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The Eleventh Commandment

The Eleventh Commandment poster

We turn today to the thirteenth chapter of John’s Gospel and read from the thirty-first verse:

“Therefore, when he was gone out—” that is, when Judas had gone out into the night—“Jesus said, Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him. If God be glorified in Him, God shall also glorify Him in Himself, and shall straightway glorify Him. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you. A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another…Simon Peter said unto Him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards. Peter said unto Him, Lord, why cannot I follow Thee now? I will lay down my life for Thy sake. Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice.”

Our Lord and His disciples are still in the upper room where they had observed that last passover together as we learn from the other Gospels, that had been followed by the institution of the Lord’s Supper, that sacred feast of love which has been observed by God’s beloved people all down through the centuries since. Judas had left the little company. Moved by the worst of motives; controlled by covetousness, he had gone out to meet the chief priests and to receive the money they had promised him in view of a little later betraying the Lord Jesus into their hands. And now as the Saviour is left alone with the eleven whose hearts are strangely troubled because of certain things He has already told them, He speaks with a new joy and says, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him.”

It did not look as though God was about to be glorified, and during the next three days they must have had plenty of doubts indeed as to God being glorified in the events that took place. The Lord had said that He was going out to die, that He was to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. Could that glorify God? He had said that He was to be buried and then raised again, and it was in this, His death and His resurrection, that God was to be glorified. For in His sacrificial death upon the cross, He was to settle the sin question in a way that would absolutely meet every claim of the holiness of God’s nature and the righteousness of His throne. And we can say that in that death of His there upon the tree, God has received more glory than He ever lost by Adam’s sin and by all the guilt and enmity and iniquity that came into the world since.

But after all, men are but finite, finite sinners it is true, and as such have dishonored God. It could be said of every man, “God, in whose hand thy breath is hast thou not glorified.” But the Lord Jesus was the infinite One Who had linked deity with humanity in order that He might give Himself a ransom for our souls. And because He was Himself infinite, the work He did upon Calvary’s cross had infinite value, and therefore we are right in saying that God received more glory out of that work than He ever lost by finite man’s sin. And as proof that He had been glorified, God raised His Son from the dead, glorifying Jesus, the One Who had accomplished the work. “If God be glorified in Him, God shall also glorify Him in Himself and shall straightway glorify Him.”

The thought of the Father’s glory was very much in the heart of Jesus at this time. In fact—it may seem strange to some of you to say it—but our Lord apparently was far more concerned about glorifying God than He was about saving sinners. How we like to think the opposite! We like to think that our salvation was the important thing, that the great thing Jesus came to do was to save our souls. And He did come for that. “The Son of Man came,” He said, “not to be ministered unto but to minister and to give His life a ransom for many.” “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it.” But there was something greater than the salvation of sinners that occupied His heart, and that was glorifying the Father. So in the seventeenth chapter when we see Him before God as our great High Priest, anticipating the work of the cross, we hear Him saying, “I have glorified Thee upon the earth, I have finished the work that Thou gavest Me to do.” God’s glory is first, and then that finished work of the cross by which our souls are saved.

I remember hearing of a Universalist, a man who believes that all men will eventually be saved, saying once to an earnest Christian, “I have a far higher conception of the work of the atonement than you have, for you believe that even though Christ died on the cross there are thousands upon thousands, perhaps millions of men who will be lost forever. I have a far higher view of the atonement than that. I believe that if one soul were ever lost since Christ has died, His atonement would be the greatest failure that has ever taken place in the universe.”

The Christian replied, “Oh, no. I have a higher conception of it than that. I dare to say even though not one soul were ever saved, the atonement has been the greatest success of anything that has ever taken place in the universe, for in that atoning work God has been honored and glorified as He never could have been in anything else.”

But now the wonderful thing is that our salvation is linked up with God’s glory. You see, God’s heart went out to sinful man, but He could not save sinners, till sin was settled for, for it would violate the righteousness of His throne. He could not save sinners if it was contrary to the holiness of His nature. So His own beloved Son, the eternal One, the One Whose goings forth have been from of old from everlasting, became incarnate; in humility He became man and went to that cross, paid the full price of our redemption, and every claim that God had against a sinner was met, and now God could be just and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. So our salvation and God’s glory stand or fall together. Christ has given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice of a sweet smelling savor unto God, and because of God’s satisfaction in the work His Son has accomplished, He can now open His arms and invite every guilty sinner to come to Him and offer full, complete pardon and justification from all things; yes, cleansing from every guilty stain to those who come in the name of Jesus. Have you come?

A lady on one occasion came to a servant of God. When asked if she was saved, she replied, “I don’t understand it. I see that Jesus died for me, but surely there is something I must do. That seems too simple a way for anyone to be saved.”

And the other said, “My dear friend, it was God Who sent His Son to die. It was God who put on Him all that our sins deserved. Christ has borne that judgment for you, and now God is satisfied, and if God is satisfied, surely you should be.”

She looked up somewhat startled as she said, “I had never seen it that way before. Surely I should be satisfied with that which satisfies God. Yes, I can trust Him, I can take Him at His Word.”

