Updated: May 22
May 14, 2023 |The Promise|John 14:15-21
(Click here for the sermon audio)
Last week we looked at three promises that encourage a follower of Christ in difficult times that we find in John 14 made by Jesus during an intimate moment with his disciples in some of his final moments with them before the passion.
You have a future hope- 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
You have a current mission- 12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.
You have a personal connection- 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son
As we noted last week, any of those promises in and of themselves would be enough to encourage us as followers of Christ, but this week in John chapter 14 we come to the greatest promise yet.
What is this great promise?
He (The Father) will give you another Helper (at the request of the son)
Their hearts were troubled because he had told them that he was going away and they could not follow, then he had turned their attention to one another by saying John 13:34-35 (ESV) 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
The understanding that the way things had been for the last couple of years was about to change, that they would no longer be with Jesus in the same way had grieved their hearts, so after promising them that they would be with him again, that they would carry on his work and even do greater things, and that they would have unprecedented access to the throne room of God in prayer, he promises them that they will not be alone. They will receive another Helper.
Before he makes this great promise, he states a premise, which is where we will turn our attention to first.
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. Vs 16 says And I will ask… I do not believe these statements are dependent on one another in the cause and effect sense, like, if you love me and therefore keep my commandments, then I will ask the Father. That would make the gift of the holy spirit dependent on our obedience and not Christ's. Verse 15 can and does stand all on its own as a premise and application statement, if you love me, you will keep my commandments.
Rather they are related in the sense that the promise is applicable only to those who love Jesus and the proof of that love is obedience to his commandments.
This statement is hard for us to wrap our minds around because of the way our culture views love. We have difficulty reconciling love and obedience together: we may act either in love or according to the law, but not both. Many people today take this approach to religion and life. It doesn’t matter what one believes as long as they have love. This has been called the ‘new morality’, where everything is permissible so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else. One commentator summed up the implications well when he said concerning this idea. “As a result of this thinking, marriages may be casually dissolved, adultery may be celebrated, contracts may be broken, parents may be disregarded, and worldly things may be coveted—and all may be justified on the grounds that no one is being hurt and that love is the motive.”
The greatest weakness of this ‘love wins’ approach that holds this worldly love up as the highest good is that Jesus, the very author and definer of love intricately ties love to obedience to his commandments. He emphatically says that if someone loves him, they WILL keep his commandments.
Do you remember that old hymn, O How I Love Jesus?
No doubt you have sung it many times before.
I have always loved that song, but as I read over it this week with fresh eyes, I looked more closely at the words. It talks about loving to hear the name of Jesus, it talks about singing it’s worth, what he did for sinners, and of his loving heart, and repeats over and over, O How I Love Jesus. It perfectly captures the warm fuzzy feeling that we often associate with love. But missing are refrains about how our love drives us to obedience, how our love for Jesus correlates to our obedience of Him. It may be a beautiful song to sing, but if we take Jesus at his word, it fails miserably short of describing what it actually looks like to love Jesus, doesn't it?
Now that you think about it, you can see how shallow singing such songs is if our lives don’t reflect a loving obedience to Jesus.
Imagine a child that many times a day said “I love you” to his parents but blatantly refused to listen to them, to obey them, or respect them. It wouldn’t take long for the parents to come to the conclusion that this little child did not understand what they were declaring.
Or what if a husband was great about saying “I love you” to his wife every morning and evening, but for the remainder of the day, he paid no actual attention to her or her needs, it wouldn’t take long for that wife to know that he either didn’t mean it or didn’t understand what love meant.
And yet, many are content to stand and sing about their love for Jesus on Sundays and live with no regard for him or his word Monday through Saturday.
Equally bad would be if the child coldly followed every rule and command, but did it out of some other reason than love. Or if the husband or wife fulfilled all their responsibilities towards one another devoid of love.
This obedience without love is what Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians chapter 13.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (ESV) 1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
No, Jesus brings the two together with love being the root and obedience being the fruit.
