Today’s reading: Mark 12-13.
“Do I still have to follow commandments in the Bible?”
I heard Erwin Lutzer preaching recently about the fact that the new covenant of grace does not eliminate commands from God’s word. He was speaking on 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Three commands in that one sentence: rejoice, pray, give thanks. He could also have referenced today’s passage where Jesus is asked to define the greatest commandment.
“Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:28-31
One of the teachers of the law asked Jesus the question. It was a very Jewish thing to do, arguing over the tiny distinctions of the law. Was it most important to honor the sacrifices, to be circumcised, to repeat the scriptures contained in the phylacteries, or something else? Jesus made it clear that the most important issue was not the repetitive reading of the verse contained in the phylactery (the Shema from Deuteronomy 6 which Jesus quoted) but actually loving God wholeheartedly as the scripture commanded.
Love God with all your heart. Here heart refers not to the physical organ but to the center of a person’s will and emotion, their spiritual core. Our heart should not be divided between competing interests. Our love shouldn’t be half-hearted. Our devotion should be sincere and complete.
Love God with all your soul. The soul is the eternal essence which is distinguished from the body, but it is also the breath of life from God that animates the body. To love with the soul is to love with our life.
Love God with all your mind. The mind is our thinking and understanding. Our thoughts should be directed to God above all other things, and our love for him should not be blind but based on reason.
Love God with all your strength. Our strength is our ability. It is the force we exert to accomplish a task. It is the physical complement to the non-physical qualities of heart, soul, and mind.
Charles Spurgeon summed up the command this way. We are to love God:
- supremely, above all other loves
- with all our soul, that is with our whole life
- with all our mind, prizing our belief in God
- by activity
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God,” says the Law, “with all thy heart,” or, with perfect sincerity; “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy soul,” or, with the utmost fervor; “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy mind,” or, in the fullest exercise of an enlightened reason; and “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy strength,” or, with the whole energy of our being!” Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible
“Lord, I thank thee that this law can not condemn me, for I believe in Jesus. But now, Lord, help me from this time forth for ever to keep it. Lord, give me a new heart, for this old heart never will love thee! Lord, give me a new life, for this old life is too vile. Lord, give me a new understanding; wash my mind with the clean water of the Spirit; come and dwell in my judgment, my memory, my thought; and then give me the new strength of thy Spirit, and then will I love thee with all my new heart, with all my new life, with all my renewed mind, and with all my spiritual strength, from this time forth, even for evermore.” Charles Spurgeon
Image by Iryna Yeroshko on Flickr, CC by 2.0