“Emmanuel’s Priorities, Part 4” – Matthew 22:34-40

May 29th, 2016

Matthew 22:34-40

“Emmanuel’s Priorities Pt 4”

Auxiliary Text: 1 John 4:7-21

Call to Worship from: The Shema


Service Orientation:  God is love.  Loving God and loving others is one and the same.  Love is love in whatever form it is demonstrated.  A person is following Christ to the extent that his life is one of love.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. — 1 John 4:7-8


Background Information on the text:

  • (v. 34) The verb phimoō (put…to silence) literally means to muzzle, to forcefully restrict the opening of the mouth.  The term is used of the muzzling of an ox (1 Cor 9:9) and of Jesus’ silencing a demon (Mk 1:25) and a storm (Mk 4:39).  The Sadducees were verbally incapacitated by the Lord, rendered utterly speechless, just like the man who was rebuked by the king for coming to the wedding feast without proper clothes (Mt 22:12).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 336)
  • (v. 36) About twenty years before Jesus, the story is told of a Gentile convert to Judaism who approached Rabbi Hillel and asked him to summarize the whole Law while he stood on one leg (in other words, summarize it quickly). Hillel’s answer was a negative version of the Golden Rule.  He said, “What thou hatest for thyself, do not to thy neighbor.  This is the whole law; the rest is commentary.  Go and learn.”  Before and after the time of Jesus, other rabbis used key Bible verses to answer this common question.  One rabbi quoted Prv 3:6 as the heart of the Law:  “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”  Another rabbi quoted Hab 2:4: “The righteous shall live by his faith.”  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 655)
  • (v. 36) The rabbis had divided the law into 248 affirmative and 365 negative commands. Some of these commands were spoken of as light and others as heavy.  There were 613 altogether (the number of letters in the Decalogue).  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 428)
  • (v. 36) With this question this man is not asking “which laws from the Scriptures need to be obeyed and which can safely be ignored?” Instead he is asking, “Jesus, in your opinion, what is the fundamental premise of the Law on which all the individual commands depend?”  He is asking, “Of the 613 commands (as later rabbinic tradition would number them–248 positive and 365 prohibitive)–which command gets at the heart of them all?”  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 654-5)
  • (v. 36) The question was, Master, which is the greatest commandment of the law? A needless question, when all the things of God’s law are great things (Hos 8:12), and the wisdom from above is without partiality, partiality in the law (Mal 2:9), and hath respect to them all.  Yet it is true, there are some commands that are the principles of the oracles of God, more extensive and inclusive than others.  Our Savior speaks of the weightier matters of the law, ch. 23:23.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 325)
  • (v. 36) The rabbis loved to make aphorisms summing up the heart of religion, as in Aboth 1:1-2; 2:9; and there was much discussion as to which were the “weightiest” commandments. One rabbi told how Moses gave 613 commandments, but David reduced them to eleven (Ps 15:2-5), Isaiah to six (Isa 33:15), Micah to three (Mic 6:8), Amos to two (Amos 5:4), and Habakkuk to one (Hab 2:4).  The Golden Rule is another excellent example of such a summary (cf. on 7:12), and Jam 1:27 is another.  Rabbi Akiba, who was martyred about A.D. 135, said that Lv 19:18 was the great principle of the law.  (George Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 7, 523)
  • (v. 36) A rabbinic discussion of this issue in b. Mak. 24a suggests that the law may be found summarized in eleven principles in Ps 15, in six in Isa 33:15-16, in three in Mic 6:8, in two in Isa 56:1, and in one in Amos 5:4b and in Hab 2:4b; cf. b. Ber. 63a, where Prv 3:6 is said to be a “short text on which all the essential principles of the Torah depend.” It is interesting that none of these suggested summaries are taken from the Pentateuch itself; by contrast Jesus’ two key texts are both drawn from within the books of Moses.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 844-5)
  • (v. 40) “hang” NIV = # 2910 Strongs “to hang from a gallows or to crucify” “To be suspended”. The same word is used in 2 Sm 18:9-10 of the LXX to refer to Absalom “hanging in the branches”.  Also can be used as “to be depended upon”.
  • (v. 40) Jesus’ choice of Dt 6:5 and Lv 19:18 is notable for two reasons. In the first place, by focusing on “love” rather than on more tangible regulations to be obeyed it lifts the discussion above merely adjudicating between competing rules, and gives the priority to a principle which has potential application to virtually every aspect of religious and communal life.  When Jesus declares that “the whole law and the prophets” depend on this principle, he is repeating the point he made in 7:12, “this is the law and the prophets.”  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 843)


Background Information on “agape” – love:


  • Love is not a feeling it is an act of the will.
  • The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. —Tim Keller
  • Love begets love — Shirley Marsh 3-27-13
  • To love is to give to someone what that person needs. In the same way that individuals are called to care for themselves responsibly and attune their lives to carry out God’s will in their lives, they are to give themselves to others to care for them responsibly and help them attune their lives to carry out God’s will.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 725)
  • Love in response to goodness is not love, it is reward. You don’t earn love.  If you earn it, it isn’t love.  So when the Bible talks about love and grace, it is always in the context of sin and rebellion.  The Prodigal Son is not the exception of love, but the very definition of it.  (Steve Brown, Born Free, 138)
  • You are to love your neighbor as yourself. You are not to love our neighbor because they are like yourself.
  • What do you mean when you say, “I love you”? Do you mean I love you or do you mean I love what little bit of me that I can detect in you?  Which in reality, is not love but arrogance, ego, pride, vanity, and narcissism.
  • Godly love, whether as His love for man or man’s love for Him, is measured by what it gives, not by what it might gain. It does not love because love is beneficial but because love is right and good.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 339)
  • To love my neighbor as myself is to be concerned with my neighbor’s troubles, needs, pains, sorrow, problems and issues of life as I am with my own and to use my own resources to resolve those issues with the same investment of time, creativity, abandon, and perseverance as I do trying to resolve my own issues. — Pastor Keith with conceptual credit to Tim Keller
  • Love in response to goodness is not love but it is reward
  • Love cannot be identified as real love until it manifests itself in the face of that which is unlovely.
  • Love always pays a price. Love always costs something.  Love is expensive.  When you love, benefits accrue to another’s account.  Love is for you, not for me.  Love gives; it doesn’t grab. . . . Love is sacrificial action. (Dave Simmons; Dad, The Family Coach, 124)
  • You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving. -Amy Carmichael
  • A love that will not bear all, care for all, share all, is not love at all.
  • The measure of our love is the measure of our sacrifice.
  • In the context of Leviticus, loving one’s neighbor means (and what a corrective the content of this command is for today’s concepts of love) not harboring anger in your heart, or seeking vengeance, or bearing a grudge, and yet frankly reasoning or kindly rebuking him or her if necessary. That’s love in Leviticus.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 659)


The questions to be answered are . . . Why is love so important to Jesus?  How do all the Law and the prophets “hang” on love for God and others?  Where does it come from?  How do we get it?   


