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. The Great Commandment - Love God

THE GREAT COMMANDMENT (PART 1)

 


Matthew 22:34-40 (ESV) 34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Introduction.

I often encounter Christians who have a deep desire to know the deeper, unrevealed, secret will of God for their lives. Sadly though, the same believers are not even really concerned about the revealed will of God, which is right before them in their Bibles. And in the process they often so complicate their spiritual life that they become people of very little value to the Kingdom. Such was the case with the Pharisees and Sadducees in the text before us. They had no desire to seriously understand Christ and his teaching, they had one desire and that was to trap Jesus or to test Jesus. I often find this with atheists. They will ask you questions from the Word of God as if they really have a desire to understand Christianity and the Bible. But in reality, they want an argument and their sole desire is to make you look stupid.

Jesus had just dealt with the Sadducees who asked Him this complicated question about marriage in the resurrection. You can read it in the preceding verses about whose wife a lady will be who was married to various brothers on earth. Jesus answered them in such a way that the crowd was astonished at His teaching. The Pharisees now try to outdo the Sadducees and one of them a lawyer, a man who knows the law asks Jesus an interesting question: 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” Now just think of the interesting debate they could have, carpenter son versus lawyer. They can argue till the cows come home. Just think about it. According to the Talmud there are 613 commandments (mitzvoth) in the Torah. There are 248 positive commandments and 365 negative commandments, so whichever one of these Jesus chooses, the lawyer who knows the law could simply point at another one and state that one as more important. Just for interest the Jews designed their law after the 10 commandments which had 613 letters, so there was one law for each letter in the 10 commandments. The 365 negative commandments corresponded to the 365 days in a year, and strangely the 248 positive commandments corresponded to what they believed were 248 parts of the human body.

Well, I think if we were in the crowd we all would have wondered which one was the most important and with which answer Jesus would be coming to the fore. What the Lawyer does not realise is that He is debating the King of Glory, the one who gave them the law in the Old Testament and the one who would modify it, emphasise it and apply it just as He wants.

Look at the response of Jesus; “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” What Jesus does is to start with two astounding realities. The first He gives us by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 (ESV) which says that: 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Now this commandment they knew well, it was part of the ‘shema’ which is the Hebrew word for ‘hear’, as seen in ‘hear oh Israel….’. This verse was one of four verses that was copied on a small piece of parchment and placed in ‘phylacteries’ which they wore on their left hand and forehead. They also placed it in the ‘mezuzahs’ which were small boxes that they attached to their doorposts. Now the Jews surrounding Jesus knew this verse very well as they quoted the ‘shema’ twice a day.

Now Matthew uses the word ‘might’ here instead of ‘mind’, Luke however in Luke 10:27 (ESV) renders the verse 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.” But then Jesus does something very interesting. To love God is the great and foremost commandment, but then Jesus adds an awesome statement that is not in the Old Testament, and that is that there is a second command like that and that is to love your neighbour as yourself.

The statement of Jesus comprises of 5 simple words that I believe will revolutionize the church if we will simply obey them instead of grabbing around at a million other alternatives. Church family, do you want to know the will of God for you without getting complicated, look at these five words I will give you now: “Love God, Love your neighbour”. We can debate about law, we can debate issues like the second coming, or election, or why bad things happen to good people, or difficult verses in the Bible, or church discipline, or the Sabbath, or creation, or the end times, but if we miss out on this practical statement of Jesus we are missing out on what Christianity is all about. God is love, we are created in His image, we must love God and we must love our neighbour.

Now before the Lawyer can get into an argument about the 612 other laws, Jesus drives the point home with an interesting twist which we see in verse 40 which is now going to fill the lawyer with something to think about: 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Okay Mr Lawyer, give me a command, any command, and what I will do with it is to neatly hang in under one of these two commandments. For example, you do not use the Lord’s Name in vain when you love the Lord your God, you keep the Sabbath Holy when you love the Lord your God, you do not steal from your neighbour or commit adultery when you love your neighbour, and so we can go through all the commandments and they will find their fullness in this great commandment. Everything else in the Old Testament in some sense depends on these two commandments as the whole law and the prophets depend on these. This is not the first time we see Jesus doing this. Matthew 7:12 (ESV) 12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” People, there is a message, do you understand the law, do you understand the prophets? Then do to others what you wish they would do to you.

What Jesus is not doing here is to say that this is the contents of all the law and the prophets, but if you love God like you should and if you love your neighbour like you should, you will be identified as one who is obedient to all the law and the prophets, and you do not need any laws as it all will be covered in your behaviour. You will not have to nit-pick, you will not have to dig deeper, you will not have to debate Christian living, you just live it. It is like saying today, show me someone who is fully committed to everything that a Christian should be and I will show you a person who loves God and loves his neighbour as much as he loves himself.

