The Bible is Not a Rule Book

Imagine it’s your wedding day.

You’ve had the ceremony, and you’re starting to relax when the minister hands you a gift, a thick book of Marriage Rules. “Read this,” he says. “The secret to a happy marriage is found within.”

You open the book with interest. Inside you discover countless rules and guidelines:

“Be honest, be kind, always tell the truth, listen well, keep your promises, say ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ freely forgive, don’t covet your neighbor’s wife,” and that sort of thing.

Initially you think, This is gold! I want a successful marriage, so I will do everything this book says. 

You keep reading and find there are more rules for marriage than you could possibly have imagined. There are rules for special days and different seasons, rules on what to eat and what to wear, rules on property rights, intimacy, family planning, and hundreds more.

Phew! I never knew marriage was such hard work. But I want a blessed marriage, so I’ll follow the rules. I’ll even take this book on our honeymoon.

Then you turn to the last page and find a message written in large letters:

If you love your spouse, disregard this book. You don’t need it. If you love your spouse, you will keep all the rules effortlessly.

This should be good news.

What relief! I can leave the book at home and enjoy my spouse.

Yet there are some who won’t do it. They’ll keep the book just in case.

But there is no just in case. There is no conceivable situation where the rules could replace true love.

Do you see?

If you love your spouse, you don’t need the book, and if you don’t love your spouse, all the rules in the world aren’t going to help.


Some people treat the Bible as though it were a book of rules for how to be married to Jesus. They think they will have a happy marriage if they do everything the Bible says, or at least everything Jesus says.

But love doesn’t work that way.

If you love Jesus, you don’t need the rules, and if you don’t love Jesus, the rules aren’t going to help.

Love comes from the heart, not a book.

Extracted from The Gospel in Twenty Questions


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50 Comments on The Bible is Not a Rule Book

  1. That’s the second great post from the same book. 🙂

  2. I loved this chapter in your book (I got a pre release). The gate is narrow, Many marriages fail…..why? Sloppy agape.

    If you ever said to your spouse: “but you didnt tell me that….your doing it wrong.” Rules create failure. Love conquers all.

  3. Great stuff Paul. Keep the message of grace coming. Too many churchgoers are zealous for God yet remain blind to God’s awesome grace. They just can’t believe Jesus took care of their entire life’s sin guilt on Calvary’s cross once for all. They just can’t take it in. They remain shackled to rules for holy living.

  4. But if you love Jesus, you need the book to know why you love Him. Jesus is the Word and we need to have Him in our hearts, all of Him.

    • You are absolutely correct, Dawn. Jesus is the Word ….. not the book. I have all of Him in my heart when, by grace, I receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. I don’t need a book for that to happen, but it is a comfort to have the book to have the story of how it all came about. But that’s just me.

  5. Michael Jenkins // November 26, 2013 at 3:21 pm // Reply

    I met so many people that say “I go by what the Bible says.” It reminds me of the scripture when Jesus says search the scriptures in them you think you have eternal life but they are of which testify of me!

    • I saw a Facebook group yesterday that had a picture of an open Bible, and statement that said, “God’s Word. Learn it. Obey it. Be saved by it!” I’ve come to the place where I am truly saddened when I read things like that. That kind of thinking led me to a completely empty existence; consumed with theology and doctrine, but never knowing Christ. As you said, Jesus warned the religious about the dangers of making the scriptures their focus. The scriptures point to Him, but if we never lift our eyes from the pages of the book, we will never see Him and truly experience LIFE!

      • I agree with the statement, “God’s Word. Learn it. Obey it. Be saved by it!” – provided that we define “God’s Word” the same way the Bible does. It’s Jesus! He alone (and no book) saves us.

        Of course, the book helps us learn more about Jesus so the book is useful.

      • If that had been what they were saying, I would also agree with the statement.

      • Sadly, I guess that picture of the Bible means they weren’t.

