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From the Word: And this is his commandment: that we have faith in the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he has commanded us. (1 John 3:23)
From the Confessions: The Small Catechism
What does God declare concerning all these commandments?
He says: “I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20:5b-6)
What does this mean?
God threatens to punish all who violate these commandments. We should, therefore, fear his anger and in no way disobey them. But God promises grace and every blessing to all who keep these commandments. We should, therefore, love him, trust in him, and gladly keep his commandments.
Pulling It Together
All the Commandments are rooted in the First, or as it quickly came to be understood: the greatest or most important commandment (Matt 22:36–40). This greatest commandment sums up all of the commands. So, what does God command us other than what Jesus says: to love him in a manner that depends upon him, that trusts in his name, his character, his reputation? To believe in Christ Jesus is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30–31).
You say that this is impossible, that you do not love the Lord with your whole heart. Luther would agree with you, at least in a legal reading of the Commandments. But consider this the next time you confess that you have not loved him with your whole heart. In that confession, you are wholly trusting him. You are not depending upon yourself, your ability to do better, to cease sinning. At that moment, you are trusting the Father’s forgiveness; you are indeed trusting and loving him with your whole heart.
And so, the impossible becomes possible because of God (Matt 19:26). You are able to trust God completely because of Christ’s reputation. You have faith in that great name, and no other. You see that his is the saving nature, not yours, and so, you have faith in Christ alone. This faith is keeping the Commandments.
Prayer: I believe in you, Lord Jesus. Amen.
Click here for resources to learn the Ten Commandments.
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In Harmony with the Word is an eight-session Bible Study focusing on Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, from Matthew 5-7. It is written at an introductory level, to be led by a lay leader or pastor in a small-group question and discussion format. The study would serve as an excellent resource for monthly women's group meetings, or in an informal small-group setting.