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R U ready for this final article on this important subject? It’s a one-two knockout punch to what has become a religious sacred cow. Read it all and don’t give up just because it hurts our religiously ingrained thinking. There is help, light, and understanding from God’s Word in the following sentences.

A new commandment? 

Here it is: Jesus did not invent the love commandment! Ouch! It hurt, I know, especially if you have heard it preached and taught like that for years. Many are taught and believe that LOVE is the THE only commandment of the Church. Here’s the verse generally used to prove it.

I give you a new commandment—to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another (John 13:34 NET, and similar in John 15:12, 17).

Here is the problem with the consensus of the meaning of this verse. Love was not a New Testament innovation! It was not new with Jesus. Jesus strongly emphasized the love commandment, but it was stated in the Hebrew Bible long before He became flesh and dwelt among us. The love commandment was not new in the sense of it never existed before. So, in what sense was love new? When Jesus said that his disciples are to love “just as I have loved you,” He was stressing the truth that He was the highest and best example of love. What was new was that they were to love according to the example Jesus gave them. That was the highest standard possible! Jesus emphasized love and brought it into focus, but He also brought light about loving one another with His personal example in a human body. That was something never seen in the earth before. That was new. “God in the flesh”, Jesus, demonstrated love. (See John 1:1-4, 14.)

Love, as a commandment, was written by Moses in Leviticus 19:18, the famous “you must love your neighbor as yourself.” (See NET.) Isn’t that interesting? Many refuse to accept that moral commandments are required of Christians because “commandments” were of the Law of Moses, and yet love as a commandment first appears in writing in the Law of Moses!

The love commandment as written in Leviticus 19:18 was quoted by Jesus, Paul, and James in Matthew 19:19, 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:14; and James 2:8. There is no difference between loving your neighbor and loving one another as Jesus demonstrated before the disciples. Paul proved these phrases are equal in meaning in Romans 13:8, 9. Both phrases are used in reference to this love commandment found in Leviticus 19:18 (quoted by Paul in v. 9).

The apostle John dedicated a significant amount of 1st John’s five chapters on the subject of loving one another, though he did not directly quote Leviticus 19:18. He alluded to Leviticus 19:18 every time he told us to love one another. (See 1 John 3:11, 23, 4:7, 11, 12; 2 John 1:5.) Peter used the phrase love one another in 1st Peter 1:22, and Paul used it in Romans 13:8 and 1st Thessalonians 4:9.

In the following verses, we see that to love your brother meant the same thing as love one another.

By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous (1 John 3:10-12 NASB).

Bible interpreters generally agree on the fact that “this is the message which you have heard from the beginning that we should love one another” (1 John 3:11) should be interpreted according to 1 John 1:1: “What was from the beginning, what we have heard.” They say that “the beginning” could refer to Jesus Christ and His coming to earth when He began to preach the gospel, or when the believers John was writing to first heard of Christ.

I disagree with their conclusions based on the context of verse 11. The context clarifies immediately the correct interpretation. “The message which you have heard from the beginning that we should love one another” is immediately connected to “not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother.” The apostle John uses Cain as an example of disobedience to the commandment to love one another. In other words, “from the beginning” is not used in the same sense as 1 John 1:1 but as in Genesis 1:1 or the Gospel of John 1:1-3.

The history of Cain is one of those stories that happened at the beginning. Genesis 4 was a “beginning” story that took place as close as you can get to the beginning in Genesis 1:1 and the first humans. The history of Cain was the first recorded rebellion (transgression) against God and His commandments after Adam and Eve sinned and were thrown out of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:23).

Did God exist from eternity? Does not John say that God is love? (1 John 4:8) There is no question then that the commandment to love has existed from eternity, and then of course, from the beginning of the book of Genesis.[1] Cain disobeyed God’s love commandment when he submitted himself to the evil one (Satan) and murdered his brother Abel.

You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44a NASB)

Cain’s “from the beginning” sin against God’s commandment to love one another lines up with the fact that the devil was “a murderer from the beginning,” as Jesus said in John 8:44. Cain was of his “father the devil” with his actions (deeds). What Cain did identified him as a child of the devil because he violated God’s pre-existing commandment to love one another.