Spurgeon says, “The essence of obedience lies in the hearty love which prompts the deed rather than in the deed itself. . . . Love is the chief jewel in the bracelet of obedience.”
Notice also, the certainty of the statement Jesus makes. If you love me, you WILL keep my commandments. The premise statement is ‘if you love me’ the argument is ‘you will keep my commandments.’
If you have a King James Bible, this passage sounds like a command. John 14:15 (KJV) 15 If ye love me, keep my commandments. But that doesn’t really reflect what Christ is saying here. The idea is not, if you love me, then keep my commandments. The idea is if you love me, the result will be that you will keep my commandments.
A desire to walk in his way and embrace his teaching is the inevitable result of loving Christ.
So if singing loudly and emotionally is not the way to know that we truly love Jesus, what is the test? We can simply reverse what Jesus says from if you love me, you will keep my commandments to ‘we know that we love him if we keep his commandments.’ By the way, this is exactly what Jesus does in the first part of verse 21. 21a Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.
What are Jesus’ commandments? The immediate context would be to love one another as Christ loved you, but in verse 23 and 24 he expands it to include his word. (ESV) “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word.
If you love me you will keep my word, what is his word? Since he is God in the flesh, since all of the bible testifies and speaks of him, since the word of Christ is synonymous with the Word of God, we can rightly say that the word of Christ includes all of Scripture.
A. W. Pink explains: “The whole revelation of the Divine will, respecting what I am to believe and feel and do and suffer, contained in the Holy Scriptures is the law of Christ. . . . The commandments of Christ include whatever is good and whatever God hath required of us.”
By the way, isn’t this exactly what Jesus expected from his disciples? In the great commission, the church’s marching orders, what did he say, specifically we should be doing? Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV) 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
That certainly changes evangelism doesn’t it? Rather than a merely emotional response, we are calling men and women to spend the rest of their life obeying the will and word of Christ. This is what it means to follow Jesus, this is what it means to love him. Anything less isn’t the kind of love Jesus is talking about here.
What has all of this have to do with the promise of another helper?
I’m glad you asked.
The promise is made to those who love Jesus, and from the beginning we need to understand this love Jesus talks about is not merely an emotional feeling, but a wholehearted devotion to him. To those who love him, he makes this great promise that we turn to now.
16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
One one of the first things we notice in Jesus’ teaching on the Holy Spirit is the personal pronouns he uses repeatedly throughout the discourse recorded in chapters 14 through 16. He does not refer to The Spirit as an it, or an impersonal force, but as a person. Jesus says you know him, he dwells with you and will be in you. He will teach you many things, He will bear witness of me, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict, and finally he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
Not only does he use personal pronouns, he describes the Spirit’s role in personal terms.
Beginning by calling him another Helper, he identifies his own earthly presence with the disciples as similar to that of the coming Holy Spirit. He would carry on, or continue Jesus’ ministry of presence with the disciples.
Another Helper- The term translated helper here is the Greek word paraklētos. Translated comforter, counselor, or advocate in other English translations. I like the way the ESV translated it because helper covers all of those aspects well.
Yes, he is the comforter, the counselor, and the advocate, but in the way Jesus introduces him in this promise is that he would come and continue Jesus’ ministry to the disciples with his presence, I think helper is an appropriate description of who he is. Think about how Jesus helped his disciples with his presence. He taught them in words and actions, he corrected them, he empowered them, he served them, he interpreted situations in light of the truth of who God is and what he is doing. He helped them not only enter the kingdom of God but to understand it better day by day.
The Holy Spirit would continue this for the disciples by his presence, not only with them but in them. Where they had walked with Jesus and had the Spirit with them, now God would dwell in them, his presence more manifested to them than it had ever been.
In 1 John, John says, concerning Jesus’ time on earth that they heard him, saw him, touched him with their hands. He was literally and bodily in their presence day after day. However, he says that his presence didn’t end when he ascended, rather they still have fellowship with Him and the Father, which is because they are now experiencing the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Therefore we understand that the Holy Spirit is a person of the Godhead, and we can experience his presence in our lives through the indwelling, because he has been sent by God the Father on behalf of God the Son, which is what Jesus promised his disciples would happen.
