Jesus said that if we don’t become converted and become as children, we shall not see the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3). What does God require of us?
We find in the Bible, One who was able to fulfill all that was written concerning the Messiah in the first advent. In Matthew 5:17, 18, Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Jesus said He came to fulfill the law, to fill up its righteousness, to live in perfect accord or perfect conformity with that which was written concerning Him. Many of the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ time were attempting to fulfill the law and the prophets, but in their own strength.
A Jewish rabbi was the first to count and document that there are 613 commandments in the Old Testament. These consist of at least 34 different categories of commandments dealing with family, civil laws, ceremonies, business, and different realms of life. One commandment was to not strike a father or a mother; another one was to not curse either of them. To honor both your mother and your father is vital to both the family and also society.
There were commandments dealing with clothing. One of the commandments of the Old Testament in the Torah was that a man should not wear women’s clothing and a woman was not to wear men’s clothing. Consider how society is turning nowadays with men and women becoming so confused as to who they are. It would be foolish to think that clothing has nothing to do with affecting the mind. Each generation and culture has some kind of a bearing upon what a man should wear and what a woman should wear. Nevertheless, principles have been laid down in the Bible.
Within the list of 613 commandments were guidelines for selling and redeeming slaves. The list goes on. Jesus summarized the law and the prophets in Matthew 7:12 when He said, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” Whatever you want someone to do to you, you should do to others. It sounds simple, but the problem, of course, is that the carnal heart gets in the way because it is prone to selfishness. Its reaction is more or less that whatsoever men do to me, I’m going to do to them, whether I’ve been robbed, or cheated, lied to, or despised. Christ says, “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.”
Throughout the ministry of Jesus the devil continually attempted to get Him to trip up and fail in His mission to accomplish the plan that He and His Father had devised before this world was created. Satan often used with great success the religious leaders and those who were educated. One day a lawyer appeared to Jesus with the question: “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” Matthew 22:36. The Pharisees were so stuck on all the dos and don’ts in their attempt to be so particular and righteous, but Christ simply answered, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Verses 37–40.
All of the 613 commandments, rules and regulations plus many more that the Pharisees added, can be summed up in loving the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, with all your attention, with all your focus, and loving your neighbor as you would yourself.
There are many within the Christian world that use this very passage in Matthew to say that the Old Testament has been done away with, even the Ten Commandment laws. They say that all we have to do is love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love our neighbor as ourselves. We do not need to worry about the Old Testament with its ten commandments because Jesus gave us only two.
Interestingly, these two commandments were also in the Old Testament. “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” Deuteronomy 6:5. Jesus answered the lawyer’s question directly from the Old Testament.
We are not to think Jesus taught that the moral law no longer applied just because He said, “This is the first commandment; love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” What He did teach is that the whole law, including the 613 different commandments as well as the ten given on Mount Sinai are summed up in these two. The Bible says that love is the fulfilling of the law and if we should learn this vital principle, the love of God, then as Paul says, we walk according to the Spirit, against which there is no condemnation.
In Leviticus 19:18, the Bible says, “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.” We see again that Jesus quoted from the Old Testament. The exhortation is for us to love the Lord our God, to put Him first because He is supreme, and then to love our neighbour as ourselves.
“The principles of the ten commandments existed before the fall, and were of a character suited to the condition of a holy order of beings. After the fall, the principles of those precepts were not changed, but additional precepts were given to meet man in his fallen state.” Spiritual Gifts, vol. 3, 295. The Bible teaches that the law of God is eternal. It was in existence before the creation of man. God’s throne is everlasting. He who has a throne has a government and all governments have laws.
God always wanted to keep it simple, but man’s fall into sin made it necessary to be more explicit with instructions that covered every aspect of life. He saw that the natural heart cannot love and man’s heart would become cold and unloving. It was in mercy that He spelled out how to love Him and how to love our fellow man.
Today, God still wants to keep it simple. “Every soul must daily seek the Lord with full purpose of heart, morning, noon, and night, and let the mind dwell upon the word of God, to understand His requirements.
