Through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, God provided for the salvation of all mankind. Mercy and Grace is given to all who accept Him. They, then, pass from death to life, from sin to righteousness, from darkness to light. They won’t be condemned in judgment because Christ will be their representative (John 5:24; 1 John 2:1).
In the light of this new covenant relationship, Jesus says, “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)
God has been guiding the universe with one overriding law for all eternity, the law of Love (1 John 4:8). All laws that God has ever given have pointed to, and come from this law because this law is a transcript of His character. Flowing out of this law of love, came the two great laws: Love God and Love your neighbor. From that, God gave to humans on earth ten specific laws of how to love God and to love one another (Exodus 20:1-17). They are known, of course, as The Ten Commandments. And unlike many of the other laws given to ancient Israel, these are the bedrock for Christian living because they describe Christ's character in a fallen world. The principles behind them are eternal, enduring, and universal.
When Adam and Eve sinned, their moral compass was immediately shaken. How was an immature Adam and Eve, who had been slingshot into sin, supposed to understand the depths of love in the law? How was a world alienated from God going to understand true love? Humanity’s definition of “love” was askew, their definition of “holiness” lost, the definition of “good and evil” confused. There was an unnatural war within every human between good and evil but lines between them had become, for humans, blurred.
God had a plan, however. It would involve an ever-growing revelation of His character and the law of love (Ephesians 3:5), which reflects His character. It would eventually reveal the definition of true love. It would set right God’s love and allow people an informed choice. It would allow time for evil to show its true colors. It would also prepare a world for judgment. God was going to progressively, as it has been said, “lay down the law.”
Love In Law
It started in Eden immediately after sin. Before sin, the man and woman were naked and unashamed (Genesis 2:25); after sin, they immediately hid, ashamed of what before had been pure and holy. They hid, too, because they were ashamed for their selfishness. They hid because they realized that they were not gods and were afraid of the true God. They hid because they were afraid of dying at the hands of an angry God.
God, though, implemented plans to redeem them (Gen. 3:15), even though they would suffer from their actions. Eve’s desire for power and knowledge led to submission (Genesis 3:16). Adam’s lack of faith in God led to him working the soil and hoping the cursed ground would provide for them (Genesis 3:17-19). God provided clothes for them from the death of animals (Genesis 3:21), and then gave them the promises of a Messiah, who would be prefigured and foreshadowed in the death of these animals. The law of love was, in Eden, already at work.
Later God opened the law up further when He declared, from on top of Mount Sinai, the Ten Commandments to Israel (Exodus 20:1-17). God’s commands, first given to Adam and Eve, had been all but forgotten, and so they were repeated to His people there, who had long been in bondage and slavery.
God gave 613 laws to the nation of Israel, who was to be God’s mouthpiece to the world. These are included in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. The Jews knew this as “The Mosaic Law,” or “The Law of Moses.” Ten of the 613 laws were special, the Ten Commandments. They were a moral compass that reflected the character of God. They were so special that God spoke them with His own voice, wrote them with His own finger, and put them inside the ark of the covenant in God’s house.
The cover of that box was called “The Mercy Seat” and it was a representation of His throne. God had given men many laws that would point to Jesus. But the Ten Commandments were a moral code that would remain as long as humanity existed on earth (Matthew 5:18). They would be the clearest reflection of Christ until He would come in person.
Reflection of Christ
Even through the 613 laws, God would bring humanity a step closer to understanding love and equality. There were laws that showed the principles and values of God's Kingdom. Jesus calls many of these, "The weightier matters of the law" (Matthew 23:23), and they include justice, mercy, and faith. But even these were still not complete. It would be a long road to help humanity understand the principles of love within the law. Israel, for hundreds of years, broke many of the laws and ended up in exile in Assyria and Babylon.
Eventually, the Hebrew people returned to their nation and, having been punished for having disobeyed the law, they were determined to keep it, no matter what. But the law, and keeping the law, became an end in and of itself, instead of a means to an end; and that end was to experience for themselves and then reveal to others, the love of God. Instead, they focused on improving their own image by keeping the law. They turned the law into longer lists of dos and don’ts. They started to believe that it was the law that gave them life, and that the law would save them. The truth was, however, the opposite; the law only condemned them, showing them the need of a Savior.
Then God sent His son. Jesus explained and fulfilled the law. Many of the teachings of Jesus are about understanding and obeying the Ten Commandments. Matthew 5, 6, and 12, and Mark 7 and 12 show how Jesus viewed the law of God. Jesus taught that the Ten Commandments go far beyond the plain reading to a deeper spiritual application. To look at someone lustfully is to commit adultery in your heart (Matthew 5:28); to be anxious and to trust in wealth instead of God is to serve an idol (Matthew 6:24-34); to not take care of your elderly parents is to dishonor them (Mark 7:9-13); and to do good on the Sabbath is to keep the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-14).
Far from disbanding the Ten Commandments, Jesus showed how central they are in revealing what love is, really, about.
Jesus also defined what the most important parts of the law are: Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:28-31).
Jesus says that the entire Old Testament is summed up in these two laws. The first of these principles is revealed in the first four commandments of the Ten. They showed God in His rightful position and our duty to Him. They define a selfless surrender to Him. They show that the most important thing to God is love.
Then, as revealed in the next six, they embrace a transition of that same selfless love toward all of humanity. Loving your neighbor is an outward expression of your love for God (1 John 4:20). It is not simply performed by you; it is implanted by Christ in you and then flows out of you as you abide in Him and He abides in you.
Jesus spent His whole ministry trying to help the disciples understand these principles of love.
On the final night before His crucifixion, Christ washed His disciples’ feet, and then spoke to them the principles of the kingdom: they should love each other and serve each other, and by their doing that, people would know that they were followers of Jesus. He says that this self-sacrificing humble service would be what unified them with God and with each other. (You can read about this at length in John 13-17).
Only after Jesus ascended into heaven did they begin to understand. It was slow going but, eventually, they got there. They begin to have such a grasp of the nature of the Kingdom of God that John pens the most profound words in the entire Bible: God is Love (1 John 4:8).
This is the eternal truth from which all the laws of the universe stem. God is Love, and His actions and Word define love as selfless humble service that puts others ahead of ourselves (Philippians 2).
Out of the Eternal Law of Love, which is as concise as LOVE!, flows the two great laws: Love God and Love mankind. This is expanded upon in the Ten Moral Principles given to humanity as the Ten Commandments. All the laws given to us beyond the command to love are given to explain what God means when He says “Love!” All of these are defined by humble self-sacrifice.