1 John 5:2–3

“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments” (1 John 5:2).

As John begins to bring his first epistle to a close in chapter 5, he makes it abundantly clear that the tests he has given us by which we can measure the authenticity of our salvation, and thereby gain assurance, do not operate in isolation from each other. Verses 1–5 of this concluding chapter tightly interweave love for others, belief in the incarnation, and holiness of life.

We began to see John tie these tests together in verse 1 where he ties confession of the incarnation to being born of God and, therefore, to loving Him and His other children. In today’s passage, John ties love for God’s children back to love for God and personal holiness, for he tells us we know we love the children of God when we love God and keep His commandments (v. 2).

We have already seen in 4:20–21 that it is not possible to love God without loving His children. Lest we deceive ourselves and think we have truly loved His children when we do not have love for God, verse 2 likewise reminds us that it is not possible to love other believers truly unless we first love God.

Moreover, it is not possible to love God truly without keeping His commandments (v. 3). Our love for God is not simply a feeling ­— it must express itself in obedience to His requirements. Just as belief in God is not true and effectual unless it manifests itself in obedience (James 2:14–26), neither is love for God true and effectual unless it manifests itself in obedience.

Having reminded us that our love for God means we keep His commandments, John also tells us today that God’s commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:3). While the law does serve to show us the depth of our sin, we must note it is also the delight of the redeemed heart to keep it (Ps. 1). Still, the remaining presence of sin makes it hard to see the law as a delight at times, and John reminds us of the goodness of God’s law found throughout sacred Scripture. John Calvin writes in his comments on this verse: this reminder “has been added, lest difficulties, as it is usually the case, should damp or lessen our zeal.”

Coram Deo

Do you find the commandments of God burdensome? Or do you delight in keeping His law? Do you say you love God but then flee from obedience or commit the opposite error by trying to obey out of any other motive than the love of God? Take some time today to consider how you view the law of God. Ask the Lord to help you embrace His commands as loving requirements and obey His law by loving someone in your workplace today.

For Further Study