I don't normally do this, but I am starting a new thread with something I wrote in another thread.
In today's prayer thread, Ulrike based her prayer on John 15:9. As I read the verse, my spirit started responding and I started writing. What began as an amen to her prayer spun off into something else entirely. Here it is. And, as I say at the end, I pray it blesses somebody.
A Closer Look At John 15:9
"As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love."
The KJV and many modern translations that translate John 15:9b ("continue in my love") are closer to the mark than those who translate the clause as a simple imperative: "abide in my love". But I do not think they have quite grasped it all. The root verb in Greek is μένω (meno) and means "to abide" or "to remain". Physically it refers to place, a location where one dwells, as in Matthew 10:11 ("And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy; and there abide [meno] till ye go thence.") Metaphorically it usually refers to the reality of existence of some form of spiritual truth or quality, as in 1 Corinthians 13:13 ("And now abideth [meno] faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." Here in John 15:9b it refers to Christians remaining in the love of Christ. In fact the entire clause is indicative of a continuing action.
The form of the verb meno here is the second person plural, aorist, imperative, active. "Second person plural" means it is addressed to those to whom he is speaking, those who were with Him and listening to Him at that moment. Originally, that would have been His disciples. But, since He ensured this Word was preserved for us, He is clearly intending to speak to us as well. "Active" means that it is something we do, not something done to us. "Aorist" means that it involves no aspect of a fixed time: it is literally an on-going act. "Imperative", however, requires a little more explanation.
As I said, some translate this as a simple imperative, in other words as a command. They view Jesus as commanding us to "Stay in my love." The problem with this is that a simple command, if disobeyed, carries consequences. Thus if Jesus is commanding us here he is, in effect, saying, "Abide in my love, or else!" Now, there are consequences every time we fail to abide in what God speaks to us. But they are not consequences of punishment from God but consequences from which God is trying to protect us. Our Lord speaks not to assert His authority which is unquestionable, but to warn us for our own good. In fact, everything God does for us is for our good. He is good and only does good. And He created us to have fellowship with Him and thus give Himself pleasure through that fellowship, as the Bible reveals to us. Zephaniah says that God "rejoices over us with singing!" (Zephaniah 3:17) Thus it is most unlikely that God here is demanding we remain in his love or He will punish us in some way. Rather it is a petition, an urgent request, an entreaty. And, indeed, in Greek there is something called an "Imperative of Entreaty". This can be clearly seen in such verses as the "Give us this day our daily bread" found in the Lord's prayer. Are we commanding God to do something? Or are we entreating Him, petitioning Him, to do something? Clearly the latter. Man does not order God to do anything! And here, where God, since He is God, could command us, He instead entreats us. Jesus is urgently petitioning us to remain in His love. Why? For our own good.
Now the word itself, as I said, means to remain or to abide. And as I also said, the aspect of the verb involves an on-going act. And, as we have now seen, it is an entreaty. Therefore the best translation of the clause would include features both of abiding and continuing. Thus I prefer: "Continue to remain in my love." This fits perfectly with the first part of the verse which says, "As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you." In fact, since both forms of the verb "love" in the first part of this verse ("the Father has loved me " and "I have loved you") are aorist indicatives, even though in English the closest we can come is a form of the past tense there is no aspect of time intended in the Greek. In other words, because it is an aorist, it is simply stating a fact without reference to any specific time. The Father's love for the Son simply is. It has no recorded beginning or end. It simply exists. So, too, the Son's love for us. There is neither beginning nor end of His love for us. As a result, we are surrounded by His loving kindness and mercies, continually and forever! As it says in Lamentations 3:22b-23a), "His compassions fail not. They are new every morning!" Hallelujah!
But, then, what does it mean to "remain in my love"? If His love has no end, how can we not remain in it? This is the first question that arose in my mind as I contemplated this verse. So what does it mean "to remain in Christ's love"? And then, just as importantly, how do we do that?
