INTRODUCTION—Why do we need to study the commands of Christ?
Matthew 28:18 is the primary reason—telling us specifically to disciple new believers using Christ’s commands--a foundational discipleship manual.
The commands of Christ in a larger sense are the entire New Testament, since all scripture is given by God (2 Tim. 3:16 ), and Jesus is God (Phil. 2:6). The “red letters” of the words of Christ aren’t more important that the rest of the New Testament, similarly. But at least 24 commands of Christ can be found.
The commands are given not only to the Jew (Matt.), but to the Greek (Mark) and Gentile (Luke), as well as to the church generally (John).
Christians are under the “law of Christ” (1 Cor. 9:21 ), which is to carry one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2).
If we love Christ, we will obey what He commands (John 14:15 ). Love for Christ isn’t contained by a devotional attitude, singing, adoring or worshipping Christ, as much as it is simply obeying Him. “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, his is the one who loves me.” (John 14:21). When we speak of our love for Christ, we should be speaking of our obedience to Him.
Some extreme dispensationalists teach that the Gospels aren’t authoritative for Christians today, but that the Epistles are. It would be a fearful thing to appear before Christ and tell Him that our hermeneutic would not allow us to teach His commands, because we thought they were directed to those other than Christians.
Very little is commanded by Jesus after His resurrection, but Matt. 28:18-20 is extremely important. Mark 16:9 and following are very uncertain as to whether or not they were part of the original text of Mark. Other commands were given to the apostles (Luke 24:49) and were of immediate significance only to them (John 20:22 ). If we disallow what Jesus said before His death, virtually nothing remains of His commands.
As to whether or not a particular command is an imperative verb, the form of the words of Christ is weighed, as well as the grammatical structure. All 24 commands are intended as commands, even if the verb form is not imperative.
The writer’s experience is that a group of Christians discussing these commands will add so many qualifications that seem reasonable, that reason soon completely negates what Jesus actually said. These commands are very basic, at the heart of discipleship. Reason must be used, and Scripture compared with Scripture, which can result in some qualifications. But reason can and sometimes does completely gut the teaching, particularly supernatural aspects, such that we finish walking by sight, instead of by faith.