The Golden Rule- Love in Action

That loving one another was a commandment from God, from the beginning, is indirectly attested by ancient world religions in their own writings. I know this may be shocking to my fellow Christians, but the Golden Rule is a common thread around the world. The question is where did it come from, and how did all these diverse religious philosophies get their versions of it? The obvious and only solution for the believer, often overlooked, is that God revealed it in the earth from the beginning.

From the beginning, creation in its magnificence enlightens us to His nature. Creation itself makes His undying power and divine identity clear, even though they are invisible; and it voids the excuses and ignorant claims of these people… (Romans 1:20 VOICE).

The nations on the earth incorporated the Golden Rule into their religions in one form or another. They don’t all read word for word as Jesus’s teaching in Matthew, but the similarities are glaring. It is recorded in ancient moral codes and wisdom texts, and then from religious writings from around the world.

Do you remember that we covered this information in article 5 under the sub-heading “Commandments of Moral Conduct Revealed from the Beginning? We saw that a good number of the laws of moral conduct that Moses received at Sinai were also found in the collection of the legal codes of the ancient Assyrians, the Hittites, and the well-known Hammurabi Code. Each of these codes was hundreds of years older than the moral commandments Moses received at Sinai. The laws given to Moses and these ancient codes have in common injunctions to regulate honor for parents, divorce, land ownership, leases, inheritance, debt, and so on. In common were also those laws against theft (robbery, fraud), divorce, illicit sex (ex. incest, adultery, bestiality, rape,), kidnapping, and murder. They also coincided in other ethical, judicial, and moral laws. There were law codes that were at least one thousand years before Moses, like the law codes of Urukagina, Ur-Nammu, and the Cuneiform law. The Cuneiform law was written in cuneiform script, and used among the Babylonians, Elamites, Sumerians, Hurrians, Kassites, Sumerians, and Hittites.

Where did these many cultures and pagan societies get these moral principles? It is truly an amazing fact. We saw that without questions they originated with God from the beginning.

Bear with me. This lesson is important because it further reveals the truth to Christians that moral commandments preexisted before Sinai, and that the Creator brought them to the earth at the beginning. They are a revelation of His divine nature, and of His divine identity.

Following are quotes, first from Jesus, then Judaism, and finally from other religions and cultures that incorporated into their religions and “spirituality” the Golden Rule.

The Lord Jesus Christ: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12 NKJV)

Judaism: “What is hateful to you do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole Torah. All the rest is commentary.” This saying was attributed to the great rabbinic sage Hillel in the Talmud, Tractate Shabbat 31a.) As a side note, Hillel died less than ten years after Jesus was born.

[2]Ancient Egypt: In the story of The Eloquent Peasant, (2040–1650 BC): "Now this is the command: Do to the doer to make him do." Another example is found in a papyrus (664–323 BC) that states: "That which you hate to be done to you, do not do to another."

Buddhism- “Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful” (Udana-Varga 5:18) "...a state that is not pleasing or delightful to me, how could I inflict that upon another?" Samyutta Nikaya

Bahá'í: "And if your eyes be turned towards justice, choose for your neighbor that which you choose for yourself." Epistle to the Son of the Wolf

Hinduism: "This is the sum of Dharma [duty]: Do not unto others which would cause you pain if done to you." Mahabharata 5:1517

Jainism: A man should wander about treating all creatures as he himself would be treated. Sutrakritanga 1.11.33

Islam Hadith- not stated in the Qur’an but was teaching attributed to Muhammad during his lifetime: Prophet said: "As you would have people do to you, do to them; and what you dislike to be done to you, don't do to them.Kitab al-Kafi, vol. 2, p. 146

Confucianism: What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others." "What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others." Zi gong (a disciple of Confucius) asked: "Is there any one word that could guide a person throughout life?" The Master replied: "How about [reciprocity]: never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself?" Analects XV.24

Very similar sayings as these found in Confucianism can be found in Mohism and Taoism.

