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A Big Mistake: Commands


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Some words in our language are loaded. They trigger deep reactions or provoke us more than common words and the church has the same issue with some words we find in Scripture. It is not a surprise that one such word is, ‘commandment’ because it fits into the legalistic mindset common to today’s church. Because this word is loaded it leads to another big mistake- thinking that whenever Jesus used the word ‘commandment’ that He was referring to the Law of Moses. Let’s look at a few examples:

“If you love Me, keep My commandments. John 14:15
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

The legalist will see this as Jesus instructing us to keep the Law but is this true? We can get some clues just by looking at some context:

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. 13 And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. 15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. John 14:12-18
“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 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. 11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. 17 These things I command you, that you love one another. John 15:9-17

With all due respect to the legalist, who uses this to threaten others to keep the Law of Moses, I just can’t see this in these passages. Notice the encouragement and hope that is present in these passages. I don’t see the ‘obey or else’ here but a new reality that was coming because of what His death was going to usher in. It is important to understand that John 13-16 takes place the night Jesus was betrayed so this is His last message to His closest friends, and we find He is preparing them for what was coming- which would be scary. How crazy would it be for Jesus to tell them to, ‘obey my commands- the Law, or else’ just as He was about to die for them? What gives?

The simple truth is found in John 15:17- the commands Jesus is speaking of is to love one another. Imagine being under the Law of Moses all your life having the constant threat of death if you break a commandment. You have constantly had to monitor your steps on the Sabbath, watch what you say to others, and avoid lusting or else. You have been under constant duress under the Law because it was an impossible system with extreme consequences and now Jesus tells them the game is about to change big time! The new game is to just trust Him and He will do all the work for them. His love flowing through them would be the love they needed to love others. They were about to experience life under the New Covenant which was based not on following the Law but following the Law fulfiller. They were about to experience life as a branch tied to the vine:

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. John 15:5

This is why Jesus could give such great encouragement and say things like:

“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:11

There was no joy under the Law as the Law was an agent of death:

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. Rom 8:2

We need to understand that Jesus was speaking about life under the Law when He spoke these words:

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matt 11:28-30

When we understand the context of the word, ‘commandment’ as Jesus used it and realize it wasn’t about the Law (which He often referred to as the Law of Moses) and realize His commandment was to trust Him and let Him live through us we realize that it all makes sense. Jesus was giving words of encouragement just as He did in Matt 11. Take a moment and read John 13-16 in this light and see what difference it makes to your understanding of what HIS commandments were.

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