How to Love One Another

Today we are talking about Loving One Another, based on John 13:1-17; 34-35.

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to develop the character quality of agape love for fellow Christians. Jesus stooped to love His disciples by meeting a very practical need that they had – dirty feet.

Historical Background: John’s Gospel reports more of the content of Jesus’ instructions to His disciples than does the other three Gospels. Chapters 13-17 concentrate on His teachings on that fateful night in which He was arrested. Before the instruction,Jesus washed His disciples’ feet and predicted His betrayal.

The first 12 chapters of the Gospel of John cover approximately 3 years in the public ministry of Christ. In these chapters John records His earliest contacts with the disciples and how he moved among the people throughout these three years working miracles and preaching His message (John 20:30-31).

Chapters 13-17 are restricted to one evening in Christ’s life. The audience also is limited to the 12 men that He has experienced authentic biblical community with over the past three years. This one evening was the last night before the crucifixion. There are many things that happen on this final evening but John alone records the washing of the disciple’s feet.

There is a change in John’s vocabulary from this point on. In chapters 1-12 this gospel is marked by words like “life” (50 times) and “light” (32 times). In chapters 13-17 the word “life” only occurs 6 times and “light” not at all. In contrast, the word “love” is found only 6 times in chapters 1-12 and 31 times in chapters 13-1 7. Clearly love takes on a new prominence in this farewell discourse.

Historical Chronology: Triumphal Entry & the fig tree [from Bethany to Jerusalem to Bethany] (Thomas and Gundry Sections 128-131). Here we see growing popularity among the masses (John 12:12-16) culminating in his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. At the same time there is a growing hatred from the religious leaders (John 12:19). They were desperately threatened by his words that judged their hypocrisy, but also by the number of people who were attracted to Him and His teaching.

  1. Official challenge to Christ’s Authority [Jerusalem in the temple] Sec.132-135
  2. Christ’s response to His enemies’ challenges [Jerusalem in the temple] Sec.136-138
  3. The Olivet Discourse: Jesus speaks prophetically about the temple and his second coming [from the temple to the Mount of Olives] Sec.139
  4. Arrangements for betrayal and plot by the Sanhedrin to arrest and kill Jesus [Mount of Olives & the palace of the high priest] Sec.140-142
  5. The Last Supper [Jerusalem]
    1. Preparation for the Passover meal in Jerusalem (Sec. 143 – Matthew 26:17-19; Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:7-13). The Passover Feast was an important event in Israel’s) history that commemorated their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. The preparations were incomplete because there was no servant at the door to wash dirty feet.
    2. Beginning the Passover meal & dissension among the disciples in the upper room in Jerusalem (Sec. 144 – Matthew 26:20; Mark 14:17; Luke 22:14-16, 24-30).
    3. Washing the Disciples feet in the upper room in Jerusalem (Sec. 145 – John 13:1-20).
    4. After returning to the table Jesus commands them to follow His example and love one another (Sec. 145-147 John 13:15,17,34,35). “By means of his words to his disciples, we are permitted here to enter into the thinking and emotions of Jesus just before his own crucifixion. Within hours of this event the Lord was hanging upon a cross. In less than twenty-four hours he was dead and buried. These therefore, constitute the last words of Jesus before his own death.” – Ray Stedman

Commanded in the Gospels: John 13:34; 15:12; 15:17

Illustrated in the Book of Acts: Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” The early church in The Book of Acts was characterized by love in action. Their love for one another was expressed in practical ways within their Christian community and outsiders were well aware that they were disciples of Christ because of their love.

Amplified in the Epistles:

  • Love [agapao): Romans 13:8; 2 Corinthians 11:11; 12:15; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; 1 Peter 1:22; 2:17; 1 John 2:10; 3:10, 11, 14, 18, 23; 4:7, 11, 12, 20, 21; 5:1-2; 2 John 1:5; 3 John 1:1.
  • Love [agape]: Romans 14:15; 1 Corinthians 4:21; 8:1; 13:1-4, 8, 13; 14:1; 16:14; 2 Corinthians 2:4,8; 6:6; 8:7, 8, 24; Galatians 5:13, 22; Ephesians 4:2, 15, 16; 5:2; Philippians 1:9; 2:2; Colossians 1:4, 8; 2:2; 3:14; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 3:12; 5:13; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Timothy 4:12; 6:11; 2 Timothy 1:7; 2:22; 3:10; Philemon 1:5, 7, 9; Hebrews 6:10; 10:24; 1 Peter 4:8; 5:14; 2 Peter 1:7; 3 John 1:6; Jude 1:12.
  • Love [phileo): Titus 3:15.
  • Brotherly love [philadelphia]: Romans 12:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; Hebrews 13:1; 1 Peter 1:22; 2 Peter 1:7.

Discussion Questions:

1 . What evening of the Passover week did Jesus give His disciples this command to love one another? (John 13:1-2; Matthew 26:20) The Passover feast began on the 15th Nisan at sunset, the Passover lamb being slain the afternoon of 14th Nisan. There seems no real doubt that this meal in John 13:1-30 is the real Passover meal described by the Synoptic Gospels (Mark l4:18-21; Matthew 26:21-25; Luke 22:21-23), followed by the institution of the Lord’s Supper.

Whether this meal was the actual Passover or not has been warmly debated, yet it seems that it occurred on the same night as the arrest and betrayal. If so, it was presumably Thursday night; and the Crucifixion occurred on Friday, the day before the Passover, which would have begun on Friday evening.

Luke states that when the day came on which the Passover lamb was to be sacrificed, Peter and John were sent to arrange the meal that the Lord and his disciples ate that evening (Luke 22:7-14). Matthew 26:17-20 and Mark 14:12-17 agree that the meal was on the day on which the Passover lamb was killed, which preceded the Passover itself. John stated later (John 18:28) that the Jewish delegates could not enter Pilate’s hall on Friday morning because they would be defiled and unable to eat the Passover. In that case, the last Supper must have preceded the Passover by twenty-four hours. If the Passover began on Friday night, the meal could have taken place on Thursday night, but would not have been the standard Passover Feast.

Jesus did celebrate the meal with his disciples on Thursday night, the hearing before Pilate and the Crucifixion took place on Friday, and his body was placed in the tomb before sunset late that afternoon.

John noted that it happened “before the feast of the Passover.” These words might suggest that this incident occurred while the evening meal was being served but before they actually came to the place where the Passover lamb would be eaten.

John alludes to the nearness of the Passover as if to remind his reader that Jesus had been introduced by John the Baptist as the “lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). As the first Passover had been the turning point in the redemption of the people of God, so the Cross would be the opening of a new era for believers.

2. What does John 13:1 tell us about Jesus? The word “know” is in the perfect tense. Vines says that this verb, “signifies, primarily, to have seen or perceived; hence, to know, to have knowledge of.” This word “know” emphasizes the full consciousness of Christ, he was not stumbling into the dark as he faced “his hour.” Jesus had a thorough knowledge of the time schedule he was on to redeem the world.

3. How does John 13:1 describe Jesus’ love for his disciples? The apostles, having joined Christ at this feast, were overcome with selfish ambition (Luke 22:24). They also had given way to greed (Matthew 26:8). In contrast, Christ was filled with love for his disciples. A love [agapesas] that he was prepared to choose through an act of his will to give his life as a sacrifice for their sins and the sins of the entire world.

The opening verse of chapter 13 sets the scene for the whole of chapters 13-17. Love is one of the key terms in chapters 13-17, it occurs 31 times in these five chapters as compared to only six times in chapters 1-12.

Christ had already demonstrated his love for them; choosing them, teaching them, protecting them, and meeting their needs were all reflections of His love. The disciples at this point didn’t fully understand the extent of Christ’s love, but later the writer of this gospel expressed his fuller comprehension of his Savior’s love in the first epistle he wrote.

1 John 3:16 “We know love by this,that He laid down His life for us;and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” The verb “loved” [agapao] describes the act of the will that gives to others’ basic needs without having as my motive personal reward. Agape love involves sacrificing myself and my comfort to meet another’s need.

Vines Expository Dictionary says: “Christian (Agape) love, whether exercised toward the brethren, or toward men generally, is not an impulse from the feelings, it does not always run with the natural inclinations, nor does it spend itself only upon those for whom some affinity is discovered. Love seeks the welfare of all, (Romans 15:2), and works no ill to any, (Romans 13:8-10); love seeks opportunity to do good to ‘all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith,”‘ (Galatians 6:10).

