Chapter 15: ~ “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”

Once again I want to share a little more from our title passage before I say anything:

“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments… He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me… If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word… He who does not love Me does not keep My words.”  {John 14:15, 21, 23, 24 NASB}

It’s rather amazing: Jesus in that series of verses seems to be trying hard to make it clear what it means to love Him, yet there’s still plenty of disagreement over what He meant.

Since I left some unfinished business at the end of our last chapter with that statement—“there’s more to Christ’s answer than meets the eye”—I’ll be returning there. And since I’m returning there allow me to return to David once again, with another set of passages by him, along with that same passage about him.

“With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments… I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved… I love thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold.”  {Psalms 119:10, 47, 127 KJV}

“God said, ‘David is a man after my own heart.’”  {Acts 13:22 NLT}

I’ll ask the same question I did last time: Do you think that just maybe there could be a connection between David’s attitude toward God’s commandments and God’s attitude toward David? This time I’ll ask a second question: What would it mean to you if God said you were a man (or woman) after His own heart?

Now I want to return to that unfinished business, but in doing so I want to begin by first sharing with you the only other time Jesus was asked that all-important question, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“A certain ruler asked Jesus, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “Only God is truly good. But as for your question, you know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery. Do not commit murder. Do not steal. Do not testify falsely. Honor your father and mother.’”  {Luke 18:18-20 NIV, NLT}

When I shared with you the other passage where Jesus was asked that all-important question I asked you four questions afterwards. This time I’ll only ask you two of those four questions:

#1: Do you think Jesus gave that man anything less than the perfect answer?

#2: Do you think Jesus realized that His answer was going to be immortalized in the Bible for all to read till the close of time?

Now to our original passage containing that all-important question—the one to which I made that statement: “there’s more to Christ’s answer than meets the eye.” I’ll quote the passage for you once again, only this time in its entirety:

“On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher he asked, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind,’ and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”  {Luke 10:25-28 NIV, NLT}

Before we start to take a closer look at that passage I have another question to ask. As we’ve just seen, Jesus was asked that same all-important question on two different occasions. Now here’s my question to you: In setting before those two different men the way to eternal life, and in the process setting it before all who would ever read the Bible, did Jesus (with the help of that “expert in the law”) give two different answers? If He did, what do we do then, pick the answer that best suits us? Hopefully you can see that that can’t be the case. And let me say something else before I begin: I hope we can all agree on two things. #1—In giving to us those two answers Jesus didn’t muddy the waters. And #2—In both cases Jesus knew exactly what He was doing and gave us the perfect answer.

So, how are we to understand Christ’s two answers? They were actually the same answer given in two different ways: with the Luke 18 passage dealing strictly with the outward actions, while the Luke 10 passage deals with the heart. But both of them end up at the same place: obedience to the Ten Commandments. Let me show you.

Christ’s answer in Luke 18, “You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery. Do not commit murder…’”, is obvious and doesn’t really need any explaining. It’s His answer to the other man that needs explaining.

When that man answered Christ’s question, “what is written in the Law”— and we know he gave the right answer, because Jesus tells us he did: “You have answered correctly”—he didn’t say, “Do not commit adultery,” or “Do not commit murder,” but said, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind,’ and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (You may recall from an earlier chapter that that was precisely the answer Jesus gave when He was asked a question concerning the law: “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?”) So what’s going on? And what “law” were both Jesus and our man in Luke 10 quoting from? Well, just as we saw in the last chapter that there are two things in the Bible that are both called “the law”—the moral law and the ceremonial law—now we see that there’s something entirely different that’s also called “the law,” and it’s the first five books of the Bible. That’s why both Jesus and the man in our Luke 10 passage, when asked their two different questions concerning the law, answered by quoting two verses from the first five books of the Bible:

“Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”  {Deuteronomy 6:5 KJV}

“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”  {Leviticus 19:18 KJV}

Now to our explanation, or I should say, revelation, of how that man’s answer in Luke 10—love God and love your neighbor—leads to the same place as Christ’s answer in Luke 18: keeping the Ten Commandments.

“If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill all the requirements of God’s law. For the commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are all summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”  {Romans 13:8-10 NIV, NLT}

Paul couldn’t have been any clearer: after telling us that love “will fulfill all the requirements of God’s law,” he makes it unmistakably clear what law he’s referring to—the Ten Commandments, which is precisely the answer Jesus gave in Luke 18. Paul then finishes the passage by repeating himself. And take note: nowhere does the passage say, or even hint, that love replaces the law, because love doesn’t replace the law, it “fulfills” the law.

