God’s love and our response

Posted on 15 Jul 2018, Pastor: Rev Hans Vaatstra

Manuscript of this sermon is available for reading services.

Reading: John 15:1-17
Text: 1 Corinthians 16:21-24

God’s love and our response

John 15:1-17 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Jesus Is the Vine—Followers Are Branches

15 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He [a]prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already [b]clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit [c]of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so [d]prove to be My disciples. 9 Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10 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. 11 These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.

Disciples’ Relation to Each Other
12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. 17 This I command you, that you love one another.

1 Corinthians 16:21-24 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
21 The greeting is in my own hand—[a]Paul. 22 If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be [b]accursed. [c]Maranatha. 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. 24 My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.

God’s Love and Ours

Text: 1 Corinthians 16:21-24   Reading: 1 Corinthians 13

What does it mean to love the Lord? Jesus summarised the commandments by saying love the Lord your God with all your heart mind and strength. How do we do that? What if we are struggling, like Job who in the midst of his suffering questioned God? Or what if we have doubts like Thomas or have sinned and denied the Lord like Peter did? And what are the consequences of refusing to love the Lord. These are some of the questions we’ll seek to answer from these closing verses in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. So the theme of this sermon is “God’s grace requires a response and I’ve structured it into two main parts

  1. First the way of God’s grace towards us. With his closing words Paul finishes his letter with the familiar blessing, “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.” This benediction comes after everything Paul wrote in his letter including words of disappointment and rebuke over the divisions in the church. For example he wrote, “I have heard that there are quarrels among you” in 1:11, and “Your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men” in 2: 5, and “You are still carnal since there is jealousy and strife among you”

In chapter 4:7 Paul even comes across as being a little sarcastic. “For who regards you as superior?” Then there is the account of the immoral brother. Paul warned the Corinthians to remove that wicked brother from among themselves. With respect to brethren in the chuirch taking each other to law over any little grievance, Paul’s disappointment is palpable. “ A brother goes to law with brother? That then is already a defeat for you. Why not rather be wronged? On the contrary you yourselves wrong and defraud your brethren.”

Then in chapter 9 we get the impression that others in the church resented providing Paul with a living. That comes up in verse 10 where it says, “If others share the right over you do we not more?  Nevertheless we did not use this right.”  Then of course there was the incident in chapter 11 with the shameful abuse of the Lord’s Supper and finally in chapter 15 we find that some in the church were even denying the resurrection. So there were definitely some serious issues which really stretched the Apostle Paul’s pastoral care.

However putting aside any personal feelings Paul understood that the Corinthians were called into that church and made holy through the sacrifice of Christ. In verse 4-8 of 1 Corinthians 1 Paul wrote this, “I thank my God concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ, that in everything you were enriched in Him in all speech and knowledge. Even the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you so that you are not lacking any gift” In verse 18 he acknowledges that the word of the cross has the power to save the worst of sinners and in chapter 6:11 he acknowledges that the Corinthians were “washed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”

In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul wrote his famous chapter on love to the Corinthians. That chapter can be seen as a description of Christ’s perfect love for the church. Its summarised succinctly in another one of Paul’s letters to the Ephesian church in Ephesians 5:25, “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.”

And so,…..here in our text Paul concludes his letter with a reaffirmation of  God’s grace and favour towards the church with the words, “the grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.”

These are encouraging words for us today as well.  If we were on Paul’s list of churches what would he be writing to us I wonder? Or what would the Lord Jesus write to us? He is depicted in Revelation 1 as having eyes like flaming fire, and out of his mouth comes a two edged sword. What word would the all-knowing all seeing judge of all the churches have to say to us? Have any lost their first love, is there any luke-warmness anywhere? Perhaps the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. We know what we should do but fail to do it. Or is there any idolatry living in our hearts? Bad habits or sins we don’t want to part with?

And yet for all sinners who trust in the Lord there is always that reassuring word of grace and peace at the end of the letter. “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.”

Paul was aware of that which is also why he concludes his letter with the words “My love be with all of you in Jesus Christ.” I’m sure many of those in the Corinthian church loved the apostle Paul! But there were also some who gave him a hard time. Well, Paul who described himself as the worst of sinners knew what he had been saved from. How could he not love the Lord who saved him and his church?! He even took the trouble to write this final benediction in his own hand.

  1. That brings me to the second point the fitting response to God’s love

In verse 22 it says “If anyone does not love the Lord let him be accursed.” Here Paul uses a different word for love than the one commonly used in the New Testament which is agape and which can be translated as charity or sacrificial love. Instead he uses the word phileo from which we get the word Philadelphia which means brotherly love. The only other place he uses it is in Titus 2:4 where young Christian women are called to learn to love their husbands.

So here a little distinction is made between God’s love and ours God’s love is a giving sacrificial love with its highest expression seen in Jesus sacrifice on the cross where God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting love.

The word phileo is a brotherly affectionate and even romantic kind of love such as the love of a woman fore her husband fitting in a way to describe our love for the Lord because the church is also called the Bride of Christ in Ephesians 5 and Revelation 19.  And so Jesus is altogether a friend and a brother and a beloved.

In fact the gospels encourage us to see him as his friend. In Matthew 11:19 he is called of being a friend of tax collectors and sinners” And so he was! He had dinner with the tax collector Zacchaeus and was kind to the woman accused of committing adultery in John 8. She was about to be stoned and Jesus prevented and said, as true friend would, neither do I condemn you go and sin no more.” Jesus even called Judas friend in Matthew 26:50 even though Judas betrayed Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Perhaps even at that last hour the Lord was challenging Judas ingratitude as if to say, how could he Judas who was one of the twelve disciples, who was like a close friend and ate regularly with Jesus, who travelled everywhere with Jesus; how could he have turned against Jesus?