Zoroastrianism: And the five accomplishments (farhang) owing to religion; one is thus, not to do unto others all that which is not well for one's self. Shayest na-Shayest (Lit. “proper and improper”) 13:29

The religion of the Incas: "Do not do to another what you would not yourself experience." Manco Capoc, founder of the empire of Peru. (Harry Gensler, Earl W. Spurgin, James Swindal: "Ethics: Contemporary Readings," Routledge, 2003, Page 159 to 162).

Native American spirituality: A Pima proverb: “Do not wrong or hurt your neighbor, because it is not he who you wrong but yourself.

Get the picture? It is found all over the world, and many religions have their own versions of this great moral principle found in the words of Jesus, in the Epistles, and in Leviticus 19:17-18:

“You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” (NKJV)

The love commandment was not a Law of Moses alone, but an eternal principle revealed by God from the beginning of creation, and promulgated on the earth long before Moses ever walked among men. It was not a new revelation!

The Only Commandment for the Church is Love?

Love isn’t the only commandment of the church. I state that based on the words of Paul.

Ok. Let go of the rocks. It’s a “no-stoning” day if you will let me explain before reaching for that rock. Read it:

For this, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Romans 13:9 NASB).

Here is one more translation.

The commands given to you in the Scriptures—do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not take what is not yours, do not covet—and any other command you have heard are summarized in God’s instruction: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Romans 13:9 VOICE).

The dictionary says the following about the word summarize as used in the VOICE translation above:

To give a brief statement of the main points of (something)- "these results can be summarized in the following table.” Synonyms: sum up, abridge, condense, encapsulate, outline, give an outline of, put in a nutshell, recapitulate, give/make a summary of, give a synopsis of, etc. “he summarized these ideas in a single phrase.”

For summary, the dictionary states that it means, a brief statement or account of the main points of something. Example: "a summary of Chapter Three." It also states it is a synonym for an abbreviated version.

Notice that “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” is not a replacement, substitution, removal, rejection, or denial of, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandments.” NO WAY! Yet, disgustingly, that is the way many interpret this verse. No, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” was never a replacement for God’s moral commands, nor did it give anyone the right to reject or change the moral commandments of God in Scripture. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” is a SUMMARY of all moral commandments! Paul said that all moral commandments were summed up, encapsulated, were contained in (in a nutshell), and were abbreviated by “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

I gave you the definition of summary: a brief statement or account of the main points of something. Example: "a summary of Chapter Three." The Lord put it in my heart like that the first time He taught me about it. The example He gave me was the summary of a book.

Have you ever read the Cliffs Notes of any book? It summarizes the story in a condensed manner so one gets the gist of the story. It NEVER changes or replaces the main points with something different. It ALWAYS stays true to the story line.

This is exactly what “You must love your neighbor as yourself” is- a brief statement that contains within it ALL the main points of God’s moral commandments. All God’s moral commandments are in this container of the love of God. The main points of God’s moral commandments are active and alive within the love commandment.

Biblical love never excludes God’s moral commandments, but always includes them. Why? It is impossible to live in love and violate any moral commandment of God.

Now this is love: that we walk according to his commandments (2 John 1:6 NET).

You can’t commit adultery, be a murderer, or a homosexual and walk in the love of God! Jealousy, covetousness, or robbery can never be carried out in love! These are all sins and contrary to God’s holy moral commandments in the Scriptures.

The above is precisely why Paul wrote this immediately after Romans 13:9- given here in three translations:

Love does no wrong to one’s neighbor [it never hurts anybody]. Therefore love meets all the requirements and is the fulfilling of the Law (Romans 13:10 AMPC)

Love does not harm its neighbor. So love does everything the law requires (v.10 NIRV)

Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law (v. 10 NLT).

Love will not do wrong or evil by breaking God’s moral commandments. Love will do all that God’s moral commandments require. Always! A step out of love is a step away from God’s moral commandments. Getting out of love is breaking God’s moral code on some point.

