101 - Abiding in Christ and He in Us [B]
Abiding in Christ and He in Us
Ephesians 3:16–17; John 15:1–10
Ephesians Lesson #101
April 18, 2021
Dr. Robert L. Dean, Jr.
“Father, we are so thankful that we have Your Word; that God the Holy Spirit Who revealed these things through the apostles and prophets is the One Who indwells us. And He is the One who enables us through illumination to understand Your Word, to understand how it should apply in our own lives and in our own thinking.
“And that it is our responsibility to be responsive to Him as He instructs us, as He rebukes us, and He corrects us, that we may live lives that You have designed, that You have a purpose for, that You might be glorified, that we might recognize that we have been called for a purpose and that purpose is to serve You, to represent You, and to glorify You.
“Father, as we study these things help us to understand how the various passages of Scripture fit together to give us greater insight and understanding of this spiritual life that You have given us, and we pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”
This is an important week; we could call it “freedom week” because of the many things that have happened over the course of history in this particular week.
Today is the 18th of April, and approximately 500 years ago there was a hearing for Martin Luther who is considered to be the progenitor, the one who initiated and got the Reformation going. There was a formal hearing for him before the Emperor Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire in the city of Worms, Germany.
This was where all of the princes of Germany gathered together, meeting to solve various problems, maybe deal with the issues of war because they were facing an Islamic threat to the southeast of the Empire.
One of the threats they were dealing with at this meeting was Martin Luther. He gave a speech—you’ll find various versions of it because nobody wrote it down until some years later; but in that speech he made a couple of vital points that really transformed history. First of all, he said, “According to my conscience before God, I must take this stand. Here I stand on the basis of God’s Word.”
Basing this on his conscience—while we have a slightly different view because of the impact of the changes of worldview since then—the thinking of a man in the late Middle Ages was that conscience was where God’s standards were stored in the soul, and we are responsible to God for the decisions that we make based on His Word.
That’s exactly what Luther stood for, and it is that concept of conscience that is the foundation for what came to be the Protestant Reformation. Eventually it shaped the thinking of the Puritan generation of the 1600s, people who thought through many of the principles of freedom because they understood that ultimately if we do not have freedom to live our life before God as we see fit, then we do not have freedom.
This shaped the thinking of Samuel Rutherford in his great work Lex Rex, meaning the law is king, not the king is law. This went on to shape a lot of the thinking of John Locke and many others, through the influence of the Word of God as well, influenced the thinking of the leaders in the 13 British colonies in America.
When George III set himself up to be above the law, they appealed to him and appealed to him for over 10 years. Finally, he was recalcitrant and would not even hear anybody who came to him, and this eventually led to the events at Lexington and Concord, which are also this week.
We have the anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord on the 19th and 20th, which involved mature believers. This was following the ride of Paul Revere and William Dawes and others. When they rode out to Lexington and Concord it was to warn them that the British were coming.
The British were coming because they wanted to find and arrest John Hancock and Samuel Adams who were staying at the Lexington church parsonage with Jonas Clark, the pastor of that church. The previous pastor of the church was actually John Hancock’s father, so he was a preacher’s kid.
When that word went out, he sent word out to the men of his church, who made up the lion’s share of the Minutemen that met the British at Lexington Green. That is where the shot heard around the world was fired. They were standing for their conscience. Their thinking about that, and personal freedom goes right back to what Martin Luther said at the Diet of Worms in 1521.
On April 21, we in Texas remember the Battle of San Jacinto, where Texans fought one of the most significant battles in all of history, in 18 minutes defeated the Mexican army of Santa Ana, and won freedom and liberty for Texas.
This is an important week, and all the thinking there is influenced by this shift back to the Bible that was started by the courage and bravery of Martin Luther in Germany at the Diet of Worms and the events that preceded that.
I’ll bring out a couple of other points on Tuesday and Thursday: thinking about what liberty is, and that if liberty is lost, it is rarely regained. It is important for us to be in prayer about those things.
