Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST: ITS COMMANDMENT”

John 13.34-35; 15.12, 17

 

It was back in February of this year that I began a series of Sunday evening messages on the topic of the church of Jesus Christ, a subject of great importance in the New Testament and in the lives of Christians living in this present era, but also a subject that is clouded in great confusion. I trust some of that confusion has been cleared away in this series, with a bit more clarity coming from this morning’s message.

If I may, I would like to quickly rehearse the sermon titles to you to help you appreciate the development and the flow of the sermon series and to see the significance of this morning’s message being delivered on a Sunday morning and especially on this very special Sunday morning, which I take to be a testimony to God’s providence. The series began with a sermon titled “The Church Of Jesus Christ: Its Mystery.”[1] That was on February 1st. It was followed by a messaged titled “The Church Of Jesus Christ: Its Identity,” “The Church Of Jesus Christ: Its Origin,” “The Church Of Jesus Christ: Its Meaning,” “The Church Of Jesus Christ: Its Membership,” a three-part message titled “The Church Of Jesus Christ: Its Growth,” “The Church Of Jesus Christ: Its Training,” “The Church Of Jesus Christ: Its Discipline,” “The Church Of Jesus Christ: Its Body Metaphor,” “The Church Of Jesus Christ: Its Temple Metaphor,” “The Church Of Jesus Christ: Its Priesthood Metaphor,” “The Church Of Jesus Christ: Its Flock Metaphor,” Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4, “The Church Of Jesus Christ: Guardian Of The Ordinance Of Baptism,” “The Church Of Jesus Christ: Our Great Commission, Jesus Christ Is Authorized,” “The Church Of Jesus Christ: Our Great Commission, We Are Authorized,” “The Church Of Jesus Christ: Our Great Commission, Go Ye Therefore,” “The Church Of Jesus Christ: Our Great Commission, Teach All Nations,” “The Church Of Jesus Christ: Our Great Commission, Baptizing Them,” “The Church Of Jesus Christ: Our Great Commission, The Name,” “The Church Of Jesus Christ: Our Great Commission, Teaching Them,” “The Church Of Jesus Christ: Our Great Commission, I Am With You Alway,” “The Church Of Jesus Christ: Its Empowering,” and this morning’s message that is titled “The Church Of Jesus Christ: Its Commandment.”

I hope you can tell from the sermon titles that my plan has been to work through the important aspects of the church of Jesus Christ to show God’s truth about Christ’s church for believers in Jesus Christ during this Christian era from each of the important perspectives presented by the Savior, the Apostle Paul, the Apostle Peter, and the Apostle John. I think this necessary to fend off the increasing opposition to what is called “organized religion” and those who are convinced that the church of Jesus Christ is a modern religious fabrication that plays no significant role in God’s plan or in the Christian’s life. The Bible shows otherwise.

To quickly rehearse what is very clearly established in the New Testament record, the Lord Jesus Christ founded His church in His presence.[2] He then provided for His church instructions for dealing with sin within the church, and He did so when He was present with them.[3] He then commissioned His church in His presence, but actually empowered His church in His absence, after His ascension, on the Day of Pentecost.[4] What we will take on today is the Lord Jesus Christ’s command to His church, a command that He issued in His presence and before both His crucifixion and His resurrection.

The setting is the Upper Room located somewhere in Jerusalem, where the Savior invited only His twelve apostles to join Him for the Passover, strangely not inviting His mother Mary (who we know was in the city)[5], or His half siblings (who were very likely in the city)[6], or His beloved friends who lived nearby, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.[7] Why do you suppose they were not invited? I contend that those not present were not invited for important reasons: The apostle’s feet were washed in the Upper Room, the Lord’s Supper was instituted in the Upper Room, the warning that He would be betrayed was issued in the Upper Room, Judas Iscariot left the Upper Room to finalize his plans to betray the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Lord Jesus Christ issued His most important command to the remaining eleven apostles who comprised His embryonic church in the Upper Room.

