Sermon: John 14:15-31: Holy Spirit, Increase Our Love, That We Might Obey

Old Testament Reading: Zechariah 2

“And I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, a man with a measuring line in his hand! Then I said, ‘Where are you going?’ And he said to me, ‘To measure Jerusalem, to see what is its width and what is its length.’ And behold, the angel who talked with me came forward, and another angel came forward to meet him and said to him, ‘Run, say to that young man, ‘Jerusalem shall be inhabited as villages without walls, because of the multitude of people and livestock in it. And I will be to her a wall of fire all around, declares the Lord, and I will be the glory in her midst.’’ Up! Up! Flee from the land of the north, declares the Lord. For I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heavens, declares the Lord. Up! Escape to Zion, you who dwell with the daughter of Babylon. For thus said the Lord of hosts, after his glory sent me to the nations who plundered you, for he who touches you touches the apple of his eye: ‘Behold, I will shake my hand over them, and they shall become plunder for those who served them. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me. Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the Lord. And many nations shall join themselves to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people. And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. And the Lord will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem.’ Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord, for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.” (Zechariah 2, ESV)

New Testament Reading: John 14:15-31

“‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.’ Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, ‘Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?’ Jesus answered him, ‘If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.’” (John 14:15–31, ESV)


As I think back upon the last five sermons preached at Emmaus two things come to mind.

Concerning the four advent sermons devoted to the topic of the incarnation the thought occurs to me that we need to talk about the Holy Spirit. Two sermons were devoted to the doctrine of God in general, and two to the doctrine of Christ, but what about the Holy Spirit? He is certainly of no less importance than the Father and Son. He is fully God, just as the Father and Son are. And the work that he does in creation and redemption is certainly of vital importance. We need to, at some point, give proper attention to God the Spirit so that we might fully understand his person and work. That is one thing that comes to mind as I reflect back upon those four sermons leading up to Christmas.

And concerning the sermon that Phil preached last week on the topic of sanctification I simply think, we need more of that! In particular we need to give more attention to our progressive sanctification. To be sanctified is to be holy. God is holy, and his people must be holy if they are to worship and serve him. The problem, of course, is that we are not holy in and of ourselves. But God has made us holy. He has justified us, having declared us not guilty on the basis of Christ’s finished work (that is the legal side of it). But he has also sanctified us in a definitive way. Those who are in Christ have been made holy, being clothed in Christ’s righteousness, being set apart for the worship and service of God – this is definitive sanctification. It is a one time event which happens at the beginning of the Christian life. But there is also a sanctification that this progressive. This is the process whereby Christians – who have been set apart, who have been cleansed by the blood of the lamb, who have been declared not guilty by God Almighty on the basis of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ – are progressively made more and more holy, really and personally, by Christ’s word and Spirit dwelling in them. More of this is needed, I think. Our personal holiness matters. Progressive sanctification matters.

And so these two things are on my mind as I reflect back upon the last five sermons preached in 2015, but I also know that we need to continue our study of the Gospel of John. And so I sat down to study, returning to where we left off, and what do I read? In John 14:15 Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” It is the need for real and personal holiness that is being emphasized here. And in verse 16 we hear Jesus say, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth…” It is the Holy Spirit who assists and empowers the believer to live a life of obedience before God.

A Christian Is One Who Obeys The Commandments Of Christ

Let us consider, first of all, that a Christian is one who obeys the commandments of Christ.

Look at the repeated emphasis upon this fact throughout verses 15-31. In verse 15 Jesus says to his disciples, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” In verse 21 Jesus says it another way: “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” Drop your eyes now to verse 23 where Jesus says,“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” In verse 24 Jesus says it in a negative way: “Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.” And in verse 31 we see that Christ himself is an example to us of this very thing when he says, “but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father…”

Remember that Jesus is here preparing his disciples for his departure. He is preparing them to live in the world after his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of the Father. They will no longer see him in the flesh, and so Jesus is preparing them for this new phase. He has made it clear that they are to continue his work in 14:12, but here he emphasizes the need for obedience to the commands of God. The Christian is one who keeps the commands of Christ. The Christian is one who obeys the word of God.

