Love Comes First

If you love me, obey my commandments. John 14:15 NLT

Jesus didn’t say, “if you want to go to heaven, obey my commandments.” He did not say, “if you don’t want to go to hell, obey my commandments.” Okay we already knew all that, but while studying Monday’s lesson about the works of the law, it occurred to me something else Jesus did not say. He did not say, “If you obey my commandments then I will love you.” He said, “If you love me, obey my commandments.” I believe this is what Paul meant when he said we are not justified by the works of the law. The works of the law don’t lead us to God’s love. God already loves us! His love leads us to His law of love.  

Paul does not teach earning love by our works, but rather working because we are already loved.  

working through love. Galatians 5:6 NKJV 

What is important is faith expressing itself in love. Galatians 5:6 NLT

The Adventurer’s pledge goes, “Because Jesus loves me, I will always do my best.” The pledge does not go, “I will always do my best so Jesus will love me.” 

Please take a look with me at a couple of passages, where Paul uses the phrase “Works [or deeds] of the law.” 

Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. … Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law. Romans 3:28-31 NLT

Notice, justification by faith establishes the law. That’s because God is the One doing the justifying and God is love and His law is love, which is why Paul says that justification by love will establish the law of love.  

knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! Galatians 2:16-17 NKJV

Paul makes it clear that our works will not lead to God’s favor, but God’s favor will lead us to works of love. God’s love and justification will not lead us to sin. Paul says Christ is not the minister of sin. He does not give us grace so that we can continue in sin and disobedience. Suppose I promised to pay everyone’s speeding tickets here in Florida. An officer pulls a man over and gives him a $200.00 speeding ticket. “No problem!” the man says, “I will just take this ticket over to William and he will pay for it.” And the next time he does the same thing and the next time. By paying his speeding ticket all the time I would be encouraging him to speed! This is very dangerous. Paul says this is not how grace works. Grace and justification by faith lead to obedience. 

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10 NKJV

Notice God’s grace does not respond to our faith. Our faith responds to God’s grace. God does not say, “William has faith so I will give him grace.” God gives me grace and that is why I have faith. Notice too in the passage that while works do not lead to grace, grace leads to good works. In legalism our works lead to God’s favor.  In the gospel God’s favor leads to our good works. 

As with us, this is how Jesus justified the woman taken in adultery.

“Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” John 8:11 NKJV

Notice Jesus did not tell her that if she would go and sin no more that He would not condemn her. It is because He gave her favor instead of condemnation that she could go and sin no more.

In legalism and pagan religions, the works of the law lead to the gods love and acceptance. In the gospel God’s love and acceptance lead us to express our love by doing good works, because we love Him because He already loves us!

Thus Jesus said,

If you love me, obey my commandments. John 14:15 NLT



Love Comes First — 11 Comments

  1. John 14:15 is the text used to begin the discussion about love for God. I have asked the question in the past. Can we be assured that we love God,and if so how? Is there a formula, a list of do's and don'ts? Do we ask for conformation in our self evaluation? Do I feel worthy of my love for God? Does it take a Damascus experience? We are assured that God loves us, shouldn't we reciprocate? If so how?

    • Paul, I don't think we can "love God" without special intervention from God in our lives. The only way we can "love God" is to receive His Love in our own hearts from Him. He must first Love us, and we must accept His Love in order to Love Him truly.

      His Spirit is the only source of true Love. Love is not something we can conjure up on our own. If we will receive the gift of God's Spirit we must open the door of our hearts to Him. He has promised to come in and fellowship with us and He will do what He promised.

      How do we know that He has come in to our hearts? We know it by the fruit that is produced in our lives. If we don't see God's Love and Grace in our lives for others then we don't truly Love God. His Spirit is not motivating us. Jesus said, "Whatsoever ye have done unto the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto Me."

      The law of God is kept perfectly because His Love motivates us in all that we do.

    • We humans are flaky at best. Our way of loving is conditional sometimes, selfish other times. The way to love God is by keeping his commandments. That is the formula. Commandment number one is a good start. By spending time with God first thing in the morning we are giving him priority as our God. Meditating in His law and the spirit of the law, and all the ways we can apply it, is the way to love God.
      My husband knows how to love me. I need a little help around the house to know he cares and he does.

  2. Paul: The righteousness of Christ must go before me so that the glory of the Lord becomes my reward. It is the bewitching power of Satan that leads me to look to myself, in the place of looking to Jesus. So what so I do? I pray, Lord Jesus I believe you have died to redeem my soul. If you have placed such a value upon my soul, as to give your life for mine, I will respond. I give my life and all its posibilities, in all my weakness to Your keeping. Amen." If we do God’s will, we may accept large blessings as God’s free gift, but not because of any merit in us; this is of no value. I DO the work of Christ, because I LOVE HIM. Christ has given life to me. I was nothing before I found Him. May I prove I have been with Jesus who is all my righteousness.

