Command – definition

Sanctuary definition - a place for God?
Correctly understanding these terms leads to a better
understanding of the character of God and the Gospel.

For every command we are given we exercise our free-will choice in response. The two are closely related and are treated together here.

Traditional Legal Model: God has given commandments which He commands us to obey and if we use our free will not to obey we have sinned and there is a price to pay to Him which He requires to satisfy His justice.

Biblical Healing Model: All of God’s commands/commandments are given for our good, not His. Anything we do against His commands naturally leads to negative consequences which is why He encourages us not to do certain things – He is trying to protect us from harm. He never threatens, coerces or punishes in order to sway our free will.

With God we always have free will. We can even choose to accept the mark of the beast and be lost – or not. The question is whether we can exercise that power of choice, of the will, free of coercion and threat. Ultimately, the question is: does God use coercion and threats or is the free will He has given us truly free?

Webster’s 1828 Dictionary

Command, verb transitive 

To direct; to send.
The Lord shall command the blessing on thee. Deuteronomy 28:8
The Lord will command his loving kindness. Psalms 42:8

Do God’s Commands Negate Free Will?

When God gives us commandments or commands or tells or asks us to do something, is that negating free will or honoring and respecting it?  It really depends on whether or not there is force or coercion (real or implied) to obtain obedience. We also have to take into account the actual meaning of the words and the context in which they are used.

If the “commands/commandments” are commands as commonly understood, that opens the way for force or some kind of coercive pressure to get compliance.

If the “commands/commandments” are given by one who is truly honoring free will does that even give the option of using any force or pressure to obtain compliance? No, it cannot be.

We closely associate commands with laws. A fundamental question is the nature of God’s laws. Are they arbitrary, imposed laws or natural design laws ?

If the laws are arbitrary and imposed, the “imposed” implies “must do” and the law-giver is free to also apply pressure and punishments. If the laws are natural design laws, then any pressure to comply is inherent in the consequences that would result from noncompliance. For example, this “law”:

“Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” (Matt 26:52)

After telling Peter to put away his sword, Jesus stated a law or principle that if one lives by the sword (symbolic of engaging in violence toward others) they naturally (because they have made enemies) risk dying by the sword (by violence from those retaliating or taking revenge).

Imposed Law Reaction to Violations

The range of options for one giving imposed commands, in cases of non-compliance is everything from doing nothing to punishment with death. The range of options is so broad and arbitrary because the law is also arbitrary and has no certain natural effect. For example, a person might drive well over the speed limit without natural consequences. But if the punishment for violation of an imposed law is set at, for example, death, the commander or his system must impose it to meet justice.

Design Law Reaction to Violations

In cases of non-compliance to design laws the designer of the laws does not need to do anything in order for the effect to happen as the result; consequences, which might, at times, be erroneously thought of as punishment, occur as a natural result. Jump off a tall building and you will experience the results.

The designer doing nothing in the case of one who has violated natural law and is subject to the natural consequences could be viewed as being indifferent to the violation or any resulting suffering. However, God is never indifferent or untouched by any suffering as evidenced by this verse:

“Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.” (Matt 10:29)

In fact, God will often provide an accommodation which implies doing something to minimize the suffering.

There are many examples of accommodation where God has attempted to minimize the negative effects resulting from man’s wrong choices.

We Want a King

Part of the deal (covenant) of inheriting the Promised Land was that God would be their God:

“And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” (Gen 17:8)

Being their God implies that He would reign over them, give them direction etc. Later, they rejected God’s rule:

“And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.” (1 Sam 8:7)

God even told them the consequences of that choice but they insisted. He tried to reason with them but He did not force His rule on them. “Did not” because He cannot as the use of force is contrary to the Divine principles of His character. In fact, rather than force compliance, He granted them their desire to have a king. This could be termed an accommodation.

The Ten Commandments

“And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.” (Exo 34:28)

“Words” and “commandments” in that verse are both from the Hebrew word “dabar,” (H1697)

01697 דבר dabar daw-baw’

from 01696; n m;
AV-word 807, thing 231, matter 63, acts 51, chronicles 38, saying 25, commandment 20, misc 204; 1439
1) speech, word, speaking, thing
1a) speech
1b) saying, utterance
1c) word, words
1d) business, occupation, acts, matter, case, something, manner (by extension)

“Dabar” is most commonly translated as “word” (807 times or 56% of uses) and as “commandment” only 20 times (1.4%).

Words (more than 50) that H1697 is translated into:

act, advice, affair, answer, because of, book, business, care, case, cause, certain rate, commandment, counsel, decree, deed, due, duty, effect, errand, evil favored, hurt, language, manner, matter, message, thing, oracle, portion, promise, provision, purpose, question, rate, reason, report, request, sake, saying, sentence, some (uncleanness), somewhat to say, speech, talk, task, thing (concerning), thought, tidings, what(-soever), which, word, work.

The first use of “dabar,” (H1697) is:

“And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech (H1697).” (Gen 11:1)


“After these things the word (H1697) of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” (Gen 15:1)

That sounds more like a promise than a command as does this verse:

“And thine ears shall hear a word (H1697) behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.” (Isa 30:21)

The Ten Commandments as Promises

A good way to think of the Ten Commandments are as promises. The verse before the one giving the first commandment says:

“I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” (Exo 20:2)

He is reminding them of what He has already done for them and saying, in effect, “I have done that for you; I can also enable you to do the ten items in this list should you so choose.”

An interesting question answered on a separate page, is: “can God command us to love Him?”(

Free Will

 Some believe that, as far as our eternal destiny, we do not have a free will. There is a debate within Christianity that goes back centuries to two general theological views:

Calvinism (John Calvin) is the view that God alone decides who is saved and who is lost and that man’s free will is not part of the process.

Arminianism (Jacobus Arminius) is the belief in free will—that our salvation is dependent upon our individual choice which God honors.

There is more to it than that, however, they obviously cannot both be true.

The two views of Calvinism and Arminianism can be summarized by acronyms used by each group:

This difference between the two theologies is well-explained by Dr. Timothy Jennings in a blog post:

Indeed, one of these views, if true, would destroy love. And that is why it really does make a difference which view we hold, because our beliefs change us—meaning we want to be lovers of the truth, for the truth always leads us to ever-increasing intimacy with Jesus, the source of all truth.

Understanding the real issues in this debate is about God’s law, which is a direct manifestation of God’s character.

Imposed law takes away freedom and destroys love. Design law is the basis of freedom and the manifestation of love.

Imposed law is the law of dictators.

Design law is the law of our Creator.

Verses Implying Free Will, Freedom of Choice

“I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:” (Deut 30:19)

They were even invited, with no suggestion of coercion (understanding that any death or curses resulting from disobedience do not come from God), to make the right choice. What more could we expect from a God Who grants freedom of choice?

“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Josh 24:15)

“And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.” (1 Kings 18:21)

“As for you, O house of Israel, thus saith the Lord GOD; Go ye, serve ye every one his idols [if that is your choice] and hereafter also, if ye will not hearken unto me: but pollute ye my holy name no more with your gifts, and with your idols.” (Eze 20:39)

“Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?” (John 6:67)

The Law of Liberty

“But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” (James 1:25)

What does “law of liberty” imply about the connection between God’s commandments or laws and free will?

 “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

See a video of a group study on the meaning of Command, Commandments and Free Will.

Return to the Character of God and the Gospel Glossary.

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