Commandments: Old and New

2015 Mar 1

Jesus came preaching the good news of his new kingdom. This is a spiritual kingdom (John 18:36, Matthew 6:9-10) that exists in parallel to earthly kingdoms. The whole of law in this spiritual kingdom is one, the command of love. note

Jesus established this kingdom by his death and resurrection. This kingdom therefore is for now, and will continue beyond this world.

Commands that don't remain

In the context of when Jesus lived there already were some commandments. Most notable of these is the 10 Commandments of the Jews. All of them have meaning only for a kingdom that is of this world. The last 9 talk about physical things (which are only applicable for this physical world). And (with respect to the 1st) only in this material world could people imagine or pursue multiple gods; that is not a mistake we can make once we pass from this world. So the 10 commandments are completely obsolete after this world.

Using the 10 Commandments as representative of all Old Testament commandments, we can also come to see they won't apply in this world to those (already) in the new spiritual kingdom of Jesus. Those in this kingdom of love have a broad motivating principle of love. Transgressing any of the last 9 commandments would first be a failure of love before it became an action of transgression. And for the 1st command: worshipping something is holding it as an ideal; all other gods idealize something other than God's value of love; so, to participate and worship in the Jesus' kingdom is incompatible with worshipping other gods. The old commandments are primarily reminders of sin and of failure (Romans 7:7-10) and of non-love. These old ones are no longer our standard.

In fact (unless you are Jewish) the 10 have never had jurisdiction over you. At the council of Jerusalem (Acts 15), all the apostles were in agreement that they didn't apply to Gentiles. They asked Gentile Christians to avoid offending Jewish Christians (through issues about food) and avoid sexual immorality (which is simple moral pragmatism). They were in full agreement that the Holy Spirit said that all non-Jews (the gentiles) were not to be burdened with any Jewish law.

If we therefore act as if we are under the 10 Commandments, we are choosing to go against the Holy Spirit and the direct original teaching from Jesus' apostles. Be very cautious about this.

Commands that continue

However, the new standard that Jesus gave us is his one new commandment for his kingdom, the commandment to love (John 13, see also). This kind of love is not native for us, so he demonstrated it to us by his positive example on the cross, to ensure that we understood it correctly.

The old commandments mostly continue to be useful in this world as negative instruction - they only tell us about some cases of failing to follow Jesus' new commandment. They were a standard for the old Mosaic covenant, but they are a much lower standard than the new commandment. If you try to meet the standard of the old commandments, you will fail to follow the commandment that Jesus gave you. However, if you follow the new commandment, you will automatically also fulfill the old commandments.

Jesus doesn't call us to follow the old covenant with its old laws; he calls us to follow his new covenant (Luke 22:20) with a new commandment to love (John 13:34).


The value system perspective used here is based on ideas from the work of Darren Twa.