The Christian’s Hope of Resurrection

The Christian’s Hope of Resurrection


1 Corinthians 15:50-58; Romans 8:18-25; Revelation 21:1-8

For the past few months, we have known about the disaster that we are currently experiencing with COVID-19. Death, fear, anxiety, and violence is everywhere. On top of that we see lots of negative news that add to the severity of the current situation. Many in the world are currently suffering. However, this is not the only suffering the world has experienced. Throughout history, we have seen wars, plagues, murders, thefts, and other evil things. 

As Christians we also experience this suffering. We experience sickness, sadness, horrifying events, deaths and disaster. Perhaps we are currently sick from COVID-19 now! The effect of suffering is universal, it impacts both believers and non believers because the world has fallen into sin and lacks the Glory of God (Rom. 3:23). 

In a world like this, is there hope?

Thanks be to God, because Jesus Christ came down to earth. In Jesus we see God’s perfect love to this fallen world, and He shows us that God cares for the evil in the world. Jesus redeemed the world through His death and has given hope through His resurrection (John 3:16). Christ’s resurrection is the victory and hope for all who believe in Him. That includes all believers, us, who have been saved in the Lord. However, if Christ has died and resurrected, to be our victory and hope, why are we still suffering? The reason is because the whole works of the Lord are yet to be done. The Cross of Christ shows Christ’s work was finished, as Christ said “it is finished”. The cross is the climax, and the foundation of God’s whole plan. However the whole plan of God does not stop there. If it was the whole plan of God, then Christ would not have promised the Holy Spirit, nor commanded the great commission. Paul mentioned in Colossians 1:24 – “…I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church”. ‘What is lacking in Christ’s suffering’ does not mean that Christ’s suffering on the cross is insufficient or incomplete. This is Paul’s address to the church to be an extension of Christ’s hand, that as we carry out His plans  we will suffer just as He has. Therefore, there are still works of the Lord that the church needs to do. We are Christ’s ambassador to fulfill God’s plan in the world. 

What are the works that we need to do then?

Jesus has commissioned us in Matthew 28:19, To extend the Kingdom of Heaven, to make the nations His disciples, to preach the great news about Jesus’ death and resurrection. Furthermore, brothers and sisters, the bible tells us that when we do this commandment, we will suffer. It should be no surprise then that we will suffer, because if Christ suffered, why shouldn’t we? We are doing the same work! Christ clearly warned this, when He said to His disciples: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you…” (John 15:18-25). It should not surprise us that we will suffer if we obey Christ, because “A servant is not greater than his master” (John 15:20). Therefore, there is no suffering that we will go through that Christ has not already gone through.

Is all that we do now in vain? 

The bible clearly tells us that this is not so. Our sufferings, they are not for nought. In fact,God has promised a great and victorious hope for those who follow Him. This can never be replaced nor obtained by other means except from God and God alone, and God has bestowed this promise to His loved ones, us! What is His promise? It is the promise of eternal life! The life that has no end, no death, forever! How can this be achieved by man? It cannot! We are mortal beings, but God promised this gift, a very special gift to us who believe in Him! 

However, to go a little bit further what does eternal life actually mean? Does it only mean we’ll live forever? What will we do then when we have eternal life? Won’t it be dull if we have everlasting life without doing anything? Not so! In the bible, eternal life means a new heaven and new earth. Continuing the readings from John, Jesus said: “…  If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am, you may be also (14:3). Again, in John 16:21-22, “you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joyI will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you”. To conclude, Jesus has said that He will come again and He has promised that our sufferings and sorrows will be taken away in the end. Right now Christ is working, interceding for us, and preparing a joyful place for us.

What is this place that Jesus is preparing for us? It is the new heaven and earth – the New Jerusalem. New Jerusalem is not a place in heaven, outside of the world, rather it is a restored current heaven and earth, where God’s Kingdom will be fully established. Revelation 21 presents to us an image of this: there we will be sinless, cloaked with His Glory, and there will be no suffering. We will be with all of our brothers and sisters who have been redeemed by His blood, sinless and perfected in the resurrected body of Christ. 

