The Two Greatest Commands!

The Two Greatest Commands!

Mark 12:29-31

  • “Jesus answered, ‘The foremost is, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’”

Our Lord spoke these startling words in answer to the question, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” (Mark 12:28). The Jews of Christ’s day held that there were 613 commandments in the law (one for each letter in the Ten Commandments), 248 positive commands (for the 248 parts of the body) and 365 negative ones (for the days of the year). The commands were thought to fall into “heavy” ones and “light” ones (The MacArthur Study Bible). Therefore, the Jews wanted to know how Jesus categorized the law’s demands. Our Lord would not be taken in by such specious reasoning. He went to the heart of the matter and directed their attention to the most basic and fundamental principles, upon which all other commands rested (cf. Matt. 22:40; cf. vv. 34-40).

Jesus, quoting Deuteronomy 6:5, said that the “foremost” or “most important” (NIV) command is to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Our love for God is to be an intense, all-consuming love involving “all” (not some, part, or even much) of our being! Furthermore, Jesus said that the “second” command is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (quoting Lev. 19:18). These twin commands—love for God and love for others—provide the basis and motivation for all other commands in the Law of Moses. God commanded many different sacrifices to be offered in various situations, but what was to motivate the worshiper? Love! God commanded the Israelites to observe the Sabbath, to keep the Feast days, to make pilgrimages to Jerusalem, and to abstain from unclean meats. The underlying motivation must be love! Further, God commanded His people to care for and provide for the poor and needy. Why? Because they were to express active love for these people. Love was the motivating principle for the other 613 commands—if that was an accurate count.

The principle of love for God and love for others continues in the New Covenant and is a dominating theme throughout the New Testament writings. We also are to love God and this is to be the primary motivation in our life. If we love our Heavenly Father we will obey Him (1 John 5:2-3; 2 John 6). We will pray to Him, sing to Him, worship Him, read His word, meditate on His word, share His good news, think upon Him, and simply enjoy Him! Our love for Christ Jesus will likewise result in submissive obedience to Him (John 14:15,21-23). If we love others, we will be interested in them, care for them, not treat them harshly, seek to bless them, and share the good news of Christ with them. If we love our brothers and sisters in Christ (the primary theme in the epistles), we will encourage them, admonish them, edify them, warn them, stimulate them, help them, and bless them according to our ability and their need (cf. 1 John 3:14-18; 4:11-21).

This is a revolutionary teaching that the world knows nothing about. In the second century, the pagans were reported to say, as they observed the loving relationship of believers, particularly in their sufferings, “Behold, how they love one another!” Let us love God our Father, love Christ our Savior, love our brothers and sisters in the fellowship, and love all people, including our enemies, that it may be said that we are people of love!

Richard Hollerman

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