Three main considerations related to our Lord Jesus Christ’s command to His church:

 

First, THE COMMAND ITSELF

 

There is no question about the setting. It is Thursday evening, in the Upper Room, after the Passover meal was eaten, after the departure of Judas Iscariot to finalize his wicked scheme, and after the Savior very tenderly reminded the remaining eleven that He will soon be gone from them. He said to those troubled men who loved Him and had given their all to follow Him,

 

“Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you.”

 

Immediately following this statement our Lord Jesus Christ issued to the church of Jesus Christ the profoundly important command of John 13.34-35:

 

34    A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

35    By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

 

The first thing we take note of is that the Savior identifies His command as a “new commandment.” The question, of course, is how this could possibly be a new commandment in light of what He has already said during His earthly ministry. Listen to what John MacArthur writes about this matter:

 

The commandment to love was not new. Deuteronomy 6:5 commanded love for God and Lev. 19:18 commanded loving one’s neighbor as oneself (cf. Matt. 22:34-40; Rom. 13:8-10; Gal. 5:14; James 2:8). However, Jesus’ command regarding love presented a distinctly new standard for two reasons: 1) It was sacrificial love modeled after His love (“as I loved you”; cf. 15:13), and 2) it is produced through the New Covenant by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit (cf. Jer. 31:29-34; Ezek. 36:24-26; Gal. 5:22).[8]

 

Now I read from D. A Carson:

 

The new command is not ‘new’ because nothing like it had ever been said before. The Mosaic covenant had mandated two love commandments: ‘Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength’ (Dt. 6:5); ‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the LORD’ (Lv. 19:18). Jesus taught that all the law and the prophets were summed up in these two commands (Mk. 12:28-33; cf. Rom. 13:8-10; Gal. 5:14). John himself can elsewhere recognize that in certain respects this is ‘no new command’ at all (1 Jn. 2:7-8). Why, then, should he here report that it is ‘new’?

 

Its newness is bound up not only with the new standard (‘As I have loved you’) but with the new order it both mandates and exemplifies. It is possible that there is an indirect allusion to the new covenant that was inaugurated at the last supper (1 Cor. 11:25; cf. Lk. 22:20; Lindars, p. 463), the new covenant that promised the transformation of heart and mind (Je. 31:29-34; Ezk. 36:24-26; cf. Notes on 3:5).[9]

 

While not disagreeing with John MacArthur or D. A. Carson’s comments, I would point out that they and others have missed something even more significant on the newness of this command to love owing to their misapprehension of the nature of the church of Jesus Christ. It is that this command that has previously been directed to individuals has never before this occasion been directed to the church, making it in that respect new. It is a new command to the church.

What about this new command to the church?

 

“That ye love one another”

 

Those who comprise the church of Jesus Christ are hereby commanded to love each other.

 

“as I have loved you, that ye also love one another”

 

Those who comprise the church of Jesus Christ are commanded to love each one in the congregation as Christ has loved them. So, the bar is set very high.

 

“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

 

The distinguishing characteristic of Christ’s disciples, those who comprise the congregation that is the church of Jesus Christ, is their mutual love for each member of the congregation.

Minutes later, after they had left the Upper Room and were making their way to the Garden of Gethsemane, the Lord Jesus Christ repeated this new commandment to His church, in John 15.12-17:

 

12    This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.

13    Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

14    Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.

15    Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

16    Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

17    These things I command you, that ye love one another.

 

There are so many things that can be said about the Savior’s command to those in the congregation; that we love each other as He has loved us, that it is a sacrificial love displayed by His friends to others in the congregation, who have been chosen by Him, who are ordained to bring forth lasting fruit, and whose prayers in His name to the Father will be answered. Suffice it to say for now that the new command is here repeated within minutes of our Lord’s first mention of it to His congregation back in the Upper Room.

 

Next, THE COMMAND TO LOVE IN ITS PERSPECTIVE

 

We recognize that God has commanded His people to love Him and also to love their neighbors. It is often overlooked, however, that above and beyond God’s desire for His people to love, there is Christ’s command to the congregation of His church to love specifically each one in the congregation in a remarkable and testimony-enhancing fashion. Therefore, it should surprise no one with a right understanding of the church of Jesus Christ that the Apostle Paul sets forth in a letter to a church congregation the practical aspects of this love that should be on display in each and every church body.

