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The
NAZARENE
Commandments

Published by the

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The Friends of the Nazarene permit the reproduction of "The Nazarene Commandments" as free gifts to friends and relatives. The manuscript may not be altered in anymanner. [All quotes are from the New World Translation.]

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INTRODUCTION.

Jesus Christ the Nazarene spoke with love to his private disciples on that Passover night: "If you love me, you will observe my commandments. you are my friends if you do what I am commanding you." (Jn 14.15; 15.14) Surely, they understood the need to be familiar with what their Lord had taught during the past three years. They remember their Lord had on many occasions told them, "Do not" do this, or, "Stop" doing that. They also knew he had stated many "commandments" in a positive tone by saying "do this" or "become that." Thus they knew they could prepare a list of the Nazarene Commandments in both their positive and negative forms. They knew also there were certain fundamental principles or basic truths which were not precisely "commandments" but mere statements of fact which carried the idea of a "commandment."

Showing the need to put into action what Jesus teaches is the conclusion to the Mountain Teachings (or, Plain Teachings): "Why, then, do you call me 'Lord! Lord!' but do not do the things I say? Everyone that comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug and went down deep and laid a foundation upon the rock-mass. Consequently, when a flood arose, the river dashed against that house, but was not strong enough to shake it,  because of its being well built. On the other hand, he who hears and does not do, is like a man who built a house upon the ground without a foundation. Against it the river dashed, and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house became great." (Lk 6.46-49) Those who would claim Jesus is their Lord are charged to actually live what the Nazarene taught.

The Nazarene expresses this need to keep his commandments in numerous places. Compare some of these. "Happy are those hearing the word of God and keeping it!" (Lk 11.28) "When you have done all the things assigned to you, say, 'We are good-for-nothing slaves. What we have done is what we ought to have done.'" (Lk 17.10) Some Christians make much of the details of their formalism or religiosity but ignore the weightier matters, as Jesus puts it to those in his day: "But woe to you Pharisees, because you give the tenth of the mint and the rue and of every [other] vegetable, but you pass by the justice and the love of God! These things you were under obligation to do, but those other things not to omit." (Lk 11.42)

When a disciple of the Nazarene publicly confesses "Jesus Christ is Lord" he acknowledges his need to be obedient to his King. (Ro 10.9, 10) The Nazarene's beloved apostle John teaches obedience must accompany conviction: "For (the) God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. ... And, this is the judgment, that the Light has has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the Light and do not come to the Light so their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the Light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God. ... Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath." (Jn 3.16, 19-21 ,36 RSV)

Jesus also made it clear that obedience is necessary. Paul makes the same comment in the Letter to the Hebrews: "Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him." (He 5.8, 9 RSV) Salvation is dependent on obedience to the Lord. The Nazarene warns that on the judgment day of his own Household some will claim to have performed grand religious works. However, note the response of the King: "Not everyone saying to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will. Many will say to me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?' And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness." (Mt 7.21-23) They same is illustrated in the parable of the sheep and goats. (Mt 25.31-46)

Commandments which apply to certain individuals are not necessarily meant as a rule for all persons. The Nazarene commands his personal apostles to sell everything and give it to charity. (Lk 12.33) This may not necessarily be a rule for others. In one case he speaks directly to one individual, but the principle may be one to think about. "Next he proceeded to say also to the man that invited him: "When you spread a dinner or evening meal, do not call your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors. Perhaps sometime they might also invite you in return and it would become a repayment to you. But when you spread a feast, invite poor people, crippled, lame, blind; and you will be happy, because they have nothing with which to repay you. For you will be repaid in the resurrection of the righteous ones." (Lk 14.12-14) This is seen also in the Nazarene’s specific instructions to his apostles -- and then the Seventy -- on how to carry out their ministry. Much of what he says may not apply to modern disciples, though one could apply to themselves certain principles. How many "commandments" are included in the teachings of the Nazarene? Though these figures may vary according to translation and personal views it is interesting to note these. There are about a dozen negative commandments. There are 32 positive commandments. There are 19 principles which can identify the Christian character. The Nazarene "commandments" total about 63 which is one-tenth of the Mosaic Law.

What categories do they cover? What is omitted? The following work, THE NAZARENE COMMANDMENTS, is a compilation of the teachings of Jesus which involve the Christian character in the form of principles, as well as negative and positive commandments. We have prepared these by drawing from the four Gospels and putting them under several headings with a brief commentary. Not all verses are cited but these may be found by cross-referencing. There are also longer parables which may be part of the teachings involved below. [For details on Mt 5-7 see the work NAZARENE MOUNTAIN TEACHINGS.]