Christ has redeemed us and now we work to extend His kingdom. We strive and toil to do the works of the Lord, even if no one sees, nor understands, or even if we are mocked. However, listen to the Word of the Lord: God accounts and sees all our toils, be it our relationships, our jobs, our studies, our ministries, He accounts all of it. Now it is not a coincidence that the Word of God starts in the Garden of Eden and ends in the City of New Jerusalem. This shows that in history, there is a progress to cultivate the creation, just as God has commanded Adam and Eve to tend the creation (Genesis 1:28;2:15). Therefore, God accounts for every good thing Christians do, because it is part of the preparation of New Jerusalem. Every study, every discipline, every ministry, every practice that is good in the eyes of the Lord will be accounted as work to extend His Kingdom, so what we do is not meaningless. Oh what a wonderful God! What a wonderful promise! That our hope is true and firm! Our tears, blood, and sweat, nothing we do will be in vain as Christ is resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:14-19;58).

A time is coming when Christ will be King and rule the world. The sins of the world will be purged, and the kingdom of the world will be the kingdom of our Lord (Revelation 11:15). At last, perfect justice will be here! No more political lies, no more fraud, no more abuse of power, and no more injustice, no more hunger and no more tears (Revelation 21:4). What Jesus had promised to us in John 16 will be fulfilled in the future. Our sorrow will turn to joy, for Christ, our Lord will reign. 

However, it does not stop there! In eternal life, Jesus will reign, but our relationship will not be as a king and his subjects, but as husband and wife! In eternal life, we will be able to know God, perfectly and fully (John 17:3)! We will finally be able to know Him who loves us! We will be able to know His loveliness! We will be able to know our Saviour! Now what we know about Him is too small, only a mere shadow of His magnificence compared to what we will know about Him in eternal life. What we believe, or hear about Him now will be revealed later in full glory. Revelation 19 gives us a clear image of our relationship with Christ as the church. Paul in Ephesians 5:22-33, mentioned how a husband should lay himself down for his wife, is to reflect Christ’s love towards His bride, the Church! See how Christ has loved us? He has laid down His life for us, sinners who reject God from the bottom of our hearts. Oh how we are undeserving to receive this love! How we are too insolent for His attention! But this does not stop Him from loving us. This is our hope then, that He died and resurrected for our sake, so we are able to finally know Him intimately, fully, eternally!

These are not a utopian vision to just console us in the grim reality, but this comes as a promise from God who never breaks His promises. His Words are reliable, and righteous! This is the Vision of His coming Kingdom that He has promised to all of us!

Let us be reminded this Easter, that because Christ has been resurrected we are able to receive the promise of eternal life. We are united with Him, so we can know His loveliness, and He walks by us as our Comforter –  He understands our struggles and leads us through suffering. Let us also be reminded of the future glory we will have, that all of these are not in vain because Christ is resurrected. There will be no tears, and all evil will be undone. Therefore Brothers and Sisters, take heart and heed this word: Christ had been resurrected so He is our hope and consolation. 

As Christ is risen, let us then take up our cross and follow Him. Let us deny ourselves, and let our zeal consume us (Psalm 69:9a). Let us tell this story to the nations, and let His name be heard, let His wonderful works be known. Let us keep on running this race, and persevere with the faith that God has given to us. Let us daily revere His name in everything, and keep living a holy life. Let us keep suffering for Him, let us keep our eyes towards Him (Hebrew 12:1-2) as we can cry out to Him who knows all our struggle, and see Him in all of our sufferings. Let us not be faltered, for Christ is with us, therefore who can be against us? (Romans 8:31) Let us endure all of these, because Christ is risen, and it is not in vain. Let us suffer for Him, for the sufferings now are incomparable to the glory we will receive. Look towards the future where we will be resurrected as He is, and let this be our consolation in this race, let the resurrection of Christ be our hope to the future. We now live by faith in these things, but when He comes we will live by sight – the sight of Him in the fullness of Glory. (JC)

