In a recent conversation with a man who claimed to be a fellow Christian, I was made aware of a very disturbing fact. This man's theology had been infected by the modern "reductionist gospel".
It all started when I mentioned the verse in John 14:15, where Jesus says: "If ye love me, keep my commandments." He then responded with the following question, "so what's Christ's commandment?" Before I had a chance to reply, he immediately insisted that I go with him to John chapter 15, where he proceeded to read verses 10-12:
"If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. ...This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you."
With an exuberant note in his voice, he declared, "you see John, this is what Jesus meant when he said, 'if you love me, keep my commandments'. He was simply referring to our love for each other."
Sadly, the way in which this individual reduced Christ's message to a single requirement—"love one another"—is a classic maneuver by those who adhere to the modern reductionist gospel. They attempt to invalidate nearly all of the New Testament's guidelines on godly living by reducing the Gospel's message to a few verses lifted carelessly out of John. The reductionist chooses to ignore the bulk of Christ's teachings in order to create an ultra simplistic "gospel" based on some vague and hazy notion of "love". However, while doing so they carelessly invalidate the many other commands of Jesus that form the very foundation of the Christian Faith. Notice:
Repent “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17).
Do Not Lust “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28).
Turn the Other Cheek (Don't Repay Evil with Evil) “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also" (Matthew 5:38).
Honor Your Parents “For God commanded, saying, Honor thy father and mother: and, he that curseth father or mother, let him die the death” (Matthew 15:4).
Deny Yourself “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?” (Luke 9:23–25).
Do Not Divorce “And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:4–6).
Practice Servanthood “. . . Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26–28).
Partake in Communion
"Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:54).
Be Baptized in Water and the Holy Spirit
"Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3:5).
Pay Your Taxes “Show me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:19–21).
Watch and Pray “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).
Stick with a Simple Yes “Let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil” (Matthew 5:37).
Offer Your Cloak Also
"And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also" (Matthew 5:40).
Go the Second Mile
"And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain" (Matthew 5:41).
Give and Lend Freely
"Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away” (Matthew 5:42).
Practice Your Good Deeds in Secret “. . . When thou doest thine alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: that thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. . . . When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. . . . When thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:1–18).
Lay Up Treasures in Heaven, Not Here on Earth
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19–21).
Preach the Gospel & Evangelize “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations . . . teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:19–20).
So imagine what happens to the Gospel's wholesome message when we "cherry pick" Christ's words in order to create our own version of "christianity". How terribly dangerous, isn't it?!
Now obviously, besides what's contained in the above list there are many other commandments that Jesus delivered to His disciples during the course of His earthly ministry. And there are also the apostolic writings or epistles, which are equally important and teach us how to be pleasing to God in every aspect of life. It's simply our duty to read the entire Bible and apply it adequately to our lives. To ignore anything within the Scriptures, however small, is to place our eternal salvation in jeopardy. So let's not pretend that the Christian Faith is all about a meaningless definition of love while we practice a complete disregard for God's Law. A true disciple of Christ will be intentional and responsible in their study of Scripture.
Finally, let us remember that the Apostles sternly warned about those who would seek to peddle a counterfeit "gospel" that cannot save and we would do well to heed their warning:
"But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:8-9).