Keeping the Word

farewell-discourse23 Jesus answered and said to him, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me. 25“I have told you this while I am with you. 26 The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that (I) told you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. 28 You heard me tell you, ‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe. (John 14:23-29)

Verse 23 begins with, “Jesus answered and said to him.” Jesus is answering the question raised in v. 22 by Judas (not Iscariot): “Lord, how is it that you will reveal (emphanizo) yourself to us, and not to the world?” This question comes because Jesus has just said that he would love and reveal himself to those who have and keep his commandments — those who love him (v. 21: Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”).

Contrasts are given:

  • us versus the world
  • those to whom Jesus reveals himself vs. the world
  • those who keep commandments and love Jesus vs. those who don’t

The two related answers to the question given in our text are (1) through the Word and (2) through the Paraclete.

Jesus (and the Father) Come Through The Word.  Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me” (vv. 23-24)

What does it mean to “keep” (tereo) Jesus’ word? The basic meanings of this word in TDNT are:

  1. keep watch over, guard
  2. keep, hold, reserve, preserve someone or something
  3. keep = not lose
  4. keep = protect
  5. keep, observe, fulfill, pay attention to

NOTE: that “obey” is not one of the meanings (although perhaps implied by “observe”).

Brian Stoffregen’s paraphrase of tereo as “hold dear” or perhaps, “consider important” seems to capture the sense of the passage. This interpretation goes beyond mere obedience. One may detest the words that one is hearing and obeying. One may detest the one giving the orders, but to avoid punishment, one obeys them. In contrast to this, phrasing it, “Holding Jesus’ word dear,” implies having a positive attitude towards that Word and the Word-giver. That is, wanting to hear and obey it out of love for the speaker.

Loving Jesus and “holding dear” what Jesus said and did are inseparable. In chapters 14-15, twice “love” comes before “keep” (14:15; 23) and twice “keep” comes before “love” (14:21; 15:10). In addition, “keeping” is used with “commandments” (entole) (14:15, 21; 15:10) and with “word” (logos) (14:23, 24; 15:20). Loving Jesus and “holding dear” his word and commandments are inseparable.

The connection between love and keeping (i.e., holding dear) the commandments is illustrated by Jesus himself in v. 31. He is doing what the Father has commanded him, so that the world might know that he is loving the Father. The purpose of Jesus’ obedience is witnessing.

The results of loving Jesus and keeping his word in v. 23 are:

  1. The Father will love that one
  2. The Father and Son will come to that one
  3. The Father and Son will make a dwelling with that one

The promise we have from Jesus is that he (and his Father) will be present to those who, out of their love for Jesus, keep (i.e., hold dear) his word. These are those to whom Jesus will reveal himself.

In contrast to these who love Jesus and keep his word, Jesus next talks about “Whoever does not love me does not keep (hold dear) my words” (v. 24). Presumably these non-lovers and non-keepers do not receive the Father’s love or the abiding presence of the Father and the Son. This is understandable if the love and presence comes through the Word that one “holds dear” or “considers valuable,” those who do not have this relationship with the Word will not have the presence of the divine in their lives.

The subject changes in the next phrase: “…yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me” (v.24)

Keeping the “words” in the v.23 is now phrased “hearing the word.” This phrase elucidates the “us/our” in v. 23 – the Word that brings the presence comes from both Father and Son. The three cannot be separated: Word, Father, and Son.

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