Blessed are They that Do His Commandments

From the very beginning, God has required man to keep His commandments, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen 2:17). But because he disobeyed, God banned him from the tree of life, “lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever” (Gen 3:22-23). And at the very end of Scripture we read that it’s those keeping His commandments that regain access to the tree of life, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life” (Rev 22:14). From beginning to end, eternal life has always been about keeping God’s commandments.

The false gospel of sola fide or “faith alone” concocted about 500 years ago by Martin Luther asserts that we’re saved by faith and nothing but faith. In fact, if there’s anything other than faith, including obedience to God’s commandments, then we’re not saved. Furthermore, it’s claimed that salvation under the law of Moses was by keeping God’s commandments perfectly without ever sinning. But since nobody could do it, then salvation under the law was also by faith. This is not true. There was never a requirement of utter perfection under the Old Covenant.

The animal sacrifices offered under the law by the high priest were for the people’s sins and for his own: “And Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and shall make an atonement for himself, and for his house … and have made an atonement for himself, and for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel” (Lev 16:11,17); “And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins” (Heb 5:3); “Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s” (7:27); “the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people” (9:7).

God’s mercy isn’t for those breaking His commandments but for those keeping them, “And shewing mercy [ḥese 2617] unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments” (Exo 20:6; Deu 5:10), “the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy [ḥese 2617] with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations” (Deu 7:9).

Under the Old Covenant, God’s people were saved by living righteously in obedience to His commandments. But when they did sin, they would repent and offer an animal sacrifice that would cover it. And this is the same model under the New—as God’s people today, we must live righteously in obedience to His Son’s commandments and confess when we sin, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1Jo 1:9).

Since sola fide claims that Abraham is our example of faith or believing, therefore “faithful Abraham” (Gal 3:9 KJV, WEB, YLT) is mistranslated as “Abraham the believer” (NET), “Abraham, the man of faith” (NIV), “believing Abraham” (NKJV). But Abraham is our example of faithfulness to God in obeying His commandments, “thou hast obeyed my voice” (Gen 22:18), “Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws” (Gen 26:5).

Paul taught, “For if Abraham were justified by works [actions], he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed [trusted] God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” (Rom 4:2-3). Abraham’s “actions” were that of building altars to offer sacrifices: “there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD” (Gen 12:8), “Unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of the LORD” (13:4), “built there an altar unto the LORD” (13:18). That he “trusted God” is that he trusted God would one day provide the sacrifice for his sins, “God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering” (22:8).

God’s people under the law of the Old Covenant were saved by loving God and keeping His commandments, “them that love me, and keep my commandments” (Exo 20:6; Deu 5:10), “them that love him and keep his commandments” (Deu 7:9). Jesus said the same, “If ye love me, keep my commandments … He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me … If a man love me, he will keep my words … He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings” (Jhn 14:15,21,23,24). And John as well, “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments” (1Jo 2:3), “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments” (1Jo 5:3), “And this is love, that we walk after his commandments” (2Jo 1:6). Eternal life comes not to believers but to the obedient, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life” (Rev 22:14).

Blessed are They that Do His Commandments

The Lord Jesus Christ said that He will decide who enters the Kingdom, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven … And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity [458 anomia]” (Mat 7:21, 23). The Greek noun anomia is a compound of the negative participle alpha and noun nomos for “law.” One day He will deny before the Father knowing any that practiced lawlessness or didn’t keep God’s law.

He said at the beginning of His Sermon on the Mount that His teaching doesn’t overturn what was stated in the law and the prophets but fulfills it, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law [3551 nomos], or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law [3551 nomos], till all be fulfilled.” (Mat 5:17-18). He later encapsulated His teaching on the law in one commandment, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law [3551 nomos] and the prophets” (Mat 7:12).

Again, back toward the beginning of His Sermon He said, “That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mat 5:20). He then stated what the scribes and Pharisees had been teaching about the law, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time” (v. 21), followed by what He was now teaching, “But I say unto you” (v. 22). And this is the repeated pattern throughout the rest of the chapter—what they said and what He was now saying (vs. 27-28, 31-32, 33-34, 38-39, 43-44). Christ’s law isn’t a new code of ethics superseding the law, it’s the proper interpretation—as opposed to what the scribes and Pharisees taught—of its moral righteous requirements. We must live to the moral standard of God’s law.

Finally, He concluded His Sermon with the injunction to not only hear but also do what He said about the law, “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock

And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand” (Mat 7:24, 26). The only difference between the wise man and the foolish man is doing or not doing what He taught and commanded about the law.

Jesus Christ’s directive for newly baptized converts is “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Mat 28:20). We aren’t to be teaching them to memorize verses, stick to a daily Bible reading plan, keep a journal, read “Christian” books, or join small group discussions. These things are certainly good but what we’re to be teaching them is His commandments and obedience to Him.

It’s Jesus Christ’s prerogative to grant access to the tree of life, “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (Rev 2:7). And He will grant it to those that do His commandments, “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” (Rev 22:14).

We can say that we love Jesus with all our hearts but if we’re not obeying Him, we really don’t: “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (Jhn 14:15); “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me” (Jhn 14:21); “If a man love me, he will keep my words” (Jhn 14:23); “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (Jhn 15:14); “But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected” (1Jo 2:5); “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments” (1Jo 5:3).

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil” (Mat 5:17), Jesus Christ didn’t invalidate or nullify the law but even restated and reinforced its two greatest commandments, “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.” (Mat 22:37-40).

The very last statements of Scripture declare, “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. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.” (Rev 22:14-15). Notice that it’s not “believers” that are blessed and gain access to the tree of life, and it’s not “unbelievers” that are left without. The difference between the two is either doing or not doing His commandments, “Blessed are they that do his commandments.”