daily biblical sermons


Christ puts us into the same resplendent river of love of his Father that he himself dwells in and asks us to abide in it by obeying him
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Tuesday, the Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 04, 2021
Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48, Psalm 97, 1 John 4:7-10, John 15:9-17


Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted

 

 

 

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. 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. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. This I command you, to love one another” (John 15:9-17).

 

 

Jesus dwells from all eternity in the resplendent love of his Father, and today he tells us that he himself [Jesus] loves us in the same way that he is loved by his Father and asks us to abide or remain in his love. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love” (John 15:9). The Christian life is an abiding in divine love, the love that the Father has for the Son, because the Son shares with us the same love that he himself is constantly receiving from his Father. The Son inserts us into the same resplendent river of divine love that he himself abides in from all eternity, and he asks us to remain in it.

 

 

How do we remain in his love? We do so by obeying his commandments. “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” (John 15:10). Not that obeying his commandments earns us the right to divine love, for being inserted into this river of divine love is a free gift that God gives us through the atoning, redeeming death of Jesus Christ on the cross, when we put our faith in him. Then God justifies us, that is, declares and thereby makes us ungodly sinners righteous and reckons to us his own righteousness so that we shine with the righteousness of God himself.

 

 

This is how we get into the river of divine love. We do not earn it by our good works. It comes to us through the death of Christ on the cross, who vicariously suffers our death sentence for our sins for us, and this is credited to us when we put our faith in Christ. But then to remain in this river of divine love, that is, to abide in his love we must obey Christ. We must live in accordance with his will, which he has made known to us by his moral law.

 

 

This is how Jesus abides in his Father’s love, namely by always doing his Father’s will, and the greatest thing that Jesus did to carry out his Father’s will was accomplishing the mission that he was sent into the world to do, that is, redeeming the world by suffering our death sentence for our sins for us on the cross. By doing this the Son abode in his Father’s love, and the same will happen to us, namely, if we follow the Son’s commandments, we will also remain in this resplendent river of divine love that he has put us into by his redeeming death that has reconciled us ungodly sinners with God.

 

 

Jesus told us these things so that our hearts would be filled with spiritual joy and heavenly peace, and that our joy would be full: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). How do we remain in joy? This is surely the question of every human being, and many are not successful in finding this joy.

 

 

We do not earn or merit this joy by our good life. It is a free gift that God gives us in Christ, when we put our faith in him and do his will. It is an unmerited gift through faith in Christ and in his redeeming work on the cross that reconciles us with God. But in order to remain in God’s love and joy, we must live in accordance with his will by obeying his commandments.

 

 

“‘Joy and peace in believing’ will never accompany an inconsistent life. It is not for nothing that our Lord concludes this passage – ‘These things I have spoken to you, that your joy might be full’” (JC Ryle, 1816-1900).

 

 

People that live a criminal life cannot know this spiritual joy, because their life is not in accord with God’s will. It is an inconsistent life. But if we live in this resplendent river of divine love and continue to remain in it by keeping Christ’s commandments, Christ’s own joy, which he has with his Father, will be in us, and our joy will be full.

 

 

Jesus next tells us, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:12-13 NKJV). We were told to keep Christ’s commandments in order to remain in his love; and now Jesus tells us what his commandment is, namely “That you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12 NKJV).

 

 

And how has Christ loved us? He gave his life for us: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13 NKJV). Christ laid down his life for us in an extraordinary way.

 

 

He came down from heaven, and his life “was laid down of and by himself, freely and voluntarily; and that ‘for’, in the room [place], and instead of his people, as a ransom for them; he being their surety [ransom price] and substitute, and standing in their legal place and stead, he took their sins upon him, bore the curse of the law, sustained his Father’s wrath, and all the punishment due to sin; and so suffered death, the death of the cross; the just, in the room [place] and stead of the unjust” (John Gill, 1697-1771).

 

 

This is the great model that Jesus sets before us of loving one another and laying down our life for our friends. We cannot redeem anyone by laying down our life. Only Jesus the God-man could do that with his great sacrifice on the cross that atoned for our sins by suffering for us our death sentence for them and thereby paying the debt of suffering and death that we have with God in just punishment for our sins. He alone has done that.

 

 

But how can we his followers lay down our life in a meaningful way for other people? We can do so by preaching the gospel to them in an intelligible and meaningful way that gives them the possibility of knowing about Christ’s redemptive death on the cross so that they might have the opportunity to accept it with faith and to trust in it for their eternal salvation. Preaching Christ is the work of a priest or a minister of the gospel. Preaching the gospel is laying down our life for our friends.

 

 

Not that the people we preach to are already our friends. Many of them may be our enemies and want to have nothing to do with our preaching, but those who listen to it or read it and accept it with faith will be transformed and will then look upon us as their friends and benefactors who gave our life for them.

 

 

Jesus then tells us that he doesn’t call us slaves or servants, but friends, because he has made known to us the inner plan of God the Father for the salvation of the world. “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). The people in the Old Testament were more servants than friends, for they did not know God’s plan of salvation for the world. God did not fully reveal it to them in a clear way. But now Jesus explains to his disciples God’s full plan of salvation through the laying down his life for the world.

 

 

Finally, Jesus says today, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide” (John 15:16). What kind of fruit does God want us to bear? He wants us to do good works in accord with his will. Each person will have a different job and a different way of doing this. But surely the richest way of bearing fruit for God is to bring about the conversion of many people to Christ for their eternal salvation by preaching the gospel to them.

 

 

Preaching the gospel is absolutely essential in God’s plan of salvation for the world. Preaching the gospel enables people to have faith in Christ’s atoning death for our sins and glorious resurrection for our justification, which is what saves us from our sins and gives us eternal life.

 

 

We are justified by faith, not by our works; but to have faith we have to have heard of Jesus and accept his sacrifice, which redeems the world, by putting our trusting faith in it for our salvation. To do this we have to have heard of Jesus, of what he has done to save the world, and of what we have to do to benefit from this salvation, namely we have to believe in him and then live according to his will, as he has revealed it in his moral law. This, then, is the greatest way of bearing fruit for God; but God chooses us to do this. We don’t choose him.

 

 

If we are justified through our faith in Christ’s redeeming, atoning death on the cross and then bear good fruit for the Lord, we will have Christ’s own joy within us and our joy will be full. We will be doing his will, keeping his commandments, and thereby abiding in his love and growing in it.

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