No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not understand what his master is doing. But I have called you friends, because everything I have learned from My Father I have made known to you.
I. JESUS CALLS HIS DISCIPLES FRIENDS, BUT NONE THE LESS WERE THEY SERVANTS. Jesus wanted these very men for special service. Many true and loving friends he must have had besides them - men like that Lazarus whom Jesus once described as "our friend." But these few were wanted for special service; not that a few were enough, but Jesus began with a few that there might be all the more afterward. While Jesus was in the limitations of the flesh he could only have companionship with a few. But Jesus needs all the servants he can get. The idea of ample and efficient service underlies the parable at the beginning of the chapter. The branches are the servants of the vine-trunk. Note that those who are called friends do not therefore feel at liberty to speak of themselves as such. Paul, beginning his Epistle to the Romans, does not say, "Paul, the friend of Jesus Christ," but "Paul, the servant of Jesus Christ." The apostle's mind is full of the work he has to do as a servant of Jesus. Whatever names we have the right to bear, whatever privileges we enter into, never let us forget that we are here for service. He who is not the servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, he who is not conscious of something in his life that is work for Jesus, never can be the friend of Jesus.
II. JESUS CALLS HIS DISCIPLES FRIENDS THAT THEY MAY BE BETTER SERVANTS, The work needs the best qualities in the highest degree. He who would do the best work for Christ must be likest him. He serves Jesus best who serves the neediest of men in their greatest need, and this can only be done when the heart is purged of self-seeking in all its forms. In all the work these disciples had hitherto been doing, they were thinking of themselves rather than of Jesus and others. That is the way of service according to a worldly spirit. We must learn to act as Jesus himself would act if he were one of his own servants; and that can only be done when we give Jesus full opportunity of opening himself' to us as a man opens himself to a friend.
III. THOSE WHOM JESUS CALLS FRIENDS HE REALLY TREATS AS FRIENDS. All this concluding discourse proves the depth and tenderness of the feeling. He could not so have spoken before. Partly such words were best with a farewell flavor in them. Partly the disciples had to grow into fitness for hearing them. And even when they did hear, much was appreciated in a very imperfect way. Still, Jesus treats them as friends; for all things he has heard from his Father he makes known to them. His disciples shall be sharers in his purposes and plans as far as they are able. It is as if the person for whom a great house is being built should call together all who are to be concerned in the erection, and show to them the plan and explain the purpose. Apostles and prophets lay the foundation-stone. Thousands of those whom Jesus honors with the title and treatment of friend are joined in building it, and then, when all is done, Jesus and his friends are to dwell in it together. - Y.
Henceforth I call you not servants.philos, something more than friendship in the ordinary use of the word "love friends." These were the disciples that had been ordained to go out and preach. All that time they have been only servants.
I. THERE IS, THEN, A DISCIPLESHIP THAT IS SERVITUDE, HAVING IN IT A GOOD MANY EXCELLENT QUALITIES but as soon as possible to be left behind. All over the world, we see in progress this primary state of discipleship — that of servitude and inferiority.
1. The lower province begins, with conscientious morality; that is, so much of rectitude recognized and mildly sought as is embodied in public law and in public sentiment. But the averages of society are always and everywhere very low.
2. Higher than this is a more active recognition of what may technically be called religious life: that is, the recognition of an invisible God, of a moral order, and of a providence which unfolds the thought and the will of God among men. A man has certainly risen very much higher than the ordinary morality which is contained in the Ten Commandments — he has risen a great deal when he begins to be a worshipper.
