My understanding from Scripture is that a passage does not have to contain the specific word, "command"
to be understood as a command. Let me come at this from a few different ways:
1) Crux #1
- The Bible instructs to obey things that are not commands - like examples:
Paul wrote:"Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. ... The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you." (Philippians 3:17; 4:9)
From the above passage we learn that not only are "commands" binding, but we are required to follow even the approved apostolic examples! Other good passages showing and substantiating that we should follow and obey the pattern set forth by examples include: II Thessalonians 3:7; I Corinthians 4:17; 7:17; 11:1; Hebrews 6:11-12; III John 1:11; I Thessalonians 2:14; II Timothy 3:10, 14
. An article is available that explains this even further:
2) Crux #2
- A command is based on grammatical structure, not the presence of the word "command":
Any time God, Jesus, or one of His apostles, says "do ...", "let yourselves...", or speaks in any imperative form it is a command
. This is just basic English comprehension, even though Greek also has an "imperative" tense (both verbs in Ephesians 5:17
are: imper pres pass 2nd per pl). Paul gives explicit and imperative instruction in both passages. For example:
Paul wrote:"And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God." (Ephesians 5:17-21)
Albeit a long sentence, it contains two primary imperatives, or commands:
a) "do not be drunk with wine"
b) "be filled with the Spirit"
The following phrases modify, or further elaborate on how one is to be filled with the Spirit. Consequently, they carry the same weight as the verb they modify. Again, this is basic English skills - no hocus pocus. Please allow me to illustrate:
If when you were a child, your mom said to you, "Clean your room
", but you continued to play outside, when she came to scold you, would you say, "But, you didn't say, 'I command you to clean your room'
Furthermore, if your Dad said, "Clean your room, picking up your shoes, making your bed, and putting your toys back in the closet
", would you fail to grasp that "picking up your shoes" and the other phrases were also part of this command? Would you leave your shoes out and expect your Dad to be satisfied with, "But, you didn't say, 'I command you to pick up your shoes'
Would not these statements generally be considered an order, a direction, an imperative, a command - all without the use of the word, "command"?
Moreover, in English, we have a special form where a sentence does not even need a subject for the imperative case. "You" is to be the understood subject of all such commands, like "[You clean your room
". Would anybody question that this is a command?
Finally, if God, through the Holy Spirit, through the apostle Paul, says: "be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord
", will we be able to excuse ourselves on judgment day with "But, you didn't say, 'I command you to be filled with the Spirit, speaking.... singing and making melody ... giving thanks ... submitting'
When God says to do something, should we not do it? Here's some divine commentary on our point:
Matthew by the Holy Spirit wrote:"These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: "Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans." (Matthew 10:5)
Jesus did not explicitly state that this was a command; however, the Holy Spirit said that it was a command. Was it not? The Bible is its own best commentary, example, and authority for interpreting itself
. Here's two more examples on interpreting commands from the New Testament:
Matthew by the Holy Spirit wrote:"And Peter answered Him and said, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water." So He said, "Come." And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus." (Matthew 14:28-29)
Did Jesus misinterpret Peter's question? Did he fail to issue a command, even though Peter requested one? Did Peter fail to recognize that Jesus really hadn't issued a command? However, Peter was able to follow Jesus' command, at leat initially...
Matthew by the Holy Spirit wrote:"Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" Jesus said to him, " 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 22:35-40)
The Old Testament does not call these commands. The passages do not contain any direction that these are commands. However, Jesus says these are the commands upon which the entire Old Testament rests.
Other similar examples proving that command is inherent in the grammatical construct and not the presence of the word, "command" include: Matthew 15:3-9; 17:9; 21:1-6; 28:18-20
No where in any of the gospels, Acts, or Paul's epistles is belief or faith commanded - not explicitly. How did all those people from the 1st century, who read those books, know that they had to believe? Do you believe it is necessary? Could someone go to God on judgment, not having belief, and be acceptable, because God did not command it?
Well, eventually it was "commanded", according to your definition, but not until the writing of I John 3:23
, one of the later books in the Bible. But was that verse required for us to know that we must believe and have faith in Jesus? And, what about all the people who believed before that verse was written?
Now, we have baptism being commanded in Acts (Acts 10:48), but I cannot find faith, or belief, being commanded anywhere in the gospels, Acts - or even John, whose purpose of the entire book was to generate belief (John 20:30-31
). Could the entire book have been written to substantiate, direct, and create faith, but yet, it not be commanded?
Another good test-point for consistency:
Paul by the Holy Spirit wrote:"Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also:" (I Corinthians 16:1)
This passage does not say that this is a "command". Instead, Paul just gave orders to the Galatians; and he says that the Corinthians were compelled to do it also ("you must do also"). Were they not commanded, since it does not expressly state that this was a "command"? Order, direct, instruct - all these words are synonymns with the word, "command". If a synonym is valid, then why is the grammatical construct that is the definition of a command also be a valid?
If the proposed principle of interpretation is followed consistently, it will force adoption of many positions, which will likely be unacceptable to the thoughtful reader. If you need more proof of this, please let me know.
4) The command to accept it as a command:
Paul by the Holy Spirit wrote:"If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord. But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant." (I Corinthians 14:37-38)
Paul instructs us to acknowledge his writings as "commandments of the Lord"
, which would include his epistles containing the passages under question. Now, either Paul was misleading us, in which case all of his writings come into doubt, or we have to take his writings as commandment. In the latter case, our question is answered.
Either of these 4 ways should answer the original question, although the second answer seems to be the crux of the matter, and the technically correct answer.