The question might be asked, what exactly are the commands of Christ, or what is the word of Christ that we are here called to obey?

There are some who would suggest that we are only obligated to obey that which is commanded in the New Testament scriptures, as if the thought communicated here were that we are to obey only that which Christ and his Apostles have said – the Old Testament scriptures are done away with, then. That cannot be the idea here. For the very Word which took on flesh and dwelt among us was the very Word which spoke in ages past through Moses and the prophets. Notice also that Jesus explicitly links his words with the Fathers words in verse 24, saying, “Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.” There is no disharmony between the word of Christ and the word of God the Father. No, the Father and the Son speak in perfect unison. With that said, there is a sense in which Christ speaks a new word to us. His commandments are new – not in the sense of altering the old, or replacing the old – but in the fact that they fulfill and advance the old. And so when Christ says that we are to obey his word and his commandments he is calling us to obey all that God has ever said, with special consideration given to the way that Christ’s first coming, and the ratification of the New Covenant, has affected and advanced that which was commanded under the Old Covenant.

The point is this: Christians are to keep God’s word. We are to obey it. Obedience matters. Holiness matters. Your sanctification matters to God. The Christian is to take great care to walk according to God’s precepts – to obey him in thought, in word, and in deed.

It Is The Christian’s Love For God, And For The Christ Whom He Has Sent, That Is To Motivate Obedience

But notice, secondly, what is to motivate the Christian’s obedience. It is the Christian’s love for God, and for the Christ whom he has sent, that is to motivate obedience to the word of Christ. Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments”, and “whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me”, and “if anyone loves me, he will keep my word”, and lastly, “whoever does not love me does not keep my words.”

This is very significant. Our love for Christ will motivate our obedience to Christ, and our obedience to Christ will demonstrate our true love for him. Our love for God, and for the Christ whom he sent, is the motivating factor behind our obedience to Christ’s commands.

Think with me for a moment about the Protestant Reformation. The first and most important doctrine of the Protestant Reformation was the doctrine of justification by faith alone. The question at hand was (and continues to be) how is a person saved? How can a person’s sins be forgiven? How can a person escape from the wrath of God and come to posses eternal life? The Roman church responds to that question by saying that a person is justified – saved from their sins – by faith and obedience. A Christian’s obedience, in other words, contributes to his or her salvation, according to Rome. The Reformers, on the other hand, insisted that the biblical teaching on the subject was that a person is justified by faith alone. We are saved from our sins, not because of what we do or don’t do, but because of what Christ has done for us, in both his active and passive obedience. For Rome, a person is justified before God when he believe and obeys. For the Reformed, a person is justified before God when he believes upon Christ. Period.

Indeed, it is the Reformed position that is the biblical one. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9, ESV) But what do you think the complaint of Rome was against the Reformers? Well, for one, they complained saying, if you remove the requirement of works for justification, you will loose all power to motivate the people to obey the commands of God.

This is true of Rome, and it is true of every works based religion. For them the motivating factor behind obedience to God is fear. Fear of judgment. Fear of eternal death. Remove the threat of hellfire and all motivation for holy living is lost, according to the legalist.

But this is not the gospel. The gospel is that Christ died in the place of sinners. He lived and died as our substitute. He obeyed the law of God perfectly for us, and he suffered and died in our place. We are made right with God by looking to Christ and trusting in him alone. We do not add to his finished work in the least, for he has paid it all. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone, beginning, middle, and end – thanks be to God!

This being said, all agree that good works matter. Obedience matters. Holiness before God matters. The one who knows and loves God obeys God, and the one who obeys God proves that his love is true. But how important it is that we put obedience in the proper place. To put it in the wrong place will have the effect of changing the gospel into no-gospel-at-all.