Jesus loved his disciples “to the end” [eis telos] may be rendered “to the uttermost, completely, to perfection, utterly, to the fullest extent. Jesus’ love for His disciples was a perfect, saving, eternal love. With a full knowledge of his coming suffering and death, he was still totally preoccupied with an all-consuming, perfect, and full love for own His disciples.

One commentator writes, “Love is the laying down of one’s life, and therefore to love completely means to love to the end of one’s life (1 John 3:16). The love that has been evident throughout continues right up to the end. At the end, in the crucifixion, we will see the ultimate revelation of that love,that is,its full extent.

These disciples that are being loved are called, “his own” [tous idious]. These disciples were given to him by the Father (John 10:29). Jesus had accepted the responsibility for them and was obliged to instruct and protect them (John 17:6-12). He loved them.

4. What new commandment does Jesus give his disciples in this passage? John 13:34-35 says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love [Present Imperative] one another,even as I have loved you,that you also love [Present Imperative] one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Love itself is NOT a new commandment (Leviticus 19:18). The new thing appears to be the mutual affection that Christians have for one another on account of Christ’s great love for them. Plummer says “the commandment to love was not new, for “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18) was part of the Mosaic Law, but the motive is new; to love one another because Christ has loved us” (1 John 4:19; John 15:12).

The word “new” [kainen] implies “freshness” or the opposite of “worn-out” rather than simply “recent or different.” Another source says, The word “new” signifies what is fresh, in contrast to that which is familiar and well known (1 John 2:7; 3:23; 2 John 1:5; John 15:12, 17).

The “badge of discipleship is love.” Love is to be the distinguishing mark of a Christ follower. In contrast, Jesus said to an unbelieving Jewish audience… in John 5:40-42, Jesus said, “and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. 42 but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves.”

Tertullian tells us that the heathen commented on the Christians: “See they say, how they love one-another!”

In verses 1-17 Jesus models the kind of love that He wants His disciples to practice.

5. What role does the devil play in this Passover meal? (John 13:2) The present participle “during” [ginomenou] tells us that the circumstances that follow happened while the supper was in progress. But before the dinner a Satanic suggestion had already been made to Judas.

One author writes, “The circumstances are listed in detail. Judas had already determined to betray Jesus (John 13:2). His specific motive is not stated, and the impulse is attributed to satanic suggestion. The casual allusion to the devil at this point implies a deeper significance to the conflict than a mere political or theological squabble. The conflict was basically actuated by a rebellion against God, the absolute opposite of the attitude of Jesus. It is possible that Judas, realizing that Jesus’ enemies were implacably hostile and that they were politically powerful, concluded that Jesus was foredoomed to lose in the struggle and so decided that he might as well gain immunity from sharing Jesus’ fate. Judas could compensate himself by claiming the reward for betrayal. His act, however, was more serious than an incidental piece of treachery; he sold himself to the power of evil. As John 13:27 states, “Satan entered into him,” and he came under the devil’s control.”

The text says,”the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot…” The perfect tense verb “having already (now) put” [ede beblekotos] denotes a thought that was literally, thrown or cast into Judas’ heart in the past which remains in his heart and is being exposed at this meal. Luke 22:3 says that Satan entered Judas when he offered to betray Jesus. Hence John’s “already” [ede] is pertinent. John repeats his statement in verse 27. In John 6:70 Jesus a year before had said that He had chosen one that was a devil.

We are told in John 13:27, “After the morsel, Satan then entered into him. Therefore Jesus said to him (Judas), ‘What you do, do quickly.”‘ This wasn’t demon possession but devil possession.

John MacArthur writes – “The fact that the devil entered the heart of Judas” does not exonerate Judas, because his wicked heart desired exactly what the devil desired, the death of Jesus. The devil and Judas were in accord.”

John notes that the devil had already prompted Judas lscoriot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus (John 13:2). It is extremely important to realize that Jesus is going to wash the feet of one who is considering betraying him. Judas has not yet given in to the temptation (John 13:27), but the devil has prompted him, or more literally, “put it into his heart.”

  • John 13:18 “I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘HE WHO EATS MY BREAD HAS LIFTED UP HIS HEEL AGAINST ME.”‘
  • Psalm 41 :9 “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.” David’s close companion betrayed him; he kicked him while he was “down.” The ultimate fulfillment of this verse is found in Judas (John 13:18, Matthew 26:21).

6. What does John 13:3 tell us about Jesus? The text says, “Jesus, knowing [eidos, repeated from verse 1] that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come forth from God and was going back to God.” John emphasizes the fact that Jesus was not the innocent victim of a plot, unaware of what was transpiring around him. Jesus was fully aware of his authority, his divine origin, and his destiny. John says much more about the inner consciousness of Jesus than the Synoptic Gospels do, either because he was more observant or because Jesus confided in him.

Jesus plainly restates this concept in John 16:28 when He said, “I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father.”

John MacArthur writes, “He faced the betrayal, agony, and death because he knew he would be exalted to the Father afterward, where he would receive the glory and fellowship he had eternally enjoyed within the Trinity (see John 17:4-5, which says, “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. 5 Now, Father,glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”

Jesus is fully conscious of his deity and messianic dignity when he performs the humble act of John 13:4-11.

7. What humble act of service did Jesus perform on the night before his crucifixion? (John 13:4) The immediate situation was that they had come to the banquet room directly from the street. Ordinarily on such an occasion the host would have delegated a servant to the menial task of removing the sandals of the guests and washing their feet. Since the meeting was obviously intended to be secret, no servants were present. None of the disciples were ready to volunteer for such a task, for each would have considered it an admission of inferiority to all the others. John the Baptist had used the act of such a servant as his standard of the lowest and meanest kind of service that could be required of any man (John 1:27).

On the night before His crucifixion, Jesus’ patience must have been taxed, because they still had not learned His oft-repeated lesson on humility. Jesus nevertheless corrected them by wrapping himself in a towel. Jesus “stooped to love them” and modeled a servant’s heart. Washing dirty feet should not have surprised His disciples since He clearly stated that one of His purposes for coming was to serve.

  • Matthew 20:28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give
    His life a ransom for many.”
  • Mark 10:45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
  • Philippians 2:5-8 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

8. Who customarily would be at the door when the guest arrived? It was a custom in those times to have a servant honor the guest by washing their feet when they arrived. Feet needed to be washed because when you reclined at dinner, you really didn’t care to recline your head 18 inches from someone’s dirty feet. The roads were either muddy
or dusty. Streets weren’t paved and sidewalks were unheard of. In those days more than human beings traveled the streets so the situation was pretty unsanitary with animal droppings from horses, oxen, and camels. So it was a courtesy to wash a person’s feet when they arrived at your home for a meal.

But when the disciples came to the upper room there was no one there to wash dirty feet. Why didn’t the disciples do it? Because they were having an argument. They were arguing about whom would be the greatest in the kingdom and no one wanted to disqualify himself by becoming a servant. They were seeking rank. I believe Jesus purposefully allowed the meal to start and waited to see whether one of his disciples would volunteer to be the servant. He waited purposefully to the middle of the meal to give one of them the chance to get up and go over and pick up the towel and basin and begin to wash dirty feet. They knew what the custom was.

The dusty and dirty conditions of the region necessitated the need for footwashing. People wore sandals without socks or stockings. It was a mark of honor for a host to provide a servant to wash a guest’s feet;it was a breach of hospitality not to provide for it (1 Samuel 25:41; Luke 7:40-50; 1 Timothy 5:10). Wives often washed their husbands’ feet, and children washed their parents’ feet. Most people, of course, had to wash their own feet.

Although the disciples most likely would have been happy to wash Jesus’ feet, they could not conceive of washing each other’s feet. This was because in the society of the time footwashing was reserved for the lowliest of menial servants. Peers did not wash one another’s feet, except very rarely and as a mark of great love.

9. How did Peter respond to Jesus washing his feet? (John 13:6-7) Peter’s response may have been representative of the common feeling among the disciples that Jesus ought not to demean himself by washing their feet. The two pronouns “you” and “my” stand together at the beginning of the sentence in emphatic contrast. The emphatic use of pronouns in Peter’s surprised question, “Lord, You [su] are washing my [mou] feet?” Kenneth Wuest translates it – “He said to Him, You – my feet you are washing?”

Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter” (John 13:7). The word “realize” [oidas] speaks of absolute and complete knowledge in contrast to the word “understanding [ginosei, future middle] which denotes knowledge gained by experience.

