What is the new commandment of Jesus?


Some claim that Jesus came to do away with the Law of the Ten Commandments and replace it with a “new” Law, which happens to be identical with the Ten Commandments, except for the omission of the Sabbath. This treacherous and deceitful argument has convinced quite a few people that they do not have to keep the Sabbath anymore. But the truth is that the Ten Commandments have not been abolished, and when you break one of the Ten Commandments, you break them all. 

Please note these excerpts from pages 14-15 of our free booklet, “Baptism–A Requirement for Salvation.”:

“What, exactly, is it that we need to repent of…? Simply put, we must repent of the sins we have committed. What is sin? The biblical definition is: ‘…sin is the transgression of the law’ (1 John 3:4, Authorized Version). Which law? The law of God’s Ten Commandments. James calls it the ‘royal law according to the Scripture’ (James 2:8). It defines our love toward God and our love toward neighbor. When we break even one of the Ten Commandments, we are guilty of having broken them all and have become a transgressor of the law (James 2:10-11).

“The law of the Ten Commandments is a spiritual law, as Paul explains in Romans 7:14, because it regulates not only our actions, but also the motives and intents of our heart. We sin when we commit adultery (Exodus 20:14), but we also sin when we DESIRE or COVET the wife of another man (Exodus 20:17), or when we look at another woman with the desire to commit adultery with her (Matthew 5:28). Additionally, we sin when we kill someone (Exodus 20:13), but we have already sinned by violating God’s spiritual law of the Ten Commandments when we even HATE another human being (Matthew 5:21-22; 1 John 3:15).”

It is true that Christ said that He gave the disciples a “new” commandment, but as we will see, not even the most liberal “interpretation” of His statement should persuade an honest person that the Ten Commandments are no longer valid. Christ never said that He gave a new commandment to replace with it the Ten Commandments. Quite to the contrary, He told the young rich ruler that he had to keep the Ten Commandments if he was to enter the Kingdom of God and inherit salvation and eternal life (Matthew 19:16—26).

What then did Jesus say, and what did He mean, when He spoke of a “new commandment”?

He says this in John 13:34:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another…”

The Greek word for “love” is “agapoa,” which is derived from “agape,” describing “godly love.”

But to love one another is hardly a commandment which was new and which was never stated before. When Christ was asked what was the greatest commandment in the Law, He responded by quoting two Old Testament passages, demanding that we love God with all our heart and our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40). In both cases, the Greek word for “love” is “agapoa,” referring to “godly love.” And as was pointed out above, when we keep the Ten Commandments, we show our love towards God and neighbor, because we honor God in the way which is required of us, and we don’t do harm to our neighbor by, for instance, not killing him, lying to him, committing adultery with his wife or with her husband, or lusting after the things which our neighbor has.

1 John 3:11 confirms that the message of love towards one another is not really anything new: “For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.”

And again, we read in 2 John 5-6:

“And now I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another. This is love [Greek, “agape”], that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.”

At the same time, we read this startling statement in 1 John 2:7-10:

“Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him…”

Again, the context is loving our brethren. And even though John says that this is NOT a new commandment, he goes on to say that it IS a new commandment. Is there a contradiction? Some try to explain this by saying that even though it is an old commandment, it is always new for us. But this is not really convincing.

The key to understanding this “mystery” is to return to Jesus’ statement in John 13:34. When quoting this passage above, we purposefully omitted the second part of Christ’s saying. Let us now read the passage in its entirety:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; AS I HAVE LOVED YOU, that you also love one another.”

The New King James Bible places erroneously a semicolon before “as I have loved you,” thereby totally obscuring the meaning. In the original Greek, there were no commas or semicolons, and the translator added those, as he felt best, but in this case, he did so wrongly. Christ was saying here that we are to love one another AS He loved us; that is, in the SAME WAY AS He loved us.

He repeats this command in John 15:12: “This is My commandment, that you love one another AS I HAVE LOVED YOU.” And He explains in the next two verses this extraordinary love: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do WHATEVER I command you” (verses 13-14).

The connection between loving each other—even to the point of death, if necessary—and obeying Christ is obvious (compare John 14:15, 21). Christ gave up His eternal existence as an immortal God being and became a mortal man and died for us so that we could inherit eternal life; and He demands of us that same KIND of unselfish and outgoing love toward others.

This is not remotely possible for a human being to fulfill, except through and with the help of God. ONLY if God’s Holy Spirit dwells in us, will we be able to begin to manifest that great godly love towards God and others. As a whole and barring a few exceptions, Old Testament Israelites did not have the Holy Spirit within them, and neither did the disciples prior to Christ’s resurrection and the Day of Pentecost, but Christ announced to them that the Holy Spirit would be given to them (John 14:16), which would give them the power to LOVE each other AS Christ loved them.

Even though the command to love God and neighbor had been given from the beginning—and it was therefore an “old” commandment—it had now become a “new” commandment, in that it encompasses a much more demanding DEGREE of love which can only be manifested through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

We said the following in our Q&A on Galatians 3:

“In fact, if you are a truly converted Christian, you have received the Holy Spirit of God, dwelling in you, and through the Holy Spirit, you have received the love of God (Romans 5:5). The love of God is defined as keeping the commandments. 1 John 5:3 says: ‘For this IS the love of God, that we keep His commandments.’ Paul tells us that ‘love is the fulfillment [better: “fulfilling,” AV] of the law’ (Romans 13:10); Love does not do away with it; quite to the contrary, it FULFILLS or KEEPS it. Rather than thinking that the Ten Commandments have been abolished, God’s Holy Spirit in you reveals to you that they are still binding for you, and God’s love in you will motivate you to KEEP them.

“One good way for a person to determine if he has really responded to his call to repentance and conversion, is to analyze and examine himself to find out whether he is willing to keep ALL of God’s Ten Commandments–including the Seventh-Day Sabbath. If a person believes that these laws are no longer required and that he is ‘free’ to ignore or break them, then it is extremely unlikely that he is truly converted, and that God’s Holy Spirit dwells in him. If this applies to you, then you need to pray to God that He may open your understanding to the truth, REPENT of your errors and sins; ACCEPT and BELIEVE IN the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ; understand that Christ DIED for YOUR transgressions of His LAW; and become baptized to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. To help you, please read our free booklets, ‘And Lawlessness Will Abound’ and ‘Baptism–A Requirement for Salvation.”  …”

In order to fulfill Christ’s “new” commandment to love each other AS HE LOVED US, we must become a “new” creation and put on the “new” man (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10). We are to become a “new lump”—“unleavened” (1 Corinthians 5:7), without malice and wickedness (verse 8). We must walk the “new and living way” of love which Christ consecrated for us (Hebrews 10:20). When we have been baptized and received God’s Holy Spirit, we are to walk “in newness of life” (Romans 6:4)—or, as we quoted John above, we are to “walk” “in love.”

In order to become a new creation, enabling us to keep Christ’s “new” commandment, we must receive God’s Holy Spirit and be led by it (Romans 8:14).

We read in Ezekiel 18:31: “Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die…?”

Let us notice God’s promises:

“Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, THAT they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God” (Ezekiel 11:19-20).

And again:

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

Far from abolishing the Ten Commandments, Christ commanded us to keep them in a new way–with even more zeal and enthusiasm and much deeper spiritual understanding and commitment—showing the love towards God and neighbor in a way which is impossible for the carnal mind (Romans 8:6-9). It requires that God gives us a “new heart” and a “new spirit,” and that is exactly what He promises us so that we can obey the “new” commandment of manifesting godly love by keeping His commandments.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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