holy Spirit, but those that have his present operations do “see” him in seeing the loveliness of those things that he is sent to do: through him we “see” the kingdom of God, and we “see” the glory of God in the face of Christ, and, as Jesus has just told his disciples, “he that has seen me, has seen the Father.”
    4. Now he would be with believers to form among them a spiritual, believing, forgiven community. He would actually be within the life of the corporate body (Ephesians 4:3, 4). Formerly he had operated with individual believers, both by regeneration and indwelling, that lived in external community with those that Paul called “my kinsmen according to the flesh.” He was alongside these believers helping and sustaining them as they walked perseveringly as isolated spiritual beings in the midst of those that had not seen the glory of God’s promises in the coming Messiah. Now, however, he would be “in you” (plural for you) which means “among you” that is, now functioning to make the entire body characterized by these spiritual traits. The words of this verse [one reading of 14:17 says “will be in you” and another says “is in you”] are repeated by the apostle Paul in Colossians 1:27: To the saints “God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” so that through faithful proclamation and instruction “we may present everyone mature in Christ.” The Spirit “in you” is synonymous with “Christ in you.” This is not specifically the personal indwelling of Christ by the Spirit (although that is assumed among all the members of this new community), but the corporate operation of the Spirit by which all these individual members constitute one unified body (Ephesians 4:15, 16; Colossians 1:28; 3:12-17). The Christ has come to bring into one family both Jew and Gentiles and inhabit the whole of these communities, called churches, that the Spirit brings together and, by the truth and through his distribution of gifts, presents the entire community mature in Christ. This is an operation of the Spirit in the New Covenant that could not have been done in the ethnically and ceremonially united, but spiritually diverse, national Israel.

B. Establishes fellowship with sinners through the Son – Within this narrative we find a point of unity in love and obedience. (15, 23. 24)

    1. Verse 19, 20 – We have life from the Father through the Son. – The eternal life merited for us by Jesus is the result of union with the Father that he has gained for us in his humanity. “Because I live, you will live also.” His life by resurrection means that death has been conquered because the sacrifice for sin has been made; Death no longer has a hold on those whose sins are forgiven in Christ’s blood. Because he has completed what he came to do, his presence in this world no longer is needed and so the world sees him no more; their sight of him was only physical sight, but those that know what he has done in his redemptive work will see him all the more fully and clearly, having seen the glory of the Father through him. “Because I live” – He refers here to his life in his human nature having defeated the power of sin and death through his absolute righteousness and substitutionary satisfaction of a necessary punishment for sin. Now, having completed that, he goes to prepare the place for us in the presence of and in union with the Father in heaven. Our union with Christ in his reward of eternal life means that when Christ as the righteous one achieves union with the Father in the presence of his glory, we too participate in it (20).
    2. Love from the Father through the Son (21) – It is impossible to be a Christian and not love Jesus and desire to follow him and be true to his commandments. This change from enmity to love is supernaturally natural in the entity of salvation. God loves us with electing love, and in accordance with that love regenerates us from death to life and gives us union with Christ even to the point of seating us in heavenly places in him (Ephesians 1:3, 4; 2:4-6). Thus loved and altered in moral disposition, the now-saved sinner finds the beauty of Christ a transforming power in his life and he pursues the will of God out of love for Christ. Thus pursuing transformation, one finds the love of God more profusely manifest in his thoughts and daily walk, and more to be desired both now and forever than any earthly treasure, position, or relationship. Paul says in Romans 5:5 that “God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” He then explains this has come about by way of Christ’s reconciling death. This manifestation of the infinite love of God as well as the exquisite holiness of his character in reconciliation of his enemies, that is, ungodly sinners, became objective truth through which greater and ever expanding impressions of God’s love transform our affections (“I will love him and manifest myself to him”) and engender more profound and immoveable resolutions of obedience.
    3. Disclosure from the Father through the Son – 15, 21-24. The question asked (22) by the disciple Judas (not Iscariot) assumes that Jesus is speaking only of a manifestation that can be observed with all the natural senses.
      • Jesus gives revealed truth about which there could be certainty in no other way. Jesus emphasizes that this manifestation involves the expressions of words—“keep my word; … keep my word, … the word which you hear.” Jesus says this three times. Anyone can read the words, understand the syntax, and know from a grammatical standpoint what is being said.
      • True disclosure involves not just the possible grammatical, syntactical, and contextual meaning of the language and the proposition inferred from that kind of speculative knowledge but heartfelt consent and love. “He who does not love me does not keep my words” This is the kind of manifestation Jonathan Edwards talked about when he remarked, “I had then, and at other times, the greatest delight in the Holy Scriptures of any book whatsoever. Oftentimes in reading it every word seemed to touch my heart. I felt a harmony between something in my heart, and those sweet and powerful words. I seemed often to see so much light exhibited by every sentence, and such a refreshing food communicated, that I could not get along in reading; often dwelling long on one sentence, to see the wonders contained it; and yet almost every sentence seemed to be full of wonders.” In John 6:63, Jesus points to both realities, cognition and spiritual transformation: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are Spirit and are life.”

C. Verses 25-27 – The Father grants his continuing favor through the Son by a ministry of the Spirit. Jesus had spoken to them profound words, but they obviously were unable to process them all at that time.