Peter said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me” (John 13:8).

Peter’s reply – “NEVER shall You wash my feet!” reveal both the impetuousness of his disposition and the high regard he had for Jesus. Peter, we may suppose, drew his feet up, as he spoke, in his impulsive humility” (Bernard). Peter felt that Jesus should not degrade himself by assuming such a position.

Slaves were looked down upon in the ancient world (d. Rengstorf 1964b), and Peter cannot stand the thought of his teacher doing the work of a slave (John 13:6). It would have been appropriate for one of the disciples to have washed Jesus’ feet, but the reverse is intolerable.

Peter’s response “Never shall You wash my feet!” [ou me eis ton aiona] is a very strong expression. The beginning of John 13:8 has been translated ”You shall by no means wash my feet as long as the world stands” or “NEVER to all eternity shall you wash my feet!” In the original language, this is a strong double negative [ou me]. Kenneth Wuest literally translates this double negative as “You shall by no means wash my feet, no, never.”

10. What did Jesus mean when he told Peter, “If I do not wash you,you have no part with Me”? (John 13:8) This expresses the necessity, not only for the cleansing of Peter’s feet to make him socially acceptable for the dinner, but also for the cleansing of his person to make him fit for the kingdom of God. The external washing was intended to be a picture of spiritual cleansing from evil. This cleansing was not merely about Peter’s hygiene but about his holiness. Peter couldn’t imagine being separated from Jesus. Peter continued to miss the spiritual lesson, but he was certain of his desire to be intimately joined to Jesus.

It does not say, “you have no part in me,” it’s not referring tq salvation. Peter had already received a spiritual bath when he placed his faith in Jesus as His Savior (Forgiver) and Lord (Leader). So the issue of Peter’s footwashing was connected with his spiritual cleansing that is essential for fellowship and ministry. This is why Christ says “you have no part with me” instead of “you have no part in Me.” Spiritual filth (sin) in our lives always hinders our fellowship with God, one another and ministry effectiveness (1 John 1:3, 6-9.

The result of “confessing our sins” (1 John 1:9) for parental forgiveness is predictable because of the trustworthy nature of our God. God promises to forgive [aphe, “cancellation of debts” or the “dismissal of charges”] and to cleanse [katharizo, purification from the pollution of sin] so that fellowship can be restored.

Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head” (John 13:9). Peter impulsively says, “Not my feet only,but also my hands and my head – Give me a bath!” Peter really doesn’t understand the symbolism behind washing his feet. A.T. Robertson quotes Dods as saying, “A moment ago he told his Master he was doing too much: now he tells him He is doing too little” (Word Pictures in the NewTestament pg. 238)

11. What was Jesus symbolizing by washing the disciples feet? (John 13:9-11) The interpretation of the symbolism is clear: After salvation all one needs is confession of sins, the continual application of Jesus’ death to cleanse one’s daily sins (1 John 1:7; 2:1-2). When Jesus added that not every one of you is clean, he was referring to Judas (John 13:11, 18). This suggests that Judas was not converted.

Jesus said, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet…” John MacArthur writes, “The cleansing that Christ does at salvation never needs to be repeated, it is complete and thorough at the point of conversion. But all who have been cleansed by God’s gracious justification need constant washing in the experiential sense as they battle sin in the flesh. Believers are justified and granted imputed righteousness (Philippians 3:8, 9),but still need sanctification and personal righteousness (Philippians 3:12-14).”

The guest was supposed to bathe before coming to a feast and so only the feet had to be washed on removing the sandals. This cleansing is effected once for all, and is never repeated.

So the bathing (John 13:10) is the cleansing from sin on the cross and that the footwashing would refer to the forgiveness of one’s daily sins. This passage illustrates the doctrinal truth that there is a difference between judicial forgiveness and parental forgiveness.

JUDICIAL FORGIVENESS
Judicial forgiveness establishes a permanent relationship with God at the moment of salvation. When a person receives Jesus Christ as his personal Savior, the gavel is dropped in heaven and a person is forgiven for all of his sins (past, present, and future), declared righteous and made a child of God (Colossians 2:13; 1 John 2:12).

The Bible teaches that Satan is answerable to God (Job 1:6-7). It appears that Satan uses these “report-in” sessions as an opportunity to accuse [kategoron] God’s people of disobedience. This is the devil’s constant occupation,”day and night” [komeras kai nuktos]. The godly of all ages have been the target of his slander.

When Satan enters God’s heavenly courtroom and begins to accuse the brethren, Jesus Christ comes to our defense. 1 John 2:1-2 says, “if anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins.” When Satan is accusing us, Jesus Christ is our advocate, [paraklotos] which means our defense attorney. Jesus steps up to the bench and pleads our case. He points out that our sins have been forgiven because we are trusting in his substitutionary death on the cross which satisfied [hilasmos, propitious, 1 John 2:2] the demands of a Holy God. Then the Father says, “This man’s sins have been paid in full, case dismissed!”

PARENTAL FORGIVENESS
Parental forgiveness on the other hand maintains our fellowship with God. Even if a child runs away from home, changes his name, nothing can alter his relationship with his biological parents, but his actions will hinder their fellowship. In the same way nothing can alter our relationship with God, but sin in the life of a believer can hinder his fellowship with Him. This is why believers are encouraged to obtain parental forgiveness (1 John 1:9; Matthew 6:9, 12). We need a daily cleansing so we can experience sweet fellowship with our Savior.

Foot Washing – Parental Forgiveness (Matthew 6:9, 12, 1 John 1:3, 6-10)
Daily cleansing to maintain fellowship with God – John 13:10, Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet,…”

Bath – Judicial Forgiveness (Colossians 2:13, 1 John 2:12)
Total cleansing to establish a relationship with God – John 13:11, For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12. Why does Jesus say “you are clean, but not all of you?” (John 13:10-11) This was a plain hint of the treachery of Judas who is reclining at the table after having made the bargain with the Sanhedrin (Mark 14:11). A year ago Jesus knew that Judas was a devil and said to the apostles: “One of you is a devil”  (John 6:64, 70). The disciples did not suspect that Judas was a counterfeit in the past nor did they suspect him of being the unclean one now.

“Not all of you are clean” is a reference to Judas who was soon to lead the mob to capture Jesus (John 18:3). Jesus had known [eidei, imperfect tense] that Judas would betray him and yet he treated Judas with his usual courtesy. In fact Judas was already engaged in the process. Judas did have his feet literally washed, but he did not enter into the meaning of the event.

13. What second lesson from this footwashing did Jesus want to teach His disciples? (John 13:12) Jesus said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you?” A second lesson Jesus wished to impart to the disciples by this act was one of love and humble service. His question, “Do you know what I have done to you?” is in contrast with his words to Peter earlier: “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter” (John 13:7). The discernment of the disciples developed slowly. It took them a long time to begin to comprehend the intensity of Jesus’ love for them and the nature of his humility in dealing with them. After giving this object lesson in humility, the Lord questioned the disciples in order to draw out the significance of the lesson: “Do you understand” [ginoskete, perfect active indicative] “what I have done for you?” He asked them. (John 13:7). It was a searching question, particularly to Simon Peter and Judas.

14. What titles did the disciples call Jesus that He accepted without reluctance? (John 13:13) He was literally, “The Teacher” [ho didaskalos] and “The Lord” [ho kurios], both titles of respect that placed Jesus on a level above the disciples. Jesus emphasized the fact that as their leader He had stooped to serve their needs so they should do the same for one another.

15. What word in John 13:14 suggests moral obligation to follow Christ’s example? Jesus says, “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher,washed your feet, you also ought to wash one anothers feet.” The verb “ought” [Gr. opheilete] means “to owe a debt” and suggests moral obligation. It occurs several times in John’s Epistles (1 John 2:6; 3:16; 4:11; 3 John 8), but in the Gospel only here and John 19:7. In John 13:14, Jesus teaches that the obligation to ministry is a debt that must be paid. The word ought is the past tense of owe. The phrase “one another” denotes the mutual obligation and reciprocal nature of this love that serves each other.

If the Son of God, the second person of the trinity, the pure and holy, spotless One can get on the floor and wash the filthy feet of 12 self-centered selfish undeserving disciples, then we should be able to love as He loved. If He was willing to stoop to love, shouldn’t we follow his example?