Having just seen what Paul tells us in that Romans 13 passage, and having just made that last statement concerning it, I think it would be good to share with you once again that key passage from the last chapter; only this time I’m going to replace the word “faith” with the word “love”:

“Well then, if we emphasize [love,] does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of Course not! In fact, only when we have [love] do we truly fulfill the law.”  {Romans 3:31 NLT}

I want to point out a few more things before moving on. #1—That Romans 13 passage is only dealing with the second of the two great commandments, love for our neighbor. That’s why Paul only cites the commandments that have to do with loving our neighbor, not the ones that have to do with loving God. #2—In answering that all-important question—“what must I do to inherit eternal life,” with the statement, “what is written in the Law,” Jesus pointed that man, and us, back to the Old Testament, once again confirming its value and showing that the way of salvation is found there as truly as in the New. And #3—Jesus finished that Luke 10 passage by saying, “Do this and you will live.” He didn’t say “believe this and you will live,” but “do this and you will live.” (Of course, what we do shows what we believe: “I will show you my faith by what I do.” James 2:18 NIrV)

Now I want to share with you a handful of passages that go along with our title passage; and see if you don’t agree with me that they’re immensely important. I’ll start by placing one of them alongside our title passage:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”  {John 14:15 NASB}
“Loving God means keeping his commandments.”  {1 John 5:3 NLT}

Next one passage from the Old Testament:

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”  {Ecclesiastes 12:13 KJV}

Now to another of those passages that deserves to be a part of that group of passages that all Christians are familiar with, but unfortunately isn’t. And to set the stage for it I need to share with you another extremely important passage:

“This is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.”  {Jesus in John 17:3 NLT}

Now, with that great truth right before our eyes—that to know God and to know Jesus Christ “is the way to have eternal life”—let me quote for you just the first half of our passage:

“By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we…”  {1 John 2:3 NASB}

To know God is the way to have eternal life, and according to the passage there’s a way by which we can know—not think, or hope, or believe—but “know” that we know Him: “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we…” Do you agree me that this is one of those passages that every Christian should know? And do you agree with me that it’s a sign of something being seriously wrong if instead of almost all Christians knowing it very few know it? So, how can we “know that we have come to know Him?”

“By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.”  {1 John 2:3 NASB}

Because I think this is so important, I’d like to share with you how the New Living translates that passage:

“How can we be sure that we belong to him? By obeying his commandments.”  {1 John 2:3 NLT}

Now I want to quote 1 John 2:3 again, only this time I’m going to include the next verse with it. And I have to tell you, I honestly believe that if the apostle John were alive today and preached these words for the first time to the Christian world there’d be more than a few that would want to ship him back to the Isle of Patmos.

“By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”  {1 John 2:3, 4 NASB}

One last passage from 1 John; combined with Christ’s testimony concerning Himself:

“Whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.”  {1 John 3:22 KJV}

“He that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him… I have kept my Father’s commandments.”  {John 8:29; 15:10 KJV}

Since it had to do with “God’s commandments,” I want to share with you once again a passage we had in the last chapter, this time prefacing it with something else this great servant of God tells us:

“Dear brothers and sisters, I solemnly assure you that the Good News of salvation which I preach is not based on mere human reasoning or logic. For my message came by a direct revelation from Jesus Christ himself… It makes no difference whether or not a man is circumcised. The important thing is to keep God’s commandments.”  {Galatians 1:11, 12; 1 Corinthians 7:19 NLT}

I have one more passage I’d like to share. You’ll recognize the first half of it from an earlier chapter. The second half of the passage is not only extremely important, but extremely timely, because it’s a prophecy that applies with particular force to God’s people at the end of time. I say that because not only are we told in it that the devil “knows that his time is short,” but that he’s “enraged at the woman”—God’s church, or God’s people—and goes off “to make war against the rest of her offspring.” Would you like to guess what distinguishing feature of God’s last day people the prophecy then brings to view?

“There was war in heaven. Michael and the angels under his command fought the dragon and his angels. And the dragon lost the battle and was forced out of heaven. This great dragon—the ancient serpent called the Devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world—was thrown down to the earth with all his angels… Terror will come on the earth and on the sea, because the Devil has come down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short… Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commandments and have the testimony of Jesus.”  {Revelation 12:7-17 NIV, NLT, KJV}