In several places, such as I John 2:29; 3:3; 3:9-14; and 5:1-4, John expressly states what the responsibilities of a converted person are. In these verses, the work of keeping the commandments is plainly shown.
The application of Paul's statement in Ephesians 2:10 is becoming ever clearer. He writes that we are indeed saved by grace through faith. However, he adds, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." Sanctification is a process involving a period of intense work: walking in love, keeping the commandments, and overcoming sin and the world, as John's first epistle clearly stipulates. This process within a relationship with the Father and Son brings us to completion.
Sanctification does not consist only of a lot of talk about religion. Nor does it consist only of spending large amounts of time studying the Bible and commentaries. As helpful as these might be, God also calls for a great deal of action. The apostle John again supplies helpful exhortation: "My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth" (I John 3:18). It could not be stated more clearly that the love of God is an action. Further, Jesus exhorts all His disciples, "If you love Me keep My commandments" (John 14:15). "Keeping" indicates consistent effort to obey as a means of expressing our love, loyalty, and submission to Him.
Paul writes in Romans 5:5, "Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which was given to us." The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is essential to salvation, and God gives it to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32). Paul says in Romans 8:9, "Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His." God gives His Holy Spirit for the very purpose of making one His child. It also allows one to witness on His behalf, to produce the fruit of the spirit in preparation for His Kingdom, and to glorify Him.
Jesus says in John 15:8, "By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples." Sanctification is the period of our converted lives when God expects us to provide evidence that we are indeed His converted children. In fact, the fruit produced by our works, themselves enabled by God, are the evidence of our conversion. Some things in life are absolute certainties: Where the fruit of the labors of conversion are, there the Spirit of God will be found. Where those fruits are absent, the people are spiritually dead before God—they lack the life of the Spirit. Put another way, where there is no holy living, there is no Holy Spirit.
The works of sanctification are the only sure sign that one has been called of God and imbued with His Spirit. Notice something Peter writes on this: "[Christians are] elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ" (I Peter 1:2). Paul adds in II Thessalonians 2:13, "But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth."
He also writes in Ephesians 1:4, ". . . just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love." When Paul saw the Ephesians' attitudes, their manner of life, and the evidence of their conversion, he knew they were part of the elect of God. He could thus honestly write to them with glowing praise. Many more similar verses could be added to these.
Out of ignorance, weakness, or lack of understanding, a person may break some of God's commands. However, anyone who boasts of being one of God's elect while willfully living in sin is only deceiving himself—and his claim may very well be wicked blasphemy.
Thus, because of the works that are performed during sanctification, it will always be a visible condition. As Jesus says in Matthew 7:18-20: "A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them."
John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Four)
Romans 3 teaches us that law tells us our duty, that is, what we are obliged to do. It defines right and wrong. Combined with this is the wonderful Personality behind it: We find that keeping His commandments—His law—teaches us God's greatest attribute. The law does two things: It shows negative things and positive things. The negative is what sin—wrongdoing—is. The positive is love—the love of God.
His law is a reflection of His character in words. It points the way toward what we are to become. Answer this simple question: Does God call people to salvation and then throw away the road map? It is ridiculous to think such a thing.
The law has a Personality behind it—in terms of love. The law provides the basic outline, and then, when combined with the examples of God's living and acting in both Testaments, it presents a full picture of love. God's actions and Christ's example amplify and make practical what the law says in words.
One has to begin somewhere, and this the law does in providing us with its letter. Then there is its spirit, which is the magnification of the letter, but it does not do away with the law. The law, then, is not only the guideline to what is right and wrong, but the law is also the guideline—in words—to what love is.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Seventeen)
The commandments tell us how to express the love of God. They tell us what form our efforts are to take to express this love and how it is to be directed towards both God and man. The first four commandments are primarily directed at God, while the last six are directed at man. Therefore, what we see is a channel that our loving conduct is supposed to take. In one sense, this is where the love of God commences in a human being—when he begins keeping the commandments.
A person may have a thought to do good or to refrain from evil. He may have a feeling of compassion or pity or mercy—or a feeling of revulsion to something that is evil. However, it does not become love until the thought or the feeling motivates the person to act. Love is an act.
