This is how we know that we know him: if we keep his commandments. 4 One who says, “I know him,” and doesn’t keep his commandments, is a liar, and the truth isn’t in him. 5 But God’s love has most certainly been perfected in whoever keeps his word. This is how we know that we are in him: 6 he who says he remains in him ought himself also to walk just like he walked. (1 John 2:3-6)

Does this mean that there are commandments that Christians must keep? What are those commandments? What are some examples of things that Christians must do? (Please provide references.)

Brothers, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning. 8 Again, I write a new commandment to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light already shines. (1 John 2:7-8)

Is the old commandment the Torah? That is what the Jews had from the beginning. Is John encouraging people to follow the Torah?

What does he mean when he says that he is not writing a new commandment but he is writing a new commandment?

The world is passing away with its lusts, but he who does God’s will remains forever. (1 John 2:17)

Did God express His will in the Tanakh? Is John talking about doing God's will as expressed in the Tanakh?

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    Indeed, counted this way, the NT has more divine commandments than the OT by far!!
    – Dottard
    Commented May 17 at 3:54
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    And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. 1 John 3:23. KJV.
    – Nigel J
    Commented May 17 at 6:20
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    This is very controversial, only because people will not accept what Jesus and the NT clearly say. Paul sums this up well when he says (Eph 2:8-10), 8 For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance as our way of life.
    – Dottard
    Commented May 17 at 22:10
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    Most protestant churches used to preach this but many have now modified their position because they confuse the ROOT of salvation (the grace and love of Christ) with the FRUIT of salvation (good works according to Eph 2:10). Indeed, Jesus actually says this in John 15:14 - "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." The Grammar here is future indicative active meaning that when we love Christ, keeping His commandments with be a stated fact.
    – Dottard
    Commented May 18 at 1:00

4 Answers 4


You've asked 9 different questions here; the expected limit is 1.

To answer the Title question, yes, John is saying that Christians should keep God's commandments (as given in the Torah, and with the spiritual understanding given by Jesus).

There is no reason to think that John's references to "commandments" could mean anything else, as shown by his other uses of this term:

John 14:15 — If ye love me, keep my commandments.

John 14:21 — He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

John 15:10 — If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.

1 John 3:22 — And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.

1 John 3:24 — And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.

1 John 5:2 — By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.

1 John 5:3 — For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

2 John 1:6 — And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.

Revelation 12:17 — And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Revelation 14:12 — Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.

Revelation 22:14 — Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

and as confirmed by Jesus's statement in Matthew 5 (NLT):

17 “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. 19 So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Torah gives 3 major types of commandments:

  • Civil (for running the nation of Israel).
  • Levitical (for running the priesthood).
  • General (for running one's life).

The first group went away with the conquest of Israel by the Roman Empire.
The second became of no effect with the destruction of the Temple and the Priesthood in year 70.
The third is still in effect for all mankind.

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    "The Torah gives 3 major types of commandments" - source for that? Commented May 17 at 18:27
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    @AviAvraham, I guess "contains" would have been a better word than "gives".¶ Most of them can be easily separated though: "A priest shall …" is clearly Levitical, while specific offenses with attached compensation rules are clearly Civil. If something is "an abomination unto the Lord", it is a general truth, not only for Israel. Commented May 17 at 20:36
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    @Ray Butterworth, Can I wear clothing made of blended fabrics such as cotton and polyester? Our planters contain both tomatoes and peppers--is that wrong? Noah made offerings on an altar. We have a lot of doves and quail that visit our yard. I suppose I could catch some of them, but quite honestly I'd find it hard to tear them apart with my bare hands and then burn them on a pile of uncut stone in front of my house as an offering. What do you think? Or maybe do only the Ten Commandments apply? What about the letter from the apostles and elders to the gentile believers in Acts 15:28-29?
    – Dieter
    Commented May 26 at 15:09
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    Okay, I read your apologetic on why it would be practical not to apply all of the laws of Torah to gentile converts, but I still don't know the answers to my previous questions. Let me also add the question of why Paul considered Torah as a guardian until Christ came as he wrote in Galatians 3. I think the literal Greek is instructive:biblehub.com/interlinear/galatians/3.htm
    – Dieter
    Commented May 26 at 22:01
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    I understand what you're saying and this is my last comment. Do I need to buy clothes that aren't made with blended fabric, and do I need to tear out the pepper plants that I planted together with my tomatoes?
    – Dieter
    Commented May 27 at 4:11