Have you done that? Do you realize that on the cross the sin question has been settled? Now when you receive the Lord Jesus, you stand cleared of every charge.

He Who glorified God on the cross has been raised from the dead, taken up to the Father’s right hand and there God has glorified Him with His own self with the glory which He had with the Father before the world began.

Jesus was looking upon all this as an accomplished fact when He spoke as He did as recorded in verses thirty-one and thirty-two. And then He added, “Little children”—only a few more hours and then He was going out to die—“yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you.” Now He is going away and He is going to leave His disciples in the world to be witnesses for Himself. While He was here, He said, “I am the light of the world.” Now He is going back to the heavens from whence He came, and the disciples, after He leaves here, are to shine as lights in this gloomy world. And it is now He gives this new commandment. “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another.” It is His last charge to His saints before He goes to the cross. Looking down through the years, He knows they will be in a hostile world and be hated of all men for His name’s sake, and He pleads with them, “Don’t hate one another. Don’t be ungracious and unkind and quarrelsome and discourteous to each other. You who have been redeemed by the same precious blood, indwelt by the same Holy Spirit, be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another.” May we not well challenge ourselves and each one ask the question in his or her own heart, “How have I answered to this command of my Saviour? Am I characterized by love for my brethren in Christ? Or have I so far forgotten my responsibility as a Christian that I have permitted malice and envy and jealousy and even hatred to well up in my heart? Have I cherished these evil things?” There are children of God who are cold and hard and indifferent and critical and unkind. We may well face these things in the presence of God.

How much bitterness has been engendered through the years by religious controversy! I remember reading of a striking incident in the life of that wonderful man of God, Samuel Rutherford. Saintly Rutherford, whose last words are embodied in that beautiful hymn, “Immanuel’s Land.” Rutherford, the author of a whole volume of heavenly lines that bear the celestial aroma, was a Church of Scotland minister, and his place of ministry a little Scottish town known as Anwoth. There he labored among a happy group of earnest believers. But there were troubles in connection with the government. The British government had declared that the Scottish church must no longer follow the Presbyterian order which was that which Rutherford used, and sought to impose an altogether different, and as the Scots thought, foreign order of things upon them. And Rutherford was one of those devoted ministers who for conscience’s sake refused to admit and would not acknowledge the authority of the king’s bishops.

Because he refused to conform, Rutherford was banished to Aberdeen and put in prison there. He always said he would not permit a bishop of any kind to stand in his pulpit. But before he left, while he was still pastor in the church, there came one night to the manse a stranger. Knocking at the door, Rutherford himself welcomed him. The stranger didn’t give his name, but said he was on his way and would be glad of accommodations for the night. They ate together. Afterwards, Rutherford took up the Word of God and then he said, “Now we have the catechism, the reading of the Scriptures and prayer, and we expect every visitor to participate with us.” It was a good old fashioned custom. I wish we had more like it today. So the servants were called in and Rutherford read the Scripture. Then he began to catechize the whole house and turned eventually to the stranger, and he said, “How many commandments are there?”

The stranger looked up, and without batting an eye, answered, “Eleven.”

Rutherford looked abashed. “I asked how many commandments there are.”

“Yes, I understood. Eleven.”

“I am surprised that in all the Scottish realm there should be found a man so ignorant that he doesn’t know there are only ten commandments.”

And then the stranger looked up and said, “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another.”

“Oh,” said Rutherford, “what is your name, stranger?”

He said, “My name is Usher. I am archbishop of Ireland.”

An archbishop in Rutherford’s home! The man who had said he could have no fellowship with anyone who held to another ecclesiastical order than his own. Broken, ashamed of his harshness, Rutherford begged the stranger to lead them all in prayer, and responded fervently as the archbishop bore them all up before God.

Oh, how we need to be reminded of this eleventh commandment, “A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another.” It is not enough, my brethren, to know that you are saved. It is not enough that you stand firmly as I hope you do for the fundamental truths. Back of all fundamental truth there is a great fundamental experience that everyone of us should have.

“Though I preach with the tongue of men and of angels and have not love, it profiteth me nothing. And though I give my body to be burned, and though I understand all mystery and all knowledge and have not love, I am nothing.” It would be well for every one of us to test ourselves every little while by the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians. “Love suffereth long and is kind. Love envieth not. Love is not boastful. Love is not conceited. Love doth not behave itself discourteously. Love is not self-seeking. Love is not quickly angry. Love thinketh no evil.” That is, love doesn’t impute evil and try to judge people’s motives. “Love rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoices in the truth. Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”

