By Dr. Robert R Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XIX) 10/20/22

5:3 Loving God means obeying His commands. And God’s mandates are not too hard for us,

Without overlooking what’s crucial, Johann E. Huther (1807-1880) finds two ideas here in verse three, which the Apostle John mentioned coordinatively, and expresses their unity: “Loving God means obeying His mandates,” and “God’s commands are not too hard for us.” John expressed these ideas as absolute. Not only that, but from the conformation that follows in verse four, it is evident that John specifically referenced these to those born of God.[1]

In line with what the Apostle John writes here, Henry Alford (1810-1871) says that the Apostle John’s declaration that God’s commandments do cause grief has[2] furnished some Roman Catholic commentators the opportunity to characterize the Protestant position as saying that none can keep God’s commandments. However, John argues that all born of God stand solidly on the victory their faith has obtained over the world. In this victorious state, their divine life is developed and dominant so that they find those commandments bearable. The only thing God mandates that is hard to navigate is that sinful tendencies still influence moral behavior. That also means their will is still not fully committed to God’s guidance in keeping those commandments.[3]

William Graham (1810-1883) says that the first thing the Apostle John teaches us here in verse three is that there is a living, active, personal God interested in His creatures and desires and requires their love. He is not the abstract, sleepy, indifferent deity of the idealists, rationalists, semi-pantheists, or like the Brahman of India who made an imaginary god who looked like them. Instead, He is the Creator, Redeemer, and Lord of the universe. It is those who notice the sparrow as it falls, numbers the hairs of our heads,[4] and keeps the earth moving in its orbit around the sun.[5] He is a holy, loving God who yearns for our love.

The second thing we are taught is that God’s love is available, and we are bound to share it. The unrepealed commandment to love God and others is still over us with all its requirements.[6] The Son of God, blessed be His name, the incarnation, atonement, and mediator, made it easy to love God by enhancing the character of the harsh Lawgiver and stern Judge as a loving, caring, and forgiving Father. It is possible to love God; or rather, I would say, it is impossible, as seen in the person of Jesus, the Mediator and Redeemer, not to worship Him. Indeed, He tempered His majesty with tenderness. The High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity speaks to us, and His words are mercy and love. He gave His Son to die on our behalf, and His hand, His throne room of grace and mercy,[7] and His heart are open to all. Just think, there has never been a scene such as the cross of Calvary.  And there, God thought of you and me when the sky was dark, and His Son hung on the bleeding tree. Oh, cries Graham, don’t you feel your heart drawn to this kind and loving God who has done so much for you?

Thirdly, if you have this love for God, it will motivate you to obey His commandments, for without this, all professions of faith are ineffective and contradictory. It takes for granted that you understand His commandments, that He has made known His will in the Scriptures of truth so that the fountain from which you draw your knowledge of God is none other than the Bible. He has given you this advantage over millions of your fellow creatures, that you have the Holy Scriptures available, which made you aware of God’s salvation plan. You read God’s mind, not in the unwritten pages of creation or the dark lines of your consciousness, but in the sunlight of the Gospel of His beloved Son. Hence you accept responsibility for keeping His commandments.

Then fourthly, the Apostle John assures us God’s commandments are not overbearing. Instead, it refers to the contrast between the Gospel and the Law. Thus, it teaches us that the burdens our forefathers in the faith could not carry are removed by grace. The rites, rituals, and ceremonies are abolished; annual pilgrimages to an earthly center, like Jerusalem and Mecca, are no longer required; and the redeemed church is out of the bondage of legal ceremonialism into liberating grace as children of God. The sum and substance of His commandments is love, which is never grievous to the loving. Thus, even in cases where duty requires the Christian to give up all for the Anointed One, the commandments are not as burdensome as might appear at first sight.

Therefore, no rain without its rainbow and no duty without its corresponding promise are ours. We may be stripped of our belongings, like the first Christians; thrown into dungeons, like the saints of God under the inquisition; but this prepares us for the better land and the heavenly inheritance. The cross-bearers on earth will soon become the palm-bearing company in the heavenly Jerusalem: and we should never forget that, in all our trials and afflictions, He who loved us and died for us is present with us, as a very present help in time of trouble.[8] It lightens the burden of the cross and makes His yoke easy to the weary and heavy-laden who follow Him. In the heat of the battle, or persecutions and perils of the cross, the loving, obedient heart will say that His commandments are not grievous: they are the commandments of divine wisdom and heavenly love.[9]

Looking closely at what the Apostle John teaches here, William E. Jelf (1811-1875)  says that in verse nineteen, the Apostle John states the practical nature of the feeling towards God more distinctly, as the reason why he added in verse two, “we shall be like Him.” The apostle here introduces a new thought, suggested probably by the reflection that among the commandments of God was that very brotherly love, which he had impressed upon his readers.[10] In other words, we need not wait until revelation day to be like God; we can do that by loving our spiritual brothers and sisters in the Lord.

