What’s love got to do with it? – Greatest Commandment Part 1

What’s love got to do with it? – Greatest Commandment Part 1

What’s Love got to do with it?
What could be the “greatest commandment” in all of the Bible?

There are around 613 commandments in the Bible including all from the Old Testament plus the New Testament. Jesus Himself informs His hearers in His day, and now us by extension, that of ALL the commandments, this one found in Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 22 and verses 37 -40 is the greatest. So let’s read it, then consider its context, the meaning and finally its application to us living in the 21st century.

MATTHEW 22:37-40 (NIV)
“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself. All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments’”.

“Jesus said, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.’”

These words were spoken by Jesus in the final week of His life. He was in Jerusalem and in a few days would be crucified. There was a subtle yet very real conflict going on between Jesus and the religious leaders. They insisted on peppering Him with trick questions in an attempt to ensnare Jesus and use His words against Him. Jesus responds to each of their questions, and by doing so clarifies a number of relationships for us. For example, their first trap dealt with paying of taxes. “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” He didn’t fall for their ruse. His reply, “Show me the coin for paying the tax. Whose portrait is this and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s”. “Then He said to them, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.’” The result is that, at least for a short space of time, they left Him and went away. The picture I get is that they looked like dogs with their tails between their legs showing defeat.

The next snare they set was regarding the subject of marriage at the resurrection. Read it in Matthew 22:23-33. Once again His answer stumps them and verse 33 tells us they were astonished at His teaching. Then follows the question posed by a coalition of the Sadducees and the Pharisees. In real everyday living these two groups had little love for each other. On almost every topic dealing with religion they opposed each other. But now, to embarrass the Son of God, they joined forces and asked the question, ‘what is the greatest commandment?’ Surely this will stump Him. They HAD Him CORNERED! What will His answer be? Will He even have an answer? Yet once again He avoids their trap and in so doing answers with the immortal words given above in the text, words that continue to resound down through the centuries of time and inform people today.

There are a whole lot of commands in the law, and if Jesus elevates one commandment over the others, He is risking the minimization of all the other commandments by doing so. But not only does He not minimize any of God’s commands, He actually elevates all of God’s commands in the process. The Bible Commentary by Matthew Henry well said, “It is well for us that such a question was asked of Him, that we might have His answer.”

Simply put, love for God and neighbour are the two most important commandments. Even in the well known Ten Commandments found in Exodus 20:2-17 one can note that the first four of them have to do with loving God, and the last six commandments have to do with loving people. But for sure He’s saying clearly that the first commandment i.e. loving God is the more important of the two, but then He goes on to link the second i.e. loving people as part of the first.

The first command to “love the Lord your God” is a direct quote out of Deuteronomy 6:4-5. This was one of the most important Scripture passages for the Jewish people, and it remains so today. Devout Jews in our time recite this verse every morning and every evening. And note that we are to love Him with all our soul and with all our mind – Matthew’s Gospel. Deuteronomy says we’re to do so “with all our heart, soul, and strength.” Mark in his gospel says “heart, soul, mind, and strength,” (Chapter 12:30) In Luke’s gospel chapter 10 he uses the words, “heart, soul, strength, and mind.” In other words, love for God must be totally encompassing of who we are – 100%, no holding back!


Note that “heart” always come first in the list. “Heart” in the Bible always refers to the very core of one’s being.

Our thoughts, words and actions all originate in the “heart”. So, if we’re to love God with all our “heart”, it means we’re to love Him from the very centre and depth (core) of our being. “Soul” refers to who we are; our life, our person, emotions and disposition. These are what identify us as unique individuals made in God’s image. Each one of us is unique; there may be others similar to us but no one is exactly like you or like me. Each of us has our own personality characteristics. And each of us has a mind that needs to learn and develop. Let us use the mind we have to glorify Him; we do that when we love the Lord with all our mind.”

“Mind” deals with all that’s going on in our thoughts, our attitudes and our intellect.

We all have personality traits and uniqueness, but we’ve also been given by God a mind that that can learn, grow and develop. And we’re to love Him with all of our mind! “Strength” speaks of those parts of us that are willing to exert effort in all of its facets – physically, emotionally and mentally. The word “all” precedes each term. All these areas work together and even overlap with each other. So, Jesus is actually telling us today that we are to love Him with every part of who we are, even in our individual uniqueness! Let us determine to love Him before anything else, anyone else. Loving God is our first priority. Everything else that would reduce our love for Him needs to be discarded!

So now we examine the second part i.e. loving our neighbour(s) as we love ourself. This is a quote Jesus takes from the Old Testament book of Leviticus 19:18. It reads, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.” It’s really the Old Testament way of saying what we find in the New Testament in Matthew’s gospel 7:12. This verse is often referred to as “the golden rule”. It’s really informing us to be done with selfishness, and to put an end to elevating yourself and your needs before others. If we as God’s people will follow this command, it will mean that our neighbours’ needs will become just as important as our own. I’m encouraging the reader to reflect upon this verse in Matthew 22:37. If you and I take Jesus’ command seriously and we really take it to heart, it has the possibility, in fact, it will have the result of turning our lives around, even to “right side up!” Once again, it’s a decision and choice we all have to make. I encourage you to make that choice and decision right NOW!

Stewart Hunter – Monthly Contributor

Stewart lives with his wife Gudrun in Stittsville, ON. For over 55 years Stewart has served as a pastor as well as in varied positions in The PAOC. Stewart and Gudrun are members of Bethel Pentecostal Church, Ottawa.