by Dave Brown
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The subject of this article relates to how do we learn God’s will for us today from the bible. How does the bible communicate God’s will to us today? No one who believes the bible would dispute that clear direct commands and direct statements convey God's will for us. Most are familiar with the Ten Commandments, which are clearly examples of God conveying His will to the Children of Israel through written commands. In this article when we use the word "command' we mean it to include all direct commands and direct statements that are made in the bible, and especially the New Testament, which is the part of the bible that we are under today.
We need to see how we are to receive and interpret commands from the New Testament. God’s direct commands that are recorded in the New Testament are binding on us today. The writings of Paul (and by extension, the other New Testament writers as well) were to be viewed as the commandments of God (1 Cor 14:37): “If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord's commandment.” In this regard the inspired written word of God has as much authority as if Jesus was here verbally issuing commands today.
Let us consider some examples of the way that commands are issued in the New Testament. Consider John 6:44-45: "No man can come to me, except the Father that sent me draw him: and I will raise him up in the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall all be taught of God. Every one that hath heard from the Father, and hath learned, cometh unto me." If this were to be stated in terms of a "10 Commandments" type of command, it might read: "Thou shalt learn and understand what the LORD thy God has revealed to thee."
But Jesus found it much better to explain it in terms of Isaiah 54:13 (also indicated by Micah 4:1-4 and Jeremiah 31:34), again emphasizing his appeal to the scriptures, but bringing it into our dispensation by the use of his (Jesus') authority as well. So, this is what we learn from this direct statement in John 6:44-45:
- It is impossible to come to Jesus without the "drawing power" of God (just exactly what this is will be revealed in the next verse);
- Jesus is talking about salvation -- those who are drawn of God will be raised up (resurrected from the dead) in the last day, the implication being that those who are not drawn of God will not be raised up, at least not by Jesus;
- This drawing power has something to do with being taught of God;
- It is essential that we hear (listen) and learn what God has revealed;
- Those who are willing to listen and learn will come to Jesus.
While we have taken many words to explain this, the concept is simple. There are things that we must learn before we are going to be able to come to Jesus. These things are not difficult -- they are referenced in the bible as the milk of the word, and they are easily digested (1 Cor. 3:2; Heb. 5:12-13; 1 Peter 2:2).
As an example of milk, consider another statement that Jesus made on the occasion of interaction with some ordinary people (much like you and me) recorded in Luke 13:3: "Now there were some present at that very season who told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered and said unto them, Think ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they have suffered these things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all in like manner perish."
Again, phrased as a "10 Commandments" type of command, this might read: "Thou shalt repent of your past sins." The bible teaches that we have all sinned (Romans 10:17), so we should not think that we do not have sins that need to be repented of. God is not a respecter of persons, so Jesus would not command these people to do anything that we are not be required to do. The word "repentance" means a complete turning away from. While it is motivated by godly sorrow (2 Cor. 7:10), sorrow alone it not enough. We must do our best to put these sins behind us and not repeat them in the future. If we do not do that, Jesus states that we will perish with what these people considered to be some of the worst of sinners.
These are examples of just two commands. Of course, there are many more in the New Testament, and we err if we do not observe them all. In Matthew 4:4 Jesus said that every word that God has given us is important -- we are not to pick and choose what we want to obey and what we can dismiss.
Why are the commands not stated as an addition to the ten commandments? In one sense they are, since they are equally as binding to us as the ten commandments were to the Children of Israel. But in another sense, the reason that they are couched in stories about Jesus is to impart to us a greater understanding of their true meaning. The reason that the New Testament is not just a checklist of commands is because God does not want us to follow a checklist. He wants our hearts. If we are going to obey from the heart the teachings of Jesus, then we must understand it and obey it from the heart. Otherwise, we are just checking off a punch list in an attempt to do the bare minimum to manipulate God for what we want. That type of religion is idolatrous.
Consider Romans 6:17: "But thanks be to God, that, whereas ye were servants of sin, ye became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching whereunto ye were delivered; ..."
As we saw above, some of these teachings are in direct statement (command) form. We shall see in the next article that there are as many (if not more) that are conveyed by means of examples.
What are the conditions of salvation given by Jesus?