I. NEGATIVE COMMANDMENTS.

These are specific commands that usually begin, "Stop,: or, "Do not." These words occur upwards of 200 times in the Gospels.

#1 -- DO NOT STUMBLE OTHERS.

There is a very serious danger that a Christian never do anything to stumble others. (Ro 14.13, 30; 16.17; 1 Co 8.9) The Nazarene warned: "Woe to the world due to the stumbling blocks! Of course, the stumbling blocks must of necessity come, but woe to the man through whom the stumbling block comes! If, then, your hand or your foot is making you stumble, cut it off and throw it away from you; it is finer for you to enter into life maimed or lame than to be thrown with two hands or two feet into the everlasting fire. Also, if your eye is making you stumble, tear it out and throw it away from you; it is finer for you to enter one-eyed into life than to be thrown with two eyes into the fiery Ge·hen'na. See to it that you men do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that their angels in heaven always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven." (Mt 18.7-12)

#2 -- DO NOT TEST GOD.

Jesus warns of this when responding to the Devil’s temptation. "You must not put Jehovah your God to the test." (Mt 4.7; Ex 16.8; Ps 78.18; 106.14) This could include some action which would test God’s willingness to save. Or, it can mean something like: "Do not push God too far in testing His tolerance, testing his mercies and justice."

#3 -- DO NOT RESIST THE WICKED.

The Nazarene commands a peaceful and law-abiding disposition when it comes to oppressive authority. "Do not resist him that is wicked; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other also to him. And if a person wants to go to court with you and get possession of your inner garment, let your outer garment also go to him; and if someone under authority impresses you into service for a mile, go with him two miles." (Mt 5.39-41) From this comes the familiar, "go the extra mile." The Nazarene teaches his disciples to comply with the civil authorities and thus many civil rights movements have been patterned after this civil non-resistance. (Ro 13.1-7)

#4 -- DO NOT MAKE RELIGIOUS DISPLAYS.

A problem with seriously religious people is their egotistic drive to make a show of it. The Nazarene clearly commands against this kind of hypocrisy and self-righteousness. "Take good care not to practice your righteousness in front of men in order to be observed by them. Hence when you go making gifts of mercy, do not blow a trumpet ahead of you, just as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be glorified by men. Truly I say to you, They are having their reward in full." (Mt 6.1-3) The Nazarene lists righteous displays, charity, fasting and prayers in this category. "When you pray, you must not be as the hypocrites ... to be visible to men. when you pray, go into your private room and, after shutting your door, pray to your Father who is in secret; but when praying, do not say the same things over and over again using of many words." (Mt 6.5-8) "When fasting, stop becoming sad-faced like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Truly I say to you, They are having their reward in full. But you, when fasting, grease your head and wash your face, that you may appear to be fasting, not to men, but to your Father who is in secrecy; then your Father who is looking on in secrecy will repay you." (Mt 6.16-18)

#5 -- DO NOT STORE UP TREASURES.

Even a casual reading of the Mountain Teachings (Mt 5-7) or the Gospel of Luke will reveal what the Nazarene taught on the subject of riches, material things, or   possessions. Jesus commanded: "Stop storing up for yourselves treasures upon the earth." (Mt 6.19)

#6 -- DO NOT BE OVERLY CONCERNED.

Or, "Stop being anxious." The Nazarene had much to say on this subject of daily anxieties and concern over daily needs. The life-style of Jesus, his disciples, including later the apostle Paul, demonstrates what the Christ meant by these instructions. Consider some of these. "Stop being anxious about your souls as to what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your bodies as to what you will wear." (Mt 6.25) "So never be anxious and say, 'What are we to eat?' or, 'What are we to drink?' or, 'What are we to put on?'" (Mt 6.31) "Have no fear; you are worth more than many sparrows." (Lk 12.7) "So, never be anxious about the next day, for the next day will have its own anxieties. Sufficient for each day is its own badness." (Mt .34) "Quit being anxious about your souls as to what you will eat or about your bodies as to what you will wear. For the soul is worth more than food and the body than clothing. Mark well that the ravens neither sow seed nor reap, and they have neither barn nor storehouse, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more worth are you than birds? Who of you by being anxious can add a cubit to his life span? If, therefore, you cannot do the least thing, why be anxious about the remaining things? Mark well how the lilies grow; they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, Not even Sol'o·mon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these. If, now, God thus clothes the vegetation in the field that today exists and tomorrow is cast into an oven, how much rather will he clothe you, you with little faith! So  quit seeking what you might eat and what you might drink, and quit being in anxious suspense; for all these are the things the nations of the world are eagerly pursuing, but your Father knows you need these things. Nevertheless, seek continually his kingdom, and these things will be added to you." (Lk 12.22-31) "Do not let your hearts be troubled." (Jn 14.1)

