"It wasn't a potential atonement actuated by the sinner, it was an actual atonement initiated by the savior."

John MacArthur

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The Greatest Commandment

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The greatest command – One God to love- with heart, soul, mind and strength

Deuteronomy 6:5 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.This is known as the “Shema” or “Shema Prayer.”

  • Heart – feelings and thoughts,
  • Soul – physical and psychological energy and life itself (to the point of martyrdom if necessary),
  • Mind – reasoning, and
  • Strength – physical and material capabilities, including property and other forms of wealth.

Deuteronomy 10:12 reemphasizes this command:

Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,

And the next is like it,

Leviticus 19:18 “you shall love your neighbor as yourself;

Self-love, as is all the rage currently – self esteem, doesn’t outrank love of neighbors.

Interestingly, Deuteronomy 6 goes on to say of these words:

“they…shall be on your heart” and “you shall teach them” and “shall talk of them” and “bind them” and “write them on your doorposts” and “watch yourself” and “fear only the Lord” and “not follow other gods” and “you shall not put the Lord you God to the test…

But they did put the Lord to the test…

Psalms 2:2 forecasts this “And the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed (Jesus)…”

Testing Christ

Matthew – One of the Pharisees, a lawyer asked Him a question, testing Him. Matt 22:36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?

Matthew 22:37:40 ““‘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.

These two commands are really a summary of the Ten Commandments – the first four directed to God and the next six which are directed towards men.

Luke –  Luke 10:25 “And a certain lawyer stood up and put Him to the test saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

Luke 10:27 “And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.

The event in Luke happened when Christ was working with His disciples, however, similar questions could have been asked when Christ was only a 12 year old child – “Luke 2:46-47 “…after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions.  And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers.”

Mark – One of the Scribes asked Him a question, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Although the use of Teacher in the other passages were probably satirical in nature, here even any pretense is gone and the question even lacks a satirical “teacher.”

Mark 12:29-31 “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.”

Historical Timing

According to Gospel Harmonies, the Matthew and Mark event or events seem to have occurred on Christ’s final week of work at Jerusalem before His death, resurrection and ascension in A.D. 30. The Luke event seems to have occurred during the last Judean and Perean ministry the year before (A.D. 29).

The essence of the ten commandments

Question 42 of the Westminster Catechism asks “What is the essence of the ten commandments?” And the answer is the same – Love God only with heart, soul, strength and mind and love others as we love ourselves.