Gospel: John 14:15-21
Epistle: 1 Peter 3:13-22
Lesson: Acts 17:16-31
Psalm: Psalm 66:8-20
CLB Commentary – Rev. Ken Narvesen
In the lead up to this text we see in vv. 13 and 14 very startling promises about prayer. “13Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” We could not have any more unconditional promises about answers to our prayers. In the Word we hear two kinds of teaching about prayer. On the one hand, Jesus teaches his disciples and us to pray without the vain repetition and obvious show of the Pharisees, focusing our prayer on the right kind of requests, as in Matthew 6 when he gave us what we know as the Lord’s prayer. That is one side of mature Christian praying.
The other side of mature Christian praying he shows us in this text. It is the side of understanding that we are invited, even encouraged to come to God our Father with whatever request we might have, no questions asked. Jesus seems to be saying, there are some ways in which I don’t even want you to think about filtering what kind of prayers are good and what kind of prayers are not so good. Come to your loving heavenly Father with whatever request you might have. That is the focus of this text. Here Jesus explores the wonder of our open access to the Father, enhanced with the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Many get hung up on that first verse of our text though, “15If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” They see that as the catch that takes the sweetness away from the promise of Jesus. Let’s think about what Jesus says and doesn’t say here, though. Hear what Professor Buls says in his notes on this text.
“If” does not denote uncertainty as becomes clear in verse 21, an expansion of verse 15. First comes love for Jesus, then the keeping of His injunctions. Note that AV and NKJV (based on the Koine text) read “keep” not “You will keep.”
The verb “love” is found once in this verse, and four times in verse 21. It is not something which God requires of Christians from their own resources. Look at Galatians 5:6; 1 John 4:19. The atonement is central to it. It immediately follows where there is faith in the atonement. It is not mere “liking.” It is a steady state and activity of body, soul, and mind. The Christian is a new creature. Old things have passed away. He loves God with heart, soul, mind and body. He loves his neighbor as himself.
This verse lays great stress on the fact that Jesus is the author and giver of not merely “commandments” but all precepts and injunctions, whether Law or Gospel. The attitude of the believer toward the Bible is wholly different from that of the unbeliever. “You will keep” is a promise and a prediction. What a wonderful thing to say about believers in a world that is godless, preoccupied with lust, selfish and rebellious! Like children who are willingly obedient to the word of their parents.
The emphasis here is on gift, not condition. The gift the believer can depend upon is the love of the Father and the constant companionship, help, coming alongside of the Spirit. We are not left as orphans, even though Jesus would visibly be leaving this world. Neither the first century disciples nor disciples today need fear that we are alone, no matter what the circumstances. Yes, there will be times when the Father is pleased when we learn to pray like Jesus taught his disciples in Matthew 6. But the loving Father knows that there will also be times when we simply need to come to the Father, laying it all out, almost in a panic. He will not chide us for our form. He will not scold us for praying inappropriately. He will simply open his arms and say, “Come to me my child.” On that we can depend. The emphasis that we see throughout this text is not the condition of obedience, but the relationship of love between the believer and the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.