Paul is referring to moral commandments in Romans 13:8-10, and to these alone. There is no mention of ritual or ceremonial commandments of any kind connected to Temple, priesthood, sacrifices, Sabbath days, feast and festivals, etc. We are not subject to ritual commandments of law because Jesus fulfilled them and they were meant for Israel alone, but we are still required under the love commandment to obey God’s moral commandments.

As I stated, within love are all God’s moral commandments. Never forget it! Love never rejects, changes, or teaches they are obsolete or passed away (see Matthew 5:17-19!). Those that teach that moral commandments are not applicable to Christians will be called the least in the kingdom of Heaven! Jesus taught that!

God’s moral code is intact and will be for as long as God is God, BECAUSE He is love! Within Love are His moral commandments. They cannot be separated from love! They are a part of love and always will be!

Condensing the law and the prophets into two commandments

Don’t think it strange that Paul would condense all moral commandments into one statement. Evidently, it was a practice among the Jews. Jesus used it.

And one of them, an expert in religious law, asked him a question to test him: “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus said to him, “ʻLove the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.ʼ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: ʻLove your neighbor as yourself.ʼ All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:35-40).

Jesus said that the LAW depended (was hung on) on these commandments to love the Lord and love your neighbor!

What?

Wait a minute!

I thought the law depended on WORKS. That has been drilled into our psyche for so long in Christianity that many think it is an established doctrine of the church. They firmly believe the law was completely based on works. Oops, and very sorry, for that theological error espoused by many!

Evidently, some things Paul stated about works and law have been severely misunderstood. Jesus taught that the law and the prophets depended on love, NOT works. Love was the foundation for all commandments in Scripture. That should be obvious, IF we believe that God is love and that He was the One that gave commandments to mankind.

When the expert in religious law asked Jesus about which commandment was the greatest, he was following a Bible tradition of condensing God’s requirements into a short form. Look at Psalms 15 as one beautiful example.

Following is another example:

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

This is exactly what Paul did in Romans 13:8-10. He worked the theme of which commandment was greatest and condensed all moral commandments into one: love your neighbor as yourself. He was expressing something like this: “The Psalmist condensed God’s requirements into 10 or 11 (depending on how you count them), Micah into three, Jesus into two, and I (Paul) condensed it into one!”

None of them were denying the validity of moral commandments, nor were they replacing them. They were stating in short form what God requires of man.

If you love Him, then you will obey His commandments!

Let’s end this series with verses in line with all this for your study:

“If you love me, you will obey my commandments…The person who has my commandments and obeys them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and will reveal myself to him (John 14:15, 21 NET).

Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked (1 John 2:3-6 NKJV).

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)

If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love (John 15:10 NKJV).

And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ (Revelation 12:17 NKJV).

Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus (Rev. 14:12 NKJV).

For circumcision is nothing and counts for nothing, neither does uncircumcision, but [what counts is] keeping the commandments of God (1Corinthians 7:19 Amplified).

The Law therefore is holy, and [each] commandment is holy and just and good (Romans 7:12).

So anyone who breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever obeys them and teaches others to do so will be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:19 NET).

He said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” he asked. Jesus replied, “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “I have wholeheartedly obeyed all these laws. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Matthew 19:17-21 NET).

Now this is love: that we walk according to his commandments (2 John 1:6 NET).

A step out of love is a step out of God’s holy moral commandments! To walk in love we must walk in His moral commandments.

 

NOTES: 

[1] Rabbi Akiva  (50–135 CE) stated that the principle of love had its foundation in Genesis chapter 1, which taught that all men are the offspring of Adam, who was made in the image of God (Sifra, Ḳedoshim, iv.; Yer. Ned. ix. 41c; Genesis Rabba 24). My thinking along these lines is obviously not new!

[2] Most of these references can be found in the Wikipedia article: Golden Rule. The article has over 80 footnotes where the reference was sourced. Much information can be found by Google-ing “golden rule in ancient times.” I saw articles and references to the Golden Rule in Psychology Today, Huff Post, and other secular media totally unrelated to religion. There are websites dedicated to tolerance, ethics, and humanism that espouse what they call reciprocity. Even stranger is the fact that modern paganism type religions based on Roman mythology and witchcraft use some form of it.

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