The Law and the Prophets: Matthew 7:12
“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew‬ ‭7‬:‭12‬ ‭
The genuineness of our relationship with God shows up in the way we treat people. We are to treat others as we want to be treated by them. Notice, Jesus expects Christians to initiate. We don’t wait for love to return love. We prime the pump because the fruit of the Spirit flows through us.
Then He said, “for this is the Law and the prophets.” What does that mean? It seems that God holds us to a higher standard in our ethics in dealing with people no matter who they are or what the circumstances. God expects us to be loving, truthful and honest no matter how others act or treat us. He expects us to treat others with love, respect and dignity.
This verse goes way beyond being a principle for good interpersonal relationships. It is more like a Christian Code of Conduct. It is the standard of how we are to treat people. Stay with me, we are going to take a deeper dive into the meaning of the law and the prophets.
In Romans 13:8-10, Paul says all the commandments are summed up in the statement, “9)… You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 10) Love does no wrong to a neighbor, love therefore is the fulfillment of the law.” The qualifier in this verse is “agape” love. This is the God kind of love.
Jesus implied that we should treat people the way He treats people. 1 John 4:8 & 16 both say that “God is love.” This may sound awkward, but Jesus expects us to “agape” all people we come in contact with because He is our source. Agape love is the sap that flows through the vine of Christ from which every true Christian produces fruit. (See John 15:1-16)
We can now conclude that “lawlessness” boils down to interpersonal relationships without agape love. There is no situation, circumstance or occasion that our dealings with people should not be rooted in agape love. We lead with agape love, we maintain agape love and we conclude with agape love.
Here is an important observation, There was to be no wavering on ethics in the Law. The statutes were to be maintained without bias. They were to be applied equally to family, friends, countrymen and foreigners living among them. This was the intent of both the law and the warnings from the prophets.
When you boil all the commandments in the law and the teachings of the prophets down… they scream “agape love.” In John 13:34-35, Jesus said agape love both distinguishes and defines His people. It is what they become in their relationships with others.
Jesus was actually saying something very revolutionary in Matthew 7:12. He was calling them to treat all people with love, respect and dignity. He was telling them to be godly in all their relationships with other people no matter who was at the other end of the encounter. They were to set the standard for wholesome and loving interpersonal relationships.
Now for the big insight. The word “lawlessness” is used later in the context. It is shocking how Jesus applies it. In Matthew 7:23 He says; “23) And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you: DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.”
If our definition of lawlessness from this study is correct, we can conclude that “lawlessness boils down to interpersonal relationships without agape love.” We now have an understanding of the basic problem with the people Jesus rejected. They were religious, but they were not filled with agape love. The fruit of the Spirit was not in them. Agape love was missing in their character and conduct. They were not connected to the true vine!
Just as a side note, in Matthew 24 Jesus described signs that will accompany the end times. Verse 12 says, “And because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.” Again we see that Jesus connects lawlessness to an absence of agape love. I see an alarming trend among many who call themselves Christians today. Their love is growing cold. This should be a huge wake-up call!
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global