Let’s focus on Ephesians 3. I’ve titled this lesson “Abiding in Christ and He in Us.” We started through this prayer two or three lessons back and it’s important to understand its structure. It is also important to understand that some of the language that the Apostle Paul uses here is different from the language that John uses in the Gospel of John.
John 15 helps us to understand these aspects of the spiritual life that should be integral to our own walk with the Lord. Putting this together with what John says in John 15 and 1 John 1, connecting the dots with Galatians 5:16 and following.
All of these are so important in understanding what this phrase in Ephesians 3 means, that Christ will make His home in us that He might dwell in your hearts, as it is translated. It has the idea of making His home in our lives.
By way of review, Paul’s prayer to the Father. We learned that it is important for us to address our prayers to the Father, not to the Son or to the Holy Spirit, that prayers throughout Scripture are addressed to the Father.
Secondly, he prays that the Father would use the Holy Spirit to strengthen them—that is the Ephesian believers, and by application all believers down through the ages, down through the centuries—that God the Holy Spirit would strengthen them in their spiritual life.
This should be a vital element in our own prayers. If Paul felt it necessary to pray that they would be strengthened by the Holy Spirit in their spiritual life, we should pray for that too.
The result is in Ephesians 3:17a, that Christ would make His home in them. That result has a further purpose, which we will begin this morning, so we get that context. It is so that they can begin to comprehend the immensity of Christ’s love for them.
This is the ultimate goal: that we come to understand the love of God for us, the love that Christ has for us, and how that in turn should transform our understanding. Remember in John 13:34–35 Christ told His disciples,
“A new commandment I give you, that you love one another; as I have loved you. By this—that is, our love for one another—all will know that you are My disciples.” The primary evidence of our spiritual life is this unique, distinctive love that is produced in us through God the Holy Spirit.
The first of the character qualities listed in Galatians 5 for the fruit of the Spirit is first love. We will spend some time talking about what this love is and how all of these things come together in this dynamic for our spiritual life.
This is the way in which we grow to maturity, and the ultimate result we see defined in Ephesians 3:17b–19a—that we might be spiritually mature, reflecting the love of Christ in our lives.
What the Bible Teaches About the Ministries of God the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 3:16, we are “to be strengthened—a passive verb, which means that we receive the action of that strengthening—with power through His Spirit.” God the Holy Spirit is the agent who strengthens us and who empowers us in the spiritual life.
I put together this chart to help us understand these ministries, which are not well understood today. You can get a dozen theologians and seminary graduates together, and they’ll come up with a dozen different definitions of many of these ministries, because of many different reasons. But we have to really look at the Scriptures to understand these specific distinctions.
I’m not talking about ministries of God the Holy Spirit before a person is saved. That has to do with conviction that has to do with his illumination of the gospel. Though there are different ministries before we’re saved, these are ministries that come at salvation for our spiritual life. Then there are other things that God the Holy Spirit does that are outside of this, that are not specifically directed towards believers.
First is regeneration. In Titus 3:5 we are renewed, regenerated by God the Holy Spirit. He brings life where there was death. This is what Paul talks about in Ephesians 2:4–6, that God loved us and He made us alive together with Him. Titus 3:5 tells us the One Who makes us alive, Who regenerates us and renews us, is God the Holy Spirit.
Second is that God the Holy Spirit indwells us—each and every believer. From Ephesians 2:14–22 we learned that He is the One who is also integral in building this new temple to God, and He indwells this new temple.
Ephesians 2:18, “through Him—that is, Christ—we both have access by one Spirit—that’s God the Holy Spirit. So, He gives us access—to the Father.”
Ephesians 2:22, “in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” God the Holy Spirit is involved in all that.
He indwells us, Romans 8:9, 11 and 1 Corinthians 3:15.