16. Was Jesus instituting foot washing as an ordinance? (John 13:12-17) The “example” does not imply the perpetuation of foot washing as an ordinance in the church. The only other allusion to foot washing in the New Testament is found in 1 Timothy 5:10, where it does not refer to a regular custom, but seems to allude to humble slave like service to the poor. John calls this act an example [hupodeigma] which implies that the emphasis is on the inner attitude of humble and voluntary service for others. This passage emphasizes inner humility, not a physical rite.

The word used here suggests both “example” and “pattern” (Hebrews 4:11; 8:5; 9:25; James 5:10; 2 Peter 2:6). Jesus’ purpose in this action was to establish the model of acts of love done with humility. Not to follow the example of Jesus is to exalt oneself above Him and to live in pride.

Notice the purpose clause, “that [hina] you also should do as I did to you.” The verb “do” [poiete] is a present active subjunctive that is literally translated, “keep on doing.” Doing what? Doing acts of love in humility!

“Jesus, however, does not say to do “what” he did but “as” he did” (IVP). Notice the wording “do as I did to you”, Jesus didn’t say, “what I have done.” Jesus wants his disciples to imitate the spirit of his action, not necessarily the action itself. It is the spirit of humility that Christ modeled. This inner attitude manifests itself by voluntarily doing selfless acts of love, whether foot washing is needed or some other menial task.

Calvin’s comments should be heeded by all who take the practice as one to be perpetuated: “Every year they hold a theatrical foot washing, and when they have discharged this empty and bare ceremony they think they have done their duty finely and are then free to despise their brethren. But more, when they have washed twelve men’s feet they cruelly torture all Christ’s members and thus spit in the face of Christ himself. This ceremonial comedy is nothing but a shameful mockery of Christ. At any rate, Christ does not enjoin an annual ceremony here, but tells us to be ready all through our life to wash the feet of our brethren.”

Calvin here warns against the danger of externalism, he wanted his readers to grasp the spirit and attitude of humble service that Christ modeled.

17. Why does Jesus compare himself with his disciples and the Father? (John 13:16) The text says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him.”

Jesus is saying as my disciples (slaves) you are not greater than your Lord (master Gr. kyriou), so if I can stoop to serve so can you.

Jesus again doesn’t miss the opportunity to remind his disciples that he was sent”  [pempsantos] and therefore always conscious of being commissioned by the Father. Jesus included his disciples in the commission (John 20:21) and also included them in the action of servanthood. Jesus portrayed for them the true nature of Christian living: serving one another. And for those who would be willing to take this role on themselves, Jesus said there would be blessings.

18. What “things” do you “know” now from this passage that you need to “do” in order to be blessed? (John 13:17) The word “blessed” means “happy.” The second “if” [eon] in this verse is a third-doss condition. This means that “Happiness is conditional.” The text says there are two conditions for happiness: Just knowing does not bring happiness, nor does just doing these things occasionally. What things is Jesus referring to?

Jesus says if you want to be blessed you must be a Room Maker, Group Lover, Bath Taker, Foot Washer, and Apron Wearer. Jesus says we need to make room for community in our busy lives, love one another to the fullest extent, experience judicial and parental forgiveness and be willing to do any menial task to demonstrate our love on one another.

Reflection:

1. Who is the person in your life who has demonstrated what it means to “wash feet”? What has the person done for you?

2. Are you willing to stoop to love? Is there any task too menial for you?

3. What “things” do you “know” now and need to “do” in order to be blessed? John 13:17

4. How will you put Jesus’ teaching into practice in at least one relationship this week at home, work, or church?

Sources: The questions and answers for this study were gleaned from the following resources.

1 . Serendipity Bible for Groups by: Serendipity House, Zondervan Publishing House, 1998
2. The Gospel of John, Introduction, Exposition and Notes by: F.F. Bruce, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1983
3. The Expositors Bible Commentary, Volume 9 by: Fronk E. Goebelein (General Editor), Zondervon Publishing House, 1981
4. Light in the Darkness, Studies in the Gospel of John by Homer A. Kent Jr., Boker Bookhouse, 1974.
5. The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel by: R.C.H. Lenski, Augsburg Publishing House, 1943.
6. The Gospel of John, A Series of Verse- By-Verse Outline Studies by: John MacArthur Jr., Word of Grace Communications.
7. Making Room for Community by: Rick Leineweber,MP3/CD, Grace Fellowship Church,2004
8. The Gospel According to John by: Leon Morris, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1971.
9. The Words and Works of Jesus Christ by: J. Dwight Pentecost, Zondervan Publishing House, 1981
10. John: The Gospel of Belief by: Merrill C. Tenney, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1948.
11.The Gospel According to St. John by: B.F. Westcott, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1975.
12. The New Testament – An Expanded Translation by: Kenneth S. Wuest, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1961
13.The MacArthur Study Bible by: John F. MacArthur, Jr., Word Publishing, 1997
14. The Chronological Life of Christ Vol.2 by: Mark E. Moore, College Press Publishing Company, 1997
15.Word Pictures in the New Testament Vol.5 by: Archibald Thomas Robertson, Broadman Press, 1932

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber Jr.]
© Copyright 1994 Richard D. Leineweber Jr.

How to Love God and Others

This command is all about how to love God and love other people, from Mark 12:28-34 and Matthew 22:34-40

Purpose: To develop the character quality of agape love for God and our neighbors. Jesus said in Mark 12:30-31, “AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ 31 The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” This kind of love is intelligent, feeling, willing, and serving. It involves thought, sensitivity, intent, and even action where that is possible and appropriate.

Historical Background: Chronologically this narrative (Mark 12:28-34) occurs the Wednesday before the crucifixion. Jesus had just been worshipped as the “The King of the Jews” two days before as He entered Jerusalem (Mark 11:1-11). Upon arrival in Jerusalem Jesus entered the temple, looked around and then he departed (Mark 11:11). The Jewish multitudes had hoped that He would enter Jerusalem and free them from Roman bondage. He made His way that evening to Bethany, outside of the city and spent the night there with Mary and Martha and Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. The next day as He returned to Jerusalem, He cursed a barren fig tree on His journey to the temple (Matthew 21:18-19a; Mark 11:12-14). Jesus entered the temple, overturned the tables of the money changers a second time (John 2:13-22) and attacked Israel’s religious system (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-18; Luke 19:45-48).

Jesus leaves and returns the next day (Mark 11:27-28), which says, “They came again to Jerusalem. And as He was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to Him, and began saying to Him, “By what authority are You doing these things, or who gave You this authority to do these things?”

They must have thought “What nerve He has! First of all, He comes in yesterday and disturbs the entire place and then He thinks he can walk back in and teach! Where does He think He gets His authority to do this?” Jesus responds to their question with one of His own. Jesus asked, “The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?” (Matthew 21:25). The Pharisees found themselves in a dilemma. They desired Christ’s answer but knew it was contingent on their own. They sought to trap Jesus and found themselves trapped. When they realized the implications of answering they answered, “We do not know” (Matthew 21:27). Then Jesus didn’t reveal the source of His authority to them.

Jesus proceeded to teach three parables which taught that the Pharisees would be excluded from the Kingdom:

  1. The two sons (Matthew 21:28-32)
  2. The vineyard (Matthew 21:33-44)
  3. The wedding feast (Matthew 22:1-14)

Jesus in affect said to these leaders, first of all, you are like a son who says he will obey but doesn’t. Secondly, you are like a tenant farmer who leases out a farm and then you kill the servants and the son of the one who leased it to you before you’ll pay any debt. And third, you are like the guests who were invited to a wedding, to marry Christ, and you refused to come, so you are thereby shut out. The religious leaders understood the parables were spoken against them and their intensity of resentment toward Jesus grew (Matthew 21:45-46, Mark 12:12, Luke 20:19).

The religious leaders resented Him and wanted Him dead, but the Roman government had restricted their right to take lives, to execute their own criminals. So they attempted to publicly discredit him (Mark 12:13-34). As they confronted Him with the first question they hoped to force Him to answer in such a way that He will put Himself in a difficult position with Rome, so they can put Him to death as an insurrectionist. This first question (Mark 12:13-17) is a political question. The next two questions (Mark 12:18-27; 28-34) are of a theological nature and would discredit Him among the people.