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” – 1 Corinthians 15:56-58

Soli Deo Gloria: A Long Forgotten Spirit

Last year we celebrated the 500th year since the protestant reformation. This celebration brings to mind the dark ages of the church, but also reminds us of God’s promise to preserve His Church. God fulfils this promise by raising Martin Luther. Luther nailed the 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church (Schlosskirche) in Wittenberg as a form of opposition towards the Roman Catholic Church that has gone astray from the Bible’s teachings. However, the zeal to testify the truth as Luther did 500 years ago is no longer popular in this day and age, even many churches have abandoned and forgotten this spirit. The reformation is now merely thought of as a relic of the past that has lost its relevance and significance in this age. Is it true that the reformation is unimportant to this modern world? Or is the obliviousness towards the relevance of the reformation a sign that there is something wrong in the churches of this age?

When we look closely, we can see that the Reformation was a truly great movement, a manifestation of God’s intervention in the history of mankind. The same can be said of the spirit that was kindled by this movement. Such zeal was very crucial for the continuation and solidarity of the history of redemption. In short, the spirit of this movement was exemplified in the “Five Solas” (sola gratia, sola fide, sola scriptura, solus Christus, soli Deo gloria). This article will solely focus on inviting readers to contemplate on soli Deo gloria.

The term Soli Deo Gloria can be understood as: all things done by man must be done with the motivation to return glory back to God. This zeal is contrasted with the concept of self-glorification idolized in today’s age, with ideologies such as narcissism, positive thinking, self-image, self-confidence, as well as its practical manifestations such as the popularity of “selfies”. The root of this difference can be traced back to a difference in the concept of identity. Man’s identity in the age of Reformation was defined and depicted through the concept of being in the “image and likeness of God” (imago Dei). This way of thinking is completely different with the mindset of this world, where one’s identity is often constructed on the base of social opinions or the opinions of oneself. To understand this more clearly, we will look into some of the views on identity present during the time of the reformation, such as the Roman Catholic point of view, and comparing it with the views of the Reformers about imago Dei and the implications that it has in this age.

Humanism, Imago Dei and Soli Deo Gloria

The emergence of the reformation was inseparable from the humanistic spirit of the time period, with Desiderius Erasmus as one of the famous championing figures of that spirit. The core principle of humanism is to uphold the value and dignity of humanity. Through the influence of humanism, people started to oppose the authoritarianism of the Roman Catholic Church which dominated all aspects of life, including the spiritual as well as the cultural. The church asserted control over the populace, and assumed itself worthy to determine each and every aspect of human life. This assumption contradicts with the core belief of humanism which supports the freedom to create. Besides this, the humanistic way of thinking also gave way for people to freely interpret the bible based on their conscience without Roman Catholic restriction.

To a certain extent, the humanistic way of thinking can produce positive benefits and is useful in developing society. However, when this way of thinking is brought outside the authority of Scripture, it will inevitably deviate to another extreme. This extreme pushes individuals to regard themselves as the captain of their own soul. Differing from secular humanism, Christian humanism considers man as valuable and full of potential because he was created in the image and likeness of God.

In the cultural context of the bible, the terms “image and likeness” were often used during situations of war. When a king succeeds in seizing another nation, the way to signify his dominion in that conquered area is to make a statue of himself. That statue acts as the “image and likeness” of the king that represents his presence in that area of war.

The same is true for the concept of man as the image and likeness of God, the presence of human beings on this earth means that we are the representatives of God in the middle of this world. Our whole existence is to declare the power and greatness of the King that reigns over the skies and the earth. Then, the concept of biblical humanism is to unearth the potential of man and to appreciate mankind’s value as a method of worship and glory to God.

Imago Dei in Reformation

The Roman Catholic theology regarding imago Dei was influenced greatly by the concept of dualism derived from Neoplatonism. This concept taught that spiritual/ supernatural things are higher in quality compared to physical/ natural things. Such a theology, is vulnerable, and can easily lead to the idea that all things of the church are more holy compared to everyday work, or in our case our daily studies. This extreme becomes something inevitable with this view. The concept of soli Deo Gloria in every aspect of life becomes foreign because it applies only in regards to things that are spiritual or in the church.