As with all questions, the Bible provides its own answers! And here Jesus does so in the very next verse! He did not want to keep His disciples—or us—waiting and casting about for the answer to the obvious question. "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love." Simple. We are to keep His commandments. And what are those? They are the same as His Father's. The first is to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength. The second is not "like unto it" as Jesus told the Jewish rulers prior to His sacrifice, but a variation of that commandment. The second commandment He gave the Jews was to love their neighbor as themselves. But to us, He has upped the ante, as it were. We are to walk not as the unsaved world in its religious efforts, but as the Son of God who indwells us by His Spirit: we are to "love one another, as I have loved you." (John 13:34; 15:12) Wow! That is quite the standard! In fact its ultimate expression is the sacrifice of self for another. Jesus gave His life that we might live. And note: He did not die for those who loved Him only; He died for ALL mankind (John 3:16). Indeed, He died for us while we were still enemies, deep in sin, hateful toward Him (Romans 5:10; Ephesians 3:2; Colossians 1:21; Titus 3:3). There was nothing good in us, yet He loved us and He willingly gave Himself for us. THAT is how we, too, are to love.
Now, frankly, we cannot do it. Not in our own strength. Not in our flesh. It is only as we permit the Holy Spirit to perform His work in us, changing us into the image of the Christ who saved us and whom we claim to serve, that the new man—born in us by that selfsame Spirit acting on the Word of God when it entered our eyes, or ears, or thoughts—can grow to maturity and reflect the fullness of the new nature we possess. To use the Biblical metaphor of a tree, it is only as we feed and water the seed of the new life sown in us at salvation that it can grow. and the more it grows into a mature tree, the more fruit it produces. And the first in every listing of the fruit is: love. Our duty then, our most important step in loving God and, thus, being able to properly love our fellow man, is to seek to obey God. In seeking to obey Him, in setting our minds to want to please Him, we are giving the Holy Spirit freedom in us to do His work of changing us from glory to glory into the measure of the fullness of the likeness of Jesus Christ. This is the secret of the successful and powerful Christian life: the deep desire to surrender our will to Christ. I say "the desire to surrender" because we cannot surrender on our own. Our willpower, which is a product of our flesh, can not accomplish spiritual growth. As Paul made clear in the third chapter of Galatians, the flesh cannot defeat the flesh. It is, as the Holy Spirit revealed through his pen in Romans 8:13, "through (or by) the Spirit" that we put to death the works of the flesh. And that comes about not by focusing on the flesh, but on the Cross.
You see, it was at and by the Cross of Christ that God has provided all things needful for us (2 Peter 1:3). It is by the triumph of the Cross of Christ that we are more than victors in all things (Romans 8:37; 1 Corinthians 15:57). And it is by FAITH in what Jesus Christ did through the Cross that we are saved, and sanctified. We need always to keep our faith in—and thus our focus on—the sacrifice of Jesus Christ at Calvary. Everything we need has already been paid for on the Cross. And as His sacrifice was accepted and fully-pleasing to God who in attestation raised Him up in victory from the dead, we who accept that sacrifice as well-pleasing to ourselves, recognizing it to be the only hope we have, have been raised up from the spiritually dead, translated into the Kingdom of Christ on this earth, and will one day ourselves be raised up to eternal life in Christ's eternal Kingdom to come. The Cross is everything to us! And thus as we maintain our faith in Christ's finished work there, the Holy Spirit can work in us. It is only through our faith in the finished work of Christ that the Holy Spirit could indwell us in the first place, and it is only by the continuation of that faith that HE can proceed with sanctifying us.
Let me repeat: it is only by faith in Jesus Christ and His all-sufficient sacrifice that we inherit anything. The object of our faith cannot be in anything else: works, our faithfulness, our obedience, our scripture study, our prayer life, our church membership, the faithfulness of others whom we ask to pray for us, our pastor, our denomination, or any other thing. The object of our faith can be in only one thing: Jesus Christ and what He did at Calvary. It is why the great apostle said, "I preach Christ crucified" (1 Corinthians 1:13). It is why he resolved "to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2). It is the sole reason why he said he would never glory (boast) in anything "except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." The Cross is the sole ground of glorying because it is the sole ground on which we stand. And through it—not the piece of wood but the sacrifice of Jesus Christ there—and only through it, we receive ALL things from God.
Praise God! From His Word that He has given us we now know what it means to "abide in Christ's love". And we know exactly how to do that! He truly is awesome!
I pray this little study blesses someone.