“The one all-important matter is to serve the Lord with full purpose of heart, and seek to become the Lord’s, heart and mind.” This Day With God, 128.
God is to be the supreme ruler in our lives. Every idol must be cast out of our hearts. The love for money, or for materialistic things, or the love for power, or fame, or whatever else it may be, must be dethroned. We must love God supremely. Only then is it possible to love our neighbor as ourselves. There are many who say they have a very good relationship with God, but for some reason they are as far apart from their neighbor as the east is from the west. Could it be an indication that their relationship with God is lacking?
In Micah 6:8 we are told: “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” This means to do what is right, and to give what is due to others. Knowing what is just and right involves being honest; it involves integrity, faithfulness and fairness. These are the characteristics that God expects us to have in our lives and to display them in our relationships with others. The wise man said, “To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” Proverbs 21:3.
Employers or leaders are to be given respect, but at the same time they ought to do what is just and fair and equal for those over whom they govern. This also applies to households where parents are to be just and fair to their children. In return the children should honor and respect their parents. “Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.” Colossians 4:1.
The Bible is full of instruction and words of encouragement to enlighten us as to what we should do when treated unfairly. Paul said, “Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren.” I Corinthians 6:7, 8. Again, he counsels on this point when he said: “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is Mine; I will repay.” Romans 12:19. There may well be times when you are treated unfairly, but it is not for you to seek vengeance and repay. Leave it with the Lord who will work out all things according to His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). “Say not thou, I will recompense evil; but wait on the Lord, and He shall save thee.” Proverbs 20:22.
There is much inequality in this world and many people are mistreated or wronged and treated with unfairness or injustice and much patience is needed. In time, God will work it all out; He says to wait on His judgment; vengeance is His.
God has promised to give wisdom to those who ask (James 1:5) for particular situations. Remember, nobody has been treated with more unfairness than Jesus. Peters said, “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth: Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously.” I Peter 2:21–23.
When Jesus was mistreated, spat upon, mocked, ridiculed, and tempted in every point, He never once retaliated, but committed Himself into the hands of His Father, leaving us an example.
God requires of us to do what is just, to have fairness, to be faithful in our dealings with one another, to be honest and to act always with integrity. These are the characteristics that instilled in His people will last forever. Just as He demonstrates toward us, He also wants us to love mercy. Loving mercy means to execute kindness, compassion, forbearance, and forgiveness. Jesus gives a blessing to those who love mercy. “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain [or receive] mercy.” Matthew 5:7.
We can read an account of this in the parable that Jesus gave in Matthew 18:23–35. There was a certain servant who owed his master 10,000 talents. That amount has been estimated to be worth a year’s revenue of the entire economy of Palestine at the time. In other words, it was a debt that was huge and impossible for the man to repay. He came to his master and asked for more time so he could pay it back. Unwilling to do so, the master commanded that he be sold, along with his children and all that he had until the debt could be paid off.
He pled with his master to be patient with him so he could repay the debt. The Bible says that the master was moved with compassion and forgave him all the debt; yet this same servant went out and found someone who owed him a pence, which is estimated to be worth less than a penny. When his servant requested that he be patient with him to repay his debt, the forgiven servant showed no mercy and had him put into jail with all that he had until the debt could be repaid. When other servants heard what had been done to his fellow servant they were sorry and went and told the master all that had happened.
The forgiven man was called back into the presence of his master who said to him, “O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.” Matthew 18:32–34.
We all have a great debt to God, one that is impossible to repay. Yet we fail to love mercy and to show compassion to someone who may be in debt to us, someone who may owe us, someone who needs our compassion, someone who needs our forgiveness. Notice what the Bible says in Matthew 6:14, 15: “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Here we read that for us to be forgiven, it is vital that we have a forgiving attitude and a forgiving spirit toward those who may have offended us in any way. If we lack compassion and forgiveness, we also will not receive mercy on the day of reckoning.
In the book Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, 113, 114, it says, “He who is unforgiving cuts off the very channel through which alone he can receive mercy from God. We should not think that unless those who have injured us confess the wrong we are justified in withholding from them our forgiveness. It is their part, no doubt, to humble their hearts by repentance and confession; but we are to have a spirit of compassion toward those who have trespassed against us, whether or not they confess their faults.”