# 7 -- DO NOT JUDGE OTHERS.

The human tendency to be critical or judgmental of others is amplified by a self-righteous religious environment. Some not only wrongly judge "those outside" (1 Co 5.12, 13) but begin to judge one another with the result of mutual annihilation. (Ga 5.15) Paul devotes much space to this subject of judging others. (Ro chs 2, 14) It is a sub-theme in the Letter of James. (Ja 2.4, 12; 4.11, 12; 5.9) Consider the Nazarene’s commandments on avoiding the judgmental attitude. "Stop judging that you may not be judged; for with what judgment you are judging, you will be judged." (Mt 7.1, 2) "Moreover, stop judging, and you will by no means be judged; and stop condemning, and you will by no means be condemned. Keep on releasing, and you will be released." (Lk 6.37) "Why, then, do you look at the straw that is in your brother's eye, but do not observe the rafter that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, allow me to extract the straw that is in your eye,' while you yourself are not looking at the rafter in that eye of yours? Hypocrite! First extract the rafter from your own eye, and then you will see clearly how to extract the straw that is in your brother's eye. (Lk 6.41-42) "Stop judging from the outward appearance,   but judge with righteous judgment." (Jn 7.24)

#8 -- DO NOT FEAR MEN.

Peer pressure can easily evolve into fear of man. Fear is one of the Devil’s most effective methods. Most people crave the approval of their associates and depending on the social and cultural environment will strive to mould into a person acceptable to the majority. Jesus commanded: "Do not become fearful of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather be in fear of him that can destroy both soul and body in Ge·hen'na." (Mt 10.28)

#9 -- DO NOT DIVORCE SAVE FOR ADULTERY.

The subject of divorce came up among Jewish men during the ministry of the Nazarene. The Law and Jewish culture provide a wide range of reasons for male divorce and  none for female divorce. The Nazarene limits the reason for divorce, both male and female, to one ground: adultery or sexual infidelity. "I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except on the ground of fornication, and marries another commits adultery.." (Mt 19.9) "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if ever a woman, after divorcing her husband, marries another, she commits adultery." (Mk 10.11, 12) Paul did not permit a man married more than once to become an "overseer." (1 Tm 3.2)

#10 -- DO NOT HINDER CHILDREN.

The Nazarene was tender in his treatment of children and he is often seen touching them or using them as examples of humility and faith. "Let the young children alone, and stop hindering them from coming to me, for the kingdom of the heavens belongs to suchlike ones." (Mt 19.14) Very young children are generally non-judgmental, sensitive to fairness, and above all, trusting.

#11 -- DO NOT ACCEPT TITLES.

All cultures and religions have a hierarchy which receive certain designations of honor or identification. The Nazarene taught there was to be only one rabbi, teacher, leader, or spiritual father. Rather, all should view one another brothers or servants of the others. "But you, do not you be called Rabbi, for one is your teacher, whereas all you are brothers. Moreover, do not call anyone your father on earth, for one is your Father, the heavenly One. Neither be called 'leaders,' for your Leader is one, the Christ. But the greatest one among you must be your minister. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." (Mt 23.8-12)

#12 -- DO NOT MAKE OATHS.

Some see this as prohibiting business "contracts" other than over a hand shake. Others do not. The later phrase shows the seriousness with which the Nazarene held the matter of oaths. "Do not swear at all (but) let your word Yes mean Yes, your No, No; for what is in excess of these is from the wicked one." (Mt 5.34, 37)

II. POSITIVE COMMANDMENTS.

The Nazarene gives numerous commandments in the positive sense of directing his disciples to do something. These emphasize positive action in worship, personal mental attitude, and love of neighbors.

#1 -- PRAY.