3. Then we come, a little more interiorly, to the condition of those who are seeking to conform their lives to canons of morality, to rules of Church life, to religion as a personal experience; and we find that fear is usually the very first incitement, as it is the lowest motive. There is a fear that runs with the highest feelings, that purity itself has lest it should be sullied. There is a fear of love — filial fear. But there is also the fear that if a duty be neglected it will bring chastisement; and this fear takes a very low range. It indicates no great love for moral quality, no worship of good because it is good, no spontaneity, but a dark shadow of dread for neglect or violation. There are thousands whose religion rises in its motives no higher than this: "We must prepare for death; it may come in an untold hour." There are multitudes who are afraid to be wicked. I am glad of that; but it is a very low motive. Multitudes of persons are afraid not to say their prayers. That is a very low motive. Sometimes it is the misery of an heir to know that a decrepit aunt is going to bequeath her property to him, provided his conduct is in all respects suitable to her wishes. So all his life long he is thinking: "What does she want?" And what politeness! what keeping out of her prejudices! And so all his life long he has a certain sort of respectable morality; but the whole way through it is carnal and mean, and it is to get the property, not because he loves politeness, not because he loves her at all — he loves her Will. A service of fear never works the higher moral qualities. If a man's religion is very largely compounded of the element of fear he may save his soul; but is it worth saving? — poor, scrawny, mean!
4. Then comes, next higher in order, the sense of duty — conscience. In combination with higher qualities conscience gives strength and great power. It is an undertone that should run through life. Duty is not less noble because it is inferior to love, but it is inferior to love. The things that every mother does for her child, are they things that are done from a sense of duty? She ought; but she never touches bottom on ought. She does, because spontaneous love urges it upon her. If that were deficient she would fall down upon another, but inferior, faculty of conscience — "It is my duty." A rich man, dying, leaves large properties to be distributed for charitable purposes; and those appointed as trustees and distributors, men of honour and conscientiousness, say: "This is a good cause; we think we will devote a hundred thousand dollars for that." It is the fulfilment of a duty that has been laid upon them. But if a man with a great heart, and blessed with large inheritance, looks out on society, and pities the orphans, and builds a home for them, that springs out of his own heart. It is not his duty; it is his desire and wish. So, then, a man may be doing benevolent work as a duty; but it is a very much higher thing to do benevolent work because you are benevolent, and not because it is your duty.
5. In various grades, all these things are acceptable to God and useful; but as in the pictures of a studio there are various grades of excellence, and yet the least may be a good picture, so in the development of the dispositions of Christians there is very low, and there is a little higher, and there is the higher still, and there is the highest level, which men should seek, and on which they should stand.
II. On the eve of His departure, Christ said to men who had been living in this lower relation, doing right things, avoiding evil things — doing this from various motives, more or less in bondage, more or less exhorted by duty: "Henceforth I call you not servants; I CALL YOU FRIENDS.
1. One can see easily how this might take place. In the thrall of poverty and neglect some beneficent heart, meeting with a maiden, sees in her some moral quality that indicates a higher place in life; and it turns out at last that she came of good parents, that they were swept away, that the child went through various hands down to the bottom of society, but that being caught up by this philanthropic missionary, she had responded quickly to moral appeals. Every point in her is susceptible of development; and at every step, coming up, and ministered to little by little, at last there comes a day when the benefactor says: "Hitherto I have called you my ward; I have been your benefactor; now I love you, and I take you for my own." How many have found that higher and nobler development of confidence between their souls and their Saviour?
2. We attain to this state of experience, not as the direct result of effort. It is not by prayer. You never can pray it into yourself, although prayer is an excellent thing. It is not by mortification; it is by the power of love, and soul ripening that it is attained. That process differs with different people and in different circumstances. In June the orchard blossoms; but nobody wants to eat blossoms. In early July the germs of the apple and the pear have set, and the blossoms are gone. The work has begun. Now, the first rejoicing that the soul has comes when it just begins the Christian life. Then it has the flush of early love and joy. The growing comes afterward. In early July the apple and the pear have set their germs, they are beginning to grow, and are utterly unfit to eat. In September they have got size that they had not, but are very sour. In October they begin to get colour on their cheeks, but they are hard yet. In November they begin to have sugar in themselves, and they exhale fragrance. Step by step, the fruit from greenness goes on to size, and from size to quality, and from quality to perfect ripeness and harmony. So, largely, is it in Christian life. There is a process constantly going on; and the evidence that there is this tendency toward ripeness is one of the things that should stimulate the hope of our soul. The ripening of men is not a mechanical system, by which we have been awakened, and convicted of sin, and have changed our will and purpose. This ripening does not come because we are joined to God's people, and because we are striving, according to the measure of our knowledge in ordinary things, to live about right and fulfil our duties. We have simply ripened so that we have begun to be susceptible; and Christ says: "Henceforth I call you My love," and we respond, "I am my Lord's; He is mine."
