The word of God to which we will call your attention in this essay reads as follows: “If ye love me ye shall keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another comforter, that He may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him; for He dwelleth with you and shall be in you.”
In this beautiful and comforting passage Jesus is speaking, to His eleven disciples in the night in which He was betrayed. Their hearts were no little troubled; they needed greatly to be strengthened. And the Lord Jesus confers the grace of comfort and peace upon His disciples by means of admonitions. He works faith in their hearts through the preaching of the word even as. He had strengthened their faith by the use of the sacraments, which He had just instituted in His Church.
In this passage Jesus makes the spiritual-psychological approach to the disciples. He does not appeal to what they ought to make of themselves, but He appeals to, them as to what they are and have in Christ as the living branches in the true vine of the heavenly husbandman.
Christ appeals here to their love for Him; He appeals to the love which is the energizing power of their faith!
Says He: “If ye love me ye will keep my commandments.” We should notice that we have here a conditional sentence. The conditional sentence is one that expresses, from the viewpoint of Jesus’ speaking, objective possibility. Of course, Jesus could have used a conditional sentence of fact. The point that Jesus wishes to make is, that what he here says, is true of all cases without exception. Where there is love for Christ—there you have the keeping of the commandments.
It is an axiom in the kingdom of God and of His Christ.
The keeping of the commandments is a sure indication and manifestation of our abiding and growing love for Christ. Only, where this love is, is there a keeping of the commandments of Christ. And only where there is such a keeping of the commandments is there the joy unspeakable and full of glory, which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, the comforter in our hearts.
Love is the fulfillment of the law. He who loves Christ loves the fulfiller of the law, the Son of God in our flesh and blood. He has come under the law which says: the man that doeth the same shall live thereby! And now He comes with a New commandment, which is really the commandment which we had for the beginning! Jesus tells us that the infallible standard by which all shall know that we are His disciples is that we have love one for the other. John 13:35. Once more Jesus emphasizes this truth here of the love that reveals itself in the keeping, defending (Tereoo) of His commandments. It means that nothing will stand between us and our love for Christ, our wonderful Savior-God! In the text Jesus speaks emphatically ofHis commandments. Literally the Greek reads: the commandments, the mine! He has in mind his commandments. But, then, all of these commandments. Not one of these is to be excluded. We are not only to delight in some of His commandments, but in all of them. We are here reminded of that beautiful and succinct answer of the Heidelberg Catechism, “No: but even the holiest men, while in this life, have only a small beginning of this obedience: yet so, that with a sincere resolution they begin to live, not only according to some but all of God’s commandments.”
Thus sanctification is perfected in a full-orbed Christian life.
What Jesus here underscores is the same that is stated in the Third Commandment, where we read of the mercy of God, which is in thousands of generations upon those “those loving and keeping my commandments” (leohabhaw ulesheree mitswothau). We have here the active participle, telling us not only what these lovers of God do, but telling us who these people are in their deepest being, and what God shows to such, namely, His great mercy. He is merciful to whom He is merciful. And the rest are hardened. Such is the plain teaching of Scripture both in the Decalogue and here in this comforting address in the new covenant in Christ’s blood. The comfort of the Spirit of Pentecost, the first fruits of the full harvest, is simply God showing mercy to whom He is merciful!
That is the sense of Jesus’ word: If ye love me ye shall keep my commandments when read in connection with what follows in verses 16, 17, where we read: and I will ask the Father . . . The mediator of the better covenant, which is enacted upon better promises, is here speaking! Here is not the speech of the law that kills, the law minus the glory of grace and truth, but it is the mediator in whom grace and truth come to us by the Spirit of Christ, who giveth life, joy, peace and boundless mercy. To those He giveth more. Mercy upon those to whom He is merciful.
The whole question of whether man must fulfill “conditions” to receive this Comforter is out of order; it is a misstatement to speak of “man” when in the text is spoken of “those loving and keeping my commandments.” This is not simply man, but the redeemed “new man” in Christ. It is exactly thismisstatement that confuses the simple. When once the matter is thus misstated, then one can go on infinite dreaming and prattling of the preaching-promise to all upon “condition of faith!” Of course, thus misstated one can then prattle about not being able to address a “promise to all,” and breaking a lance for a “promise to all who hear the gospel.”
But Jesus is addressing very concretely the indwelt Church in distinction from the “world that neither knoweth nor understandeth” the things of the Holy Spirit, and who are “not able” to receive the comforter. Jesus is here preaching a very good applicatory sermon to the Church of all ages, as she is the indwelt spouse, around the table of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world! To this Church and to these disciples he gives a word of assurance, a word of promise, which is nothing else than the administration of the Testament, the oath-bound Testament (covenant) of God to Abraham and all his believing children.
