13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. (John 15:13–14, NKJV)
The sacrificial quality of love is unsurpassed. It is this love that prompted the death of Jesus and provided the world our only means of redemption (Romans 5:8-10; 1 John 4:8-10). The question for us to ponder is whether we have the love it takes to be a friend of Jesus. We hear much about needing Jesus as our friend. True, and He has shown the measure of His loving friendship by His death. Now, do we show the measure of our friendship to Him? We are not His friends when we disobey Him. It is quite ironic that many who speak loud and long about being friends with Jesus refuse His clear commands. For example, many reject His command to believe and be baptized to be saved in Mark 16:16, and yet claim friendship with Him. How can that be? Indeed, they say any necessary obedience nullifies God’s grace. If true, then we cannot be a friend to Jesus without denying His word and His grace! Our plea is to return to the simple harmony of gospel of salvation by grace, through faith. Salvation is an unearned, yet conditional gift (Ephesians 2:8-9). God receives sinners when we fear God and work righteousness; the gift is thus received (Acts 10:34-35). Are you a friend to Jesus? That is answered “yes” when you obey Him in faith.
You are near, O Lord, and all Your commandments are truth. (Psalm 119:151, NKJV)
Are we actually to believe that the commandments of God are truth? Absolutely (John 17:17). People loath obeying the commands of God when they do not have an abiding allegiance to divine truth. It is no great surprise that many people believe truth is relative, a shape-shifting concept that morphs into whatever they dictate truth to be. Such is the influence of this present, evil age (Romans 12:2). Absolute truth is ridiculed, mocked and discarded out of hand. They try to shape God’s truth into whatever they want it to be. Why do you think more and more people believe gender identity changes with one’s moods and personal perceptions? Such distortions of reality merely reflect their relativistic concept of truth. Nevertheless, God’s commands are not shaped by our moods, our culture, and our environment. God is still the potter, and we are still the clay – too many believe it is the other way around (Jeremiah 18:6). Today’s verse implies the obvious; God is near the person who respects and obeys His commands. This is the person God will never leave nor forsake (Hebrews 13:5). The disobedient have no assurance that God is near because they do not practice the truth (1 John 1:6-7; John 14:23). If you want God to be near you, then keep His commandments. They are truth.
1 Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; 2 for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 4:1–2, NKJV)
While some say obeying the commands of God is not essential for eternal salvation in Christ, the apostle encourages Christians to abound more and more in that very lifestyle. The word “ought” conveys a moral obligation. That is, we are morally required before God to walk (live) so as to please Him (2 Corinthians 5:9). Living to please God is accomplished by keeping the commandments we have been given by the apostles “through the Lord Jesus” (1 Corinthians 14:37). Stay the course of faithfully obeying the commands of the Lord Jesus, and Christ will give you eternal life (Hebrews 5:8-9). We can never be content with not pleasing God, as if our sin carries no eternal consequence. They do. Therefore, let us “abound more and more” in a life of faith that keeps the commands of God.
20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— 21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” 22 which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men?” (Colossians 2:20–22, NKJV)
Christian live for Christ and not according to the principles of the world that oppose Christ. Since we are alive in Christ we must not turn back to those things that produce spiritual death (Colossians 2:12-13). The futility and sinfulness of the commands and doctrines of men is firmly established in today’s verse. Yet, century after century heavier and heavier burdens have been laid on believers, demanding that creeds, confessions or catechisms be followed to define and determine their faithfulness to God. The religious regulations of men have no standing before the God of the Universe. Christ the King has approved no doctrine beyond what is written in His New Testament (1 Corinthians 4:6; Jude 3; 2 John 9). The gospel calls souls back to the Bible, not to being regulated by the commandments and doctrines of men. If what you believe and do cannot be found in the gospel of Christ, it is not of Christ. Lay all such things aside or you will perish with them.
3 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. 6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. (1 John 2:3–6, NKJV)
As this passage explains how we are assured that we know God, it provides an inspired commentary on what it means to “walk in the light” in 1 John 1:7. Many are heard to say they “know God” (that they “walk in the light”). John explains how we are assured that we know God; “if” we keep His commandments (v. 3). Knowing God in this passage equates to practicing the truth and “walking in the light” in 1 John 1:6-7. We cannot disobey God and correctly claim to understand or know God. To say we know God while disobeying Him makes us a liar. The love of God does not live in disobedience; it is perfected (matured) by keeping His word (v. 5). One may indeed feel in his heart that they know God, but that is not how the Bible defines knowing God. To know God and to live in the love of God, we must “keep His commandments.” Obeying God is not an attempt to earn your way to heaven; It is the express of your love for God. The “truth is not in” the disobedient; He does not know God. To know God, walk as Christ walked. He always obeyed the Father (John 8:29; 12:48-50).
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18, NKJV)
Context is crucial to understanding the Scriptures correctly. Today’s passage is a notable illustration of the point. John is discussing the perfecting of love in the Christian’s life so that he or she has “boldness in the day of judgment” instead of fear, which “involves torment.” Where there is mature love, there is no fear of the judgment. But, what is the mature love that “casts out fear?” John tells us in 1 John 5:2-3: “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:2–3). The love that has boldness rather than fear in the day of judgment is one that is willingly obedient to God’s commands. Only when love includes willing obedience of God’s commandments is it the “perfect love” that “casts out fear.”
6 He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. 7 And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” (Mark 7:6–7, NKJV)
The hypocrisy of Israel was reaching its zenith in the days of Isaiah (Isaiah 29:13-14). Israel gave Jehovah lip service, while serving idols, and demanding their own teachings be regarded as divine truth. This verse gives us God’s definition of a hypocritical heart: While saying one honors God, he elevates his own will above the will of the Almighty. Hypocrisy is pretense, pretending to be what one is not. The Greek word was applied to the actor who wore a mask, pretending to be a character in a drama. Christ applied this term to the Pharisees and scribes of His day. Their words honored God, but their hearts were given over to the commandments of men. The Jews had codified their oral traditions (the Mishnah). These men whom Jesus rebuked judged a violation of their traditions to be a violation of God’s law (see Mark 7:8-9). We must avoid accepting human traditions as if they are the will of God, lest we join hands with the hypocrites of Christ’s day. Revealed truth, not the traditions of men, must guide our hearts and our deeds. Otherwise, our worship will be vain.