In the ministry of Jesus among His disciples in John 13-15, He does not disparage them (13:10) or exalt them either (13:38).
Why, after Judas left, does the command to love one another receive such prominent emphasis? What is the "new" in the "new commandment" there (13:34)? The "even as I have loved you, that you also love one another" is a possibility -- the quality of the love -- but also, its extent (13:1).
The related subject of the disciples' love for Jesus is not brought out as a reciprocation of His love for them. It is specifically founded upon other foundations: their knowing God, even that they "have seen Him" -- in Jesus (14:8-10). Then, He exhorts them to believe Him about some things, and encourages them that they will be answered in their prayers no matter what (14:13-14). With that amazing foundation, Jesus then brings up their love for Him, and the consequence: keeping His commandments.
Comparing 14:15, "if you love Me, you will keep My commandments," and 14:23-24, "'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; ... He who does not love Me does not keep My words," we notice that Jesus infers FROM love TO the keeping of His words and commandments, and FROM lack of love TO not keeping His commandments. What about FROM keeping the commandments, TO love? Not here (cf. 12:47).
What the Lord does infer FROM keeping His commandments is abiding in His love (15:10).
What then of 14:21, "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me"? These two things are given -- having His commandments, and keeping them -- as being of the essence for loving Him. They show that to love Christ is not a one-time act, but it is always identified with the keeping of His commandments, plural, all of them. Thus it is always an ongoing and repeatedly measurable state. This is often thought of as only a means of determining that someone does not love Christ, as if the rule cannot apply to anyone's future if they have broken it in the past. What then, is true, of someone who has not kept His commandments? The statement also applies to their future, and they should take heart from it -- such a person, who has Christ's commandments and keeps them, is also "the one who loves Me." The statement of Christ remains true.
Is this, then, the means? Is keeping the commandments the means of loving Christ? No. It is the repeatable measure of loving Christ. The measure of something is not the means of acquiring it. "We love, because He first loved us," Scripture says elsewhere (1 Jn 4:19).
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