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The Gospel of John: Manifesting God’s Glory Book 4

Jesus manifested God's glory through 8 miraculous signs in the gospel of John. These are a revelation of the feast of tabernacles.

Category - Bible Commentaries

Chapter 12

From Slaves to Friends

John 15:10, 11 says,

10 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. 11 These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

Jesus did only what He saw His Father do, and so He kept His Father’s commandments, thereby abiding in His love. In other words, Jesus never violated the laws of His Father, nor did He ever authorize a believer to transgress His Father’s laws. The laws of God tell us how to love our heavenly Father as well as to love our neighbor as ourselves.

To abide in Christ’s love, then, is to uphold the same laws which Jesus kept. If we do so, our joy will be full. The law, when followed through the New Covenant. is not oppressive. It is only when the law is kept in an Old Covenant manner (and according to the Pharisaical understanding of the law) that it is burdensome (Luke 11:46).

The Progression of Joy

The feast days are part of the law. We keep them in a New Covenant manner, no longer putting blood on the doorposts and lintels of our houses but rather applying the blood of Jesus to our spiritual ears and foreheads. We no longer offer two loaves of bread to keep the feast of Pentecost but rather watch and pray for the fire of God to write His law upon our forehead. We no longer build booths for the feast of Tabernacles but seek to be clothed with life in a new “tent” or body.

The journey from “Egypt” to the “Promised Land” follows the path of these three feasts. Passover was to be kept while eating “the bread of affliction” (Deut. 16:3). Pentecost was the first feast that was kept with rejoicing (Deut. 16:10, 11). But Tabernacles was the time of greatest rejoicing, for it lasted seven days. Deut. 16:13-15 says,

13 You shall celebrate the Feast of Booths seven days… 14 and you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite and the stranger and the orphan and the widow who are in your towns. 15 Seven days you shall celebrate a feast to the Lord your God in the place which the Lord chooses, because the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful.

God’s blessing, then, is designed “so that you will be altogether joyful.” So also Jesus tells the disciples to keep His commandments “that your joy may be full.” To reach this level of joy, however, one must finish the journey by experiencing the feast of Booths, or Tabernacles. The pruning (zamar) in the wilderness during the time of Pentecost is painful to the flesh but it ends with the “song” (zamar) that is sung by the 144,000 (Rev. 14:3).

Jesus continues in John 15:12, 13,

12 This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.

Love is the greatest commandment (Deut. 11:13; Luke 10:27). Jesus was not introducing an entirely new commandment, as if to say that love replaced the law of God. No, love is the foundation of the law and its purpose. If anyone applies the law apart from love, he does not honor God.

Even the judgments of the law are rooted in love, and for this reason, they are limited by the law of Jubilee. Pruning branches is a form of divine judgment for believers. It is not pleasant, but it results in rejoicing. Children do not see love when they are disciplined, and they are too immature to see its long-term benefit.

If we understand the purpose of judgment—that it is for our long-term benefit—we can see that all judgment is rooted in the divine nature. God is love.

Friends and Future Friends

Jesus defined divine love in terms of laying down one’s life for his friends. Compare this with Paul’s definition of divine love in Romans 5:8, 10,

8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us… 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

Even John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world.” So we ought not to limit love to giving our lives only to our “friends.” Paul makes the point that Christ was willing to give His life for His “enemies” as well. This shows that God views His “enemies” as future “friends.”

In fact, He has vowed to do whatever it takes to turn His enemies into friends. This is the nature of His New Covenant vow, and all divine judgment is designed to fulfill that vow, so that, in the end, the whole world comes into a state of joy.

At the present time, “the whole creation groans and suffers” (Rom. 8:22), but “the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God” (Rom. 8:19). Creation does not merely engage in wishful thinking. It is “hope,” which, by biblical definition, is a confident expectation of things to come.

Jesus defines “friends” in John 15:14, saying,

14 You are My friends if you do what I command you.

Not everyone yet is a friend, for only a few do what He commands. Many believers, in fact, do not understand His commands, thinking that somehow He died to put away the law.

