Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.Matt. 22:37-38
One commandment is all of them
In this Bible study called the greatest commandment, did you know there are a total of 613 commandments recorded in the Old Testament? That is a lot of do’s and don’ts for the average person and in reality no one has ever been able to keep the whole law. This is why the apostle James wrote of this very dilemma in his letter, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” [Jam. 2:10]
In this week’s scripture reading, a lawyer tried to tempt and entrap Jesus into saying the wrong thing but that would not be the case. Jesus virtually summed up the entire law and the prophets by quoting one solitary commandment from the book of Deuteronomy, “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” [Deut. 6:5]
In looking back into the Old Testament this very command became the standard by which to measure all other commands for it served as the foundation for every other command. This was evidenced in two other verses from the same book in the Old Testament. The first one occurred in this passage where it stated, “And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul.” [Deut. 10:12] Here the commandment from Deut. 6:5 is illustrated by highlighting this is what is required from the people. Further, there is to be a reverent fear of the Lord thy God to walk in all his ways which tends to encompass the rest of the commandments. Finally, it commands a love towards him and a desire to serve the Lord thy God.
The second verse related to Deut. 6:5 comes later in the same book of Deuteronomy when it states, “And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.” [Deut. 30:6] In this verse, the reference to circumcision is given in the form of a metaphor in tandem with the commandment of loving the Lord thy God with heart, soul and mind. This week’s scripture reading is also documented in two other gospel accounts as recorded by Mark and Luke in Mark 12:30 and Luke 10:27 respectively. By seeing multiple references to certain events in scripture this helps to substantiate the veracity of them in history and confirms that they were simply not a one-off record of them.
Heart, soul and mind
In looking at this week’s scripture reading on the greatest commandment though, just what does it mean, when the God uses the phrase heart, soul, mind? These words could be interpreted in many different ways but if someone were to use them in a phrase of encouragement, such as “give it your heart, soul and mind” to achieve something, you would know it meant to give it your all so to speak. Therefore, it is best to group them together in a unified sense, effort and commitment to the Lord thy God in giving him your all as it pertains to loving him.
In other words, nothing should come between you and God, he should be first in your life, he should be sought first in prayer, seeking of wisdom and he should be your foundation of faith. This is why the Psalmist wrote so eloquently when he stated, “The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.” [Ps. 19:8] This commandment from the Lord should indeed cause the heart to rejoice for it is pure and enlightening.
God first loved us
The apostle John also wrote of this in one of his letters, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” [1 John 5:3] The love that we show God is because he first loved us as John wrote about when he said, “We love him, because he first loved us.” [1 John 4:19] This is where the greatest commandment has its source, in his love first for us. Quite often, people will pride themselves on their own pious love toward God but in principle this love should really stem from the fact that it was he who first loved us!
Consider how Jesus reiterated this commandment during his teaching and preaching ministry, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” [John 13:34-35] Here, we can see the second great commandment following the first; to love the Lord thy God with all of your heart, soul and mind, followed by loving one another.
This was so important that Jesus spoke of it another time shortly after making the above statement as noted in this passage, “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.” [John 15:12] This is clearly our show of love back to God but nothing could ever equal, match or surpass the love God bestowed upon us by giving his only begotten Son to take the sins of mankind upon himself. The apostle Paul also wrote of this commandment to reiterate the importance of this message in his letter to the early Roman church, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us..” [Romans 5:8]
Christ, a love offering
Let us conclude this Bible study on the greatest commandment by expounding upon this theme of God’s love toward us. It is all well and good to love the Lord thy God with all of your heart, soul and mind but it must first start with belief in what Jesus did for you on the cross at Calvary. For it was here that he took your sins upon himself and paid the penalty for those sins through his shed blood, death, burial and resurrection. This is the atoning sacrifice Jesus made for you but you must believe it to be true in your life. There would be little need or desire to love God in the greatest commandment if we reject the truth that is in Jesus, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” [.John 14:6]
Consider how the apostle John recorded the words of Jesus in reference to this important point of believing upon Jesus as Lord and savior in your life when he said, ” For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” [John 3:16] This is the depth of God’s love toward us, by giving up his only Son to redeem us from our sins, for without this redemption we are a lost world. As the scriptures say, this is our state before coming to know Jesus, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” [Luke 10:19]
This week’s scripture reading is therefore indeed the greatest commandment from the Father and the Lord Jesus personified this by giving his life as a sacrifice to atone for our sins. This is for all who believe and receive him. The greatest commandment must therefore start by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ and what he has done for you. He has paid for your sins through his eternal atonement. Believe in faith and eternal life can be yours today in Christ, for it is from this foundation where the greatest commandment will then come out from a sense of appreciation in what Christ has done for us!
Bible Study Questions
- In this study on the greatest commandment, can you recite this week’s scripture from memory?
- Of the 613 commandments from the Old Testament, why do you think Jesus chose this one?
- In your own words, how would you describe heart, soul and mind in the context of loving God?
- Why is it important to know, understand and appreciate that the Lord thy God first loved us?
- How would you describe to a friend that Jesus gave his life as a sacrifice for our sins?
- What does it mean to you to believe by faith in the Lord as your saviour?
- If you have made the decision to follow Jesus as your Lord and saviour consider sharing this study in faith with a friend.