Summary: Christians, we must love one another... 1. Because this is God's fervent command for His church. 2. Because this is God's firm command for His church. 3. Because this is God's finest command for His church. 4. Because this command is the true flag of our faith.

The Lord's Crucial Commandment for Christians

The Gospel of John

John 13:31-38

Sermon by Rick Crandall

Grayson Baptist Church - July 22, 2018

(Revised January 3, 2020)


*Please open your Bibles to John 13. Remember that here God's Word has moved forward to the night before the cross, and here the Lord gave His followers a crucial new commandment. We see it first in John 13:34 where Jesus said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another."

*This new commandment for Christians to love one another is very crucial indeed. And tonight's Scripture shows us why. Please think about that as we read vs. 31-38.


*How should Christians treat one another? How does God want us to treat each other? The fact is that God has a giant interest in how we treat each other. And we know this is true, because the Bible talks about this over 60 times in the New Testament.

*The heart and soul of how we should treat each other is found in the new commandment the Lord gives us here. God's best way for us to treat each other is to love one another. God's best for us is to keep on loving one another with His kind of agape love. God wants us to always love each other with the same kind of unconditional love that Jesus has for us. And tonight's Scripture shows us why.


*The Lord's fervent, passionate commandment for His church is for us to love one another. Remember the background here: The time for the cross was almost at hand. In vs. 31, Judas had already gone out to betray the Lord. In vs. 38, Jesus told Peter how he would deny the Lord. The agony of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, and His death on the cross were just hours away.

*In a moment like this, the most important things rise to the surface. King Duncan explained, "Now was the time to make sure the disciples understood the basics. And nothing was more basic to Jesus' ministry than the message of love," so in vs. 34, Jesus said, 'A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; As I have loved you, that you also love one another.'" (1)

*Try to picture the Lord's passion as He spoke these words to His disciples. Missionary Karen Watson gave us a picture of Christ's passion, and it was in her last letter. Our International Mission Board had begun asking our missionaries to write "last letters." They were inspired by the old tradition of soldiers and missionaries who wrote a last letter in advance, -- in case they didn't make it home.

*Karen Watson wrote a letter like that, and it was read by her pastor at her funeral. Karen was one of the four missionaries killed in Iraq on March 15th, 2004. The vehicle they were riding in was ambushed in the city of Mosul. Karen was 38 and had been a Christian for about 8 years. She loved God's Word and His work with great passion. Here is Karen Watson's Last Letter:

"Dear Pastor,

You should only be opening this letter in the event of my death. When God calls there are no regrets. I tried to share my heart with you as much as possible, my heart for the nations. I wasn't called to a place; I was called to Him. To obey was my objective, to suffer was expected, His glory my reward, His glory my reward...

*The missionary heart:

Cares more than some think is wise

Risks more than some think is safe

Dreams more than some think is practical

Expects more than some think is possible

I was called not to comfort or to success but to obedience...

There is no Joy outside of knowing Jesus and serving Him. I love you and my church family.

In His care, (Peace), Karen" (2)

*Karen Watson had boundless passion for the things of God! She had the same kind of passion Jesus had when He said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another. As I have loved you, that you also love one another."


*There is nothing wishy-washy about the Lord's commandment to love one another. This is not a suggestion. This is not God saying, "Oh, by the way My people, you might want to think about loving one another." No. This is an absolute, rock-solid command from God. And we know this because of how many times God stresses this command in His Word.

*Jesus repeated the love commandment 3 times in these 2 verses:

34. "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

35. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

*And that's not all. We see this commandment for Christians at least 16 times in the New Testament! For example, on this same night in John 15:12-17, Jesus said:

12. "This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

13. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.

14. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.

15. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.

16. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.

17. These things I command you, that you love one another."

*Then in Romans 13:8, Paul said, "Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law."

*In 1 Peter 1:22-23, the Apostle Peter tells Christians:

22. Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart,

23. having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.

*And 1 Peter 4:8 says: "Above all things have fervent love for one another, for 'love will cover a multitude of sins.'"