Follow along as I survey the need of love in a congregation, the nature of love in a congregation, and the nobility of love in a congregation (translated in this chapter by the word charity) as Christ commanded and the apostle gives perspective to the Corinthian congregation in First Corinthians 12.31-13.13:

First, we see the need for love in the congregation in First Corinthians 12.31-13.3:

 

31    But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.

1      Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

2     And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

3     And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

 

Love’s importance is alluded to in First Corinthians 12.31, where Paul discloses that although spiritual gifts are of varying quality and stand in need of cultivation and honing, there is that which the Corinthians had not seen the value of that was, in fact, vastly more important for a congregation than even the best spiritual gifts. That which is far more important in and to a congregation than even the best spiritual gifts can be seen by the impact of its absence, verses 1-3. Notice what happens when love, seen here as the word charity, is missing in a church: Take note of what you are without love, verse 1:

 

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.”

 

Without love, no matter your skills or your gifts, you produce only noise when you talk.  Verse 2:

 

“And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.”

 

Are your prophetic? Do you understand all mysteries and grasp all knowledge? Do you also possess all faith? Still, the reality remains, that without love you are worthless to the cause of Christ in the congregation. Verse 3:

 

“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”

 

Here we see that despite how much you give, and regardless of your level of personal sacrifice (even unto death), without love you provide no actual benefit.

The nature of the love of those in the congregation is disclosed in 13.4-7:

 

4     Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

5     Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

6     Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

7     Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

 

The response of love to other people is seen in verse 4:

 

“Charity suffereth long, and is kind”

 

Love is slow to become angry toward church members, is kind toward church members. The refusal of love with respect to others is found in verses 4-6:

 

4      . . . charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

5     Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

6     Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth. . . .

 

Real love refuses to be envious of what other church members have, refuses to bolster one’s position over another in the church, refuses to puff oneself up with pride, refuses to behave in an unseemly fashion, refuses to seek one’s own, refuses to be easily provoked by a church member’s quirk’s and idiosyncrasies, refuses to think evil without evidence, and refuses to rejoice in iniquity (never being happy when a church member is sinned against or is overtaken by hardship). Verse 7 shows the reaction of love to circumstances in the congregation:

 

“Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”

 

A church member with love does not dash the hopes of other members or promote pessimism and gloom in the body. A church member with love does not leave.

We now come to the nobility of the love of those in the congregation, verses 8-13: Verses 8-12 reveal love’s future endurance:

 

8      Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

9     For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

10   But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

11   When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

12   For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

 

Again, we see that love will not in the future fail us by leaving us or by ceasing to love us. Verse 13 reveals our present experience with love:

 

“And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”

 

Thus is described by Paul to those church members the love you are commanded by Christ to exhibit toward others in the congregation. Do you love me? I love you.

 

Finally, THE POWER TO LOVE AND ITS SOURCE

 

We know God wants His people to love Him and to love other people. We recognize that God’s love prompted Him to send His own Son, John 3.16. Our particular interest at this time is concerning the Savior’s command for those in the congregation to love each other so as to distinguish ourselves from those who are not in the congregation. What is the source of this love for each other that demonstrates such transformative and testimonial power to impress those who are not in the body? Again, it is no surprise that Paul would inform a church congregation where such love comes from. Second Corinthians 5.14-15:

 

14    For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:

15    And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.

 

Notice but two things in this rich passage about the love Paul writes about to the Corinthian congregation:

First, notice that the apostle begins this text with the words “For the love of Christ.” Note, if you will, that Paul is not by this referring to the Christian’s love for Christ though Christians should respond to Christ’s love for them by loving Him in return, First John 4.19. Note, also, that Paul is also not by this referring to Christ’s love for the Christian though God’s Word elsewhere most definitely declares that the Savior loves His own, John 15.13. The reality presented here by Paul is that the exalted and enthroned Lord of glory, Jesus Christ, channels His love through those in the congregation to others, both others also in the congregation and those outside the congregation. Thus, when you are a child of God engaged and involved in service to God and the cause of Christ through your church congregation, the Lord Jesus Christ loves others through you. Conversely, that person who is not a believer in Christ, and that person who will not commit his life and personal ministry to serve through a church congregation, and also that church member who plays silly games instead of seriously and prayerfully serving to advance the cause of Christ through his church, to varying degrees each one I have mentioned impedes Christ’s use of him, of his life and personality, to serve as an instrument to communicate the love of Christ to others.

