NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
By Dr. Robert R Seyda
FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN
CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XVI) 10/18/22
5:3 Loving God means obeying His commands. And God’s commands are not too hard for us,
As a consequence, God’s commandments are not tiresome. They are not oppressive. It is not hard to obey someone you love. On the contrary, “grievous” (KJV) means heavy, weighed down, oppressive, troublesome, cruel, severe, and stern. Therefore, God’s commandments are not overbearing. The idea is not that God’s commands ask too much of us but that keeping them is an act of love. Legalism does, however, impose heavy burdens on believers. It all boils down to this, God’s commands are not burdensome because we exercise them out of love for God.
However, the obligations of grace are infinitely more demanding than legalism. What we do by God’s grace could become a stressful routine if it were not for the strength of the Holy Spirit. We should never take love for God and other Christians as an oppressive command. Believers are members of God’s spiritual family. Keeping God’s principles for life requires a heart for God. It is no burden to do something for someone you greatly admire. Love is evidence of spiritual life. Divine life produces divine love. The single requirement to obey God’s commands is love.
It is not problematic for people in love to submit to one another’s wishes. It is not burdensome for a man who loves his wife to take time and listen to her requests. He will do it out of love, whatever she asks him to do something for her. It may involve some tedious chore (like taking out the trash, making sure you put the recyclables in one can and the unrecyclable in another, and closing the lids tightly), but it is never aggravating! It only becomes a burden when there is a lack of love.
We know that God has given us divine directives in His Word for our good and benefit. Granted, some of the commands we may not fully comprehend. We may not understand why and question some of them, but God obligates us to do them. Later in eternity, He will explain to us the complete rationale for His principles for life. We can see why Jesus told the Pharisees they were putting religious burdens on people. Jesus offered to exchange those religious burdens for his easy load. Faith in Him abolished all the new believers’ religious obligations and Levitical ceremonial laws.
COMMENTARY AND HOMILETICS
Additional comments, interpretations, and insights of the Early Church Fathers, Medieval Thinkers, Reformation Theologians, Revivalist Teachers, Reformed Scholars, and Modern Commentators on this verse
On the subject of God’s command not being burdensome, Clement of Alexandria (died 215 AD) deals with one such Church ordinance called the “holy kiss.”  He says that if we are called into the kingdom of God, let us live admirably in honor of our King, loving Him and our neighbor. Love is not proved by a kiss but by kinship feeling. But some do nothing but make the churches resound with a kiss, not having love within. For this very thing, the shameless use of a kiss (which ought to be spiritual) hatches foul suspicions and harmful rumors. Therefore, the Apostle John calls it a “kiss holy.” When we examine the Church in the days of Clement, we find that this greeting kiss was part of the believer’s welcome. Today, it’s practiced with a hug or handshake.
Andreas was a seventh-century (600-700 AD) Monk who collected commentary from earlier writers to create an encyclopedia on various biblical books. Keeping the commandments is the form and substance of our love for God. Those who obey them are brought close to God by them. If someone looks at them incorrectly and says they are heavy to bear, they merely reveal their weakness.
Bede the Venerable (672-735 AD) states that we can find proof of love in good works. We truly love God if we conform our wills to His commandments, for whoever runs after their illicit desires do not love God because they contradict that love willingly. God’s commands are not demanding, for the Anointed One said: “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  
Hugh Binning (1627-1653) calls our attention to the fact that when a believer examines their heart, they should find an inclination and desire to love others, even though their conscience argues they don’t deserve such love. Still, they will find encouragement in God’s command that others should love them. They may console themselves by saying, “I love knowing I can be loved by others even after I’ve done them wrong.” We may make up a Shakespearean-style quote: “Hath it such a beauty in my eye, while I am the object of it?”  In other words, they should like what they see before they find out what I am like. Why should it be so difficult for me to love others? Is it unloving, although they have done wrong to me and deserve it more than I do? Why does it ring true for me but not when my fellow believer is the object of it?
John Flavel (1627-1691) has an interesting way of commenting on what the Apostle John says here in verse three. He proposes that whatever a believer’s sinful nature ached for and any sensual craving it whined for, it didn’t matter what it cost. They wanted it even if damnation came with it, provided they didn’t have to pay for it immediately. They were unaware that they were no longer under God’s law but under the Anointed One’s authority. Those are the articles of peace that the believer willingly subscribed to on the day God granted them His forgiving mercy.
Thus, the power of the life-giving Spirit was theirs through the Anointed One, Jesus, who freed them from the vicious circle of sin and death. Holiness requires strictness but not bondage because God’s law was written in the Anointed One’s Gospel and copied out by His spirit upon the hearts of His followers with corresponding principles of obedience, making self-denial a pleasure. The Anointed One’s shoulder yoke is cushioned with love so that it never irritates the necks of His people. Therefore, the soul that comes under the Anointed One’s leadership receives the law from Him, bringing every thought of the heart under His law of love.
