The Bible is full of commandments. Famously, God gave Moses Ten Commandments that he and the people were to live by (Ex. 20:1-17). Even in the garden of Eden, God gave commandments to the newly formed humans. He told mankind to be fruitful and to multiply and to subdue (or have dominion over) the earth and the things in it (Gen. 1:28). God has always had rules and guidelines that His creation should follow. God gives these commandments because He loves His creation and wants it to function properly. After He led the people out of Egypt, He expected the people to live a certain way. After Adam and Eve were created, God expected them to do certain things. But what about today? What does God expect of us today? What does God really want?
God’s expectations during each age
Firstly, we must understand that God’s desire for man has not always been the same in specifics. In the days of Adam, He had different expectations for man, in the days of Moses He had different expectations for man, and in the days of Christ He has different expectations for mankind. The responsibility that Adam and those in the Patriarchal Age (known as the first of three dispensations of God’s people) had is different than those in the following two ages. Adam’s essential responsibility was to populate the earth. Populating the earth was the main goal of mankind during the very early period. All the while, mankind was to serve God through faith and the men of the household were to offer sacrifices to God (Gen. 4:3-4; 8:20; 12:7-8; Job 1:1, 5).
Then, during the days of Moses (known as the Mosaic Age or the Jewish Age) God had different expectations for mankind. Primarily, the purpose of this age was to teach individuals about the consequences and the seriousness of sin while preparing them for the coming of the Messiah (Gal. 3:24). God introduced a law by Moses that would help the people to understand the seriousness of sin. Animal sacrifices were introduced in order to show individuals that sin has costly consequences (Heb. 9:22; cf. Lev. 17:11). In both of these ages, there is an underlying expectation of a Messiah (Gen. 3:15; 12:1-2). God maintained from Adam through Moses that there must be a pure lineage by which the Christ would be brought into the world.
That brings us to our final and current age: The Christian age. The previous two dispensations, or ages, had requirements, but what about the Christian age? Do we abide by the commandments given to Adam? Do we abide by the commandments given to Moses? Today, we live by the laws given by Christ (Jas. 4:12). Though it may seem as if we abide by the Ten Commandments, the expectations that God has for His people during this age are not the same as under the law of Moses. Concerning this, Paul writes the following:
For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity (Eph. 2:14–16 NAS).
In other words, at the cross when Jesus died, the law of Moses was made null and void. It was nailed to cross with Him. The divide between the Jews and the Gentiles has been broken down, and there has been established a new law, the law of Christ. Today, we live under a new law. We are no longer under the law of Moses, and God’s expectation for His people has changed. Now that the Christ has come and died, God expects us to live differently.
If the commandments that were delivered to Adam and Moses are no longer in effect, what commandments do we live by? What is God’s expectation for us today? Jesus answered this question:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets (Mt. 22:37–40 NAS).
Jesus said that the expectation for His people today is to love God and to love those around them. Since Jesus was crucified and sins can now be perfectly forgiven, we should love God and we should love those around us. We should love others because God has loved us (1 John 4:7-21)! Since God loves us enough to offer up His Son, we should love Him. And since He offered Jesus Christ for all, we should love all, just as God loves all (Jn. 3:16).
The simplicity of these two commandments is beautiful, but also the depth of them is astounding! Consider this: If we love God, will we keep His commandments? If we love God, will we do what we know He wants us to do? Of course we would (Jn. 14:15)!
Inspired apostles revealed the will of God to man (Jn. 14:25-26; 1 Cor. 2:10). Jesus did not give every commandment that the Christian must live by while He was on the earth. Rather, He revealed some but set up inspired apostles to reveal the entire will of God for man. However, as Jesus said, everything God wants mankind to do can be summed up with loving God and loving our neighbor. Life isn’t as complex as we make it out to be. God’s commandments are not burdensome (1 Jn. 5:3). Love God and love your neighbor! It’s what God really wants.