Jesus gave his disciples a number of new commandments, which you can search for online and in the biblegateway website. For example

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. - John 13:34 ESV

Let me also point out that Jesus taught that spiritual cleansing was the responsibility of the Father toward those who were abiding/living their lives in Christ Jesus. This is the point of the "I am the vine, you are the branches" lesson that Jesus taught in John 15. What this meant was that his disciples would not need to be concerned with ritual purity, but rather with producing fruit (such as the fruit of the Spirit) in their lives.

  • Let's start from the "old commandment" that John is talking about. Is he telling Christians to keep the Torah? Commented May 17 at 3:02
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    @David Gilford, John's teachings included 1. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 2. He told the common people, “The one who has two tunics is to share with the one who has none; and the one who has food is to do likewise.” 3. He told tax collectors: “Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.” 4. He told soldiers: “Do not extort money from anyone, nor harass anyone, and be content with your wages.” 5. He told religious leaders: “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore, bear fruit in keeping with repentance . . .” Not 613 laws of Torah.
    – Dieter
    Commented May 17 at 4:32
  • @Dieter. Perhaps not 613, but more than a dozen of them: 2 ⇒ 239–251 (charity for the poor), and 3–4 ⇒ 476–477 (coveting/extortion), and 1,5 ⇒ 75 (repentance). — The 613 Commandments (Mitzvot) - Chabad.org. Commented May 17 at 7:42
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    @Ray Butterworth, Yes, and also notice the qualitative difference between the majority of the 613 laws in Torah with any of the dozens of commandments of Jesus. Note that Jesus elaborated (aka creating "fences") with regards to Torah in critical commentary on the legalistic misapplication of the Pharisees. For example Jesus told them that even looking at a woman with lust or hating your brother was a violation of Torah. This critic applies to all legalists. To his disciples, his commandments were that they should serve one another, be forgiving, pray for their enemies, etc.
    – Dieter
    Commented May 17 at 16:52
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    Up voted. Dieter, the commandment you quoted is in fact an old commandment but new in form. The old said to love our neighbor as ourselves. But now Jesus says to love one another as He loved us. And how did He love us? By dying for us! Commented May 17 at 17:15

Love, love, love

“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is LOVE” (1 Cor 13:13).

In fact, wise men say that the crux of the entire Bible is “Love”.

But what is love?

“And this is love, that we should walk according to His commandments” (2 John 1:6).

“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not heavy” (1 John 5:3).

Jesus Christ said:

“If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15).

“If you keep My commandments you will continue in My love, as I have kept My Father's commandments and continue in His love” (John 15:10).

[Are these two different sets of commandments?; one set of the Father and a different set of the Son?

No. Jesus said, “This is true, because I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has commanded me what I must say and speak” (John 12:49). So these are the same set]

Jesus also said:

“But if you desire to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Mat 19:17).

Which commandments?

Jesus pinpoints the Ten Commandments in verses 18 and 19. These are the Father’s Commandments. These are Jesus’ own commandments.

This is the Biblical definition of Godly love. The world misunderstands love as a mere feeling, an infatuation or worse as lust that is self-centered.

So, “agape” or true love is keeping the Commandments of God with full heart.

Paul said:

“love one another. For the one who loves another has fulfilled the Law……... Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the Law” (Rom 13: 8, 10).

So, God = love = keeping the commandments.

One Love Two

This love can be divided into 2 sections:

1) Love towards God and 2) love towards fellow human beings who are truly in the image and likeness of God. [That is why Jesus said if you do good to a least brother you do it to Jesus]

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law? And Jesus said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." On these two commandments all the Law and the Prophets hang” (Mat 22:36-40).