The Nazarene counsels prayer in many forms and situations. He demonstrates his own reliance on it from his baptism to his death. In the Garden of Agony his prayers become so intense he sweats blood. Consider the Nazarene’s commandments regarding prayer. "Keep on asking, and it will be given you; keep on seeking, and you will find; keep on knocking, and it will be opened to you. For everyone asking receives, and everyone seeking finds, and to everyone knocking it will be opened. Indeed, which father is there among you who, if his son asks for a fish, will perhaps hand him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he also asks for an egg, will hand him a scorpion? Therefore, if you, although being wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more so will the Father in heaven give holy spirit to those asking him!" (Lk 11.9-13) "Then he went on to tell them an illustration with regard to the need for them always to pray and not to give up, saying: ‘In a certain city there was a certain judge that had no fear of God and had no respect for man. But there was a widow in that city and she kept going to him, saying, "See that I get justice from my adversary at law." Well, for a while he was unwilling, but afterward he said to himself, "Although I do not fear God or respect a man, at any rate, because of this widow's continually making me trouble, I will see that she gets justice, so that she will not keep coming and pummeling me to a finish.'" Then the Lord said: "Hear what the judge, although unrighteous, said! Certainly, then, shall not God cause justice to be done for his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night, even though he is long-suffering toward them? I tell you, He will cause justice to be done to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of man arrives, will he really find the faith on the earth?" (Lk 18.1-8) "Carry on prayer, that you do not enter into temptation." (Lk 22.40)

#2 -- ENDURE.

No one understood more than the Nazarene that it was not enough to just embark on a course of loyal devotion to the Father. The spiritual birth must be fully realized by a death in integrity. Compare his positive command to endure. "But he that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved." (Mt 24.13) "As for that on the fine soil, these are the ones that, after hearing the word with a fine and good heart, retain it and bear fruit with endurance." (Lk 8.15)

#3 -- PAY YOUR TAXES.

Like Paul, the Nazarene exhorted the payment of taxes to the civil authorities. (Ro 13.6, 7) "Pay back, therefore, Caesar's things to Caesar, but God's things to God." (Mt 22.21)

#4 -- BE CELIBATE IF YOU HAVE THE GIFT.

In the context of discussing the difficulty of divorcing a woman -- and the response of the Jewish males that it would be better not to marry under such circumstances -- the Nazarene responded: "Not all men make room for the saying, but only those who have the gift. For there are eunuchs that were born such from their mother's womb, and there are eunuchs that were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs that have made themselves eunuchs on account of the kingdom of the heavens. Let him that can make room for it make room for it." (Mt 19.11, 12)

#5 -- DEAL WITH FAULTS AGAINST YOUR PERSON.

Elsewhere the Nazarene teaches much about forgiveness. Here Jesus gives instructions to his apostles regarding what to do with serious offenses against one’s person. However, the peaceful Jesus suggested a proper way to go about it. "Moreover, if your brother commits a sin, go lay bare his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take along with you one or two more, in order that at the mouth of two or three witnesses every matter may be established. If he does not listen to them, speak to the congregation. If he does not listen even to the congregation, let him be to you just as a man of the nations and as a tax collector." (Mt 18.15-17)

#6 -- BE HUMBLE.

The Nazarene was the humblest of men. For that, he was the humblest of all God’s creatures, in heaven or earth. (Ph 2.5-9) Though the most gifted of all men, he teaches humility by word and example. He knows pride and egotism are at the center of humankind’s difficulties with God and men. "In that hour the disciples came near to Jesus and said: ‘Who really is greatest in the kingdom of the heavens?’ So, calling a young child to him, he set it in their midst and said: ‘Truly I say to you, Unless you turn around and become as young children, you will by no means enter into the kingdom of the heavens. Therefore, whoever will humble himself like this young child is the one that is the greatest in the kingdom of the heavens; and whoever receives one such young child on the basis of my name receives me [also]. But whoever stumbles one of these little ones who put faith in me, it is more beneficial for him to have hung around his neck a millstone such as is turned by an ass and to be sunk in the wide, open sea.’” (Mt 18.1-6) "Truly I say to you, Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a young child will by no means enter into it." (Mk 10.15) For he that conducts himself as a lesser one among all of you is the one that is great." (Lk 9.48) "When you are invited by someone to a marriage feast, do not lie down in the most prominent place. Perhaps someone more distinguished than you may at the time have been invited by him, and he that invited you and him will come and say to you, 'Let this man have the place.' And then you will start off with shame to occupy the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and recline in the lowest place, that when the man that has invited you comes he will say to you, 'Friend, go on up higher.' Then you will have honor in front of all your fellow guests. For everyone that exalts himself will be humbled and he that humbles himself will be exalted." (Lk 14.8-11) "Everyone that exalts himself will be humiliated, but he that humbles himself will be exalted." (Lk 18.14)

#7 -- HAVE FAITH.

