First John 5:3 defines love in terms of the Ten commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. In what events may we recognize the love of God? They are in the keeping of His commandments (Haas et al., 1972, p. 134). The verb translated keep in verse 3 is present tense. This keeping is “a continuous and watchful endeavor” (Westcott, 1966, p. 179). The idea is that “we keep on keeping” His commandments (Robertson, 1933, p. 238). “But love includes more of obedience than the actual carrying out of definite commands. It accepts them as the expression of an underlying principle, which is capable of molding the whole character” (Brooke, 1964, p. 130). That is, the Ten Commandments are the God-given means for expressing love to God and love for God.
John adds this description of the Ten Commandments, And His commandments are not burdensome. John “means that they are not oppressive, so as to crush the freedom and spontaneity of love” (Smalley, 2008, p. 257; cf. Westcott, 1966, p. 179). Jesus uses the same adjective regarding the Pharisees, “They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders” (Matthew 23:4). “The persnickety regulations of the scribes and Pharisees were ‘heavy burdens, hard to bear’” (Stott, 1981, p. 173). Although Jesus reminds us, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15), He also says, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). How so? “Love for God lightens his commands” (Robertson, 1933, p. 238).
Following God’s commandments may remain a challenge, but love makes them a joy. Love leads to keeping them. Note the beginning and end of this quote of Psalm 119:97-101. “O how I love Your law!/It is my meditation all the day.//Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies,/For they are ever mine.//I have more insight than all my teachers,/For Your testimonies are my meditation.//I understand more than the aged,/Because I have observed Your precepts.//I have restrained my feet from every evil way,/That I may keep Your word.”
Brooke, A. E. (1964). A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Johannine Epistles. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark.
Hass, C., de Jonge, M., & Swellengrebel, J. L. (1972). The Letters of John. New York: United Bible Societies.
Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Vol. 6). Nashville: Broadman.
Smalley, S. S. (2008). 1, 2, and 3 John. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
Stott, J. R. W. (1981). The Epistles of John. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
Westcott, B. F. (1966). The Epistles of St. John. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.