Matthew 22:34 says, “But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together.” When the political question from the Herodians and Pharisees had failed, the Sadducees asked Him a question with respect to the resurrection. But once again He doesn’t discredit Himself among the people through His answer. In fact, His answer silenced the Sadducees. This verb “to put to silence” literally means, “to gag.” He gagged them. It’s not that they wanted to be silenced; it’s just that they had no choice. This verb is used in Mark 1:25 in silencing a demon and in Mark 4:39 in silencing a storm. It is used in 1 Corinthians 9:9 of muzzling an ox. So he muzzled them. In other words, it is an unwilling gagging that they received, and he brought their argument to an end where they were unable to say another thing. They were without another thought, another idea, another retort.

It’s when the Pharisees “gathered themselves together” that an expert scribe joined them and formulated the last question to put Jesus to the test (Matthew 22:35). It’s this third question that created the occasion for Jesus to reinforce the greatest commandment that is found in the Old Testament.

Commanded in the Gospels: This command, “you shall” is from Leviticus 19:18. This command is often repeated in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 5:43; 19:19; 22:39, Mark 12:31,33; Luke 10:27).

Illustrated in the Book of Acts: This command is indirectly illustrated in Acts. The early church found “favor with all the people” because they were so caring and loving (Acts 2:47). They did the Great Commission in a Great Commandment way!

Amplified in the Epistles: Romans 13:8,9,10; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8

Discussion Questions:

1. Who approached Jesus with the question? (Mark 12:28; Matthew 22:34-35) Mark 12:28 says, “one of the scribes came.” A scribe is one who was responsible to copy and interpret the law. Matthew identifies this same man as a “lawyer.” A lawyer was a scribe that was a law expert. In fact, the word “lawyer” that Matthew uses only occurs one time, and that’s in Matthew 22:35. On every other occasion, twenty-two times, he calls them scribes instead of lawyers. I believe that Matthew is suggesting that this man is a cut above that average scribe. He probably stood out among the scribes as a real expert. So he’s the one who structures and formulates the question and then proposes the question to the Lord.

2. What did this scribe think of Jesus’ answer? (Mark l2:28b) The text says that he recognized “that He had answered them well.” The word “well” literally means that Christ answered, “beautifully, finely, and admirably.” Mark seems to suggest that the question asked by the teacher of the law, in contrast to many that had been asked by his colleagues, was a sincere one. He had been impressed by Jesus’ answer to the previous question. The law expert said in essence, “I know the Old Testament and that was a good answer.” So this Pharisees, this scribe, this lawyer, wasn’t filled with the same venom or hatred that all the Pharisees possessed. This scribe doesn’t seem as committed to killing Jesus. It appears that this scribe is attracted to the wisdom of Jesus.

3. What makes the scribe’s question so significant? (Mark l2:28c) The Scribe asked, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” There are two things that make this question so significant.

1) The first thing that makes this question so significant is that the Jews believed that the teachings of Jesus attacked the teachings of Moses. So if they could get Jesus to supersede Moses in some statement, go beyond what Moses said and set himself up as the authority, then they would discredit Him among the people, because Moses was the number one hero of the Jews for several reasons:

  • Historically in Judaism there is no one like Moses. Moses is the one who talked to God, face to face, as a man speaks to his friend, and that sets him apart from every other Jew.
  • Moses was the one God chose when God searched for a man to whom he could give His law.
  • Moses was the priority writer who penned the first five books of the Old Testament (Pentateuch). The Sadducees only held to the writings of Moses, and they were part of his audience as well as many in the crowd who followed their teachings.
  • A Rabbi in the second century said this of Moses: “God called Moses faithful in His entire house and thereby ranks him higher than the ministering angels themselves.” So many Jews believed that Moses was in a category even above the angelic hosts.
  • He was the greatest one to them and that’s why Matthew 23:2 says that “the scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses.” That’s the ultimate place of authority, it’s absolute power. To identify with Moses is to give direction and be in control of Israel. So if they could only get Jesus to affirm that His teaching supersedes Moses then they could accuse him of being an apostate and discredit Him among the people.

2) The second thing that makes this question so significant is that the rabbis counted 613 individual statutes in the law, 365 which were negative and 248 positive. Attempts were made to differentiate between the “heavy,” or “great,” and the “light,” or “little,” commandments. The rabbis also made attempts to formulate great principles from which the rest of the law could be deduced. The most famous example comes from Hillel, who when challenged by a Gentile, “Make me a proselyte on condition that you teach me the whole law while I stand on one foot,” replied, “What you hate for yourself, do not do to your neighbor: this is the whole law, the rest is commentary; go and learn.”

Some thought that the law about the fringes on the garments was the greatest; some that the omission of washings was as bad as homicide; some that the third commandment was the greatest. It was in view of this kind of distinction that the scribe asked the question; not as desiring a declaration as to which commandment was greatest, but as wanting to know the principle upon which a commandment was to be regarded as a great commandment. (Vincent Word Studies Vol.1)

The question posed to Christ by this scribe arose out of a works salvation understanding of the law and the keeping of its commandments.

Notice Jesus cites a familiar command from the Old Testament that is quoted throughout the New
Testament (Matthew 5:44; 19:19 22:37,39; 23:39; Mark 12:31,33; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:8,10; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8).

4. What commandment did Jesus say is the foremost? (Mark l2:29) Jesus quoted two passages from the OT (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Leviticus 19:18).

  • Deuteronomy 6:4-9 “Hear, 0 Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! 5″You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
  • Leviticus 19:18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.

5. What phrase does Mark include that Matthew omits? (Mark 12:29; Matthew 22:37; Deuteronomy 6:4) Only Mark’s narrative reports that Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:4, which is central to the Shema, named after the first word of the verse, which means “Hear.” In Hebrew liturgy Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:13-21, and Numbers 13:37-41 comprise the Shema. Deuteronomy 6:4-5 is a confession of faith that is recited by pious Jews every morning and evening. Jesus merely identifies the thing that was most familiar to them and says this is the foremost commandment. It basically affirms two things: (1) the unity of God (“the Lord is one”) and (2) the covenant relationship of God to the Jewish people (“the Lord our God”).

It’s important to understand the connection that Deuteronomy 6:4 has with the words that follow. Israel has a covenant relation with God the Father. Deuteronomy 6:4 declares “The LORD is our God.” God is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5; 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24; 5:9; 6:15; 32:16,21). He expected no other lovers in Israel’s life. This covenant and love relationship wasn’t to be one sided. He expected it to be reciprocal. Israel is the wife of God the Father and the church is betrothed through the New Covenant to God the Son. Loving God is not an option for His people; it’s a mandate.

Bill Gothard writes concerning the basis of God’s jealousy:

“God is jealous because He has established a covenant with every Christian through the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Allowing people or things to compete for first place in our affections causes grief and damage to our relationship with the Holy Spirit. The motivation behind God’s jealousy is His overwhelming love and desire to bless us! He longs to demonstrate to the entire world the incredible things that He will do for believers who fully love Him.

God established a parallel covenant with the nation of Israel. He promised that if they would honor this covenant with Him by loving Him with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, He would make them healthier, wealthier, and wiser than any other nation in the world. However, if they delighted in any other god, He would curse them above all nations on the earth.

I was aware of these Old Testament promises and warnings and of the jealous nature of God. However, I assumed they related only to His relationship with Israel, and that somehow in the New Testament He had become a benevolent God Who overlooks all of our straying affections. As I thought about this, the words of Scripture spoke with powerful authority, “I am the LORD, I change not” (Malachi 3:6). God is just as loving in the Old Testament as He is in the New Testament. And He is just as jealous in the New Testament as He was in the Old Testament.

This explains the words of James 4:1-4: ‘What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?… You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.’

During those powerful moments of interaction with God and His truth, I realized that I am in covenant with the Lord and that in this relationship there can be no toleration of a competing affection. Either I focus my total love upon Him and experience His marvelous blessings, or I entertain various competing affections and experience painful discipline from Him.

I realized that in my own strength I could not love Him as I ought, so I asked Him for the grace that I needed to love Him with all of my “heart, soul, mind, and strength.”

6. In the first commandment, how are we to love God? (Mark l2:30) Jesus says, “AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.”

Notice Jesus’ response. His answer comes by way of a command that is repeated throughout the New Testament (Matthew 5:44; 19:19 22:37,39; 23:39; Mark 12:31,33; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:8,10; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8). We are to love God and our neighbor.

God is to be loved completely and totally because he, and he alone, is God and because he has made a covenant of love with his people. In the covenant God gives himself totally in love to his people; therefore he expects his people to give themselves totally (“soul,” “mind,” and “strength”) in love to him.