This concept of dualism was strongly opposed by the Reformers, especially John Calvin when he talks about the concept of imago Dei. John Calvin rejected this separation because it implied as if the physical body of man that was created by God was imperfect, so a supernatural gift was required in order to perform according to God’s will. Genesis 1:31 showed that after God had created everything, including mankind, God saw everything that He had made, and said that it was very good. This appraisal by God included both inward and outward aspects of humankind. Even after mankind fell into sin, they were still considered as the image and likeness of God despite their corruption (Gen 1:27, 5:1, 9:6; Jac 3:9). Herman Bavinck illustrates the sinful man to be like a blind or deaf person. They have lost something that was a part of their original nature (sight and hearing) but despite the loss, they are still considered human.

John Calvin divides the meaning of imago Dei into two perspectives that is the broader and narrower sense. The broader sense points to the likeness of God in humans that is still existent after the fall even if it has been corrupted, such as rational ability and conscience.  (Alternatively, In the broader sense, it refers to the aspects of God’s likeness that is still existent even after the fall of man, including rational ability and conscience). On the other hand, the narrower sense points to the aspects of God’s image that has been lost because of sin such as true righteousness, true holiness, and true knowledge. When Christ came to redeem man from sin, not only was the narrow sense of the imago Dei restored, but the aspects in the broader sense also underwent restoration. In the book Institutes of the Christian Religion (I.XV.III), Calvin writes this, “And though the primary seat of the divine image was in the mind and the heart, or in the soul and its powers, there was no part even of the body in which some rays of glory did not shine.”

Clearly, Calvin’s concept on imago Dei is a foundation that encourages man to glorify God with his whole being and identity as man. This is not only done in prayer or when participating in spiritual activities, but also in doing works of external nature God must be glorified. In 1 Corinthians 10:31, the Apostle Paul said “So, whatever you eat of drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Eating and drinking are the basic needs of the human body and the bible teaches that it must also be done for the glory of God. Thus, the doctrine of imago Dei during the Reformation age, drives each person as the image and likeness of God to bring the glory of God in everything that they do.

Humanism in This Age

In today’s age, humanism seems to grow rapidly because of the emergence of humanistic psychology pioneered by Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow. Humanistic psychology states that self-fulfilment and self-actualisation is the way for one to achieve true success and happiness. Self-actualisation is defined as the best condition that an individual can have and it can only be achieved through the development of self and the excavation of one’s potential. Both notable figures mentioned see that each person’s potential becomes the trigger and the encouragement towards that person working harder. Abraham Maslow said, “What a man can be, he must be.” It means that each person must strive to keep growing in their potential, becoming better and better individuals according to their own desire. This way of thinking teaches that mankind’s will and happiness become the subject as well as the object of all their actions. Compare this to the humanistic spirit that was emphasized by the Reformers, that God becomes the subject and the object of all man’s works.

In this worldly concept of humanism, there are cultures or trends that emerge, which slowly idolize man and abandon the true God. Ideas like self-esteem and self-confidence become a very popular discussion topic within the society. For example, motivators will often urge their listeners to believe in their own abilities and potential. Not only that, but children’s education systems keep on implanting in children the idea that they have a larger potential within them and they must trust in their own abilities. This is also being supported by science which seems to be pointing in that direction. Many scientific findings have stated that one’s self-confidence can affect their own health and wellbeing.

An article with the title “Who Cares if Christ is Risen” explains this age’s trend of humanism quite well, “Being yourself is the thing to be, as if your self was automatically interesting and good. The consequence of this is that what was once called selfishness is now called fulfilment. The word “love” is used just as much as it ever was, but it means something else. For a Christian, the measure of love is what one is willing to give up for it. For the post-Christian, love is the most exciting state of the ego.” The humanistic philosophy does not only affect how man sees themselves but also their motivation in doing every action. For example, when people are asked about their motivation for achieving the highest level of education, many would answer “for a brighter future” which actually translates to “getting a job with a higher pay”. In the end, the glory of God is not the end purpose of their works but their self becomes their ultimate purpose. They do not uncover their potential for the glory of God but they do so to fulfil their own desires to reach self-actualisation. Thus, the growth of modern humanism results in a shift from soli Deo gloria to soli homos gloria.