Answer: God is love.  To be righteous means to love.   We cannot be a follower of Jesus and not love.  Love comes from God through the Holy Spirit.  We get love by dying to self (the very antithesis of love) and begging God to help us love others as we love ourselves.


The Word for the Day is . . . Love


Agape doesn’t love somebody because they’re worthy.

Agape makes them worthy by the strength and power of its love.

Agape doesn’t love somebody because they’re beautiful.

Agape loves in such a way that it makes them beautiful. (Rob Bell, Sex God, 120)


In whatever age or with whatever group of people, it has been the almost universal belief that love is the greatest thing in life, the summum bonum, the virtue par excellence.  Consequently, volumes upon volumes of poems, songs, plays, novels, and films have been produced about love.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 335)


What can we learn from Jesus’ response to the question of the greatest commandment?:



I-  God is love.  Only God is good.  Love is the greatest attribute of all.  Everything good, right and just comes back to love; comes back to obeying God.  (Mt 22:37-40; see also: Ex 20:5-6; Dt 7:9; 11:13-21; Josh 22:5; Neh 1:5; Ps ch 119; Mic 6:8; Amos 5:4; Mt 5:43-48; 7:12; 19:17; Mk 10:18; Lk 18:19; Jn 14:15, 21-24; Rom 13:8-10;   1 Cor ch 13; Gal 5:14, 22-23; Eph 5:1-2; 1Tm 1:5; Jam 2:8; 1 Jn 4:8, 16)


“Love is ever the activity of God” — Martin Luther


“I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.”   —Dorothy Day,  (Philip Yancey, What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 158)


God loves us; not because we are loveable but because He is love, not because he needs to receive but because He delights to give.  (C. S. Lewis; Letters of C. S. Lewis, 231 – red bold emphasis Pastor Keith)


I think God is saying, “I want you to meet the needs of other people with all of the joy, all of the eagerness, all of the urgency, all of the ingenuity, creativity, and industry with which you meet your own needs.  That’s the standard.  That’s how I want you to live your life.”  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 40)


You were not created to be a law follower.  You were created to love and the Law is simply a guide or a rule to assist you to know how to love and how to define love.  — Pastor Keith


Love is the grand secret of true obedience to God.  When we feel towards him as children feel towards a dear father, we shall delight to do his will; we shall not find his commandments grievous, or work for him like slaves under fear of the leash; we shall take pleasure in trying to keep his laws, and mourn when we transgress them.  No one works so well as those who work for love:  the fear of punishment or the desire of reward are principles of far less power.  They do the will of God best who do it from the heart.  Would we train children right?  Let us teach them to love God.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 211)


God cannot be loved apart from our neighbor, and our neighbor cannot be loved apart from God.  There are two pegs nailed into the wall of God’s Word, and those two pegs are also nailed into each other.  And those two pegs are the pegs that ought to be nailed into the heart of every Christian.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 660-1)


If people loved perfectly there would be no need for law, because the person who loves others will never do them harm.  In the same way, the believer who loves God with all his being will never take His name in vain, will never worship idols, and will never fail to obey, worship, honor, and glorify Him as Lord.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 342)


The comprehensive nature of the love which these two texts demand makes them eminently suitable for the role of summarizing the law, as the Pharisaic lawyer has asked.  Together they cover the two main foci of human responsibility under God.  They summarize not only the law (which was the question asked) but also the prophets, since the whole scriptural revelation is understood to witness to the same divine will.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 847)


The two texts chosen by Jesus are together sufficiently strong to bear the weight of the whole OT.  This does not mean, as some modern ethicists have argued, that “all you need is love,” so that one can dispense with the ethical rules set out in the Torah.  It is rather to say that those rules find their true role in working out the practical implications of the love for God and neighbor on which they are based.  Far from making the law irrelevant, therefore, love thus becomes “the primary hermeneutical principle for interpreting and applying the law.”  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 847) (red bold emphasis — Pastor Keith)


In nature and extent, in universal application and personal implication, the second great commandment grows out of the first.  Duty to God and duty to man–both are summed up in the word love.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 439)


The two commandments were basic, touching all of life’s relationship.  The precepts of the law and the preaching of the prophets were simply expositions of the two basics.  The tedious tomes of the teachers of the law and of the inventors of tradition could be swept aside.  One does not need lawyers to understand God’s law.  One needs only love.  Everybody understands the law of love.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 430)


We need to further explore the power of human love to feed our divine love.  Rather than seeing marriage as a cosmic competitor with heaven, we can embrace it as a school of faith.  Maximus the Confessor (580-662) observed that the love we have for God and the love we have for others are not two distinct loves, but “two aspects of a single total love.”  Jesus suggested the same thing, when in response to a question about the “greatest” commandment he declared that there is not just one, but two–not only must we love God, but also our neighbors.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 267)


If I love you I would seek your best and highest good, wouldn’t I?  And that’s completely connected to your understanding of and obedience to divine truth.  So if I don’t…if I say…Well, I want this superficial tranquility…I don’t think it’s loving to do that.  Truth is, you don’t love them, you love yourself, that’s the issue, and what you really do is love yourself so much you don’t want them not to like you.  Self-love, that’s sin.  You’re afraid if you confront something they won’t like you so you’d rather love yourself and have them like you than to love them enough to confront their error, show them the truth which can lead them to the blessing and well-being that produces God’s greatest good in their lives.  Loss of truth, loss of conviction, loss of discernment, loss of holiness, loss of divine power, loss of blessing…all they want is to get their ears tickled.  Tell me a little about success.  Tell me a little about prosperity.  Give me some excitement.  Elevate my feelings of well-being, self-esteem, and give me a bunch of emotional thrills.  (John MacArthur, www.gty.org/Resources/Sermons/80-180_5-Reasons-to-Preach-the-Word, 7)


I can’t brag about my love for God because I fail Him daily.   But I can brag about His love for me because it never fails.   I love God.   —Lacie Keef e-mail 3-3-14


Anger is the fluid that love bleeds when you cut it.  (C. S. Lewis; Letter to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, 97)


Love gets angry at the evil in the beloved.  — Steve Brown


We should WANT to meet the needs of our neighbors with all of the speed, joy, eagerness, creativity, sacrifice and determination that we do for our own needs.  — Tim Keller


By bringing these two texts together Jesus asserts that the one principle of love applies equally to the two main aspects of religious duty, one’s attitude to God and one’s attitude to other people.  It is these two foci which provide the framework of the Decalogue, with its two “tables” covering these two aspects in turn.  If the Decalogue is itself a sort of epitome of the law, these two quotations in turn sum up the Decalogue.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 843)


It might be possible to think even of love for God as a self-centered spiritual experience, but love for one’s neighbor is inescapably practical and altruistic.  Love for God is “first,” so that R. Mohrlang is justified in insisting that “the second great commandment is properly understood only when viewed within the context of the more fundamental demand of the first,” but the first without the second leaves the demand of love insufficiently specified.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 846)


Kaiser rightly points out that this passage is in keeping with the prophetic tradition of the OT, which equally demands a heart relationship with God (Dt 10:12; 1 Sm 15:22; Isa 1:11-18; 43:22-24; Hos 6:6; Amos 5:21-24; Mic 6:6-8; cf. Prv 15:8; 21:27; 28:9).  Sterile religion, no matter how disciplined, was never regarded as adequate.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 465)


There is no question here of the priority of love over law–i.e., one system over another–but of the priority of love within the law.  These two commandments are the greatest because all Scripture “hangs” on them; i.e., nothing in Scripture can cohere or be truly obeyed unless these two are observed.  The entire biblical revelation demands heart religion marked by total allegiance to God, loving him and loving one’s neighbor.  Without these two commandments the Bible is sterile.  This pericope prepares the way for the denunciations of 23:1-36 and conforms fully to Jesus’ teaching elsewhere.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 465)


James Edwards writes, “Although love of God and love of humanity were occasionally affirmed separately in Israel, there is no evidence that before Jesus they were ever combined.  It does not appear that any rabbi before Jesus regarded love of God and neighbor as the center and sum of the law.”

So while Jesus’ answer was based on two well-known and often-cited texts from the Torah, he was the first in history to affirm that love for God and love for people are indivisible.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 659)


So there is a distinction between the two love commandments, but not a division.  The first command is greater than the second; yet the first cannot be met unless the second is accomplished (and vice versa).

So with that said I say, away with the doctrines of humanism, which teach us to love people without any reference to God, and away with the doctrines of mysticism which teach us to love God without any reference to people.  Both of these dangers, humanism prevalent in the world and mysticism prevalent in the church, are diffused by Jesus’ answer.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 659)


Observe what the weight and greatness of these commandments is (v. 40); On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets; that is, This is the sum and substance of all those precepts relating to practical religion which were written in men’s hearts by nature, revived by Moses, and backed and enforced by the preaching and writing of the prophets.  All hang upon the law of love; take away this, and all falls to the ground, and comes to nothing.  Rituals and ceremonials must give way to these, as must all spiritual gifts, for love is the more excellent way.  This is the spirit of the law, which animates it, the cement of the law, which joins it; it is the root and spring of all other duties, the compendium of the whole Bible, not only of the law and the prophets, but of the gospel too, only supposing this love to be the fruit of faith, and that we love God in Christ, and our neighbor for his sake.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 326)


All hangs on these two commandments, as the effect doth both on its efficient and on its final cause; for the fulfilling of the law is love (Rom 13:10), and the end of the law is love, 1 Tm 1:5.  The law of love is the nail, is the nail in the sure place, fastened by the masters of assemblies (Eccl 12:11), on which is hung all the glory of the law and the prophets (Isa 22:24), a nail that shall never be drawn; for on this nail all the glory of the new Jerusalem shall eternally hang.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 326)


It is only when we love God that other people become lovable.  The biblical teaching about human beings is not that we are collections of chemical elements, not that we are part of the brute creation, but that men and women are made in the image of God (Gn 1:26-7).  It is for that reason that human beings are lovable.  The true basis of all democracy is in fact the love of God.  Take away the love of God, and we can look at human nature and become angry at those who cannot be taught; we can become pessimistic about those who cannot make progress; we can become callous to those who are cold and calculating in their actions.  The love of humanity is firmly grounded in the love of God.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 324-5)


If you love it enough you will find a way.  If not, you’ll find an excuse.


Father Zossima, a character in Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, comments, “Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing, compared with love in dreams.”  The real thing wants the best for the beloved, and that may mean a mother denying her child’s insistent plea for more candy, or a social worker holding his client responsible for destructive behavior, or a wife demanding a change in the behavior of her abusive husband–or God damning to hell the sin that is destroying creation.  (Donald W. McCullough, The Trivialization of God, 94)


God is love.  God is love in the NT and God is Love in the OT because God never changes.  That means EVERYTHING that God does, is ultimately to be understood as an act of love.

If we look at God’s treatment of Egypt and Pharaoh in the book of Exodus, and we do not see God’s love in those acts, we do not understand God’s motivation.

If we look at the conquest of Joshua and the eradication of the Canaanite people and do not see it ultimately as an act of love, it means we do not understand God’s motivation.

If we look at the cross of Christ, and the suffering, anguish, and punishment that He underwent, and do not see it as an act of love, it means we do not understand God’s motivation.

If we cannot understand an act God does and see it as love, then we are either ignorant of the circumstances and God’s motivation or we do not understand what love is.— Pastor Keith


The Bible is clear here:  I am to love my neighbor as myself, in the manner needed, in a practical way, in the midst of the fallen world, at my particular point of history.  This is why I am not a pacifist.  Pacifism in this poor world in which we live–this lost world–means that we desert the people who need our greatest help.