Third, we are also at the instant of salvation sealed by the Holy Spirit. He is called the Spirit of promise, so this sealing is that which guarantees that God’s promise of our salvation will eventually be given to us. It is His mark of ownership on us, and that seal secures our salvation for all eternity. It’s nothing that can be lost.
Fourth, we are given spiritual gifts. Each believer is given gifts, so that we can serve the Lord.
Every time I talk about this, I’m always reminded of the story of the salvation of the lady who was my first-grade Sunday School teacher. She was a Jewish Holocaust survivor. Her family got out of Germany and went to Shanghai.
While there she married a man older than her, who was a member of the British constabulary. They left Shanghai and eventually found their way to Houston, and they went to the church where I grew up. He probably was already saved.
She got saved, and about a year after she was saved, someone who was in front of her said we are rebuilding the Sunday School class. Would you teach in Sunday School? She thought, “I have hardly any knowledge of the Bible. How can I do that?” But she thought, “I need to serve the Lord, and He’ll provide what I need.”
Even though she was a very young believer, she took that step trusting God to provide for her. Over the next 15 years, she and her husband directed the Sunday School program. And she and the pastor’s wife wrote the curriculum for the Sunday School classes that I and many, many others grew up on that gave us a solid foundation in the Word of God.
All because she was not going to say, “Well, I’m going to wait until I’ve been a believer for 20 or 30 years before I serve the Lord.” She just started off immediately, and that is how God used her in her spiritual gift.
Fifth, the Holy Spirit baptizes us. He identifies us with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection, Romans 6:1–2, 1 Corinthians 12:13.
Sixth, He is the One who intercedes for us.
These are permanent ministries that are ours from the moment of salvation.
The ministry that is repeated is identified in Ephesians 5:18 as being filled by means of the Spirit. We’ve studied that many times, and that means that when we are walking by means of the Spirit, Galatians 5:16, that the Holy Spirit fills us, Ephesians 5:18, with the Word of Christ. Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you.”
That’s repeated because when we sin, it halts that particular ministry until we respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit to confess sin and be restored to fellowship.
The purpose that is stated in Ephesians 3:17 is so that we can comprehend the immensity of Christ love for us. Ephesians 3:17b, “that you—indicating a purpose—being rooted and grounded in love …”
Indicated by the translation, an important indicator, is that there is a semicolon after “faith,” because “that you” or “in order that” actually begins the next thought.
Then this phrase “being rooted and grounded in love.” I will have more to say about that later, but I want to cover Ephesians 3:17–18, for the big picture before we start looking at John 15 and other passages.
It’s hard sometimes in the English text to understand or to see what lies behind it in the Greek, and what lies behind this is indicated by the “ing,” “being rooted and grounded in love.” The idea of rooted and grounded is expressed in the Greek with what is identified as a perfect tense verb.
A perfect tense is important because it tells us that this is considered action that is completed in the past. It’s already been completed. It’s not something in process, it’s not an imperative here. Paul isn’t praying that they would continue to be rooted and grounded, or that they would become rooted and grounded. He is saying because they have already been rooted and grounded, which happened at the instant of salvation.
Looking at that phraseology, the other question we should address is, “Who did the rooting and grounding?” That would be God: at the moment of salvation we are rooted and grounded. We have already been rooted and grounded, referring to what takes place at our salvation. And it’s rooted and grounded in love.
This is a difficult phrase to really narrow down because the Greek preposition EN that’s used here has a range of meanings, and it could be that we are rooted and grounded by means of love.
That fits with how Paul has used this phrase in Ephesians 1:4, “just as He appointed us—as I translated that—appointed us in Him—that is, believers in Christ, Church Age believers have been appointed—before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless—or holy and without blame—before Him in love.”
We’re appointed in love, and it’s the same phraseology, so this is talking about God’s love. There is a lot of debate over that. Some people try to argue that this is human love. But we’re not rooted and grounded in human love; our spiritual life is rooted and grounded in God’s love.
That is its foundation, and it starts with understanding a few key passages we’ve talked about many, many times, John 3:16 and Romans 5:8.
