The Greatest Commandments

Matthew 22:34-40

But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”  Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

What is a Commandment?

Webster’s Dictionary gives the following meaning:  A rule or an order that is directed, declared, ordered into effect by one in authority who has the power to enforce said rule or order. 

The greatest commandments in our understanding as a follower of Biblical Judeo-Christian ethics, beliefs and/or doctrine are, of course, the Ten Commandments.

The Ten Commandments, also referred to in theological terms as the Decalogue.  Decalogue is two Greek words “deka” + “logos” meaning, simply “ten words”.

The Ten Commandments are laws given by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai during the time that Israel was journeying from Egypt to the Promised Land.  They can be found in Deuteronomy 5 and 11.    The first four commandments deal with our relationship to God and the fifth through tenth deal with our relationship with man.

The Ten Commandments are not:

  • The Ten Suggestions
  • To be ignored
  • To be taken lightly.

The Commandments.

Over several hundred years from the time that the Ten Commandments had been given, the Jewish teachers had added over six hundred commandments to the original ten.  No person could keep them all, so the question was often asked and discussed:  Which commandment or commandments must be absolutely obeyed?  Which ones are important and which ones are not?  Can the failure to obey some be condoned or not?  If a person keeps the greatest of the precepts, can he be excused for his failure to keep others?   Matthew 19:16-22, the story of the rich young ruler is a perfect example of the confusion over what does one do to attain eternal life. 

The Commandments cannot be kept as a set of rules.  The emphasis is not on the keeping of the rules but in loving and serving Christ.  Jesus narrowed the Ten Commandments down to only two.  The first (verse 37) dealt with and summed up in one statement the first four of the Ten, our relationship to God.  The second (verse 39) dealt with and summed up in one statement Commandments five through ten, and dealt with our relationship with our fellow man. If we keep the two that Jesus gave here, we will keep all the commandments.

Our Relationship to God

Matthew 6:33 – Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.

Matthew 13:44-46 – The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought

Colossians 3:17 – And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him

Matthew 6:19-21 – Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

2 Corinthians 10:5 – casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,

Our focus in life will be on something:  self, possessions, the world, the flesh, power, fame or on a person.  God demands our attention be focused on Him. 

Our Relationship with Others

If our love with God is firm, we will love others who God loves.

John 13:34-35 – A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

I John 4:19-21 – We love Him because He first loved us. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.

Romans 13:10 – Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Our greatest guideline for loving our neighbor is found in I Corinthians 13. 

If we keep our heart and mind in love with God and in love with others (which follows as we love God) we do not have to worry about what commandment, what list of rules we must follow. Love will guide us in all we say and do.

Wages of Sin vs. Gift of Eternal Life

Romans 6:23

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  • Wages – something worked for and expected to receive; earnings received for work accomplished.
  • Sin – the job or the thing done whereby wages are expected.
  • Death – sin’s ultimate retirement plan; eternal separation from a loving God.
  • Gift – gratuity, something we did nothing to receive; something freely given.
  • Eternal life – the gift itself.

1 Peter 1:4 – to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Exodus 20 lists very clearly and plainly the Ten Commandments.  Our permissive society has tried to water down, to dictate, to expand, read between the lines what is/what is not allowable under the Law, undermining God’s Word.  If this was done in the political realm, it would be akin to treason against the law of the land.

In Matthew 22, Jesus narrowed these Ten Commandments down to only two.

Matthew 22:34-39 – But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”  Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

Can we say we obey these laws?  At various places throughout the Word of God we see specifics about obedience, about the Law, about “thus saith the Lord God,” but all the additional things related by writers in both the Old Testament and the New Testament refer back to the original ten commandments given by God to Moses to give to the children of Israel. 

  • Commandment #1 – You shall have no other Gods before me.  (Exodus 20:3)

You have to ask yourself, according to the Word of God, what constitutes a god?  (Exodus 20:4-5)

  • Commandment #2 – You shall not make for yourself a carved image – any likeness of anything that is in the heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them.

You have to ask yourself, according to the Word of God, what makes something an image, or an idol that would fall in this category?

  • Commandment #3- You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. (Exodus 20:7)

Do we take the Lord’s name in vain when we call ourselves Christians or Christ-like and then behave otherwise? 

  • Commandment #4 – Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.  (Exodus 20:8)

You have to ask yourself, according to the Word of God, what is it that breaks the law of the Sabbath?

  • Commandment #8 – You shall not steal.

Stealing includes stealing from God.

Malachi 3:10-11 – “Will a man rob God?  Yet you have robbed Me!”  But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’  “In tithes and offerings.  You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation.  Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,”
Says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing
That there will not be room enough to receive it.  And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,” says the Lord of hosts;

  • Commandment #9 – You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

What is a lie?  Stretching the truth; falsifying any record (income tax, expense reports); implying something that is not true; swearing to factual events.

Matthew 22:37 – Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’

  • Hypocrisy will not do
  • Lip service will not do
  • Half-hearted service will not do
  • GOD WANTS YOUR ALL

Sin is sin; a lie is a lie; stealing is stealing, adultery is adultery, disobedience is disobedience.  You cannot justify your life before God if you have sin in your heart.  You cannot explain away sin when you stand before Him.

Isaiah 53:6 – All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.