“And now I ask you, dear lady— not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning— that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to the commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.” (2 John 5-6)
Please notice two very important and subtle things in this verse. First of all, in verse five, John uses the singular word “commandment,” meaning only one. Here, he is speaking about the commandment for believers to love one another. Then in verse six, he uses the plural –“commandments” – meaning the sum total of everything God requires of us. So, whereas in verse five, John calls us to obey the commandment to love, in verse six, he is calling us to walk according to all God’s commandments.
That includes love, but also anything else that Christ has required of us. The second thing to note is we might be tempted to interpret verse six as saying that love for God is equated to walking according to His commandments. But in fact, that is not what this passage says at all! In this context, what verse six says is that this (obeying the commandments) is love for one another, not for God. In fact, John has been teaching us in verse five that the definition of love is obedience to everything God has commanded.
But this might strike us as somewhat strange. How can our love for each other be measured by our obedience to God’s commandments? The answer is: because God’s commandments define love. Here’s an example. Let us say there is a Christian man in your church who in the past has been unfaithful to his wife. Now he begins to have a very good friendship with another woman until it finally becomes an affair. But he justifies it, saying he really loves this second woman.
However, the commandments of God define this as adultery and wickedness (not love).
Let me give you a second illustration. The Bible indicates that Christ is our head, and we the church are his body. The body operates smoothly, not because the body gets together and votes on what to do, but because the body responds to what the head commands it to do. Whenever the body is not submissive to the head, there is danger to every single organ. Enough rebellion, and the body collapses and dies. So John says that this is love for one another – to obey God. Therefore, disobedience is, in fact, an act of lovelessness to the people of God. In our individualistic society, many of us are tempted to say, “My individual obedience has no effect on the church. I might be living in direct disobedience to God – but then it will only affect me.”
But John is saying the exact opposite! One could paraphrase these verses as follows: “And this is the definition of love for other believers in the family of God: to be obedient to everything that God calls us to do. This obedience to God in all things is fulfilled in a single command to love each other. When you are obedient to God in all things, you will be obedient to God in love.” (JNSV) So then, obedience to God, as a practice in our lives, leads us to desire for our children to be saved, leads us to want the Father to be obeyed, and it leads us to want and desire unity.
APPLICATION: Have you ever thought about how your obedience (or disobedience) to God’s commands affects the body of Christ – whether it’s your spouse, your friends, those you serve with at church, etc. Let us ask Him for wisdom and guidance in learning how to better love others through our daily obedience!
OBEDIENCE OPENS THE DOORWAY TO UNDERSTANDING LOVE FOR GOD.
Dr. John Neufeld
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