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Jesus and His Apostles Affirm the Need to Obey God's Commandments

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In Matthew 19:16 Matthew 19:16And, behold, one came and said to him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
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, Jesus was asked what must be done to inherit eternal life. His answer: “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (verse 17). Jesus then listed several, including enough of the Ten Commandments to make clear which commandments He meant: “'You shall not murder,' 'You shall not commit adultery,' 'You shall not steal,' 'You shall not bear false witness,' 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself'” (verses 18-19).

Today some people will tell you that keeping the commandments was fulfilled by Christ and obeying God's law is therefore no longer required. But notice what Jesus Himself had to say about this idea: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17 Matthew 5:17Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.
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).

Some try to deny His plain, simple statement by interpreting the verse to mean the law was not abolished until Jesus came and fulfilled it. They then interpret “fulfill” as “bringing to an end,” “superseding” or some other synonym for “abolishing.” In essence they have Jesus saying, “I did not come to abolish the law, but to abolish it.”

Jesus, on the other hand, said heaven and earth would disappear before the smallest part of the law would do so (verse 18). He said the law would continue until everything is accomplished. Because the fulfillment of many biblical prophecies of Christ's second coming is yet to occur (the prophecies have not yet been accomplished), we know the law has not ceased to exist.

The truth of the matter is that Jesus was speaking to people who believed in keeping all of the Ten Commandments. He reaffirmed the necessity for all who come to Him to do likewise. In Matthew chapters 5-7 Jesus explained how God intended for the Ten Commandments to be kept. By giving this explanation and exemplifying it in His life, He was fulfilling a prophecy about Himself from Isaiah 42:21 Isaiah 42:21The LORD is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honorable.
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: “The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness' sake; he will magnify the law and make it honorable” (King James Version).

The word fulfill in Matthew 5:17 Matthew 5:17Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.
American King James Version×
means “fill up,” “make full,” “fill to the full” or “complete.” Jesus came to magnify, or fill completely full, the meaning of God's law. Jesus' teaching that a man who lusts after a woman has already committed adultery in his mind represented Jesus' magnification of all of the Ten Commandments. He explained the full meaning—the spiritual intent—of the commandments. He showed that He expects more than just a legalistic, letter-of-the-law approach; He also expects a submissive, yielded mind focused on love for God and love for our fellow man.

Jesus further clarifies: “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (verse 19).

Clearly, fulfill does not mean “abolish”!

Another common misunderstanding is that the New Testament Church came to believe that it is not necessary to follow Christ's example of obeying the law. But His apostles, who were personally taught by Him, certainly did not agree with this idea.

The apostle John said: “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 1 John 2:3-6 3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 He that said, I know him, and keeps not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps his word, in him truly is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. 6 He that said he stays in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.
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).

Even the apostle Paul, who is most often cited by those attempting to do away with God's law, himself refuted this erroneous idea, saying, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1 1 Corinthians 11:1Be you followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
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). Far from condemning the law, Paul said, “The law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good” (Romans 7:12 Romans 7:12Why the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
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) and, “I delight in the law of God” (Romans 7:22 Romans 7:22For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
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). Indeed, he said that “keeping the commandments of God is what matters” (1 Corinthians 7:19 1 Corinthians 7:19Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.
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).

We must avoid reading our own ideas into the Bible. Quoting from the prophet Isaiah, our Savior warned against trusting our own ideas instead of the laws of God: “'This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.' For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men … All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition” (Mark 7:6-9 Mark 7:6-9 6 He answered and said to them, Well has Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. 7 However, in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. 8 For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things you do. 9 And he said to them, Full well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your own tradition.
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).

We, too, must be sure we follow Christ's example instead of our own ideas!

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