Unfortunately, this phenomenon not only happens in the outside world, but the church is also not immune from the effect of humanism. Take for example, a doctrine of salvation which tends to become anthropocentric (man-centered). In church, we often hear phrases such as “God so loves man, even man that has fallen into sin”, “invite God into your heart”, and “God is always ready to bless you”. These phrases are not necessarily incorrect, indeed the Bible itself also tells much about these matters. Rome 10:9 teaches that if we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised us from the dead, we will be saved. However, what we don’t realize is that in the context of this letter to the Romans, whoever believes that Jesus is Lord, he will be tortured and killed. This is clearly different with how it is used in today’s context, teaching man to believe for a smoother and more success life.

David Platt in his book Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream explains this, “God loves me is not the essence of Biblical Christianity. Because if ‘God loves me’ is the message of Christianity, then who is the object of Christianity? Me. Christianity’s object is me.” Without us realising, often we act like this as well. Why do we go to this church? Why do we want to serve in this field? Why do we want to listen to this sermon? The answer to all of these questions are because it is according to what we like and it fits us. Unbeknownst to us, Christians have slowly shifted God from the centre-point of Christianity and replaced Him with mankind.

This is the reality of humanity in this age. From a young age, individuals have brainwashed themselves to keep on excavating their potential and upholding the value of man without understanding the true meaning of being man. The bible teaches that God created man in His own image and likeness, so that man would have value. Unfortunately, many people uphold the value and dignity of man and forgetting that God is the one who gave value to mankind in the first place.

The story of the Tower of Babel seems to be repeating itself. Men and women gather, and together they uncover their own potential by building the Tower with the purpose of bringing glory to themselves. This is the same humanistic spirit exhibited in this era. Men compete to better themselves, constantly trusting in their own potential, all in order to attain their own glory. (This sentence even when untranslated is VERY similar to the previous sentences, take care not to make the sentence redundant)

Instead of teaching anthropocentrism, the bible teaches the theocentric way of thinking. This puts God as the centre of all things. Paul in Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” During the Reformation, the Reformers have also upheld the value and dignity of man. However, this was done with the realization that the value and potential of man can only be excavated for the glory of God. These thoughts have vanished within this age. The understanding of man as the image and likeness of God, and that his whole life should be for His glory. Without this realization, man will always be kept astray from the initial purpose of all creation, that is to glorify God. Not unlike a tool used not for its intended purpose, such is the condition of man who abandons God and continues to idolize themselves.

The spirit of soli Deo gloria preached in the Reformation is the key to our return to true humanity. Man was truly created for the glory of God. If this sentiment is not within him, then he shall lose his purpose and identity, no longer being truly man. Because of that, those who chase their own glory are in the process of destroying their own image. Man’s effort to become gods of their own selves is effort that only points them to their own destruction. Do not let our lives be wasted achieving our fruitless desires. But let us come back to our true purpose, that is to glorify God. May we learn to surrender our whole lives under the will of God and be faithful to Him until death, all for His glory.

The spirit of Reformation is still very relevant, and in fact much needed in this age. The churches that have abandoned this spirit are those that have sold their firstborn right to the world’s concept of humanism. They think that by adopting the world’s humanistic concept, the church will be loved. Perhaps the congregation will increase in number, but what use is that when genuine faith has been lost? May last year’s commemoration of the reformation act as a reminder of the true spirit of soli Deo gloria, one that has been established by the Reformers. All this, so that we may achieve true humanity, together forming a true community of believers, a strong church acting as the salt and light in this sinful world. (KH)

The Greatest Commandment

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”

And He said to him,

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your hearts and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourselves. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV)

“Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” When the Pharisee asked this to Jesus, we must keep in mind, that he was not referring to just the ten commandments we find in Exodus chapter 20; but the 613 laws (according to the traditional count) found in the book of Moses. The Pharisees were known for paying very close attention to these laws, being careful to observe them; and they took pride in this. They see themselves as being righteous for their observance to the laws that Moses gave to their fathers. However, they ended up missing the main point of the commandments, that is: to love God. They “cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside [they] are full of greed and wickedness.” They only focused on the things of the outside but not those of the inside (or of the heart).