John MacArthur points out that the Hebrew word for “love” used in Deuteronomy 6:5, refers primarily to an act of mind and will, the determined care for the welfare of something or someone. It might well include strong emotion, but its distinguishing characteristics were the dedication and commitment of choice. It is the love that recognizes and chooses to follow that which is righteous, noble, and true, regardless of what one’s feelings in a matter might be. It is the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek agapao in the New Testament, the verb of intelligent, purposeful, and committed love that is an act of the will. This love is in contrast to the emotion and tender affection of phileo and the physical, sensual love of eros (which is not used in the New Testament).

We are also instructed to “love the Lord your God with ALL of our heart, with ALL our soul, with ALL the mind, with ALL your strength.” The word “with” should be translated literally “out of.” The Greek word ek stresses the source of our love. It must rise out of every part of our being. It must rise out of our soul. It must rise out of our heart, our mind, and our strength. The word “all” emphasizes the fact that God doesn’t just want part of the heart but all of the heart. A part won’t do. God wants you to love Him with your whole being. What a rebuke to half-hearted Christians today.

Theologians and psychologists love to dissect the human personality. Is man a two part person (dichotomy) or a three part person (trichotomy). It doesn’t appear that Jesus is sorting out the different parts of man. As you go through the Scriptures the different parts have different usages and sometimes overlap one another. Jesus is simply emphasizing that the accumulation of terms underlines the comprehensiveness of the love that we should have for God. We are to love Him with our total person.

Where do your thoughts go when you have a moment to just let them stray? When you are exhausted and only have a small reserve of energy left at the end of the day, how will you use it?

7. In the second commandment, how are we to love our neighbor? (Mark 12:31) Jesus says, “The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Jesus brought Leviticus 19:18 together with Deuteronomy 6:5 to show that love of neighbor is a natural and logical outgrowth of love of God. These two commandments belong together; they cannot be separated. The Apostle John in the New Testament stresses this point, “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also” (1 John 4:20-21).

8. How should we define the word “neighbor?” (Leviticus l9:34; Luke 10:25-37) In Leviticus 19:18, the neighbor is identified as “sons of your people,” or fellow Israelites. The Old Testament was clear in Leviticus 19:34 (a few verses later) that the word “neighbor” included resident aliens. Leviticus 19:34 says, “The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God.”

The Jews of Jesus’ day held to a more narrow interpretation of the word “neighbor” to only include Jews and full proselytes. Jesus redefined the term to mean “anyone with whom we have dealings at all” (Luke 10:25-37).

9. What does Jesus declare about these two commandments? After stating the two greatest commandments Jesus said in Matthew 22:40, “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” The New King James translates this verse as “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” NKJV. This is illustrated with the natural division of the Law below.

10. How many commandments did Jesus give? It’s important to note that Christ gives two commandments and not three. We are living in a day when we are told there are three commands. For example, one writer said that if you don’t properly love yourself, you will be unable to love others. In fact he insists that you must be able to love yourself first before you can love God and your neighbor. The reason Christ did not give a third command was because the type of self-love that He was referring to we already possess. We already love ourselves. It is something that we do automatically and instinctively.

Ephesians 5:28-29 says, “So husbands are also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife, loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh but nourishes it and cherishes it.” Some would appeal to this text to prove that if you don’t love yourself then you can’t love your wife. But the text assumes that self-love or self-preservation is already clearly present in our lives. It’s not something that has to be developed or worked at. Notice first of all the word, “no one ever hated.” Hatred is the opposite of love. In other words, everyone always loves his own flesh. The word “no one” speaks of the universality of self-love which is taken for granted by this passage. It’s universal, “no one.” Notice the word “ever.” The word “ever” sets this forth as a timeless principle. In other words, this statement is true in all ages. There is not one person who ever hated himself. All men love themselves and that’s why they cherish and nourish their bodies.

11. What about those that cut their bodies or even attempt suicide? Many teenagers are willing to cut themselves in order to get attention. Self-love and often the occult (paganism) motivate these actions. Others are willing to attempt suicide to end the pain in their lives regardless of how much it will hurt others and be an offense to a Holy God in whose image they were made. Suicide is the ultimate act of self-love.

12. How has modern psychology influenced the church into making these two commandments into three? (2 Timothy 3:2) Nowhere in Scripture is it found that love of self is a prerequisite for the love of others. There are only two commands that Jesus gave. Numerous terms are used in modern psychology today to suggest that we must work at loving ourselves: self-esteem, self-acceptance, self-regard, self-worth, and descriptive phrases such as you need to feel good about yourself, you need to like yourself. Pastors who use these terms are confused, and they are adopting terminology and concepts and presuppositions from the world and trying to put them into Christianity, trying to sanctify those terms.

Paul warns Timothy that the Apostate church in the end times will be characterized by an emphasis on “loving self” (2 Timothy 3:1-5). The idea of self-love has not been held or taught historically by the church, but things are changing.

  • John Piper, in an article from Christianity Today (Aug. 12, 1977, pg.6) writes, “Today the first and Great Commandment is, ‘Thou Shalt Love Thyself.’ The explanation for almost every interpersonal problem is thought to lie in someone’s low self-esteem.”
  • In the book What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew about Women, the author writes, “If I could write a prescription for every woman in the world, I would provide each of them with a healthy dose of self-esteem and self-worth… I have no doubt that this is their greatest need.” pg.35
  • In Dare to Discipline Dobson writes: “Self-esteem is their most fragile attribute in human nature; it can be damaged by a very minor incident and its reconstruction is often difficult to engineer.” James Dobson pg.19
  • James Dobson writes in What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew About Women: “In fact, low self-esteem is a threat to the entire human family.” pg.28
  • In the book Hide and Seek he further says, “The manner of personal wealth is not only a concern of those who lack it. In a real sense, the health of an entire society depends on the ease with which the individual member gain personal acceptance. Thus, whenever the keys to self-esteem are seemingly out of reach for a large percentage of people, as in the twentieth century America, then wide spread mental illness, neuroticism, hatred, alcoholism, drug abuse, violence, and social disorder will certainly occur.” pgs.12-13
  • John R. Stott writes in an article, entitled: Must I Really Love Myself? “A chorus of many voices is chanting in unison today that at all costs I must love myself first.” Christianity Today, May 5,1978, pg.34

In others words, it doesn’t matter whom I tread on, whom I hurt, the first commandment really is to love yourself. That is not what Jesus said.

Robert Schuller writes about self-esteem when addressing the issue of hell. This is what he says about hell: “Hell is not having a good self-image.” He doesn’t believe in a literal hell, he believes in hell on earth and that is if you don’t have a good self-image, that’s hell.

Jesus emphasized self-denial not self-love. There are three reasons we should have reservations about the self-love theology.

  • Because from the beginning to the end the focus of scripture is the exultation of God and not man. It appears to me that Psalms 139:14 is virtually being rewritten today to be read as, “I will please me because for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” No, the text said, “I will praise Thee for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
  • Because I believe that Scripture has a high view of God and a low view of man. Throughout Scripture this is true: try James 4:1-10, you adulteresses, you adulterers. You can go anywhere in Scripture and see a proper evaluation of what we are like.
  • Because Paul designates self-love as a prime characteristic of evil of the last days: 2 Timothy 3:1.
  • Because too often “Christian writers” have proof texted their books with Scripture after having accepted certain pre-suppositions from psychology. The result has been eisegesis, “reading into the text” rather than exegesis, “reading out of the text.”

One of the consequences of self-love theology is a favorable opinion of oneself before salvation. If you have a favorable opinion of yourself before salvation, then you have a heart that cannot receive God’s mercy. It must become utterly empty of all opinion of your worth.

Luke 18:9-14 says, And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: 10″Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11″The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12’I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13″But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14″I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The Pharisee was full of self-esteem and it would cost him his eternal destiny. The tax collector saw himself as unworthy and cried out for mercy. The text says, “…this man went to his house justified rather than the other…”

C. S. Lewis said, “In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that, and, therefore, know yourselves as nothing in comparison, you do not know God at all. The real test of being in the presence of God is that you either forgot about yourself all together or you see yourself as a small dirty object.”

The consequences of a favorable opinion of yourself after salvation is to rob God of His glory. The Scriptures teach that God’s glory is somewhat diminished if man glories in himself. Jeremiah wrote, “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, or the rich man in his riches, or the mighty man in his might or let him who glories glory in the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:23).