*Again in vs. 34, Jesus said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you." The original verb for love here is found 142 times in the New Testament, and it's talking about Christians loving one another with the same kind of unselfish, servant-hearted, sacrificial love that God has for us.

*It's the same word used in John 3:16, where Jesus said, "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."

*It's also the same word found in God's greatest two commandments. One place to see them is in Matthew 22:37-40, where Jesus said:

37. . . "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'

38. This is the first and great commandment.

39. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'

40. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.''

*Christ's "new" commandment for Christians to love one another surely hangs under God's greatest commandments of all. Why then did the Lord call it new? Warren Wiersbe explained that this word "new does not mean new in time, because love has been important to God's people even from Old Testament times (See Lev 19:18). Rather, it means new in experience, fresh with new meaning and power." (3)

*Jesus was talking about a whole new dimension of love here. It was new in the sense that this kind of love had never been fully seen by man, but they were about to see it on the cross. This agape, God kind of love was unconditional and sacrificial. It was infinitely beyond anything else that the world had ever seen. (4)

*Jeffrey Ebert saw a picture of this kind of sacrificial love in his mother. It happened many years ago when Jeffrey was 5, and they were in a horrible wreck. This was long before cars had seat belts and air bags. Jeffrey's family was driving home that night on a two-lane country road. And Jeffrey was sitting on his mother's lap, when a drunk driver swerved into their lane and hit them head-on.

*Jeffrey said, "I don't have any memory of the collision. I do recall the fear and confusion I felt as I saw myself literally covered with blood from head to toe. Then I learned that the blood wasn't mine at all, -- but my mother's.

*In that split second when the two headlights glared into her eyes, she instinctively pulled me closer to her chest and curled her body around mine. It was her body that slammed against the dashboard, her head that shattered the windshield. She took the impact of the collision so that I wouldn't have to.

*It took extensive surgery for my mother to recover from her injuries. In a similar, but infinitely more important way, Jesus took the impact for our sin." So, Jesus Christ is the best model of our love and the motivation for our love. The Lord Jesus loved us with the finest love. And He commands us to love each other the same way. (5)

*Listen to Jesus again in vs. 34: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another."

*The Apostle John stressed this truth again in 1 John 3:13-18:

13. Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you.

14. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.

15. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

16. By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

17. But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?

18. My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.

*Pastor Joey Nelson explained that "love more than any other thing is sacrifice. God so loved that He gave; He laid down His life. Unconditional love is a laying down and giving up of one's life. God's love caused Him to give His best for us.

*True love is not revealed by empty words but through deeds and real sacrifices. People give gifts and money to express their love. But no one would give their only child to die for the sins of someone else. God gave the greatest donation possible for the salvation of mankind.

*Love then, as modeled by God, is the giving of self, and is synonymous with sacrifice. Love always pays a price. Love always costs something. Love can be expensive. Love gives; it doesn't grab.

*Sacrificial love is silence -- when your words would hurt,

-Patience when your neighbor's curt,

-Deafness when a scandal flows,

-Compassion for other's woes,

-Promptness when duty calls,

-Courage when misfortune falls.

*The godly parents who sit up all night with a very sick child aren't worried about sacrificing a little sleep. Their hearts and prayers are on that child they love beyond measure." (6)

*This is the kind of love God commands us to have for each other: The finest kind of love.

*Are we there yet? I've still got a long way to go, and maybe you feel the same way. But Christians: We can surely have much more of this Christ-like love in our hearts. God wants us to have it! And we ought to be praying for it.

*Listen to Paul's prayer request from Ephesians 3:16-19:

16. that (God) would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man,

17. that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,

18. may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height

19. to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

*God surely answered those prayers, and He will do the same for us! We also know that our Christ-like love can grow, because Romans 5:5 tells us that "the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." We can get there, and we must get there.