To this question, Jesus answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your hearts and with all your soul and with all your mind,” and following that the second, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” It is on these two commandments that all the Law and the prophets depend. Do you ever wonder why love is very emphasized in the bible? A number of biblical answers can be given in response to this question, but here we are going to touch on just one and that is this: Love serves as the basis for all the commandments. And not just any love, but specifically the ones that have been said above, love towards God and love towards others. These two cannot be separated.

Jesus said, “on these two commandments depend all the Law and the prophets.” Why did Jesus say this? When the Pharisee asked Him this question, he might have expected another answer such as, “the greatest commandment is that of circumcision”, or the laws of the Sabbath which they often try to use to put Jesus at fault, or some other commandment. But no, Jesus gave the Pharisee an answer that was far from what he would have ever expected; the greatest commandment is the commandment of love. Now, when Jesus says this, He is not putting down the other commandments as being in a position that is lower than the commandment of love (as one may expect the answer to such a question to put down the remaining commandments). Love is the greatest commandment, not because it is exclusive of the other commandments; but it is great because it is inclusive of the other commandments. The law of love is pervasive throughout the whole laws of God. It is the spring from which comes actual and true obedience to the other commandments.

The law of love does not negate, or replace the other commandments. It is indeed the greatest commandment, but Jesus did not say that this was the only commandment. In John 14:15, Jesus said “if you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” If we love Him, we would keep all His commandments. Again we see here, that love serves as the foundation (or motivation) in obeying the commandments, there is a relationship between loving God and keeping His commandments. Love does not replace the other commandments; it ensures that all the other commandments are truly being done. Vern Poythress used an example of a mother and her child: what would the mother think if her child keeps saying that he/she loves her, but also constantly disobeys her commands, and even talks back against her? Do you love God? If you do, do you love and keep His commandments?

Actual Obedience

Love is a prerequisite to Actual Obedience or God-centred Obedience. John Calvin wrote this in His commentary on John 14:15: “[in this verse, God] declares that no other worship is pleasing to Him than what is voluntary; for no man will actually obey God but he who loves Him” (Calvin, n.d.). Just as a mother would not be pleased with the forced obedience (obedience that does not result from love) of her child, and neither would we; so God is not pleased with our obedience unless that obedience comes out of our love for Him (Actual Obedience). This is very true even in our personal life experience. Imagine looking at your child, doing what you ordered him to do, but he does it with a frown. You know that he is not actually obeying you, he is just forced to do something even though he does not like it; in other words his obedience is Insincere Obedience.

Another type of obedience that does not count as actual obedience is something that I’d like to call Self-centred Obedience: To obey because it is “beneficial for us.” For sure, we see many Christians out there who seem to be obeying the commandments of God just fine, they do not seem like people who are doing something they hate. In fact, they may really be loving what they do. However, their ease of obedience does not necessarily signal a genuine love for God.What do I mean by this? All of God’s commandments are good, this is for sure. But this does not mean that people cannot misuse them in order to seek personal gain. A very obvious example of this would be when a person is helping other people who are in need, with an aim of gaining fame and/or being praised by other people. It may seem like what he’s doing is obeying the commandment to love other people, but the fact is his true motivation is to gain fame. We can take another example of a Christian who goes to Church every Sunday and is involved in numerous ministries that it seems to other people as if he really loves God, when in actuality he is just doing it so that people may like him and so he would have many friends. In its core, we see that it is actually a self-centred decision. We must examine ourselves, for these self-centred motivations often hide themselves behind layers of supposedly “good motivations.”

Now, underlying both of these “obediences” is the same condition of the heart; that is, a heart that does not love God. To put it in another way, a heart that loves the self. Let us look at this in slightly more detail:

1) Why is the obedience Insincere? Because to the person, to obey God would not bring any benefit to the self and therefore he does not want to obey. However, due to some circumstances, he has no choice but to obey, though insincerely.

2) Why is the obedience Self-centred? Because, even if it is easy for the person to obey, it is only easy because given his circumstances, it would benefit him to obey.