Hear this brothers and sisters. Our obedience – Christian holiness – contributes, not to our justification, but is a part of our sanctification in Christ. Our obedience to God’s word does not somehow complete our salvation (as if Christ got us started and then left something undone), but it is rather the product of the full and finished salvation that we have received through faith alone in Christ Jesus our Lord. I’ve said it before, but it is worth repeating: good works (obedience, holy living) is not the root of our salvation, but the fruit of it. Obedience is not the ground or foundation of our right standing before God, but is the product of it.  We agree with Rome that holiness matters. But we disagree as to what role it plays in the Christian life, and as to what motivates it.

So what motivates the Christian who’s sins have been washed away by the blood of the lamb to live holy before his God? If it is not fear of judgment – if it is not fear of failing to attain to God’s standards, and thus falling short of salvation – then what motivates the Christian to obey?

The answer is love. If a person loves God truly, and is loved by God, then he will obey. His love for Christ will compel him to walk in holiness before God. It is love, and not fear, that motivates the true Christian to obey.

In the moment that I utter these words I know that some of you are thinking of passages which seem to say otherwise.

Paul, for example, exhorts Christians to “…work out [their] own salvation with fear and trembling…” (Philippians 2:12–13, ESV). But this is not a fear of failing to earn salvation by our good works, but rather a fear and trembling at our own weakness, being mindful of our propensity to sin and to turn from the God who saved us. Notice that Paul immediately comforts us with these words: “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13, ESV)The point is this: fear and tremble concerning your own weakness. Trust in God who saves!

And it is indeed true that the Christian will stand before the judgment seat of Christ.  Paul says so in 2 Corinthians 5:10 where we read, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” (2 Corinthians 5:10, ESV) For the Christian this will be a judgment, not unto heaven or hell, but a judgment involving rewards, or lack thereof. But listen to how Paul introduces this. He says, “yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.” (2 Corinthians 5:8–9, ESV) It was not fear of eternal hellfire motivating Paul. It was not a question of if he had done enough to earn a place in heaven, but a desire to please the Lord whom he loved.

Yes, brothers and sisters, work out your salvation with fear and trembling. And live knowing that you will indeed stand before the judgment seat of Christ. But above all of that, may it be your love for God, and for the Christ whom he has sent, that motivates your obedience to him.

It Is The Holy Spirit Who Empowers The Christian To Live A Life Of Obedience

But you say, what about all of those times where my love for God is lacking? What about those moments in my life where I find myself loving the things of this world more than God and Christ? 

Brothers and sisters, this is indeed a valid concern. We are to obey God, it is true. And we are to obey God being motivated by our love for him. But the truth of the matter is that in our weakness we do not love God as we ought. We find that our love is often misdirected.

The Christian life is a struggle, that is the point! And it is because the Christian life is a struggle that Christ encouraged his disciples promising to send “another Helper”. If obedience, holiness, love for God, sanctification were automatic, why would we need a helper? But Christ promised to send another Helper that we might have victory in these things.

The helper, as you know, is the Holy Spirit. And it is the Holy Spirit who empowers the Christian to live a life of love and obedience before God.

Notice these seven things about the Holy Spirit. We will have to move through these seven points rather quickly for the sake of time.

First of all, the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Holy Trinity. He is a he, and not an it. He is God in the same way that the Father and Son are God. And yet he proceeds form the Father and Son accomplishing a particular work in creation and in redemption. I do not have the time to demonstrate this fact from the scriptures today, but it needed to said.

Secondly, notice that the Holy Spirit is here called the Helper, which is the way that the ESV translates the Greek word transliterated Paraclete. It is difficult to find an English word that adequately communicates the thought behind the Greek word παράκλητος, which is why we find such a diversity within our English Bibles. Some translate the word “comforter”, others “counselor”, while others use “advocate”. Helper is probably best. The idea behind παράκλητος is someone who offers assistance in a situation where help is needed. And that is what the Holy Spirit does. He comes along side and dwells within the believer in order to assist the believer in a variety of ways.