John 3:16, “For God loved the world in this way.” “For God so loved the world” is a mistranslation. I’ve heard it paraphrased, “God loved the world so much.” That’s not the force of the Greek there at all.
It is a word that is designed to show or to give an example: for God loved the world in this way, or God loved the world thusly. The example of the demonstration of God’s love is that “He sent His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”
That grounds the concept of God’s love in the act of providing salvation free of charge, no conditions. It’s not on the basis of any works that we have done, but it is totally based on the work of Christ, that He as the eternal Second Person of the Trinity entered into human history, took to Himself true humanity—the combining of the two natures, the undiminished deity and true humanity, united together becoming the unique Person of the universe, the God-Man.
He is fully God and fully man, and these are not completely separate natures, they are united together in one Person, yet without a mixture of attributes. This makes up the person of Christ. By His coming and entering into human history, living among sinners, dealing with all of the things that are part of human experience, He is prepared to go to the cross to suffer unimaginably for our sins.
Paul echoes that verse in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrated His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
He died in our place, so to think about what Christ did for us in salvation is one of the most significant things that we can study, meditate on, think about, reflect on, dig into to understand, because
(a) that is the foundation of our salvation, so that we can understand what God has done for us, and how He has saved us, and
(b) it becomes the illustration for us of what love is.
If you look at a Webster’s or the Oxford English Dictionary or any number of dictionaries, their definitions of love are grounded in human emotion. Human emotion is fleeting; it’s unstable. You feel one way one day and feel another way another day.
Especially involving people, you like them a little more one day, and the next day you like them maybe a little less. If there’s going to be any kind of stability in a love relationship, it’s got to be based on something other than human emotion.
We see in the Scripture these illustrations and descriptions of God’s love, which make it something that goes far beyond simple human emotion. It has to do ultimately, as I have defined it for years, with wanting and desiring the absolute best for the object of your love. That requires that you understand what the absolute best is.
It isn’t what my opinion is, what I think you ought to do; and it shouldn’t be your opinion towards the person you love, “Well, you need to do what I want to do because that’s what I think is best.” It appeals to a higher standard, an absolute standard, a standard that is unshakable, and that is the standard of God’s own character. We can only understand love as we contemplate God’s love for us and God’s love for all mankind.
At the very core of this passage we’re studying in Ephesians 3:17 is that we were already rooted and grounded in love—that love that God has for us.
Now even though the word “love” here does not say “His love” or “God’s love” or “Christ’s love,” it is apparent from the context that that’s what he’s talking about, because we’re not rooted and grounded in human love, we’re not rooted and grounded in our love.
He goes on to say that this rooting and grounding is—and I think it’s a good way to understand it—by means of God’s love that He provided that salvation.
Ephesians 3:18, that we “may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height.”
This verse looks at love three dimensionally in terms of its width, length, and height; and then it has depth. It’s three dimensional, but the fact is this is describing the love of God for us, and it’s reflecting on the fact that it is infinite, that it is not restricted, it is not limited. It passes knowledge; it is beyond anything that we can fully comprehend.
We can understand that God loves us. We can understand how God loves us. We can understand a lot of things about God’s love for us. But we can never understand the love of God exhaustively because it is infinite, like every other attribute of God.
Paul is praying for something that should characterize our life and our spiritual growth as we contemplate what God has done for us. It enables us to grow and mature in our understanding of His love for us. As we come to understand God’s love for us that should in turn enable us to have that kind of love for other people. We are “able to comprehend with all the saints” the vast immensity—we could just summarize it that way—the immensity of God’s love.
We’re going to close the service this morning with, “O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus,” a hymn that is reflecting on this concept that God’s love for us is so immense that we can never fully comprehend it. Paul is praying that we might be “able to comprehend” it, to continue and grow in that comprehension, and
Ephesians 3:19, “to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge—for a further result—that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
“The fullness of God” relates to the character of God. Remember that we are being conformed to the image of Christ. “To be conformed to the image of His Son …” Romans 8:28-29 is designed to teach us that what God is doing in our lives is designed to make us like Christ in our character.
