At first glance, it seems like there are an awful lot of rules to follow in the Bible. A person could come to the conclusion, and many do, that being a follower of Christ is all about following the rules. The Old Testament was full of rules in the Law of Moses and the New Testament records the sayings of Jesus along with the teachings of Paul and the other apostles. It can be a bit much if looked at through the wrong lens. Many people never come to the truth of what the Bible has to say and are, unfortunately, stuck in the mindset of following rules and earning God’s favor. This is not the way God wanted it to be.
Truly, there are rules to be followed. God has given us many guidelines on how we should live our lives and experience His blessings. To say that there are no rules would be to make Christianity a hedonistic religion where we simply do whatever feels good and seems right to us. Nothing could be farther from the truth. A follower of Christ should endeavor to walk as closely to Him and His example as possible in life, looking to Him to get us back on track when we slip up. It would be foolish to think that we can believe in Christ for salvation and then just do whatever we want to do. If this is your mindset, I would question just what it is that you have believed.
As a Christian, I try, as much as possible, to be obedient to what the word of God teaches. The reason for this is not so that God will love me. He already does. It is also not so that I can be saved. Jesus has already taken care of that. Neither is it so that I will not lose my salvation. Scripture teaches that I have been born again and God will keep me saved until the day of redemption. So none of that is a factor. The main reason I try my best to obey the teachings of the word of God is out of love. I love this God who loved me so much that He sent His only Son to die for my sins. I know that there is nothing I could ever do to repay Him for all that He has done, so I attempt to show my gratitude, in my own humble way, by my obedience to Him.
What rules are we called to follow exactly? To start with, it is not the Law of Moses. This was part of God’s covenant with Israel, not the Gentile world. The Ten Commandments, as much as they are a good guide to a moral life, were not given to the Gentiles to follow. Neither were all the other laws that Moses received on Mount Sinai. Those laws were binding on the Jewish people all the way up until the time of Jesus, who said He only came for the lost sheep of Israel and taught them to believe in Him and follow the commandments. Jesus said He had not come to do away with the Law, but to fulfill it. He said that not the least part of the Law would disappear until everything had been fulfilled. And Jesus fulfilled the whole Law in His life, once for all time for everyone who would believe.
When Gentiles first came into the church, there was debate about what, if any, part of the Mosaic Law they should be expected to follow. In Acts chapter 15, we read where the council of apostles led by James came to the conclusion that the Gentiles should not be expected to live by the Law of Moses but should simply abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. These were the only requirements the apostles made for the Gentile believers. Even these, though, cannot be seen as a requirement for salvation. It is only by grace, through faith in Christ, that we can be saved. No good works or law-keeping will save us or, once we are believers, keep us saved. Salvation is 100% a work of God in our lives and is not a result of our efforts.
Paul wrote many things to the churches as the apostle to the Gentiles. He urged them to live holy lives, putting off the old self and putting on the new self, which is being renewed in the image of Christ. He urged them to be transformed by the renewing of their minds and reminded them that if they were in Christ, they were a new creation. He said the old things had passed away and all things were new in them through Christ. In all his communications with the churches and in all his teachings, he never commanded them to do anything to be saved or keep their salvation. Paul taught that it is only by faith that we can be saved. That truth is still the basis of our salvation today.
So which rules do we follow? Paul wrote in Romans chapter 13 that all the commandments that have been given are summed up in this command: “love you neighbor as yourself”. He said that love does no harm to its neighbor, therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. As Jesus taught in Matthew chapter 7, we should do unto others what we would have them do to us, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Love is the rule by which we are to live, and it is only by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit that we can attain to such a lofty goal. For love is of God, as Scripture has said: “God is love”. No human emotion or worldly notion of love can compare to the love that God has shown us in His Son.
Why do I obey the Lord? Because He has loved me enough to die for me. Think about that. The only one worthy of life to begin with came into the world to suffer and die at the hands of the very people He created for the sole purpose of saving those who would repent and believe. I have been fortunate enough to hear the truth of Christ and I have chosen to put my faith in Him. I have received the Holy Spirit and been transformed by His presence in my life, and I now live my life, as much as possible, in obedience to this God who cared so much about me. I feel that this is my proper response to such an amazing grace that has been poured out on me. So I pray that He will help me to learn His ways and change mine day by day as He conforms me to the image of His Son.