The apostle John wrote, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (I John 5:3). Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Question: do obedience and love for God have any connection? Could one determine the answer just by the above two biblical references?
It is doubtful that the majority of people claiming to be religious would deny that love and obedience to God go together. Yet, the question facing all of mankind is: do we (mankind) love God? The answer in the form of a question is: are we (mankind) obeying God? Many are claiming love for God and yet American societal morality is getting worse and worse. What do you suppose the common answer would be if one asked the average man on the street, “Do you love God?” I will venture a guess that nearly 90 percent of the people asked would respond with a confident “yes.” So, how is it that most people would respond in the affirmative, yet drinking, divorce, murder, theft, rape, prostitution, teen pregnancies, abortion, gambling, and state-supported lotteries are all on the increase? The Bible, which contains all the commands of God for mankind, condemns all of the above. Society as a whole could in no way be considered to love God.
Can you imagine a single person claiming membership in the Lord’s church responding to a question about loving the Lord with a “no”? Everyone in the Sunday morning worship service would say they love the Lord. In fact, one of the songs used in worship with the best participation is “Oh How I Love Jesus.” Most of the time nearly 100 percent of the people present for worship on Sunday morning will not be back for Sunday night worship, Wednesday night Bible study or Sunday school. Is this an example of the love for God that one would understand from reading Hebrews 10:24-25?
Many time families will plan a vacation and never even consider where they will worship during their vacation. In fact, I’ve heard people attempt to excuse their neglect by saying they didn’t pack their church clothes. Why didn’t they? Maybe they didn’t because it’s just not all that important to them to worship God. King David said he “was glad when they said. . . let us go into the house of the Lord” (Ps. 122:1).
The number one hanging point with most people and the church of the New Testament is on the point of entrance or baptism. Most religious people will admit that one should love God, believe in Him, and be willing to make some form of a confession. But their anger is stirred when one reads and emphasizes I Peter 3:21: “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us . . .” Jesus was baptized of John the baptizer as an example to all (Matt. 3:15-17). Paul said that he was told to “arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). And this is consistent with the very first gospel sermon on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:38. Paul wrote to the Galatians by inspiration and said, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27). So the Bible says that baptism saves, washes away sin, is calling on the Lord and puts one into Christ. One who loves the Lord will do and teach what the Bible teaches on baptism. Who loves the Lord? One who claims to love the Lord, yet denies the clear Bible doctrine of baptism, or one who follows the example of Christ and obeys its teaching (Mark 16:15-16)?
An important part of the discussion of love and obedience rests in the later part of I John 5:3. There the inspired writer says, “…and His commandments are not grievous.” Jesus Himself said, “my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:30). Is this inconsistent with Christ’s own words “ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake” (Matt.10:22), or Paul’s inspired words, “Yea, and all that will love godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (II Tim. 3:12)? The key to the discussion is love. If an individual is dedicated to a cause or a relationship to the point of true love, then tasks that would normally be grievous are no longer considered that way. Many have witnessed a husband caring for an ailing wife or a wife caring for an ailing husband. When you ask them about their time invested they say, “It’s not much to do for the love of your life.” I’ve had that very statement made to me in just such a situation. This real-life example sheds light on what the last part of I John 5:3 means. If our hearts are truly given to the Master in obedient faith, then any affliction that might befall us will not be so bad, because our Lord is with us and even death itself will hasten the joys of heaven. No doubt this is the very thought behind Paul’s statement, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (II Cor. 4:17).
Finally, consider the words of the Hebrew writer regarding Christ,
“Though he were a son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Heb. 5:8-9).
The things we do and say, our practices, our willingness to stand and be counted for the Lord, suffering as a Christian, etc., all mold us in the form of Christ. And if we truly love Him, the song that we sing will ring true for eternity: “The toils of the road will seem nothing, when I get to the end of the way.”
Love for God and obedience are inseparable. If we truly love God, then our lives will surely show it.