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Elkmont Baptist Church
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What is the Greatest Commandment?
May God bless you all!
Jesus was approached by a young "lawyer" (a Pharisee studying the Scriptures) who asks a very important question (even though he hoped to trip Jesus up): "Master, which
the great commandment in the law? 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. And the second
like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as
thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matthew 22:36-40). He was referring to the Ten Commandments when he asked the question, and I doubt that he expected the answer that he got. You see, most of the commandments are either "Thou shalt" or "Thou shalt not." He was expecting to catch Jesus favoring one over the others so that he could accuse Him of neglect of the Torah Law.
But Jesus came right out of left field and hit a home run with the theme of "God of love." Although Jesus has, in effect, restated the last part of the third commandment (which includes love) and restated the last commandment (love thy neighbor) - I really see Jesus summarizing the first three commandments in "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind," and the last six commandments as a summary of "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." These two commandments are a summary of how we are to respond to God and to man. The Sabbath commandment (number four of the Ten Commandments) seems to me to be a bridge between them both, both God-ward and man-ward. Jesus rightfully put loving God first and loving mankind second, for it we truly love God as we should, we will love man as we should.
As we scan the entire Torah (first five books of the Bible known as the Books of Moses or the Books of the Law) we find some 613 "shalt" and "shalt not." These are called mitzvahs or commandments. When I look into these 613 mitzvahs, I can easily divide them into two columns: those that are God-ward and those that are man-ward. When I think about it, there is no other way to divide them. I have a relationship to maintain with God and a relationship to maintain with my fellow man.
I see myself unable to keep the Ten Commandments as Jesus interpreted them (i.e. if I am angry - I have already committed murder in my heart or if I lust, I have already committed adultery) without the power of the Holy Spirit to help me. I must reckon myself, indeed, dead unto sin and alive unto Christ, or I will fail daily. The commandments, then, are my school teacher showing me just how much of a sinner I am without the work and person of Christ in my life. This is especially true for how Jesus emphasized them: love the Lord thy God with ALL your heart, soul, and mind! The only way for me to love Him with my whole heart, soul, and mind is as a new creature in Christ with a new heart. By His grace, I can do it - never on my own.
The Ten Commandments provide a standard for letting a society, as well as an individual, know (1) How high God's standard for man is, and (2) How short we really fall of that standard without Christ. When a society removes these from prominent display, especially in a court of law, it is denying God's absolute standards, removing a moral compass from the eyes of the people, and ushering in moral relativism which becomes the whim of those ruling in the court. The ol' "everyone did that which was right in their own eyes." Man no longer knows where he stands in regard to the law and, more importantly, to God. A nation without the Ten Commandments is a nation adrift morally and headed into oblivion.
But Jesus has made it easy, in a sense, because He has reduced the 613 mitzvahs and the Ten Commandments to two: love God and love man. In Christ, we can do it; without Christ, we cannot.