We’re all familiar with the Ten Commandments—honor your father and mother, don’t worship idols, don’t steal, keep the Sabbath, etc. God gave us the ten commandments, and we would be smart to obey them. But what about the commandments Jesus gave us? We’re familiar with His teachings, but were there things He commanded us to do, or not do?
I recently picked up a book that asks that question. Author Gaylord Enns starts with the Great Commission, found at the end of Matthew:
Then Jesus came to them [the disciples] and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” ( Matthew 28:18-20, bold type mine)
Enns then asks a very significant question, “What are the things we are to teach people to obey? Just what did Jesus command his disciples—us!— to do?”
Stop here and think for a moment. We know that Jesus taught the disciples many things. The Gospels are full of His teachings. But what did He command? If you search the New Testament for the word “command” you’ll find that Jesus frequently referred to the commandments in the Old Testament. What did Moses command? In Mark 9:25, He commanded unclean spirits (demons) to leave a person. He commanded the wind and waves in Luke 8:25. But what did Jesus command his disciples?
It turns out that there is only one commandment that Jesus gives us. You can find it in John 13:34-35:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
He emphasizes this commandment in John 14:
If you love me, keep my commands. (John 14:15)
Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. (John 14:23a)
And again in John 15:
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. (John 15:12)
You are my friends if you do what I command. (John 15:14)
This is my command: Love each other. (John 15:17)
This is different from the answer Jesus gave when asked,
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-39)
In this case, Jesus refers to the Law, and tells them to love with all their human strength. But now, with the Holy Spirit given to us, we are to love with God’s love, in His strength.
As the author points out, if Jesus only gave us one commandment, we’d better be sure to take note and obey Him!
Enns does make one major error. He reviewed all the creeds, through the history of the church, and couldn’t find a single reference to Jesus’ new commandment. But if you substitute the word “charity” for love, as was done in years past, there are plenty of references. If this commandment has been lost to the church, it happened recently. (I believe it is still taught, just perhaps not in the exact same way Enns explains it.)
I read a lot of books. The ones I choose to recommend are truly the cream of the crop. I urge you go get your hands on Love Revolution: Rediscovering the Lost Command of Jesus. It’s easy to read, yet challenging to digest. It just may change your life.