Chapter 5:1-5 (ESV) - Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
Question to consider: Why does John associate love of God with obedience?
Throughout this book, John has gone to great lengths to establish that Jesus is the Son of God, and that if we have become God’s children through Christ, we will affirm that Jesus became flesh and blood like the rest of us, and we will love and serve our other brothers and sisters in Christ. John then stressed that all of this is rooted in the love that God has first shown us.
Because God loved us, so we now have the ability to love Him. How does God receive love from us? Through our obedience. As I mentioned yesterday, much of this book is a commentary on Jesus’ words to the disciples in John’s gospel account. In John 15:9-14, Jesus said to the disciples, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”
The Lord also expressed these sentiments to Israel in Deuteronomy 6:4-8, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
How was Israel to love the Lord? By keeping His commands, making them a part of everything they do, and teaching them to their children. How do we love Christ? By keeping His command to make disciples of all nations and love them as we love Christ Himself. As I mentioned yesterday, “God is love” is not some emotional expression of fondness but a covenantal promise to make us holy so that we may have eternal life.
Outside of Christ, the Law is a heavy burden, but Christ took that burden upon Himself and gave us His righteous Spirit to dwell in us. Now that we belong to Christ, we have an advocate with the Father, and we can overcome the world through Him. Jesus made this point to the disciples in John 16:33, “ I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Dear heavenly father, thank You for Your righteous commands that give us life and show us our need for Jesus. Thank You for giving us Your Son who has overcome the world and brought us to new life by taking the burden of our sins. Help us to overcome the world by faith in Him. Amen.