To understand the most foundational commandments is the first and most important rung of the ladder of discipleship. Those Messianic Jews – and Gentiles who have joined them – who do not have an ambivalent attitude to commandments are poised on that rung – we know that we are a commanded
We understand that Yeshua defined the process of discipleship – making disciples – as teaching others to observe all that He commanded (Matthew 28:19–20). Because Yeshua exhorted us to teach and apply the commandments given through Moses (Matthew 5:17–18) and also ordained the authority of the apostolic writers of the New Covenant Scriptures, all of the commandments of the Bible need to be taken seriously and applied. We understand that commandments have to be applied according to their intended purpose in context. This is a tall order: where can we even begin?
The Big Two
There are two commandments that are so important, so foundational, that if we can attain to them, all of the rest will eventually be attained. Yeshua told us from the Torah that the greatest of all commandments is first to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, strength and mind and, second, to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). It is amazing to think of how encompassing this is. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the Samaritan and the injured Jew are neighbors! Husbands and wives are neighbors in the same house and even in the same bed. If we can learn this way of love, everything else will come together. Yeshua taught that if we love Him, we will keep his commandments (John 14:21). But that is the rub: How can we achieve this kind of love?
God has given us a few commandments that are the keys to establishing these two most important commandments in our lives. The first of these enabling commands is obeying the call to be immersed in water, with all that it implies.
What is implied? Through water immersion, the believer is making a full commitment to be a disciple. Many miss this important step. We are to teach the person to fully identify in immersion with the death and resurrection of Yeshua and to be filled with the Spirit. This will help us to understand the significance of the act. Immersion is a deep commitment to die to self and live for the Messiah by his power in us. The call to discipleship expressed in immersion means submitting to those who will mentor and hold the new believer accountable as they learn to live out the commandments of Yeshua. All this should be settled in immersion! Of course, this process only works safely if the mentors are themselves disciples in submission either to other mentors or to a peer group who hold them accountable, not only for their own lives but for their discipling of others.
The second of these is obeying Yeshua’s command to abide in the Vine; for He is the vine. New believers soon discover that they cannot love God as commanded. They also cannot love their neighbors as commanded. The answer to this dilemma comes through abiding in the Vine. John 14-16 provides the most important material in the Bible on how to grow into this love. This is the way to build faith. We spend time in the Word, meditating upon Yeshua, praying to Him, listening to Him and receiving anew His Holy Spirit power. Without this, the practice of the commandments will be an external effort, full of frustration and failure. This means that believers need to be discipled into a deep and fruitful devotional life. As they read through the Word, they are to be discipled into asking questions of the text so they can accurately understand and apply what is written. As with immersion, this process will only work if those discipling others themselves have a rich devotional life that they can model and teach by example.
We love Him because He first loved us. Therefore, we are mandated to spend time simply opening ourselves to Him, seeking to perceive and embrace the love God has for us which is manifest in Yeshua. Paul explained in Romans 6 and Galatians 2:20, that we are to constantly renew ourselves to that place of death to self and resurrection life that lives for others. Our faith is centered on Yeshua Himself.
The Rest Will Follow
A person who truly pursues God in this way, with the help and encouragement of his disciple mentor(s), and in openness and accountability in a small group of believers that meet for mutual edification and prayer, will be on the way to full discipleship.
This love for God and others also leads to the walk of forgiveness. As one walks in forgiveness, one will learn to forgive others; not only in those situations where a person truly repents and we forgive them, but even on those occasions where a person does not repent and we – like Yeshua – must say, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). This does not mean that justice is destroyed, but rather that our heart’s desire is for the person to repent that they might be blessed of God. Our heart is not for vengeance but for restoration. Most problems in community life are due to selfishness and the lack of walking in forgiveness.
As people grow in these most basic lessons, they will learn, for example, how to control their tongue thereby reducing gossip among the believers. For love’s sake, they will be open to mutual correction in their walk in community.
Our love for God and hatred of sin will lead to moral purity in our lives and in the lives of our children. Children will be brought up in the fear of the Lord, our teens will be raised to live in moral purity and so much more. The key is in the first critical steps of laying the foundation, “the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Messiah Yeshua Himself being the corner stone” (Ephesians 2:20). My prayer is that we will become communities that practice this life of discipleship.