Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Greater love hath no man than this.—Better, . . . hath no one than this. (Comp. Note on John 10:18; John 10:29.) Nothing greater is conceivable in the thought of love. He has spoken of His own love for them as the measure of their love for each other. The thought of this verse dwells upon what His love really was and what theirs should also be. (Comp. especially Note on 1John 3:16.)
That a man lay down his life for his friends.—Better, that any one . . . For the phrase “lay down his life,” comp. John 10:11. The term “friends” is here used because those whom He is addressing were His friends. There is no opposition between this passage and Romans 5:6 et seq. The point dwelt upon is the greatness of the love, and the highest reach of love is the self-sacrifice which spares not life itself.John 15:13-16. Greater love — To his friends, (of whom here he only speaks,) hath no man than this — That is, a greater degree of love than this never existed in the world; that a man lay down his life for his friends — That a man should be willing, not only on some sudden alarm, or in some extraordinary and unexpected danger, to hazard his life on their account; but on the coolest deliberation, to submit to lay it down for their preservation and happiness. Ye are my friends — Ye are the friends for whom I will lay down my life, and who shall certainly share in the blessings which I shall thereby procure for my disciples; if ye do whatsoever I command you — If you practically acknowledge my authority, and are so influenced by my love, as to make conscience of obeying all my commands. On this condition, and not otherwise, shall we be acknowledged by Christ as his friends. Who then dares assert that God’s love does not at all depend on man’s obedience? Henceforth I call you not servants — Though the distance that is between you and me, and your obligations to obey me, might have warranted me to treat you as servants, and particularly to conceal from you my counsels and designs, I have not acted toward you in that manner; but I have called you friends — I have treated you as friends are wont to be treated; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you — I have all along communicated to you the most important of those gracious counsels which my Father, as the expression of his friendship, imparted unto me; nay, I have commissioned you to reveal them to the world, and have made you not only my friends, but my assistants, in the great work of saving the world. Ye have not chosen me — You have not, as principals in this affair, adopted me your associate, but I, the great author of the gospel, have adopted you my associates; and ordained — Greek, και εθηκα, appointed you; that ye should go and bring forth fruit — That ye may go and convert sinners; and that your fruit should remain — Even to the remotest generations; that whatsoever ye shall ask, &c. — The consequence of your going and bearing fruit will be that all your prayers will be heard and answered.1 John 4:10; Romans 5:6, Romans 5:10. It also shows us the extent of his love that he gave himself up, not to common sufferings, but to the most bitter, painful, and protracted sorrows, not for himself, not for friends, but for a thoughtless and unbelieving world. "O Lamb of God, was ever pain was ever love like thine!" Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life, Job 2:4. Now it is impossible that a man should show a greater love to another, than by parting with the greatest good he is in possession of for his sake. Hence our Saviour proves, that he loved them with the greatest love, because he for their sake was about to part with what in the common judgment of men is the greatest good. The greatness of the love of Christ to us is from hence often commended to us in Scripture; and our mutual love to our brethren is pressed upon this argument, Ephesians 5:2 1Jo 3:16. But how did Christ lay down his life for his friends, when the Scripture tells us, that the just died for the unjust, 1 Peter 3:18, and that while we were enemies, we were reconciled unto God by the death of his Son, Romans 5:10?
Answer. Friends must not here be taken as a name of relation, but only as it signifieth the objects of love; persons we have set our love upon, whether they mutually love us or not; as the world was the object of that love in God, which moved him to send his only begotten Son, John 3:16. Though they for whom Christ died were enemies by their wicked works, yet by his death they were reconciled. But possibly the first answer is best; for by Christ’s death they were only meritoriously reconciled, and after this enemies to God, till they received the word of reconciliation, and believed in Christ.