      • @2trakmind – Why do you feel sad (upset?) about such a rhetoric statement? God’s Word was the Logos (Jn 1:1). Yeshua is our Word of God. When we say God’s Word, it never means the Bible; though many make a serious error taking a Bible (of certain translation, e.g. KJB) as the Word of God. Bibles are human products – simply from attempt to put the Scripture into our vernacular language (colored by doctrines and theologies). On the other hand, the Scripture is a holy vessel to hold God’s Word. The words, verses, and statements in the Bibles are not same as God’s Word. God’s Word is what we should hear in Spirit through the Scripture. God’s Word is not something which gives a list of ‘do this and don’t do that’ for us to obey. To obey the Word is to hear Him, person-in-being, and to live in Him, in His spirit through the Scripture – not through the Bibles, commentaries, sermons, or interpretations.

  6. Jared Joubert // November 26, 2013 at 7:24 pm // Reply

    Thank you! This is wonderful! 🙂

  7. Brian Midmore // November 26, 2013 at 9:05 pm // Reply

    ‘The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death’. However, when Paul criticises the Corinthians in 1 Cor 5 for allowing the man to ‘have’ his fathers wife he alludes to Lev 18.8 which is part of the Torah or Law. Now if Paul believed that the Torah no longer had any relevance for Christians why does he do this? Paul clearly believed that the Torah remained a moral guide for people who were liberated In the spirit to keep the Law from their heart. Of course we must not approach the Law (or any Scripture for that matter ) legalistically i.e. attempt to keep it in our own strength out of fear.

    • Katelyn Hellenbrand // December 11, 2017 at 10:47 am // Reply

      ^ can someone please answer this because this is what I am confused about as well! I believe in “hyper-grace” yet why does paul talk about certain rules we should follow and not others. Don’t commit adultery yet also you can eat pork and don’t worry about the Sabbath. which are we supposed to follow? I don’t think saying “being lead by the spirit” is a sufficient answer because I have friends in relationships with God producing BEAUTIFUL fruits and not being convicted about certain sins in their lives that go against the law.

      • It is a common misperception that hypergrace preachers, such as Paul, are opposed to the law. Those who are unacquainted with our gospel falsely accuse us of promoting lawlessness. It is more accurate to say that we are for the law and the purpose for which it was given.

        Why did Paul hit the Corinthians with the law? Because they were self-righteous. “You are proud!” (1 Cor 5:2). They were taking grace as a license to sin. There is no more effective weapon against pride than God’s law. The law is not your guide for holy living (you have a far better guide in the Holy Spirit). But the law does empower sin revealing our desperate need for grace.

  8. “If you love your spouse, you will keep all the rules effortlessly.”

    Well, that doesn’t quite apply does it, since even if you love Jesus very much you will sensibly disregard the OT’s rather pointless rules on what to eat, when to have sex, what to wear etc.

    There seem to be an awful lot of laws that have nothing, but nothing to do with our relationship to God. Why were they there in the first place?

    • The law was put in charge to lead us to Christ (Gal 3:24). If you don’t know Christ, you may need the law. If you do, you don’t.

      • Warren (South Carolina, USA) // March 30, 2016 at 12:24 pm //

        Great post and reply Saint Paul:
        “The law was put in charge to lead us to Christ (Gal 3:24). if you don’t know Christ, you may need the law. If you do, you don’t.” How succinct is that!?!?!
        Warren (South Carolina, USA)

      • Warren (South Carolina, USA) // March 30, 2016 at 2:08 pm //

        Great post and reply Saint Paul. I like how you use the word “may” need the law, verses implying everyone needs the law.

        I suppose someone can come to Christ without the law, such as Saint Paul (of Tarsus), or the Gentiles: “Jesus paid for all my sin on the cross because God loves me? OK, I’ll take it!!!” Just hurts more with the law!!!

        Very succinct how you phased this reply and worthy to remember.

        Warren (South Carolina, USA)

  9. its better to know the author, once you know the author, then you know what the books about.