(H. W. Beecher.)I. SERVANTS AND FRIENDS. All Christ's friends are His servants, but all His servants are not therefore His friends. This was perhaps the distinction between Moses and Aaron (Exodus 33:11), You see the difference at once between their characters. In Aaron it was attention to the ministry at the altar, in Moses it was jealousy for the Divine law. In Aaron it was a regard for the defences and pictures of purity and truth, in Moses it was regard for truth and purity themselves.
1. Servants may be quite unconscious of their servitude. The elements are the servants of God. Winds, and vapours, and storms fulfilling His word. Time is His servant, and the ambition of princes; but it is all unconscious servitude. How great the difference between the two Shepherds of God, David and Cyrus! (Isaiah 44:28). Christ made my relationship to Him a consciousness.
2. Servants have but a passing and transient relationship. The connection is slight and fragile, born in interest. Servants have a divided interest from their masters. How suspicious of him and of their fellows! Friendship would make common cause with the master, and identify both interests in one. Christ spoke in the light of the perpetuity of our relationship.
3. Servants are unable to enter into the meaning of the Master's will. "His ways are not their ways, neither are His thoughts their thoughts." The soldier is not one of the council of war; but the mind and heart are revealed to the friend. We know words lovelessly pronounced, how cold! words lovingly pronounced, how dear! The same number of letters, but the accent is all. So God speaks to His people with an accent. "All that My Father hath given Me have I made known to you." In the thought of this deep intercourse, Christ said, "I have called you not servants," etc.
4. Servants may be absolute enemies. How many names are recorded in Scripture of men who were His enemies at last? He used them, while they sought, as Balsam did, to circumvent the Divine purposes. He used them as the builder uses a scaffold or a tool, then to be cast aside as useful no more. In thought of a will made one with His, Christ said, "Henceforth I call you not servants," etc.
II. LOOK AT THE DOCTRINE TO WHICH THE TEXT POINTS.
1. Now it is clear that all along throughout Scripture, its language points to a state of hallowed seclusiveness, in which the soul sees more and feels more, knows more and has more, in highest communion with Christ (1 John 1:3; John 14:22, 28; 1 Corinthians 2:16; 1 John 5:10). There is no fact more stupendously beautiful than this — God loves His friends, and they know it. He crowds all imaginable and all imageable mercies upon their souls, to assure them of His love (Isaiah 63:9). In the light of God's love to his friends, even nature acquires new majesty. What is more sure and steadfast than the heavens in their daily march, or in their midnight pomp (Jeremiah 33:20, 21)? Or, think of the seasons in their annual round (Jeremiah 33:25, 26). And hence you see the difference between the two methods of our Lord's teaching. He had the parabolical and the real (Luke 10:23; Luke 9:10; Matthew 13:16). For friendship has words which mere acquaintanceship cannot use. And love ever finds new words and new meanings.