  3. One way we can know if we love God is an examination of how important He is in our thinking. If my wife has list of chores I must complete every day - take out the trash, wash the cars, mow the lawn, etc., "obeying her commands" is not valid evidence that I love her. I may think that obedience is the way to earn other favors from her, or to avoid nagging.

    On the other hand, if I am constantly thinking about what I can do to please her; what are her likes and dislikes; how I can make her life more comfortable; how I can reduce her burdens; how I can spend more quality time with her; what little things make her smile, etc., (you get the drift), I can know that she is very important to me and that I love her. If I look forward to seeing her in the morning, in the evening, and that surprise visit in the middle of the day with glee, that suggests that I love her. If I boast about her qualities to my friends - both male and female friends, I am obviously not ashamed of her, and my love for her comes out in those conversations.

    Loving God is infinitely much more than all that, but we will know if we love Him or not. If we love having a bible study in the middle of the day or week, love bringing up conversations about Him as opposed to the latest scores from the game, or the latest social gossip making the rounds, or we are willing to push aside work and read a passage of scripture, we probably have a love affair going on with God.

    • Fred,

      You've said it so well. Your post reminded me of similar thoughts from Steps to Christ, p. 58, quoted below:

      "By what means, then, shall we determine whose side we are on? Who has the heart? With whom are our thoughts? Of whom do we love to converse? Who has our warmest affections and our best energies? If we are Christ's, our thoughts are with Him, and our sweetest thoughts are of Him. All we have and are is consecrated to Him. We long to bear His image, breathe His spirit, do His will, and please Him in all things."

      Happy Sabbath!

    • May I please add something to Fred's excellent ideas to joyfully take out the trash, wash the car etc.? Ask her: "What would you like me to do?" We may say: "I know that already!" O.K. The point is, communicate. Communicate with Jesus. Ask Him: "Is this the way?" Jesus said: "I do nothing of my own, I do only what the Father tells Me." And in His most critical hour He said: "Not My will, Your will be done." It was when Adam choose to decide to die with Eve, without consulting the Creator, that He placed our world in the hands of Satan. And what a sacrifice to reverse that one wrong decision. Had he only asked for God's opinion . . . ? Was God not able to resurrect Eve? I believe, Yes! How few are willing to accept:"Come unto Me, I will give you . . .", and then do His will?

  4. William, I am so glad to read this article. Love is the gift of God to us. We must receive it before we can give it back. The Holy Spirit is the agency of God that instills the Love of God into our hearts. We have been given this, but we have to choose to let Him work His work of Love in us to have the genuine Love of God.

    We can think we have this Love when we naturally "love" our spouse or our parents, but the reality shows it's ugly face when our will is crossed. This is time for prayer to ask for the Holy Spirit to give us true Love.

  5. The original question in John14:15 is probably better put in context with John 14:13,14,16-18. Jesus was instructing the disciples in many things necessary that they needed to know. Jesus had ask, who do men say that I am? And to Peter, do you love Me? keeping the commandments in verse 15 are not as some may think, Only the mosaic law in Exedus20. As some have noted John 14:16 says another helper, the Holy Spirit, will help in verse 15 because the word and, is a continuation of the thought. In spite of all the rhetoric I still wonder do I measure up to what pleases God? Are there not choices that can, or even should be made? The bottom line I suppose is, do I know what I know and does faith have a part to play?

  6. It might be helpful to understand more of the indescribable love and grace of our Divine Father if we take a brief indepth look at the the religion Paul left behind to better get an understanding of just how soul burdening it was.
    "Woe to you,scribes and Pharisees,hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte,and when he is won, you make twice as much a son of hell as yourselves." Matthew 23:15 NKJV.

    How is this possible? Is Jesus simply exaggerating,using hyperbole to make a point, or is Phariseeism really that evil? What is process of taking a heathen, a superstitious idolator and making him twice the "Son of Hell"?

    Paul gives the briefest glimpse, an inkling, to the beginning steps down this baleful path. "...If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee." Philippians 3:4,5 NKJV

    Using this passage as a guidepost lets use our imagination to see unconverted Saul as a Pharisee missionary.

    The first and foremost tenet of doctrine is that, "salvation is of the jews" "You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship." John 4:22 NKJV.(Yes even Jesus acknowledged this truth)

    So let us imagine a young earnest gentile pagan desiring to find salvation seeking to join himself to the Pharisee sect of the Hebrews. What would he need to do?
    *learn Hebrew?
    *keep the Sabbath?
    *become circumcised?
    *follow the talmud to appease a jealous and vengeful God?

    Let us suppose that yes he does all of the above carefully, sincerely, piously. Has he now found salvation?

    Not according to Saul. To be a true Jew, you have to be born in it. "Born of the stock of Israel" and "circumcised the eighth day" not on your eighteenth birthday.

    Two strikes already against this young man. His only hope is follow as closely all the minutiae of the elders, "more holy ones" in the hope that it can make a difference in the eyes of a condemning God.

    Behold a child of hell!


Please leave a comment long enough to say something significant and considerably shorter than the original post. First and last name required.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *