The Greatest Commandment

Each of the first three Gospels records encounters between Jesus and the religious authorities around the subject of the commandments. Here is Matthew’s account.

Matthew 22.34-36 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”

Matthew 22.37-40 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.’

“This is the greatest and first commandment.

“And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

“On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Everyone in the audience knew that Jesus was quoting from the central message of the Book of Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 6.5You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.

Greatest Commandment – Greatest Opportunity

Many people of my generation can supply the tune to the phrase, “All you need is love.” During my senior year in high school (1967), the Beatles came out with this song and people like me can still sing the chorus.

Here’s a sample of the lyrics to the song:

There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done
Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game
It’s easy

Nothing you can make that can’t be made
No one you can save that can’t be saved
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time
It’s easy

All you need is love
All you need is love
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need

No one would accuse the Beatles of being great theologians, but they seemed to get Jesus’ message right.

Living in love with God and people is the most essential aspect of a full and abundant life.

Love is both God’s greatest gift to humans and the open door to the best life possible.

What does it mean to love God with our whole heart, soul, and might?

The Whole Heart

The heart most often refers to the inner life of a person. It includes feelings, thought, and intellect.

Jeremiah challenged his audience to stop resisting God’s direction. With graphic language, he told them to correct their hardened inside condition.

Circumcise yourselves to the Lord,
remove the foreskin of your hearts,
O people of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem,
or else my wrath will go forth like fire,
and burn with no one to quench it,
because of the evil of your doings.
(Jeremiah 4.4)

Both Isaiah and Jesus complained about the hypocrisy of false worship.

“This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.”
(Isaiah 29.13; Matthew 15.8)

The best response to God’s love is to love him in return. This love originates in the heart – the feelings, thoughts, and intellect of humans.

The Whole Soul

In Jewish philosophy, the soul is pictured as the king and ruler of the body. It is the principle of life, organization, and perception in humans.

The soul can be likened to a rider on a horse, a captain of a ship, or the governor of a state.

The Psalms frequently speak of the soul.

Psalm 16.9 – The soul rejoices.

Psalm 19.7 – God’s instructions (his law) bring the soul to life.

Psalm 23.3 – God restores the soul.

Psalm 30.12 – The soul gives praise to God.

Psalm 33.20 – The soul waits and trusts God to help.

Psalm 42.1 – The soul longs for God.

As the ruler of our bodies, the soul directs us toward the love of God. The soul helps us reach a place where we experience God and return God’s love to him.

The Whole Might (Body)

The might (or body) translates what is in the heart and soul into action. Jesus made it clear that our good intentions must become reality.

John 14.15 – “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

John 14.21“They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

John 15.10“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”

It is a good practice to become intimately familiar with the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).

Deuteronomy contains commandments that will show love to God with our whole heart, soul, and body. We will be studying these instructions in the coming articles.

However, I don’t think there can be an improvement on Jesus’ message in his famous sermon. We do well to frequently read and follow the direction he gave there.

All You Need is Love

Humans strive for so many things in life that are often unrelated to love when love is all that we need.

God, who is the One and Only God, commanded us to love him from the inside out. The Son of God came to earth out of love to create love in us.

The highest aspiration to which we can aspire is to love God completely and to love people in our sphere of influence as we love ourselves.

About the Blog

Rudy Ross and I discuss the topic of love on today’s YouTube video, found on the Bob Spradling channel. You will appreciate Rudy’s insights into Deuteronomy 6.5.

I have used Peter Craigie’s commentary on Deuteronomy and the Virtual Jewish Library for resources.

Please email your prayer requests to bsprad49@gmail.com or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.

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