With these profound, beautiful, and absolute words our Lord Jesus exhorted His disciples shortly before His suffering and-death. This is an absolute statement that stands for us as Christians through all time. To love God or to love Jesus is to keep His commandments. The two are inseparably related, they are indistinguishable. It can be said that there is a reciprocal relationship between loving God and keeping His commandments. To love Him is to keep His commandments, and to keep His commandments is to love Him with all our heart and soul and strength and mind. We shall consider especially the first of those relationships. The apostle John, who recorded the above statement of our Lord in his first epistle (although with slightly different. words), emphasizes the absolute character of the above proposition. “He that, saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” I John 2:4
The love of God is the most sublime, the most holy and pure and glorious of all motives that can live in the heart and soul of man. For this very purpose was man made: to love God his creator and Lord and so to glorify Him. According to the summary of the law of God this is really the only motive that must continually and completely fill the heart of man. The love of God is manifest in us only when we keep His commandments. By ‘His commandments’ reference is made centrally to the law of the ten commandments. But keeping His commandments in the most comprehensive sense of the word means of course that we keep all things which are contained in His Word: all His judgments, ordinances, and statutes, the whole of that which God requires of man to do.
Many have denied the absolute relationship set forth in the above proposition. They have sought to redefine and to broaden the whole idea of the love of God. So broad have they sought to make it that every man can be said to love God, with very few exceptions. Though men walk in all manner of iniquity, though they worship and serve many other gods after their own fashion, though they blaspheme the name of the only true God, though they desecrate His holy day, though they live in hatred and enmity with their neighbor, though they live in adultery and fornication, in greed and covetousness with their neighbor, yet they claim that they love God. This is possible because of the cheap estimation they have of the love of God. Love is, according to them, nothing more than a feeling, an emotion, an attitude. The love of God is not concerned with a certain standard, a certain perfection which controls and defines it. Men need not be so terribly concerned about the law of God. There are things that stand higher than the law of God. As long as man is concerned with all sorts of humanistic concerns, with social action, with the bringing of the kingdom on earth, promoting peace and justice among men, then it doesn’t matter so much if men keep the commandments of God or not.
Others have sought to compromise this absolute statement 6f our Lord by taking away the absoluteness of the law of God. They make the law of God something relative, something that changes with time and culture and circumstances. Each age must have a new interpretation of the law of God. We need for each age a new morality. We see this kind of an attempt in many ways today, especially with the seventh commandment. Surely, it is said, we must not today hold to the strict principles of sexual purity that the church held in years gone by. We need to reinterpret the law of God here to conform with our present liberated modern age. We need room for allowing homosexuality, premarital and extramarital relations, divorce and remarriage. Those who are engaged in such abominable acts surely cannot be condemned as not loving God! You see, when the law of God was written by the finger of God on Mount Sinai, there was not yet an understanding of the various aspects of man’s sexuality. Now, in our age of enlightenment, we need an enlightened interpretation of the law. Not only do men seek to do this kind of thing with the seventh commandment but with all of the law of God. The fifth commandment, which is the standard for authority and obedience, has to be completely reinterpreted. We live in an age of liberation. There is no such thing as God-ordained authority. All men are free and equal. Men have the right to liberate themselves from all forms of government which do not satisfy and please them. Women have the right to liberate themselves from the God-ordained position of submission unto men. One could easily cite many more examples of the attempt of man to relativize the law of God.
Others have persisted in the age-old heresy that the law of God no longer applies in the new testament day. Christ has fulfilled the law and in such 2 way that He has entirely done away with it as far as the demands of the law for our lives as Christians is concerned. A more subtle and undoubtedly more common variation of this heresy is the notion that, since Christ has paid for all my transgressions of the law of God anyway, it is not such a serious matter that I keep the law of God. If we sometimes through weakness violate the law of God, this ought not be of such great concern to us since we already have forgiveness in Christ Jesus anyway. As long as I still e love God He will be pleased with me in spite of my transgression of His commandments. Have we not all secretly at one time or another held this kind of notion? How boldly men say they love God; but what liars they are found to be in their careless transgression of God’s law!
Though we have not consciously held to any of the heresies mentioned above, we have nevertheless often sought to compromise the absolute proposition above. We so easily and boldly claim that we love God, but our careless transgression of His commandments reveals that often the love of God is at best miserably weak in us. How often while walking in disobedience to the law of God we pride ourselves that we still love God. The word of God clearly teaches us that when we transgress the law of God we reveal that we do not love God.
We neither love God nor keep God’s commandments by nature. We are prone by nature to hate God and to transgress all of His commandments. The love of God is the result of the work of regeneration in us, the fruit of the operation of God’s grace. Only with that same grace can we keep God’s commandments.
But why is there such an absolute relationship between our love of God and the keeping of His commandments? The love of God is in its very nature holy and perfect. The love of God is much more than a human emotion or feeling. It is a spiritual and ethical matter of our hearts. The love of God can only operate in the sphere of spiritual perfection.
God is our sovereign lawgiver. He has the absolute right to demand His law of every creature because He is God. His law is righteous and holy. His law is not merely an arbitrary set of principles that could just as well be substituted for another. His law alone is perfect because it is the revelation of the perfect and holy God. The law of God is unchangeable—not one jot or tittle ever changes through all the ages of time and even unto eternity.
The love of God must begin with submission to His commandments. Love is manifested in obedience, whole-hearted complete obedience. In such obedience we acknowledge that God is God, that He is our Lord, our ruler and law-giver to the glory of His name. He who loves God acknowledges that God is holy and good and His commandments holy and true. When man disregards or seeks to compromise the law of God or change that law, man displays a most horrible arrogance, before the holy, true, and sovereign God. He who truly loves God will listen quietly to His will, not seeking to change anything of the word and law of God.
Keeping the commandments of God is the love of God in action in us. True love of God is not merely an attitude toward God. It involves activity, a carrying out of the will and purpose of God. Man loves God when he acts according to the commandments of God. This involves the desire of man’s heart, the inclination of his will and all his thoughts, words and deeds. Keeping God’s commandments means that our actions are pleasing unto Him. If a man loves God he desires to do that which is pleasing unto the Lord.
To love God is to desire to be like Him. To be like Him is to be righteous and holy as He is. We are holy and righteous when with our whole being and all our actions we are in conformity to the law of God.
If it is indeed true that loving God means keeping His commandments; then surely we as the children of God ought to have an earnest zeal for those commandments. It is no wonder that David, that great lover of God, spoke so often in his Psalms of the law of God. Think of such Psalms as 19, and 119 which in almost every verse of its 176 verses extols the wonderful law of God. Well may the Christian then meditate upon that law day and night. How profitable it is for him to search out all the profound implications of the law of God. How urgent it is that we strive for those commandments with all our heart and soul and strength and mind. Surely we must take heed unto the exhortation of Deuteronomy 6: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou riseth up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.”