Question: Jesus Christ said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another" (John 13:34). Does this new commandment replace the Ten Commandments?
Answer: Sadly, even many who call themselves Christians believe that Jesus’ "new commandment" replaces the commandments He had kept and taught throughout His ministry. However, if we examine Jesus’ teaching, we will understand the truth of the matter.
In His "Sermon on the Mount," Jesus said, "Do not think I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled" (Matthew 5:17–18).
What did Jesus mean when He said that He came to "fulfill" the Law? Does "fulfill" mean "eliminate"? No! Jesus’ new commandment filled the Law to the full, giving it a spiritual magnification it had not had before. Notice that in the next few verses, Jesus expounded the spiritual intent of God’s commandments. Murder is a sin, but hatred is the spirit of murder, and is also a sin. Adultery is a sin, but so is lust—the desire to commit adultery (Matthew 5:21–28). So, we can see that Jesus did not do away with the Ten Commandments; He made them an integral part of Christianity. Indeed, as He told us, "If you are to enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:17).
When Jesus gave the commandment to "love one another," was He giving a new commandment? Many are surprised to discover that the command to "love your neighbor as yourself" comes from the Old Testament (Leviticus 19:18).
So, what was new about Jesus’ command to love one another? Notice that after Christ had told the disciples to love one another, he added a new dimension—they were to love one another "as I have loved you" (John 13:34).
What made Jesus’ love different? The source of Jesus’ love was the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5), which Christ promised would be given to the disciples after His death and resurrection (John 14:16–17). That same night, Jesus commanded His disciples to "abide in My love" (John 15:10). The divine love of God would soon be in them to help them follow Christ’s example. Until Christ offered the gift of the Holy Spirit, the disciples could only love one another with human love. With the Holy Spirit, Christians can love one another with the very love of God. By this love, true Christians can be recognized. "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:35).
Throughout His life on earth, Jesus Christ demonstrated how God’s love actually works. Even at the moment of His death, Christ expressed total love for His enemies, when He prayed, "Father forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34). Just moments before He spoke His "new commandment"—during His final Passover meal before His crucifixion—Christ had established the foot-washing ceremony, which reminds Christians to lead lives of humility, service and love. Jesus constantly lived a life of obedience to the spiritual intent and purpose of God’s laws. Christ’s love, obedience and faith toward His Father encompassed the first four of the Ten Commandments. His love, service and outflowing concern for others encompassed the last six of the Ten Commandments.
If you would like to learn more about what the Ten Commandments mean in the lives of Christians today, please request a copy of our free booklet, The Ten Commandments.