Jesus and Paul (and all the apostles) teach on the Ten Commandments in the New Testament. They say something interesting about them:
But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “‘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.” Mat 22:34-40
Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. Rom 13:8-10
Many will read these passages, and say something like the Law of Love is greater than the Law of the Old Testament; the Law of Love has superseded the Law of the Old Testament. But if we read these passages carefully, we discover that is not what Jesus and Paul were teaching! Rather, the Law of Love is the equivalent of the Law of the Old Testament.
Jesus said all the Law could be summed up in two commandments, Love God, and Love your neighbor. Paul said that all the Law could be summed up in one verb: Love. Paul quotes some of the Ten Commandments to make his point, in fact, the second half of the Ten Commandments, he says, can be summed up by Love your neighbor:
|Law of Love|
|Love God||Love your neighbor|
|1. Worship God alone (Exo 20:2-3)||6. Do not murder (Exo 20:13)|
|2. Do not worship idols (Exo 20:4-6)||7. Do not commit adultery (Exo 20:14)|
|3. Do not profane the Lord’s name (Exo 20:7)||8. Do not steal (Exo 20:15)|
|4. Keep the Sabbath (Exo 20:8-11)||9. Do not bear false witness (Exo 20:16)|
|5. Honor father and mother (Exo 20:12)||10. Do not covet (Exo 20:17)|
Of course, refusing to murder someone is an act of love toward them. Refusing to steal something that belongs to our neighbor is an act of love toward them. When we obey the sixth through tenth commandments, we are showing love to our neighbor in a practical way. That is what Paul is teaching. Jesus agreed, and also taught that when we obey the first through fifth commandments, we are showing love to God in a practical way.
Jesus told us that if we love Him, we will keep His commandments (Joh 14:15). His commandments are not different from the Lord’s commandments, because Jesus is YHVH in the flesh, and moreover, He is the incarnate Word, of which the commandments are the foundation.
We can see how worshiping the Lord alone or refusing to make or bow down to idols is an act of love for Him. We can see how refusing to profane His holy name, YHVH, is an act of love for Him. We may not see how resting on the Sabbath is an act of love for Him, but we accept that keeping the Sabbath day set apart is an act of love for Him, because He says it is.
The Ten Commandments as stated in our Bibles are mostly stated negatively: what not to do. When we restate them positively, we can also see how honoring our father and mother is an act of love for Him:
1) Worship God alone + 2) Do not worship idols, i.e., preserve the sanctity of the Lord’s worship;
3) Do not profane the Lord’s name, i.e., preserve the sanctity of the Lord’s name;
4) Keep the Sabbath holy, i.e., preserve the sanctity of the Lord’s rest;
5) Honor father and mother, i.e., preserve the sanctity of the Lord’s authority.
The Lord delegated some of His authority to human agents, in order to preserve and bless those who are weaker and more vulnerable, and the first and most important delegation of His authority is to parents. That is why, when we honor our father and mother, we are showing honor and love for God.
Jesus furthermore taught us that all the Law and the Prophets, the entire Old Testament, hangs on the two commandments to Love God, and Love our neighbor. The rabbis have divided the Law into 613 distinct commandments. If “Love God” and “Love our neighbor,” or as Paul put it, “Love,” sums up the entire Law, then we can see a deeper truth:
613 commandments in Torah (Gen-Deu),
summed up by
Ten Commandments given at Sinai (Exo 20, Deu 4:13),
summed up by
Two greatest commandments (Mat 22:34-40),
summed up by
Love (Rom 13:8-10).
It is fine to tell someone that they must love (Rom 13:6-10). Who must we love? Why, God and our neighbor (Mat 22:34-40). Okay, but what does it mean to love our neighbor? Well, first of all, do not murder him. Do not steal from him. Do not lie about him, and so on (Exo 20). But where do we draw the line between murder and accidental death, for example? Those kinds of questions are what the entire Torah explains in its 613 commandments (Gen-Deu). They are not separate commandments from the Ten, but they are explanations of what obeying the Ten looks like in practical life.
The entire legal code found in Torah is nothing more than the definition of what obeying the Ten Commandments looks like. The Ten Commandments are nothing more than an explanation of what loving God and our neighbor looks like. The entire Law and Prophets is nothing more than an exhortation to love.
His Law is love. It is not a prison house (sin is a prison house). It is a plumb line in a terribly crooked world, that forever remains straight. It is a tool to correct our course and light our path, so that we always remain walking in love as He walked. It informs and instructs (Paul calls it our tutor, Gal 3:24). When we are learning to read, we submit to a reading instructor. Once we have learned to read, we no longer need the reading instructor, but we do not stop reading. We do not stop walking in love because now Christ has come. The Law merely shows us what love looks like, walked out, from God’s perspective, as He is the one who knows.
This is a chapter from Christine’s book, The Law of Love, which takes the reader on a journey through the first five books of the Bible, Genesis through Deuteronomy, to show how the Gospel of grace is revealed in the commandments of God.