George Swinnock (1627-1673) rightly states that loving God sweetens our service to Him and makes it more acceptable to Him and more delightful to us. That allowed the Apostle John to say in verse three that we can keep His commandments with greater joy by loving God.
Philipp Jakob Spener (1635-1705), a German Lutheran theologian, founded the Holiness Movement. He states that the meaning of what the Apostle John says here in verse three is that keeping the Divine commandments does not require considerable effort, involvement, and diligence, for that would contradict Scripture. Such difficulty applies to a burden so oppressive and painful as to be unbearable. Concerning its nature, spiritual life is eternal life and consists as well in the grace of God, which forgives sin and imparts new Divine strength, but also in the enjoyment of everlasting contentment and glory.
Daniel Whitby (1638-1726) says that because a person’s will conforms to God’s will, they will do what God would, and the desires of their hearts are focused only on Him. That way, they end up undertaking what they choose and delight in doing. Thus, obeying God is no longer a difficult chore. Any person should love to keep busy in God’s kingdom and be delighted to do so.
After examining this verse, Robert Witham (1667-1778) explains that God’s commandments might seem hard in the light of human frailty and especially for people carried away with their love for the world’s prized possessions because it’s hard to comply with the Anointed One’s doctrine of self-denial. Believers, however, would rather suffer death than sin against God or renounce their faith. God’s love and the promises of eternal happiness in the next life. With God’s assistance, the yoke of the Anointed One is sweet, and His burden light. How different is this doctrine from those heretics who pretend that God’s commandments are impossible, even to the faithful, when they give their utmost for His Highest? 
Edward King (1829-1910), Bishop of Lincoln in the province of Canterbury, England, says it would benefit us if we reminded ourselves as believers that we are already in a wonderful world. We are where life’s pathway leads us through the intricacies of a Divine system, intending progressively to reveal itself to us and bring us nearer to our envisioned perfection with God. King then points out a couple of dominant forces forming part of this Divine system.
One influences the beginning of our physical and spiritual existence through what has been called the Fellowship of Love. Love is a significant force that is delicate, subtle, intricate, and godly. Yet, it receives such little consideration that most of us end up unprepared to deal with it when required. For instance, marriage is a matchless part of the Divine plan and full of progressive developing powers and blessings. God instituted it in Paradise before sin confused and dulled its pleasures. We are shocked when we see the results day after day of the heartless forsaking, or spousal abuse, of someone who should be the symbol of the Bride of Christ.
Another attribute is called the Fellowship of Rights. It is a powerful force that God has prepared for us among the workings of the Divine system in which we live, closely connected with the progressive development of family life. God did not create humans to live all alone in this world. We are all bound together in families or society in one way or another. Sadly, Ethics and Social Studies have been discarded in favor of Individualism. Thus, it is impossible to continue encouraging children of any race, color, class, or age to champion personal morality and have a law-abiding and functioning society. God, who has been all but forgotten, prepared and intended us to assist each other in our progress toward perfection and nearness to Him.
 See Matthew 11:29-30; 23:4
 See Psalm 19:11; 119:32
 Matthew 23:4
 Ibid. 11:29-30
 Cf. Galatians 6:2; James 2:8
 Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 16:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:26
 Clement of Alexandria: The Instructor Book III, Ch. XI, Love and the Kiss of Charity.
 Andreas, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Edited Gerald Bray, Vol. XI, op. cit., pp. 221-222
 Matthew 11:30
 Bede, the Venerable, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Edited Gerald Bray, op. cit., Vol. XI, p. 222
 Cf. William Shakespeare’s, Loves Labours Lost, Scene I, Princess to Boye, “Beauty is bought by judgment of the eye . . . I am less proud to hear you tell my worth.”
 Binning, Hugh: Practical Sermons, Sermon 8, p. 583
 Matthew 11:29
 Romans 8:2
 1 John 5:3
 Flavel, John: The Fountain of Life, Sermon 16, pp. 191-192
 Swinnock, George: The Christian Man’s Calling, Vol. 1, Part II, Ch. V, p. 519
 See Luke 13:24; 2 Timothy 4:7
 Spener, Philipp J., Lange’s Commentary on the New Testament, op. cit., Vol. IX, p. 165
 Whitby, Daniel: Critical Commentary and Paraphrase, op. cit., p. 469
 Luke 9:23-24
 Matthew 11:30
 Witham, Robert: Annotations on the New Testament of Jesus Christ, Second Volume, op. cit., pp. 434-435
 King; Edward. The Love and Wisdom of God: Being a Collection of Sermons, Longmans, Green and Company, New York, 1910, p. 121-127, Kindle Edition