that a man lay down his life for his friends; and in which believers, should not come short of them; and also his great love to his people, and explains what he had just said, "as I have loved you", John 13:34; which in a little time would be seen, by his laying down his life for them: for he not only came down from heaven, and laid aside his glory and royal majesty, but he laid down his life; not his gold and silver, and the riches of this world, which were all his, but his life; than which, nothing is dearer to a man, is himself, his all: and besides, Christ's life was not a common one, it was not the life of an innocent person only, or the life of a mere man, but of a man in union with the Son of God; it was the Lord of glory and Prince of life, who was crucified, and slain; a life that was entirely at his own dispose; it had never been forfeited by sin, nor could it have been forced away from him by men or devils; it was laid down of and by himself, freely and voluntarily; and that "for", in the room, and instead of his people, as a ransom for them; he being their surety and substitute, and standing in their legal place and stead, he took their sins upon him, bore the curse of the law, sustained his Father's wrath, and all the punishment due to sin; and so suffered death, the death of the cross; the just, in the room and stead of the unjust; the persons for whom be laid down his life, are described as "his friends"; not that they were originally so; being enemies and enmity itself to God, when he laid down his life for them, and reconciled them; they were not such as had carried themselves friendly, or had shown any love and affection to him, but all the reverse: but they are so called, because he had chosen them for his friends; he had pitched upon them, and resolved to make them so; and by dying for them, reconciled them who were enemies; and in consequence of this, by his Spirit and grace, of enemies makes them friends; so that his love in dying for his people, is greater than any instance of love among men: he laid down his life for his enemies, without any sinister selfish views, and that freely and voluntarily; whereas among men, when one man has laid down his life for others, either they have been very deserving, or he has been forced to it, or it has been done with the view of popular applause and vain glory.Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)John 15:13. And that they might not underrate the measure of this exemplary love, He says, μείζονα ταύτης ἀγάπην … αὐτοῦ. Ταύτης is explained by ἵνα … αὐτοῦ as in John 15:8; and does not directly mean “than this which I have shown and still show,” as understood by Westcott and Whitelaw. It is a general statement, the application of which is suggested in John 15:14. Self-sacrifice is the high water mark of love. Friends can demand nothing more: there is no more that love can do to exhibit devotedness to friends, cf. Romans 5:6; Romans 5:8; Romans 5:10.13. that a man lay down] Literally, in order that a man lay down: the greatest love is that of which the purpose is dying for those loved. On ‘lay down his life’ see note on John 10:11.
for his friends] Needless difficulty has been made about this, as if it were at variance with Romans 5:6-8. Christ here says that the greatest love that any one can shew towards his friends is to die for them. S. Paul says that such cases of self-sacrifice for good men occur; but they are very rare. Christ, however, surpassed them, for He died not only for His friends but for His enemies, not only for the good but for sinners. There is no contradiction. Nor is there any emphasis on ‘friends;’ as if to suffer for friends were higher than to suffer for strangers or enemies. The order of the Greek words throws the emphasis on ‘life:’ it is the unique character of the thing sacrificed that proves the love. Christ says ‘for His friends’ because He is addressing His friends.John 15:13. Ἀγαπὴν, love) towards friends. He does not in this place speak of His love to enemies.—ἵνα, that) This again depends on ταύτης, this.Verse 13. - Greater love than this (love) no one hath, namely (ἵνα), that one should lay down his life for his friends. Meyer and Lange endeavor to maintain even here the telic force of ἵνα, "The love to you is of so consummate a character, that its object and purpose is seen in my laying down my life for my friends;" and Hengstenberg thinks so because probably a reference here is made to Isaiah 53:10, that our Lord was pointing to his atoning death - to a death needed alike by enemies and friends. Such an interpretation supposes the lofty purpose of the greatest love. To me, however, it seems more probable that the translation given above places the argument upon a surer; because more common, human, experience. The disposition to die for ungodly and for enemies is exalted by St. Paul (Romans 5:8) above the self-sacrifice involved in dying for the good. Still, which may be shown, and has often been shown in self-sacrificing death for those who are beloved, whatever other and wider ends may be discerned afterwards and spoken of in other connections, he is here asserting that the love of friendship is quite strong and intense enough to secure such a sacrifice. And he adds -
Some of the more subtle phases of John's thought cannot be apprehended without a careful study of this often-recurring conjunction. It is still claimed by some grammarians that it is used to mark, not only design and end, but also result. But it may fairly be claimed that its predominant sense is intent, purpose, purport, or object. Hence that, as representing ἵνα, is to be taken in the sense of to the end or intent that; in order that. Here the use of the word is very subtle and suggestive, as well as beautiful. No man hath greater love than this (love), which, in its original conception, was intended and designed to reach to the extent of sacrificing life for a friend. Christ, therefore, here gives us more than a mere abstract comparison and more than a merely human gauge of love. He measures love according to its divine, original, far-reaching intent.
Lay down his life
See on John 10:11.
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