By Dr. Robert R Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson X) 10/07/22

5:2 So you can find out how much you love God’s children – your brothers and sisters in the Lord – by how much you love and obey God.

The Apostle John was so inspired as he dictated this event for his Gospel that he exclaimed, “For God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son so that anyone who believes in Him remains no longer dead in their sins but is made spiritually alive in the Anointed One. God did not send His Son into the world to condemn it but to save it. Therefore, there is no eternal doom awaiting those who trust Him to redeem them. However, those who don’t trust Him are already guilty and condemned to eternal separation from God for not believing in His only Son as their Savior.”[1]

The phrases in verse two, “everyone who believes” and “everyone who loves,” are connected. Therefore, divine life inevitably manifests itself in love for the family of God. Genuine love for God stimulates specific responses to His commandments. If a person loves God, they will love God’s children.[2] The believer loves the Lord and His family because the Lord provides regeneration for both.

Christians should love all of God’s family members. Everyone who believes in the Incarnation is a child of God. Therefore, every believer of the Incarnation loves God, and everyone who loves God loves the family of God. If God loves the believer, other believers should love that believer because they are part of God’s household. You cannot love one without the other. If you love the parent, you love the child as well. Loving other Christians is evidence that the new birth took place. Every child of God is entitled to our love because they are birthed into God’s family. They, like you, now represent the invisible God on earth as His representative.

We also know from nature that look-alikes are attracted to each other. There’s an old saying, “Birds of a feather flock together.” Love starts in God’s family. If we tell a mother that we do not like her kids, we will have a problem with Mommy. Love for the mother and love for the kids are a package deal. Likewise, we cannot separate belief and love. One is the source of the other.

Consequently, if we wish to show our love for God, we should demonstrate it to a visible agent, another child of God in His family. Fellow Christians are worthy of our love because they possess distinguishing features of God’s family, qualities that non-Christians do not have. Love for God shows itself in active love for God’s children, not just emotional love. We love other Christians best when we respond to God’s command to love. Therefore, love for God and His children is obedience to His commands. It is not how we feel about God and other believers but how we choose to relate to them.

The Lord Jesus the Anointed One is the common meeting place for all Christians. There, one’s race, class, and color are distant from Him. It is an elementary test of our love for God. How committed are we to fully applying His principles to our lives? That is the quantity of our love. Fellowship with God carries power with it. The person who puts their trust in Jesus the Anointed One yields themselves to God’s principles and standards for living. They receive direction for life from their heavenly parent’s instructions. Operating out of the identity of the dignity of their spiritual family, they love members of God’s family more than they love themselves.


Additional comments, interpretations, and insights of Reformation Theologians, Revivalist Teachers, Reformed Scholars, and Modern Commentators on this verse.

Matthew Poole (1624-1679) states that we don’t need to broadcast that we love God’s children. But, if we hear people talk about how much we love God’s children, we must clarify that it’s on God’s account. We want to conform to Him and obey His commandments. Our love for them supposes that we also love God and must be demonstrated by doing so.[3]

English Presbyterian Minister William Bates (1625-1699) asks whom the Apostle John describes when he says, “the children of God?” This title is bestowed for several reasons. To begin with, by creation. After all, angels are called “the sons of God,”[4] and humanity is His “offspring.”[5] Furthermore, the reason for the title relates to the manner of their production by God’s immediate power. It also resembles godliness in its spiritual, immortal nature and intellectual operations. No wonder God designates believers as “His children” due to their calling because God places them into a family relationship by His grace. Finally, it offers a kinship with God and each other that arises from our regeneration by supernatural means.

What does our love for the children of God include, asks Bates? The fundamental principle of agápē.[6] Therefore the qualifications for this love are easy to understand. Such love must be sincere and cordial. Any counterfeit, formal affection enhanced with any garnish is so far from pleasing God that it infinitely aggravates Him. In addition, it must be pure because the attractive impulse is the image of God appearing in those who have such love. Not only that, but it is universal and extended to all the saints. Therefore, we can see why it must be enthusiastic in truth and its degree of importance.[7] [8]

William Burkitt (1650- 1703) observes that using agápē reveals how sincere we love God and His children and our obedience to His commands. The search for that assurance might begin by asking, “What kind of affection is required to love God’s children?” Burkitt answers by saying that it starts with what we esteem the highest, a love of desire, a love of delight, a love of duty, and a love of dedication. The next thing to establish is, “What kind of obedience towards God is that which springs from love?”Most would say it is uniform and universal. As such, love regards the whole Law in its permissions, prohibitions, and studies to please the Law-Giver. It makes it a pleasant exercise, not a pitiful task. But, at the same time, it is also explicit and exact, producing a careful watchfulness over our conduct, that nothing is done or allowed by us displeasing to God’s eye. Furthermore, it is constant and persevering. Therefore, any sinful activity caused by human passion will cease when the scales are balanced. But that which proceeds from an inward principle, or life, is continual. We rejoice that such a principle is the agápē God planted in the Christian’s heart so they can find out how much they love God’s children – spiritual brothers and sisters in the Lord – by how much they love and obey God.[9]

James Macknight (1721-1800) looks at the words in verse two: “By this, we know that we love God’s children when we love God and keep His commandments” and tells us that Dutch theologian Hugo Grotius (1583-16:45), a towering figure in philosophy, political theory, law, and associated fields wanted to rewrite what he thought the Apostle John’s reasoning was at this point and to make it more transparent. So, the verse should be interpreted and translated in the following manner: “By this, we know that we love God when we love God’s children and keep His commandments.” Macknight feels that this is a forced rendering; it represents the Apostle as giving a mark by which we may know when we love God: whereas John intends to show how we may know when we correctly love God’s children.

Now, says Macknight, this was necessary to be pointed out since some may love God’s children because they are related and engage in the same pursuits or are mutually united by some common bond of friendship or membership. But love proceeding from these factors is not the kind of Christian love that John desires. By what mark, then, can we know that our devotion to the children of God is of the right quality? I’ll tell you, we love God, and following that excellent principle, keep His commandments, especially His commandment, to love His children because they bear His image. True Christian love proceeds from loving God, respecting His will, and leading us to obey all His commandments.[10]

John Brown of Haddington (1722-1787) states that we must love God’s children because of their relation and likeness to God; that is where our love begins. Moreover, such a highly principled love for Him engages us to try our best to give complete obedience to His holy commandments.[11]

Samuel Elyes Pierce (1746-1829) observes that in and throughout this Epistle, the Apostle John draws one general line of distinction. It is between simply professing the Lord Jesus by outwardly acknowledging Him and the inward reality of knowing Him to the profit of their souls and their salvation. But, as John realizes, some who only profess to know the Lord get distracted and turn away from the Anointed One’s Truth to the heresies and false and blasphemous doctrines of that time.

Therefore, says Pierce, John used the words we and us often. The Apostle knew he was a regenerated person – that he was born of God – and that all of God’s regenerated people had the same evidence concerning the reality of being born again like himself. John stood convinced that there was and had to be outward proof given to all newborns concerning what the Lord had done in and for them. John expounded on this in a variety of instances in the previous chapters. For example, in the third verse of the second chapter, John said of himself and others, “We can be sure that we know Him if we obey His commandments.” And here, in verse two, John says, “By this, we know that we love the children of God when we love God and keep His commandments.”

Pierce notes that for the Apostle John, loving God’s children is the fruit of loving God, which is abundantly shown when we keep His commandments. But, as John closes his epistle, the grand line of distinction is maintained between the real saint and the religious saint. These are those who forsook God to commit sins that brought spiritual death. By this, John undoubtedly meant blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, our Lord Jesus the Anointed One pronounced it an unpardonable sin.

Looking more closely at the text, we find several nuggets of truth. First, we see the best way to know that we love God’s children. Also, we are brought into and have attained this knowledge, which is to be declared. And secondly, our love for God is the only motive we need to love God’s children. It is on account of our relationship and likeness to Him. God’s image in the saints gives us reason to love them. Thirdly, to love the saints is to keep God’s commandments. Reading verses one and two as one may give us some light in viewing how they are connected: with the other. Here’s what they say: “If you believe that Jesus is the Anointed One, then you are God’s child because all who love the Father love His children also to find out how much you love God’s children by how much you love and obey God.” It leaves us with a question: “How were we attain this knowledge, and how is it to be declared?”[12]

[1] John 3:17

[2] 1 John 4:20-21

[3] Poole, Matthew, Commentary on the Holy Bible – Book of 1st, 2nd & 3rd John (Annotated), Kindle Edition

[4] Cf. Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7

[5] Ibid. 5:25

[6] 1 Peter 1:22

[7] John 15:12

[8] Bates, William: The Biblical Illustrator, Vol. 22, First Epistle of John, op. cit., p. 387

[9] Burkitt, William: Expository Notes, Vol. II, op. cit., p. 734

[10] Macknight, James: Apostolic Epistles with Commentary, Vol. VI, pp. 102-103

[11] Brown, John of Haddington: Self-Interpreting Bible, op. cit., Vol. IV, New Testament, p. 506

[12] Pierce, Samuel E., An Exposition of the First Epistle General of John, Comprised in Ninety-Three Sermons, Vol. 2, Sermon LXXIV, 1 John 5:2

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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