Can a Christian ever find obeying the teachings of Christ restrictive (Cf. John 8:31-32)? Are we truly free if we cannot reject sin (Cf. John 8:34)? Can we claim to love God and not obey His commands (Cf. John 14:15, 24; 2 John 1:6)? What good can come from those who believe in Christ as God and Saviour just to obtain free grace and salvation but resist the promptings of the Holy Spirit (Cf. Matt 12:30-32; 1 Thess. 5:19; Eph. 4:30) and the fruits that come with it (Cf. Gal 5:22-23)? Can they be effective and fruitful Christians, delighting in the good deeds which God has prepared in advance for them to do (Cf. Eph. 2:10)? Can we experience God’s love without loving Him and our neighbour (Cf. John 13:34; 14:21, 23)?
The Apostle John says: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3) What this means is that God’s laws are not unreasonable; the duties which He requires are not beyond our ability; His government is not oppressive. It is easy to obey God when we truly love Him; and those who endeavour in sincerity to keep His commandments do not complain that they are difficult. All complaints of this kind come from those who do not really know and love God, but try to ingratiate themselves with God for favour or obey out of fear or self-righteousness. For theses Christians, keeping God’s commandments is truly a slavish, joyless drudgery. True Christians with a sincere love for God find His service easier than the service of sin and His laws more mild and easy to be complied with than those of fashion and honour, which they once endeavoured to obey. The service of God is freedom and joy; the service of the world is bondage and death. No God loving Christian will say that the laws of God, requiring him to lead a holy life, are stern and burdensome.
Jesus says: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments; and I will ask the Father and he will give you another Helper to be with you forever, that Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him for he is with you and will be in you.” (John 14:15-17)
“If you love me”- Do not show your love by grief at my departure merely; or by profession, but by obedience. “Keep my commandments” – This is the only proper evidence of love of Jesus, for mere profession is no proof of love; but that love for him which leads us to do all his will, to love each other, to deny ourselves, to take up our cross, and to follow him through thick and thin is true love. The evidence which we have that a child loves its parents is when that child is willing, without hesitation, gainsaying, or complaining, to do all that the parent requires him to do. So the disciples of Christ are required to show their love for him by obeying all his teachings, and by patiently doing his will in the face of ridicule and opposition (Cf. 1 John 5:2-3).
“I will ask the Father” – This refers to Jesus’ intercession after his death and ascension to heaven, for this prayer was to be connected with our keeping His commandments. It is as the result of His intercession in heaven that we obtain all our blessings, and it is through him that our prayers are to be presented and made efficacious before God.
“Another Helper” – Jesus had been to His disciples a counsellor, a guide, a friend, while he was with them. He had instructed them, had borne with their prejudices and ignorance, and had consoled them in times of despondency. But he was about to leave them now to go alone into a hostile world. Another Helper was to be given as a replacement for his absence, or to perform the offices toward them which he would have done if he had remained personally with them. And from this we may learn, in part, what is the office of the Spirit. It is to furnish to all Christians the instruction and consolation which would be given by the personal presence of Jesus (Cf. John 16:14). To the apostles it was particularly to inspire them with the knowledge of all truth (Cf. John 14:26; 15:26). Besides this, he came to convince men of sin (Cf. John 16:8-11).
“The Spirit of truth” – He is thus called here because he would teach the disciples the truth, or would guide them into all truth (Cf. John 16:13). He would keep them from all error, and teach them the truth, which, either by writing or preaching, they were to communicate to others.
“The world” – The term world is often used to denote all who are entirely under the influence of the things of this world – pride, ambition, and pleasure; all who are not Christians (i.e. pagans), and especially all who are addicted to gross vices and pursuits (Cf. 1 Corinthians 1:21; 1 Corinthians 11:32; John 12:31; 2 Corinthians 4:4).
“Cannot receive” – Cannot admit as a Teacher or Helper, or cannot receive in his offices of enlightening and purifying. The reason why they could not do this is “Because they neither sees Him” – The men of the world are under the influence of the senses. They walk by sight, and not by faith. Hence, what they cannot perceive by their senses, what does not gratify their sight, or taste, or feeling, makes no impression on them. As they cannot see the operations of the Spirit (Cf. John 3:8), they judge that all that is said of his influence is delusive, and hence, they cannot receive him. They have an erroneous mode of judging of what is for the welfare of man.
“Nor knows Him” – To know, in the Scriptures, often means more than the act of the mind in simply understanding a thing. It denotes every act or emotion of the mind that is requisite in receiving the proper impression of a truth. Hence, it often includes the idea of “approbation,” of “love,” of “cordial feeling,” (Cf. Psalm 1:6; Psalm 37:18; Psalm 138:6; Nahum 1:7; 2 Timothy 2:19). In this place it means the approbation of the heart; and as the people of the world do not approve of or desire the aid of the Spirit, so it is said they cannot receive him. They have no love for him, and they reject him. Men often consider his work in the conversion of sinners and in revivals as delusion. They love the world so much that they cannot understand his work or embrace him.
“He is with you” – The Spirit dwells in Christians by his sacred influences. He works in us repentance, peace, joy, meekness, etc. He teaches us, guides us, and comforts us (Cf. Galatians 5:22-24). Thus, he is said to dwell in us when we are made pure, peaceable, holy, and humble; when we become like him, and cherish his sacred influences. The word “dwell” means to remain with us. Jesus was to be taken away, but the Spirit would remain. It is also implied that the disciples would know his presence, and have assurance that they were under his guidance. This was true of the apostles as inspired men, and it is true of all Christians that by ascertaining that they have the “fruits of the Spirit” – love, joy, peace, long-suffering, etc. they know that they are the children of God (Cf. 1 John 3:24; 1 John 5:10).
By grace we have been saved through faith, and this is not of works but a gift from God, so that no one can boast! We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do! (Cf. Eph. 2:8-10) So how should we respond to God’s grace and start doing the good works which He has prepared in advance for us?
I believe the Apostle John is called the beloved disciple because he knows what it means to love God, and the importance of pursuing spiritual growth by obeying Christ’s teachings and the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Similarly, the Apostle Paul taught the Corinthians: “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. (…) And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.” (1 Cor. 13:6,13; 14:1)
Likewise, the Apostle Peter in his second epistle gave us a list of qualities to become effective and fruitful Christians, rooted in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (Cf. 2 Pet 1:5-8). The sequence of the qualities, which begins with faith and ends with love, is presented such that each quality builds upon the one(s) before it. According to Peter, these qualities are the character traits of God (Cf. 2 Pet 1:4).
He urges us to pursue holiness, actively striving to manifest God’s divine nature in our lives, not only because this is our destiny (Cf. Rom 8:28-30) but because it is our duty (Cf. Eph 4:11-16). And we are to actively do so not only because of what it promises but also because of what it prevents. When we pursue spiritual growth with God’s grace, we will be received into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (Cf. 2 Pet 1:11). If we cease to grow spiritually, we become ineffective, unfruitful, short-sighted, blind and forgetful, and will set ourselves up for a fall (Cf. 2 Pet 1:8-10). May we take the counsel of the Apostles John, Peter and Paul to heart, and seek to obey them by the grace of God to His glory. Merry Christmas!
Let us invoke the Holy Spirit with the hymn “Eye Has Not Seen” by Marty Haugen to teach us the wisdom of God: