How do we show that we love God? Many believe that Jesus Christ came to bring a new way to worship God. But what does the Bible say?
Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity, sprang from humble beginnings, although He admitted He was born to be king (John:18:37). During the few short years of His ministry, He was known by many as a great teacher. But what did He teach?
Did He come to do away with the laws of old? Was Jesus a rebellious son? Did He bring a new set of commandments to replace those the Israelites had received at Mount Sinai? Is God’s law no longer valid, useful or necessary?
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets,” Jesus proclaimed. “I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matthew:5:17). What did He mean by “fulfill”? The Greek word for “fulfill” is pleroo and can mean to “render full,” “fill up” or “complete.” Did Christ mean that God’s law was made complete and therefore somehow rendered obsolete?
After all, Christ gave “a new commandment” that “you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John:13:34). Did He mean for this new commandment to replace all the others and that what the whole world needs is love?
Rather than refer to other New Testament scriptures, let’s examine Christ’s own words in this regard. First, did Jesus Christ come to the earth for His own selfish purposes?
“For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak” (John:12:49-50). Notice that Jesus equates His Father’s commandment with “everlasting life.”
Jesus spoke the Father’s words
Jesus said He did nothing of Himself. On the contrary, His very words were those the Father gave Him (John:8:28). “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John:6:38), and “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me” (John:7:16).
The Greek word here for “doctrine” is didache, which simply means something being taught. Christ was saying that He did not come to teach His own ideas. “I can of Myself do nothing,” He said. “As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me” (John:5:30).
Jesus came to uphold His Father’s teachings, not supersede them. His respect for His Father was profound. “Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him” (John:13:16). “My Father is greater than I” (John:14:28), and, “that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so do I” (John:14:31).
Jesus Christ loves the Father. He preached exactly what He had received from the Father. To suggest that Christ came to replace God’s law is to suggest that some sort of mistake was made in the giving of the Ten Commandments (Exodus:31:18). Not only did Christ uphold His Father’s teachings; He revealed that He and the Father are in perfect unity of mind: “I and My Father are one” (John:10:30).
So what are we to learn from realizing that Christ came to do the Father’s will?
Believe what Jesus taught
Many sincere people teach that all you need to do is believe on Christ. But believing on Christ isn’t enough. We must believe what He taught, follow His example and live as He lived. “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (1 John:2:6). “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him-the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (John:12:48).
How do we demonstrate our love for Christ? We show we love Him the same way He showed love for the Father: “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).
Christ’s commandments and the Father’s commandments are identical; Christ perfectly reflects the Father (John:14:9; 17:22).
Christ perfectly obeyed His Father’s commandments. Matthew quoted Him: “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew:5:19).
When confronted by the religious leaders of His day, Christ corrected them by showing they were breaking the laws of God: “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death'” (Matthew:15:3-4).
Jesus said the religious leaders were making the laws of God of “none effect” by their traditions (verse 6). If God’s commandments were of no effect, Christ would not have said this. Rather, He called the Pharisees hypocrites because they knew better.
Christ concluded this indictment of the Pharisees by quoting the prophet Isaiah: “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew:15:8-9; Isaiah:29:13).
Clearly, Christ upheld God’s law while openly rebuking the religious leaders for not doing the same. When a young man asked Jesus what he should do to gain eternal life, Christ told him to “keep the commandments” (Matthew:19:17). Jesus then referred to several of the Ten Commandments, apparently to make sure everyone understood which commandments He was speaking of. (See also Mark:12:30.)
The greatest commandment
Later one of the Pharisees tried to publicly entrap Jesus by asking, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
Jesus gave him the answer: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew:22:36-40).
Again He showed that love is the foundation of our relationship with God and each other. Is this concept a departure from the original intent of the law? Is this a new teaching of Christ?
The Greek word for “hang,” in the verse quoted above, is kremannumi, meaning to “hang up” or “suspend.” Jesus meant that the Law and the Prophets are summed up, or hang on, these two precepts of godly love. In answering this question, Christ was hardly undoing God’s law. He was quoting it! (Deuteronomy:6:5; Leviticus:19:18).
Love is the main ingredient of a Christian life. But our love must be manifest in our actions. Just believing and thinking nice thoughts isn’t sufficient. We cannot earn salvation; it is God’s gift (Ephesians:2:8). But His commandments give us the guidelines we need to enjoy a meaningful relationship with Him and our fellowman. Christ obeyed God’s law and in so doing set an example of proper love toward all people.
The definition of sin is the breaking of God’s law, or lawlessness (1 John:3:4). The apostle Paul clearly showed that the law defines sin (Romans:7:7-11).
After explaining this essential principle, he concluded: “Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good” (Romans:7:12).
So we are to obey God’s law (which, even by definition, is holy) and with the help of God’s Spirit dwelling in us turn from sin (lawlessness). This is a life-long process. By ceasing from sinning and focusing on God’s way of showing concern for others, we begin to develop and show real love.
That is precisely how we demonstrate the love of Christ in our lives. “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him” (1 John:2:3-5).
An old commandment to love each other
So what did Christ mean when He said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another”? (John:13:34). What about the commandment was new? Was the element of love something new that Christ introduced?
Clearly not. “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” (1 John:2:7). “For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another” (1 John:3:11).
Love has always been a crucial part of God’s plan: “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John:4:8).
So, again, what was new about Jesus’ commandment?
Adam Clarke, in his commentary on John:13:34, gives a clue: “Our Lord answers the question, ‘Even as I have loved you.’ Now Christ more than fulfilled the Mosaic precept; he not only loved his neighbour as himself, but he loved him more than himself, for he laid down his life for men. In this he calls upon the disciples to imitate him, to be ready on all occasions to lay down their lives for each other. This was, strictly, a new commandment: no system of morality ever prescribed any thing so pure and disinterested as this” (original emphasis).
Christ further explained: “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John:15:12-13).
Jesus’ personal example was clearly one of submission to God’s law. In fact, Christ did fulfill the law, in that He performed the supreme act of love: He gave His life for mankind.
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we must do more than just believe on Him. We need also to follow His example. The apostle John sums up the matter in 1 John:5:1-3: “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.”