Scott Pontier

Deuteronomy 6:4-9: Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Most commentators understand the phrase “these commandments” to allude to a number of things; specifically the commands given in this paragraph, more broadly to include the commandments in Deuteronomy, the Torah and, even more, all of the Biblical text. That’s a whole lot of commandments and can seem to feel very stifling and restrictive.

Christians have struggled with the idea of salvation for centuries. Common to our understanding is that our salvation could never come under our own power. There is nothing we can do to earn favor with God to the point of salvation. We have been able to come to God, quite simply, because of His own grace, His free gift of His son, Jesus. Through his blood we are saved. So what’s up with all these commandments?

Christianity as a whole runs a wide spectrum on how they approach this question, most often we hear words from Ephesians 2, “it is by grace we have been saved.” Citing this text often helps us understand that we cannot earn favor with God – He gives it freely. If we are not careful, however, it can lend to thinking that tells us, “obeying commandments is not as important as simply loving or worshipping Jesus,” or “people who work so hard at obeying God’s ‘rules’ are just trying to earn their way to heaven.”

Keep reading in Ephesians 2:8-10. There is a reason we have been saved and we have been saved in order to do “mitsvot” – a word meaning “good deeds” as well as “commandments” or “teachings” as we see it in Deuteronomy 6.

When a teacher like Paul uses the phrase “good works” in his books, anyone reading them in the first century would have understood mitsvot from Deuteronomy. Read Deuteronomy 5:33. A central understanding to being a Christian is that we are saved by God’s grace and His grace alone so that we may participate in God’s heart, his mitsvot. What is God’s heart? Feeding the hungry, caring for the poor, taking care of the orphan, the widow, the stranger in your land. God’s heart is for the good deeds of taking care of others – loving our neighbor.

God is looking for partners – people who will do the mitsvot and become co-creators with God, making the world the kind of place God originally intended it to be. it is by doing the mitsvot, these commands, these good deeds, that we help repair and restore this broken world.

How have you written the mitsvot on your heart?

How can you impress them on your children, talk about them when at home and on the road?

Where would God have you help restore his world today?

Colossians 3:12-17

Scott Pontier is the Student Ministries Pastor at Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Grove City