2. The doctrine suffers no defect, and does not recoil from the fact of the infinite superiority on one hand, and the infinite inferiority on the other. Such friendships, either in time or eternity, are not impossible. On earth, indeed, real friendship always receives; it is impossible but there must be some benefit on either side. The subject, the friend of the prince, repays the prince in counsel, and in sympathy, more than he receives in honour. And even the heart of the Redeemer owns the Divine light of sympathy with His believing friends. Few joys, to which we can look forward, can equal the hope we have that one day we shall call our boy our friend. I said to a young mother once, congratulating her on her newborn child. "How proud you will be to take his arm twenty years hence." Although, alas! the young mother, a few days after, was among the angels. Very beautiful is the friendship between a master and a disciple, when the disciple looks reverently up to the teacher for instruction, and the master looks lovingly down and beholds himself growing anew in his young friend.
3. Servants of God, here is a higher ambition for you. Strive for the peerage, for the dignity of friends! This is the relation that completes the Divine life; this is the highest object of ambition of the friends of God.
4. What hallowed rest is here! Friendship rests. They are not troubled as we are who are only servants. Doubts vanish from the full assurance of love. Talk with them, and they will tell you that all things about them Jesus knows.
(Paxton Hood.)Seneca once told a courtier who had lost his son, that he had no cause to mourn, either for that or ought else, because Caesar was his friend. Oh, then, what little cause have the saints to mourn for this or that loss, considering that God is their portion! Would you not laugh to see a man lament bitterly for the loss of his shoestrings when his purse is safe? or for the burning of a pig sty when his dwelling house is safe? and why then should a Christian lament for the loss of this or that, so long as his God is with him?
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. The one is LEGAL, the other is LOVING. The master treats his slave, and the slave treats him, according to legal contract. The servant works by rule, and the master treats him accordingly; the slave lives and works in the letter of the contract. But the service of the friend is irrespective of all prescriptive rules, of all legal arrangements. He does not feel himself to be under the law at all, and although he does more real hard work in the service of his friend than that of the slave in the employ of his master, love is his inspiration, and love is his law.
II. The one is WATCHED, the other is TRUSTED. The master keeps his eye upon the slave; he knows that he is not the character to be trusted, here is a mere eye servant. If the contracted work is to be done he is to be kept up to it by force. Not so with the friend; he is thrown upon his love, honour, sense of gratitude and justice. Thus Christ treats His disciples; He does not tell them how much to do, or how to do it. He trusts to their love, knowing that if they love Him they will keep His commandments. This is the true way to treat men — trust them. Thus Dr. Arnold treated his boys at Rugby, and thus all whom Providence has put in authority over men should treat their subordinates, in order to get from them the highest service they can render.
III. The one is DISTANT, the other is NEAR. The master keeps his servant at a distance, he stands on his authority, gives out his orders, and insists on their discharge. They live not only in different apartments, but in different mental worlds, Not so with the friend — the friend is near to the heart. An old philosopher defined friendship as the existence of two souls in one body. Thus near are Christ's disciples to Him. "The servant," He says, "knoweth not what his Lord doeth...but all things that I do I have made known unto you." How close and vital the connection!" Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?" said God.
IV. The one is USED, the other USES. The master uses his slave, uses him as he does a piece of machinery; he has no tender interest in him. All he cares for is what benefits he can extract from his service, the slave is used — used as a beast of burden. But the friend is using. All his services, as a true friend, answer his own purpose, conduce to his own happiness of soul. He acts from love, and love, like the philosopher's stone, turns the commonest things into moral gold, to enrich his own heart. Thus it is with Christ's disciples: all their efforts to serve Him serve themselves. "All things are yours, life, death," etc. Everything turns to the real use of those who are the friends of Christ.
V. The one is COERCED, the other is FREE. The slave is not free in his work; he would not serve his master if he could help it. He is placed under considerations that force him to do his work. But the service of the friend is free, he would not but do what he does, and his desires to render service transcend his abilities. Thus it is with Christ's disciples. "He that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit." The love of Christ constrains them; they welcome the slightest intimation of duty from their Lord. Conclusion: What is our relationship to Christ — that of servitude or friendship? All must serve Him, either against their will or by their will. The former is the condition of devils, the latter that of holy saints and blessed angels.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
I. LOOK AT THE EXPRESSIONS EMPLOYED AND THE GENERAL SENTIMENT WHICH THEY EMBODY.
1. Both slavery and friendship represent our relations to our Lord and Saviour. "For he that is called in the Lord, being a slave, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's slave." Freedom and bondage go together, and we are not free till we are bound. Here servitude is the sign of friendship. As inferiors, as creatures, we can be friends of Jesus only "if we keep His commandments."
