Can you imagine someone trying to trap God with His own words and commands? In the Gospels, we see the religious order do just that. Of course, the Jewish rabbis used what they perceived as cunning in their efforts to have Jesus stumble.
The Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes repeatedly tested Jesus in attempts to place Him in a corner. Their endeavor often involved hopes of having Him contradict the Pentateuch (The Books of Moses). Based on their inventions and tradition, the group compiled Old Testament law into 613 commands, one for each letter of the Ten Commandments. The rabbis often disagreed as to which laws were the most “important.” They assumed Jesus had developed incorrect precepts regarding the laws.
When asked to name the greatest law, Jesus used the words of God directly. LOVE THE LORD was echoed from Deuteronomy 10:12 and 30:6. But Jesus took His answer one step further to demonstrate the full responsibility of love. He included “love your neighbor as you love yourself.” This command is derived from Leviticus 19:18. Genuine love for God is followed by a genuine love for people.
Matthew 22:37-40 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 foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'You SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
A SUMMARY OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
In Matthew’s account of this question and response, Jesus concludes, “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” When Jesus referred to the whole Law and the Prophets, he was pointing to the Old Testament. Accordingly, the commandments to love God and to love neighbors are reflected in the Ten Commandments.
“You SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND” correspond to a vertical relationship with God (first four commandments):
Exodus 20:3-8a “You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.”
“You SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF” reflect our horizontal relationships with people (last six commandments):
Exodus 20:12-17a “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife…”
Jesus’ declaration of the greatest commandments does not replace the Ten Commandments or God's other ordinances. In Matthew 5:17-19, He explains that the Law will not pass away until the end of heaven and earth. Under the New Covenant, rituals and ceremonies have been extinguished, but the Law of God is written in our hearts, and born-again believers imperfectly strive to obey its directives. The Law can't save us because we are saved by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). But it can convict us (Romans 7:7), and ultimately, we can fulfill the Law with love (Romans 8:3-4).
Inherently, to love God means that we place Him first in our service to Him. To love neighbors means that we respect their lives and possessions. We even see an example of the Apostle Paul summarizing a part of the Ten Commandments regarding love of people:
Romans 13:8-10 Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, "You SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET," and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, "You SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
In conclusion, the two greatest commandments and the Ten Commandments are reflections of one another. Loving God and loving people are a call to duty. So, as we go about our lives, let us remember that love fulfills the Law. And, most of all, let’s strive with the Holy Spirit to follow Christ’s example on our sanctification road.
“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, "What commandment is the foremost of all?" 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." The scribe said to Him, "Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that He IS ONE, AND THERE IS NO ONE ELSE BESIDES HIM; and TO LOVE HIM WITH ALL THE HEART AND WITH ALL THE UNDERSTANDING AND WITH ALL THE STRENGTH, AND TO LOVE ONE'S NEIGHBOR AS HIMSELF, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions. …