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John 15:10 (ESV): 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.

I have been looking at this verse for more then a week now and am still stuck on this verse for more then a week. I know its first word, "If" (Eav) is a third class conditional clause. How does that fit into the rest of the conditional sentence? Thanks!

Duane

  • @Duane What exactly is the difficulty you are facing from receiving the text as it would appear as written? If you do A, then B will happen, just like C caused D. Is the issue directly textual, or how it would fit into a larger context than just this verse? – user6152 Nov 18 '14 at 6:17
  • It's pretty simple really. Do you know what κύριος means? We often translate it as "lord," but it's really "master," as in the master of a slave. We are Jesus' slaves, and he is our master. Now, then, I suppose you understand how keeping his commandments is important. My assumption is that you're making this a faith v. works dichotomy, but faith and works are synergistic and do not oppose one another. Our faith in our master, Jesus Christ, in conjunction with the indwelling Holy Spirit, compels us to obey his commands and also produce good works (like loving one another, which is his command). – user862 Nov 18 '14 at 18:16
  • Also check out the Johannine epistles. They shed much more light on John 15:10. – user862 Nov 18 '14 at 18:18
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Here the English translation is good and Jesus is saying precisely what he meant to say: IF you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.

Elsewhere, he makes it clear that if you don't, you won't. "What good does it do you to say you follow me if you do not keep my commandments?" He asks.

In Revelation, in speaking to the Churches of Asia, Jesus relentlessly speaks to them of their deeds, that they are not behaving right. Then at the end, on the last two pages of Scripture, Jesus twice gives a list of behaviors that will earn one an unfavorable final judgment and the Lake of Fire. Throughout John the same message beats a relentless tattoo: to be acceptable to Jesus and live in his love, you have to do what he said to do, and not do what he said not to do. There really is not much more to than that. It's quite straightforward.

Unfortunately, that causes some difficulties for certain Christian traditions. But as Jesus tells the Jews, those traditions should be set aside in favor of what Jesus very clearly SAID.

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The phrase "If you keep My commandments" in John 15:10 may imply a condition to keep it in a way of doing. However, when you study at the original word for the word commandments in Exodus 34:28, it is the word dabar, which literally means words. So the literal translation of the ten commandments should be ten words. But why does it is still translated as ten commandments?

Because man's typical response upon hearing the ten words is represented by what the children of Israel said in Exodus 19:8: "All that the LORD has spoken we will do." Thus the ten words is received as the ten commandments.

But did God really expect us to keep the ten words as commandments? The history of the children of Israel, which represents our own experience, shows us that no one can fully "keep" these commandments by the way of doing. Even Paul himself fails in the matter of coveting (Romans 7:8).

Now please compare the verse in question (John 15:10) with John 15:7 NKJV:

7 "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.

My words in verse 7 is the rhema words. And the rhema words is God Himself as the living Me. God as the rhema words need to be abiding in us in an organic way. Jeremiah used eating to describe the organic process in his response to the word (Jeremiah 15:16) and Jesus demonstrated this in Matthew 4:4 when He compared eating bread vs. eating the rhema word.

So how do we "keep" the commandments? It is by keeping it in our spiritual stomach. The proper response to the commandments of God should not be: We will do it! but to be spiritually "chewing and digesting" on them by praying them back to the Lord.

If we keep the word in this way, the word will then be assimilated metabolically and causes us to automatically abide in His love as promised by Jesus in John 15:10. To love Him with our whole being is to fulfill the greatest commandment in the Bible (Matthew 22:37-38).

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  • Good points. One thing seems to be missing. Jesus' most important commandment--and John his beloved disciple "got this right"--was to "love one another" (John 13:34; 15:12 & 15; 1 John 3:11 & 23; 4:7, 11, & 12). Without this key component, our interpretation of John 15:10 is missing something important. Do you agree? Don – rhetorician Feb 14 '15 at 12:08
  • @rhetorician Absolutely agreed. "Loving one another" is the subsequent result of "loving God." Yet the same principle applies. Neither "loving God" nor "loving one another" is a commandment that we can do in ourselves because our human love is conditional at best. John explains this in 1 John 4:19: We love Him because He first loved us. To love God is actually to be loved by God. Only when we are open to be loved by God, God can gradually infuse us with His divine (agapaō) love with which we can love Him back, and subsequently love one another with the "agapaō" love that we received. – Indra Feb 16 '15 at 16:29
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John 15:10 to my understanding, it says that the only way to be able to receive God's Love is by keeping his commands. Love is the fulfillment of the Law and these include all types of commands from the Old Testament. To be in God's Love is a moment to moment action, we can get out of His love by not behaving righteously. If we follow the inner man regenerated by the Spirit and not the outer man, we will remain in His love and we will grow. Remember the comparison of Jesus being the vine and we the branches, if we obey and walk in the Spirit, then we will remain in His love and we will grow to a greater capacity to Love and to be victorious in our christian life.