13. How did the scribe affirm Jesus’ answer? (Mark l2:32-33) The scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that HE IS ONE, AND THERE IS NO ONE ELSE BESIDES HIM. 33 AND TO LOVE HIM WITH ALL THE HEART AND WITH ALL THE UNDERSTANDING AND WITH ALL THE STRENGTH, AND TO LOVE ONE’S NEIGHBOR AS HIMSELF, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

The teacher of the law not only reiterated what Jesus said but added two phrases to affirm Jesus’ words. The teacher of the law first added the phrase “AND THERE IS NO ONE ELSE BESIDES HIM” which is an interpretive addition from Deuteronomy 4:35. This affirmed and underscored the uniqueness of Israel’s God. Secondly, the teacher of the law affirmed that the love of God and neighbor are “more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices” (v.33) which is in keeping with the teachings of the OT prophets.

  • 1 Samuel 15:22, Samuel said, “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.
  • Hosea 6:6, For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

In Judaism the law and sacrifices are set side by side with love whereas the scribe was declaring the superiority of love going against the accepted teaching of his day.

John MacArthur writes, “Genuine love of the Lord is intelligent, feeling, willing, and serving. It involves thought, sensitivity, intent, and even action where that is possible and appropriate. God has never sought either empty words or empty ritual. His desire is for the person himself, not simply what the person possesses. If He truly has the person, He inevitably has all that the person possesses as well. And just as God loves us with His whole being, we are to return His love with our whole being.”

John MacArthur adds, “The person who truly loves the Lord with all his heart and soul and mind is the person who trusts Him and obeys Him. That person demonstrates his love by meditating on God’s glory (Psalm 18:1-3), trusting in God’s divine power (Psalm 31:23), seeking fellowship with God (Psalm 63:1-8), loving God’s law (Psalm 119:165), being sensitive to how God feels (Psalm 69:9), loving what God loves (Psalm 119:72,97,103), loving whom God loves (1 John 5:1), hating what God hates (Psalm 97:10), grieving over sin (Matthew 26:75), rejecting the world (1 John 2:15), longing to be with Christ (2 Timothy 4:8), and obeying God wholeheartedly (John 14:21).”

It’s important to note that when the scribe repeated the commandment in Deuteronomy 6:5 he omitted the divine name “the Lord” and replaced it with the pronoun “HIM” in keeping with the practice of pious Jews of avoiding the pronunciation of God’s name.

14.What did Jesus recognize about the scribes reply? (Mark 12:34a) This says, “When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently,…” Jesus pictures him as replying in the manner of one who possessed a mind of his own and really understood what he said. The man had comprehended the significance of Jesus’ reply (Portrait of Mark by: Heibert). But it’s the heart not just the intellect that must fully comprehend and embrace the way of Jesus.

15. How did Jesus appeal to the scribe to continue on his pursuit of the truth? (Mark l2:34b) Jesus told him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” This was “a compliment as well as an appeal to the scribe. His realization of the primary importance of love had placed him spiritually near the kingdom of God. He had come a long way for a scribe, but “not far from” insisted that he must go further and accept that love in the Person of Him who was “the kingdom incarnate.” “Whether or not he ever actually entered it, is written on the yet unread page of its history” (Portrait of Mark by: Hiebert).

16. What does a person have to do to secure entrance into the kingdom? (John 3:3-7) Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” 5Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6″That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7″Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’ (John 3:3-7). Jesus taught that a person had two options to enter into the kingdom. The first was to perfectly observe the Law of Moses that He summarized in two commandments in this passage. Entrance into the kingdom through the law requires no love lost for God or one’s neighbor EVER (Galatians 5:1-5).

The other approach is to be born into God’s family through faith in Christ’s substitutionary death and resurrection. This approach requires a recognition that we could never muster up enough effort in “the will of the flesh” to somehow satisfy a Holy God and be declared righteous on our own merits (Romans 3:20; 4:5; Philippians 3:9). John 1:12-13 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” This scribe (teacher of the law) was only one step away from entering into the kingdom. He was “near.” It appears that Jesus surmised that he was fully aware of heaven’s expectations and now he needed to recognize his own inadequacy to earn his entrance into the kingdom.

17. Were the religious leaders ready to question more after over hearing this exchange? (Mark 12:34c) The text says, “After that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions.” A.T. Robertson points out that the phrase, “After that, no one” is a double negative. The sense is the debate was closed and no one would venture (no one dared) to ask another question. Jesus was the complete victor on every side.” (Word Pictures in the New Testament Vol. 7)

Kenneth Wuest translates this verse, “And no one any longer was daring to ask Him a question” (pg.112). The double negative could be translated “no one, no not one”

1. In what way do you want to grow in your love right now: Toward God? Toward those in your neighborhood? Toward strangers? Toward the under resourced?

2. How specifically will you grow in your love? Whom have you selected?

3. What quadrant describes your love quotient?

Sources:

The questions and answers for this study were gleaned from the following resources.
1 . Serendipity Bible for Groups by: Serendipity House, Zondervan Publishing House, 1998
2. The Biblical View of Self-Esteem, Self-Love, Self-Image by: Jay E. Adams, Harvest House Publishers, 1986.
3. The Danger of Self- Love by: Paul Brownback Moody Press, 1982.
4. The Expositots Bible Commentary, Volume 8 by: Frank E. Gaebelein (General Editor), Zondervan Publishing House, 1984
5. Mark- A Portrait of the Servant by: Edmond Hiebert, Moody Press, 1974
6. He Came to Suffer by: Thomas R. Lovejoy, Grace Community Church, 1984.
7. Compassion: Showing Care in a Careless World by: Charles Swindoll, Word Books Publishers, 1984
8. Word Pictures in the New Testament Vol. I by: Archibald Thomas Robertson, Broadman, Press, 1931
9. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Matthew 16-23 by: John MacArthur Jr., Moody Press, 1988.
10.Word Studies in the Greek New Testament: Volume 1 by: Kenneth S. Wuest, William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1950.
11 . The Chronological Life of Christ Vol.2 by: Mark E. Moore, College Publishing Company, 1997
12. The Words and Works of Jesus Christ by: J. Dwight Pentecost, Zondervan Publishing House, 1981
13. Our Jealous God: Love That Won’t Let Me Go by: Bill Gothard, Life Change Book Series, Multnomah Publishers Inc., 2003
14. Diagram from The Connecting Church by Randy Frazee, p. 71, Zondervan Publishing House, 2001

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber Jr. © Copyright 1994]

Jesus Values Availability

We have finally come to the last command in the Youth stage, or the Build level of disciple-making. Availability is crucial to the mission of Jesus; no matter how gifted someone is, or knowledgeable of the Scripture, or talented, or popular… they cannot be used of God if they are not available.

The purpose for today is to encourage believers to respond to the call to follow Christ in being trained in evangelism without looking for the perfect alibi, excuse, or reason why they cannot serve. God wants wholehearted volunteers, rather than those who are reluctant, delaying, defensive, or putting it off. Availability is more rare than ability. The worker shortage in the church is not because the church is not full of capable people. It is because the church is full of people who are unwilling to rearrange their schedule around eternal values.

Something else we see in this lesson: Jesus continues to develop another generation of disciples (at the Youth stage or Build level) at the same time he was pouring into the lives of the Twelve (at the Adult stage or Equip level). Volunteers may drop off with excuses, but we must continue to recruit others along the way. After the Feast of Booths in Jerusalem (John 7:11-8:9) Jesus appointed 72 volunteers (Luke 10:1 – there are 72 according to the NIV and NLT, the NASB indicates 70). Perhaps the 72 workers were recruited by the Twelve when they went out two by two (6 [3 groups of 2] X 12 = 72). The first thing Jesus teaches these new recruits is to pray for more workers for the harvest field (Luke 10:2).

Background: Jesus’ ministry turns toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:51) and on the way he is rejected by the Samaritans as he was passing through (Luke 9:52-56). James and John wanted to call down fire on them (Luke 9:54) but Jesus uses this as an opportunity to reinforce his ministry and mission (Luke 9:56). Three would-be followers approach Jesus but he is steady on the fact that his followers cannot waiver concerning service in the kingdom.

Here are the commands at this point: FOLLOW Me & ALLOW (Matthew 8:22), FOLLOW & ALLOW, GO & PROCLAIM (Luke 9:59-60). We see this outside of the gospels (Acts 13:5, 15:36-41, 2 Timothy 4:10-11).

