THE TWO COMMANDMENTS OF THE NEW COVENANT
The Ten Commandments are a primary part of our spiritual foundation. Bible believers often display them in their churches, businesses, and homes in an effort to influence others toward righteousness. God Himself introduced them in a spectacular display, proclaiming them from Mount Sinai with His thunderous voice and engraving them on tablets of stone with His fiery finger. They should be deeply respected. However, they are part of “the Law,” a system of religious, moral and lifestyle demands from the Old Covenant that Paul later called “the ministry of condemnation” and “the ministry of death” (2 Cor. 3:7-9).
Have you ever noticed that eight of those ten commands (80%) are negative—telling us what not to do? But the Messiah introduced a new approach that is 100% positive—promoting, not a sin-conscious mindset, but a God-conscious celebration of life. The New Covenant involves a transition from religion to relationship, from rules to rebirth—that spiritual awakening that takes place when we invite Jesus into our hearts (see Jn. 3:1-7, Eph. 3:17). From that point forward, the “Two Commandments of the New Covenant” should light up our lives, like the glorious dawning of a new day.
THE NATURE OF THE NEW COVENANT
An expert in the Law of Moses once asked Jesus, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” (Mt. 22:36). Bypassing 611 other commandments in the Torah (the first five books of the Bible), the Son of man replied:
“YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Mt. 22:37-40, quoting from Dt. 6:5, Lev. 19:18).
The last statement means all other commandments are upheld by these two. If we sincerely love God and love others, we will automatically refrain from lying, stealing, killing, indulging in immoral behavior, dishonoring God or harming any fellow human being. No wonder the Scripture maintains “love is the fulfillment of the Law” and “the more excellent way” (Ro. 13:10, 1 Cor. 12:31).
THE SYMBOL OF THE CROSS
When Jesus said, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets,” on a higher, symbolic level, He also could have been referring to Himself. Being the Word “made flesh,” He was actually the embodiment of the Law and the prophets (Jn. 1:14). So, in a sense, it wasn’t just wooden beams that lifted the Savior up between heaven and earth (for He could have escaped the cruelty of the cross if He had chosen to do so); it was the constraint of these two love commandments:
• The vertical beam—loving the Father
• The horizontal beam—loving a fallen human race
These two heart attitudes will hold us to the cross too, if we choose to be “crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20). As we make personal sacrifices to serve God and others, we might be found confessing, “The love of Christ compels us” (2 Cor. 5:14). Those who truly live this way often become God’s means of reclaiming and restoring this world—even to the point of being history makers and world changers. No wonder Jesus said:
“There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mk. 12:31).
JESUS SIMPLIFIED THE LAW
Jesus was God “manifested in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16). You would think Deity visiting humanity would make the practice of religion more detailed, more complicated, more demanding. Instead, Jesus simplified it. In a sense, He took the Ten Commandments, inscribed on two tablets of stone, and reduced them to Two Commandments inscribed on one tablet of stone—the “tablet” of the human heart (Pr. 3:3; 7:3).
Instead of the external demand of religious regulations, Jesus introduced the awesome blessing of internal transformation, a “new and living way” that would impart to His own forgiveness and an infilling of the divine nature (Heb. 10:20). Once this happens, we are called to “walk in love,” imitating the character of the firstborn Son, forgiving one another even as God in Christ has forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32; 5:1-2).
This is “the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3).
JESUS EXALTED THE LAW
Isaiah also foretold the Messiah would “exalt the law and make it honorable” (Is. 42:21). To exalt means to elevate or to increase in quality or power. Jesus accomplished this—He elevated the law to a higher, more honorable, more powerful place, by taking it from a primary emphasis of outer actions to a primary emphasis of inner attitudes (see Mt 5:21-28, 1 Jn. 3:14-15; 4:7-21). Old Testament prophets foresaw this wonderful era when the Most High would supernaturally empower both Jews and Gentiles to be true “lovers of God” (2 Tim. 3:4).
Moses predicted, “And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live” (Dt. 30:6).
Jeremiah prophesied, “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a New Covenant . . . I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts” (Jer. 31:31, 33).
Ezekiel foretold, “Thus says the Lord God . . . I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you” (Ezk. 36:22, 26).
So this was God’s idea, not ours—something He initiated, and a gift He delights to give. Certainly there were many under the Old Covenant who had a passion to love and serve the God of Abraham, but now this capacity has been dramatically increased, for “the love of God has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Ro. 5:5, see Ro. 8:15, Gal. 4:6).
GOD’S PERSONALITY PERMEATES HIS KINGDOM
In the Gospel of Mark, a scribe agreed with this revelation, saying to Jesus:
“Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God . . . And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices” (Mk. 12:32-33).
When Jesus heard him express such God-breathed wisdom, He said:
“You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
God’s kingdom is that invisible, spiritual domain in which the Creator dwells. It was not accessible to people until the resurrection and ascension of the Crucified One. For to enter that kingdom, a person must be cleansed from sin by the blood of Jesus and born of the Spirit (born again)—something Titus 3:5 calls, “the washing of regeneration.” When the Holy Spirit fell in the upper room and filled 120 believers, it happened—and supernaturally they were “translated . . . into the kingdom of God’s dear Son” (Col. 1:13 KJV).
From that day forward, all who genuinely repent and believe in the Son of God have access into that kingdom where they encounter the “love of Christ which passes knowledge” (Eph. 3:19). When He was on the earth, Jesus prayed that believers would be filled with this divine love, saying:
"O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them” (Jn. 17:25-26).
Now, all we need to do is receive Jesus into our hearts and make Him Lord of our lives. Then we are encouraged to believe in His promises and accept the inheritance that has already been laid up for us, including this awe-inspiring and inexpressible gift of everlasting love.
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