“This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” —Matthew 15:8–9
One of the largest dissimilarities between the Old & New Covenant concerns the distinguishing of God-given commandments from those given in the appearance of divine authority. During Jesus’ ministry, his followers were provided with the litmus test for determining the origin of religious commandments/doctrines:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” —Matthew 22:37–40
The Torah consists of six-hundred and thirteen laws! Can you imagine how much effort one would have to put forth in an effort to fully abide by these laws? I cannot help but wonder what portion of this Law was given as a strict code for the people of God and what portion was just meant as good advice. Could some of these laws have been mistaken as the word of God rather than the word or “commandments of men”?
Today, there are far fewer “commandments” that Christians, in general, feel obligated to keep; many of which are usually accepted just as blindly as are particular doctrines. However, in order to keep some, many must avoid another—one which requires us to test such things. (1 Thess. 5:21)
The passage at the beginning of this article gives us the means by which we can determine whether certain commandments or doctrines are of God or merely the commandments of men. If any command or doctrine fails to abide by the law of love, then it is not from God. Love never fails. If anything, whatsoever, fails to live up to the law of love, then it fails; and if we are committed to any such commandment or doctrine, then we are destined to fail along with it.
Many claim that they are not ashamed of being a fool for God; that since God’s ways are higher than ours then we cannot hope to comprehend them. “We must side with God and not man,” they say.
What does it mean to be a fool for God? Does it require blatant irrationality in defense of doctrines that we hold dear? No! If we are to be a fool for God, we are to be one in that we love when situations do not seem to call for it. We are to love with our entire being, in spite of being spat on or of being nailed to our cross. If we are to be ridiculed, it should be because of our commitment to love—regardless of the context.
Yet when we dedicate our lives to commandments and doctrines that do not promote love, we then identify more with first-century Pharisees than we do with he who founded our religion—Jesus of Nazareth; we then, legalistically, follow the Law of the Old Covenant rather than the law that God has written on our hearts—to love the Lord our God with our entire being and to love our neighbor as our ourselves.
What are your thoughts on this subject? What have you learned on your journey with the Lover of your soul? I would love to read your thoughts below. Don’t forget to share!