Why, you know we might take these words as a character sketch of our Lord Jesus Christ. You could put in His name here, and that would be all true of Him. “Christ suffereth long and is kind. Christ envieth not. Christ vaunteth not Himself. Christ is not puffed up. Christ does not behave Himself unseemly. Christ sought not His own. Christ was not easily provoked. Christ thinks no evil. Christ rejoices not in iniquity. Christ beareth all things, Christ believeth all things, Christ hopeth all things. Christ endureth all things. Christ never fails.” And if you and I have the mind of Christ, this divine love will be manifested in us, then all our talk about being fundamentalists, all our talk about standing for the truth, goes for very little indeed. We may be tremendously in earnest in contending for certain great outstanding facts, but if we contend in a bad spirit, we only harm the cause that we represent. And if back of our contention for the faith there is no sincere love for our brethren, yea, love for all men, then we dishonor the One Who Himself is the way, the truth, and the life. He has said, “By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples if ye have love one to another.” That is, we don’t prove we are His disciples by striving for a creed, however great and exact it may be. We do not prove we are His disciples by insisting on the fact that we believe in an inspired Bible, blessed as that is. We do not prove that we are His disciples by loudly proclaiming our faith in the virgin birth and perfect humanity of our Saviour, His atoning work, His physical resurrection and His present intercession at God’s right hand. We do not prove to men and women that we are really Christians by insisting that we believe in the premillennial coming of our Lord Jesus and all these great and precious verities, but “by this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Let us not forget this, and let us examine ourselves faithfully and honestly and see if we are allowing hatred and malice in our hearts while presuming to be holding to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Not only here does He speak of this, but in chapter 15, verse 12, He says, “This is My commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever I commanded you.” You see, real love is unselfish. Love delights to bear and do. Don’t talk about loving one another if you are not concerned about serving one another as God enables.

Look at the first epistle of John. The beloved disciple who heard our Lord utter these words never forgot them. It is said that when he was an old, old man, after he was too feeble to walk, he used to be carried into the assembly of the saints at Ephesus, and then two of the elders would assist him to his feet while he gave a few words of godly counsel to the people of God. And it is said that he always ended with this expression “Little children, love one another.” And here it is written in First John 2:7, and following, “Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in Him and in you: because the darkness is past and the true light now shineth. He that saith he is in the light and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.”

Look at verse seventeen of chapter three: “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”

Love is a very practical thing. To what extent are we manifesting it toward those in more difficult circumstances than ourselves? To what extent are we manifesting it to those who have failed and sinned? Are we content simply to point out their faults and criticize and say hard, unkind things? Or do we love them enough to go to them in the Spirit of Christ and seek to recover them to Himself? “A new commandment I give unto you that ye love one another.”

But now Simon Peter for the moment listens but doesn’t hear. What our Lord has said, recorded in these two verses, appears to make no impression upon him at all. He is still thinking of what the Saviour said a little while before, “Whither I go, ye cannot come.” And with that in mind, he breaks in and destroys for the moment the continuity of thought. “Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go—“ (that is to death) “—thou canst not follow Me now; but thou shalt follow Me afterwards.” Our Lord here speaks as a prophet. He was going to be crucified. Peter was not ready for that, though Peter didn’t realize it. But Jesus said, “Some day you will follow Me even in that,” and he did. For in his old age we are told Peter, too, was crucified. Peter laid down his life on a cross as a martyr for the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

But Peter does not understand, does not recognize his own present limitation. Peter said unto Him, “Lord, why cannot I follow Thee now? I will lay down my life for Thy sake.” He meant every word of it. Evidently he thought he was prepared for that. But he didn’t know the deceitfulness of his own heart. He didn’t know the cowardice that was hidden there to be brought to light when a little servant girl should come to him and say, “You are one of His, you were with Jesus of Nazareth.” “No, no. I never knew Him!” Oh how soon that denial would take place. Peter didn’t realize his weakness, he didn’t know how untrustworthy his own heart was.

“Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for My sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, the cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied Me thrice.”

In closing, let me call your attention to the fact that in the original text, there is no break between the last verse of chapter thirteen and the first verse of chapter fourteen. What is Jesus really saying? Listen to it and be encouraged if you have failed.

“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied Me thrice. Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in Me.”

“Peter, I know you are going to fail Me. You don’t realize how untrustworthy your heart is, but, oh, Peter, when at last you discover the corruption that is there and you are just about broken hearted to think of what you have done, I want you to remember, Peter, I love you still, and I am going to prepare a place for you.”

Do you know this Saviour? Oh, if you do not, I would plead with you, acquaint thyself with Him and be at peace. He wants you to know Him, and He bids you come to Him today. He says, “Him that cometh to Me, I will in no wise cast out.”

We close by singing a hymn on the love of the Spirit.

Gracious Spirit, Holy Ghost,
Taught by Thee we covet more,
Of Thy Gifts at Pentecost,
Holy, heavenly love.
Love is kind, and suffers long;
Love is meek and thinks no wrong;
Love than death itself more strong’
Therefore give us love.

Faith and hope and love we see,
Joining hand and hand, agree;
But the greater of the three,
And the best, is love.
Faith will vanish into sight;
Hope be emptied in delight;
Love in heaven will shine more bright;
Therefore give us love.

From the overshadowing
Of Thy gold and silver wing,
Shed on us who to Thee sing,
Holy, heavenly love.
Prophecy will fade away,
Melting in the light of day;
Love will ever with us stay;
Therefore give us love.