What does keep my commands mean? Below is a long more in-depth answer and a short one. While being tempted to read only the short version, I hope you read both. The short answer relies on general knowledge known to many Christians, the long answer searches for the answers, rather than relying on what we know, resulting in additional insights and understanding.
The phrase, keep my commandments, is based on these facts:
Failure to understand these basis facts will case err in understanding what is meant by keep my commandments.
As Christ followers, we are to discern and learn to do as Christ would if He was in our place: WWJD! This is done by studying God's Word, not to know facts, rather to apply those facts to our life! How can we know how to respond, if we do not know His Word? For example, how do we treat enemies? Matt. 5:43-44. This is easier for us to comprehend, if we remember God saved us when we were His enemies Rom. 5:10.
We can learn Christ's commands by reading what Christ and the authors of Scripture wrote! While God used men to pen Scripture, God is the anther of Scripture 2 Tim. 3:16. Both Jess and John told us what the commands we are to follow are:
In doing these, we automatically do all that God asks of us. The Scripture is full of practical was to love, such as the example given to love our enemies! As we love, Christ is made known, the world sees God through us! They know we are His disciples because of our love of others! Jn. 13:35. Its that simple!
We know we are not under the law, rather the we will be judged by law of liberty Jas. 2:12. This is not an excuse for us to sin Rom. 6:1-2, rather we are to hold true to the teachings of our Lord. Salvation is not a magic prayer said one day, after-which we can do whatever we wish, rather Salvation is a surrender of or lives to the Lordship of the Savior Rom. 10:9-11 ! Note, confession in this verse is not merely a verbal expression, rather a declaration of allegiance.
Evidence of our salvation is that we will desire to follow Christ and His teachings. Any works we do, good or bad, are a by product of our faith or the lack of it and stand to show others and ourselves what God already knows: what we actually believe in our heart, regardless of what we say we to believe with or lips. 1 Jn. 4:20. If there is no evidence of Christ's Lordship in your life and you have once said a prayer of invitation, regarding Christ, examine your claim of salvation to see if it be true, Scripture tells s to do this 2 Cor. 13:5!
This phrase, one similar or a from of the words keep and command together occurs 23 times in the New Testament. Additionally, there are two other occurrences with keep being translated as a deferent English word for a total of 25 verse to review. We know it is important: 1) it's repeated; 2) it's a command; 3) Jesus said it; 4) Other writers of the New Testament said it; 5) God included it in the Cannon of Scripture.
I wrote an article some time ago, “If You Love Me...”, which was also on this topic, yet it was written from a different angle. It was how I viewed obedience out of duty rather than love. You can read “If You Love Me...” if you wish to get that perceptive.
What's cool about Scripture is you can reread the same verse(s) and have multiple applications (still only one interruption) and the more you study, the deeper your insights into God's Word will be. When writing on this subject before I focused only on the English text and only on one application: doing the commandments, yet there is much more to this phrase than meets the eye. I used Jn. 14:15 “If ye love me, keep my commandments”, which encompasses the whole phrase in one verse and only the phrase, no more.
There are other verses that give more detail about the meaning of the phrase, thus using Scripture to interrupt Scripture, and of course looking at the Greek meaning of the key words, keep and commandment, expands our understanding of any key points, there is more than one. I wish I would have done this long ago and before I wrote my other article; it would have been richer for it, rather than single focused. Let's open our Bible and dig in! We'll take the verses as they appear in Scripture after defining both key words and dismissing the verses that do not apply to the phrase we are studying. Verses used in this article are footnoted for convince.
We are dismissing the follow seven verses, Luke 8:29; Acts 12:19; 23:35, 24:23, 25:21; 27:43 and 1 Cor. 14:34. While they have both key words in the verses, the subject matter does not relate, however there was a point of interest in Acts 24:23. The centurion is commanded to keep Paul. The word commanded here is “assigned” and the word keep, interestingly, is the same as the word in nearly all the verses we will look at. In those verses where it says “keep the commandments”, one would, on the surface think we are to do the commandments, yet the same word keep is used referring to Paul in Acts 24:23 and one cannot “do” Paul. Therefore we know from the start the word keep must mean more or different than “to do the commandments.” I don't know about you, but was curious!
Keep or a form of it (keeper(s), keepeth, kept, etc) when used with a form of command is used 88 times in the NT; 45 times it's G5083 and 19 of the 25 verses on our list use G5083. Of the seven verses dismissed, only two used G5083 and one was the one I mentioned about Paul. Therefore the definition of G5083 is our focus. The other 40 uses of keep and its forms can be additional study on your own, if you wish to pursue such. Keep (G5083) has serval meanings; I've marked the word, possible, by those that may fit as a definition used in the verses we will look over:
Keep can included all the possible meanings noted above. It can pose a problem knowing if a specific meaning was intended by the writer. Therefore for clarification, we will use the context of each verse and/or surrounding verses, which is the standard Biblical approach when interpreting Scripture. We will let Scripture tell us what it means!
