Heed the Commands of the King of Kings Above and Before all Else
Yes, new shepherd, you and your flock are free to obey all the commandments of the King of Kings. No higher authority can forbid you to baptize, serve Communion, pray in His name or proclaim His Word. He affirmed this authority in His final Great Commission.
Yes, Lord, we will train disciples from the start, as you said, building on the Rock by heeding your commandments. Shield us from programs that overlook such obedience, and from the evil one’s lure to let spiritual-sounding rules replace You as our highest authority.
Our spiritual foundation, at its core, is more than doctrinal; it is relational. Jesus said, “If you love Me, obey My commands” (John 14:15). Jesus is the rock we build upon by obeying His commandments. Such obedience is a prime factor in both the Old and New Testaments; nothing is more basic to faith and ministry than loving obedience.
Level 1. Commands of Jesus and His apostles.
These include the commands to love, pray, baptize, repent, and so on. Believers are to obey these without arguing or voting on them.
Do not include Old Testament laws, lest you have to stone to death anyone who gathers firewood Saturday morning.
Level 2. New Testament church practices that were not commanded.
These include drinking from only one cup for Communion, baptizing at once, worshiping of a Sunday, and so on. We believers have the right to choose whether to practice these, but we are not to prohibit others’ doing so, for the apostles approved them. Still, we should not command these practices as general church law, for only Christ has such authority.
Level 3. Human Traditions that were not mentioned in the New Testament.
These include Sunday Schools, choirs, robes, bylaws, church buildings and so on. We must not require these as law, even though we must prohibit them if they hinder obedience to Jesus. Most such traditions are good; however, they become evil when they hinder obeying Jesus.
Jesus gave seven basic orders that the 3,000 new believers of the first church began obeying at once, following Pentecost:
This requires faith, the Spirit’s conviction and being born of the Spirit, Mark 1:15; John 3:16; 20:22.
Baptism initiates the new, holy, transformed life in union with the risen Christ, Matt. 28:18-20; Rom. 6:1-14.
The Lord’s Supper, an essential part of worship, provides fellowship with Christ and with fellow believers, Matt. 26:26-28; John 4:24. This can be done by two or more disciples, formally or informally, anywhere the followers of Jesus gather.
We are to love and forgive even our worst enemies. Loving God always comes first and is the greatest of all commandments. We are also to love our family and fellow believers. Loving our neighbor (anyone in need) in a practical way includes being good citizens. Matt. 5:43-48; 22:36-40; John 13:34-35, Luke 10:25-37. Jesus said love fulfills God’s entire law.
Although the word “love” is not in the account of the first church in Acts 2, love is evident in their fellowship and in their giving.
Communicating with God includes praying as a body in worship, private and family devotions, intercession and spiritual warfare. We are to pray in Jesus’ name, John 16:24.
Giving includes stewardship of all that God has given us: time, treasure and talents, Luke 6:38.
Disciple-making includes witnessing, shepherding, applying the Word, training leaders, and going to neglected peoples near and far, Matt. 28:18-20.
Can you recall Jesus’ general commands by viewing these icons?
Resources For While You …
Keep a Captain’s log. Monitor new believers’ development in obeying Jesus:
Respect God-given leaders. Relive the disaster when rebels defied Moses and Aaron:
Trust God’s compass. When the commands of Jesus and His Apostles do not specify a particular course, count on the Holy Spirit’s guidance:
Rate your priorities. Avoid divisive squabbles by discerning Three Levels of Authority for church life and conduct. Doing so avoids most church arguments:
Light the family lamp. Help your family or small group learn the Word and discuss how to apply its key passages:
Fine-tuning obedience. Examine ways to apply Jesus’ seven general commands:
Putting Christ’s directives under the microscope. This is for scholars who want to do a detailed study:
Preventing perversion of God’s rules. Reenact how Jesus rebuked Pharisees who scolded His disciples for not washing their hands ceremonially before eating:
Facing harsh controversy. Neglecting a divisive issue to avoid arguing might keep it festering, spreading and driving folk from a church. Discern when it’s better to deal frankly with a disagreement:
Be warned of how severely God punishes lying in His Presence. Reenact the story of Ananias and Saphira:
Make disciples that do what Jesus said His disciples must do. Scripted to reenact:
Common Traps To Avoid
Teaching detailed doctrine before establishing obedience to Jesus’ commands.
If we fail to teach a new church to heed Jesus’ commands, Satan will rush in and fill the authority vacuum with spiritual sounding practices and rules to replace Christ as the head, in practice, of a church body.
Insisting that only ordained clergy can baptize or serve Communion.
This forces thousands of new churches, especially in pioneer fields, to disobey these commands of Jesus, even though their leaders meet every biblical requirement for pastoring.
New churches that are not allowed to baptize or experience the Lord’s Supper together will be weaker that if they are encouraged to do so.
Offering cheap grace.
Avoid teaching that one does not need to repent to be saved, only believe. Some proponents of cheap grace say repentance was a requirement just for ancient Israel; however, God has granted “repentance that leads to life” to gentiles (Acts 11:18). In His parting words, Jesus told His followers to proclaim forgiveness to those who repent of all nations (Luke 24:4-48).
Trying to make disciples with doctrinal courses, rather than actively training disciples.
Teaching abstract theology prematurely turns churches into religious schools instead of active bodies.
Treating Bible knowledge as more important than obeying Christ
Some insist that knowledge of the Word is more basic than loving obedience. For them, learning biblical truth is the foundation for the Christian life. However, learning God’s Word is only one of several essentials that we build on the one true foundation, which is Christ. Our part in establishing this basement floor foundation is to obey Him. For all eternity, we will be learning more and more about God.