Headnote: If you’re going to start reading this, you need to read it all. I’ve included lots of Bible passages so make sure you don’t skimp or skim over those. They are important. The discussion is important as well to highlight the context of the verses and why I have pointed out these specific ones to bring clarity to just what the Messiah was referencing and reinforcing. He was not doing away with anything.
What is the greatest commandment?
I want to spend a little time addressing the concept of “All we have to do is love God and love others.” This is a paraphrase and simplification of what Messiah said and it is certainly true. But in order to truly understand what Messiah was saying, we need to put it back into context and take a moment to understand what He was directing us to do here.
Before we get into that, a little side note: It is important to realize that the Bible is a continuous book. In His wisdom, the Father began by building the foundation for His word and each book relies upon that foundation, extending it further into our understanding. Take away the foundation and the house collapses.
Therefore, it is imperative that we consider the Bible as a whole, giving weight to the books on which all others rely. Now, there are over 30,000 verses in the Bible. We can certainly pull a single verse out if we like and ascribe whatever meaning it seems to have of it’s own accord and merit. However, in doing so we are stripping away the foundation.
The responsible Berean realizes that each verse has those 30,000 verses surrounding it, pressing in on it, and attached to it. So in order to discern the meaning of that verse, we must look at it as it is surrounded by the other verses. In context. When we start picking out verses and separating them from the 30,000+ other verses, especially from the foundational Scriptures, we are left with an untethered faith, out of context and without a foundation, a scrap of fabric easily moved by the slightest wind.
The Father designed His word to be a firm foundation that will not be moved and that is how we should treat it.
With this in mind, let’s see what Messiah actually said, who was asking the question He was answering, and what the context of the situation was. Note: I am not in any way disputing the absolute truth of Messiah’s words. Instead, I am putting them back into context so that we can get the full depth of their meaning.
Let’s read the passage first, but I’m going to start earlier on so we see what is happening in Matthew 22:15-45. I am highlighting key verses that set up context:
15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. 16 And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. 17Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.
23 The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, 24 saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. 26 So too the second and third, down to the seventh. 27 After them all, the woman died. 28 In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.”29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” 33 And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.
34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
After this Q&A came the following verse
46 And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.
We see in Matthew 22:15 that the Pharisees were trying to entangle Him with His own words. We go on to see the Sadducees doing the same. This was a trap and Messiah knew it. These people were trying to trip Him up but He knew the Word better than anyone and so, with the power of the Word of YHWH with Him, He could not be trapped.
Once Messiah called out the fact that the Sadducees didn’t know Scripture, the Pharisees upped their game. Note that Messiah points out the hypocritical nature of the Pharisees. These folks were the authority on Biblical law. They had them all memorized, all 613 Levitical laws even!
Not only that, but they went to great lengths to ensure they didn’t even come close to breaking a single law by creating what is often referred to as “fence” or “hedge” laws.
What are hedge laws? These are additional laws added by man to YHWH’s law in order to put a hedge around them to prevent even coming close to breaking them. An example I often give is that IF there were a law against swimming on Sabbath, the Pharisees might end up with a law against drinking a glass of water on the Sabbath because drinking that glass of water might cause a droplet to splash on your face and that could possibly be considered akin to swimming – or drinking that glass might cause you to crave more water and could tempt you to go swimming.
Now, putting protections in place to keep us from breaking commandments is not bad in and of itself – it can even be a good thing. However, the Pharisees went further with this. They took these manmade laws and put them on equal footing with YHWH’s commandments. Further still, they were so meticulous and proud of their following the law to perfection that they ended up seeing this as a means of their salvation. They were following the law as a means of salvation – not out of love for the Father. This is true legalism. Note that the contrast of this: Obeying YHWH because we love Him is not legalism, it’s just being good children. When was the last time you got upset with your kids for following your directions and doing what you told them to do?
Back to my point: In all of this, the Pharisees were hypocrites. However, they most assuredly knew the law of YHWH. And so they sought to trap Messiah by asking Him to call out a single commandment as being more important than all the others. No doubt they planned on then ensnaring Him by confronting Him with all of the other commandments which He had then, in their mind, lessened in importance. But Messiah knew the Word and He knew the perfect way to sum up all of the commandments.
37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
And this is where some people just close their Bibles, go home, and say “All I have to do is love God and love people and I’m fine in God’s eyes.”
That is not what Messiah said.
A few points: First of all, He did not in any way abolish any of the previous commandments with this. Instead, we read Him say that all of the law DEPENDED on these two commandments. Look up and read that part again because most of the time, we don’t even notice it.
Now, keep in mind that the Pharisees were hoping to trap Him and to be able to claim He was minimizing or contradicting some of YHWH’s commandments, which they knew all too well. You’ll notice that after Messiah said this, they knew they had failed and offered no argument. He left them silenced as they knew they had been outsmarted.
Why? Well, what does it look like if you love YHWH with all your heart all your soul and all your mind – and love your neighbor as yourself?
