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.
3 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. 6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. (1 John 2:3–6, NKJV)
As this passage explains how we are assured that we know God, it provides an inspired commentary on what it means to “walk in the light” in 1 John 1:7. Many are heard to say they “know God” (that they “walk in the light”). John explains how we are assured that we know God; “if” we keep His commandments (v. 3). Knowing God in this passage equates to practicing the truth and “walking in the light” in 1 John 1:6-7. We cannot disobey God and correctly claim to understand or know God. To say we know God while disobeying Him makes us a liar. The love of God does not live in disobedience; it is perfected (matured) by keeping His word (v. 5). One may indeed feel in his heart that they know God, but that is not how the Bible defines knowing God. To know God and to live in the love of God, we must “keep His commandments.” Obeying God is not an attempt to earn your way to heaven; It is the express of your love for God. The “truth is not in” the disobedient; He does not know God. To know God, walk as Christ walked. He always obeyed the Father (John 8:29; 12:48-50).
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18, NKJV)
Context is crucial to understanding the Scriptures correctly. Today’s passage is a notable illustration of the point. John is discussing the perfecting of love in the Christian’s life so that he or she has “boldness in the day of judgment” instead of fear, which “involves torment.” Where there is mature love, there is no fear of the judgment. But, what is the mature love that “casts out fear?” John tells us in 1 John 5:2-3: “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” (1 John 5:2–3). The love that has boldness rather than fear in the day of judgment is one that is willingly obedient to God’s commands. Only when love includes willing obedience of God’s commandments is it the “perfect love” that “casts out fear.”
6 He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. 7 And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” (Mark 7:6–7, NKJV)
The hypocrisy of Israel was reaching its zenith in the days of Isaiah (Isaiah 29:13-14). Israel gave Jehovah lip service, while serving idols, and demanding their own teachings be regarded as divine truth. This verse gives us God’s definition of a hypocritical heart: While saying one honors God, he elevates his own will above the will of the Almighty. Hypocrisy is pretense, pretending to be what one is not. The Greek word was applied to the actor who wore a mask, pretending to be a character in a drama. Christ applied this term to the Pharisees and scribes of His day. Their words honored God, but their hearts were given over to the commandments of men. The Jews had codified their oral traditions (the Mishnah). These men whom Jesus rebuked judged a violation of their traditions to be a violation of God’s law (see Mark 7:8-9). We must avoid accepting human traditions as if they are the will of God, lest we join hands with the hypocrites of Christ’s day. Revealed truth, not the traditions of men, must guide our hearts and our deeds. Otherwise, our worship will be vain.
Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who delights greatly in His commandments. (Psalm 112:1, NKJV)
This psalm calls on us to give celebratory adulation of thanks to Jehovah. It reveals the result of such praise, while explaining who actually praises the Lord, and why. The blessing of His favor is the outcome of giving God the praise He is due. The source of acceptable praise comes from a heart that fears the Lord. This person obtains His good favor. Cries of hallelujah (“praise Jehovah” or “praise the Lord”) must combine with genuine reverence for them to be regarded by the Lord and responded to favorably by Him. Nor do we have to wonder who it is that fears the Lord, for it is spelled out here. Fearing God is tantamount to delighting completely in His commandments. We fear God by desiring, cherishing and following His commands. And so, by taking pleasure in His commands, we wholeheartedly praise His name. At this thanksgiving season (and every day), may we delight in the Lord’s commands, rejoice in His good blessings, and thankfully praise His name.
If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 14:37, NKJV)
Jesus sent His apostles into all the world to preach His gospel to everyone (Mk. 16:15; Matt. 28:19). Before His death, Jesus told His apostles, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me” (Jno. 13:20). Later, Jesus appeared to Paul (Saul of Tarsus), appointed him to be an apostle, and sent him to preach the gospel, too (Acts 26:16-20). We rightly conclude that there is absolutely no way one can receive Jesus, yet reject His apostles. Truly, the first Christians were commended precisely because “they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42). Instead of unsuccessfully trying to separate the teachings of Paul, Peter, John and the other apostles from Christ, cherish and hold fast all they spoke and wrote. By doing so, you are cherishing the Son and the Father (who sent Jesus to the world). To do less is not only a rejection of the apostles, but also of the Father and the Son. The spiritual acknowledge this. Indeed, one is not “spiritual” when he refuses to receive the apostles’ teachings as “the commandments of the Lord.” We need all of the New Testament. All of it is from God (2 Tim. 3:16-17).