Paul summarizes that with this phrase at the end of Ephesians 3:19, “that you may be filled with all the fullness—not some of the fullness, but—all the fullness of God.”
That takes us back to our understanding of the context. We need to go back to get a better handle on how we are to live and think in a way that Christ can make His home in us—that’s different from indwelling of Christ.
On this chart which I started last week; we see something very similar to the chart I made on the Holy Spirit. On the left side are ministries that Christ does for us that are permanent from the moment that we are saved. They do not diminish; they are not taken away. In the right column are the repeated ministries of Christ toward us.
- Christ is the Head, Ephesians 2:11–3:13 Christ is the Head of the Church. He is the Head of his Body, the Church is the Body of Christ. Headship means authority. He is the One in charge. He is the authority over the Church. We as a body of believers look to the Lord Jesus Christ as our ultimate authority.
We don’t do things the way we think perhaps we’d like to have them done, but we search the Scriptures to try to conform to the Scriptures as best we understand them. When it involves humans and their finite understanding, it always involves that process of growth.
The Scriptures are His thinking, 1 Corinthians 2:16 “the thinking of Christ”. We are to know the Scriptures, so that we can understand our purpose and our mission as members of His body. Passages like Ephesians 1:22–23, Colossians 1:18 describe that headship.
- He is our High Priest. Whether we are walking with the Lord or not, Jesus Christ is still our High Priest.
- He is the One who also continuously intercedes for us, Hebrews 7:25. He is the One who represents us before God when we pray.
- He is the One who gives gifts. We think of how in 1 Corinthians 12 that the Holy Spirit distributes gifts, but Ephesians 4:11, “He Himself—there is an emphasis there. It is not just ‘and He gave,’ but He Himself; that is, the Lord Jesus Christ—gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers.”
Ephesians 4:8, He is the One who gave gifts to men. The emphasis here is between the roles of the Father, the Son, and of God the Holy Spirit.
At the instant salvation the gifts that are specified here in Ephesians 4:11 are gifts of leadership for feeding the sheep, because pastors are under-shepherds of the Lord Jesus Christ. We know that the gift of apostleship was limited to the first century, the gift of New Testament prophets was also limited to the first century until all of the revelation related to the Canon of Scripture was given. Today we just have evangelists and pastor-teachers.
- He’s our Advocate. 1 John 2:1–2, if any of us sin, we know that we “have an Advocate with the Father.” When Satan comes up and accuses us of sin, then Jesus Christ is going to say, “Well, the Father has heard all of your accusations against this person, but this person is a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. He’s a member of the family of God. He has perfect righteousness.” The case is dismissed. He does that over and over again. He is our advocate with the Father.
- He indwells us.
John 15, He abides in us when we abide in Him, which is why I had those phrases underlined in John 15, “If you abide in me, I will abide in you.” We will look at that, because there’s a lot of confusion over that particular passage.
The abiding of Christ in us is talking about that enhanced dwelling of Christ in us, His making His home in us as part of sanctification.
Indwelling of Christ:
Romans 8:10, “And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” Christ is indwelling.
2 Corinthians 13:3, “since you seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, who is not weak toward you, but mighty in you.” Christ is mighty in you.
2 Corinthians 13:5b, “Do you not know yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you?”
Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
Colossians 1:27, “To them God willed to make known what are the riches—what’s the wealth—of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you the hope of glory.”
Let’s turn in our Bibles to John 15. This is a debated passage and is misunderstood because of a number of different reasons, some of which I will mention, but the passage is based on the analogy of a grapevine.
What is important and that I have learned a lot from over the years is one of the doctoral students at Dallas Seminary who, when I was there back in the 1980s had done his graduate work in viticulture at Texas A&M. He did the research and has written a number of different articles and books related to this particular topic.