*God's kind of love for one another is the true flag of our faith as Christians. Song of Solomon 2:4 tells us that His banner over us is love. And here in vs. 35, Jesus said, "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

*Think of all the other words we tend to plug into that verse: By going to church, all will know that we are His disciples. By being baptized, all will know that we are His disciples. By studying the Bible, all will know that we are His disciples. By clean living, all will know we are His disciples.

*Of course, all of these things are important, but they are not the flag. They are not the banner. Here is the banner God calls us to raise: "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

*So, what kind of flag are we raising, Christians? We have an American flag here in the sanctuary, and it's in great shape. It looks fine. But as you drive down the road, sometimes you'll see a flag that looks tattered, torn, worn out and dirty, unfit for use.

*His banner over us is love. How does your love flag look? Does it look fresh and clean like it's supposed to? Or does it look unfit for use?

*God worked in my life in many ways to get me saved. He used hardship and even a miracle to get me to Louisiana. He used my dear wife to keep me here until I trusted in Jesus. He used Georgia Savoie to invite us to church. Bro. Savoie preached the truth about Jesus Christ. And for the first time in my life I really heard the good news about the cross.

*On top of that, Georgia asked us to be in the young adult choir. Even though I wasn't a Christian, she asked me to be in the choir. And we had a great time in that choir.

*One weekend we went on a choir retreat, and that night we sat around the fireplace while people gave their testimonies. Mary and I were the only people on the back row, because Preacher and Georgia knew I didn't have a testimony.

*Jimmy Posey was one of the last people to speak. He started to weep over his twin brother, Jerry, who was not saved at the time. And I could see the flag of love raised high in Jimmy's heart.

*(Let me tell you that Jimmy's brother did get saved sometime after that. He was a deputy in Ouachita Parish, and died maybe 10 or 15 years later. I think he was hit by a car while he was on duty. Thank God he was saved!)

*But when I saw Jimmy weeping over his lost brother, I could see the flag of love raised high in his heart. For the first time in my life, I could really see it. It was like a light went on for me, and I remember thinking, "This is real! What the Bible says about Jesus is true." I realized that those people had something in their life that I did not have, and I wanted it.

*That was the night I received Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, because I could see the banner of love. Can people see it in us? Jesus said, "By THIS all will know that you are My disciples, IF you have love for one another."


*Tonight, we will close with a test for Christians: On a scale of 1 to 10, how much am I loving other Christians the way Jesus wants me to love them? Don't think about the ones you love the most. Think about the ones you love the least.

*What are you willing to do about that? We can start by talking to God about it, and we'll do that in just a minute. But if you don't know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior yet, we hope you can see His love in us.

*And even if you can't, please believe this: Jesus loves you! He died on the cross for your sins. He rose again from the dead! He is your only hope for forgiveness and Heaven. Jesus will save you if you turn your life over to Him and open your heart to receive Him as your Lord and Savior. You can do that right now as we go to God in prayer.

(1) sermon "So, You Want to Know About Love?" by King Duncan - John 13:31-38 - Source: "Dynamic Preaching," Second Sunday, May 2001)

(2) Sources:

"My Last Letter" - Wed. Aug. 5, 2009 at 6:34 AM -

Karen Watson: A woman 'sold out for Jesus' By ERIN CURRY - Baptist Press - Published March 25, 2004

(3) Adapted from WIERSBE BIBLE COMMENTARY: NEW TESTAMENT by Warren W. Wiersbe - Published by David C. Cook, Colorado Springs, CO - Copyright 2007 - "Chapter Thirteen: The Sovereign Servant" - John 13:1-35

(4) Adapted from THE PULPIT COMMENTARY - THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN - Vol. 2 - p. 196 - Edited by H.D.M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell

(5) Jeffrey Ebert in FRESH ILLUSTRATIONS FOR PREACHING & TEACHING - Baker, from the editors of Leadership - Source: "Bible Illustrator for windows" - Topic: Atonement - Index: 304-305 - Date: 7/1998.1145 - Title: "Christ's Blood, Not Ours"

(6) SermonCentral sermon "Real Love" by Joey Nelson - John 3:16