  10. Wow, this, that goes on here is abominable. The Bible is a rule book. The way to love Jesus from the Bible is to obey His commandments, not mere mental assent or emotional displays John 14:15; 14:21; 14:23-24; 15:10. 1 John 2:3; 5:3.
    The written Word, the essence of which is Jesus, is able to save as Luke 8:11-12, 1 Tim 4:16, James 1:21.
    God abhors it when His people don’t have knowledge of His Word which contains His rules, commandments, judgements, statutes, dictates and precepts. Isa 5:13-14, Hos 4:6, Jer 8:7, Hos 6:6, Matthew 22:29, Luk 24:27;44.
    Col 3:16.
    The written Word is so important and trust me, it includes rules.
    2 Tim 2:5 “No athlete is crowned unless they run according to the rules.” We are athletes running a race 2 Tim 4:7 and it’s pertinent that we obey the rules.
    Do not be deceived in vain philosophy Col 2:8.

    • The religious of Jesus’ day knew the law and Jesus was most harsh with them….

      To truly understand the love of our heavenly Father only comes by revelation…we sin less accidentally by living under His grace than we will ever do on purpose. That’s why the Jews could never keep the law: even the most righteous. Only Jesus could…

    • The Bible is not just a rule book. It’s much more than that. Heb 4:12

      And this is the commandment of Jesus. Jn 15:12

      The written Word is only able to save if it leads to a saving knowledge of Christ Jesus. Jn 14:6

      RE: God abhoring when His people don’t have knowledge … In the OT passages you cited, God admonishes the Levitical priests for not doing their jobs. In the NT passages, Jesus explains that He had to fulfill the Law and also explains the references to Him in the OT. These seem neither here nor there in the context of what you are saying.

      With regard to 2 Tim 2:5, that interpretation only seems valid if you ignore the context of everything that comes before it in that chapter.

      In 2 Tim 4:7, Paul says he has kept the faith, not the rules. Paul admits he has not kept the rules. 1 Tim 1:15

      I think your Bible is missing the rest of the verse in Col 2:8. “8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” KJV

    • Just curious as to what “version” you think is the one we need to know? And how about those prior to the printing press? Those who didn’t have access to the “Word?” I cannot speak for Paul but after reading his books and post I would say Paul LOVES the Word of God. And we all know that Jesus is that Word! Know Jesus you know the Word……

      • Paul busy guy that he is, has answered elswhere: “What a good translation of the bible? The one you read.” and we are misguided when we read the bible to find out what we should do rather than what Jesus has done and what we Can now do.

      • The bible is a good book, not only is Jesus in it, so are you. And it’s a good story!

    • A Bible (the one you have) may be your rule-book ;-<

      The Scripture is NOT a book of Rules; nor a book of rituals, liturgies, doctrines, and theologies, nor applications. The Scripture does not belong to and is not bound to any (Christian) religions, neither — unless of course priests, pastors, preachers and professors can make it so for people with religiosity.

  11. well so much for writing the law on our hearts.

  12. I am still a new Christian, but here is my take on it:
    The Bible isn’t a rulebook, it is a message of good news. But I’m wary when some people go too far and say “we don’t need it,” or that avoiding sin is unnecessary since they’re “covered.” (speaking generally)
    The Bible wasn’t given to us so we could put ourselves under a microscope or to earn salvation, but so we can defend and protect ourselves. People preach “gospels” today that are directly opposed to Truth. We need a reference guide to learn what is true from the deception, what pleases God, what doesn’t, how to receive salvation etc. Without the bible we our left to our own moral compasses (which are entirely flawed) and prone to hop on to the “next best thing.”
    The only way to be saved is to understand that Jesus alone is responsible for your salvation and that you have NOTHING to contribute; he did it all for you at the cross through grace. That being said, if we’re born again and changed we should be following the law in a natural response of love (as article stated). We’ll want to live in a way that pleases him out of gratitude, even if though we know we’ll always fall short anyways. It makes no sense to accept and love the Lord and then purposefully choose a lifestyle that opposes God’s teachings. We’re covered by grace when we act out of flesh, but we’re still called to be radical in our lifestyle in obeying and loving God in the ways he explains in his book.

