“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.”—John 15:9
Here is the door by which we come into what is known as the “Upper Room Discourse:”
“Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1).
Having entered that door, we hear Jesus calling us to abide in His love. Here is part of the gospel bliss of this command: the love we are called to abide in, already is.
Jesus loved His own and He loved them to the end. He has washed them, physically, as a testimony of His washing them spiritually. Jesus will stoop lower yet to serve them in love. Saints, we do not need to create the love of Christ for us to then abide in it. The love we are called to abide in is not a bathtub that we fill; it is an infinite and eternal ocean that already is.
This is amplified when Jesus goes on to tell them, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” The love in which we are called to abide, is rooted not in our choice, but His. Be gone any idea that you spark this love. This love has ever burned. This love is. It was before you were and it will be for all eternity. You did not create this love. This love was before you were created.
Jesus is not saying that our choice is nonexistent. He is saying His choice is paramount and supreme. What Jesus says here is harmonious with what John writes when he says, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 5:19). His love is the cause of ours. His choice is the cause of ours. Richard Sibbes writes,
“If we choose him, we may conclude he hath chosen us first: ‘if we love him, we may know that he hath loved us first,’ (1 John 5:19). If we apprehend him, it is because he hath apprehended us first. Whatsoever affection we shew to God, it is a reflection of his first to us. If cold and dark bodies have light and heat in them, it is because the sun hath shined upon them first.”
Some object to this saying that this speaks of the apostles being chosen to their office, not chosen for salvation. Let’s see if that stands. This language of “choosing” goes back earlier in the upper room to 13:18. “I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen.” Eleven were chosen. Judas was not. Judas was chosen to the office of apostle. He was not chosen as one of Christ’s friends (vv. 13–15). He was not clean (John 13:11). He didn’t enjoy the promises of the upper room. He had no part in Christ. Soon, Jesus will tell the disciples, “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19). The disciples were not simply chosen from among the saints for an office. They were chosen out from the world for salvation.
The love of Christ doesn’t fall like a limp wrist on this world, loving all but loving ineffectually. Jesus loves with a mighty right hand of redemption. It is a strong love we are called to abide in. A love that we do not spark, but rather, a love that has always burned.