Commandment is the other key word in our study. Command and all forms of the word appears 169 times in the NT, while commandment(s) appears 82 tines. Of those 82, 63 times it is G1785. Keep (G5083) and commandment (G1785) appear together 14 times. Therefore commandment (G1785) is our focus, which means injunction (order), i.e. an authoritative prescription (instruction).
The basis for Scripture interpreting itself is to let Scripture speak. Therefore we will list fact(s) from each verse, then we will know from those facts what is involved in keeping the commandments.
In summary, what do the facts say about keeping the commandments? No human is good; we get life by it; we are to teach others what Christ taught; we are to lay aside traditions that are not in agreement; we love Christ when keeping them; Christ and the Father love those who keep them; Christ will manifest (reveal) Himself to us; we are in tune (abide) with Christ; we are following Christ's example; it is not the keeping the law; it is important; there is one commandment to keep without exception: our profession of Christ before others; keeping them is evidence we have a relationship with God; if one says the know God but do not keep the commandments of God, they are liars and do not have the truth; God answers our prayers; we please God; the commandments are defined twofold: 1) to believe on Jesus; 2) to love one another; Christ gave us the commandments; Christ dwelling within us; God's Spirit, given by Christ to us, is evidence He is with us; we will love the children of God; it is the love of God to keep them; the commandments are not grievous (what done in love is?); Satan makes war with Christians; we will stand firm and bear Christ's name; and we have patience. With these facts we know this:
No one is good, but God, therefore we need a Savor to stand before God for us: Christ is this one, Rom 5:10-11. Since no one is good, our works before a holy God are filthy rags, Isa. 64:6 and we cannot save ourselves, Gal. 2:21. Salvation is a gift of God, by grace, through faith, not of our own efforts, Eph. 2:8-9.
If one desires life, one will keep the commandments, which are twofold: 1) to believe on Christ Jesus; 2) to love each other. We know this life is not earned of ourselves, Gal. 2:16, rather freely given by God, Rom 6:23 and a result of a new birth, Jn 3:3.
Once we have a new life and are followers of Christ, we will want to tell others! We will want to teach others what Christ taught us, Matt. 28:19-20, and show them how to follow Christ, Mk 8:34, which includes laying aside traditions of men, Col 2:8, and renewing our minds to think like God, Rom 12:2.
The world will see our love for Christ as we love others, Jn. 13:35. They will know we are different and see the light of Christ by our actions and God will be glorified, Matt. 5:16. The more we abide in Christ, the more He will be known and apart form Him we will not succeed, Jn. 15:5. We are the only Christ people see, we are His representatives here on earth, 2 Cor. 4:8-11. In these things God is pleased, Gal. 1:10.
Christ will manifest, that is show Himself to us! Stop and ponder that for a moment, the God of the universe will open our eyes and understanding to know details about Himself as God did Peter when Peter declared Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God, which Jesus said no man had revealed, Matt. 16:16-17. We know also whatever is revealed to someone, it will never contradict God's written Word, Isa. 8:20 , which is inspired by God, 2 Tim. 3:16. Thereby we are to test one's claims of such revelation or insight, 1 Jn. 4:1.
Keeping the commandments is not observing the law, for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life, 2 Cor. 3:6. We are free from the law, Rom 8:2 and are now under the law of liberty, Jas. 2:12, yet such does not give us license to sin, Rom 6:1-2.
The importance of keeping the commandments is seen in all that has been said and all we learn about here and otherwise about Scripture because we are learning of and following the one and only God of the universe, without which we would not be!
One command we are to hold to without exception is this: our profession of Christ before the world! This is not mere lip service, rather standing firm for Christ and His ways, which includes defending creation over evolution all the way to defending end times prophecy and denouncing false claims of the world and religions contrary to God's written Word! What is the old saying? God said it, it's good enough for me! We will be attacked whether at work, socially and otherwise, 1 Pet. 3:14. There may come a time in America when we are faced with the question: denounce Christ or else. Scripture does warn of a time when many will fall away, 2 Thess. 2:3. If one denounces Christ, one has no return, Heb. 6:4-6. Peter did deny knowing Jesus, the person, Lk. 22:61, but Peter never denounced the fact of Christ being the Son of the living God! There is a difference!
