Obedience to God
What is the goal of evangelism? It is to make God known and to multiply the number of Christians in the world, i.e. people who will worship and obey God. The goal of the Christian life is to please God: when we evangelize and proclaim the gospel, we have this in mind. We want people across the world, in every nation, in every tribe, among young and old, rich and poor, to live lives that please God. We want this because people who please God truly bring him glory: He is glorified when people obey and please Him. We have seen in the preceding chapters that without being a son or daughter of God, without being born of the Spirit, we cannot please God! In fact, the carnal mind is hostile towards God (Romans 8:7).
Jesus said the following in the gospel of John:
“If you love Me you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15 ESV).
“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.” (John 15:10 ESV)
When Jesus was speaking to His disciples about keeping his commandments, he was not merely saying to them that they should think about them or meditate on them or memorize them. All these things are important, and I believe they involve keeping his commandments, but when Jesus commanded his disciples to keep his commandments, he was primarily commanding them to love and obey them!
The litmus test Jesus sets forth for loving Him, is obedience to His commandments! If we do not obey them, we do not love Him. And if we do not love Him, we are not His children. In the words of the apostle Paul, we are accursed, damned! (1 Corinthians 16:22). If obeying God is the litmus test for loving Him, we have to make sure what these commandments are! If the critical thing before us as Christians is to glorify God and obey Him, we need to know how we should do so! Jesus said: “if you love Me, you will keep My commandments!”
There has been a lot of confusion in many Christian circles as to what these commandments refer to! Some say they refer only to the commandments of Jesus Christ in the gospels! Other say they refer only to the commandments of Jesus in the gospels and the commandments of his apostles in the New Testament. What about the commandments in the Old Testament given to the people of God? Have they all been fulfilled in the New Testament? Are they all redundant? What about the Ten Commandments given to Moses and the people of God at Mount Sinai? Are they irrelevant?
First of all, we have to distinguish between the ceremonial law, the civil law and the moral law of God in the Old Testament. Jesus came to fulfill the whole law, all three aspects of the law in the Old Testament (Matthew 5:17,18). The ceremonial law, which included the animal sacrifices and the temple service and the washings and observance of the temple laws, has been fulfilled in Christ and has been abrogated. No more temple service is necessary, no further animal sacrifices for the atonement of sins are required. Jesus was the final sacrifice that took away all the sins of the world, i.e., his people across all the nations (Hebrews 10:10-14; John 1:29). The temple is no longer needed! Christians are now the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16,17) and that is so because Jesus destroyed the temple and was raised from the dead after three days (John 2:18-22).
The civil law is a term referring to the laws that regulated the affairs and government of the nation of Israel in the Old Testament. They are valuable in that they show how God implemented his moral law in ancient days. However, God’s people (the church) are now scattered across the nations and live at a time when the nation of Israel is no longer an entity in the plan of God’s redemptive history (the Messiah has already come). These laws cannot therefore be implemented in any nation consistently. We can nevertheless under God apply principles from these laws to govern our societies and nations: they are useful in showing us the holy and just character of God. The civil law has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ; we are now under his law. And by that we mean we are still subject to the moral law of God, to obey God. We do not have a license to do what we want. We cannot invent our own Christianity. Jesus fulfilled the moral law of God by his perfect life in obedience to every aspect of the law and especially to the Ten Commandments. Jesus obtained for us a perfect righteousness whereby we can be justified in God’s sight! But God has not destroyed the moral law, he has not set it aside or abrogated it!
Why do I say so?
If you read the New Testament carefully you will see that the apostles and Jesus Christ affirmed and upheld every commandment of the ten and the moral law, in a consistent fashion. They rephrased them (Matthew 5:18-48; Ephesians 4-6; 1 John 3:15) and gave us their true meaning; they illustrated them. They also applied them consistently. Jesus will also, at the end of the age, judge the living and the dead according to the moral law. Our consciences will accuse or excuse us (Romans 2:14-16) according to God’s moral law. The moral law cannot be destroyed because it is an expression of his just and holy character and it is based on God’s unchanging nature. (James 1:17).
So, when Jesus told His disciples to keep his commandments, He was talking about the moral law found in the Old and New Testaments. We also must remember that Jesus Christ was the One who gave the moral law at Mount Sinai. Is He not God? Is HE not the Great “I Am”? The commands He gave us while he was on earth were thus not the only commandments He gave! He existed before time began. He also gave commands through the Holy Spirit, by using the prophets in the Old Testament and the apostles.