If you love me ...
"If you love me" is the hesed (Click here for some information on hesed) inspired obedience captured in King Jesus’ bold statement, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). This verse almost stands without the need of explanation. Well, this may not necessarily be true. Are there some verses that you have never studied in detail just because the English is plain and simple? John 3:16, Romans 1:16, Ephesians 2:8-9 and this statement by John could certainly fall into such a list. Admittedly, this was where I was on this. What a great joy when I made this neat discovery that the expression used to keep the commands is much stronger than obey. The use of this word magnifies the if clause in which it is set.
In the NT it means: (a) guard, keep watch (e.g. Acts 16:23; Matt. 27:36); (b) keep (e.g. Jn. 2:10; 12:7; 2 Pet. 2:4); (c) keep blameless, uninjured (e.g. 1 Thess. 5:23; 1 Cor. 7:37; 1 Tim. 5:22); (d) protect (e.g. Jn. 17:15); (e) hold fast (e.g. Rev. 16:15; Eph. 4:3); (f) hold, follow, e.g. the law (Jas. 2:10), the → sabbath (Jn. 9:16), traditions (Mk. 7:9), the commands of Jesus (Jn. 14:15, 21; 15:10, etc.).23
I learned early in my ministry that there are three reasons why people obey. The first is out of fear. They are afraid of the consequences of not obeying. Since perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18), this is not the obedience Jesus desires. Not going to hell may motivate us but it is not the purest motive. The second reason is that people want to keep the status quo. Don’t make waves is their motto. This motto does not describe the Jesus method because he “learned obedience through the things he suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). The final reason that people obey is because they want to obey. They know it is what is right. This perspective is the best fit for Jesus’ instruction based on the if.
The word keep is the same one used in Matthew’s commission to the disciples before his ascension. Under the authority of heaven and earth, Jesus commanded his Apostles to teach them “to observe all that I commanded you” (Matthew 18:20). The word translated observe is the same Greek word as in John 14:15. What is the intent Jesus has in mind? John “leaves the definition of how one obeys Jesus as rather undefined except that the “commands,” “word,” or “words” are to be understood as modeled on the love of Jesus and his obedience to the Father (14:21; etc.).24 Jesus’ obedience elevates “the if” to an extreme standard that requires the same sacrificial love shown by Jesus. To keep beating the same drum, this is living, sacrificial love.
* This page is an excerpt from is my book Non-Negotiable: Focusing on the Essentials of the Faith. The book goes into more detail on many of these issues.
Last update: 6 September 2015