Commands & Love


I grew up hearing about the unconditional love of God. That, unlike the love of humans, God doesn’t love us if or when or because. He just loves us—period. God loves because it is his nature to do so. This led me to feel secure in God’s love when I was a child. Yet as I began to search the Scriptures, certain passages challenged my beliefs and my behaviors regarding God’s no-strings-attached love. Since God the Father and Jesus the Son are a sovereign God who issues commands—do commands and love mix? This is crucial to understand, because the covenant relationship we have with God through Jesus Christ is not a covenant absent of commandments.

  • Have you ever wondered how God’s love and God’s commands can coexist?


15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 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.

18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 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.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 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. 24 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.

25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 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.27 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. 28 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. 29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31 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.

English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


(Today’s questions focus on verses 18-24. Verses 15-17 were covered previously.)

  1. In this text, Jesus made a couple of promises that seem conditional. What are they? Write them down or underline them in your Bible.
  2. What was the answer to Judas’ question in verse 22? (Refer back to what Jesus had just said in verses 16 & 17.)
  3. How can commandments and love be compatible (vs. 21)?
  4. Are there times when you feel that commandments and love don’t mix? Or that, because of the grace that undergirds the New Covenant, God’s commandments are less important than they used to be? If so, what are the issues or circumstances that typically prompt such thinking?


The relationship between commandments and obedience did not stop Jesus from enjoying the love of his father, and he desires that our thinking of him as one who commands will not hinder our love relationship with him either. The basic difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant is not that one had commands and one doesn’t. What’s new is that God puts his law within us (Jeremiah 31:33) and his Spirit within us (Ezekiel 36:27, John 14:17). What makes love and obedience between us and a God who commands is that he gives us himself, and dwells within, and empowers us to obey as he gives us his commands.

  • Take a few minutes to think about and confess your absolute dependence on Jesus to enable you to obey his will.
  • Take time to thank the Lord that he has not left you to your own resources.