2. When Christ says, "All things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you," He can mean only all things intended for them, for in the next chapter He remarks, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot hear them now." Their intimacy with Him was progressive. And so now His people pass from one degree of fellowship to another; become less and less slaves, and more and more friends, and the honours and privileges of friendship increase with its spirit.
3. Confidence is the sign of Christ's friendship. There are but two essentially different ways of treating men as friends, or as slaves. We must be ruled either by force or by reason; we must be watched or trusted. Selfishness, ignorance, prejudice, fear, tyranny may say, "Treat him as a slave"; but reason, love, justice, hope, and all in Christ Jesus, say, "Treat Him as a friend." The world is learning this. Severity, though the way to govern men, as Dr. Johnson said, is not the way to mend them, and in the school, the State, the Church, and even the mad house, they are being treated more as friends, and less as slaves. Who knows not that, even among children, not to believe is to excite to falsehood, to be always watching to be sure to prompt to go astray, and want of trust to beget unworthiness? And if it is so with children, it is still more so with men.
II. ILLUSTRATE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SLAVERY AND FRIENDSHIP, AND SHOW THAT CHRIST TREATS US NOT AS SLAVES BUT AS FRIENDS. This is seen —
1. In the position which Christ assigns us, and the spirit which He excites within us. Being reconciled, we receive "not the spirit of bondage again to fear, but the spirit of adoption." Thus the state and the temper of slavery are both abolished. We are "joined unto the Lord" and are "one spirit" with Him. When John, king of France, lost the battle of Poictiers, though he had been beaten by a force one eighth only of his own, though he himself was taken prisioner, he was overpowered by the courtesy and chivalrous kindness of the Black Prince, his foe, "the tears burst from his eyes, and mingled with the marks of blood upon his cheeks." It is thus that God moves the heart. In seeking His high ends, He does not beget a crouching spirit, but treats us generously. And I do not know how the heart of man is to be reached in any other way, how its enmity is to be slain and its love drawn out.
2. In the nature of Christ's communications to us. "The servant knoweth not what his Lord doeth," etc. In like manner God spake of Abraham, His "friend:" "Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?"(1) It is true of us as of them. Christ has given us information as to what He intends to do, and "the wise shall understand"; He has given us notices of His general purposes respecting the world and the Church: not a minute prophetic history, but a grand idea of the destiny of systems and of men. But we have a more glorious revelation than this. In the text Christ means the whole counsel of God's will. He had opened to them His mind and heart; and, if they saw but little, the fault was in the eye, not the object. He has entered into frank and friendly communication with us, opened His counsels, explained His objects and His methods, told us His desires and designs, and has thus given us an interest not only in what we do, but in what He does.(2) And if this confidence is seen in what He communicates, it is seen also in what He withholds. A friend is not bound by a clear and particular direction in respect of everything; trust is reposed in him, he has to exercise his own skill and feel his own responsibility. And so, on no subject is the gospel a full rule, except as to principles. If the heart be not right, such a rule would be useless; if it be right, such a rule is unnecessary. When the heart is "ready to every good work," a hint will be enough to set all its powers in active and pleasant motion. "I will guide thee with Mine eye," says God to His people: that look of God will speak volumes to a friendly heart, and supply its own best motive to obedience.