    1. The effectual working of the Spirit happens because of Christ in accordance with the will of the Father, particularly his ministry of inspiration to the apostles.
      • This is a ministry of teaching. The Spirit gave truths to the apostles about Christ that had not been spoken by Christ. Christ had given some indicators of the direction that this more expanded revelation would go, but the details and its application would be a unique ministry communicated through the Apostles and, under their authority, prophets in the local churches (Ephesians 2:19-22; 3:4, 5).
      • It was a ministry of remembrance – Many things Jesus did and said were without any significance to the disciples during his earthly ministry. Later they would remember what he had said and find his meaning. This happened as a result of the Spirit’s ministry as promised here by Jesus. (cf. John 2:21, 22)
    1. Jesus gives his peace – What is this? Perhaps John 13:1, 3
      • This must first of all be the peace of reconciliation. Christ has reconciled sinners to God. He has made it so that our sins are not counted against us (2 Corinthians 5:19) and has eliminated the enmity between God and fallen man.
      • Second, it must be the proclamation of this peace. False prophets say “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace, but the apostles and their followers may say “Peace, peace,” and for those that embrace this gospel message, there is peace. (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)
      • Third, this is the “peace of God that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) that comes to reconciled ones who consistently carry their earthly concerns to God and trust in his will and provision for every need.

D. The Father’s Glory is more to be desired than his wrath resisted–Jesus would go, and then he would come.

    1. He would do this once in the culmination of his humiliation in his death and burial followed by resurrection. He would be raised by the glory of the Father (Romans 6:4). Because his death so magnified the glory of God, it gave the Son great pleasure to do this, and that same glory, in accordance with which he died, became the power by which he was raised over death and all that brings it about. This should cause the disciples to rejoice.
    2. He would do it again in his ascension to the Father to be followed, at the appointed time, by his return in glory. This should cause the disciples to rejoice.
    3. The Father is greater as the person . . .
      • To whose will the Son was being obedient in his incarnation (Hebrews 10:7-10);
      • From whom the common deity flows as a fountainhead in the eternal generation of the Son and the procession of the Holy Spirit, and by whose person the Trinity sustains its identity and infinite glory (28);
      • Who had the prerogative to determine every aspect of the human pilgrimage of Christ that it might fulfill all that such an obedient human should accomplish and constitute the acceptable sacrifice for sin.
    1. The ruler of this world has no ground of temptation in Christ for the Son’s knowledge of and love for the Father transcends anything Satan could possibly place before him (30).
    2. His love for the Father takes him to the glory of his Father’s wrath (31). “I do [exactly] as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.”

II. Featuring Pertinent Connections

A. Look at this chapter in light of John 1:1. The Word, the Word with God, the Word eternally existed as God. The Father created through the Son and now within this created world accomplished his redemptive purpose through the Son, while the Son points to the Holy Spirit who will bring to bear all that the Son has done in exact obedience to the Father.

B. How does this chapter relate to John’s ability to recall long discourses? (26) The Spirit brought to mind what Jesus taught and gave it within a narrative context that emphasizes the redemptive and doctrinal significance of these discourses.

C. What greater works will we do as a result of Jesus’ going to the Father? (12) The preaching of the gospel as blessed by the Holy Spirit in honor of the Son and to the glory of the Father will bring about the obedience of nations. One of the confessions of the first century church emphasized this in paralleling the Spirit’s operations in the human nature of Christ (“He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit”) with the belief of the gospel among the nations (“… preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, …” 1 Timothy 3:16). The work of the Spirit in vindicating Christ as impeccable, sinless, perfectly obedient, powerful, truthful, invincible, meek, humble, and finally victorious (Hebrews 9:14; Romans 1:4) continued in vindicating Christ in the minds of the destitute and damned sinners by confirming the truthfulness and ultimate, eternal importance of the gospel message (Acts 2:33, 36, 37, 41; 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 14).

D. How are the works of the Trinity manifestations of the eternal relationship within the Trinity? Because the Son is generated eternally from the Father’s nature and is the perfect manifestation of the Father’s glory (Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 1:15) and was the One through whom the world was created, it is fitting that he is the person that is sent into the world to be its redeemer. Because the Spirit proceeds eternally from the Father and the Son manifesting in the most deeply personal way possible the love between Father and Son, it is fitting that the Father sends the Spirit in the name of the Son (14:26).

E. Does impeccability [“He has nothing in me”] negate the reality of Jesus’ temptations? The temptations of Jesus did not arise from any lusts or corruption of nature within (James 1:13-15). He was, however, attacked viciously by Satan with every category of sinful conformity to the world (Matthew 4:1-11; Hebrews 4:14, 15). Because he never yielded, the deceitful and murderous onslaught of Satan was more rigorous toward him that it has ever been toward us.

F. Jesus himself is the paradigm for the coexistence of the infinite with the finite. How does our place in the Father’s house relate to this? Consider the truth of God’s immensity. As created beings, we consistently live in the presence of the uncreated God. “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:27, 28). All of him is everywhere; He inhabits all of heaven and earth. Jesus’ humanity, created and finite, was united in a single person with the eternal Son of God. Even so, both by the nature of God and by the reality of the incarnation, we creatures will dwell with the Eternal One as finite but glorified creatures doing the very thing for which we were created (2 Corinthians 5:1-5).

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
Get Founders
in Your Inbox
A weekly brief of our new teaching resources.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Teaching BY TYPE
Teaching BY Author
Founders Podcasts