35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 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.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Mt. 22:35-40)
25 And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” 27 So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ ” 28 And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” (Lk. 10:25-28)
The Scripture verses above, shows us that the greatest commandment in the law and the prophets – i.e. the greatest commandment in the whole Old Covenant – was that we should love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. However, how is it today? Many believe that this is what we mainly should focus on while sharing the Gospel, since it obviously was the most important commandment in the whole Old Testament. Is perhaps “love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” a sum up of the Gospel message?
The answer might come as a shock, because it is “no”. We are not living under the law today, but under grace (Rm. 6:14). Notice that Jesus told the lawyer that he would inherit eternal life if he could manage to live up to the greatest commandment. Do you believe that the lawyer succeeded? Do you believe that any person in the history of mankind has ever managed to live up to the ideals of love, according to the law? Not a single person, except for Jesus Christ Himself. Only Jesus could love God in a perfect way. Because He did so, He was able to fulfill the law, so that we who live in the New Covenant would not have to live under it.
Love is obviously of central importance in the New Covenant, though. “The greatest thing of all is love”, Paul said (1 Cor. 13:13). However, in ourselves, we cannot love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. To preach this commandment, without doing it from a New Covenant perspective, is actually to put people under an unrealistic burden that they, no matter how much they try, never will be able to fulfill.
In the New Covenant, God does not command us to love Him in our own strength, which was the case under the law. Today we can love God in a superior way than what was ever possible under the Old Covenant, for two reasons:
- God has poured out His own love in our hearts through the Holy Spirit(Rm. 5:5). We who have received Jesus and have the Holy Spirit on the inside, are able to love God and other people because the Holy spirit is loving in and through us. Only by the power of the Holy Spirit can we truly walk in love the way God intended it.
- We can love God because He has first loved us(1 Jn. 4:19). God’s way in the New Covenant is not to say, “I command you to love Me”. We can love God because He, through Jesus, has loved us first. How has He loved us first? By sending Jesus as the atonement for our sins, so that we could become holy and blameless before Him.
”In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 Jn. 4:19)
The more we understand how good God is and what He has done for us through Jesus, the more we can love Him and our fellow man. In the New Covenant, love does not start with us. It starts with God. Our love for God is a response to God’s love for us.
”We love Him because He first loved us.” (1 Jn. 4:19)
Instead of the 10 commandments, along with hundreds of other rules and regulations, as in the Old Covenant, we only have one commandment to follow in the New Covenant. Jesus said:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (Jn. 13:34)
Note that we are to love others as Jesus has loved us. For us to be able to walk in love, we must first get a revelation of God’s great love for us.
Love is not a work of the law, or something we can produce if we only try hard enough. It is a fruit of the Holy Spirit working in us, as a result of us understanding how much God loves us. The response from our side then, is to love Him back and to walk in love toward other people.