Love, Devotion, Commitment, and Dedication

Love, Devotion, Commitment, and Dedication


John 21:15-17 (ESV) ~ “When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. …”


First, we pick up after the meal has been finished. Jesus and the disciples were sitting around talking and share together after the meal. We see four things:

  • Jesus had already met Peter all alone in a private session to discuss Peter’s denial and to make sure he was fully restored (1 Corinthians 15:4-5).
  • Peter’s leadership needed to be reinforced publicly among all the disciples. They all knew about Peter’s denial.
  • Jesus had to make sure Peter would never deny Him nor fall back from his mission again.
  • Jesus needed to teach the disciples the one basic essential for ministry. None of them, not even a charismatic leader such as Peter, could ever minister and bear godly fruit unless he loved the flock of God. A man may be the most gifted person in the world, but he is nothing and can do nothing of value in God’s eyes unless he first loves (cp. 1 Cor. 13:1-3). Abilities, talents, gifts, commitments, good deeds, and works just do not qualify a man before God nor make a man acceptable to God. The one great thing—in fact the only thing—that makes a man acceptable and that qualifies him to serve God is love.


These are the reasons for what Jesus did next. He turned and focused upon Peter, calling him by his full name, Simon Peter, which did two things:

  • It attracted everyone’s attention, stressing that what was to follow was important—more important than usual.
  • It reminded Peter where he had come from. He was of humble beginnings, from a lowly father. All that Peter had become and would become was of God. Peter was nothing apart from Christ, and nothing apart from the mission he was about to receive.


A man must know that he is nothing apart from Christ. How many persons would have more in life—more purpose, more meaning, more significance—if they would only surrender to Christ? How many have actually been called by Christ and rejected His call; therefore, they have missed out on their purpose in life and on making their contribution to society and to the world?

There is a difference between the three questions Jesus asked of Peter.

  • Question one asked Peter who he loved the most, the Lord Himself or “these”. These could be friends, family, profession, career, possessions, or etc.
  • Question two asked Peter if he loved with God’s love. This is seen in the Greek word for love. Jesus used one word, but Peter used another. Jesus used the word agapē, the highest form of love, the love of God Himself. But Peter did not reply, “Yea, Lord, I agapē you.” He said, “Yea, Lord, I phileō you.” That is, “I love you just like a brother; I love you with a brotherly love.” Phileō means brotherly love, the love between two brothers.
  • Question three probed the genuineness and loyalty of Peter’s love. Here Jesus descended to the human level of love. He used phileō. He simply asked Peter, “Peter, do you really love, phileō me—even as a brother?” And questioning the loyalty of his love grieved Peter. But Jesus assured Peter that his love would one day reach the ultimate height (John 21:18). Peter would be called upon to demonstrate agapē love, the sacrificial love of God. Peter would be called upon to die for Christ, to give his life for preaching the love of God to those who do not care for it and who react violently against it.


What Jesus was doing was preparing His disciples for a new kind of love that was yet to come. Up to the time of Christ’s death and ascension, the greatest love known to man was phileō love, the willingness of a man to die for a friend. But in Christ, God was showing the world a new kind of love—agapē love. Agapē love is a love so new that a new meaning had to be given to the Greek word “agapē.” Agapē became the love that was willing to give and die even for an enemy. The early Christian leaders recognized this new dimension of love, so they lifted the meaning of agapē love up to God’s love for the world. Agapē love is the highest level of love possible; it is the love of God: “God [who] so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).


Agapē love is Christ dying…

  • For people who have no strength (Romans 5:6 (ESV) ~ “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”)
  • For the ungodly (Romans 5:6)
  • For the sinners (Romans 5:8 (ESV) ~ “… but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”)
  • For the enemies of God (Romans 5:10 (ESV) ~ “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”)


Peter and the disciples did not understand this. They could not because the Holy Spirit had not yet been given and agapē love is shed abroad in the heart only by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). It is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22).

  • Romans 5:5 (ESV) ~ “… and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
  • Galatians 5:22 (ESV) ~ “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, …”

There are three times that Peter was commissioned to feed and tend the flock of God. If Peter really loved the Lord, then he was commissioned to be a shepherd to the flock of God. Note three things…

  • Scripture identifies the lamb and sheep as the flock of God, that is, the church of God. Jesus was talking about feeding His church, His disciples within the church.
    • Acts 20:28 (ESV) ~ Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.
    • The charge is to guard oneself as well as the flock of God. This is similar to what Jesus was saying to Peter: if you love me, guard yourself and be faithful, feed my lambs and sheep, my church.
  • The flock of God is made up of both lambs and sheep
    • Lambs: children, young converts, believers who need special attention. (John 21:15)
    • Sheep: mature believers, believers who have walked and grown in the Lord for a long time. (John 21:16-17)
  • The ministry to the flock or church is twofold:
    • The first ministry is to feed
      • To give food, teaching both the milk and meet of the Word
        • 1 Peter 2:2-3 (ESV) ~ Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation – if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
        • Hebrews 5:12-14 (ESV) ~ For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
      • To guide into the study of the Word – showing oneself approved unto God.
        • 2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV) ~ Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
        • Matthew 4:4 (ESV) ~ But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
      • The second ministry is to shepherd / take care of / tend / to feed / to rule. Shepherding involves all the works of the ministry.
        • Practical Application:
          • He feeds the sheep even if He has to gather them in His arms to carry them to the feeding pasture (Isaiah 40:11)
          • He guides the sheep to the pasture and away from rough places and precipices (Psalm 23:1-4)
          • He seeks and saves the sheep who get lost (Matthew 18:11-12’ Ezekiel 34:16)
          • He protects the sheep. He even sacrifices His life for the sheep (John 10:11; Hebrews 13:20)
          • He restores the sheep who go astray and return (1 Peter 2:25)
          • He rewards the sheep for obedience and faithfulness (1 Peter 5:4)
          • He shall keep the sheep separate from the goats (Matthew 25:32-33)
        • 1 Peter 5:1-4 (ESV) ~ So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
This is a Series Outline and will be updated prior to each service.
Pastor Andy Lambert

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