But He died to pay for sin, and “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4), a violation of the law. He did not die so we may sin with impunity but to write His law in our hearts so that we would not even want to sin.

In our spiritual journey, our relationship changes as we proceed toward the Promised Land. We come out of Egypt through Passover, being justified by the blood of the Lamb. This introduces us to Christ, and we become acquaintances.

When we come to Mount Horeb for Pentecost, our relationship then changes through the baptism of the Holy Spirit. We learn to hear His voice so that the law may be written on our hearts. Meanwhile, we are servants learning obedience.

Our nature is thus changed from day to day as we are led by the Spirit. The law of God prunes our hearts and burns the dead branches (or “chaff,” as John the Baptist called it). The law of pruning seems painful at first, but as we mature spiritually, we begin to embrace that law and others, because we begin to see more fruit in our lives.

Eventually, we come to the place where Jesus can call us friends, because we no longer fight against the law, nor do we despise His chastening. Jesus thus says in John 15:15,

15 No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.

When Jesus says, “no longer do I call you slaves,” it is apparent that the disciples had been slaves in the past. As disciples, they had been learning obedience. A master tells slaves what to do without explaining why or for what purpose such things must be done. The master has authority, and slaves have no right to question his authority.

But at some point the slave-master relationship must change to something more equal. Friends are treated differently. Friends are in agreement, and for this reason, a friend does not have to be commanded as such. Friends think alike, and so they want to do the same things.

The more agreement there is, the less the master must rely on authority to accomplish the work. They are all in it together, working in love and harmony to build the Kingdom of God.

Lawless believers remain slaves or servants as long as they disagree with the Master’s laws, or commands. Such servants remain ignorant of the purpose of God’s laws, and for this reason, they have little or no reason to agree with those laws.  Such must remain in obedience training in Pentecost until they come into agreement.

God’s Sovereign Choices

John 15:16, 17 says,

16 You did not choose Me but I chose you and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you. 17 This I command you, that you love one another.

We know that Jesus chose and called His disciples at the start of His ministry. This was done according to the principle set forth in Rom. 9:10-12, where Paul tells us that God chose Jacob and rejected Esau before the children were even born, “so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls.”

In other words, God chose Jacob. Jacob did not choose God at the beginning. God’s choice was not based on Jacob’s works. God simply chose Jacob, even as Jesus chose His disciples. This meant that God took upon Himself the responsibility for Jacob’s transformation to Israel.

To put it another way, if Jacob had failed to become Israel at some point in his life, God would have failed and could not blame Jacob for the failure.

With Jesus’ disciples, the only apparent failure was Judas Iscariot, but we know that his case did not represent any failure at all, for Judas was fulfilling the role of Ahithophel who betrayed David a thousand years earlier. Judas was chosen to betray Jesus. His betrayal (and failure) was part of the divine plan—which succeeded.

Paul explains again about the “remnant according to God’s gracious choice” (Rom. 11:5). The 7,000 true believers in the time of Elijah were those whom God had chosen, men who were personally trained by God, men whom God had pruned and who had come into agreement with His laws and commands. Rom. 11:6 says,

6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.

It is not possible to understand the biblical idea of grace without knowing the sovereignty of God.

Those who are Old Covenant believers in Christ think that grace is where God helps them keep their Old Covenant decisions to follow Christ. Their standing with God is based upon their own decision—“I have decided to follow Jesus”—rather than seeing that their decision only came after God had called them. Their own decision was a response, not the cause.

Those who think that their salvation is based upon their own decision to follow Jesus, rather than seeing their decision as a response to God’s prior calling and choosing, still remain unknowingly in the Old Covenant. They follow the example of the Israelites at Mount Horeb in Exodus 19:8. Their covenant relationship with God is based upon their own will rather than God’s will.

But John 1:13 speaks of New Covenant believers, who were begotten, not on account of bloodline, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but God, that is, God’s will.