At this point in our exposition we need to point out the ethical false teaching that John opposed. This will set the stage for the doctrinal error we will meet in verse 7.
We mentioned previously that the false teaching John opposed took the shape of a pre-Gnosticism. The error promoters taught that the physical body was evil, impure, and doomed to die. The spirit alone was good, pure, and able to attain to the higher life. Therefore it didn’t matter what a person did in the body because it did not defile the spirit in any way. The misshapen knowledge and misguided intellectual insight of these proto-Gnostics about salvation had a detrimental affect on how one lived their life.
This gave people a license – permission to sin. If it felt good, do it. If you thought it right, do it. Go for it! Feed your lusts to the fullest. The commandments of the Lord were despised. Even today the same attitudes prevail. What real harm will it do me? Go ahead. Get all the gusto (enjoyment) out of life you can. Such an attitude placed people above the moral obligations of God’s Law embodied in His commandments.
John was clear in showing the errors of this bold morality (see 1 John 1:6-10).
Our Lord expanded the implications of the moral law of God in the Sermon on the Mount. He respected and kept the commandments of God. He continually walked in truth and love and obeyed the Father’s will. His followers must walk as Jesus walked. There must be an ongoing desire to follow and obey. We must seek His enabling grace because our spirit is willing but our flesh is weak.
“And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, I have come to know Him, and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know we have come to know Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He [Jesus] walked (1 John 2: 3-6).
What John is driving home to our minds and hearts is that love delights to do the will of God. This is made evident by obeying His word (commandments).
To be sure that we keep love in balance we must walk consistently according to God’s commandments which are His instruction and direction for our lives.
Astronomers can determine by the spectrum (an analysis of light) of a star or galaxy not only it’s chemical composition but it’s direction. If the spectral lines show a shift to the blue part or shorter wavelength of the spectrum, the object is moving toward us. If the spectral lines show a shift to the red end or longer wavelength, it is moving away from us.
Where there is no genuine or sincere love, be it brotherly love or self-sacrificing love, there will be found a ‘red-shift’ away from the Lord’s commandments. What happens when they are watered-down, altered, or disregarded? There will be the very opposite qualities of love outlined in the “love chapter”, 1 Corinthians 13. The ‘red-shift’ will be composed of impatience, unkindness, jealousy, boasting, arrogance, rudeness, selfishness, ill-temper, and resentfulness. There will be a morbid glee over falsehood and wrongdoing.
Loveless-ness will taint the various stations and relationships of life. Love can take on a Pharisaic bent. Like the religious leaders we learn about from the gospels, people will call attention to themselves and their good deeds. They look for something in return, like the approval and applause of others. Instead of giving God the glory, they bask in the spotlight.
Love can be compromised or forgotten at the expense of truth. It is good to be zealous for the truth but beware of getting out of balance when it comes to truth’s companion, love. The Ephesians were so zealous for truth that they left the first principles of love for God and others (Rev. 2:1-7).
It is important to thunder the truth of the gospel in a day where that precious truth is much maligned. However, we unwittingly hurt the cause of the gospel by a lack of sincere love toward those both in and out of the church. That is why we have the repetition of the commandment in verse 6, “And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it.”
I for one am not blessed with a ‘photographic memory.’ How a waitress can take a dinner order from six people without writing it down and getting it right is beyond me. I best remember things when I read it or write it over several times. Repeating the commandment serves as the apostles exclamation point. Take notice! Mark it! Remember it! Do it!
John knows we all have the remains of the old sinful nature to deal with. The sinful nature wars against the Spirit wrought new nature, which is being recreated into the likeness of Christ. Satan wants to destroy that likeness. We are tempted. We struggle. We fall. We confess. We forsake. We fight. We move forward. We all need the grace of God in our struggles against the world, the flesh, and the devil. We all need to be continually reminded to walk in truth and love. We need to be sure we are sticking to the truth of the gospel, loving others with a sincere love, and obeying the commandments of the Lord.
Let us who name the name of Christ seek His grace to make these things our top priority. Let us seek His grace to help us consistently read, study, and mediate upon the word of God. Let us seek His grace that the word of Christ dwells in us richly. Let us seek His grace to hide that word in our hearts so that we will not sin against Him. O Lord, help us! We are a needy people. Thank God His grace. It is sufficient for all our needs. Let us seek His grace to spare no pains to walk in truth, love, and obedience because we are surrounded by many who care not for the ways of the Lord.