“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. ~ 1 John 5:2-3
Explanation of the Text: The profundity of these two verses is overwhelming and require of us some diligent meditation in order to dissect them. In a logical way, we can say that We love the children of God by loving God Himself and we love God by keeping His commands. Thus, the conclusion is that we love others by keeping the commandments of God. Despite what many may claim, we cannot divide loving others from loving God. They go together and do not exist independent of one another. This is why John can write our love for others perfects the love of God (1 John 4:12) because it completes a circle in which love binds them all together.
How is it then that we love God and love others? By keeping God’s commands. We know that the two greatest commands are to love God and love others (Matthew 22:36-40). But John does not stop there, but instead includes all of God’s commands. So we love others by keeping the commands of God in all aspects, even if the world finds that offensive. There is a repeated theme in John about loving others, but love must be rightly defined (which often stands in contrast to the world’s definition). The Christian life is so much more than just loving others in a worldly way. John is compelling us to love one another because love of each is a natural outpouring of our love for God. As Robert Yarbrough says, “While decent treatment of others, particularly fellow believers (cf. John 13:34-35; Galatians 6:10), is always in order, it cannot be separated from the Christologically grounded love for God and the resultant pursuit of God’s commandments that 1 John 5:2 commends” (1).
Examination & Application of the Text: John Calvin writes “Men are loved rightly and duly when God holds the primacy” (2). Love is the essential element to understanding God and others. Without it we lose a right focus on so many things. It is here in this text we see that a love for God allows us to obey His commands in a way that sees them not as burdensome. His commandments are not burdensome because we see them as they are. In fact we desire the commandments because:
- We desire our God and to please God
- We desire the protection they provide us
- We desire the transformation into Christlikeness that they guide us towards.
The commands from God are not burdensome because we begin to recognize that they were there to serve a purpose which ultimately results in God’s glory and our good. Just last night I was having a conversation with a woman and she rightly indicated that when we love God and understand His purposes through His commands, they are not only not burdensome, but instead we desire them and see them as an act of God’s love.
Our love for God creates in us, a perspective that seeks to do God’s commands (which are His revealed will through His Word) ultimately resulting in our love for others. May we be a people who love God, and thus loves others exemplified by obedience to God which loves others by pointing them to Him.
(1) Robert Yarbough, 1-3 John, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 273.
(2) John Calvin and John Owen, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles (Bellingham: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 252.