What Are God’s Commandments?

What are God’s commandments and how can we know them? To answer this question we must look at what the Bible says about what God desires for us.

Throughout history, many people have confidently declared that they know God’s commandments.

Some people have said that it’s wrong to watch television or eat certain types of food. Others have declared that God wants people to live in certain locations or observe particular holidays. And then there are those who push back, saying they’re free to do whatever they want.

All of this raises a critical question:

What are God’s commandments and how can we know them?

It’s very important that we know how to answer this question. If we can’t answer clearly, we’re at risk of believing lies about God and what He desires for us.

What Are God’s Commandments?

When most people think about the commandments of God, they think of the Ten Commandments found in Exodus 20:

  1. You shall have no other gods before Me
  2. You shall not make for yourself a carved image
  3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain
  4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy
  5. Honor your father and your mother
  6. You shall not murder
  7. You shall not commit adultery
  8. You shall not steal
  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor
  10. You shall not covet

And while these are certainly God’s commands, they are not ALL of God’s commandments. Every command in Scripture is from God.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 says,

“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.”

From the first page to the last, the Bible is fully God’s word, and the commands found in it are from the Lord.

Now, to be clear, there are some commands in the Old Testament which applied only to the people of Israel and are not binding on Christians today. They served to guide Israel on how to live in a manner that pleased the Lord in their unique situation. Nevertheless, we can still learn a great deal about God from these commands.

If someone tells us that God wants us to do something, we must weigh their claim against what the Bible says. If it’s not in the Bible, then it’s not from God, no matter how forceful or persuasive the person is.

In Galatians 1:8-9, Paul wrote:

But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.

Paul was deeply concerned that the Galatians were seeking to obey commands that weren’t actually from God. He tells them that even if an angel were to tell them something contrary to God’s word, they shouldn’t obey it.

Why Do God’s Commandments Matter?

The commands of God are hugely important for a number of reasons.

First, they are the key to living in a way that pleases the Lord. There are some things that honor God and other things that do not. Stealing is displeasing to God, while generosity glorifies Him. Lying is dishonorable to the Lord while telling the truth pleases Him.

If we want to live in a way that glorifies the Lord, we must seek to understand and obey His commands in Scripture.

Psalm 119:9-10 says,

“How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You; oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!”

The second reason God’s commands are so important is that they guide us in the best way to live. It’s easy to forget that the instructions of the Lord are for our good. God created the world and He created us. When we obey the word of the Lord, we are living as He always intended us to. When we don’t obey God’s commandments, we are “going against the grain” of God’s world. We will have trouble and difficulty.

Psalm 119:2-3 says,

“Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord! Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart! They also do no iniquity; they walk in His ways.”

When we walk in the ways of the Lord, we receive blessings from the Lord. We should seek after the Lord with all our heart so that we may experience wonderful things from Him.

Helpful Resources on Christian Priorities

God’s Desires For You: A Biblical Guide

What are God’s desires for us? The good news is that the Bible makes it very clear what God wants of us.

Read More >

How Do We Obey God’s Commands?

If God’s commandments are so important, how do we obey them? The truth is, we can only obey God through the power that He provides. On our own, we don’t have the strength to consistently fight against sin and walk in the ways of the Lord.

In John 15:5, Jesus said,

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”

Jesus is the One who empowers us to bear fruit for God. If we want to consistently obey the Lord, then it’s essential that we stay connected to Jesus. Regular fellowship with Jesus is the key to obedience.

Pastor Adrian Rogers said:

"When God gets ready to change someone, how does He do it? By changing how they think. God changes the thought process...The Lord Jesus Christ wants us to present our bodies to Him, including our minds, that He might transform us. No wonder the devil battles for the mind. How important that we learn to keep our hearts, because a fierce battle is raging for the control of your mind."

Every day, we must present ourselves to Jesus and ask Him to transform us. We must ask Him for the power to say, “No,” to sin and, “Yes,” to righteousness. Through the power of Christ dwelling in us, we can obey the Lord. We can put off the works of the flesh and put on the fruit of the Spirit.

What Happens If We Disobey?

Even after we become Christians, there will still be times when we disobey the commands of God. Though our disobedience is displeasing to the Lord, it doesn’t cut us off from God. Our salvation, forgiveness, and relationship with God is secure in Jesus Christ.

Just as our obedience doesn’t make us more righteous in Christ, our disobedience doesn’t make us less righteous.

We are still accepted by God and welcomed as His children.

Now, to be clear, there are consequences when we sin against the Lord. Our fellowship with God is disrupted and we miss out on blessings from the Lord. Pastor Adrian Rogers said:

"What is the blessing of obedience? Intimacy with God. You will come to know things that you could never know any other way when you become intimate with God. And yet people are still asking, “How do I understand the Bible?” Friend, you will have a knowledge that surpasses anything you could gain from a school of learning when you serve the Lord in obedience."

If we want to experience nearness and intimacy with God, we must seek to obey His commandments. We just need to be careful to always remember that our obedience doesn’t make us righteous before God. Only Jesus can do that.

Stay In The Middle of the Road

When it comes to the commands of the Lord, we can easily fall off on either side of the road. On the one hand, we may be tempted to believe that our obedience is what makes us acceptable to God, rather than the perfect obedience of Jesus. This is called “legalism”.

On the other hand, we may be tempted to believe that our obedience to God doesn’t matter at all. This is called “license”. Neither legalism nor license is pleasing to God.

Titus 2:11-12 helps us strike the appropriate balance:

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age…”

It is the grace of God that teaches us to obey. We strive to fight against ungodliness and to live righteously in light of the grace that we have received from God. Hymnist John Berridge wrote:

"Run, John, and work, the law commands,
yet finds me neither feet nor hands,
But sweeter news the gospel brings,
it bids me fly and lends me wings!"

His point was simple. In the gospel of Jesus Christ, we find the power to obey God’s commands. In light of the wonderful grace we’ve received, let’s strive to honor the Lord by the way we live.

More Helpful Tools and Resources on Christian Priorities

How To Put God First In Everything

It can be hard to know exactly what it looks like to make God your highest priority. Let's look to God’s word to see what it says about how to put God first.

Learn More

What Is Worship According To The Bible?

What is worship to you? The reality is that worship is more than just music. If we want to honor God, we need to understand the nature of true worship.

Learn More

What Is The Essence Of The Christian Life?

Everyone has a different answer, but what does God say about a Christian life? That’s what matters most. To answer that question we need to look to the Bible.

Learn More

Related Articles and Sermons about God's Commandments

Keeping The Commandments, part 1

Learn More

Keeping The Commandments, part 2

Learn More

A Perfect 10 For Homes That Win

Learn More