3. In the manner in which Christ employs us. For the gospel idea of saints is that they are not merely to do His commandments, but to engage in His work, and He attaches the greatest importance to their service. He works out His gracious will on earth by the instrumentality of redeemed men; He puts His Spirit into men, and draws out their powers in grateful, cheerful labour. His object is not only to secure the effects of their service; but as a Father, though needing not His children's labour, makes a work to please and honour them. This is seen very striking in the constitution of His Church. Christian Churches are societies of friends.
4. In the extent to which Christ blesses us. No one can look at the gospel and not perceive that it deals with all that believe in the way of the greatest bountifulness. It is not meant to meet a mere necessity, but to gratify our utmost desires and hopes. Are we not treated as friends?
III. A FEW OBVIOUS THOUGHTS BY WAY OF APPLICATION. If this is Christ's friendship —
1. Let us realize and rejoice in it. He is more deeply interested in us than we are in ourselves: He wishes our welfare as we have never wished it. Why should we not therefore tell Him our perplexities, trials, gladness? Why should we not pass our life in free and familiar intercourse with Him? Friendship cannot live in an atmosphere of distrust and suspicion. "He that hath friends must show himself friendly"; and if Christ confides in us, we must confide in Him. Nothing is more important than our being frank and faithful with Him. As among men, a few honest words may prevent a world of mischief, so with Christ, long seasons of trouble and sin may be prevented by the prompt and ingenious acknowledgment of faults and doubts and difficulties.
2. Let us be worthy of it. There are men not at all remarkable for integrity or gratitude who would feel the force of this claim. The appeal to honour they would respond to, though to all other appeals they would be deaf. Christ makes His appeal to your honour. If He treats you in the way we have indicated, shall it not move you to the utmost zeal to please and glorify Him? Will you abuse His confidence, and answer His grace with gracelessness? Answer His trust with fidelity; His love with obedience. Sin in you is not mere transgression; it is ingratitude, it is sacrilege, it is treachery.
3. Let us imitate Him in our treatment of others. This is the right way, the way most in accordance with human nature. Some, perhaps many, may prove themselves unworthy of it — there was a traitor among Christ's friends — but many also will respond to it; or, if they do not, they will not respond to anything. Let it be your method in your treatment of your friends, in the education of children, in the Church.
(A. J. Morris.)
I. The REALITY of the friendship of Christ.
1. It is the clearest evidence of friendship, that it will make the greatest sacrifices for a friend. Who can doubt the infinite reality of the friendship of Christ, that traces Him from the throne of heaven to the manger in Bethlehem, from the manger to the cross. "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us."
2. But the reality of friendship is also tested by the confidence and the communion which it extends to the friend. Jesus puts His Spirit into us, and He unites us to Himself. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him, and He will show them His covenant;" He reveals Himself to them, as He said — "I will come to you, and I will manifest Myself to you."
3. But the reality of friendship is further evidenced by the sympathy that it is manifest, in the hour of trial and affliction. That man is not worthy to be my friend, who can be unaffected in my grief, a friend's heart should throb with every throb of my heart, and thrill at whatever thrills mine. And where is friendship so real as Christ's? "In all the afflictions of His people, He is afflicted;" "He is touched with the feeling of their infirmities;" "Let not your heart be troubled."
4. It is a further proof of friendship, that the faithful friend will rebuke as well as commend, It is a rare quality, even in Christian friendship; in the friendship of the world, it is hardly known. "Faithful are the wounds of a friend." But what friendship gives proof of faithfulness, in comparison with that of Christ? Look at His treatment of Simon Peter.
II. ITS EXCELLENCY.
1. What friend can we find so disinterested as Christ? Without disinterestedness, friendship is a mockery. The man who loves me for some selfish end is not my friend — he is his own. A friend is one who loves my soul, loves me for myself, and would love me forever! He does not love me for what I have, but for what I am. So Jesus loves us. He came to demonstrate His friendship towards us when we were enemies.