Faith or belief was a major teaching of the Nazarene. The word "faith" occurs upwards of 200 times in the Gospels. Jesus himself demonstrates it implicitly and without reservation. He often addresses his own disciples as ones with "little faith" but regards others as possessing the attribute beyond that of a believing Jew. Consider the Nazarene commandments regarding faith. "If you have faith the size of a mustard grain, you will say to this mountain, 'Transfer from here to there,' and it will transfer, and nothing will be impossible for you." (Mt 17.20) "That expression, 'If you can'! Why, all things can be to one if one has faith." (Mk 9.23) "Have faith in God." (Mk 11.22) "If you had faith the size of a mustard grain, you would say to this black mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea!' and it would obey you." (Lk 17.6) "For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone [believing] in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life. For God sent forth his Son into the world, not for him to judge the world, but for the world to be saved through him. He that [believes] in him is not to be judged. He that does not [believe] has been judged already, because he has not [believed] in the name of the only-begotten Son of God." (Jn 3.16-18) "Work, not for the food that perishes, but for the food that remains for life everlasting. ... This is the work of God, that you [believe] in him whom that One sent forth." (Jn 6.27, 29) "For this is the will of my Father, that everyone that beholds the Son and exercises faith in him should have everlasting life, and I will resurrect him at the last day." (Jn 6.40) "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves. He that feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has everlasting life, and I shall resurrect him at the last day; for my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. He that feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood remains in union with me, and I in union with him." (Jn 6.53-56) "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. He that puts faith in me, just as the Scripture has said, 'Out from his inmost part streams of living water will flow.'" However, he said this concerning the spirit which those who put faith in him were about to receive; for as yet there was no spirit, because Jesus had not yet been glorified." (Jn 7.3739) "He that exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life; and everyone that is living and exercises faith in me will never die at all. Do you believe this?" (Jn 11.25, 26) "He that puts faith in me puts faith, not in me [only], but in him [also] that sent me; and he that beholds me beholds [also] him that sent me. I have come as a light into the world, in order that everyone putting faith in me may not remain in the darkness. But if anyone hears my sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I came, not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that disregards me and does not receive my sayings has one to judge him. The word that I have spoken is what will judge him in the last day." (Jn 12.44-48) "Exercise faith in God, exercise faith also in me." (Jn 14.1) "He that exercises faith in me, that one also will do the works that I do; and he will do works greater than these." (Jn 14.12) "Happy are those who do not see and yet believe." (Jn 20.9)

#8 -- BEWARE FALSE TEACHERS.

Teachers of all kinds abounded in the days of the Nazarene as they do today. (2 Pe 2.1; 1 Jn 4.1) Each teacher claims the authority or God (Jehovah) or Christ. He or she may even provide some sign as proof. Yet, the Nazarene commands avoiding false teachers and false prophets. "Let them be. Blind guides is what they are. If, then, a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit." (Mt 15.14) “‘But watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ Then they grasped that he said to watch out, not for the leaven of the loaves, but for the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees." (Mt 16.11, 12) "Look out that nobody misleads you; for many will come on the basis of my name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will mislead many." (Mt 24.4, 5) "Then if anyone says to you, 'Look! Here is the Christ,' or, 'There!' do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will give great signs and wonders so as to mislead, if possible, even the chosen ones. Look! I have forewarned you. Therefore, if people say to you, 'Look! He is in the wilderness,' do not go out; 'Look! He is in the inner chambers,' do not believe it." (Mt 24.23-26) "Look out that you are not misled; for many will come on the basis of my name, saying, 'I am he,' and, 'The due time has approached.' Do not go after them." (Lk 21.8)

#9 -- PUBLIC CONFESSION.

There has never been a teacher greater than Jesus Christ the Nazarene. He was unafraid to make public confession of his faith in his God. The Nazarene commands his followers to confess him publicly. "Everyone, then, that confesses union with me before men, I will also confess union with him before my Father who is in the heavens; but whoever disowns me before men, I will also disown him before my Father who is in the heavens.." (Mt 10.32, 33) "I say, then, to you, Everyone that confesses union with me before men, the Son of man will also confess union with him before the angels of God. But he that disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God." (Lk 12.8, 9)

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