16 ¶ He that keepeth the commandment keepeth his own soul; but he that despiseth his ways shall die.
The “his ways” indicate that this is regarding the rule of the Lord, all the words of His command. To the Hebrew this was specifically referring to the commands that God had given them through Moses in the establishment of a kingdom of heaven on earth, with God as the king. They rejected what God intended to establish by demanding a human king (1 Samuel 8:4-22). Constantly, all through the Old Testament the Hebrews, the Jews, rebelled against God’s commandments and there were many commandments whose violation thereof required the death penalty. Finally, given the opportunity of having God Himself come to earth in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, pay the price for their sin, and receiving Him as their Saviour, and being forgiven, they rejected that as well. In 1 Thessalonians 2:16 Paul makes a chilling statement regarding the condition of the Jewish people for the last 2,000 years when he says, “….for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.” In spite of that, God has a place for them in his plan for the earth and the world of people who inhabit it at the end of history.
For the Christian the question comes up, “what commandments must we keep?” Well, your salvation is contingent upon no commandment but upon your reliance upon Christ’s righteousness and belief in His resurrection in order for you to dwell with God forever and ever.
Romans 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
And again, to the Philippian jailer, Paul makes it clear;
Acts 16:31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
Christians are to keep the commandments of God because they are saved, not in order to get saved, or to stay saved. But, which commandments of all of those hundreds of rules and regulations given to the physical kingdom of heaven on earth are to be followed by the dwellers of the spiritual and invisible kingdom of God in which Christians live?
Jesus boiled down the essence of all of the Old Testament for the Jews in one discussion.
Matthew 22:34 ¶ But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. 35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, 36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
For the Christian, the missionary to the Gentiles, Paul, gives many admonitions in the books written specifically to us from Romans to Philemon. Such admonitions provide the ethical standards by which we who have trusted Christ are supposed to live, such as for example;
1 Thessalonians 5:11 ¶ Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do. 12 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; 13 And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves. 14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. 15 See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.
16 ¶ Rejoice evermore. 17 Pray without ceasing. 18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 19 Quench not the Spirit. 20 Despise not prophesyings. 21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.
23 ¶ And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.
And again in Romans Paul makes the commandments clear that we are to follow;
Romans 13:7 ¶ Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. 8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. 9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
Jesus Himself gave all of His followers an additional commandment.
John 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
This is expounded on by Paul in his mini-sermon about the value of the Christian’s love toward other Christians, and by acts of kindness and benevolence to all mankind. (Peter defines charity in 1 Peter 4:8 and 2 Peter 1:7, Paul in 2 Thessalonians 1:3). As you can see by verse 3, charity is not about our modern definition of throwing money at someone to appease our consciences.
1 Corinthians 13:1 ¶ Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
4 ¶ Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
8 ¶ Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. 11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
Paul declares also that this charity is the essence of what makes a Christian complete.
Colossians 3:14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.
While a commandment requires obedience, there is little hope of having the capacity to follow the commandment without an attitude that is the foundation of obedience. That attitude for the Christian cannot be achieved without the Spirit of Christ, of God, dwelling in you. The evidence, what the fruit that Christ’s Spirit that dwells in the Christian produces, is clear.
Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.
Our commandment from God is to live in the Spirit, to walk in the Spirit, and to obey His commandments for the Christian. Pray, read, and hear to speak to God and have Him speak to you. Keep His commandments and care for your soul. You can’t lose your salvation but that is for another lesson.
Now, this Proverb, was written specifically to the Hebrews under the Law. It requires a bit of a stretch to apply it to Christians. The nature of our governance is different. We have a lot more “home rule”, so to speak, than the Jews did as God intended to establish a kingdom on earth from which His blessings would flow, and He will still accomplish that in the future. However, in this age of the church, the body of Christ, of all believers on earth, with Christ, the head of the church, in heaven, we are under a different set of rules. Our commandments don’t require outward obedience first as outward obedience is not the essence of what God wants from us. Our commandment requires a spiritual change of heart first, a new creature, as our old man cannot obey. Didn’t the Hebrews prove that?
How is this change of attitude affected after one receives Christ as their very personal Saviour? By the scriptures themselves is this change effected. I keep saying it over and over again because you’re not listening.
John 17:17 Sanctify (set apart for God’s purpose) them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
God holds His words in very high regard as being very important.
Psalm 138:2 I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.
He has preserved them for us;
Psalm 12:6 The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. 7 Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.
And even under the Law given to Moses, the psalmist knew what was necessary for him not to sin against God, to keep God’s commandments.
Psalm 119:11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
Christian, if you love God, if you have been saved by Him, then, in order to obey Him, get His word in your heart and keep it there.