Does the word "commandments" always refer to the Ten Commandments?



I have read your response about the Ten Commandments issue and Jesus' commandments. It seems that you are making good points in your explanation. However, a friend of mine explain this verse to me. And I think he has good points, too. Will you please check his arguments for me? I will appreciate it. Thanks.

Here are his arguments:

"The word commandments as a manifestation of love. Love for God and others. God said in Exodus 20:6 that if we love him, we should obey His commandments (i.e. the Ten Commandments). Also in Matthew 15 God referred to the Ten Commandments as the commandment of God.  The word commandments refers to the Ten Commandments because it is the only law that defines sin (I John 3:4; James 2:10-11; Romans 7:7). Christ came to save from sin. In implication, Christ came to save us from disobedience of the Ten Commandments.  Other places in the Bible where commandments is used are not expressed in the context of keeping or obeying. Does commandments do not define sin, do not expresses love, not direct command from God to mankind.  An example is I Corinthians 14:37. "The commandment of the Lord" there implies God commanded Paul to write the message to them. In the context of false tongue speakers in the  church of Corinth, the Lord commanded Paul to write to them concerning tongue and prophesying. Note that the word "commandment" there is to the subject "I" in the verse which is Paul."


The argument being made is that all uses of "commandments" refer to the Ten Commandments. Yet, the writer knows his statement is false, so he hedges his argument that only where "commandments" are expected to be obeyed does it refer to the Ten Commandments. Thus, he introduces a second false premise: that there are commands which are not expected to be followed.

It is easy to show that commands which are not the Ten Commandments are expected to be followed. "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34-35). Notice that Jesus called this a new commandment. It was expected to be followed; therefore, there are more commandments than just the Ten Commandments. John says the same thing: "And now I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning: that we love one another. This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it" (II John 5-6).

Even in the Old Testament, "commandments" did not mean just the Ten Commandments. For example, at the end book of Leviticus we find, "These are the commandments which the LORD commanded Moses for the children of Israel on Mount Sinai" (Leviticus 27:34). The entire book of Leviticus, which does not contain the Ten Commandments, laid out the commandments of God. The book of Deuteronomy contains the Ten Commandments but it also contains many more instructions as well. Toward the end Moses told Israel, "Now Moses, with the elders of Israel, commanded the people, saying: "Keep all the commandments which I command you today"" (Deuteronomy 27:1). Technically the things Moses told the elders that particular day did not include the Ten Commandments, yet these commandments had to be carefully kept.

I feel sorry for your friend, since he is unable to parse a simple sentence: "If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord" (I Corinthians 14:37). Paul did not say he wrote at the command of the Lord (though that happens to be true). Paul said that the things which he wrote are the commandments of the Lord. Paul's point is that his order that women are not to speak in the assembly of the church is not his opinion. Paul has been recording the commandments of the Lord. In other words all of Paul's writings contain Jesus' commands. "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual" (I Corinthians 2:12-13).

The claim that "commandments" in I John 3:4 only refers to the Ten Commandments is demonstratively false. "And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us" (I John 3:22-24). John illustrates the commandments as being believing in the authority of Jesus as God's Son and loving one another. John wasn't talking about the Ten Commandments in I John 3:4.

I demonstrated in "Is the covenant different from the Law?" that there are several synonyms for the same body of law: law, covenant, testimony, precept, statute, and judgment can all refer to God's law. Your friend is making a logical flaw of making a distinction where none exists. When God talks about His commandments He is referring to all His teachings, not a small piece. See What Was Nailed to the Cross? for detailed proof that the Old Testament Law was a single unit, not to be subdivided.

By the way, let's just grant for a moment the possibility that "commandments" always refer to the Ten Commandments. "For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace" (Ephesians 2:14-15). Paul said the commandments were abolished by Jesus when he died on the cross because they created hatred and separation between the Jews and the Gentiles. This would then be a direct statement that the Ten Commandments were ended. Actually, they were, but because they were among all the commandments of God to the Jews in the Old Testament. Paul's statement here is broader that your friend's twisted view would allow.