It’s easy to think of the Bible as a book that tells us what we should not do. That’s certainly understandable. One of the purposes of the word of God is to identify and define sin. For that reason, the Bible is filled with “thou shall not,” commands. They not only tell us what is wrong but also warn us about the consequences for those sins. So when we read the Bible, we should expect to find restrictions, rules, and regulations.
But if you think that’s all the Bible is – a rulebook that only tells us what we can’t do – then you’re mistaken.
Thou Shall Commands
Accompanying the many “thou shall not” commands is a large number of “thou shall” commands, instructions that tell us how we should live. Paul tells Timothy,
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,  that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Yes, Scripture does correct us and reprove us for wrong conduct by pointing out sin. But it also instructs us in righteousness and equips us for every good work. For all of the occasions God tells us “not do,” there are many occasions when God tells us TO DO.
For the purposes of this study, I have chosen five “thou shall commands.”
Command #1 – You shall love your enemies.
Matthew 5:43-44 “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you…”
In this section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus challenges us to raise our level of love. Loving those who love us is something anyone can do. What separates the followers of Christ from others is our commitment to loving those who hate us.
Loving our enemies means seeking what is best for them regardless of how we feel about them. Our enemies may persecute us, treat us harshly, or abuse us, and such treatment may create a lot of emotions and feelings inside of us.Regardless of how we feel, Jesus tells us to bless, to do good, and pray for them.
He points to the example of God the Father, “who makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends His rain on the just and the unjust.” God does good even toward those who do not believe in Him, who hate Him, who rebel against Him. If we want to be His children, we must do likewise, pursuing the perfection exemplified by God the Father.
Command #2 – You shall remember the Lord’s death until He comes again.
Paul reminded the Corinthians of what Jesus instituted after He shared His last Passover meal with His disciples,
“and when He had given thanks, He broke (the bread) and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’  In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’  For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:24-26).
The Lord’s Supper – or sometimes called communion – is a ceremonial meal eaten by the church. The bread represents the body of Jesus which He sacrificed on the cross for our sins. The fruit of the vine – or grape juice or wine – represents the blood Jesus shed for the remission of our sins.
Although it requires a little bit of digging, it does appear the first century church got together every Sunday to eat this meal together. The church in Troas assembled on the first day of the week to break bread (Acts 20:7). And in 1 Corinthians 11, Paul seems to imply that keeping the Lord’s Supper was the reason why the Corinthian church got together regularly. Thus, the church eats it as a community meal.
Jesus says we eat and drink in order to remember Him. We remember the terrible sacrifice He gave as He willingly subjected Himself to torture, public humiliation, and death by crucifixion. And we remember the reasons why this sacrifice was necessary. We accept personal responsibility for His death by remembering the sins we committed. It is a sobering ceremony that serves as an important touchstone for the church from week to week.
And it’s a ceremony we should keep until Jesus returns: as Paul says, “ For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.”
Command #3 – You shall present your bodies as a living sacrifice.
Romans 12:1, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”
Earlier, I mentioned the mistaken impression held by many that the Bible is just a book that tells us what we can’t do. It’s true that the Bible does define sin and warns us about the consequences for sin. But it also gives us a sense of why we should keep ourselves from sin. And the reason why we should pursue purity goes beyond “sin is wrong.”
In the book of Romans, Paul depicts the body as a weakness exploited by sin.
Romans 6:12, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.”
Romans 7:23-24, “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.  O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
The body is not inherently evil, the body is inherently weak, as Jesus said to His disciples, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Thus we sacrifice our body, with its desires, to a higher purpose.
“And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” (Romans 6:13)
Resisting temptation and avoiding sin by using our bodies as an instrument of righteousness is a higher calling that serves an eternal purpose.
Command #4 – You shall honor your father and mother.
Ephesians 6:1-3, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  ‘HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER,’ which is the first commandment with promise:  ‘THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU AND YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH.’”
American culture tilts toward youth. We celebrate youth and vitality in everything from health and beauty to social justice causes. And, certainly, we should celebrate and admire aspects of youthfulness. Jesus said to His disciples,
“Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” (Mark 10:14-15)
However, even though we should admire and imitate some virtues of youthfulness, children are also called to obey and to honor their parents.
To be frank, the wickedness and cruelty and foolishness of some parents makes this a difficult command for too many children to keep. Regardless, God does issue the command and offers a reason why. A culture that values the honoring of parents stands a greater chance of securing long-term social stability. In contrast, Paul says “perilous times” will be characterized by children who are “disobedient to parents” (2 Timothy 3:1-2).
Again, I don’t think Scripture is being naive about the harms and hurts done to children by negligent and abusive parents. I’m reminded of the warnings of Jesus about causing little ones who believe in Him to stumble. It would be better for the offenders to drown themselves in the sea. God is well aware of this world’s cruelty and vows to avenge the victims of abuse.
However, this does not alter the warning of Scripture: a general spirit of rebellion among the young carries with it significant downstream consequences for society. Thus it is God’s will for all of us to honor our fathers and mothers.
Command #5 – You shall bear with one another.
Colossians 3:12-13 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;  bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.
Anyone who believes Christians are perfect is sadly mistaken. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. John warns Christians, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). Christians are not perfect; we have been perfected by the blood of Jesus Christ that covers our sins so long as we walk in the light. Because Christians are not immune from error, we must learn how to bear with the weaknesses of one another.
In Colossians 3:12, Paul highlights several virtues we will need to bear with one another. To bear with one another requires certain virtues:
- Tender mercies: compassion, feeling sympathy and empathy and pity for one another.
- Kindness: “the ancient writers defined (this word) as the virtue of the man whose neighbor’s good is as dear to him as his own.”
- Humility: if I consider myself to be superior to others, then I will grow impatient with their mistakes and foibles.
- Meekness: a gentle and lowly and sweet spirit.
- Longsuffering: we must have a level of patience that is willing to suffer the slights and insults and thoughtlessness that is a part of human interactions.
- Remember God’s mercy: God forgave me, His enemy, out of His grace and mercy; He expects me to do likewise.
5 “You Shall” Commands — Key Thoughts
The Bible does define things we should not do. But of equal importance are the things it tells us TO do.
- God wants us to love our enemies as He loves His enemies.
- Christ tells the church to regularly eat bread and drink the fruit of the vine as a memorial of His death.
- Just as Jesus denied Himself and took up His cross. He commands us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice.
- For the good of our society, we should honor our fathers and mothers.
- Because God bears with us, we should bear with one another.