Let me illustrate.  I am walking down the street and I come upon a big, burly man beating a tiny tot to death–beating this little girl–beating her–beating her.  I plead with him to stop.  Suppose he refuses?  What does love mean now?  Love means that I stop him in any way I can, including hitting him.  To me this is not only necessary for humanitarian reasons:  it is loyalty to Christ’s commands concerning Christian love in a fallen world.  What about that little girl?  If I desert her to the bully, I have deserted the true meaning of Christian love–responsibility to my neighbor.  She, as well as he, is my neighbor.  ( Francis A. Schaeffer; The Great Evangelical Disaster, 128)


These two are the nail from which all else written in the OT hangs suspended.  Take away this nail, and everything else would fall in a heap.  It would lose its true meaning, significance, and purpose.  (R.C. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel, 883)


“God has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest most tragic, most inexorable  sense.

…. Love, in its own nature, demands the perfection of the beloved; … mere, “kindness” which tolerates anything except suffering in its object is, in that respect, at the opposite pole from Love.”  (C. S. Lewis The Problem of Pain. 41, 46)


God loves you right where you are but he doesn’t want to leave you there.  -Max Lucado


II-  Love begets love (Shirley Marsh).  Love comes from knowing God (Whose essential nature is love) and by God through the Holy Spirit.  (Rom 5:5; Gal 5:22-23; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 4:7-21)


We have been made for relationship with God.  Therefore it is not surprising that we long to meet and know God.  But the God we seek is the God we want, not the God who is.  We fashion a god who blesses without obligation, who lets us feel his presence without living his life, who stands with us and never against us, who gives us what we want, when we want it.  We worship a god of consumer satisfaction, hoping the talismans of guitars and candles or organs and liturgy will put us in touch with God as we want him to be.  (Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship, 65-6)


The person who truly loves the Lord with all his heart and soul and mind is the person who trusts Him and obeys Him.  That person demonstrates his love by meditating on God’s glory (Ph 18:1-3), trusting in God’s divine power (Ps 31:23), seeking fellowship with God (Ps 63:1-8), loving God’s law (Ps 119:165), being sensitive to how God feels (Ps 69:9), loving what God loves (Ps 119:72, 97, 103), loving whom God loves (1 Jn 5:1), hating what God hates (Ps 97:10), grieving over sin (Mt 26:75), rejecting the world (1 Jn 2:15), longing to be with Christ (2 Tm 4:8), and obeying God wholeheartedly (Jn 14:21).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 340)


You can only love when you know you have been loved.  And only then can you love to the degree that you know you have been loved. — Steve Brown


“Love follows knowledge.”  (Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 1300)


“In the end; we will conserve what we love, we will love what we understand, and we will understand what we have been taught.” — Baba Dioun: African environmentalist


There is an indivisible linkage between loving God with all your soul and loving God with all your mind.  Wonder and curiosity are spiritual cousins.  When the soul stops wondering, the mind stops learning.  And vice versa.  A lack of wonder breeds a lack of curiosity, and a lack of curiosity breeds a lack of wonder.  Either way, when you stop learning, you start dying intellectually.  But the spiritual implications are more profound than that.  When you stop learning, you stop loving.  Why?  Because loving is learning more and more about the one you love.  True love is never satisfied.  It always wants to know more about the object of its affection.  The more you love God, the more curious you become.  When it comes to loving God with all your mind, curiosity is both the cause and the effect.  (Mark Batterson, Primal, A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, 91-2) (red bold emphasis – Pastor Keith)


Grateful people overflow a little, especially with thanksgiving and passed-on kindnesses.  But they do not therefore lack discipline.  In fact, self-indulgence tends to suppress gratitude; self-discipline tends to generate it.  That is why gluttony is a deadly sin:  oddly, it is an appetite suppressant.  The reason is that a person’s appetites are linked:  full stomachs and jaded palates take the edge from our hunger and thirst for justice.  And they spoil the appetite for God.  (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 35)


The Spirit calls us to an even higher way, to love our neighbor.  If we love our neighbor, of course we will not covet what is his, nor in any way do him harm.  The Spirit does not just command; He imparts the ability to love–He imparts His love.  Jesus did not come to destroy the Law but to fulfill it–He came to lift us above the Law; He came to give us the power to exceed its requirements.  (Rick Joyner, There Were Two Trees in the Garden, 175)


Now, it is this acquaintance with God that brings us into the knowledge of his character as a holy, loving, and faithful God; and it is this knowledge of his character that begets love and confidence in the soul towards him.  The more we know of God, the more we love him; the more we try him, the more we confide in him.  (Octavius Winslow, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul, 98)


By logical syllogism we deduce a very important fact.  If a person is not loving, John says, he or she does not know God.  How will that individual become more loving, then?  Can we grow in love by trying to love more?  No, our attempts to love will only end in more frustration and less love.  The solution, John implies, is to know God better.  This is so simple that we miss it all the time:  our means for becoming more loving is to know God better.  (Marva J. Dawn, Truly the Community:  Romans 12, 146)


The fact is, I need God to help me love God.  And if I need His help to love Him, a perfect being, I definitely need His help to love other, fault-filled humans.  Something mysterious, even supernatural must happen in order for genuine love for God to grow in our hearts.  The Holy Spirit has to move in our lives.  (Francis Chan, Crazy Love, 104)


Note that Jesus shifts the center from conduct to character, from deeds to affections.  “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he,” said the sage of old; Christ says, “As a man loves, so is he.”  Two loves we have,–either the dark love of self and sense, or the love of God, and all character and conduct are determined by which of these sways us.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 9-17, 137)


Until you see you can’t really love you can’t really love.  You can only really love when you come to realize you can’t really love.  — Tim Keller


As Carver said, “Anything will give up its secrets if you love it enough.  Not only have I found that when I talk to the little flower or to the little peanut they will give up their secrets, but I have found that when I silently commune with people they give up their secrets also–if you love them enough”.

Is it possible that our lack of ideas is really a lack of love?

God ideas aren’t the by-product of genius, they are the by-product of love.  The more you love God, the more God reveals.  If you love Him enough, not for what He can do for who He is, then God will give up His secrets.  Why?  Because that is the essence of love.  The more you love, the more you reveal.  And there are so many secrets waiting to be revealed.   (Mark Batterson, Primal, A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, 128)


All obedience begins in the affections, and nothing in religion is done right, that is not done there first.  Love is the leading affection, which gives law, and gives ground, to the rest; and therefore that, as the main fort, is to be first secured and garrisoned for God.  Man is a creature cut out for love; thus therefore is the law written in the heart, that it is a law of love.  Love is a short and sweet word; and, if that be the fulfilling of the law, surely the yoke of the command is very easy.  Love is the rest and satisfaction of the soul; if we walk in this good old way, we shall find rest.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 325)


Nobody can give anyone else the kind or amount of love they’re starved for.  In the end we’re all alike, groping for true love and incapable of fully giving it.  What we need is someone to love us who doesn’t need us at all.  Someone who loves us radically, unconditionally, vulnerably.  Someone who loves us just for our sake.  If we received that kind of love, that would so assure us of our value, it would so fill us up, that maybe we could start to give love like that too.  Who can give love with no need?  Jesus.  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 98-9)


We cannot have fruits and flowers without roots:  we cannot have love of God and man without faith in Christ, and without regeneration.  The way to spread true love in the world is to teach the atonement of Christ, and the work of the Holy Spirit.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 212)


When God loves, he loves the world; when he gives, he gives his Son, hence himself.  He gives him up; he spares him not.  Greater love is impossible (Jn 15:13; Rom 5:6-10; 2 Cor 8:9).  Surely, the response to such love must not be less than that indicated in Rom 11:33-36; 2 Cor 6:20; 2 Cor 9:15; Eph 5:1, 2; Phil 2:1-18; Col 3:12-17.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 809)


One is that loving God is not a mere decision.  You cannot merely decide to love classical music–or country western music–much less God.  The music must become compelling.  Something must change inside of you.  That change makes possible the awakening of a compelling sense of its attractiveness.  So it is with God.  You do not merely decide to love him.  Something changes inside of you, and as a result he becomes compellingly attractive.  His glory–his beauty–compels your admiration and delight.  He becomes your supreme treasure.  You love him.  (John Piper, Think, 87)


To say that Jesus died for man’s sin is to say that He died for man’s hatred of God, which is the essence of all sin.  Christ died for man’s lack of love for God.  And just as He offers forgiveness for past lack of love for God, Christ also provides for future love for God.  The great Forgiver is also the great Enabler, because through Christ, “the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom 5:5).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 341)


III-  We receive love by dying to self (self being the very antithesis of love) and begging God to help us love Him and others with all our being:  as we love ourselves.  (Dt 4:29; 6:4-5; 10:12; 11:13; 13:3; 26:16; 30:2, 6, 10; Lv 19:18; Josh 22:5; 23:14; 1 Sm 12:20; Ps 9:1; 86:12; 111:1; 119:10, 34, 58, 69, 145; 138:1; Prv 3:5-6; 4:4; Jer 29:13; Joel 2:12; Zep 3:14; Mt 10:37-40; 16:24-26; 22:37-40; Mk 12:30; Lk 10:27; Rom 6:6; 7:14-25; 8:1-13; 12:10; 13:14; Gal 2:20; 5:16-17; 6:7-8; Eph 4:17-32; Phil 2:1-11; Col 2:11-13; 3:5-17; Jam 2:16; 1 Jn 3;17; 4:7-21; 5:1)


What is meant in all these passages is that man should love God with all the “faculties” with which God has endowed him.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 809)


The two commandments, Jesus says, stand together.  The first without the second is intrinsically impossible (cf. 1 Jn 4:20), and the second cannot stand without the first–even theoretically–because disciplined altruism is not love.  Love in the truest sense demands abandonment of self to God, and God alone is the adequate incentive for such abandonment.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 464)


To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin or your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable…The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers…of love is Hell. (C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, 169)


Love is a heart that moves…Love moves away from the self and toward the other.  -Dan Allender and Tremper Longman III


When God calls a man, he bids him come and die.  (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship)


We must rid ourselves of this constant tendency to be watching the interests of self, to be always on the lookout for insults or attacks or injuries, always in this defensive attitude.  That is the kind of thing He has in mind.  All that must disappear, and that of course means that we must cease to be sensitive about self.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 257)


When Jesus commands us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, he assumes a healthy dose of self-love is already in place–a self-love that is natural (it is the way we were created; we naturally care for our bodies, our needs, etc.) and a self-love that is sinful (an egocentric affection that continually seeks self above and before others).

Like most people I have not had to work on loving myself.  I naturally love myself more than I love my congregation, more than I love my God.  That’s not a good thing to say, but it is an honest thing to say.  It is only by God’s grace that I ever think about loving others and loving God more than I love myself.  Looking out for number one will always be our number one priority.  So the call here is that we take this inclination and focus it elsewhere.  Instead of focusing inward, we focus outward.  We must focus our self-love on loving others.  The measure by which we love ourselves now becomes the measure (it’s a high measure) by which we are called to love others.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 661)


Jesus added “with all your mind.”  Jesus’ purpose was to show that a person’s total being must be involved in loving God.  Nothing must be held back because God holds nothing back.  Much of the NT focuses on Jesus’ addition (with all your mind) by strongly emphasizing the renewing of the mind (Rom 12:2; Eph 4:23).  We need this emphasis every bit as much as this scribe who came to Jesus.  Much of modern-day teaching attempts to bypass the mind.  Yet the mind is vital, and we need to take every thought captive for Christ (2 Cor 10:5).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 442)


When so many of our neighbors in the world are starving, when so many are poor and oppressed, what does valuing others more highly than ourselves mean?  Certainly it challenges us to sacrifice the luxury in our life-style in order that others might have enough.  (Marva J. Dawn, Truly the Community:  Romans 12, 175)


I don’t think being mature Christians means getting to a place where we never deal with idolatry.  Rather, maturity comes when we become aware that this is going to be a lifelong battle…and we make up our minds to engage in it on a daily basis.  (Pete Wilson, Empty Promises, 196)