Then another aspect of love comes into play. This kind of love can be done coldly, reluctantly, or out of dutiful obligation. On the other hand, it can be done in joyous, wholehearted submission, with a great deal of enthusiasm, warm-heartedly, and with thankful devotion, or anywhere in between. Because of this, we have to ask, "Which is more attractive?" Love that is done in warm-hearted enthusiasm or coldly, reluctantly, or dutifully?
It is better to do an act of obedience, regardless of the feeling, than not to do it at all. Nonetheless, if we cannot get beyond the feeling that it is right, the proper feelings will never be formed, because emotions are largely developed by experience. This is important: The right emotions will never be formed without experiencing the right actions with the right spirit—God's Holy Spirit.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Love's Emotional Dimension
God intends the love of Him and the love of man to be inseparable parts of the same experience. John explains this by saying that if we love the Father, we also love the child. If we love the Father who begot the children, we must love the children, otherwise we do not have God's love. In I John 4:20, he amplifies this: "If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?"
I John 5:3 is the Bible's basic definition of love. The commandments define, make clear, what the basic elements of love are and what direction our actions should take if we would show love. This means that obedience to God is the proof of love. Obedience is an action that submits to a command of God, a principle revealed in His Word and/or an example of God or the godly.
In a sense, this is where godly love begins in a human being. Obeying God's commands is love because God is love. Because His very nature is love, it is impossible for Him to sin. Thus He gives us commands in love, and they will produce right and good results. Any command of God reflects what He Himself would do were He in the same situation.
Jesus says in John 14:15, "If you love Me, keep My commandments." Keeping the commandments is how one expresses love. He adds in John 15:10, "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."
A person may have a thought to do good or to refrain from evil. He may have a feeling of compassion, pity, or mercy. One may feel revulsion about doing an evil action. But none of these become love until the thought or feeling motivates one to act. In the biblical sense, love is an action.
Love has yet another aspect, however. We can show love coldly, reluctantly, in "dutiful obedience." We can also show it in joyous, wholehearted enthusiasm or warmhearted, thankful devotion. Which is more attractive to God or man as a witness?
Regardless of the attitude, it is far better to obey than not at all (Matthew 21:28-31). If we cannot get beyond doing what is right, the proper feelings will never be formed. Experience is largely responsible for training attitude and emotion (Psalm 111:10). We will never form proper emotions without first performing the right actions with the right spirit, God's Holy Spirit.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Love
Of all people, we who have left the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) in the past decade should be most aware of the antinomian spirit working in the church of God. The doctrinal changes that began to be instituted mere months after the death of Herbert W. Armstrong had as their goal the removal of God's law, particularly the Sabbath, from the church's beliefs. WCG's subsequent heavy emphasis on "grace" and "love," along with its renunciation of "legalism" exposed its antinomian position. Because of these changes, it has joined evangelical Protestant "Christianity" to the point that it now worships on Sunday, encourages celebration of Christmas and Easter, and permits the use of crucifixes and images of "Jesus" by its ministry and membership and in its publications.
The "Christian" churches of this world are predominantly antinomian to some extent. Both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism belong to what can be termed Hellenistic Christianity, that is, a form of Christianity heavily influenced by Greek philosophies, particularly Gnosticism. Catholicism is the more moderate of the two, having retained obedience to the Church and its traditions as well as requiring certain works for salvation. However, its belief of the afterlife, with its levels of heaven, limbo, purgatory, and beatific vision - not to mention its belief in an immortal soul - brand it as Gnostic.
Protestantism is more antinomian, having rejected Catholicism's works during the Reformation. Martin Luther's doctrine of salvation by grace "through faith alone" removes God's law from the equation altogether. Pure Protestant theology is so antinomian that it claims that lawkeeping in any form - which it terms "legalism" - is detrimental to the soul's growth in spirituality. This form of Christianity also champions the doctrine of eternal security, the idea that, once one accepts Jesus, he can never lose his salvation, no matter what sins he commits ("once saved, always saved"). This doctrine knocks out law and judgment for sin in one blow.