In Luke 12: 4 Jesus, after having faced the hostility of the Pharisees who questioned Jesus in an effort to trap him and who were plotting to somehow get rid of him, addresses the crowd of people willing to listen to his teaching as “friends”. One last passage in John 15:13 Jesus says “greater love has no man than this that one lay down his life for his friends and further on “I have called you friends”


Well there is no truer friend than Jesus who lay down his own life for our sakes. Every year on ANZAC day we commemorate the lives of those soldiers who went to war in WW1 and WW2. They fought to preserve the peace and freedom we enjoy today. By commemorating the day we show our gratitude to those who bravely fought against a common enemy, many to the point of death, so that we wouldn’t end up under the heel of godless and ruthless oppressors.

Well Jesus has rescued us from an even worse tyrant than Hitler or General Tojo. He has rescued us from the condemnation our own sin deserves. He has rescued us from Satan’s dark domain and delivered us into his kingdom of light.

He of all people is a true friend. A truer friend cannot be found. It’s not surprising then that where ever he went he was like a magnet drawing crowds of people who, as Luke 12:1 reports, were stepping over each other just to be near to Jesus. I kinder more faithful man cannot be found.

So it’s time I put the question. Is he your friend, are you looking forward to seeing Jesus when he returns or if death comes first will you look forward to being with Jesus the friend of believing repentant sinners?
It’s also true that Jesus is the Son of God the second person of the God head and that he will return to judge the world. . And perhaps we feel a bit apprehensive about that!  Perhaps we have denied Jesus the way Peter did when the cock crowd three times as Jesus was being tried by the Sanhedrin on false charges. Maybe you’ve failed to defend Jesus when the Christian faith has been mocked or the name of Christ has been ridiculed and blasphemed. Perhaps you have doubts about certain aspects of faith the way Thomas did. Or are confused about the deity of Christ as Philip was when he asked Jesus “Lord show us the Father and it is enough?” Jesus reply was “He who has seen me has seen the Father”. The point of this is that there are times when because of our doubts, our denials, our lack of understanding we can be apprehensive and have a lack of assurance. At those times we are not always a good friend to Jesus. But Jesus patience and his gracious answers to his disciples should reassure us. So should a quote from the prophet Isaiah attributed to Jesus in Matthew 12:20. There it says a battered reed he will not break off and a smouldering wick he will not put out.  “ Hebrews 2:11 takes it further we are not just Jesus friends but family. It says “he is not ashamed to call them brothers.”

Surely there is no better friend than that.

So we can see why Paul wrote at the end of his letter to the Corinthians,  “If anyone does not love the Lord let him be accursed”

Who might that refer to? Well think again of Judas Iscariot. Jesus was his friend companion a member of his closest team of disciples he saw God in the flesh witnessed his teaching miracles and compassion and then turned against him for personal gain. If ever there was an end which ca be described as accursed Judas’ end fits the description. Filled with remorse over what he had done to his master and friend he went to the chief priest and leaders of the Jews and threw the money he was given to betray Jesus at them. So far so good. But rather than return to Jesus as peter did after he denied Christ Judas went off and committed a final act of rebellion against God. He hung himself presumably from a tree in a paddock and according to Acts 1:18 after it hung there a while Judas body fell to the ground and burst open.

Well it says in Hebrews 10:29, “anyone who tramples the son of God underfoot is liable to severe punishment. And the familiar words in John 3:17 also make the matter clear.  Whoever believes in Jesus is not judged but who ever does not believe has been judged already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten son of God.” There is after all only one name given to men by which we can be saved and that is the name of Jesus.

So it comes down to whether or not you believe in Jesus, that he is the Christ the son of God; whether you know him as he is revealed in the gospels as a compassionate savior and whether you trust him for the forgiveness of your sins and then also live for him as his disciple.

How can we demonstrate this belief according to our text? Well the last word of verse 22 in our text is Maranatha which means ‘our Lord come!’

It challenges us with the question do you want to see Jesus? Do you long for his appearing have you ever prayed as its put in Revelation 22: 20 “Come Lord Jesus come?  Elsewhere in 2 Timothy 4:8 Paul wrote that if a person loves Jesus he will also love his appearing.”

And then we also learn from other passages in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that love for Jesus Christ can be seen in chapter 1:45  as thankfulness. Are you thankful for the grace extended to you through the Lord Jesus Christ?  In chapter 1:9 it says God is faithful who has called you into fellowship with his son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Are you in fellowship with Him? 1 John 1:6 say “If we say we have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness we lie and do not practice the truth.” Having fellowship with Jesus means walking in his light rather than Satan’s darkness. Notice again at the end of the chapter the love Paul has for the church and verse 20 Greet one another with a holy kiss. Remaining in fellowship with Christ includes love for the church and remaining in fellowship with each other.

And then finally it says in 1 Corinthians 1:18 that “the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to those being saved it is the power of God. What does the word of the cross mean to you? Is it God’s power for you or is it foolishness? At the cross was Christ revealing the power of God over sin and Satan’s deception or not?

In conclusion then we see God great love to his people also in this letter to Corinthians. Like every other church does they had their struggles. While we are on earth we are yet the church militant! Even so God looks upon us with favour and grace and has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

So then regarding Jesus as your friend, thankfulness for his mercies, remaining in fellowship with Him and his church and praying ‘come Lord Jesus come’ is a fitting response to God’s great love for us in Jesus Christ. Amen