Posted November 18, 2019
We have seen the beautiful affirmation of Christ’s love for us. We have heard Christ’s exhortation to abide or continue in his love. We now come to the most controversial aspect of the text, for Jesus connects our abiding in Christ’s love to the keeping of his commandments in verse 10—“If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love” (v. 10). On the face of it, Jesus seems to be teaching conditional salvation or (at the very least) conditional experience of salvation. Does Christ’s use of the word “if” indicate a condition that we must fulfill in order to abide in his love?
We must understand what a condition is. A condition is something we must do upon which the obtaining of something else depends. If Jesus meant that our abiding in his love is conditioned on our obedience, he would have said, “Your abiding in my love depends on your obedience to my commandments.” Furthermore, although the grammar of the sentence is in the form of a condition—“if”—the meaning of the sentence is not a condition. Sometimes, “if” is not conditional, but evidentiary or it serves to identify those to whom the promise pertains. In other words, “if” does not express a condition, but proves the evidence of something. How are those to be identified who abide in Christ’s love: they keep his commandments! They—and only they—abide in Christ’s love. The deliberately disobedient do not abide in Christ’s love. There are evidentiary “if sentences” in the Bible: “Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you” (v. 14). The thrust of these words is this: “You prove yourselves to be my friends by doing what I say” or “Your obedience is the proof that you are my friends, but not the condition for being, becoming, or remaining such.”