2. When shall we find a friend so able as Christ? The love of an earthly friend, however sincere, is often impotent; but there is a Friend sticking closer than a brother," who knows no perplexity of ours which He cannot resolve — no conflict which He cannot comprehend and sustain under — no tempestuous surges to which He cannot speak the word — "Peace be still" — no extremity of poverty, or desolation, or bereavement, to which He cannot say, "Weep not," and the tear shall be staunched. With Christ. as my Friend, if I have the universe for my foes, I smile at them all.
3. There is no friend so faithful as Christ. Faithfulness is the crown of friendship. He whom no slight occasion of offence can alienate, whom no infirmities can revolt, whom no outward circumstances can wean, who loves me in poverty as in wealth, in reproach as in renown, in sickness as in health, in death as in life; He is a friend indeed. There are few such, however, to be found. But where Jesus loves, He loves forever. "He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."
(Canon Stowell.)I. A FEW EXPLANATORY REMARKS CONCERNING THIS FRIENDSHIP.
1. It is really friendship, consisting, not of kindly feelings only, such as we bear towards our ordinary acquaintance, but of a cordial heart-warm love, like that which we have felt towards a few select individals only.
2. It is mutual between our Lord and His people. It is not all on His side, nor all on theirs. To constitute friendship there must be reciprocity. The hearts of Christ and His people are "knit together in love."
3. It is His true disciples only who are admitted to His friendship. He has compassion and kindness for all. But still His kindness, great and tender as it is, is not His friendship. He wept over Jerusalem, the city of His enemies — there was His compassion: He has only His dear, faithful disciples around Him, when He says here, "Ye are My friends."
4. This friendship does not set aside the relation of Master and servant existing between our Lord and His people (ver 14). Spiritual privileges, however high, never alter our obligations. They never put us out of our proper places, nor remove the exalted Jesus from His.
5. This friendship is in truth a friendship between us and God. It begins with Christ; but it does not terminate with Him. All the love of the Father dwells in Him and embraces us as soon as Christ's love embraces us, and soon too we discover this and joyfully embrace the Father in our love. It takes in His Divine nature as well. "Truly our fellowship is with the Father," etc.
II. THE GROUNDS OF IT. All these may be comprehended in one word — grace; yet we may trace it still to intermediate things, themselves the fruits of this grace.
1. To mutual knowledge.(1) "I know My sheep, and am known of Mine." Christ knows their persons, peculiarities, all that can be known of them; all they are to be to Him; and thus, knowing them, He fixes His love on them, draws them to Him, makes them His friends.(2) And there is a knowledge too of Him on their side: "Whom having not seen ye love." The Holy Spirit opens the sinner's eyes to behold Christ, discovers to Him the glory of His character and the amiableness of it, and enables him to see and feel how worthy Christ is in Himself of His love. "They that know Thy name will put their trust in Thee."
2. Congeniality. Men may be perfect opposites; but let there be a real friendship between them, and we know that there is much that is common between them. So wherever there is friendship between the soul and Christ, a conformity to Christ has been wrought in that soul. Without it Christ might love the soul with a love of compassion, but not with a love of complacency. And the soul could have without this a little of what we call gratitude, but gratitude is not friendship. The soul must begin to love what Christ loves, to have the same mind that is in Christ and the same heart — then the soul lays hold with its affections on the Saviour and true friendship between them begins.
3. A mutual power of conferring pleasure. I love the man who in any way contributes personally to my happiness, and I love him the most who contributes most to my happiness. Now the Lord Jesus contributes to the happiness of His people. He is precious to their soul, because He is even now their soul's satisfaction and rest. On the other hand, "the Lord taketh pleasure in His people." His delights are with them." He rejoices over them, as a father rejoices over a recovered child, or as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride. And this joy, strange as it may seem to us, can be partly explained. What constitutes the Divine happiness? The exercise of the Divine love, and with it the exercise and enjoyment of the other Divine perfections. And where does God so exercise His love, so call into action and display His perfections, as in His people? in their salvation pardon, sanctification, and final blessedness?