Jesus was quoting from Deuteronomy and Leviticus.

Love towards God is divided into 4 commandments. These are the first 4 of the Ten Commandments.

Love towards man is divided into 6 commandments. These are the next 6 of the Ten Commandments.

If there is any doubt about this, Apostle Paul is more than happy to clarify:

“For, "Do not commit adultery," "do not murder," "do not steal," do not bear false witness, "do not lust," and if there is any other commandment, in this word it is SUMMED UP, in the words, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Rom 13:9).

Jesus Modifies the 2nd Law

Lord Jesus wields His authority to modify the second greatest commandment. Earlier, it was “love your neighbor as yourself”

But Jesus modifies it slightly yet significantly:

“I give a new commandment to you, that you should love one another; according as I loved you, you should also love one another” (John 13:34).

Yes, now we are not to love our brothers as we love ourselves. But we are to love others as Jesus has loved us; a truly sacrificial love (I know it is easy to say than do).

A False Teaching

The traditional Christian world thinks that the Jews were keeping the Ten Commandments of God yet they fell short of God’s glory. It believes falsely that Apostle Paul accused the Jews as “legalists”!

Truth cannot be farther.

Jesus Christ Himself testified that the Jews set aside God’s commandments in order to follow the additional traditions of their forefathers.

“and in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men." For forsaking the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men: ……….And He said to them, Well do you to set aside the commandment of God so that you may keep your tradition? For Moses said, "Honor your father and your mother;" and, "The one speaking evil of father or mother, let him expire by death." But you say, If a man says to his father or mother, Corban, (which is, A gift!) whatever you may profit by me. And you no longer allow him to do anything for his father or mother, making the Word of God of no effect by your tradition which you delivered. And many such like things you do (Mark 7:7-13).

I think Jesus cannot be plainer and more direct than this. So no more comments from me.

Law of Righteousness

The Ten Commandments are called the Law of Righteousness.

Paul says that the Jews NEVER reached at it:

“but Israel following after a Law of righteousness did not arrive at a Law of righteousness” (Rom 9:31).

The Ten Commandments, the Law of righteousness, is projected as a target to achieve by Paul.

The problem with the Jews is that they tried (but failed) to achieve it by means of the “Works of Law (the animal sacrifices)” (verse 32).

It has become clear that the Ten Commandments are a goal and the Works of Law are a means the Jews used to reach there.

They “stumbled at” the Messiah’s eternal and once for all perfect Sacrifice (verses 32-33) . Instead of accepting the Christ’s perfect sacrifice “through faith” they still wanted to depend on the “foods and drinks, and various washings, and fleshly ordinances (animal sacrifices)” (Heb 9:10).

So the Jews never kept the Law of righteousness, the Ten Commandments. They never could.

In fact no one ever could without the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:7) as the Ten Commandments are "spiritual" (Rom 7:14) "holy", "righteous" and "good" (verse 12) which a "mere human" (without the Holy Spirit) cannot follow.


“Circumcision (works of law) is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but obeying God's commandments is everything” (1 Cor 7:19).

This is addressed to the New Testament Christians by Paul. So the Ten Commandments are still in force. Jesus did not nail them on the cross.