Of course, the world itself is antinomian because it is under the sway of Satan the Devil, who despises God's law (Ephesians 2:2; I John 5:19; Romans 8:7). He even tried his antinomian tricks on Jesus, who countered with quotations from the law (Matthew 4:1-10)! Certainly, our adversary will tempt us similarly, trying to get us to put God's law aside so we can fulfill our desires.
Jesus, however, in his prayer in John 17, asks God to help us in this, and He also gives us the antidote to antinomianism:
I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep [guard, protect] them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. (verses 15-17)
Knowing God's truth and practicing it to become holy will protect us from the rampant antinomianism of this world, this age that is soon to end. Still to come are the Beast and his False Prophet, who will exemplify this anti-God, anti-Christ, anti-law spirit. To endure to the end, to survive the mystery of lawlessness that will mark the end time, we must hold fast to God's Word and seek His righteousness. "Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the [New Jerusalem]" (Revelation 22:14).
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Having love does not nullify God's law. John, an apostle and close friend of Jesus Christ, emphasized love. However, not once did he say that love nullifies or supersedes the Ten Commandments. Indeed, by keeping the commandments, the love of God is perfected in us (I John 2:5). The Ten Commandments constitute a spiritual law that is inexorable and eternal, producing faith and happiness and righteous character that pleases God.
Martin G. Collins
The Ten Commandments
A recurring theme throughout the apostle John's writings is the authenticity of Jesus Christ's testimony that He:
1. is the Creator God—the Son of God the Father (John 1:1);
2. is the promised Messiah (John 1:41);
3. is tasked with announcing the coming Kingdom of God, to provide expiation for mankind's sins, and to provide a perfect, living example of “the Way,” before being crucified and resurrected (John 1:29; 18:36-37; 14:6; 19:16-37; 20:1-31).
To that end, I John 5:1-5 presents a foundational description of Christ's followers—those who believe in His authenticity—and how they would display their love for both the Father and the Son and their inspired capacity to overcome the world through their faith.
In verses 6-8, John continues building on this foundation by revealing three of the most significant “witnesses”—all in agreement—to the authenticity of the testimony of Jesus Christ: “the Spirit, the water, and the blood.”
The trouble begins in between, with deceptive language added to verses 7 and 8, again, only in a few translations.
Martin G. Collins
Does I John 5:7-8 Support the Trinity Doctrine?
In I John 5:3, love is clearly defined, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.” Sex has no such specific definition anywhere in God's Word. “Keep” implies the activity of guarding and doing so by means of our conduct. Thus, the Bible defines love as an action not a feeling. Actions also include right attitudes. Feelings are certainly involved, but they are not the primary element that makes love the positive influence that God intends.
A vivid example is rape, which involves a sexual action, but it is most certainly a forcible attack against another. It cannot be considered an affectionate action in any way. It is the forceful taking of a momentary pleasure while simultaneously injuring another. Such a vile act hardly builds oneness, by any stretch of the imagination.
Love is outgoing concern, behavior that seeks the good of the one loved at least equal to the love of self. This element greatly facilitates husband and wife becoming one in all aspects of life (see Genesis 2:24). If a marriage is built around sex, it may indeed last, but it will probably lead to intense emotional frustration and may even produce adultery by one or the other or both. Sex was not created for that purpose. It is one among many expressions of love, one fully intended by God to be expressed—but only within marriage. It is an intimacy reserved only for the one other person sharing the relationship.
By “commandments,” I John 5:3 means all of God's commandments that bear on what love is, not merely the Ten Commandments. Major adjustments may have to be made if a marriage is going to produce the pleasures God intends. God's intention is achieved by cultivating the lawful interests and aspirations of both to each other. This is not easy to do because the carnality within us asserts our self-interests so quickly and sometimes so strongly.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Six)
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing 1 John 5:3:
2 Corinthians 5:10
1 John 2:8-11
1 John 4:15-17
1 John 5:1-8
1 John 5:1-3
1 John 5:3
1 John 5:3