The promise is that the presence of the Spirit is neither temporary nor arbitrary. The permanence is seen in Jesus’ statement ‘He will be with you forever’. The manner is seen in Jesus’ statement ‘whom the world cannot receive’. When Jesus fulfilled this promise at Pentecost, it was not an indiscriminate pouring out of his spirit. Yes, it was an inclusive one, on young, old, male, female, free, slave, Jew, and Gentile, but there was and is a prerequisite for being indwelt by the Spirit. It is belonging to and being obedient to Jesus. It is for those who love Jesus and are loved by Him.
What a promise?!
This is why Jesus tells them it is to their advantage that he goes, because if he goes, he will send the helper, the spirit of truth.
John 16:12-15 (ESV) 12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
When the Spirit comes, he will indwell believers, he will empower them to carry out their mission, he will carry on Jesus’ ministry among them, but beyond that, in verses 18-20 we find another purpose to which we turn now.
John 14:18-20 (ESV) 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.
Jesus encourages his disciples that even though he is leaving, he is not abandoning them, but rather he will come to them again.
Of course, we understand the Immediate reference to be his appearances after the resurrection, which makes statement 19 fulfilled in his post resurrection ministry. After three days, the disciples saw him again, but the world did not and will not until he returns in his second coming.
However, in the context, I also think that he is referencing Pentecost and the coming indwelling of the Spirit as the way he will come to them and they will not be orphaned.
He is leaving, both for a little while, and then to go to the father to prepare a place, but in the meantime, they could be comforted that he would not forsake them as orphans.
Jesus chooses a powerful word here doesn’t he?
Orphaned- a)of those bereft of a teacher, guide, guardian b)orphaned, bereft of parent or guardians
We immediately feel compassion for orphaned children, whether it’s an encounter in real life, a commercial raising funds for orphans, or even in a fictitious story. There is immediately a sense that they do not have what they need. They are like ships with no anchors or sails, they have no family, they don’t belong and often they do not have people to care for them.
Jesus reaches into this common experience to reassure his disciples that although he is leaving them, he is not forsaking them. They still belong to him, he will still lead and guide them, he will still teach them.
The first purpose of the promise is that the disciples will understand that they belong to Christ.
It is the same for you and me today. The spirit is evidence that we are not forsaken, but that we belong to Christ.
Elsewhere, Paul says Ephesians 1:13-14 (ESV) 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Paul calls the Spirit our evidence that we will acquire possession of our inheritance that is ours because we have been adopted as sons through Jesus Christ.
But both Jesus and Paul go on to talk about the purpose of the Spirit.
Jesus changes his emphasis from their relationship to him to the implications of it. They will live and they will know.
Jesus says, Because I live, you also will live.
Paul says, Ephesians 2:4-7 (ESV) 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
The Holy Spirit is given so that you and I, who are dead in our trespasses might be brought to life spiritually. The Spirit is the means by which the life of Christ is applied to our lives.
Second, the Spirit gives us assurance. Jesus says, in that day, the day God sends the spirit on behalf of the son, In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.
How can I know that I am saved, that I belong to Christ? The presence of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, since the Spirit was sent as promised by Jesus, from the Father, I know that Jesus is now with the Father and he has been glorified, securing salvation for mankind, and having received the inheritance, poured it out on his church.
The purpose of the Spirit being sent then could be summed up in two words. Belonging and assurance.
Two things that the disciples needed from this promise and two things Jesus graciously gave them in it.
Ask yourself these questions this morning?
Do I have assurance of my salvation?
Do I know that I belong to Christ?
You can, if you have the promised Holy Spirit.
How do you know if you have the promised Holy Spirit?
Do you love Jesus?
Is there a desire within you to obey him?
Does your life reflect obedience to his word?
If not, Jesus says in verse 24 that you do not love him.
Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.