Which comes first, love or obedience? In John 14, Jesus describes love as the motivator for obedience and obedience as the evidence of love.
- Verse 15, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments."
- Verse 21, "He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me."
- Verse 23, "Jesus answered him, 'If a man loves me, he will keep my word.'"
- Verse 24, "He who does not love me does not keep my words."
Obedience is the test of true love.
Obedience to the commandments of Christ is the test of love to Him... for there are certain qualities of obedience, which are to be found in every lover of Christ, and which are never found in any one else, and it is to these we must attend, if we would know what is our character. Every lover of Christ keeps His commandments implicitly: that is, he does what he does because Christ bids him. The doing what Christ commands may be agreeable to my inclinations or conducive to my interest; and if it is on these grounds I do it, I serve myself, not the Lord Jesus Christ. What Christ commands may be commanded by those whose authority I acknowledge and whose favor I wish to secure; if I do it on these grounds, I keep man’s commandments, not Christ’s. I keep Christ’s commandments only when I do what He bids me because He bids me. If I love Christ, I shall keep His commandments impartially. If I do anything because Christ commands me to do it, I shall do whatever He commands. I shall not ‘pick and choose.’ If I love Christ, I shall keep His commandments cheerfully. I shall esteem it a privilege to obey His law. The thought that they are the commandments of Him whom I love, because of His excellency and kindness, makes me love His law, for it must be excellent because it is His, and it must be fitted to promote my happiness for the same reason. If I love Christ I shall keep His commandments perseveringly. If I really love Him I can never cease to love Him, and if I never cease to love Him, I shall never cease to obey Him" (Condensed from Dr. John Brown). (from A.W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John)Obedience is hard. I sin daily and deliberately. That does not mean that I do not love God. He knows that I do love him and desire to love him more. Failure in obedience does not prove an absence of love. I know that I long to love God through obedience. I do the things God commands me not to do and I fail to do the things God commands me to do because my love for God is weak. The proof of genuine love for God then is a ever growing desire to obey and our actual increasing obedience. This progress in love and obedience is the evidence that we are in Christ and the Holy Spirit dwells in us.
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. - Philippians 2:12-13God initiates and I respond. With Augustine I pray "Command of me, Lord, what you will and will what you command."
(See also: Piper on John 14:15-24 )