“For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” Matthew 7:2. We are forgiven as we forgive. We are shown mercy as we show mercy. But not only are we to do justice and love mercy, we ought to walk humbly with God. That walk involves lowliness, humility, meekness, and gentleness, which are the characteristics of God.
Another blessing for those who walk humbly and exhibit meekness is found in Matthew 5:5. The Bible says, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” I remember first learning this as a new Christian. It impressed me so much because it was an attribute that I lacked. I was not meek and I was not humble. In fact, even though I did not have much, I was still proud. All who are not under the control of the Holy Spirit but under the spirit of Satan exhibit pride in some form. Jesus says that the meek are going to be the ones who will live forever. Often times people mistake meekness for weakness. However, the truth is just the opposite. It takes much spiritual strength to manifest meekness when being taunted or mocked.
The apostle Paul said, “Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.” I Corinthians 8:1, last part. Often knowledge causes people to become prideful and self sufficient, but Jesus said, “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3.
Jesus told another parable when He was invited to a dinner at a Pharisee’s house. Noticing how the men were taking the best places, He told His disciples that when they are invited to a function not to sit in the best place because someone more important might also be invited and they will be asked to give up their place and be relegated to the lowest place. Instead, He said, choose the least until invited to a more exalted position. (See Luke 14:7–10.) This action could save you from much embarrassment. It is not for man to exalt himself above his brethren. “For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” Luke 14:11.
In I Peter 5:5 we are told that we all must be clothed with humility. It says, “Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.”
There are three requirements the Lord has for man: “to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8 NKJV. To simplify it even further Jesus tells us in 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.”
Jesus demonstrated His love for mankind when He voluntarily left the admiration of heavenly beings and the riches that He had in heaven and became a poor man. He gave it all up; He sacrificed heaven for sinful man. He loved us by spending entire nights in prayer for us and He calls us to love others as He loved us. How often are we spending time in prayer for one another? What are we willing to sacrifice for one another? Christ says, “Love one another as I have loved you.”
The Bible says, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13. It is that type of love, self-sacrificing love, that God wants us to have. Not only did Jesus love us enough to lay down His life but He “ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25) who love Him. If it were not for the fact that Christ is still living, still mediating and interceding for us as High Priest, we would not exist today. It is only by the grace of God that we are here and it is only by the grace of God that we are sustained. One sin would have blotted us out forever, but we have a High Priest. “Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire” (Zechariah 3:2, last part)? Jesus wants to remove our filthy garments of sin and clothe us with a change of raiment, His robe of righteousness (verses 3, 4).
The Bible says that in his generation, Moses was the meekest man on earth. The Israelites were on the borders of Canaan when they began to complain to God. They were tired of being in the wilderness because they said there was no water and no food that they liked. They were tired of the manna that God rained to sustain them. Their complaints displeased the Lord and He sent fiery serpents among them that bit many of them, causing them to die. They cried out to the Lord in repentance asking Moses to pray for them. In his mediatorial role as a priest in his time, Moses prayed for his people. God said to him, “Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.” Numbers 21:8. That same exhortation is for us today. John the Baptist said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” John 1:36. We must look to Jesus, Who is the only solution to this world’s problems and our only Way to salvation. Only as we are clothed with His righteousness, only as we possess His Spirit and are possessed of Him can we keep His commandments, can we love mercy, do justice, and walk humbly with Him.
Remember, the Jews had all these commandments and tried to do them in their own strength. The science they failed to understand was to simply surrender their hearts and love God and love their neighbors.
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:14, 15. The question remains, Do we truly believe? Have we truly committed our lives to Jesus? Are we looking to Him who was lifted up on the cross and are we prepared to receive the healing that we need?
Jesus said, “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.” John 12:32. Look to Him. “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.” Revelation 5:12.
Bible texts are from the King James Version unless otherwise noted.
Demario Carter is currently working as a Bible worker for Steps to Life.