We see that whether a person is obeying God’s commandments Insincerely or Self-centredly, the cause is the same and that is love of self. On the outside they seem to be doing the commandments of God, but on the inside none of those are done for God. God desires sincere obedience out of love for Him, and not anything less.

For this reason Jesus added; that on these two commandments all the Law and the Prophets depend. Without biblical love, all the commandments done will either be like the works of forced labor, doing work just for the sake of doing it, or a self-centered labor, merely aimed at obtaining benefits.

True Gain

The Apostle Paul also wrote of a similar matter in his epistle to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 13:1-3, ESV). Paul said, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels… And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and If I have all faith… If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned… but have no love, I gain nothing.” Let us examine what the apostle is saying here. In these verses, Paul listed a number of things that are not in themselves bad; it is not wrong to have knowledge, and it is definitely not immoral to lay down your life for another. But what does Paul say? He says that if he has all those things “but [has] no love,” he gains nothing. The person is a fool who thinks that true gain is achieved merely by outwardly doing things that appears consistent with the word of God. For “man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7, ESV) Those who seem to do good outwardly, but do not actually accomplish them for God nor for others will gain nothing as the apostle stated in verse 3.

What is the apostle Paul actually trying to say here? For surely, a man that excels at his talent is bound to get something from other people; whether it be gifts, praise, or recognition. But Paul is here not talking about worldly gains but rather of heavenly ones. For what are the value of worldly gains compared to the heavenly? The bible says: “for the world is passing away… but whoever does the will of God abides forever (1 John 2:17, ESV).” A person may gain all the things in the world but as Jesus has said, “what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? (Mark 8:26, ESV)A person is nothing in the presence of God, he does not gain the truly valuable things from God, even if that person commits martyrdom, if that person is destitute of love unto Him.

But what is it that we gain when we do them out of love? For if Paul wrote, that all those things, if done without love, will gain us nothing; then it must mean that we gain something when we do these out of love. When we use our gifts for the service of God and for others, when we lay down our lives for others; what is it do we gain? If it’s not fame, money, nor applause; then what? Well, we can say that we are shaped to be more patient, to be more selfless, to depend more on God. We can make a list of these benefits. But one gain that I would like to point out more than the others here is this: we are being conformed more and more to Christ’s likeness. Christ was obedient to the commandments of God, yes; but His obedience was not selfish for it was actual obedience based on His love for God and others. The Apostle Paul, in his epistle to the Ephesians, wrote that to imitate Christ is to “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2, ESV). When we obey God’s commandment, and obey it sincerely out of love; we are being conformed to Christ. Conformity to Christ, should be, to the Christian, the greatest blessing he/she could ever be given.

The Example Set in Christ

To the Pharisee, Jesus gave the answer that the greatest commandment is the commandment of love. But Christ did not just give an answer that was only theologically correct but it was also consistent with the way He lived, as many people today fail to follow. He truly loves the Father, and He truly loves His people. For example, in John 14:31 (ESV), we see that Christ obeyed the Father’s commandments to show His love for the Father. Not only that, in John 13:34 (ESV), Jesus says to His disciples, “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.” Jesus did not live a life of mere loveless obedience, but all His ministry on earth was done with love. Evenmore, it is on His cross that we see the greatest love, “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7-8, ESV). Christ laid down His life for us while we were still His enemies. In the life of Christ, the truth found in Matthew 22:36-40 was manifested, and therefore it is His life that gives us an example of how to live in true obedience.

Jesus says that the greatest commandment is the commandment of love. Yet at the same time, nobody can say that His love has resulted in Him neglecting the other commandments, for His life was a life of obedience, even to the point of death on a cross: and every bit of His obedience is founded on that love. Love doesn’t exclude obedience to the other commandments, but instead it enables true obedience to all the commandments. Without this, it is impossible to please God. Again, God desires sincere obedience out of love for Him, and not anything less. Love serves as the basis of true and actual obedience to God. (CDS)



Calvin, J. (n.d.). Commentary on the Gospel According to John. (W.Pringle, Trans.). Retrieved from