    • Brian Midmore // November 29, 2013 at 9:30 pm // Reply

      you maybe a new Christian but you have a pretty good understanding of the relationship that the Christian has with the law: we are freed from its curse; empowered by the spirit to keep it since it is written in our heart; but we still need it written in a book to act as a moral guide.

      • If that were true, then the first century Christians and illiterate Christians and children are at a disadvantage. The Bible is indeed useful for training in righteousness but it is not the Guide Jesus spoke of in John 16:13. To suggest we need the laws of the Bible is to encourage the spiritual adultery Paul warns of in Romans 7. As I say above, the Bible is not book of rules for how to be married to Jesus.

      • My take on this is that just as we don’t need a moral guide for loving our families we  don’t need a guide to lead a godly life. The indwelling Holy Spirit does that. Of course, reading Scripture cements in our minds God’s awesome grace of salvation and, best of all, helps us grow in our knowing and loving God,.    ,

  13. This article reminds me so much of my earlier years of marriage. I used to read books on how to be a “good godly wife” and got completely depressed and discouraged by all of them. I couldn’t be that good no matter how much i wanted to be! There were also talks on relationships at the Mums and Toddlers I went to and we were told that it was our job to prevent our husbands straying into an affair by making sure we were appealing enough to him and behaving well. And don’t get me started on “Mrs Proverbs” (Prov 31)!!
    My husband actually banned me (lovingly!) from reading these kind of books and going to those talks – not the bible, though i wouldn’t recommend Mrs Proverbs outside of a Grace/finished work perspective. My husband’s acceptance of me and his easing the pressure off me to “be good” has helped me FAR MORE to love him as i wanted to than all those books and lectures did.
    I do still struggle at times with reading the Bible – to be honest it can still feel like one set of rules replacing another in the NT letters. But whereas I used to try and “live up to” all of it, now I am a lot more relaxed about living in Father’s lavish affection and acceptance of me and learning to trust HIM to “live it out” through me. I can’t help but love Him! We love because He first loved us. Hallelujah!!

  14. Sadly, even among Christians, divorce has been a growing problem. Do you think most marriages need more rules or more grace?

    Hint: If your answer is more rules, please ask your spouse before responding.

  15. I have known and surrendered to The Lord for over 5 years but just over the past 2 months have had a revelation of what living in “the Finished work ” of Christ really looks like. It has been the most liberating place I have ever been and yet I have felt so wishy washy and confused when I read the written Word. More often then not when I pick it up and start to read it I feel anxious and frustrated bc it feels as if it contradicts everything the Holy Spirit has been showing me (no boundaries no rules Holy Spirit led by living in that place of complete freedom in His finished work at the cross) so this past week I’ve been catching myself not having a desire to pick up the word bc I feel this guilt after I read it . But its the Bible !!! So I’ve been trying to figure out the mystery here bc I know The Lord does not contradict himself ! Any thoughts?

  16. Marion Carter // December 30, 2013 at 10:12 pm // Reply

    Gilly & Christin, I too have trouble reading the Bible because I can’t seem to get away from feeling like its rules. Even though I am more sure than I ever have been that I am accepted & my salvation is by grace & not by works. I await a revelation!

  17. As long as we believe life is about survival and struggle we will never reflect the rule. The law is not rules it is a picture of one who follows the rule.

  18. My heart is saddened when I read what you have to say about this word given by inspiration of God as the Holy Spirit moved on men of old for correction, for reproof, for doctrine, for instruction in righteousness (not for rules and regulations) that the man of God may be perfect thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
    NOT for salvation but for godly living.
    Not for rules and regulations but to REVEAL the mighty God to us to reveal to us the Way of Salvation. That we may all come to the unity of faith not each man with his own interpretation of how he sees things. To reveal to us what the Spotless Lamb of God did for us.
    I did find your word and I did eat it…. and it was a joy and a rejoicing to my soul for it led me to know the bread of life Jesus and to know how to receive eternal salvation through Christ alone.