Notice thirdly that the Paraclete would not be sent by Christ until after his resurrection. Take note of the use of the future tense throughout this passage. In John 14:16 Jesus says, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever…” Look also at verse 26: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” The coming of the Holy Spirit was yet future in relation to the interaction between Jesus and his disciples described here in John 14. This truth has already been emphasized in John’s gospel. In 7:39 we read, “Now this [Jesus] said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:39, ESV)

Two errors can be made in regard to this fact. On the one hand some have imagined that the Holy Spirit was not active at all before the resurrection and glorification of Christ. This would be a mistake. The Holy Spirit has always existed, and he has always been active in creation and in redemption, fulfilling a particular role within the Godhead. But on the other hand, some fail to recognize the significance of the glorification of Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.

Jesus the Christ was uniquely and fully anointed by the Holy Spirit. After accomplishing our redemption as the second Adam, Christ was glorified and sits now at the right hand of the Father. He, as a man, possesses a spiritual body (1 Corinthians 15), that is to say, a body (not a spirit) fully anointed with and empowered by the Holy Spirit. This is the kind of body that Adam would have had should he have passed the probationary test in the garden. It is the kind of body that all who are in Christ will have for all eternity, beginning with the resurrection at the end of the age. Jesus Christ, therefore, has become a life giving Spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45). He is fully empowered by the Spirit, and he has the power to give the Spirit to those who are his. It is through the ministry of the Spirit that we are in fact united to Christ – he in the Father, we in him, and he in us. The Holy Spirit was poured out in this way for the first time at Pentecost. It is not that the Holy Spirit did not exist before; and it is not that the Holy Spirit was inactive before. But it was not until Christ accomplished redemption for us as the second Adam that he was able give the Spirit to his people in this way.

We live now in the age of the Spirit. In eternity the Spirit will empower all things to the fullest extent. But the Spirit has broken in upon this age. Under the Old Covenant the activity of the Spirit was reserved, for the most part, to the people of Israel. In this age the Spirit is poured out upon all flesh. Under the Old Covenant a select few were anointed with the Holy Spirit – mainly prophets, priests, and kings. In this age, the Spirit is poured out upon all of God’s people. More on this another time.

Notice fourthly that the Holy Spirit is described as another Helper. Christ was a helper to his disciples while he walked on earth with them. The Holy Spirit would be sent as another Helper. The point to see here is that Holy Spirit continues the work of Christ. It is not as if the Father has his plan, the Son has his, and the Spirit his, each working independently from one another. No, the Father sends the Son who sends the Spirit. There is perfect unity of purpose within the Trinity. Any doctrine which undermines the unity of purpose within the Triune God is to be avoided.

Notice fifth that the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of truth. The Spirit’s work is bent towards to the furtherance of truth. The Spirit works with and promotes the Word of God within the hearts and minds of the people of God. Many today look for movement of the Spirit. The truth of the matter is that the Spirit will be found moving most powerfully where the truth of God word is being proclaimed. If there is movement where there is no truth, rest assured that it is not the movement of the Spirit, for he is the Spirit of truth.

Sixthly, notice that the Spirit is the Holy Spirit. Concerning this we must confess that he himself is holy. But he is  also the one who makes holy. He is the one who sanctifies his people and works obedience in them, Again, if the Spirit is moving with power than we ought to see this effect. The Spirit is holy and he makes holy.

Seventhly, it is through the Spirit that God and Christ are with us today. The promise of Christ is that he would not leave us orphans but would come to us. He would not be perceived by the world, but only by his disciples. When Judas (not Iscariot) asked how this would be, Jesus clarified that he and the Father would come and make their home with them. Given the context, this is a reference to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would come and bring the presence of the Father and Son.


What then can we say by way of application?

The first thing is this: brothers and sisters we should strive for holiness. We should be holy in our thoughts, holy in our speech, and holy in our conduct.

Secondly, we should acknowledge our need for assistance. The Christian life is a struggle. The flesh wars against the Spirit, and the Spirit the flesh.

Thirdly, let us live in continual dependence upon the Spirit. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” (Galatians 5:16–17, ESV)

Comments are closed.

"Him we proclaim,
warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone mature in Christ."
(Colossians 1:28, ESV)

© 2011-2022 Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church