“Give up your old way of life, and trust me for a new one.”  Jesus then calls those who have repented and believed to “follow” him.  Similarly, in Jesus’ day a disciple would give up his own plans in life to follow and live with a rabbi, learning the Torah and all the rabbi’s ways.  In choosing these words, Jesus gives an invitation that is familiar to his Jewish hearers:  “Come.  Be with me.  Learn from me.  Give up your own way of life.  Do what I do.  Learn to live as I do.”  However, though these words in one way are quite familiar to the first-century Jews who hear them, in another way they are strange.  For Jesus is much more than a rabbi:  he is Lord and Christ.  The lives of those who choose to hear and follow Jesus are not to center in the Torah, but in Jesus himself.  His disciples are to give full allegiance and devotion to him.  Few images express more vividly the total commitment and absolute loyalty Jesus demands:  loyalty to God’s kingdom is expressed in loyalty to Jesus.  (Craig G. Bartholomew & Michael W. Goheen, The Drama of Scripture, 136-37)


Two great enemies obtained dominion over man when Adam sinned–the world and self.  Of the world Christ says, “The Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him” (Jn 14:17).  Worldliness is the great hindrance that keeps believers from living a spiritual life.  Of self Christ said, “Let him deny himself” (Mk 8:34).  Self, in all its forms–self-will, self-pleasing, self-confidence–renders life in the power of the Spirit impossible.  (Andrew Murray, Receiving Power from God, 27)


Vanstone says, In false love your aim is to use the other person to fulfill your happiness.  Your love is conditional:  You give it only as long as the person is affirming you and meeting your needs.  And it’s nonvulnerable:  You hold back so that you can cut your losses if necessary.  But in true love, your aim is to spend yourself and use yourself for the happiness of the other, because your greatest joy is that person’s joy.  Therefore your affection is unconditional:  You give it regardless of whether your loved one is meeting your needs.  And it’s radically vulnerable:  You spend everything, hold nothing back, give it all away.  Then Vastone says, surprisingly, that our real problem is that nobody is actually fully capable of giving true love.  We want it desperately, but we can’t give it.  He doesn’t say we can’t give any kind of real love at all, but he’s saying that nobody is fully capable of true love.  All of our love is somewhat fake.  How so?  Because we need to be loved like we need air and water.  We can’t live without love.  That means there’s a certain mercenary quality to our relationships.  We look for people whose love would really affirm us.  We invest our love only where we know we’ll get a good return.  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 98) (red bold emphasis – Pastor Keith)


One of the results of our fallen condition is that we are “haters of God.”  We are not merely indifferent.  Rather, we have a deeply rooted desire to do our own will rather than God’s.  He remains the supreme obstacle to our pursuit of pleasure.  Therefore, we want to do away with Him, to get rid of Him.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 647)


The “heart” in the OT is actually the seat of the intellect, will, and intentions.  The “soul” is the entire inner self with all its emotions, desires, and personal characteristics that make each human unique.  “Strength” actually translates a word that normally means “greatly” or “exceedingly.”  One might thus render the entire verse, “Love the Lord your God with total commitment (heart), with your total self (soul), to total excess.”  Loving God should be “over the top!”  (C.J.H. Wright).  (G. K. Beale and D.  A. Carson, Commentary on the NT Use of the OT, 80-1)


When they’re willing to serve without regard for the response, then I know they’re beginning to move in the love of God.  (Steve Sjogren, Conspiracy of Kindness, 115)


Genuine love for one’s neighbor is of the same kind as genuine love for God.  It is by choice purposeful, intentional, and active, not merely sentimental and emotional.  And it is measured, Jesus said, by your love for yourself.  When a person is hungry, he feeds himself; when he is thirsty, he gets himself a drink; and when he is sick, he takes medicine or sees a doctor–all because he is so consumed with caring for himself.  He does not simply think or talk about food or water or medicine but does whatever is necessary to provide those things for himself.  A person never simply says to himself, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” without doing anything to secure his needed clothing and food (see Jam 2:16).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 341)


From the viewpoint of biblical anthropology, “heart,” “soul,” and “mind” (v. 37) are not mutually exclusive but overlapping categories, together demanding our love for God to come from our whole person, our every faculty and capacity.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 464)


The Bible teaches we are to move from self (me) to us (the church) to people (the world).  So the magazine title for Christianity should be something like Self-denial (cf. 10:38, 39; 16:24-26).  That word should be printed in large, bold type on the front cover of Christianity today and always.  Self-denial!  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 661)


Contrary to some contemporary interpretations of this passage, Jesus was not commanding that a person love himself but assumed he already does love himself.  “No one ever hated his own flesh,” Paul states, “but nourishes and cherishes it” (Eph 5:29).  And just as a person looks out for his own welfare, both by the legitimacy of natural design as well as because of sinful selfishness, he will also look out for the welfare of others if he truly loves them.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 341)


If I cry out against God because of a great loss, I have just revealed my idol; that thing or person he blessed me with, rather than He who blesses me.  — Buddy Briggs


Every time you refuse to forgive or fail to overlook a weakness in another, your heart not only hardens toward them, it hardens toward God.  You cannot form a negative opinion of someone (even though you think they may deserve it!) And allow that opinion to crystalize into an attitude; for every time you do, an aspect of your heart will cool toward God.  You may still think you are open to God, but the Scriptures are clear:  “The one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 Jn 4:20).  You may not like what someone has done, but you do not have an option to stop loving them.  Love is your only choice.   (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 70)


When we love Christ only for what He brings us, including spiritual feelings, we are loving ourselves, not loving Him, regardless of the sacrifice we think we are offering.  The dark night of the soul purifies our motivation and keeps us from becoming like the crowds in the NT who followed Jesus, not for His teaching, but for the miraculously supplied bread.  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 193)


Love to God will expel love to the world; love to the world will deaden the soul’s love to God.  “No man can serve two masters”:  it is impossible to love God and the world, to serve him and mammon.  Here is a most fertile cause of declension in Divine love; guard against it as you would fortify yourself against your greatest foe.  It is a vortex that has engulfed millions of souls; multitudes of professing Christians have been drawn into its eddy, and have gone down into its gulf.  (Octavius Winslow, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul, 56)


A divided house cannot stand.  But if so, how can civilized, let alone noble, life proceed?  After all, surely everyone suffers from dividedness.  Nobody loves God with a wholly pure and undivided heart.  Nobody loves neighbors perfectly.  Nobody’s marriage is quite free of contaminants.  If dividedness tends to break us down, how do we manage to hold up and go on?

