“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.”
And keep His commandments
The definitive twofold proof that we love God and His family is when we “love God and keep His commandments.”
The word for “commandments” refers to the principles of God’s Word (2:3,5). We apply God’s Word to experience because we love God. We have to know before we believe. We cannot believe what we do not know. We cannot apply what we do not believe. We know first, believe second and act third. We do what we do because God said it. Because God said it, that makes it right.
“Commandments” is plural indicating the many principles of God’s worldview. If we wish to find out whether we love God’s family, we should ask ourselves if we love God’s Word. If we wish to find out whether we love God, we must ask ourselves whether we execute His principles of life toward others (which is synonymous with loving God).
We know that we entered into eternal life because we love Christians (3:14). We know that we love God because we love the family of God. The reverse is also true. We know that we love Christians if we live under God’s operating principles for life toward Christians. Implicit in love for God is the corollary of love for His people. This is a circular dynamic. If one love is present, the other love must be present as well.
Applying God’s life principles in love to other Christians assures us that we operate in God’s economy.
Application of truth to experience is an indication that we belong to God: we love His people; we love His Word; we believe His Word and we obey His Word. Because God says it, we do it. Because God says it, that makes it right. It does not always follow that we understand everything in the Word of God. We believe even where we do not understand.
As our love for the people of God reflects our love for God (3:10, 17), so our love for God by the application of truth to experience is a manifestation of love to the family of Christ. Love for neighbor rests on love for God. Authentic love for God always results in love for His family. Each act of love to God out of application of truth to experience is evidence of love for the family of God.
Jesus emphatically made the point in the Upper Room that love for God and His Word is evidence that we love the children of God.
Jn 14: 21 “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”
Jn 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.”
Jn 15:12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
Jn 14:15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”
Non-application of truth to experience is a sin against love. Profession of love for God and non-obedience to His truth is an expression of indifference toward God. John equates the two ideas of non-love toward Christians and non-application of God’s Word to experience.