We know that there are many things that we must not do as God’s children. Paul gives a list of things “that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-21),”the works of darkness,” (Rom. 12:13-14), and, things which those “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” do (2 Tim. 2:2-5). So much is written in God’s word about things that His people must not do, that many have gotten the idea that Christianity is a “negative” religion. Many Christians think that, if they avoid certain behavior, they are “faithful Christians,” and will go to heaven based on what they have not done. But, is Christianity a negative religion based solely, or mainly, on avoiding certain sins? Is it a religion of “thou shalt not’s,” and not of “thou shalt’s?” Let us see what the Bible says.
The Old Testament Law Was a Positive Law
It may seem that the Law given by God through Moses was a negative law. After all, of the ten commandments, only two, “Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy,” and “Honor thy father and thy mother,” are positive commandments. But when we consider the answer give by Jesus when asked by a Jewish lawyer, “Which is the great commandment of the law?” a different picture emerges. Jesus answered:
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Jesus’ words, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets,” are particularly informative. Paul elaborates on Jesus’ words. He writes in Romans 13:8, “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” He continues in Romans 13:9:
For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
He concludes, “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom. 13:10). So even the Old Law was a positive law!
The New Testament Law Is a Positive Law
While we are in Romans 13, let us notice what Paul says in verse 8: “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” Here is a negative and a positive. However, the thrust of the sentence is positive – Love one another! The context shows that Paul is telling us that the Christian religion, like the Jewish religion, is a positive religion based on the principle of love. Love fulfilled the Old, love fulfills the New.
At the last Passover before our Lord’s betrayal and crucifixion, He told the twelve, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” How was this a “new” commandment? Jesus answers, “As I have loved you.” Love one another was not a new commandment, but to love as Jesus had loved the apostles, and all men, was a new thing. How so?
Jesus says in John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” He had told Nicodemus in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Later, Paul wrote,”But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). God loved the world enough to send His only begotten son into the world. The Son shared God’s love for the world and willingness to come to this world and die that sinful man might be saved (Luke 22:42; Phil. 2:5-8). The commandment to love fellow man that much had never been given before Jesus gave it to the twelve in John 13:34! Sadly, one of the twelve did not heed Jesus’ words.
Jesus made a statement in John 13:35 that we all should give heed to: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
Just before Jesus’ crucifixion, in John 17:20-21 (For a discussion of John 17, see John 17, The Real Lord’s Prayer), He prayed for the apostles, and for each of us:
Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
Paul urges us in Ephesians 4:2-3:
With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Endeavor is from a Greek word meaning, “To hasten, make haste; to exert one’s self, endeavour, give diligence,” according to Thayer. Such is the effort that Christians are to make to promote unity among themselves.
Luke 24:46-47; Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16
Shortly before Jesus’ ascension, He told the eleven apostles in Luke 24:46-46:
And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
Matthew and Mark include Jesus’ command to preach/teach the gospel and continue with the command to baptize those who believed. Mark’s account is more specific, including our Lord’s statement, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, thus affirming that salvation comes only after one believes and is baptized (Mark 16:15-16; See also 1 Pet. 3:20-21). The Holy Spirit would inspire Peter to preach on Pentecost that repentance is also a prerequisite to salvation.
Matthew’s account includes Jesus’ command to “teach” those things that Jesus had taught the apostles. The gospel was spread in the first century and is to spread in the twenty-first century, by those being taught teaching others (2 Timothy 2:2).
Hebrews 13:16; 1 John 3:17
Communicate means, according to Vincent, “Lit. but be not forgetful of doing good and communicating.” The same word is translated, “Contribution (for the poor saints)” in Romans 15:26. Paul wrote to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 8:4, “Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.” Fellowship is from the same word translated, “communicate” in Hebrews 13:16 and “contribution” in Romans 15:26. Notice that Paul connects “gift” with “fellowship.”
John writes in 1 John 3:17:
But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?
Christians are to give to those in need. Love demands it!
Jesus said in John 12:48:
He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.
Jesus describes the events of the “last day” in Matthew 25:31-46. He lists six things by which each of us will be judged – six positive things! He will say to those us who have done these six things, “come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34). He will say to those of who have not done these six things, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41). He concludes in Matthew 25:46, “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”
Christianity is a doing religion! Certainly, we will be judged by what we have done that we should not have done, but we will also be judged by what we have not done that we should have done.
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven – Matthew 7:21.