Ideally, by repentance and renewal of mind and heart–that is, by the grace of God working through spiritual disciplines and the support of others.  (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 46)


If we desire to discover the NT standard of true spirituality and devotion in our life, we must have the courage to set aside every human standard and make God’s purpose our only aim.  (Andrew Murray, Receiving Power from God, 23)


Whoever seeks God as a means toward desired ends will not find God.  The mighty God, the maker of heaven and earth, will not be one of many treasures, not even the chief of all treasures.  He will be all in all or He will be nothing.  God will not be used.  His mercy and grace are infinite and His patient understanding is beyond measure, but He will not aid men in their selfish striving after personal gain.  He will not help men to attain ends which, when attained, usurp the place He by every right should hold in their interest and affection.  (A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God, 57)


  1. I. Packer once told me our view of God is like a pair of old-fashioned scales. When God goes up in our estimation, we go down. Similarly, when we raise our sense of self-importance, our view of God must, to that same degree, be lowered.  (Michael Horton, Putting Amazing Back into Grace, 16)


There is a self-love which is corrupt, and the root of the greatest sins, and it must be put off and mortified:  but there is a self-love which is natural, and the rule of the greatest duty, and it must be preserved and sanctified.  We must love ourselves, that is, we must have a due regard to the dignity of our own natures, and a due concern for the welfare of our own souls and bodies.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 326)


Love to God must needs be undivided.  God is one and all; man is one and finite.  To love such an object with half a heart is not to love.  True, our weakness leads astray, but the only real love corresponding to the natures of the lover and the loved is whole-hearted, whole-souled, whole-minded.  It must be “all in all, or not at all.”  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 9-17, 137)


The twice-daily repeated Shema was well known as an overarching obligation of each individual Jew, and it included the duty of obedience to the other commandments given by God (see the similar logic in 5:16-20).  Love for God is not understood as simply an emotional attachment.  Rather, it means giving oneself to him with one’s entire person.  Heart, soul, and mind are not rigidly separated compartments of the human existence but reflect that the entire person is given to God.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 725)


How often we have tried somehow to love somebody that we can’t stand!  The harder we try to love, the more difficult it becomes.  We get super-frustrated and angry at the other person for making love so difficult.  All our human efforts to try to love others are bound to fail because the more we put ourselves under a performance principle, the more our failures make us feel guilty and cause us to love less.  This is the corollary to the central message of God’s freeing love throughout the discourse of the book of Romans:  that all human efforts, all performance principles, will only bring failure and despair.  Only when we are set free from the demands of the law can we discover the Hilarity of living in love through faith.  (Marva J. Dawn, Truly the Community:  Romans 12, 145)


C.S. Lewis confessed that he too struggled with how to truly love the sinner while hating the sin.  One day it suddenly became clear:  “It occurred to me that there was one man to whom I had been doing this all my life–namely myself.  However much I might dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself.  There had never been the slightest difficulty about it.  In fact, the very reason why I hated the things was that I loved the man.  Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things.”  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 171)


If I fail in my love toward Christians, it does not prove I am not a Christian.   What Jesus is saying, however, is that, if I do not have the love I should have toward all other Christians, the world has the right to make the judgment that I am not a Christian. (Francis Schaeffer; The Mark of the Christian, pgs. 13-4)


This is not a formal law to love self, as has often been alleged, but rather the observation that healthy individuals care deeply about their own well-being.  Jesus wants to ensure that their care for others runs at least as deep.  Paul will make an even more challenging statement along these lines in Phil 2:4.  (G. K. Beale and D.  A. Carson, Commentary on the NT Use of the OT, 82)


Jesus has expanded the definition of neighbor from “fellow Israelite” (Lv 19:18) to anyone in need (Lk 10:29-37) and even to one’s enemies (Mt 5:44).  To love one’s neighbor as oneself does not teach self-love, but requires that we extend to others the same kind of personal concern that we have for ourselves.  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 210)


The word “whole” in the three phrases receives great emphasis because of its very repetition.  God will have no mere part, allow no division or subtraction.  Not even the smallest corner is to be closed against God.  The whole heart, the seat of our personality; the whole soul, our sentient being itself; and the whole mind, the entire activity of this our being is to turn to God in love; Josh 22:5, “to cleave unto him.”  And this is to be done because he is the covenant God:  Yahweh, “I am that I am,” the unchanging Lord who drew us into covenant relation with him; and “Eloheka, the God of power and might, and, as the possessive shows, he who employs his power in our behalf.  (R.C. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel, 881)


As objects hang on a nail, and fall if the nail does not hold, so that they are essentially dependent on it, so the details of moral conduct, or individual requirements of the Law, are dependent on the law of love.  This does not mean that the Law is acknowledged to be a way of fulfilling the law of love for God and one’s neighbor.  More particularly it does not mean that the different commandments are assessed “according to their closer or more distant relation to the two cardinal commandments.”  It means rather that the love of God is seen to be the sustaining basis of all human attitudes and actions.  But the love of God in men, and therewith also the love of men for God, is revealed and actualized in love for one’s neighbor.  “God is the God of love, and he who would be a child of God must be embraced and impelled by the stream of divine love, and must reflect the love of God in his life.”  Gerhard Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the NT, 920)


Worship Point: Worship the God of the Universe, who desires all of creation to reflect Who He is; He is a God of love and not a god of self-promotion and domination.


