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 (Showers of Blessing 5)
The New Commandment
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The New Commandment

The word "Law" in the Bible denotes the Mosaic code; the writing of Moses; the moral structure; the five books of Moses (the Pentateuch), the Torah; or the ceremonial way of life God prescribed for His people.  In particular, it covers five aspects:





e.The Ten Commandments.

The people in the Old Testament (OT) were urged to keep the whole Law: "My son, do not forget my teaching (Torah), but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and brings you prosperity" (Prov 3: 1).

            "The teaching (Torah) of the wise is a foundation of life, turning a man from the snares of death" (Prov 13:14).

The nation of Israel passed the Law down from generation to generation be it from a leader to his people, from God to His chosen leader, or from a father to his son, to ensure that they would not stray from God's way.


1.Moses to Israel (Deut 30:9-10).

2.God to Joshua (Josh 1:7-8).

3.David to Solomon (1 Kgs 2:3).

Jesus and Paul, in making its essence explicit, elaborate the continuation of the Law into the New Testament (NT).  The usage of the word 'Law' falls into at least five different categories:

a. Legal term (Rom 2:4)

Those who are not Israelites and do not join the Jewish faith through circumcision are considered as having no Law.  This group of people includes those preceding the era of Moses (Rom 5:13).

b.The entire OT Scriptures

Sometimes, the Law itself is a sufficient representation of the OT Scripture as a whole, though "Law and prophets" is the more common designation (Mt 7:12; Lk 16:29; Rom 3:2 1).  At times, 'the OT Scripture' is described in its full Hebrew categorization (Lk 24:44).

c.The Torah

Whenever the combination of "Law and prophets" appears, the Law is always taken to mean the five books of Moses, and the rest of the Scriptures designated the "prophets" (Rom 3:21).

 d. The mode of behavior or principle

The two laws existing within a person designate the two irreconcilable modes of behavior.  'To lead by the flesh' means to be oriented to the corrupt form of existence which directly opposes the redeemed nature of man (Rom 7:21).

e. God's Law

The Ten commandments are summarized in the single commandment of loving your neighbor as yourself (cf Lev 19:18; Rom 13:9ff).  They constitute the standard of righteousness (Rom 9:31; 10:3).

The last point is the main thrust of this article.  Its purpose is to confirm the relevance of the commandments, which include the Ten Commandments.  The article begins by examining the enactment of the Commandments and their continuous effects on those who are in Christ.

The Ten Commandments are the essence of the Law.  The book of Exodus discloses the stipulation of ordinances and statutes which were to enforce the observance of the Ten Commandments (Ch 21-31).

The Ten Commandments epitomized the Sinai covenant between God and His people (Exod 24:12ff; Deut 4:13; Deut 5:3ff), thus demonstrating the spirit of the Law.  Later, through their idolatrous sins, the people broke the covenant (Exod 32), but God renewed it by re-inscribing the Ten Commandments onto two new tablets of stone (Exod 34).

Israel repeatedly transgressed the covenant of God, despite there being the mouthpieces of God, at different times, to remind them to obey Him.  Their rebellion (Deut 9:7ff) rendered the outward restraint from sinning provided by the Law ineffective.  God in His pre-ordained knowledge decided to adopt a radical approach to help His people.  He was going to change them from within.  He did it by establishing a new covenant.

"Behold the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah - not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them says the Lord.  But this covenant I make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My Law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.  No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'know the Lord' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord.  For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more" (Jer 31:31ff).

However, at the beginning of the NT, the re-introduction of the Law as the sole agent for salvation sparked off contentions and controversies.  Not many, in the time of Jesus and the apostles, had the capacity and the keen faculty to know the ministry of this new covenant.  Many failed to grasp its purpose and spirit.

To correct them, Jesus reveals that it is the human heart that must be transformed and not merely the expressions of sin that must be restrained, by His statement: "You have heard..." and "But I say..." (Mt 17:190.  The sowing of good seeds upon a piece of dry and unplowed land would be an exercise in futility.  A bountiful harvest starts from land transformed and made conducive for germination and growth.  The heart of the people in the OT had been likened to this piece of dry land.  They had no place for God's law though the law was good.

We need to know that, on the one hand, the establishment of the new covenant exposes the inadequacy of the Law as a total system to help us obtain righteousness (Gal 3:11).  Without Christ, the Law can do nothing by itself.  It only brings awareness of sin; relates to the old nature and arouses it to sin (1 Cor 15:56); convicts us of sin; and leads us to death eventually (Rom 7: 5ff).  If the Law can impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based upon it (Gal 3:21), and Christ would have died needlessly (Gal 2:21).  Even in the OT, God did not reckon the ancient saints righteous on account of their work of Law.  Faith played an important role in the history of Israel.  This was first shown in Habakkuk (2:4).  God promised His people that the Chaldean invaders, who had destroyed the land and captured His people, would one day fall, but the righteous shall live by his faithfulness.  Likewise, Enoch was made righteous because he walked with God (Gen 5:22).  Abraham was reckoned righteous on the merit of his faith long before the stipulation of the Law (Gen 15:6).

On the other hand, the inauguration of the new covenant is by the death of Christ (8:7-13; 10: 14ff) and makes markedly clear that its initiation included the Law (Heb 8:7ff, 10: 14ff).

Coming in the form of sinful flesh, Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the Law in us (Rom 8:2fo.  The death of one spouse sets the other free from the marriage vow of man and wife'.  In the same way, the death of Jesus frees us from any charges against our previous transgression of the Law (Rom 7:1-6).  This occurs when we are enjoined in His death in baptism (Rom 6:6f).

By the indwelling and the leading of the Spirit, God writes His Law in our hearts, so that we will not deliberately go against Him (Gal 5:22f, 18).  God Himself (the Holy Spirit) transforms us from within and pours into our hearts the love of God (Rom 5:5; 15:30; Col 1:8), which in turn is demonstrated in our keeping of His commandments (Jn 14:15, 21, 23; 15:10).  In Christ Jesus, the observance of the commandments is on faith (Rev 12:17), reaffirming the importance of the Law (cf Rom 3:31; 7:7,12; Gal 2:2 1).  Having an abiding faith, since the Holy Spirit is of faith (Gal 3:3,5) helps us attain to the righteousness of the Law (Phil 3:9; Rom 9:30ff; cf Gal 5:5).

Judging from the above, the difference between these two covenants lies not with their contents, but forms.  For this reason Paul says, "...a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life" (2 Cor 3:6f; Rom 7:9f).

Within the new covenant which He established (cf Mt 26:28; Mk 14:24; Lk 22:20), Jesus gives a new commandment to His disciples - to love one another (Jn 13:34).  There is no ambiguity when Paul bequeaths "to love one another" as "you shall love others as yourself' (Rom 13:9f).  If that is the case, why then is it reckoned new?  After all, it is only a repetition of an OT command (Lev 19:18).  There are at least three factors which make it new.  Firstly, the new covenant associated with it is inaugurated by the atoning blood of Jesus (Heb 9:14ff).  Secondly, it is re-issued by the Lord Himself, who constantly reiterated its importance, and is the distinguishing mark of those who are His disciples (Jn 13:35).  Thirdly, it is the law of love, which Jesus Himself embodies.  In Him, it finds a new dimension for its operation (1 Jn 2:8).  He who loves his brother abides in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him (1Jn2:10)

Moreover, this law of Christ,“to love one another” sums up and brings to perfection all the commandments.  We can explain the summation by focusing on three different perspectives in the NT.  The order ‘to love one another’ encapsulates the spirit of two greatest commandments enunciated by Jesus.  From the Synoptic Gospels, the greatest commandment entails loving the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind and with all our strength (Mk 12:29f, Mt 22:37f).  The second, is to love our neighbors as ourselves. If someone says, "I love God", and hates his brother whom he has seen, he cannot love God whom he has not seen.  0ne who loves God should love his brother (1 Jn 4:20f).  The extension of love to our brethren here is the result of having established a fellowship with the Father (1 Jn 1:3; 5:2).  Sinning against God by breaking the first four commandments, for example, would sever us from fellowship with the Father (1 Jn 1:6ff).  Such a severance removes the common ground, which is the truth, for loving our brethren in Christ (1 Jn 1:8ff).  Surely, we who truly love others would not deceive them by acting wickedly against God.

This one commandment encompasses the ten commandments (which are the word of God - Mt 15:4fo.  Paul explains to the mixed congregation at Rome: "Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the Law.  For this, 'You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,' and if there is any commandment, it is summed up in this saying, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself"' (Rom 13:8ff, cf Jas 2:11ff). 

This new commandment transcends the ten commandments (Rom 13:10).  Under the name 'love one another', being partial may amount, to transgressing the Law (Jas 2:8f).  With it, the abider is pro-active and spontaneous in giving what he has, such as to serve others (Gal 5:13f).  It also Includes practicing every conceivable teaching in the Bible (Rom 12:9ff, 1Jn 2:4; 3:22ff; 5:1-3; 2 Jn4ff; 1 Cor 7:19; Rom 3:20; 1 Jn 2:4; 3:23ff; Rev 14:12).

Today, however, some may misunderstand Jesus' declaration of coming to fulfil the Law, thinking that the commandments have already been done away with (Mt 5:17).  But, surely what Jesus means is not the abolition of the Law.  His declaration puts Him in a new position as opposed to that of the Jewish tradition to explain the Law and to fulfill it.  The other explanation is that His betrayal, arrest, crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection and ascension fulfilled the OT prophecies about Himself - He Himself was the prophesied Messiah in the OT.

To still some, the words of Paul to the Ephesians (2:15) and the Colossians (2:14) are their foundation for the abolition of the commandments.  Let us thoroughly analyze these two verses by reading their preceding and subsequent verses.

"For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of division between us, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is the law of commandments  contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity" (Eph 2:14-16).  The key word in these verses is enmity or hostility.  Paul is not talking about the abolition of the Law.  Jews are under the obligation to keep the whole Law.  They would be considered righteous if they could keep the Ten Commandments (Law) in totality (Deut 6:25).  Sadly, their inability to keep the Law complete makes them fall under the hostility, which is punishment, of the Law (cf Gal 3:10, 13ff).  Even when the gentiles do not have the Law they do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having, the Law, are a Law to themselves (Rom2:14).  In this respect, they too come under the same enmity.  The Scripture has confined all under sin (Gal 3:21).  Nevertheless, through His death, Jesus has fulfilled the requirement of the Law for us (Rom 8:3), by washing away our sins in Baptism.

"And you, being dead in your trespasses and the circumcision of Your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven all your trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us.  And He has taken it out of the way, having nail it to the cross.  Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them triumphing over them in it" (Col 2:13-15).

The answer to these verses is similar to the one above- An important term used here needs explanation – “handwriting”, which is also translated "the certificate or bond".  It is part of the ordinance, which contains a penalty clause.  As explained before, every individual, be he Jew or Gentile, has an obligation to the Law that has never been discharged.  The violation of the Law would invoke the penalty clause.  Since it confronts us (which is enmity), Jesus has to disarm it for us by forgiving our sins in baptism (Col 2:11f).

In conclusion, our sinful nature rendered the outward governing of the Law on us ineffective.  The coming of Christ and the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit fulfill God's promise of creating inner transformation.  This takes place when our sins are forgiven in baptism; and the Holy Spirit inscribes His Law in our hearts.  Keeping God's commandment, in Jesus, is a respondent effect of His love having been showered into our hearts.  To abide in His life, we naturally love God and man.  Thus, the one new commandment of loving others as ourselves sums up all other commandments (1 Jn 5:2).  For every action within the community of faith ripples throughout the body of Christ.  The reciprocal love of Christ in His body cushions us against breaking the commandments.