Such believing children will be very greatly in need of the merciful face of God in their position in the world!
For as believers, as such who do not-have a dead faith, but have a living faith, they will suffer for righteousness’ sake. Always they look for the city which has foundations. In this world they cannot find it. They are out of their element: They are like little children from whom the parents have been taken in death. They are really in the position bf orphans when left to themselves. In the world they suffer tribulation, anguish and distress. They are hated without a cause. Hated they are even as Cain hated Abel. And why did he hate his brother? Was it not because his own works were evil and those of his brother were righteous. Thus also it is with the disciples. They would, in this very night, be separated from Jesus, their Lord and master. The cruel winds of the hatred of the foe would blow upon their little bark. The storm and tempest would be high. But they need not fear. They can say: Lord, Thou knowest all things, thou knowest that we love Thee. We have believed and confessed that Thou art the Christ, the Son of living God, that should come into the world. Our faith is not dead. We keep Thy commandments and we cherish them in our hearts as being mart precious than rubies and the choicest gold of Ophir! Ah, it is Jesus Himself, who thus tells the disciples who they are. Did He not know their sanctified hearts and the great potential of the Holy Spirit in them? He dwells in you, namely, the Spirit of truth, and, therefore, you are FUNADAMENTALLY different from the unbelieving “world.”
These are in need of the comforter.
And here is also the wisdom of God in the cross. Jesus’ leaving His disciples in this night is to their eternal advantage; yea, it is to their advantage even in this life in the entire New Testament dispensation. The wisdom is that they will be given another comforter, another Paraclete!
First of all it will be a Comforter, a Paraclete. The English translation “Comforter” is a beautiful term. It is derived from the Latin: Comfortis. Com means: with and “fortis” means to be brave, have courage. Compare our English word: fortitude! It means to have courage with God—to be of good cheer. It reminds us of the wonderful words of the angel of the Lord of the hosts of Israel: only be strong and be of good courage.Joshua 1:5-8. That is the fruit of the comforter in our hearts. Fundamentally this is the fruit of faith by the Spirit in our hearts, while we consider that Christ went to heaven to prepare a place for us, and that He is the way the truth and the life.
For Jesus went to heaven and He ever lives to pray for us. He is our advocate, our intercessor before the throne of God, so that the throne is for us the throne of mercy.Mercy upon mercy is our portion. If we sin as saints, as those who love His commandments, confessing our sins, mercy of the mercy-seat is our portion!
And what Christ does for us in heaven he also assures us of through His Spirit. And when Jesus pleads our cause for us in our heart assuring us of His work for us in the inner Sanctuary of God, in the Holy of Holies, then He takes us aside and talks according to our heart! And then we receive by the Holy Spirit from the fullness of God. Then we are blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, even as he elected us from before the foundations of the world. The mercy is given to those upon whom He is merciful.
Now, two things should be noticed in this connection:
The first is, that Jesus does not say that he will ask the Father for the Holy Spirit of comfort because we keep the commandments. He does not say (dioti) because that, nor does he say (oti) because but simply: and I will ask of the Father. It is simply His word of assurance to His indwelt church. Those in whom the evidence of mercy and grace is present, who respond to the admonition of the gospel, are assured of God’s comfort of the Spirit. It is only for those in whom this “condition” is. As long as we walk in sin we are such that cannot receive nor do we need this comfort of the Holy Spirit, as the Spirit of truth. Hence, it is not because we love in the sense of ground, but it is for those who keep God’s commandments in the sense that mercy is, for those to whom God is merciful and who by virtue of mercy received keep God’s commandments the New Testament covenant in their hearts.
Secondly, we should notice that it is “another” comforter. This does not mean a wholly different comforter. But it is another comforter, who gives the same comfort as Jesus gave them, only He gives it to them in a different way. He will take it out of the glorified Christ and give it to the saints in whom He dwells perpetually.
This cannot be said of the world.
Sometimes it is contended that there is a point of contact in the wicked to the Gospel. Strictly speaking that is not true. For the glad tidings of the gospel is surely: for unto us a son is born, for unto us a child is given. And, again, unto you is born this day a Savior which is Christ, the Lord. And this is good news “unto all the people” of God’s good pleasure. Says Jesus: this is a comfort which the world cannot receive. It is a secret of the Lord which is for them that fear God, that is, upon whom God is merciful. Upon such the Lord had more and abundant mercy.
The disciples were such beloved of God. They had not chosen God, but God had chosen them. Wherefore their hearts should not be troubled. They should lift up their heads in this hour and rejoice. For the kingdom of heaven is come upon them. Goodness and mercy will follow them all their lives and they shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.