Obeying The Commands of Jesus
As observed in Tucson during the week of 03/25/2005 to 03/31/2005
By Don Murphy
9036 N. Mexican Sage Place
Tucson, AZ 85742-4526
Our Friday evening Bible study subject was the Lord’s Prayer which contains these words to God: "may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Since we pray that God’s will be done here on earth, a very lively discussion began when someone asked if it was a sin to disobey Jesus. Everyone appeared to agree that it was. But when asked about specific commands of Christ, then we had some different opinions. It seems that most all Christians accept Jesus as Savior but not all, perhaps only a few, see the need to accept Him as their teacher, as the one who tells them how to live.
Perhaps this is a growing process. Jesus said, "If you love me, you will obey my commands." (John 14:15) As our love for Jesus grows, our desire to please Him and obey Him also grows.
That Friday evening Bible discussion about obeying Christ made me ponder about this subject for the next few days. During this period I received two emails about obeying Jesus. The first one was from my friend Miguel de Luis in the Canary Islands who wrote concerning a conversion that he had with an Independent Baptist about salvation and in the course of the conversation the man said that Paul’s ministry was to establish a new dispensation for the Gentiles, and that the teachings of Jesus was primarily for the Jews. This false belief is not unusual, a popular radio evangelist teaches that the commands of Jesus are not for now but are for the Thousand Year Reign of Christ.
The next day I received an email from a pastor of a Baptist church in Smithfield, NC, which listed 127 commands to believers that the pastor found in the New Testament. Only 16 of the 127 were from Jesus and none of the 127 would make a visible impact in the lifestyle of the believer. The commands of Jesus listed in the Sermon on the Mount were not included.
The idea that the teachings and commands of Christ are not for today is associated with a theology called Dispensationalism. The popular Scofield Reference Bible is a leading teacher of this deprived theology, which in one form or another is probably the predominant theology in today’s Christianity. This evil theology claims that salvation is not based on living as Christ taught but by accepting Him, that Christ’s teachings were only for the Jews.
Martin Luther was a leader in leading people away from the commands of Christ. He emphasized the teachings of Paul over those of Christ but distorted them to the extent that he said, "Be a sinner, and sin boldly, but believe more boldly still. Sin shall not drag us away from Him, even should we commit fornication or murder thousands and thousands of times a day" (Luther, M. Letter of August 1, 1521 as quoted in Stoddard, p.93). Don’t many people today think like that?
The apostle John wrote: "Anyone who does not follow the teachings of Christ does not have God. Anyone who follows the teachings of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you who does not accept that, do not welcome him for fear of sharing in his wickedness." (II John 9-11)
How can a person accept Christ if they are not willing to live as Christ taught? His way of living is called The Way of the Lord eight times in the Book of Acts. (Acts 18:25 "he had been given instruction in the Way of the Lord...". Also Acts 9:2, 18:26, 19:9, 23, 22:4, 24:14, 22. In II Peter 2:2 it is called the Way of Truth.) Jesus said, "I am the Way… No one can come to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6)
One of the commands of Christ that we discussed during the Bible study last Friday evening was the command of Christ not to swear an oath (Mt 5:34). The apostle James said that above all, do not swear oaths or you will be condemned. (James 5:12).
This command is a good example of the way that today’s Christians think about His commands, often completely ignoring them. For example the Catholics teach: "When the name of the Lord is invoked through the swearing of an oath, God's entire Being is invoked- His Person, Presence and Power are invoked- to help us so that with Him, in Him and through Him, we may be strengthened to carry out our duties honorably." (As quoted on the web site CatholicMil.org, Catholics in the Military) This sounds so good but it is a false teaching, quite contrary to the teaching in the New Testament!
Another example is this Protestant teaching: "Calling upon God's Name by swearing an oath in His presence is an act of worship. When performed reverently, appropriately, and bindingly, it is an act which publicly calls upon, and honors, the Name of the Lord. Confirming truth and promise by swearing an oath is foundational to order in society and church - it underlies witnessing in court, assuming a public office, entering marriage, making confession of faith, and having one's children baptized. Its use is to be limited to solemn acts of church or state required by those in authority, or to important matters in private life in which an oath is needed to establish a crucial agreement or settle a serious controversy." (As quoted on the web site www.HolyBible.com) Oh how the devil twists the Bible to make it say exactly the opposite of what Christ teaches!
It appears that neither the Catholics nor the Protestants take the teachings of Jesus very seriously. Why is that? The Great Commission at the end of the Gospel of Matthew requires that ministers are to teach their people to obey all of the commands of Christ. Is that being done by the Catholics or the Protestants? Have you have heard a Catholic or a Protestant minister go through all of the explicit commands of Christ and teach their people to obey them? Who can answer "Yes"?
There is much talk about the Great Commission but they, the Catholics and the Protestants, always, always, leave out the last part, the part about obeying the teachings of Christ.