Here is the brilliance of Messiah’s response.
Messiah’s first part of His statement sums up the first four commandments:
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
- I am YHWH your God. You shall have no other gods before me.You shall not make for yourself any idols
- Do not take my name in vain
- Remember the Sabbath and keep it HolyThese are commandments about how to love YHWH.The second part of Messiah’s statement sums up the final six:“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
- Honor your father and mother
- Do not murder
- Do not commit adulteryDo not steal
- Do not bear false witness against your neighbor
- Do not covetThese are statements about how to love others.Messiah said the one statement that directly summed up all of the commandments. Ultimately, though, keeping all of these commandments show our love for the Father.
But guess what else Messiah was really doing when He made this statement?
BIG DEAL AHEAD
He was quoting the Father, when YHWH said this same statement, immediately after giving the ten commandments, as a way to sum them up.
THE SENTENCE MESSIAH USED TO SUM UP THE COMMANDMENTS IS THE SAME ONE YHWH FIRST STATED IN SUMMARY OF THE COMMANDMENTS!
We really need to go back to that passage and see the entire conversation between YHWH and Moses when He made this statement that Messiah just quoted.
However, that is a bit long here and I want you to stay awake so please commit to reading all of Deut 5+6 after you finish this but for now I’m going to show you some key verses in these passages.To do that, we need to start in Deuteronomy 5.
Keep in mind that chapters and verses were added later by translators. Deuteronomy 5 and 6 are a continuous conversation between YHWH and Moses, so let’s check out that conversation. Again, I’m going to highlight key verses in the text to help make my point.
Deut 5:1 And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the rules that I speak in your hearing today, and you shall learn them and be careful to do them.
Following that statement is when the Father states what we now know as the “Big Ten” commandments.
Deut 5:28 “And the Lord heard your words, when you spoke to me. And the Lord said to me, ‘I have heard the words of this people, which they have spoken to you. They are right in all that they have spoken. 29 Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!
30 Go and say to them, “Return to your tents.” 31 But you, stand here by me, and I will tell you the whole commandment and the statutes and the rules that you shall teach them, that they may do them in the land that I am giving them to possess.’
Deut 6:1 “Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, 2 that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
SideNote: It would be very fruitful to read Deuteronomy 5 and 6 in their entirety after finishing this document. Whenever someone gives you a verse, always take a chapter. Better yet, take a book. Better yet, read the whole book (Bible). But never accept a verse out of context without digging deeper.
When Messiah was quoting Deut 6:4, He was referencing this conversation between the Father and Moses.
Messiah at no point brought a different set of commandments, He merely reinforced the Father’s as the perfect son that He is. When the Pharisees attempted to entrap Him and try to get Him to deny or diminish the Father’s Word, He instead reinforced it, summed it up and made it even easier to understand. Seriously, We are only beginning to see how awesome Messiah is, wait until we get to Matthew!
So are you ready for the final part of this?
•All of the ten commandments fall under the greatest two commandments.
•The two are like an outline and the ten fall under them.
•There are 613 other laws (only a small portion of which apply to us so don’t panic) and guess what?
•They do the same thing within the Ten Commandments.
•The Ten Commandments are like an outline and all of the 613 fall under them.
So if we keep the greatest two we will be keeping the ten.
If we keep the ten, we will be keeping the 613.
Simplified more. Simplified even more.
And lastly, when asked how we show that we love the Father?
Messiah answered “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
Read in context below.
John 14: 12-17 12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
But they are too hard for us!
We can’t possibly keep the Commandments!
Let’s talk this out. Are these commandments a burden? I’ve heard they are, that they are too difficult and that we couldn’t possibly follow them.
But what do the Father and our Messiah have to say about this?
In Deuteronomy 30 YHWH tells us that these commandments are not too hard for us:
Deut 30:9 For the Lord will again take delight in prospering you, as he took delight in your fathers, 10 when you obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that are written in this Book of the Law, when you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.11 “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off.
What does Messiah say?
In Matthew 11:30 He tells us to learn from Him, to follow in His footsteps because “My yoke is light and my burden easy.” He tells us to come to Him, all who are heavy laden and He will give us rest.
The world places the heavy yoke upon us.
The Father’s ways are freedom from that.
Are the commandments too hard for us? It depends on whose word you trust. The world says yes, they are too hard. The Father and our Messiah say no, they are not too hard. Who do you believe?
Do we have to obey the commandments?
Nope. We don’t have to do anything. We have free will. However, part of loving the Father is obedience. It is trusting in His wisdom above our own.
Obedience will not save us, only Grace can do that.
But if we truly love Him, what will our attitude be towards His wisdom and His ways?
What will our behavior be towards our Father if we love Him with all of our heart and all of our soul?
How did Messiah say we show our love for Him?
Messiah said “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
Obedience is YHWH’s love language.
Obedience is not the root of our salvation but the fruit of it.
Guess what else Messiah said?
“You shall know them by their fruit.” ~Matthew 7:20