    • Yvonne, is your comment directed to me? If so, you should know that I love the Bible for all the reasons you listed. (I had to trim your list as your comment was well in excess of the 250 word limit.)

  19. John Taylor // March 29, 2016 at 5:15 pm // Reply

    Whatever the message of Christ originally inspired, the evolution of the RELIGION became a method to invoke obedience to authority, which is always outside of oneself, vs to one’s conscience, which is the closest thing to that quiet inner voice. Christianity supposedly was based on the life of Jesus, who was an extremely radical social activist, always advocating for the OUTCASTS, poor, abandoned. Yet, for the most part it has devolved into a means toward an end, having one’s sins forgiven and getting in to heaven. There is so much sniveling around political correctness and theology and dogma by self identified Christians that I threw it all out years ago. My experience is that most self identified Christians feel compelled to clothe their speech in religious jargon, using all the politically correct religious/scripture words. .
    Whatever was left of the original Christianity died when it became a religion, an institution, a world power. When Constantine converted to Christianity in 312 A.D. , the message of Jesus got lost in the evolution of power and empire. Jesus demonstrated clearly the path of non-violence, yet this was interpreted by devout Jews become ‘Chrisitans’ (Paul) as the necessary violent act of a ‘loving’ God to pay for your sins. No forgiveness without the punishment of torture and then death. It took me many years to step out of this insanity (I was raised in it) to realize if this is what ‘God’ is really like, I want no part of that God. If the message of non-violence (a core element of love) could be put back at the center of the message there would be change. But living out that message (opposing through non-violent civil disobedience the spending of half of federal budget on the war machine) is extremely inconvenient and risky and rarely the topic of any sermon.

    • The center of the message is Jesus. The periphery of the message is Jesus. The message is Jesus. Jesus is the Word that became flesh. A message centered on non violence would be rule based, but we will see more good fruit manifest in the Church when more hearts are reigning in the completeness of Jesus (Col 2:10).

  20. This article didn’t go far enough. Our love is weak and watered down. It is only human. It falls short of the Glory of what it can be. If we allow the Holy Spirit to live in our spirit, then we can truly love like God…with Agape Love.

  21. Excellent analogy!!

  22. Brian Nisbet // November 19, 2017 at 9:07 am // Reply

    This is cool, so many good comments, my first pastor ( 44 yr’s ago said ” take a knife and cut any page old or new and the the blood of Jesus flows out ,so yes ! He “is” the word spoken, printed, or in the Spirit ” I got saved 44 yr’s ago ( got married same year) and been through and been crazy religious ( not in a nice way) ” but” Jesus still gives life ! The single greatest thing I’ve learned in marriage is Unselfishness and that constantly ! Don’t give expecting in return, it may seem one sided on one partner for years ! Ummm kinda sounds like Jesus love, oh yeah just keep on walkin in Jesus ! We’ve survived crazy countless deserts together ! ( no not banana splits !

  23. Except if our focus is on our ability to love, don’t we fall short and end up in the same guagmire? Not that we loved God but that He loved us?

    • Squawks 5000 // August 21, 2018 at 5:35 pm // Reply

      Good question! It’s a common struggle to focus on what we do to love God to the point that it can be a burden. Yes, rules are important, but we shouldn’t feel like they are our chains.

      The key is focusing more on Jesus’s love to us and less on our love to Jesus. Many Christians love Jesus because they see that Jesus loves them. Try learning more about God’s great love and grace as well as your identity in him.

  24. The last sentence in that book is commonly interpreted as “If you love your spouse, keep all the rules effortlessly.”

    (Yes, you know which verse I’m referencing 😂)

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