Do you think that Jesus considers them to be His followers if they are not willing to follow His teachings? Has a person fully repented of his sins if he is not willing to obey all of the commands of Jesus and His apostles?
Another question asked at the Friday evening Bible study was "Is it a sin to disobey the command of Jesus not to resist an evil man?" (Mt 5:39) If this command and the command not to swear an oath were obeyed by people who call themselves Christians, then they would not be able to take any government job that requires the swearing of oaths or the use of force. Nor could they support any such activities so as not to participate in that sin.
However, Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said that seventy-eight percent of evangelical Christians voted for Bush and most of them believe that peace requires military strength and that poverty should be solved through economic growth fueled by low taxes and small government (as quoted in the Los Angeles Times of March 28, 2005).
There seems to be a great deal of difference between beliefs and practices of the Catholics and Protestants of today and that taught by Jesus and His apostles. Who tries to follow all of the teaching of Jesus and His apostles? His followers do, of course. Otherwise they are not His followers.
The Anabaptists, who are neither Catholic nor Protestant, do teach obedience to Christ. Peter Riedeman, a 16th century Anabaptist leader wrote: "Christ wants to dwell in those who have allowed all the roughness or sin to be cut away, who are measured by the plumb line and level of Christ, and who have brought their hearts to Him, to love Him. Whoever builds in any other way builds with nothing but hay and straw. This building will be beautifully built to please Him who should dwell in it. Nothing but pure love will be within, and He Himself is this love. Thus all God’s commandments will be fulfilled, for Christ Himself says, ‘Whoever loves Me, keeps My commandments.’ But the power to love, God himself, who is love, gives to us. Hence, it is clear that those who transgress His commands and continue to sin, do not belong to His temple. John says, ‘Whoever sins and does not abide in the teaching of Christ has no God, but he who is true to Christ’s teaching has both the Father and the Son.’ In another passage he says, ‘Whoever says he loves God and does not keep His commandments, is a liar and the truth is not in him.’ It is thus undeniable that people who continue to sin do not belong to the house of God." (Confession of Faith, page 176-177)
Is it a sin to disobey the teachings of the apostles? On Sunday we again went to the Faith Christian Fellowship church in Tucson. That day a woman preached on being a cheerful giver. This is quite contrary to the teachings of the apostle Paul who forbid women to teach men (I Tim 2:12). Were we sinning by listening to her without speaking up and objecting?
What a narrow path it could be if we were to make every attempt to carefully follow all of the teachings of Christ and His apostles. But then Jesus did tell us, "Try your hardest to enter the Kingdom of God through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it." (Mt 7:13-14, Luke 13:24)
Only a few will enter the Kingdom of God? How many people survived the flood during the time of Noah? How many Jews who escaped from Egypt actually entered the Promised Land? Only a few…
Is that why Catholic and Protestant preachers do not teach their people to obey all of the commands of Christ and His apostles? Because it would make the path too narrow for their people and they would stop coming to the preacher’s church?
Jesus said, "Why call me Lord if you do not do what I say? Not all who call Me Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven but only those who do the will of My Father in Heaven." (Mt 7:21-23, Luke 6:45-49)
Those who have not yet been convinced of the need to obey all of the teachings and commands of Christ will quote the apostle Paul, "We have been saved by grace and not by works" (Eph 2:8) which they take to mean that obedience to Christ is not a factor in their salvation. They should read two verses farther on where Paul says, "We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." As the apostle James teaches, works are the evidence of our faith. (James 2:14-26) If we do not follow Christ’s teachings and commands, our faith in Him is not much.
The main part of the Sunday morning service at that church consisted of a water baptism ceremony for about 8 people. Every one was dunked under water except one gray haired lady with a walker who was sprinkled due to her back problems.
The pastor read from Romans 6 about baptism. The word baptism is actually a Greek word meaning immersed. When the Bible was translated from Greek into English that word was not translated but was transliterated (made English like). Why it was not translated? The first Bibles translated into English were translated by people who considered water baptism to be a sacrament which probably explains why they did not translate the word for if they did so it may take away meaning from the ceremonial, ritual aspects of the word.
Look at Romans 6 with the word baptized properly translated. "How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been immersed into Christ Jesus have been immersed into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through immersion into His death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus."
The water baptism ceremony symbolizes the immersion of the Christian in the nature of Christ. Our daughter Naomi captures this sense of immersion into Christ with this song that she wrote:
Just like a child that trusts his mommy when she's feeding him,
Just like a child that trusts his daddy where he's leading him,
Just like a birdie that flies through the air,
Just like a fish that swims in the sea,
So will I trust in Thee.
1. When the darkness surrounds me and I've nowhere else to go,
I'll put my trust in Jesus who loves me so.
2. When I see the flowers blooming and the birds nesting in the trees,
I'm always reminded of His love for me!
We will close with this teaching of the apostle Paul. "So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another." (Eph 4:17-25)
See The Commands of Jesus
(This page was last updated on 04/01/2005)