Jim, what do you say to law over grace preachers who say that Christ said if you love me keep my commandments?
If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. John 14:15 NASB
I think those law-over-grace preachers love to quote the bits and pieces that make sense within their own fleshly perceptions. Just because we assume we know what simple words like “love” and “commandments” mean, we might be surprised to discover how closely our “Christian” perceptions end up reflecting those of the world. Not necessarily that the world will use certain “Christian” lingo, but rather that the basic belief regarding the nature of true love and keeping commandments is much the same.
Considering the fact that John wrote the account where that statement is found, we might ought to follow John’s viewpoint through so that we can see how it all fits together. All throughout what’s called The Upper Room Discourse, Jesus spoke to his disciples in a way that, at times, gave them comfort, but he mostly threw them for a loop. I mean, after Peter tried to rebuke Jesus for stripping down as a servant to wash their feet, along with Jesus’ demand that they needed to be washed, and then Peter’s ridiculous reaction for a full bath, Jesus went on to express how they did not really know him, because they had understood him according to the flesh.
If we were to listen so as to hear their own reactions, we might have to realize how little we understand any of what he was telling them. As Jesus described the work he was really doing, he had to present the total contrast between that which is of the world with that which is of God… for he was giving them a glimpse into the miraculous reality he was about to bring to pass — that which cannot be understood by the world.
Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world?” John 14:22 NASB
This was huge for them to even consider. The whole reality of what it meant to “abide” or dwell in Christ was so far beyond their imaginations, but they tried to assure Jesus that they were understanding. However, he basically told them, No, you don’t understand … but you WILL! It would take the spirit of God to make it real to them.
The love he spoke of was totally intertwined with his abiding in them and they in him. It couldn’t happen otherwise. Something most miss from the context was that the keeping of Jesus’ commandments and loving him were interconnected.
If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” John 14:15 NASB
Keeping Jesus’ commandments was something that was going to happen in those who loved him because love is from God, and God would be abiding in them through Christ.
Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.” John 14:23-24 NASB
The legal mind cannot understand this, for it is fixated upon the love of the world. John would later refer to these same words, but instead of making it a requirement, he wrote of it as representing the distinction between those of the world and those of God.
Jesus defined what his commandments were and what it meant to keep them.
This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” John 15:12 NASB
That you love one another. Oh sure, the fleshly mind of religious man might consider this “commandment” difficult, but not impossible. Until we see it as impossible, we don’t understand what they came to understand. If we read the letter of First John as it was written, we cannot help to see what the disciples came to understand. It was the very love of God that came to abide in them that made keeping his commandments something that was NOT difficult.
Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith.” 1 John 5:1-4 NASB
If you take the so-called simple viewpoint of the law-over-grace preacher that regards Jesus’ words as difficult requirements, they cannot stand up to the miraculous reality declared by Jesus and John. He wrote of the love of God as being the very definition of those who are born of God.