Even Paul understood this. Romans 13:8-10 (ESV) 8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” Paul here beautifully sums up the teaching of Christ and just how it works. Love your neighbour and you fulfil the law. Paul is here emphasizing it from one direction. He says there is a law and the way to fill it up is to love. Christ comes at it from a different angle. There is love, and when we see love we see the law fulfilled, we see the prophets, and we see the greater purposes of God.

In a sense we can go so far as to say that the whole of the Bible and the whole of Christianity depend on these two commandments. I believe it would not be too much to say that all of creation, all of redemption, all of history hang on these two great purposes—that humans love God with all our heart, and that from the overflow of that love we love each other.

Let’s look at them separately. We don’t have time to look at them in detail, so I am going to handle the one today and we will do the second one next week.  We will never understand the overwhelming commandment to love our neighbour as we love ourselves if we do not understand our love for God, so let’s start there.

  1. Love God.

The Hebrew word for ‘aheb’ love is the equivalent of the Greek word ‘agapao’ in the New Testament and is an act of mind and will. It is intelligent, purposeful and committed love. To love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength simply means to love Him with every part of our being. ‘Heart’ would generally be our innermost being, while ‘soul’ is our emotion, ‘mind’ will be intellectual, wilful vigour and determination.  Genuine love for God will be intellectual, feeling, willing and serving. God’s desire is not for empty words and rituals but God desires us and we must desire not the things of God, but Him.

Christian, how are you doing in your Love for God, or is it something we greatly ignore, or do we just like to focus on God’s love for us? I remember years ago, when I was going to preach on the greatest commandment. In those days, the church where I was used the Old Hymnbooks so I searched and searched for a song that simply tells God how much we love Him, and I battled to find any. Most of the songs spoke of God’s love for us. When these songs were written, the greatest commandment was just not that important in song writing. I praise God for many of the songs we have today, that are worshipful and God focused.

We can never ignore this commandment which is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and sadly so many do. The reality is that when you speak to many believers, their love for God has grown cold instead of warming up. We would all agree that our love and affection for Him should grow more intense as time goes by. Certainly, young newly saved Christians are very much aware of the love of God and their love for Him. But it is through the witness of God’s faithfulness during times of struggle and trial that a deep love for God grows and grows or should grow and grow. Over time, we witness His compassion, mercy, grace and love for us, as well as His hatred for sin, His holiness and righteousness. We cannot love someone we don’t know, so knowing Him should be our priority.

Those who pursue God and His righteousness, who take seriously the command to love Him above all else, are those who are consumed with the things of God. They are eager to study God’s Word, eager to pray, eager to obey and honour God in all things, and eager to share Jesus Christ with others. It is through these spiritual disciplines that the love for God grows and matures to the glory of God.

Christian, whether you love God with all, is the most critical question you can ever answer. Do you love Him? The question is not what you are doing, that is the outflow of loving God. No wonder Jesus asked Peter these critical questions in John 21; Peter, do you love me, do you love me, do you love me? And only based on his answers did Jesus say, feed my sheep, take care of my lambs and follow me. Now, if that question had to be raised amongst the twelve disciples, how much more should it not be raised at Logos Community Church this morning? Whether you love God or not can be seen in your life believer. It can be seen in your love for the saints, your work, your service, your commitment to the family, to giving, to attendance, it can be seen in your prayers, your example, your discipline, your testimony and your commitment to the Lord’s day.

Are we ever critically evaluating our love for God? I love what Spurgeon says. He says: “Perhaps, they who love the Master best are the very people who will be the most likely to have such a high opinion of the love that He deserves, that they will often chide themselves that they do not love Him at all, when they see how little their love is compared with that perfection of affection which he deserves.”

May we be known as those who meditate on His glory, trust in His divine power, seek fellowship with Him, love His laws, are sensitive to how God feels about things, love what God loves, loving those whom God loves, hating what God hates, grieving with God over sin, obeying Him wholeheartedly and longing to be with Him forever.

Logos family, if there is one thing I cannot bear as your pastor, it is that we should love God just a little. It is the most horrible of thoughts that our hearts are not on fire with a love for God. We must love Him to the utmost. Let us pray to God this morning and ask Him to give us larger hearts, and to fire them up with the flame that is His own, that we may love Him, to the utmost possibilities of affection.

Amen!

Soli Deo Gloria

Logos Community Church:- 4 December 2016