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I don't think there is any ambiguity in the Greek text. Metzger does not highlight any significant variants between manuscripts in his Textual Commentary. The different eclectic texts (Nestle-Aland, Scrivener Textus Receptus, Orthodox Patriarchal Text) even agree on how the phrase should be punctuated:

10 ἐὰν τὰς ἐντολάς μου

If the commandments of me

τηρήσητε

you [should] keep

μενεῖτε ἐν τῇ

will abide in you

ἀγάπῃ μου

My love


One might take 1 John 4:7-16 as a commentary on this passage:

Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his own Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him (RSV)


Cyril of Alexandria (378-444) explained these verses as follows:

We must consider the mysteries set forth in the text with the clearer eye of understanding; for the saying has a deep meaning, and puts before us in its completeness, so to speak, the significance of the Incarnation. For He assures us that He Himself was loved by God the Father, and that He so loved us in turn, after the same manner, that is, according to which He Himself considered that He was loved by His own Father. What charge then did He lay upon them? That it is our duty to abide in His love. But He gives, as it were, an explanation and most reason of His being with justice loved by the Father, namely, the keeping of His commandments; and exhorts us, too, to hasten to fulfill this, and thus, He says, to remain in His love.


The 19th century Russian Orthodox cleric, Ignatius Brianchaninov, summarizes here:

The one condition for remaining in the love of God and in union with Him is the fulfillment of the Gospel commandments. Breaking them also breaks this condition, and the breaker is cast out of the loving arms and from before the face of God into outer darkness, into the realm of the passions and the demons.*


* The Field: Cultivating Salvation (tr. from Russian; Holy Trinity Publications, 2015), p.42

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The logic is similar to that of this sentence: say, a judo champ, a member of a national team tells his less experienced teammates: "If you exercise diligently, you will overcome your opponents easily, just as I have exercised and overcame them"; so, what's a problem with regard of the logic and syntax? I do not see any, for the sentence is very clear.

However, most interesting thing here is to ask a question: why does not Jesus tell His disciples to imitate Him and keep the Father's commandments in this form: "If you will keep my Father's commandments, you will abide in His love, just as I have kept and abided in His love"? But such a sentence would have left a possibility that the Father's commandments could be abided without Jesus; that is to say, Jesus is a giver of the brightest example to humans of what they can also achieve, but not as somebody without whom it is ontologically impossible to approach God-the Father (John 14:6). Thus, in order to stress that He is co-divine with the Father and that Father is simply ontologically unable and intrinsically impotent to bestow His love upon humans without the co-agency or rather uni-agency (for divine agency of the Father and the Son is one) of His co-eternal, uncreated Son with whom He shared glory even before the creation of the world (John 17:5), Jesus gives His sentence this strange turn: "do My commandments as I do My Father's in order to remain in my Love"; but the Father's commandments are exactly the same as Jesus' commandments, with no difference whatsoever (Luke 9:35)!, with the result that Jesus by keeping the Father's commandments is keeping simultaneously His own commandments, for those commandments are inseparably intrinsic to Him, to the effect that it is ontologically impossible for Him not to keep them, for it is impossible for God not to be God.

Furthermore, if keeping the commandments is a necessary condition of love, then the Logos who is always keeping the commandments of the Father, i.e. also His own commandments, also always remains in love of the Father and thus the Father's love pertains eternally to Him as well, and thus He gives authority and lets also created beings, humans, to participate in this same uncreated eternal love that He always shares with the Father, to the paradoxical effect that the created beings, humans, become partakers of the uncreated reality and thus become also uncreated in virtue of this participation.

This is the gist of the Orthodox doctrine of deification, and John 15:10 is a clear expression of the divinity of Jesus.

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What is John 15:10 really saying?

Men and women that want to give God exclusive devotion, show their love to Him and dedicate their lives to God's service and follow/keep his commandments. By following God's commandment an individual shows that he/she loves God.

John 15:10-14 (NASB)

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 made full."

Notice Jesus qualifies the above, there is more than just loving God and Jesus.

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

Jesus eventually gave his life for his friends/disciples, this self sacrifice , should move his followers to have the same self sacrificing love for one another. Having this type of love Jesus says, will distinguish them "among men, that your My disciples."

John 13:35 (NASB)

35 "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Conclusion .

Jesus said that , we have to keep his commandments to have eternal life , but to be able to keep his commandments we have to make an effort to study God's word and so, perceive, recognize, become acquainted ,get intimate with Him, as well as the Messiah, Whom God sent.

John 17:3 (NASB)

3 "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent."

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 (NASB)

13 "The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. 14 For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.

"

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If/(then) is a statement of cause and effect. I can think of many examples of if/then statements in English where the cause and effect relationship is not absolute: If it snows tomorrow, they'll close the schools. This sentence expresses probability, not certainty. So, is it possible to interpret John 15:10 in a similar manner: If you keep my commandments, then it's highly probable you will abide in my love. Or, in other words: By keeping my commandments, you create the conditions in which you will perceive yourself to be loved by me. This dynamic would pertain in any intimate relationship. If you demonstrate by your actions that we share the same values, then it follows you desire my companionship. If your actions demonstrate we do not share the same values, then my companionship will become a problem for you.

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