Q: #246. Jesus said in (Jn 14:21), "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me." What are these commandments Jesus want us to keep? Do they include all the commandments in Leviticus and Deuteronomy like the feasts and dietary laws? What about the Ten Commandments?
A: This is an interesting question that I was recently asked, and I ended up being surprised that it wasn’t as easy to find an answer as I thought it would be. After reading several different opinions as to what the answer might be, and studying this for quite a while, the following conclusion is what I came up with.
I began by looking in Strong’s at all forms of the word “command” (i.e. commandments, etc…) in the New Testament. As I did so, I started to notice a continual pattern. As I looked these verses up, and several other related ones, one key thing seemed to emerge over and over. Let’s look at Jesus’ words first.
(Mt 22:36-40) Master, which is the great commandment in the law? (37) Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. (38) This is the first and great commandment. (39) And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (40) On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Also see: Mk 12:28-31, Lk 10:27, Mt 19:19, Jas 2:8)
(Jn 13:34-35) A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. (35) By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (Also see: Jn 15:12-13,17)
(Mt 5:43-45)(NASB) You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ (44) But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (45) so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven;… (Also see: Lk 6:27-35 where this is carried out even farther)
(Mt 7:12)(NASB) In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
Now, put these in conjunction with several key verses from the Epistles:
(Rom 13:8-10) Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. (9) For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (10) Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
(1 Jn 3:23-24) And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. (24) And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.
(1 Jn 4:21) 21 And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.
(2 Jn 1:4-6) I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father. (5) And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. (6) And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.
(Gal 5:13-14) For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. (14) For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (Also see: James 2:8)
(1 Th 4:9) 9 Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; (Also see: 1 Th 3:12, 1 Pet 1:22)
Based on these verses, I believe the primary “commandments” we are to keep are:
#1. To love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, and mind.
#2. To love our neighbor as ourselves.
If we TOTALLY followed these two commandments, we would automatically fulfill every other commandment that is stated in the Bible. The Ten Commandments and every other “moral law” in the Bible is summarized in these two commands. If we TOTALLY love God and our neighbor, we will not “covet,” “murder,” “lie,” “commit adultery,” or break any of the other numerous laws God has given.
Of course, we are ALL failures on this point, which is why I believe one other “commandment” may apply to (Jn 14:21), and that is the commandment to make Jesus Christ the Lord and Savior of our lives, which is the whole point of the New Testament (and the Old Testament). We are sinners, so we will always fall short on “loving God and our neighbor.” This is why we need Jesus. He did this perfectly, and lived the perfect and sinless life we can never live so that His righteousness and sinlessness is “imputed” to us (counted or credited to our account) (2 Cor 5:19,21)(Rom 4:7-8,24-25)(1 Pet 3:18) when we surrender our lives to Him, and place our trust in Him. His blood, shed on the cross, covers our sins (Col 1:14,20)(Eph 1:7)(Heb 10:16-19) and imperfection. When God the Father looks at us, He won’t see our sins, He will see Jesus!
In addition, we can NEVER even begin to “love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, and mind” until we first have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Let me close by adding two things here. First, I am NOT saying that keeping the “moral commands” in the Bible is not important. It is VERY important. For example, each of the Ten Commandments is repeated in the New Testament (i.e. Mt 5:21,27,33, Mt 15:4, Mt 19:17-19, Rom 13:9, James 2:11)(except for keeping the Sabbath [#4]: explained here). I am simply saying that if we followed the “commandments” of Jesus in the Gospels and the writers of the Epistles, as stated in the verses above, we would automatically keep the “moral commands.” This is why I believe (Jn 14:21) may well be referring to these two “commands” in conjunction with: (1 Jn 3:23) And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.
In addition, it is important to understand that “feasts and dietary laws” are not a part of the “commandments” that we are called to keep today. These, as well as many other Old Testament laws, are called “ceremonial laws” (as opposed to “moral laws”). They pointed towards Jesus, and were fulfilled when Jesus came, therefore, they are no longer needed. I explain this in detail here.