What is the greatest commandment?

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By BibleAsk Team


Jesus Christ, in Matthew 22:36-40, summarizes the essence of the law into loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and loving our neighbors as ourselves. This exploration will draw upon references from the Bible to provide a comprehensive understanding of these foundational teachings.

Understanding the Greatest Commandment: Love for God and Love for Man

The dialogue captured in Matthew 22:36-40 provides a profound insight into the heart of biblical ethics and spirituality. It begins with a question posed to Jesus by a Pharisee, testing Him on the intricacies of the law:

Matthew 22:36-40: “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.”

Loving God: The Summary of the First Four Commandments

To understand how loving God encompasses the first four commandments of the Decalogue (Ten Commandments), let’s examine each of these commandments in light of our devotion and reverence for God:

1. Exodus 20:2-3: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.”

This commandment establishes the exclusivity of worshiping the one true God, acknowledging His sovereign authority and deliverance.

2. Exodus 20:4-6: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”

This commandment prohibits idolatry, directing our worship solely toward the invisible, Almighty God who demands our whole-hearted devotion.

3. Exodus 20:7: “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.”

Respecting and revering God’s name reflects our acknowledgment of His holiness and majesty, refraining from using His name flippantly or irreverently.

4. Exodus 20:8-11: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”

Observing the seventh day Sabbath underscores our acknowledgment of God as Creator and Provider, setting aside time for worship, rest, and reflection on His goodness.

Loving Man: The Summary of the Last Six Commandments

The remaining commandments in the Decalogue pertain to our relationships with others, emphasizing principles of justice, respect, and compassion:

5. Exodus 20:12: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.”

Respecting parental authority promotes familial harmony and societal stability, reflecting God’s design for relational honor.

6. Exodus 20:13: “You shall not murder.”

This commandment protects the sanctity of human life, promoting peace and the preservation of God’s image in humanity.

7. Exodus 20:14: “You shall not commit adultery.”

Upholding marital fidelity safeguards the integrity of family units and reflects God’s covenantal relationship with His people.

8. Exodus 20:15: “You shall not steal.”

Respecting personal property and economic integrity promotes fairness and mutual trust within communities.

9. Exodus 20:16: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

This commandment upholds truthfulness and integrity in communication, fostering trust and justice in interpersonal interactions.

10. Exodus 20:17: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

Guarding against envy and covetousness promotes contentment and community harmony, respecting others’ possessions and livelihoods.

The Permanence of God’s Law

Jesus declared:

Matthew 5:17-18: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”

The great Lawgiver Himself now reaffirmed the Ten Commandments as binding upon those who would be His subjects, and announced that anyone who should presume to annul them either by precept or by example would “by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20, NKJV).

Christ had not come to abolish any part of the law He Himself had given (1 Peter 1:11). Christ did not do away with any of the moral precepts, which reflected the character of the unchangeable God, but He set forth their true meaning and showed how their principles should be applied to various life situations.

The only laws that were abolished at the cross are the temple ceremonial sacrifices and ordinances that pointed to His sacrifice and were fulfilled by His death.

Colossians 2:14: “having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”

Ephesians 2:15: “having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace.”

Obedience: The Acid Test of Love

Christ declared:

John 14:15: “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”

John 15:14: “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.”

Love is the motive power of obedience. In true friendship there is reciprocal love. Christians would show their love by humble obedience to God’s commands. Obedience that comes from compulsion or from fear is not the best kind of obedience. One of the best human illustrations of obedience that springs from love is that of children to their parents.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the greatest commandment as articulated by Jesus Christ in Matthew 22:36-40 encapsulates the essence of biblical ethics and spirituality. Loving God with all our being and loving our neighbors as ourselves are inseparable imperatives that define our devotion to God and our relationships with others. Grounded in the Old Testament principles and fulfilled in Christ’s ministry, the greatest commandment calls believers to a life of worship of God, faith, compassion, and service for others. By embracing love as the highest expression of God’s will, Christians embody the transformative power of divine love in their communities and beyond, reflecting the kingdom values of justice, mercy, and reconciliation.

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In His service,
BibleAsk Team

Categories Law

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