If you love me, keep my commandments.
In these simple words our Lord revealed the great principle which was to be the life and salvation of the world. That love to him, in response to his love to them, was to be the motive by which their future conduct was to be inspired and governed; such was the revelation the Divine Jesus made to his most intimate and sympathetic friends. And however indistinctly they might apprehend the importance of this principle, these disciples, by acting upon it themselves and by urging it upon others, were to be the agents in impressing upon the Church that was to be, a doctrine which was to be fruitful in spiritual blessing to the new humanity. For of that humanity the law is obedience, and the motive is love.
I. IT IS ASSUMED BY CHRIST THAT OBEDIENCE TO HIMSELF IS ACKNOWLEDGED AS THE LAW OF HIS PEOPLE'S CONDUCT.
1. Obedience had been the very watchword of the older dispensation. The Law was given by Moses. The public and private life of the Israelites was governed by Divine statute. The government of Israel was a theocracy, and Jehovah was an absolute and a righteous Sovereign.
2. The religion which Jesus founded was none the less practical and authoritative. He came not to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it. He was not only a Savior; he was a Lawgiver and a Lord. His precepts, counsels, and admonitions are binding upon all the subjects of his kingdom. And he is Lord of all.
3. Christ's commandments are distinguished from others by their spirituality, their moral authority, their universal application. They are fitted for all nations and for every age.
II. IT IS ASSUMED BY CHRIST THAT HIS PEOPLE OFTEN FIND IT HARD TO OBEY HIS WILL. It is sometimes difficult for every man to obey. It is very often difficult for the self-confident and willful; and not for them only, but also for the indolent and the frivolous. Boys find it hard to bend their will to a father or a master. Men find it hard to give up their own will, and accept that of another as their law. Yet there are motives which constrain obedience. The soldier or sailor who is impressed into the service may obey the officer from compulsion; the slave may obey the driver from fear of the lash; the well-paid official may obey from a motive of interest; the workman may obey for the sake of daily bread; the miner, the diver, may obey with the prospect of reward; a subject may obey with the hope of favor from his king. Many motives may enable a man to master himself and to bend his will.
III. IT IS ASSUMED BY CHRIST THAT HIS PEOPLE CHERISH FERVENT LOVE TO HIMSELF.
1. Our Lord's character, conduct, and sacrifice are such as may well excite Our love. His perfect goodness, his pity and kindness, his sufferings and death, all appeal, as nothing else can do, to the human heart, and claim its best affection. His love passeth knowledge.
2. As a matter of fact, the love of Christ to mankind does elicit the response he desires. Hard natures are softened, masculine characters are rendered gentle, even rough and naturally unemotional persons are melted by the wonderful power of the cross of Christ. The spirit of Christianity is a spirit of love, and has effected a blessed change in the moral condition of humanity. Without disparaging the sterner virtues, our religion has exalted those which are more tender. Jesus has been, and is, loved as none other in the history of mankind.
IV. IT IS ASSERTED BY CHRIST THAT HIS LOVE IS THE ONE GREAT MOTIVE TO OBEDIENCE.
1. Willing and cheerful obedience is the only obedience which is acceptable to our Divine Lord. Earthly governors say nothing concerning the temper in which obedience is rendered; all they ask is compliance with their edicts and laws. Observing the threats and penalties attached to disobedience, we may well conclude that the spirit of the Lawgiver is, "If ye fear me, keep my commandments." It is not so with the Lord Christ. He values the spiritual consent, which expresses itself in outward acts of service.
2. Love is a powerful, because a personal, motive to obey. He who is capable of affection can feel the force of the appeal made by the father, the superior, whom he both reveres and loves. They who deny a personal God sacrifice this motive. They do not believe, as the Christian does, that obedience gives satisfaction and pleasure to the supreme Power of the universe. They simply yield to unconscious and unapproving law.
3. As love is sincere, its expression will be practical. To profess love to Christ, and at the same time to disregard his will and to defy his authority, is hypocrisy. We are exhorted to prove the sincerity of our love.
4. Law and love, as blended in Christ, are the revelation of the highest morality. They are not to be set over against each other, for they are in perfect harmony. It is the highest righteousness to love Christ; it is the purest love to obey him; for his will and his heart are alike Divine.
V. THE PRACTICAL ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF THIS PRINCIPLE BY CHRIST'S APOSTLES WAS THE EARNEST OF ITS UNIVERSAL PREVALENCE. The Lord did not rely in vain upon this new motive. It speedily proved its power to work unparalleled marvels. It enabled men to love one another, to labor for the welfare of their fellow-men, to welcome persecution when engaged in the effort to fulfill the commission they had received. And from their time it has been evident that Divine love is in the spiritual universe what gravitation is in the universe of matter. Christ is the central Sun, and the power of love causes every loyal soul to move as in even revolutions around him. And the purposes of Divine wisdom and compassion shall be completed when Christ's friends shall be his subjects, each one fulfilling his appointed service, yet all in happy harmony with one another because in perfect obedience to him.
APPLICATION. These words of our Lord are a rebuke and an admonition:
1. To those who think they love, but do not obey.
2. To those who think they obey, but do not love.
3. To those who are conscious that they neither obey nor love the Savior. - T.
Parallel VersesKJV: If ye love me, keep my commandments.