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God’s highest standard is not the Ten Commandments. His highest standard is “Love.” Now when you say this to those who insist Christians must keep the letter of the law, they often make fun of you, calling you a feel good preacher. Just preaching what itching ears want to hear. Claiming that sure we should love but there is much more to it. We must keep the letter of the law too. The truth is, those who do this do not understand that “Love” is a much higher standard than the Ten Commandments. “Love” is the only thing that fulfills the letter of all of God’s laws.
I have an intimate knowledge of the Ten Commandments. I have shared my faith with thousands of people face to face. I use the Ten Commandments to show prideful and self-righteous people their need for a Savior. The biggest mistake self-righteous people make is to compare themselves to others and conclude that if God does exist, I will be okay because there are many people worse than me. Looking at other people gives them the wrong diagnosis of their condition before God so the gospel is foolish to them. I know that God’s standard is not other people, so I spin them around and show them some of the Ten Commandments using the Good Person test. Watch it here. Everyone fails this test just like I do. This allows the unbeliever to see God’s correct standard as their conscience agrees with our talk. If they do see themselves in truth and stop justifying themselves, the good news will make sense and I present the Gospel to them.
One of the Good Person questions is if the person has ever murdered anyone? Now, most people have not, so I ask them if they have ever hated anyone. Many have, and I point out that Jesus told us that God considers hate to be murder. Therefore, in God’s eyes, they would be considered a murderer.
Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 1 John 3:15
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brotherwill be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. Matt 5: 21-22 ESV
I have given the Good Person test for years, but honestly, I did struggle to understand how hate could be murder or lust could be adultery. This, until I realized that the Ten Commandments are not God’s highest standard.
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Rom 13:8-10 ESV
In these verses in Romans, we learn the real intent of the author of the Ten Commandments. When it says that “Love” is the only thing that fulfills God’s law, it is telling us the reason, God’s intention for writing the law, was “Love.” We can see that here as it tells us the law was our guardian to protect us from each other's fallen nature and our schoolmaster to lead us to Jesus. Both, because God so loved the world.
Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian/schoolmaster until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, Gal 3:23-25 ESV (the same Greek word in the NT is used for schoolmaster and guardian)
The original intent of a written law is what is called the Spirit of the Law. The spirit is always higher than the letter. Walking by the Spirit of the law is the only thing that can truly fulfill the letter of the law. This is how Christians are to minister and walk, by the Spirit and not the letter.
who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 2 Cor 3:6-7 ESV
Since “Love” is God’s highest standard and his intent for man to walk by, now when I read that hate is murder to God, it makes perfect sense. While “hate” does not violate the letter of the law, it violates the Spirit of the law.
Enforcing the letter while ignoring the Spirit as the Pharisee’s did on a regular basis, is in violation of God’s standard, actually committing sin, no matter how well the letter is kept. The letter only tells you what not to do to your neighbor and was never God’s highest and best standard. The Pharisee’s were experts in keeping the letter of the law while violating the Spirit, and they were the ones Jesus rebuked.
Jesus raised the bar when he told us to love our enemies.
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tuniceither. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:27-36 ESV
If we are keeping the letter and not doing as Jesus instructed in these verses, we are violating God’s very intent for the letter of the law just like the Pharisee’s did for which Jesus rebuked them.
Thank God for grace: For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. Rom 6:14 ESV
Now, if the Spirit of God’s law “Love” is higher and the one thing that fulfills the letter of the law, what do you think God has written on our hearts? The lower standard of the letter or the highest standard of the Spirit?
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Cor 13:13 ESV
who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.2 Cor 3:6 ESV
Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Rom 13:8-10 ESV
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12 ESV
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. Gal 5:6 ESV
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