Dear Aebi

Charles J. Aebi

“How many commandments are there in the New Testament?”

I don't know! I never have counted them, but there are a lot more than people may think. (I once took a class at college where we were required to count and list all the sins we could find specified in the New Testament, and there were well over 100!) If we were to attempt to count and list all the commandments in the New Testament, we would first have to settle on what we would consider a commandment. A few are called commandments, like, “This is my commandment, that you love one another” (John 15:12). What about other places where it is not specified as a command? Some, like Acts 2:38 (“Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins’”), are obviously commands authorized by Christ, and we can see parallels like Acts 10:48 being called commands.

What about Paul's statements in 1 Thessalonians 5:11-22? I count at least 17 things Paul tells them (us) to do, like, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances … Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil” (16-22). These are imperatives, and though Paul says, “We ask you” and “We urge you” (12, 14) in this context, I would still have to understand all these as commands.

In Romans 12, likewise, many exhortations have the weight of commandments. I count some 34 things there that Paul said in such a way that it seems to me a command, like, “Be joyful in hope ... Share with God's people ... Practice hospitality ... Rejoice with those who rejoice ... Do not be conceited.” If these are not commandments, what would you call them?

Even a place where Paul or another inspired writer “asks” Christians to do something really amounts to a command unless it is specified as optional, like Philemon 8-10,14,21, where Paul notes that he has authority to command Philemon but is actually asking him to do it voluntarily without being forced by command to do so.

Some people like to dwell on the fact that we will do things for Christ out of love, and that is true, but how would we know even what to do unless we are told? When Christ, through his inspired apostles, does tell us what he wants us to do, is that not a command?

Is the Lord's command to be considered burdensome, or a pleasure to do? “Your wish is my command” is an oft-repeated assertion meaning that our esteem for the one wishing is such that we feel compelled to do it, not by force but by our own attitude toward that person. Is it not that way in our attitude toward Christ? Thus, we find a great many commandments, “and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3) but are our pleasure to perform. –2660 Layman Rd., Vincent, OH 45784-9730.

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