But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 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. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-40) I have often heard this explained as being a summary of God’s law. But something my Pastor said last week really hit home while he was preaching. He said it in passing because he is actually preaching through 1 Corinthians and we are in chapter thirteen right now. But what he said about this passage here in Matthew was profound.
He said, “In order to really obey these commands, it has to be done from and with love.” It’s like Paul when he was writing the Corinthians. All the difficulties the Corinthians had, all the division, all the boasting in things other than Christ and Him crucified, all the arrogance of putting up with sin in their midst, all of their misguided views on spiritual gifts, and what does Paul say? “But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. …. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 12:31, 13:1-3, 13)
So you see, it’s not so much that loving God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and loving your neighbor as yourself is a summary of God’s law. Though it is. It is really that if you are doing God’s law without “love”, you are doing it wrong, you are missing the point. The key to the “whole of God’s law” is love.
Without God’s love in whatever we do, we are no different than a Pharisee or a clanging cymbal. We are just making a bunch of noise.
Now, this in no way nullifies Gods law. In fact it upholds it, by the law of love. The law of God is a way to outwork or flesh out what God’s love or loving God and people looks like. But it is crucial that we have love while we are doing it.
To do loving things from bad heart, bad motivations is missing the point is hurtful.
It’s not enough to do good things. We need to do good things with love. So first things first - the need for a new heart. Doing God’s law from an unregenerate heart is not doing God’s law. In fact it is sin. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. (Romans 14:23) “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6) “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) Anything not done with love for God and His glory is sin. Not stealing when you really want to steal is not fulfilling God’s law. Not committing adultery when you really want to commit adultery is not fulfilling God’s law. Giving away lots of money to charity because you want recognition from people or from God or because you have a guilty conscience is not fulfilling God’s law. Gathering with God’s people for worship on Sunday when you don’t really want to is not fulfilling God’s law. Friends, we need the love of God shed abroad in our heart by the Holy Spirt. We need our heart of stone, the one that loves sin, and hates God taken out and replaced with a heart of flesh. In short, we need to come to Christ, who perfectly exemplified love by laying down his life for His enemies, sinners who had rebelled against Him, even while they were still sinning. In case you missed it, that’s us. In the midst of our sinfulness, Christ calls out to us. “Come unto me all who are weak and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
Second, even after being born again and repenting of our sin and trusting Christ as our savior and surrendering to Him as Lord, we still often fall short of this. I just have to say, praise God salvation is not based on us keeping the law. If it were, no one would ever be saved (Galatians 2:16). If anyone could be saved by keeping the law, Jesus would never had to come. But he did come. Why? Because sin is a lot more powerful than we think. And God loves is a lot more powerful than we will ever realize. First, sin is so powerful and pervasive that even after having our bondage to it broken by the power of the gospel and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit uniting us to Christ by faith, we are still not completing free from it. There are remnants of sin that live on and will live on as long as we walk this . The good news is we can have victory and will have victory over sin in ever increasing ways the more and more we seek Christ in His word and in prayer and through other ordinary means of grace, like being part of Church, and participating there, But at least, we have hope now to love God with all our heart, soul and mind and to love others like ourselves. Whereas before we were in bondage to sin and selfish motivations and could only sin. Now we don’t have to sin. Now we have to ability, the power, the wherewithal, to fight it. Why? Mainly because we want to. That’s the biggest thing that happens when you are born again. And in case you haven’t guessed it yet. Being born again and being given a new heart is the same thing. And no, when we speak of heart we are not speaking of a blood pumping muscle. We are speaking of the core of who we are, the seat of our disposition so to speak. And so the biggest thing that happens when we are born again is we are given new wants and new desires. And so out of this is a want to fight sin. Whereas before we were born again, our only desire or inclination was towards sin, now we have a desire for God and the things of God. In other words we are a new creature in Christ. And we can live accordingly. We don’t have to sin. We can say ‘no’ to sin, thereby killing it, and we can pursue righteousness, thereby growing in holiness.
I actually want to recant what I said in starting out that last paragraph. I said, at least we have hope now. It should say “we have more than hope.” We have divine hope. And do you know what divine hope is? It’s a steadfast anchor for your soul. In fact if you have been born again, that is given a heart that loves God, you have something that all the world throughout all of history has been trying to capture apart from God. You have real love. The Bible says “that God is love.” (1 John 4:7) That means that one of God’s attributes is love. It is part of who he is. It would be impossible to explain what love is apart from God. It's not like love exist outside of God and God is loving. No. God is love. If there was no God there would be no love. That also means the only way to know real love, experience real love or really be loving is to know God. Without God there is no love. Lovely looking good deeds, even the most charitable, even the most sacrificial appearing, are not love. They are sin. God is love. To have love, one most know God. No God, no love. Know God, know love. Which brings us full circle friends. There is only one way to know God and be in a right relationship with him. That is through his son Jesus Christ. Because sin has separated us from God. God made a way for us to come to Him, and that is through his Son. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) This is love, ““For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) Have you experienced the love of God that comes from believing on Christ? Then know this, “we love because He first loved us.” That’s what the Bible says in 1 John 4:19. And we must believe what the Bible says. the Bible is the standard for truth. Truth is not based on the shifting sand of our opinions, it is based on God and what He has said.
And God’s word says, we love God because He first loved us. He is the initiator. And we love others because God loves us. Whatever somebody has, no matter how loving, no matter how kind and charitable it appears, if it has not originated from a heart that loves God, it is not love. Love must come from the source. Love that comes from the source of all love is rock solid and life altering. “and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5) “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf” (Hebrews 6:19-20a)
Through all the storms of life we will always have that and through all the storms of life, by Gods power we can be that for others. So that they might have that hope and experience that love as well. The source of which can only be found in Christ. Friends, point others to Him.
Though we love and experience love in greater and lesser degrees now, someday we will experience love perfectly, in its fullest sense when Christ returns.
Love God with all your heart, soul and mind, and love others like yourself. This is the summary of Gods law and it is also how we are to live out God’s law.