Jesus—His Life and Message: John 15: Abide in My Love

July 6, 2021

by Peter Amsterdam

At the end of John chapter 14, Jesus informed His disciples that He was going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.1 Chapter 15 begins with the words “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.”2 In a previous article in this series that addressed the “I AM” sayings in the Gospels, the first 8 verses of chapter 15 were covered, so I won’t revisit them here. (To read this earlier post on John 15:1–8, click here.)

After speaking to His disciples about abiding in Him,3 Jesus began to speak of His love for His disciples—His close friends who had been with Him over the past few years.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.4

Jesus’ love for them was like the Father’s love for Him. The Father’s love for Jesus is eternal; it had no beginning and has no end. It is a love that is close and personal, without measure and unchanging. He told His disciples that they should make their dwelling in His love, meaning to make His love for them their very identity.

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.5

Having told them to “abide in His love,” Jesus describes to His disciples how to do this. They are to obey what He has taught them in the same manner that He has obeyed His Father’s instructions. Because Jesus obeys the Father, He abides continually in the Father’s love; likewise, as the disciples obey Jesus’ commandments, they will abide in His love.

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.6 

Jesus had the joy of living a fruitful life, full of love for His Father, love for His disciples, and love for the world. He wanted the joy that He had to be in His disciples as well. Such joy comes from a life of wholehearted obedience to what He had taught throughout His ministry. Until this point, there had been little said about joy in this Gospel. It is mentioned only in John 3:29. However, when Jesus spoke with His disciples in the upper room, He referred to joy six times.7

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.8

Earlier (verse 10), Jesus referred to commandments, in the plural: If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love. However, now He refers to only one commandment. This commandment was referred to earlier in this Gospel as well. 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.9 Jesus made the point that if we love, in the way He uses the term, then we don’t need any other rule, because love will both motivate and guide us to do what God desires.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.10

Jesus now refers to the greatest love of all. He states that giving one’s life for someone else is the greatest love that can be given. In this context, Jesus is referring to laying down His life on the cross. Some question whether sacrificing one’s life for one’s enemies wouldn’t be considered greater than laying it down for their friends. However, that question isn’t what was being addressed here. Jesus was with His friends, those who had been with Him during His ministry, and was only speaking about friends. In reference to them, He said that one cannot have greater love than to die for them. Jesus was about to do just that. He was going to give His life for others.

You are my friends if you do what I command you.11

Jesus called the disciples, the eleven who were with Him at the Last Supper, His friends. Their friendship depended on their common aims and goals; therefore Jesus added the conditional clause, if you do what I command. Clearly Judas, who had been one of His disciples, was no longer a friend, but those who were with Him at the Last Supper and during the time before His arrest were His friends.

No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.12

Jesus says He will no longer call His disciples servants. Jesus hasn’t specifically called His disciples servants within this Gospel, but some verses come quite close to it. Earlier He said, You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.13 The Greek word (kyrios) translated here as Lord means the possessor, the owner, one who has control of a person or a thing. Jesus’ relationship with His disciples was no longer that of a master and servant. Rather, Jesus now calls them friends. He isn’t keeping anything from them; He has told them all that He has heard from His Father.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.14

In Jesus’ day, disciples of teachers would choose the teacher they would follow and would attach themselves to that rabbi. However, in the case of Jesus’ disciples, it was He who chose the apostles and appointed them for the task ahead.

His instructions to them were that they should go, meaning that they were to be His emissaries to the world as they brought His message to others. As His emissaries, they were to bear fruit and their fruit was to remain. Their task was to share the message with others, to make disciples of them, so that they would also share the message and bear abiding fruit.

(To be continued.)


Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

General Bibliography

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1 John 14:28–29.

2 John 15:1.

3 John 15:1–8.

4 John 15:9.

5 John 15:10.

6 John 15:11.

7 John 15:11, 16:20, 21, 22, 24; 17:13.

8 John 15:12.

9 John 13:34.

10 John 15:13.

11 John 15:14.

12 John 15:15.

13 John 13:13.

14 John 15:16.