“Know that the Lord your God is God – the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love to those who love Him AND keep His commandments… and repays to their face those who hate Him by destroying them. He will repay him to his face.” [Deu 7:9-10]
Many Christians want to talk about the love of God but few fear Him and keep His commands. According to John 15, if we don’t keep His commands, we are not abiding in Christ and will be like a branch thrown into the fire – these are the haters of Christ.
At first look, this may appear to claim salvation is a matter of works – obeying Christ’s commands. But nothing could be further from the truth. In John chapter fifteen, Jesus made clear “apart from Me, you can do nothing.” [v 5] And in the verse before this, He said, the branch cannot bear fruit by itself – it must abide in the vine to bear fruit. Therefore, this fruit bearing is a result of abiding in Christ. As Paul said in Ephesians chapter two, we are saved by grace, not of works – so that no man can boast in what he has done (v 8-9).
Some professing Christians like to claim Ephesians 2:8-9 for an easy salvation – “I don’t have to do anything because I am saved.” And they go back to their old life, or a cleaned up version of their old self indulgence. They neglect verse ten where Paul wrote, “we are His workmanship.” That is, our fruit is a result of God working through us – AND the rest of the verse explains how God predestined us to do good works and how we are called to walk in this lifestyle of good works. What Paul is saying in the three verses is we are saved by grace – there is nothing we can do to save our selves – no obedience to God will earn our salvation. However, if we are truly saved, we will walk in Christ’s commands and He will produce works, or fruit, in us.
Back to John fifteen: In verse ten, Jesus said, “If you keep My commands, you will abide in My love.” In chapter fourteen, verse fifteen, He said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commands.” We must keep His commands to abide in His love – but not to worry – if we abide in His love, we will keep His commands. Therefore, keeping God’s commands and producing good fruit is a matter of abiding in Christ and Christ working through us.
There is something about John 15:1-6 that concerns me: Jesus said, in verse two, every branch that does not bear fruit, the Father takes away. In verse six, He said these branches are thrown into the fire – they are going to Hell. But these are branches – they are part of the vine – and in John 10:27-28 Jesus said His sheep will follow Him and none of them will perish and not one will be snatched out of the Father’s hand. So, when the saved are sheep, they are secure in their salvation but when they are branches, they do not appear to be secure anymore. Is this what Jesus meant? Is there a contradiction between these two illustrations?
To understand this dilemma better, let us look at the parable of the Sower (Mat 13:3-23). In this story, Christ gave the illustration of seed sown in different soils and there are three bad soils: the path, where the seed is plucked by the birds; among weeds where the seed is choked and cannot bear fruit; and the rocky soil, where the seed gathers enough nourishment to sprout but not enough to get rooted and continue. There are a lot of professing Christians in this third soil. They “get saved” and appear to produce fruit but the fruit is short lived, though it may be a couple weeks, a couple years or even a couple decades. When trials or persecutions come – or are prolonged, they fall away – even if they appear to hold on for a while. The problem is they did not abide in Christ. So, here they are – branches on the vine, but they are not part of the vine, so they are removed.
The sheep follow Christ – they abide in Him and are secure in their salvation. Some of the branches, however, do not abide, and as the Apostle John described them in 1John chapter two, they were among us but they were never part of us. They were branches on the vine according to their profession of faith but in fact they were antichrists – or haters of Christ.
So, let’s talk about haters: Many professing Christians “love God so much” but are not saved – they are really God haters. Jesus said, in Matthew 7:21-23, many will call Him “Lord, Lord” but are going to Hell. They will say to Him, “Lord, didn’t I do this for you and didn’t I do that for you – and didn’t I just love you so much?” He will say, “depart from Me – I never knew you.”
How can someone love God “so much” and still go to Hell? The answer is simple: they did not abide in Christ. The reason for this is also simple: they hated Christ. “What?” you say. The Bible makes clear our salvation is NOT a matter of feelings. Jeremiah 17:9 tells us our hearts are deceitful and thoroughly wicked. We may feel we love Jesus; we may go to church and every Christian event and function we can avail to ourselves; we may listen to Christian music and in every way define our lives as Christian – but if we do not abide in Christ, it can only be because we hate Him – and we are not saved.
John told of an event (John 2:23-25) where many believed in Christ but Christ did not entrust Himself to them. Or, as Matthew put it, “I never knew you.” Christ knows the heart of man – and we just discussed how the heart is deceitful and wicked. This salvation we hold dearly is not just a matter of believing as we are often taught. In fact, James tells us, the demons believe and tremble (James 2:19). John tells how Christ warned a group of “believers” (John 8:31-32): He said, “If you abide in My Word – get into it, study it and memorize it, that is, make it part of your life – then you are really My disciples and then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Understand this, Christ tells us believing is nothing without abiding. Abiding is everything – a true believer will abide.
Further on in John chapter fifteen, Jesus warns us the world will hate us (v 18f). Many professing Christians seek the friendship and acceptance of the world. In fact, many seek to frame Christianity to be pleasing to the world in the hope that many will “get saved.” But James warns us friendship with world is hostility, or hatred, toward God (James 4:4). Jesus said the world will hate Him and to bend the Gospel to make it palatable to the world is to proclaim a different gospel because it does not represent the true Christ of the Bible. Jesus warned us in Matthew chapter ten, not to fear man but proclaim the Gospel, standing firm without denying Him (v 26-33). Then He said He did not come to bring peace – that is, Christ will not conform the Gospel to please the world. In fact, He said He brings a sword and the world – and even families – will divide between those who are willing to lose their lives for Him and those who cling to the world. In other words, the Gospel will divide between those who abide in Christ and seek to please God and those who hate Christ and seek to please man. We cannot love Christ while seeking to please man. We cannot love Christ while building our own empires. If we love Christ, we must expect the world to hate us – and we should desire nothing from it.
So, my friend, are you a true believer? Do not trust your heart – do not trust your feelings. Many God haters feel a love for God – some to overflowing. Examine your life in the light of the Word of God. Are you abiding in Christ or abiding in the world? John wrote if we do not continue in Christ’s teaching – abide in Christ and grow in the Word – we do not have God (2Joh 8). To know we are saved – to know the truth, we must abide in Christ.