Was He referring to the ten commandments in the Old Testament?

John.14.15 (NKJV) "If you love Me, keep My commandments.

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In the New Testament the word commandment(s) (Greek: “entole”) refers to the commandments usually within the “law” which are explicit commands contained in the Torah. Such commands obviously include the Ten Commandments but are certainly not confined to just these ten. For example:

  • “Commandment” can mean any (or all) of the requirements contained in the Torah (Matt 5:17-19) and the Old Testament more generally. See also Luke 1:6.
  • Matt 22:36, Jesus is asked which is the greatest commandment and replies (Matt 22:37-40, Mark 12:29-31) that there are two about love (Deut 6:5 & Lev 19:18). Neither come from the 10 commandments. Other examples of divine commandments that are not part of the 10 commandments include: John 13:34, 15:10, 12, 1 Cor 14:37, Heb 7:5, 16, 18, 1 John 2:3, 4, 7, 8, 3:22-24, 4:21, 5:2, 3, 2 John 4, 5
  • However, the New Testament also explicitly refers to various of the 10 commandments such as, Matt 15:3, 19:17-19, Mark 7:8-10, 10:5-7, 19, Luke 18:20, 23:56, Rom 7:8-13, 13:9, Eph 6:2
  • “Command” or “Commandment” can also mean an instruction from God the Father to Jesus: John 10:18, 12:49, 50, 15:10.
  • The word can also mean an instruction/order from a human that is unrelated to the Torah: Luke 15:29, John 11:57, Acts 17:15, Col 4:10, 1 Tim 6:14, Col 1:14
  • In 1 Cor 7:19 Paul distinguishes between the law of circumcision and the commandments of God! There is a similar inference in Eph 2:15 where, again, Paul appears to distinguish between the ceremonial commandments and the “other” (more important?) commandments.
  • In Heb 9:19 it is unclear if the “commandments” are just the ceremonial commandments or the all of the various regulations in the Levitical code.
  • “Sacred Commandment” (2 Peter 2:21) is used as a kind of collective noun for all Christian ethical life. In 2 Peter 3:2 there is a similar use that may allude to John 13:34. See also John 15:10, 12, 1 John 2:2, 3:22-24, 5:2, 3, 2 John 6, Rev 12:17, 14:12.

Therefore, as far as the relationship between God and man is concerned, God's commandments or Jesus' commandments are invariably based on His moral requirements that springs from love, John 13:34, 35, Matt 22:34-40.

Some wit has actually tabulated the commandments in the NT and by their count (not mine) there are 1050 of them. See https://www.abc.net.au/reslib/201407/r1308729_17984331.pdf and https://www.cai.org/bible-studies/1050-new-testament-commands and https://www.facebook.com/notes/the-real-truth-movement/the-1050-new-testament-commandmentslaws/690826194404882/ and http://www.wholebible.com/NT_commandments.htm and http://www.biblicalresearchreports.com/gods-commands-in-the-new-testament/

However, on closer inspection, all the 1050 commandments in the NT are, again, based on the moral law that springs from love. Note the imperatives in 1 John 4:

  • V11 - Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
  • V19 - We love because He first loved us.
  • V21 - And we have this commandment from Him: Whoever loves God must love his brother as well.

The primary command he gave was:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34–35, ESV)

He illustrated this command when he washed the disciples' feet (John 13:1-17). See What does washing of the feet symbolize in John 13:10? Matt. 5:43-48 shows the extent of loving one another to love one's enemies. Jesus commands to make disciples.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:19–20, ESV)

See What is the best translation of the participles in the Great Commission, Matt. 28:19-20?

The Greatest Commandment is:

But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:34–40)

Jesus illustrated this with the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). See Given the dynamics of the words πλησίον and רֵעַ, what did Jesus illustrate with the Good Samaritan?

I don't recall Jesus giving it as an actual commandment, but it is implied:

Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (John 6:28–29, ESV)

Probably he does in John 14:1:

Ye believe … believe also (πιστευετεελλιψκαι πιστευετε...και πιστευετε [pisteuete...kai pisteuete]). So translated as present active indicative plural second person and present active imperative of πιστευω [pisteuō]. The form is the same. Both may be indicative (ye believe … and ye believe), both may be imperative (believe … and believe or believe also), the first may be indicative (ye believe) and the second imperative (believe also), the first may be imperative (keep on believing) and the second indicative (and ye do believe, this less likely). Probably both are imperatives (Mark 11:22), “keep on believing in God and in me.” -- Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Jn 14:1). Broadman Press.


It has to be stressed that John deliberately has Jesus dissociating himself from the OT laws three times (three witnesses).

John 8:17 It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true.

John 10:34 Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?

John 15:25 But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.

In contrast, Jesus' own commandment(s) is a new one, and it replaces all the previous ones.

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.

Love fulfils all the OT laws.

Romans 13:10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Galatians 5:14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.


The way that most Christians have interpreted this verse is an example of spiritual dyslexia (a disorder that can cause a seeming reversal of words when reading).

Jesus did not say that keeping His commandments would cause us to love Him but rather loving Him would cause us to keep His commandments. This same thing is true of John’s statements in 1 John 2:3-4.

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