Jesus begins in John 15:1 by identifying who He is. He is the vine, and the Father is the vinedresser.
John 15:2, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away.” That’s a bad translation, but almost every translation takes this Greek word there with that understanding, and that is wrong; it’s bad scholarship.
But it’s influenced by a theological presupposition that this is not talking about a person who is saved and growing, but this is talking about a way to determine if you’re really saved on the basis of fruit, which today we call Lordship salvation.
John 15:2, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He lifts up—that’s the correct translation—and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that may bear more fruit.”
John 15:3, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.”
The core part of this, John 15:4 says, “Abide in Me, and I in you.”
The “I in you” is not talking about the indwelling of Christ in us because it is dealing with this word for fellowship, “abiding.” He says, “Abide in Me, and I in you.”
John 15:5, “He who abides in Me and I in him—that relationship we call ‘fellowship with Christ’—bears much fruit.”
John 15:7, “If you abide in Me and My words abide in you …”
It’s moved from Him abiding in us to His words abiding in us. That shows this connection between what Paul says in Ephesians 3, “… let Christ make His home in you,” to Colossians 3:16, “let the word of Christ richly dwell within you.” These are very closely connected concepts.
In John 15:9, He takes it to a new level, “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.”
This teaching about “abiding in His love” is going to enrich our understanding of what Ephesians 3:18 is talking about when it says that we may be able to comprehend the width and length and depth and height of Christ’s love for us.
We are to abide in His love, then we get a condition in Ephesians 3:10, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love.”
Abiding in His love is based on obedience to Christ. Disobedience to Christ means what? That we’re not abiding in His love. So, we can either abide or not abide. That doesn’t sound to me like that’s a salvation term.
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Questions to Answer:
- What does it mean to be “in Him?” “He who abides in Me …” But “in Me” is not the same concept as Paul’s concept of being in Christ or in Him.
- What do these terms mean when we talk about being in Christ or “in Me” or abiding or even the phrase “taken away?”
- To whom was Jesus speaking: those in need of justification or those who needed to be encouraged to bear much fruit? That’s an important question. To whom is Christ speaking here in John 15?
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John 13–17 the description of the Last Supper, the Seder meal, Jesus is observing with His disciples. The backdrop is, as John tells us, that Christ is going to identify one of them as unsaved and as the betrayer who, first of all, is influenced by Satan, then Satan will indwell him, and that, of course, is Judas.
John 13:2–4, “And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him. Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself.”
He is going to give them an object lesson, in which He begins to wash their feet. When He comes to Peter, he says, John 13:6, “Lord, are You washing my feet?”
In other words, he is saying, “No, this isn’t right. You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. You’re not going to wash my feet!” There’s a little bit of misunderstanding and a lot of arrogance mixed into that.
Jesus answered, John 13:7, “What I’m doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.”
Jesus is saying, “There’s symbolism here; you don’t understand that symbolism now, but you will understand it in the future. You have to let Me go through with this.”
Peter responds in John 13:8, “You will never wash my feet!”
What’s interesting, John 13:6, 8, is the use of the Greek NIPTO for “washing,” washing the feet, which indicates partial washing, referring to washing your hands or washing your feet or washing your face.
John 3:10, Christ is going to use a different word, LOUO, which indicates taking a full bath.
John 13:8, Peter said, “You’ll never wash my feet,” and the Lord says, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me—He’s still using the word NIPTO.” When Jesus says, “You’ll have no part with Me,” He’s saying you’ll have no share in the inheritance. He is not saying you won’t get to heaven. He is saying you won’t have a role in the kingdom. That’s what inheritance was.
That is just background and not the focal point of what I’m talking about here, and what I want to bring out. Jesus said, John 13:10,
“He who is bathed—he who is fully washed—needs only to—have a partial washing. He only needs to—wash his feet, but is completely clean;— He uses the word KATHOROS—and you—now He changes from ‘you’ singular to Peter to ‘you’ plural to the 12, including Judas because he’s still there—and you all are clean, but not all of you.”