And is this not beautifully reflected by what is stated in verse 15? Look at the end of verse 15:

 

“. . . that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.”

 

Don’t you see? Don’t you recognize? “They which live,” which is a description of those who know Christ, do not henceforth live unto themselves. Your weekends are not your weekends. Your spouse is not for you. Your kids are not for you. Your career is not for you. You are not for you. Christian, it is not at all or in any way about you. The reality is that the Lord Jesus Christ came along one day and got hold of a dead man and gave him life so that He could make use of that guy by expressing His own love for others through that guy’s new life of Christian discipleship and service in and through his church. That is what Christianity is all about, what marriage is supposed to be all about, what parenting is supposed to be all about, what church membership is supposed to be all about, and what this now forty-year-old congregation of born-again, scripturally baptized Christians who comprise this church, is supposed to be all about.

 

I am not in any way suggesting that only Christians can love, or even that only church members can love. Though not mentioned at all in this message, I could spend hours pointing out how distorted and perverse most people’s understanding of this thing we call love is seen to be when compared with the truth of God’s Word.

Most people think that love is something one falls into or out of, which is most certainly wrong. Love is an expression that meets the most profound needs of the one who is loved, and though it is often accompanied by profound emotion and sentiment, it is not properly governed by either emotion or sentiment. Do you think God actually likes the evil, wicked, mean, and nasty people that He nevertheless loves? Think again.

What I am stating is that the ultimate source of real love is God, God’s Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Therefore, when the Lord Jesus Christ commanded that small band of anxious men to love one another, it was with love that He would supply to them, it was with love that He would channel through them to impact the lives of others. Therefore, if you want to love as one of God’s people and one of Christ’s own, and if you want to be loved by God’s people and by those who are Christ’s own, the best context for that to happen is a congregation of which Jesus Christ is the Head and the chief cornerstone, a flock of which Christ is the Good Shepherd, the Great Shepherd, and the Chief Shepherd.

Are you lost in your sins and in need of the salvation that only Jesus Christ provides? Not much can be said about your capacity to love truly others, you not really being a channel of blessing as a Christ-denier and all. Conversely, the greatest love that can possibly be shown to you is that which seeks to introduce you to Jesus Christ, Whom to know is life eternal and the forgiveness of all your sins. Are you a Christian? Then the greatest love that can possibly be shown to you is that which seeks your incorporation and your involvement in this place, and places like this one, where Jesus Christ channels His great love through people to people. Do we have a commission? Yes, our commission as a congregation is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Back of that commission and making it both possible and effective is our command from Jesus Christ to love one another. That is the compulsion, the motive, the thrust of all that is found to be good in the Christian’s life, and in the church’s effectiveness; the love of Christ that constrains us.

So here we are, marking forty years of gospel ministry at Calvary Road Baptist Church. We have a commission, the Great Commission. We also have a command, to love one another. Therefore, let me read once more our Lord and Master’s command to the church, to this church, found in John 13.34-35:

 

34    A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

35    By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

 

By God’s grace and in obedience to our Savior’s command, it is our love for one another that should be the distinguishing feature of our church until He comes to take us away.

__________

 

[1] http://www.calvaryroadbaptist.church/sermon.php?sermonDate=20150201b

[2] Matthew 10.1-4; 1 Corinthians 12.28

[3] Matthew 18.15-20

[4] Matthew 28.16-20; Acts 2

[5] John 19.25-27

[6] Matthew 13.55-56

[7] John 12.1-3

[8] See footnote for John 13.34 from John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 1612.

[9] D. A. Carson, The Gospel According To John (PNTC), (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991), page 484.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org