Keep My Commandments
Since all Christians believe there are at least some, if not more, parts to the Law that are applicable or mandatory for the Christian life, it is impossible to simply accuse the Hebrew Roots Movement of legalism just because of their view on the Law.
When I have researched the Hebrew Roots Movement, there seems to be a great deal of material in which they “affirm” the idea of obeying God from the standpoint of faith and a relationship with Jesus Christ.
However, this grace is usually extended only to those who agree with them and their version of circumcision, or to those who already believe we are under the Law as a covenant. But if a person does not believe we are under the Law as a covenant, then their defense and arguments usually degenerate into a works-based compulsion that really has nothing to do with the new birth and the gospel of Jesus Christ. As I stated on my home page, the HRM is promoted on works, and it is defended on works.
When the HRM is challenged, rarely do they resort to the idea of holiness and righteousness from the standpoint of the redemption of Jesus Christ and the work of the Cross, but most often end up resorting to the legal compulsions of the Law.
In this article I want to cover one of the prime scriptures that the HRM uses mesh the compulsions and legal considerations of the Law with Jesus Christ. Unfortunately this scripture verse has become just a cliché and the concept of Jesus revealed in the text is overlooked. The text is about the Lordship of Jesus, not the Law and there is a great deal more than the issue of commandments.
I’m not one to cry context! context! context!, especially since I’m not dismissing this verse at all. What I am doing though, is to show that Jesus is not saying this in the compulsory and legal manner in which the HRM might like us to think He is.
This verse can be found in the other gospels, but I will be quoting from John. Let’s read:
“If you love Me, keep My commandments.”(John 14:15)
THE TEXT OF JOHN 14-
There is no need to complicate the verse, However, if someone is going to say this verse is a comprehensive theological statement about how we are under the Law as a covenant, then I must disagree, and so begins the complication.
Let me first say that this verse is in no way a theological statement about the Law. It does not say “the Law” and it does not say “the Torah”. It does not mention Moses and the prophets, nor does the text of this whole passage.
This whole passage is about Jesus declaring that He is in the Father and how we are one with Him in the Father based upon what Jesus has instructed. It’s the adherence and obedience that is part of our dwelling and abiding with Christ in God.
These verses are about the will and mind of God and the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and how we are partakers. To reduce this passage to a controversy about the Law, is a disservice to God.
In this same passage of John 14, Jesus is explaining to His disciples about how He is of the Father, (vs. 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 20, 23, 24, 28, 31).
Along with the word “commandments” in verse 15, Jesus also uses the phrases, “My words”(vs. 23), and “My sayings”(vs. 24).
Jesus never makes any correlation or connection to Moses and the Law, but the connection Jesus makes to concerning His words, is with that of the Father who sent Him (vs. 24).
Another point that Jesus makes in this passage is about the Holy Spirit and how He will be sent to remind us of the words of Jesus. Let’s read:
“…He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all the things that I said to you.”(John 14:26)
The explanation which Jesus has given about being one with the Father and His words also continues over into chapter 15 where we see Jesus declaring Himself as the true vine. John 14 and 15 do not simply tell us to obey stuff that Jesus said. Jesus is promoting a bond and fellowship where we abide in Him and He in us, and we will bear much fruit. People who take a hard line in promoting the Law fail to promote this uniqueness of abiding in our Lord and He in us, and our dependence on Himself. Of course it involves obedience, that is a given, but Jesus does not promote an abstract list of commands apart from a revelation and fellowship with Him. It is callous to try and make these chapters about commandment consciousness. They are a unique revelation of Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul was never short on giving commands and instruction in righteousness throughout his epistles, but all his epistles begin by establishing the work God has dine within us through the redemption of Jesus Christ and the Cross. Every epistle of Paul is an establishment and reminder of these things. Paul understood that the life of a believer could not be based on legal considerations, but rather the Cross. Let’s read one example:
“For the Jews request a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom, but we preach Christ and Him crucified…But of Him you are in Christ Jesus who became for us wisdom from God-and righteousness and sanctification and redemption…For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear and much trembling. And my speech and preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power. (1 Corinthians 1:22-30, 2:2-4)