When He says that “you all are clean,” He is talking about their imputed cleanness because they have imputed righteousness.
John 13:11 is really John’s parenthesis, “For He knew who would betray Him—He knows Judas is going to betray Him—therefore He said, ‘You are not all clean’ ” He knows there’s one guy here that’s not saved, the others are all saved, and the fact that all the others are saved is indicated by the phrase, “You are all clean.”
John 15:3, “You all are already clean,” makes it clear that when He’s talking to the disciples in John 15:1–10, He’s talking to them as believers. The issue there isn’t getting justified. Abiding doesn’t mean having faith so that you’re saved.
He is saying that as a saved person, you have to abide in Me, that abiding is something that relates to the spiritual life after salvation. It is not talking about how to get life at salvation.
John 13:12–14, “So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments and sat down again, He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.’”
What does that mean? Down through history you’ve had a lot of people take this literally. In fact, there are denominations that practice feet washing at communion. They literally will wash one another’s feet, pass the basin, and go through all of this as ritual.
But washing the feet is just a picture, a symbolism for being cleansed when we confess sin. It goes further than that because when we confess our sins, what happens? God forgives us.
When Christ says, “If I’ve washed your feet—in other words, I’ve cleansed you, I’ve forgiven you—you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” The washing of feet pictures God’s forgiveness. So, if God forgives us, then we are to forgive one another.
That is foundational to being able to fulfill Christ’s commandment in John 13:34–35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you.”
Notice that comparison. In the Old Testament the command was that you are to love your neighbor as you love yourself. The comparison there is how you love yourself; we all have self-love. But Jesus ups the ante here. He says now you don’t love your neighbor as yourself, you love your neighbor as I loved you.
That’s impossible, isn’t it? That can only be accomplished through God the Holy Spirit as a fruit of the Spirit, and that’s why He says in John 13:25, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
To put these things together to wrap up this morning’s message, remember where Paul is headed in Ephesians 3:14–19, that we may be able to comprehend with all the saints, the height, the width, the depth and breadth of Christ’s love for us.
When we read a passage like “you are to love one another as I have loved you,” we need to be thinking, “how did Christ love us?” That’s the “beyond platinum standard” for what love is.
It’s not looking at other human beings, it is looking at Christ’s love for us. That we come to understand how we are to love one another, and that is what helps us to understand where we’re going in Ephesians 3 that we are to comprehend this love of Christ.
Next time we will continue to explore what the love of Christ means and what it means to love one another in the context of that prayer in Ephesians 3.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to study and look at these things this morning, to be challenged. Because when we think about these things, we all realize that we fall somewhat short in our spiritual lives when it comes to loving one another as Christ has loved us.
“Father, we pray that You might continue to open our eyes to what this means, to help us to understand what the Scriptures teach, what they illustrate, what they describe. That we may come to understand the significance that You place on loving one another, because this is what You say is how all men will know that we are Your disciples because of our love for one another.
“Father, we pray that anyone listening who has never trusted Christ as Savior, may be unsure of their salvation, uncertain of their eternal destiny, that they would take this opportunity to make that both sure and certain. Jesus Christ died on the cross for the sins of the world. He paid the penalty for every single sin.
“That doesn’t save us, but it is the basis for our salvation, that by trusting in Him then, and in His completed work on the cross, that He paid that penalty for us; that by believing in Him, trusting in His sufficient death on the cross and not trusting in anything else, not adding anything else, we have everlasting life. It is ours forever and ever.
“Father, we thank You for this eternal life, and we pray that those who are listening, who have never accepted that free gift, would do so.
“Father, we pray that we would recognize that that doesn’t stop with the giving of the gift, because now we have to develop it, we have this new spiritual life, we have to learn to live in light of all that You have done for us, and that our lives would be truly an example of Your grace. Father, we pray that we would be focused upon that.
“Father, we pray these things now in Christ’s name, amen.”