If you don’t see the absolute holiness of God, the magnitude of your debt, the categorical necessity of God’s just punishment of your sin, and therefore the utter hopelessness of your condition, then the knowledge of your pardon and deliverance will not be amazing and electrifying!  —Tim Keller


Every law that comes from the mouth of God is serious enough to warrant the death penalty if it is violated.  The slightest transgression of the slightest law that comes from the mouth of God is an act of cosmic treason, an act of defiance against the Lord God, who rules all things.  In our slightest sin we exalt our own preferences over the will of our Maker.  That is not only foolish, it is heinous.  The fact that not all of the commandments in the OT law carried the death penalty was an expression of God’s mercy.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 645)


The man who does not know where he is is lost; the man who does not know why he was born is worse lost; the man who cannot find an object worthy of his true devotion is lost utterly; and by this description the human race is lost, and it is a part of our lostness that we do not know how lost we are.  (A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God, 93)


Gospel Application:  There is none but Jesus who loves God with all their heart, all the time, in every way.  Therefore, we can enjoy the blessing of God only through repentance and being “In Christ”. (Ps 15; 2 Cor 5:21)


No man succeeds in keeping this law; we need the pardon which God gives in Christ.  Yet this law is life eternal.  (George Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 7, 524)


Only those who have and hold the gospel can to any degree fulfill these commandments, even as they are intended peculiarly for God’s own children.  And these two commandments, as do no others, show the true need of the gospel; for, however well they may outwardly perform deeds of the law, by nature men lack the love demanded by these commandments, are thus altogether guilty before God, and can be saved and restored only by means of the gospel.  (R.C. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel, 883)


I once asked a group of students in a theology class to list the most serous and gross of all human sins, the worst sins human beings can commit.  They began to suggest various atrocities such as murder, treason, and adultery.  I wrote them all down on the blackboard; then I turned to them and said, “None of the above.”  Then I told them that if the single most important commandment God ever gave to His people is to love Him with all of our hearts, all of our souls, and all of our minds, it seems to me that the greatest transgression is to fail to love Him with all of our hearts, all of our souls, and all of our minds.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 646)


Nine of the ten commandments of the Decalogue are stated in the negative, but Jesus summed them all up in the positive.  Instead of emphasizing the things we have done that we ought not to have done, “the first and great commandment” emphasizes the thing we have not done that we ought to have done.  Who apart from Jesus has ever loved God with every beat of his heart, with all the faculties and endowments of his soul, and with all the strength and dynamic of his might?  God is to be loved with all our being, and nothing is to be preferred before Him.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 429)


If you feel the call of the spirit, then be holy with all your soul, with all your heart, and with all your strength.  If, however, because of human weakness, you cannot be holy, then be perfect with all your soul, with all your heart, and with all your strength.

But if you cannot be perfect because of the vanity of your life, then be good with all your soul…Yet, if you cannot be good because of the trickery of the Evil One, then be wise with all your soul…

If, in the end, you can neither be holy, nor perfect, nor good, nor wise because of the weight of your sins, then carry this weight before God and surrender your life to his divine mercy.

If you do this, without bitterness, with all humility, and with a joyous spirit due to the tenderness of a God who loves the sinful and ungrateful, then you will begin to feel what it is to be wise, you will learn what it is to be good, you will slowly aspire to be perfect, and finally you will long to be holy.  (Quoted in Peter van Breeman, Let All God’s Glory Through, 134)


R.A. Rorrey:  “If loving God with all our heart and soul and might is the greatest commandment, then it follows that not loving him that way is the greatest sin.” (Ken Gire; The Reflective Life, 84)


Union with Christ was the heart and soul of Paul’s faith.  Jesus Christ was not simply Paul’s Savior; He was Paul’s life.  Proof of his devotion can be found throughout his writings: “For to me, to live is Christ” (Phil 1:21); “When Christ who is our life appears” (Col 3:4); and “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20).  (Ron M. Phillips, Awakened by the Spirit, 67)


Christian living, therefore, must be founded upon self-abhorrence and self-distrust because of indwelling sin’s presence and power.  Self-confidence and self-satisfaction argue self-ignorance.  The only healthy Christian is the humble, broken-hearted Christian.  (J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness, 196)


It is ever the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self:  to Jesus:  but Satan’s work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ.  He insinuates, “Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of his children; you have such a wavering hold of Jesus.”  All these are thoughts about self, and we shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within.  But, the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self:  he tells us that we are nothing, but that “Christ is all in all.”  Remember, therefore, it is not your hold of Christ that saves you—it is Christ; it is not your joy in Christ that saves you—it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument—it is Christ’s blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to your hand with which you art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to your hope, but to Jesus, the source of your hope; look not to your faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith.  We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul.  If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by “Looking unto Jesus.”  Keep your eye simply on him; let his death, his sufferings, his merits, his glories, his intercession, be fresh upon your mind; when you wake in the morning look to him; when you lie down at night look to him.  Do not let your hopes or fears come between you and Jesus; follow hard after him, and he will never fail you.  (Alistair Begg quoting Charles. H. Spurgeon in Pathway to Freedom, 228-29)


Spiritual Challenge: Love!


It is amazing to see how eagerly men employ their parts, their sagacity, time, study, application, and exercise, how all helps are called to their assistance when anything is intended and desired in worldly matters, and how dull, negligent, and unimproved they are, how little they use their parts, sagacity, and abilities to raise and increase their devotion.  (William Law, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, 205)


“The rule for all of us id perfectly simple,  Do not waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbor; act as if you did.  As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets.  When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.   If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more.  If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less.”  (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 116)


So What?: What the world needs now is love, sweet love. The world would be better, life would be better, and we’d all be better if we would love.


The Church of our day is sadly lacking in that separation from the world.  The intense attachment and obedience to Christ, the fellowship with His suffering and conformity to His death, and the devotion to Christ on the throne seem almost forgotten.  Where is our confident expectation of the never-ceasing flow of living water from the throne of grace which gives the assurance that the fullness of the Spirit will not be withheld?  No wonder the mighty power of God is seldom known and felt in our churches!  (Andrew Murray, Receiving Power from God, 73)



The kingdom life that Jesus inaugurates fulfills the deepest inclination of humans created in God’s image.  Kingdom life enables his disciples to live the way God intends us to live, which means living responsibly in relationship to God and others.  As such, the entire OT hangs on love for God and others and truly brings to fulfillment the Law and the Prophets (cf. 5:17-20).  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 726)


It may be helpful here to draw on a definition of “love” that was developed earlier in the Sermon on the Mount.  Love is an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person in which one gives oneself to another to bring the relationship to God’s intended purposes.  The person who loves God with all of her being–heart, soul, and mind–will understand that God’s will for her life is revealed in the OT, and she will gladly, eagerly, obey it because she knows that in doing so, she is living life the way God has designed it to be lived.  In turn, her obedience to God’s will transforms her entire being–heart, soul, and mind–into the image of God so that she is more like what God has intended for her to be like.  Furthermore, loving her neighbor as herself means that she gives herself to other humans to help them live as God designed life to be lived, so that she helps them in their own transformation.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 726)








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