Opening:

  1. What was your favorite excuse for not doing something?
  2. How does Jesus respond to the excuses of these three men (Luke 9:57, 59, 61)?
  3. Of these excuses, which might you be tempted to use (comfort, social obligation, family concerns)?

Read Luke 9:57-62, 14:16-24

1. How would you define availability? Perhaps, “Making my own schedule and priorities secondary to the wishes of those I am called to serve” versus self-contentedness (Philippians 2:3-4, 20-21). Availability does not mean that you have lots of time on your hands; it requires managing your schedule and saying “no” to some good things so you can do what is best. Our two passages today mention many people who gave Jesus a bunch of excuses.

2. How do we know this passage is a call to serve and not a call to discipleship (Matthew 8:21, Luke 9:62, 10:1-2)? The three men in Matthew’s story were already disciples (Matthew 8:21). The word for “another” implies that the scribe (Matthew 8:19) and the man who wanted to bury his father are both already followers of Jesus. Each of these people were invited to be trained in evangelism and to work in the harvest field. The plow was a symbol of work. When they gave excuses for their unavailability, Jesus recruited 70 others for the work (Luke 10:1).

3. How did Peter and John display availability (Matthew 4:19-20)? They immediately left their nets (Matthew 4:20, Mark 1:18, Luke 5:11).

4. What name might you give these three unnamed disciples?

Mr. Too Quick (Luke 9:57-58)

  • How does Matthew describe Mr. Too Quick (Matthew 8:19-20, Luke 9:57-58)? Matthew identifies him as a scribe (Matthew 8:19) and a disciple (Matthew 8:21). Scribes were highly educated authorities of the Jewish Law and closely associated with the Pharisees.
  • What do you think was Mr. Too Quick’s motive for volunteering to serve (Luke 9:58)? His motive may have been popularity or fame. As an OT scholar he probably thought that by accompanying Jesus on his mission, he would share in the glory or fame of his kingdom. Jesus used the term, “Son of Man” to identify himself with the predictions of Daniel 7:13-14. Jesus connects his physical relationship to David and Abraham as their heir to the throne, so the term refers to the union of God and man in the One who would be the king of Israel. Mr. Too Quick had the right person, but the wrong timing (1 Peter 1:11), and motive.
  • Why does Jesus make references to holes and nests (Luke 9:58)? Wild animals have a place to lay their head at night, safe from natural enemies, but not so with Jesus. They would be homeless; no home and no throne.

Mr. Too Slow (Luke 59-60)

  • What did Mr. Too Slow want to do before following Jesus (Luke 9:59)? He wanted to take care of his father’s funeral. Burial was a religious duty that took precedence over studying the Law, temple services, killing the Passover sacrifice, and circumcision. Priest were not allowed to touch a dead body but could if it was a near relative (Leviticus 21:1-3). It was scandalous if left undone.
  • Jesus’ response seems insensitive but it establishes the priority of proclaiming the gospel (Luke 9:60). If proclamation of the gospel is not done, it should be scandalous to the believer.
  • What was even more scandalous, the father was likely not even dead. The phrase used was common in the middle east that emphasizes a son’s responsibility to help his father in the family business until he passed on, and handled his final affairs. It could have been a long time of delay if the father was still young and healthy. Mr. Too Slow was motivated by materialism.
  • What did Jesus mean by “allow the dead to bury their dead” (Luke 9:60, Matthew 8:22)? It was a proverbial figure of speech meaning, “let the world take care of the things of the world.” Basically, spiritually dead people (Luke 15:24, 32, John 5:25, Romans 6:13, Ephesians 2:1, 5:14) make great morticians. They are capable of performing these tasks, but YOU go and do that which only a believer can do, share the gospel.
  • What did Jesus command this man to do (Luke 59-60)? FOLLOW, ALLOW, GO, and PROCLAIM are aorist tense which indicates urgency, leave now. The present tense indicates that we keep on proclaiming.

Mr. Too Easy (Luke 9:61-62)

  • What did Mr. Too Easy want to do before putting his hand to the plow (Luke 9:61)? He wanted to say good-bye to those at home. This seems harmless enough but it appears this guy did not have the strength to break away from loved ones; being too emotionally tied to family relationships. Consider what Elisha did when Elijah met him (1 Kings 19:19-21). I hope you noticed a significant difference between Elisha and Mr. Too Easy. There was no turning back for Elisha whereas Mr. Too Easy may have been persuaded to not follow and serve Jesus.
  • This idea is supported by the phrase “to say good-bye,” which signifies “to set apart or assign, as a solder to his post.” It carries the idea of deployment, sent out with orders. He was looking for his orders and last instructions from his family rather than Jesus.
  • Notice the words in “Lord, first, me” (Luke 9:61). “I will follow you, but first permit me” – It could be he is really saying, “I will follow you, but first me.” There can never be “me first” when it comes to following and serving Jesus; there are no “buts.”

5. What kind of people are not fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62)? This is certainly a word picture in the NT, a farmer who wants straight rows continues to look ahead. The text literally says, “looking at the things behind.” “Not fit” would indicate “well-placed, suited for, adapted to,” which could indicate an inconsiderate impulse, conflicted duties, or a divided mind. Jesus wants total commitment, not just adding him to an already complicated and full life. The NIV adds the word “service” in the kingdom of God, but the word is not in the Greek NT.

6. Did Luke record the outcome of these conversations (Luke 10:1)? It may be that these three did not respond positively to Jesus’ invitation, so he recruited 70 “others.”

7. How can we increase the number of laborers in God’s harvest field (Luke 10:2)? Prayer in the key.

8. What do you think about this quote from Chuck Swindoll?

Anyone who sets out to serve Christ can be sure that many escape routes will appear so that you can relinquish your responsibilities. Voices will call out to you to cut inches off the cross. Twelve legions of angels stand ready to deliver you from the path of sacrificial service.

9. How do you determine God’s call for service in your life?

10. How has this command impacted your soul; your mind [thoughts], will [decisions], and emotions [feelings]?

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

Praying for Volunteers

If prayer is a regular part of the Christian experience, I had to ask myself a penetrating question: How many volunteers have I asked God for this week?

We all know that prayer should be the foundation of our recruiting efforts. I mean, every leader knows that, right? But often, in our busyness, we forget this important step, or we don’t know where to begin, or we feel presumptuous asking God to help with something so obvious. Whatever the excuse, (I mean, reason) a prayer plan can empower the process to involve more people in ministry.

This quick (and Scripture-rich) prayer pattern will not only help you pray with more focus and purpose; and it’s a great way to get the entire leadership team involved in praying for new volunteers.

Ask God to send the right people: “… O Lord, you know every heart. Show us which of these… you have chosen” (Acts 1:24)

Pray God would give them a willing heart: “So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do” (2 Thessalonians 1:11)

Believe they will be obedient to God’s call to serve: “I am confident as I write this letter that you will do what I ask and even more!” (Philemon 1:21)

Volunteering in the Church

I’ve been thinking about volunteers and serving in the church lately… it’s that time of year in the Baptist tradition to enlist and secure capable and willing volunteers to ministries all over the church… teaching classes, serving on committees, nominating new deacons.

The goal is to have people serving in positions lining up with their giftedness. Once we understand how we are wired, we are better able to connection people into places and positions that allow them to accomplish the task with a certain ease and effectiveness. You know what it is like, sometime you have been assigned a task way outside of your strengths, but you were willing, so the job was yours!

Today I hope that you will see that some people in the church have a job while others involve themselves in ministry. What’s the difference?

If you do it just because no one else will… it’s a job!
If you do it to serve God… it’s a ministry!

If you quit because someone criticized you… it’s a job!
If you kept on serving in spite of challenges… it’s a ministry!

If you’ll do it only so long as it doesn’t interfere with other things… it’s a job!
If you’re committed to staying with it, even when it means letting other things go… it’s a ministry!

If you quit because no one ever praised or thanked you… it’s a job!
If you stay even though no one notices your efforts… it’s a ministry!

If you do it because someone else said it needs to be done… it’s a job!
If you do it because you sensed God saying it needs to be done… it’s a ministry!

If you do it because there is a need… it’s a job!
If you do it because it is your passion… it’s a ministry!

It’s hard to get excited about a job.
It’s almost impossible NOT to get excited about a ministry!

I pray that our church is NOT filled with people doing jobs, but ministries! If we desire to be a growing church, we need to be filled with people involved in ministry!