In accord with orthodox Christian faith, Joseph Angus (1816-1902) states that nothing has been said of their Divine authority in proving the genuineness of the books of Scripture. Hence, claims of supreme inspiration are gathered from the books themselves. The evidence in support of these claims must be considered. They represent the apostolic writings generally as Divine. The apostolic writings were composed by Divine command and fulfilled their writers’ commission.[11] [12]

After closely checking the Apostle John’s message, Richard H. Tuck (1817-1868) remarks about God’s mandates not being hard to observe. It is never a strain to obey those whom we love. It is of the very nature of love to make obedience easy. If we were perfect, we would not find God’s requirements to be mandated at all. Instead, they would be our natural impulses. Orders indeed only help us from outside towards what we wish to be. The Love of the Father involves the Love of His children. As the Apostle John says in verse one, “everyone who loves the Father loves His children, too.” These words are the main point of this paragraph.

It is a common delusion of Christians in name only to profess a loving relationship with God while they persist in a loving relationship with worldly people. They base their illusion upon failing to recognize the essential family element in Christianity. The supreme mission of the Christian revelation, the very essence of the work of the Anointed One, is the complete restoration of the family relationship God designed to stand with His new creations and still wishes to stand. It was that family relationship that the children’s willful sin broke up. Men ceased to be sons, and women stopped being daughters. God might be King, but they refused to recognize Him as their “eternal Father.”

Unfortunately, some people do not see that standing alone, with no ordinary love or mutual interest, the brotherhood of humans never has been, and will never be, anything but selfish. No brotherhood is possible except out of shared fatherhood. And so, the Anointed One brought people together, as nobody else had ever done, because He revealed God as the Father of them all. “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Anointed One is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves His children as well.”[13] It is missing the point that the doctrine of the Fatherhood of God is one of the doctrines of the Christian faith. It is the first, the foundation, and the essential principle. It has nothing to say to people about themselves or their relations until it has put them right with God, that is, helped them have a correct understanding of God and brought them into gracious reconciliation with Him.[14]

Because of what the Apostle John is saying here, John Stock (1817-1884) cautions that love without obedience cannot be found. Love makes labor light, and time, though long, appears to be brief, as Jacob discovered, who in love labored for Rachel and waited for seven years, which appeared but a few days, for the love he had for her[15] We see God’s love in action by keeping His commandments. If we do not do the things, He mandates, all worship is hypocrisy, and our claims of salvation are false. The message of God’s grace convicts the sinful heart, closing the gates to reckless living and evicting the Legion of demons.[16] A clear conscience and moral health are restored. The fight against the evil trinity – the devil, the world, and the flesh – begins and is sustained. The knowledge of a free and full pardon is credited to everyone who believes in the Lord Jesus, the Anointed One. It saves guilty sinners and transforms them into saints without good works of any kind.

As a result, former unbelievers now find themselves justified[17] as redeemed, washed, chosen, sanctified, and empowered children of God through Jesus’ name and the Holy Spirit.[18] It is what happened to Abraham because of his faith in Messiah; at the same time, He glorifies them by the new birth, new heart, and right spirit by becoming new creatures in the Anointed One Jesus.[19] Thus, they now choose what they once hated and love what they once detested. Consequently, the Father’s and Son’s love is delivered to the heart by the Holy Spirit[20] to those who believe in making duty and obedience light.[21]

[1] Huther, Johann E., Critical and Exegetical Handbook on the General Epistles, op. cit., p. 602

[2] See 1 John 3:9

[3] Alford, Henry: The Greek Testament, Vol. IV, op. cit., p.497

[4] Matthew 10:29-30

[5] Cf. Isaiah 45:12

[6] Matthew 10:27

[7] Hebrews 4:16

[8] Psalm 46:1

[9] Graham, William: The Spirit of Love, op. cit., pp. 309-311

[10] Jelf, William E., Commentary on the First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., pp. 69-70

[11] 1 Thessalonians 4:15; 1 Timothy 4:1 Revelation 1:19 John 20:8; 1 Jn 5 13: 1 Corinthians 14:37

[12] Angus, Joseph: The Bible Handbook, op. cit., p. 87

[13] 1 John 5:1

[14] Tuck, Richard H., The Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary, op. cit., p. 328-330

[15] Genesis 29:20

[16] Mark 5:9

[17] Romans 4:5

[18] Cf. 1 Corinthians 6:11

[19] 2 Corinthians 5:17

[20] Romans 5:5

[21] Stock, John: An Exposition of the First Epistle General of St. John, op. cit., pp. 405-406

About drbob76

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