Thirty-Some Days in John 15, Day 26: Friends

Jesus speaks to His disciples. He’s about to go to the cross, and He says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”

Do we earn Christ’s friendship by obeying Him? If we don’t obey, do we lose that friendship? Or does this verse mean something different?

Let’s dig deeper.

Assignment: Pray, thanking Jesus for laying down His life for you and for making you His friend.

  • Then read John 15:1-17. As you read, prayerfully reflect on your relationship to Jesus, as it is described in this chapter:

As a branch intimately connected to and receiving life from Jesus, the Vine

As a branch of the Vine whose purpose is to glorify the Vinedresser by bearing fruit

As an undeserving recipient of Jesus’ love, called by Him to abide — to remain — in that love

As one who is loved and then commanded to love your brothers and sisters with the same kind of love

As one who has become a friend of Jesus, because He laid down His life for you.

And now, in verse 14, as one who, being Christ’s friend, does what He tells you to do.

“You are my friends if you do what I command you.” Let’s look at some commentaries to help us understand this verse.

  • Open Blue Letter Bible and go to John 15:14.
  • Click “Commentaries” in the Tools menu. (App users, select “Commentaries” after clicking on the verse text.)
  • Then look for the heading, “Matthew Henry” in the list of available commentaries. This verse-by-verse commentary was written in the early 18th century and is solid practical and devotional reading.
  • Click “Commentary on John 15.” This will open all of Matthew Henry’s remarks on chapter 15 of John. We will need to skim the text until we find the comments on verse 14.
  • Scroll down until you see the heading “Jhn 15:9-17.”
  • Then continue scrolling until you see, “II. Concerning his own love to his disciples.” If you have extra time, this section would be good to read. Otherwise, scroll down just a bit farther until you see “(2) Christ loved his disciples.”
  • Read this section, taking notes as you read, and stopping when you reach point 4, which begins the discussion of verse 16.

How do the disciples prove themselves to be Jesus’ followers?

In what ways does Jesus treat us as friends?

Now let’s look at one more commentary. This time we’re going to use another Bible study site, Bible Study Tools. This site also has an app, for those who prefer to use it, but it has some bugs that make it a bit unpredictable. I recommend the website.

  • Open and search on John 15:14.
  • Scroll down below the verse text to the list of commentaries, and click John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible. This is another easy-to-use verse-by-verse commentary, written during the 18th century.
  • Click the link for John 15:14. Read and take notes.
  • Summarize what Gill says about the disciples’ obedience and its connection to their being Jesus’ friends.
  • Summarize what you have learned about our friendship with Jesus.

As followers of Jesus, we are choosing to turn away from our own will and submit to His. Our obedience goes hand-in-hand with our faith. It doesn’t earn our salvation or our status as friends of Jesus, but our obedience is evidence of our faith. It is the result of truly understanding and believing that Jesus willingly laid down His life for us to make us His friends. 

Death had no claim on Jesus. Unlike us, He didn’t ever have to die. He chose to suffer and die for us. When we take hold of this truth and realize what He has done, we will love and trust Him, and want to please Him.

For your children:

Review memory work.

Then read John 15:12-14 together and look for two different characteristics of those Jesus calls His friends. (Verse 12, they love one another) (Verse 14, they do what Jesus commands)

Make clear that Jesus doesn’t call them friends because they love each other and do what He commands. They don’t earn His friendship. They love each other and do what He commands because they are His friends. He died for them while they were enemies, and made them His friends.

Talk about what it will look like to love each other, and what sorts of commands Jesus has given that we will obey.

Have the younger children draw pictures to illustrate these two characteristics of friendship with Jesus.

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  1. Summarize friendship with Jesus as a team. Jesus picked me for his team, there were far better options than weak/small/unathletic me; but He picked me! I can’t make myself any more part of His team by choosing to then play for Him, I am as much a part of the team as anyone else Jesus picks to play on His team. I can’t bring more glory to the team by being better than other players. I can only bring more glory to His team by trusting He knew what he was doing when he Chose to die for me and picked me for his team. I choose to display my loyalties to his team by acting in accordance with His commandments (much like a player shows loyalties for a team by following the directions of a coach or captain). The team is made better each day by each player allowing God’s fruit to shine through their actions and playing abilities.

  2. Why are you treating these “if” statements differently than you do in your other studies?

    • We will actually approach the if’s in the usual way on Day 29. I inserted this quote from R.C. Sproul to address the potential misinterpretation that would lead us to believe that Jesus would quit loving us when we disobey. It is frustrating that Dr. Sproul doesn’t offer a grammatical defense for what he says, but he does state that the “if” is not conditional in this context.

      I’m going to copy here what I wrote in the Facebook group to address a similar question:

      I should have taken more time to explain Sproul’s approach, but didn’t want to add more to the length of the post. I’ll give you his explanation, straight from his commentary:

      “The English translation of this portion of the passage is a bit awkward, and that awkwardness can easily mislead us from Jesus’ intended meaning. I fear that the language here, ‘If you keep My commandments, you *will* abide in My love,’ makes abiding in Christ seem conditional. It seems as if Jesus was telling His disciples, ‘I’ll love you as long as you’re obedience, but the moment you’re disobedient, you can kiss my love goodbye.’ That is not the thrust of what Jesus was saying. He gave a weighty mandate to His disciples to persevere in their faith, to stay close to Him, to be fruitful, and to be obedience. He actually was saying, ‘If you stay in My love, you will be obedient.’ His love is not a result of our obedience; rather, our obedience is the result of our love for Him. That’s why He said, ‘If you love Me, keep My commandments )John 14:15). Here He deepened that by saying, ‘Because I love you and have chosen you out of the world and brought you to Myself, you will be fruitful. You will be obedient.'”

      “…We are not driven to obey Christ in order to get in good with Him; we are driven to obey Christ by a heart that is filled with ratitude for the way He plucked us out of this world and poured His love out on us.”

      I think Dr. Sproul is simply trying to clarify the meaning. LIke he says, someone could misinterpret the wording to meaning that Jesus will only love us as long as we’re obedient.

      I’ll add John Gill’s comments on the verse here as well:

      ” ‘If ye keep my commandments ye shall abide in my love.’
      Not that their continuance in the heart’s love and affection of Christ depended upon their observation of his commands; for as the keeping of them is not the cause or reason of the saints having an interest in the love of Christ, so it is not the cause or reason of their abiding in it; but to such that observe the commandments of Christ he will continue to make further discoveries of his love, and let them see more clearly and largely what a value he has for them, and how much he loves them: or the sense is, that by keeping the commandments of Christ, his disciples and followers show that they love him, and continue in their affection to him: