By Dr. Robert R Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XII) 10/11/22

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.

Richard H. Tuck (1817-1868) finds verse two reminiscence of our Lord’s teaching His disciples; if you love Me, show it by doing what I’ve told you. I’ll tell My Father, and He’ll provide you with another friend to always have someone with you. This Friend is the Spirit of Truth. The person who knows my commandments and keeps them, that’s who loves me. And the person who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and make myself plain to them. And because this is a loveless world, it is a sightless world. If anyone loves me, they will carefully keep my word, and my Father will love them – will move in and live with them. I’ve loved you the way my Father loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. You’ll remain intimately at home in My love if you keep My commands. That’s what I’ve done – kept my Father’s commands and made Myself at home in His love. If we love God, we will do whatever He tells us to. And He told us from the very first to love each other.[1] [2]

John Stock (1817-1884) says that love as a sensible passion is variable in its perception and, like the atmosphere, is liable to fluctuations. Yet as that atmosphere remains, no matter how hot or cold, so does love for God’s children. Thus, it would seem that the Apostle John hints at the transfer of our knowledge of love to fellow believers in obedience to God’s command; it affirms we are assured of our love for God. Obedience is an established principle in those born of God. However, it remains inconsistent and deficient, even when nearest to perfection. So our blessed Lord taught His servants to call themselves unprofitable servants, even after doing all He commanded.[3] Yet perfect obedience is sought for, and longed for by the faithful; and in heaven will be attained to, as they are to wake up after God’s likeness4, and when they see Him, will be like Him.[4] He is without darkness, whose holiness is unblemished, and whose righteousness is as everlasting as His law is truthful.[5] [6]

God’s children inhabit, here below, a mortal body, notes Stock. They go through weaknesses that make them less than perfect examples. We have imperfections such as dark spots on a white surface or a birthmark on a fair face; the eye will focus on it with a painful stare. In fact, if someone hears a word spoken out of line or sees a questionable act committed against any child of God, it will be talked about as a failure in trying to do good. Such little mistakes outweighed a person’s reputation for wisdom and honor.[7] The Apostles corrected the Churches, forbidding their speaking evil to one another, backbiting, devouring one another, and charging them to be careful not to consume one another.[8] There is no need to underscore that the Churches did not attain the expected perfection. Those free from rebuke are very choice and fragrant; thus, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae, and Thessalonica shine with light and loveliness.

Johannes H. A. Ebrard (1819-1893) finds that what verse two offers now is what the Apostle John said in verse one, but in reverse order. John connects Christian love with faith in the Anointed One showing where love has its roots. Therefore, the natural and direct consequence is that any love for fellow Christians that does not rest upon this faith is not true love; thus, John lays down this suggestion: “By this, we know that we love God’s children because we love God.”

Furthermore, Ebrard points out that in verse twenty, John offered the proposition that true faith and love for God only exist when tied to our love for others; therefore, love for fellow believers is a sign of faith and love for God. However, in verse two, John declares that communion with other believers cannot exist without the foundation of faith and love for God. Therefore, faith in and love for God are defined as obedience to God’s commandments and a sign of genuine Christian love. Previously, John listed confession of faith and love for others as proof of God’s abiding agápē.[9] So, John shows that these two elements provide evidence for each other.

Ebrard agrees with the Apostle John that where there is no Christian love, there can be no true faith and no true love for God, and where there is no obedience to His commandments, true faith and love do not exist. John makes it clear that faith is dead without love for one another. You hear nothing better than meaningless lying babble about faith. Consequently, Christian love without faith, or the faithful fulfillment of God’s commandment, is no better than hypocrisy – it is not spiritual but immoral in its innermost being. In fact, it is a type of love that seeks only surface spiritual satisfaction or honor.[10]

William Kelly (1822-1888) finds another principle in verse two. “Here’s how we know that we love God’s children when we love God and keep His commandments.” According to human logic, a person can hardly conceive anything more illogical. They would call it arguing in a circle, which defines faulty reasoning. So, Kelly asks, what does logic have to do with truth, the grace of the Anointed One, or love for God and His children? What does human judgment have to do with life eternal? It is not a question of rational but faith. No wonder some people cannot rise above logic or learning or science because they are blind to the truth in God’s Word and find His love unintelligible or false according to the rules of interaction.

According to Kelly, the cause is that there is no spiritual food for people who only want to argue. A person only needs to find the bread of life. Jesus quoted Moses when He told Satan, “People do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”[11] The workings of the Holy Spirit guide Christians on the way to God’s Word, spiritual life, and divine love. They, therefore, bow to this anointed revelation. “We know that we love the children of God when we love God and keep His commandments.” So, what is the greatest commandment? Our Lord answered that question.[12] These divine truths are bound together in one. It is the perception of the heart purified by faith, not only down from God but up to Him again, blending obedience with love for God and His children. It is a most secure guard against deceiving or being deceived.[13]

William B. Pope (1822-1903) comments on the Apostle John’s advice that we know that we love God’s children by loving Him. We cannot separate these two truths. Still, remembering that the commandment to love is now a top priority, we must unite if we love God and abide by His commandments firmly. We love all that are born again of Him because we love Him as our heavenly Father. Therefore, the consciousness of loving God guarantees that we have all that Christian love implies in us, especially as the energy of complete obedience empowers that love.[14]

Daniel Steele (1824-1914) says that “Do His commandments” occurs nowhere else in this epistle. Love to God’s children is the Apostle John’s expression for our love for God is proven by obedience to His commandment. The two passions confirm and verify each other. Their testimony is false if anyone says they have one kind of love but not another. One may know their love for fellow believers is genuine when they are sure of their love for God. Every time we love and obey God, we have fresh evidence that our compassion is sincere.”[15]

Brooke F. Westcott (1825-1901) wonders if we may ask if the sign of this spiritual love differs significantly from the emotion of natural affection. When it comes to loving God’s children, we see the answer in love for God: by obedience to God’s Word. Love for God and His children do, in fact, include each other. Therefore, it is equally correct to say, “They who love God love His children” and “They who love the children of God love God.” Either form may be the grounds to dismiss any argument. But in reality, the test of love for each other here introduces a new idea. A Christian’s will is essentially God’s will.[16] Therefore, any effort to fulfill God’s commandment to love is to do what our fellow believers desire: prove that love.[17]

Henry A. Sawtelle (1832-1913) points out that according to the Apostle John, loving God and keeping His commands proves we love His children. The same is spoken of those birthed by God in the preceding verse. How can we know that we love those who share God’s nature? We may already love Christian friends based on various motives, such as church membership, social connections, or shared political views, or because they are good-natured. But we must love them because they are God’s children and reflect His nature. For this reason, we must love all Christians and not a select group.

Once we establish these choice factors, says Sawtelle, we must determine if our love for God’s children is valid. Then, when we truly love God, who is in spiritual union with His children, we may know that we exercise our love for spiritual reasons.[18] Here in verse sixteen, John reverses the proposition of love for God proven in love for our fellow believers; to love for fellow Christians establishes our love for God. Thus, we find the final reason for loving God’s people in God, on a principle that leads us to love them all on the basis that we follow His commandment to love.

The Gospel’s commands are obeyed because they are God’s commands, remarks Sawtelle. They include belief, confession, baptism, observing the Lord’s Supper, meeting together, giving, faithfulness, and the like. Those with the heart to do these things perform them as a principle of obedience. People may know they love their fellow believers; they don’t need to guess. The Apostle John here, as elsewhere, emphasizes this principle of compliance in the new life as not being a complimentary sentiment but has the strong vigor of duty and obedience. The Christian must be an obedient person. Otherwise, the connection between doing the commands and loving the believers may be as follows: They who love their spiritual brothers and sisters love God. Hence, if they love God, they regard His will or commands as necessary. So, obeying the commands becomes evidence of love for each other, proving John’s thought process.[19]

Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892) comments that to present the truth that salvation is of grace, the Apostle John declares that it is of God and springs directly and entirely from Him. It is what the Holy Spirit teaches in other places, where He repeatedly affirms that the Alpha and Omega of our salvation must be found not in ourselves but in God.[20] Our Apostle says that God saved us and refers to all the persons of the Divine Unity. The Father has saved us.[21] It was He whose gracious mind first conceived the thought of redeeming His chosen from the ruin of Adam’s fall. He was the one in whose mind planned the way of salvation by substitution of innocent animals; from His generous heart, the thought first sprang to choose the Anointed One as the head of the Church under the Final Covenant.

[1] John 14:15-23; 15:10; 2 John 1:6

[2] Tuck, Richard H., The Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary, op. cit., p. 328

[3] Luke 17:10

[4] 1 John 3:2

[5] Psalm 119:142

[6] Stock, John: An Exposition of the First Epistle General of St. John, op. cit., pp. 402-403

[7] Ecclesiastes 10:1

[8] Cf. Galatians 5:15

[9] 1 John 4:2-3, 7

[10] Ebrard, Johannes H. A., Biblical Commentary on the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., pp. 311-312

[11] Matthew 4:4; cf. Deuteronomy 8:3

[12] Matthew 22:37; cf. Deuteronomy 6:5

[13] Kelly William: An Exposition of the Epistles of John the Apostle, op. cit., p. 351

[14] Pope, William B., The International Illustrated Commentary on the N. T., Vol IV, op. cit. p. 37

[15] Steele, Daniel: Half-Hours with St. John’s Epistles, op. cit., p. 129

[16] Cf. 1 John 3:22

[17] Westcott, Brooke F., The Epistles of St. John Greek Text with Notes, op. cit., p. 177

[18] 1 John 4:20

[19] Sawtelle, Henry A., Commentary on the Epistles of John, op. cit., pp. 54-55

[20] John 14:1; Acts of the Apostles 4:12; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5 and others

[21] 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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