Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (Jn. 14:15). Love of the Lord is not just a feeling or emotion, it includes action. It is not enough to only acknowledge Him as the Messiah; we must also serve Him as our Master.
Some people want to separate love for God from the commandments of God. Their point of view is that the emotion of love is all you need and the insistence on keeping commandments is too “strict” and “legalistic.” However, the Bible declares over and over that love and commandments go together.
When the Israelites were first brought out of Egypt God told them to love Him and keep His commandments. He said, “showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Ex. 20:6). Before they entered Canaan, Moses admonished them to “…shall love the LORD your God, and keep His charge, His statutes, His judgments, and His commandments always” (Deut. 11:1). After they conquered the land, as the two and a half tribes were returning home, Joshua said, “But take careful heed to do the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, to keep His commandments, to hold fast to Him, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Joshua 22:5).
Hundreds of years later, when the Jews were in captivity, Daniel noted, “O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments” (Dan. 9:4). When they returned from captivity, Nehemiah said, “I pray, LORD God of heaven, O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments” (Neh. 1:5).
Thus, we understand that throughout Old Testament history, love of God and keeping His commandments went together. In fact, they were inseparable. With love of God and obedience to His commands came God’s mercy. The same is true today.
As noted above, Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (Jn. 14:15). When discussing the “first commandment,” He said, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.” (Mk. 12:29, 30). It is interesting to note that love of God is a commandment. Those who rebel against “commandments” as “legalistic” cannot love God, because it is a commandment. If they reject “dos” and “don’ts,” “strict” commands, then they necessarily reject the command to love God.
John summed it up for us. He said, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (1 Jn. 5:3). We not only love God by keeping His commandments, but also the children of God. “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments” (1 Jn. 5:2). Without commandments, and keeping them, there is no love of God or the children of God.