Every Command is a Gospel Command

A few years back, I remember hearing a young man ask the question at a youth retreat, “How far is too far to go with a girl?” The other leaders answered, “Well, you know when it’s too far,” or, “I wouldn’t even touch the girl until we got married,” and on and on.

But God reminded me at that moment that we aren’t primarily commanded to “do stuff” in the Bible, for doing stuff can never save us (not even from staining our purity before God). Lots of folks think the Bible is a list of rules (“DO pray; DON’T sleep around”), and that’s true to a point. There are lots of good rules. But it’s not ultimately true or good without the gospel.

Take John 20:30-31 for instance,

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

John could have written down a lot of other things for a lot of other reasons, but he tells us that by the Holy Spirit he wrote down what he did “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ.”

“But wait,” you say, “There is something there that we’re supposed to ‘do.’ It says we will have life.” Yes, I say, it does say we’ll have life “in [Christ’s] name,” and by particular means “by believing.” Whatever things we have or do is by trusting on Jesus and living by faith in Him.

This is not “Do Stuff.” It is the gospel.

Take again for an example Colossians 3. Paul will go on in verses 5-25 (and into chapter 4) to lay out several specifics in how Christians are to live: kill your own immorality, stop lying, be humble and kind to each other, forgive each other, live thankfully, work hard. But the way God lays those commands out and frames them in the gospel is utterly important.

Notice the first four verses:

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Under God’s Spirit, Paul begins the section by writing, “If then you have been raised with Christ.” The command of seeking heavenly things is couched in the reality of being raised with Jesus. Knowing His resurrection is the foundation of the command. The command is a gospel command.

Paul goes on to say that our lives are dead to this world and hidden with God because we died with Christ and He is hidden with God. We are to live out the truths of the gospel by believing these facts. Jesus is risen; all who believe are His.

These are gospel commands.

We could multiply examples:

  • In Ephesians 4:32, God tells us to forgive each other and be kind, as He in Christ forgave us.
  • Hebrews 10:19-25 tells us to draw near to God, hold fast to the faith, stir up each other to love, and continue meeting together because Jesus gave us entrance to God by His shed blood and constant intercession as high priest.
  • Even as Jesus commands anyone who would come after Him in Luke 9:23 to deny his own self, take up their cross daily, and follow after Christ, He is demanding that we believe His reward is better than life. Even in semi-cryptic terms, we must believe in the cross and the resurrection.

Sooner or later in the Bible, every command is a gospel command. The whole book is about one main event – the cross and the resurrection – in the life of its one main character, Jesus Christ.

So don’t believe those little children’s ditties and inscriptions on Christian paraphernalia that tell you the Bible is a list of rules. That looks true on the face but is rotten to the core. It only produces Pharisees. The Bible is a book about Jesus, and even when it tells us to do what is right, it is really telling us to live out what we believe and who we believe.

So back to my example (and you may be appalled that I left it alone for this long – what an issue!) – I did tell that young man that there were commands and standards, but I told him there were clear orders because of Jesus. Not because I say so or somebody else does, but because Jesus is risen. If you are to make a claim on Christ, you have to walk with Him by faith. His yoke is easy and His burden is light, because His commands are built on the gospel.

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About B Treece
loved by God before I ever loved Him, saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone by the authority of the Bible alone to the glory of God alone, made to enjoy Him forever, happily married with wonder-filled children.

One Response to Every Command is a Gospel Command

  1. Pingback: Psalm 119: Life from the Word « Your Cross on My Back

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