19 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. 20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:19–20, NKJV)
Jesus respected and obeyed the Law of Moses, and, He taught those who lived under it to do the same. But, Jesus speaks here to more than faithfully keeping the Law of Moses. He drives to the heart of righteousness in the kingdom of heaven (the Son’s kingdom, which is His church, Matthew 16:18-19; Colossians 1:13; Hebrews 12:22-23, 28). The scribes and Pharisees hypocritically strained at gnats and swallowed camels by emphasizing parts of Moses’ law while abandoning “justice and mercy and faith” (Matthew 23:23-24). That was their form of righteousness. But, righteousness in the kingdom is not about selecting some commands and ignoring others. It is not about displaying ourselves so others will praise us (Matthew 6:1, 5, 16). Greatness in the kingdom of heaven is about a heart and life that “does and teaches” all of God’s commands (Matthew 5:19). That is how we “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).
“You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.” (Deuteronomy 4:2, NKJV)
These words of Moses to Israel reveal a principle stated time and again in the Bible, namely, that God demands that men and women respect and follow His word by not adding to it or taking from it (Deuteronomy 12:32; Joshua 1:7; Proverbs 30:5-6; 1 Corinthians 4:6; Galatians 1:8-9; Revelation 22:18-19). Just as it is disrespectful to put words into someone’s mouth that they did not say, it is disrespectful of God to say He approves and accepts that which takes from or adds to His word. Jesus scolded the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees for binding their religious traditions of people as if they were from God (Matthew 15:1-9). When we change the teachings of the Scriptures to suit our present desires, we are no different that they were, and we need the same rebuke. We too fall under condemnation when we reject the commandment of God to keep our traditions (Mark 7:9-13). All this comes down to how we choose to view the Bible. Is this collection of books merely the product of man’s mind and experiences? If so, then we are not bound to it by any heavenly authority. But, if the Bible was given by divine inspiration, then to change it shows great irreverence for God, who gave it (2 Timothy 3:16-17). How we view and use the Bible shows whether we respect God.
If you love Me, keep My commandments. (John 14:15, NKJV)
It’s easy to love a child in a manger. But, on this day when the religious world long ago decided to have a holy day in honor of the birth of Jesus (a holiday, by the way, never commanded in the Scriptures and never celebrated by the New Testament church), the Child who was given to the world challenges the world with these words spoken by Him over 30 years after He was in the manger. Keeping the commands of Jesus is the essence of loving Him, because it puts His will and His purposes before our own. His will is superior to ours, and so, in faith we obey His word instead of our own wisdom and wishes. Love Jesus by keeping His commands. Jesus said, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me” (John 14:21). That is the love we must have for Jesus every day.
13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. (John 15:13–14, NKJV)
The sacrificial quality of love is unsurpassed. It is this love that prompted the death of Jesus and provided the world our only means of redemption (Romans 5:8-10; 1 John 4:8-10). The question for us to ponder is whether we have the love it takes to be a friend of Jesus. We hear much about needing Jesus as our friend. True, and He has shown the measure of His loving friendship by His death. Now, do we show the measure of our friendship to Him? We are not His friends when we disobey Him. It is quite ironic that many who speak loud and long about being friends with Jesus refuse His clear commands. For example, many reject His command to believe and be baptized to be saved in Mark 16:16, and yet claim friendship with Him. How can that be? Indeed, they say any necessary obedience nullifies God’s grace. If true, then we cannot be a friend to Jesus without denying His word and His grace! Our plea is to return to the simple harmony of gospel of salvation by grace, through faith. Salvation is an unearned, yet conditional gift (Ephesians 2:8-9). God receives sinners when we fear God and work righteousness; the gift is thus received (Acts 10:34-35). Are you a friend to Jesus? That is answered “yes” when you obey Him in faith.
You are near, O Lord, and all Your commandments are truth. (Psalm 119:151, NKJV)
Are we actually to believe that the commandments of God are truth? Absolutely (John 17:17). People loath obeying the commands of God when they do not have an abiding allegiance to divine truth. It is no great surprise that many people believe truth is relative, a shape-shifting concept that morphs into whatever they dictate truth to be. Such is the influence of this present, evil age (Romans 12:2). Absolute truth is ridiculed, mocked and discarded out of hand. They try to shape God’s truth into whatever they want it to be. Why do you think more and more people believe gender identity changes with one’s moods and personal perceptions? Such distortions of reality merely reflect their relativistic concept of truth. Nevertheless, God’s commands are not shaped by our moods, our culture, and our environment. God is still the potter, and we are still the clay – too many believe it is the other way around (Jeremiah 18:6). Today’s verse implies the obvious; God is near the person who respects and obeys His commands. This is the person God will never leave nor forsake (Hebrews 13:5). The disobedient have no assurance that God is near because they do not practice the truth (1 John 1:6-7; John 14:23). If you want God to be near you, then keep His commandments. They are truth.
1 Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; 2 for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 4:1–2, NKJV)
While some say obeying the commands of God is not essential for eternal salvation in Christ, the apostle encourages Christians to abound more and more in that very lifestyle. The word “ought” conveys a moral obligation. That is, we are morally required before God to walk (live) so as to please Him (2 Corinthians 5:9). Living to please God is accomplished by keeping the commandments we have been given by the apostles “through the Lord Jesus” (1 Corinthians 14:37). Stay the course of faithfully obeying the commands of the Lord Jesus, and Christ will give you eternal life (Hebrews 5:8-9). We can never be content with not pleasing God, as if our sin carries no eternal consequence. They do. Therefore, let us “abound more and more” in a life of faith that keeps the commands of God.
20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— 21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” 22 which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men?” (Colossians 2:20–22, NKJV)
Christian live for Christ and not according to the principles of the world that oppose Christ. Since we are alive in Christ we must not turn back to those things that produce spiritual death (Colossians 2:12-13). The futility and sinfulness of the commands and doctrines of men is firmly established in today’s verse. Yet, century after century heavier and heavier burdens have been laid on believers, demanding that creeds, confessions or catechisms be followed to define and determine their faithfulness to God. The religious regulations of men have no standing before the God of the Universe. Christ the King has approved no doctrine beyond what is written in His New Testament (1 Corinthians 4:6; Jude 3; 2 John 9). The gospel calls souls back to the Bible, not to being regulated by the commandments and doctrines of men. If what you believe and do cannot be found in the gospel of Christ, it is not of Christ. Lay all such things aside or you will perish with them.