Keeping the commandments is evidence that we are children of God and not children of the devil, 1 Jn. 3:10. We can examine ourselves, 2 Cor. 13:5, to know if we are of the faith or merely deceiving ourselves, Jas. 1:22. This is urgent to know since or eternal life depends on it. It is one thing to knowingly reject God and go to hell, it is another to think we know Him and end up there, Matt. 7:21-23.
In regards to our profession and the evidence thereof, God's Word is clear: while our actions do not save us, Rom 9:32, they do show us and those around us what we truly believe in our heart, Lk. 6:45. The heart is deceitful, who can know it, Jer. 17:9, only God, Rom 2:16. Therefore God gives us opportunities, not to show Him how we will respond, He knows; rather God wants to show us how we will respond, we're the ones that need to know because we think higher of ourselves than we ought.
God will answer our prayers, Matt. 7:7 ; 21:22 ; Jn. 14:12-14 , which is exciting! Note, we must balance this truth with the rest of Scripture. We are to have faith in Him for His answer, Heb. 11:6, however it is not the size of or faith that brings the answer, Matt. 17:20. The prayer must not be of selfish intent, Jas. 4:3, and our prayers must be according to the will of God, Acts 5:39, or God will not answer! God is not controlled by our prayers regardless of the amount of faith we have!
In keeping Christ's commandments, which are twofold: 1) to believe on His name; 2) to love each other, we automatically keep God's commandments, Matt. 22:37-40. Some may protest, what about keeping of Sabbath, the fourth commandment? Scripture answers that question to: in love, we do not judge what day one worships or what they do for God, Col 2:16 . Christ moved from the acts of the law to the motive of the heart, Matt. 5:27-28. John says similar, 1 Jn. 3:15. This is why Christ's commands are not a burden, Matt. 11:30, what we do in love is not burdensome! Yet be warned, some add weights to Christ's commandments, 1 Tim. 4:1-5. They are of their father the Devil, Jn. 8:44.
We know where the commandments we are to obey come from: Christ by way of His Father. They are the commands of Christ, yet they are from God! Jh. 12:49. It is note worthy also to understand, Christ's mission was to fulfill God's Old Testament law, Matt. 5:17 and Heb. 9:15, aka the old covenant given to Israel when they left Egypt, Deut. 5:2-3, and become the mediator of the New Testament, Matt. 26:28 and Heb. 7:11, aka the new covenant, because the old was not sufficient to save us, Gal. 3:21 .
Additionally, with the New Testament, Christ indwells us, Eph. 3:17 ! Let that sink in, the God of the universe lives within us, Rom. 8:11, that is in every born-again believer, Jn. 3:3. For this reason, we ought not to quench the Spirit living within us, 1 Thess. 5:19 ! His Spirit within us is evidence we are now children of God and no longer children of the Devil, Rom. 8:9 and Eph. 2:2.
Further evidence of our new birth and God within us is that we will love all the children of God and will purpose to do what is right, 1 Jn 3:10. There is a bond worldwide, when we come across follow Christians, we have a common Savor, Lord and Father! We know doing righteousness is not being perfect as some err to think, rather it is a lifestyle we live, 1 Jn. 1:6-10.
Keeping God's commands is both how we express our love to Him and others as well as how God doing the work, whatever the deed or task is, through us, for we cannot do anything apart from God doing it through us, just as Christ did nothing on His own, Jn. 5:19, 30 ! This is why God's commands are not grievous! What is done in love is not labor-some, think back to your first love and how you would do anything for him/her. Why does Christ warns us to not lose our first love, Rev. 2:5? The work will be become wearisome! Additionally, God's commands are not grievous because God is doing the work, not us! It is our pride to think it's us accomplishing His commands, if we could there would not have been a need for Christ, Gal. 2:21 .
Stand ready, for Satan will attack, 1 Pet. 5:8, we will be called to bear Christ's name before others and by enduring trials, Lk. 8:13 and Jas. 1:2-4, and we will need to be patient for God to accomplish His will upon the earth, Jas. 5:11, prior to Christ's glorious return, Tit. 2:13!
Lastly, I encourage you to do further study not only of verses that contain both the Greek words keep (G5083) and commandment (G1785) but others also. This would be good because there are times when keep and commandment, while not used together, are used with other similar words to say the same massage, like “keep my sayings”. Add them to the list and see more insights into the meaning of keep the commandments! Also, study the related topics brought up in this study, which we touched lightly. They will yield an abundance of insight for you personally. Don't wait for someone to feed you, eat for yourselves: Lk. 4:4. Do not be weary of doing good, Gal. 6:9, although it can be tempting!