1 John 5:3
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
This does not mean that even the sincere Christian finds no difficulty in obedience. His life is a daily struggle. Does not the passage following our text speak of a victory? And does not victory imply the previous conflict? And yet, on the other hand, it is true that "the yoke of Christ is easy and His burden light" (Matthew 11:30). I will not dwell on the mild and gentle character of the gospel ordinances, in contrast with the complex and burdensome ritual of Moses. But leaving this point, I ask whether the commandments of God are grievous when brought into comparison with the law of sin, when that tyranny is established in the soul? Oh, the labours, the toils, the vexing cases, the soul destroying practice, of those who are governed by Satan! Earthquake and pestilence, and famine and sword, have cut off multitudes; but who slew all these? If the hand of God hath slain in its direct judgment its thousands, wilful sin hath offered on its thousand altars its ten thousands. The commandments of God, indeed, are not grievous comparatively. But neither are they grievous considered in themselves absolutely, irrespective of all comparison.
1. For, consider the Lawgiver, is He not such a Being, that, could it be proved that any commandments, purporting to come from Him, are rigid and unbearable to a well-constituted mind, it would be at once a sufficient evidence that they did not derive their origin from Him? "God," our apostle says, "is light, and in Him is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:3). Then, we are assured, that His commandments will be very pure, and strictly just (Psalm 19:9). But God is "love," benevolence, untinctured by any infusion of malignity.
2. Let us take another view of the subject, and contemplate the persons who obey these commandments. The commandments are grievous to the people of the world, it is admitted; for that which is the object of the mind's distaste and hatred, must of necessity be burdensome. But every true Christian has a mind attempered to the will of God. He is "born of God," and as the invariable consequence of this change a similarity of character, of judgment, of taste, is formed within him. God, and the child of God, therefore, view the commandments in the same light. God does not esteem them grievous; neither does he that is begotten of Him (Psalm 119:128).
3. We shall take another view of the subject, by considering the assistances which are given to those who obey the commandments. The Holy Ghost is promised (Isaiah 40:30, 31; Isaiah 41:10; Isaiah 59:19; Ephesians 3:16).
4. Regard their nature. Resolving the commandments into their most simple element, we find that love is the fulfilling of the whole law. There could be no defect in our obedience did such a love exist in its perfection. Then, I ask, can God's commandments be grievous to the man who obeys them? Can it be a burdensome thing to the soul to overflow with benevolence?
5. Consider the effect of obedience to the commandments upon the happiness of life, and you arrive at the same conclusion — that they are not grievous. "The statutes of the Lord," David says, "are right, rejoicing" "the heart" (Psalm 19:8). In keeping them there is great reward. "Great peace have they which love Thy law" (Psalm 119:165). And who shall say how many miseries are turned away from the lot of him who keeps in the narrow way of the heavenly precepts?
6. One further view of the subject is necessary to complete the argument for the truth of our text. Let us consider it, then, in the connection which exists between the observance of the commandments and the attainment of future glory. Obedience is a preparatory formation of the tempers of heaven; the tuning of the soul for the anthems of eternity. The labourer rises up early, and late takes rest, and eats the bread of carefulness; but his toil is reckoned as nothing for the wages that are to recompense it. The adventurer ploughs the stormy deep, travels over continents of ice, and explores the frost-bound north; and his labours are not grievous, even in hope, of some discovery with which his name shall in after days be linked. On every hand fatigue is cheerfully borne, privations are submitted to, for some recompense bounded by the present life. And is not the Christian's glory lofty enough, and his crown bright enough, to induce us to say that the commandments, in obeying which he is preparing for it, are not grievous?
(T. Kennion, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.