III. ITS PROOFS.
1. He has made a great sacrifice for His people (ver. 13).
2. He admits His people to His confidence.
3. On our side we should obey His commands (ver. 14).
(C. Bradley, M. A.)I. CHRIST'S SERVICE IS A SERVICE OF FRIENDSHIP.
1. The relation between the Lord and His people is that of Master and servants; but the perfect bond of that relation is love to His person.(1) These disciples had hitherto been servants, whose awful sense of their Lord's dignity had never yet been quickened into the ardour of personal devotion that He desired. "Henceforth" — after they had received into their inmost souls the self-sacrifice of Christ in laying down His life for them — they added perfect love to perfect homage. Servants they termed themselves to the end; but from that time one spoke for the rest the common sentiment, "We love Him, for He first loved us."(2) In every Christian there is the same "henceforth." Until the hour of the manifestation of the personal Saviour comes, we can neither perfectly love nor serve Him. But when the Son of God is revealed in us, then, "Whether we live we live unto the Lord," etc. The love of God is "then" shed abroad in our hearts.
2. Our interest in the Saviour's work is when made perfect that of friendship. He shares His counsels with us, not as being His servants only, but as being His friends.(1) Before the "henceforth" the disciples' thought of His work was that of servants who know not what their Lord doeth. When He spoke to them of the vast designs He came to accomplish, they were like men that dreamed. When, however, He had died, and the Holy Spirit shed His light upon the Redeemer's passion, their minds entered into the infinite Secret and made it their own.(2) This is, in a sense, the dignity and privilege of all believers. They enter into the fellowship, not only of the Saviour's death and resurrection, but of His government also. "Shall I hide from Abraham the thing that I do" expresses the spirit of our Lord's dealings with His friends. His language is not "Go and do this for Me," so much as "Come and let us do it together."
3. The principle that animates true Christian service is that of the truest love.(1) These disciples before that "henceforth" had done their Master's will from a lower impulse: sometimes from fear, ambition, or reward. "What shall we have?" But when they went forth to their duty after the baptism of Pentecost, we trace no other constraint but that of love.(2) And so it is with us if our devotion is made perfect. We are indeed servants still; but the commanding energy of duty is always and only love.
II. The counterpart of this truth. Their friendship must not degenerate into licence or presumption: it must be the FRIENDSHIP OF SERVICE. He who knew what was in man knew what would be the danger of His friends; and with exquisite tenderness shows what their peril would be and how they should effectually guard against it.
1. There is an everlasting distinction between the Redeemer and His people in their mutual friendship.(1) This word in the language of men implies, generally speaking, a certain equality, and thus it is in some affecting respects between Christ and His friends. But still the eternal distinction remains. "He chose us." Though in His union with our humanity, He is one with our race. He never ceases to be God. Though He came down from heaven to make us His friends He is still the Son of Man which is in heaven. Hence the profound reverence which is stamped on their every allusion to His person. He called them not servants: they called themselves by no other name.(2) In this they are examples to us. We must enter into their feelings of reverence, while cherishing the warmest personal love towards Him. "He is thy Lord, and worship thou Him." "Ye call Me Master and Lord, and ye say well:" which reminds us that we say well when we keep our language free from endearing epithets.
2. As on the one hand our interest in Christ's work must be that of friends, so on the other we must remember that we are entirely dependent on Him for the best ability in His service. Human friends are mutually serviceable; but in this heavenly relation we have nothing that we did not receive. "Without Me ye can do nothing." "I can do all things through Christ."
3. The Lord guards our sentiments of love and delight in His service by the solemn intimation that His disciples are under probation for the blessedness of His present and final friendship (ver. 14).Conclusion: The two leading terms of the text point to two prevalent errors in religion.
1. There is a religion which is a service without love, which regards the Lord as only an austere man.
2. There is also a religion which is too full of a baseless confidence in Christ.
(W. B. Pope, D. D.)
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