  • You say Jesus did not nail the Ten Commandments on the cross. If so, then what was nailed to the cross? Of God it is said he has forgiven Christians all their trespasses, "blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to the cross." Col.2:14. The Ten Commandments were the ordinances of God, hand-written by his own finger. They are against every human, for no human can keep them. They expose just how sinful we are, as Jesus said to even think lust, or murder, was to break those laws, is that not so?
    – Anne
    Commented May 26 at 15:39
  • “but I see another law in my members having warred against the law of my mind, and taking me captive by the law of sin being in my members” (Rom 7:23). Anne, of the 2, which one Jesus could have nailed to the cross? It is really horrible to imagine that Jesus nailed the “law of mind” (the 10 Commandments which God prophesied through Jeremiah 31:33 that He will write in the mind in the 2nd Covenant) on the cross and left intact the “law of sin” in the flesh! Commented May 26 at 16:29
  • If Jesus had nailed the law of God on the cross, why does Paul, after several years, say, “But we establish Law” (Rom 3:31) and “So then I myself with the mind truly serve the Law of God” (Rom 7:25)? Commented May 26 at 16:30
  • God nailed the hand-written document that is against us to the cross, taking it out of the way, as all the Law of God does is condemn us as sinners. It does not bring life or peace. Christ dealt with sin at the cross. Rom.3:31, Paul was exposing the false charge of antinomianism; Christians are not against (anti) law (nomia). They are law-abiding but they must never go back to the Law, for Christ died to set us free from its condemnation! To tack on the Law to the Gospel is to corrupt it and make it of no effect. Yet we still love the Law of God even though it’s served its purpose: it led us
    – Anne
    Commented May 27 at 11:44
  • to Christ. In Rom.7:25 Paul despaired that all the Law did (when he tried to keep it) was expose his evil-doing due to sin being in him. But having been “delivered from the body of this death” by faith in Christ having dealt with sin at the cross, he loved his new life in Christ. The flesh serves the law of sin. New life in Christ is freedom to obey God with a new mind that is now “the mind of Christ”. Life and peace indwell those born again, replacing death and striving. Bondage to sin is broken; we’re free in Christ to serve willingly and obey Christ’s commands. The Spirit leads, not laws.
    – Anne
    Commented May 27 at 11:50

Context is clear. John was addressing Christians to have confidence in Christ, their "advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" - verse 1. He immediately goes on to say that it is the commandments of Jesus that Christians are to keep.

Now, if John had wanted to say that it is the commandments of the Torah - the O.T. Law - that Christians are to keep, he would simply have said so. Would he not? Why did John not refer to the Old Testament Law of Moses? Well, anyone who has studied his gospel knows why not. Consider what he reported Jesus as saying:

"If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me." John 14:23-24 K.J.V.

Christians are to know the sayings of Jesus their Saviour. Where are his sayings and commands to be found? In the Christian Greek Scriptures. Did Jesus ever say that his followers must continue to follow the Mosaic Law? No. Nowhere.

What John did record Jesus as saying to those who asked him what they had to do to "work the works of God" was:

"This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." John 6:28-29 K.J.V.

With those foundational truths in place, read all the words of Jesus and discover what his commands are. The question, as it stands, is far too vast in its scope to deal with here. It is not a topic that biblical Hermeneutics is for, but for a specific text (or two, if directly related.) I am sticking to the text in 1 John chapter 2. Context is clear. And the writer of that chapter wrote equally clear truths on the matter in his gospel.

EDIT due to extended comments – to clear up any misunderstanding. I never said “Jesus abolished the law by nailing it to the cross.” I quoted Col.2:14 where God blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us [and his own finger wrote the 10 commandments]. God knew that they were all contrary to us (for nobody can keep them) yet they serve the purpose to lead us to Christ. Thus, when Christ went to the cross for God to righteously deal with sin, God effectively nailed them to the cross. Jesus fulfilled the law. God then nailed them to the cross.

If “the 10 commandments are the rule of life for the true Christian”, then we are all doomed because not even Spirit-filled Christians can keep them, Jesus exposing how even thinking lustful or hateful thoughts means we’ve broken them. All Spirit-filled Christians show agape love to God, family, neighbours, friends, strangers, even those who hate and persecute them. Not because any law tells us, but because the love of God, in Christ, has transformed us by grace. Faith is the key to all of this, which is a gift from God. Hence (the bottom line): faith is the rule of life for all Christians. As the scripture says, “All that is not of faith is sin.” Romans 14:23. Christians are no longer murderers, adulterers, liars, polytheists or in any way act as antinomians. They have been transformed by grace and live to please and obey God and Christ, not out of fear of breaking any laws, but due to love of God and Christ.

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