Holy, Righteous, and Good (7)
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.” Matthew 22.37-40
Love God first of all
The Ten Commandments were given in an of order of importance. Skip the first four, and you’ll never fulfill the last six with the kind of thoroughness they require. Recall the young man who came to Jesus, asking what he needed to do to have eternal life (Matt. 19.16-22). Jesus knew this young man before he even spoke. So when he asked the question, Jesus drove right to what he was trusting in for salvation – his perception of himself as having fulfilled the Law.
Jesus first made sure that the young man understood Who He was: “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.” In other words, Jesus was saying to this young man, “I, with Whom you are speaking, to Whom you come seeking eternal life, I am God.” Only after He had established that fact did Jesus expose the young man’s self-confidence: “But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
No one had ever been able to do that, of course; and only One ever would. The young man, eager to prove his worthiness, answered, “Which ones?” In reply, Jesus unpacked five of the last six commandments, then rounded them off with “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
We can see the young man standing tall and smiling as he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” But he didn’t have eternal life; and he must have suspected he still had not done enough, because he continued, “What do I still lack?”
Jesus’ reply was, in essence, “Love Me more than your ‘great possessions.’” Which the young man could not. None of his virtue signaling throughout all his days would count for anything, because he did not love Jesus first, foremost, and entirely. He had another god that he worshipped, and he was not prepared to let it go.
As we turn to a brief, introductory overview of the last six commandments, we do well to keep in mind that we will only have success in keeping these as we work at loving God daily with all our soul and strength.
Loving our neighbors
The last six of the Ten Commandments outline what loving our neighbors requires, and shows us not only what we must do with respect to others, but what God wants for us from them as well.
The fifth commandment establishes the home as a place for “learning the ropes” about life in the world (Ex. 20.12; Deut. 5.16). By honoring our parents, we learn to honor others, who, like us, are made in the image of God. By keeping this commandment we also learn how to show proper respect and deference to those in positions of authority, whether in church or public life.
The sixth commandment reminds us that since only God can give life, only God can take it (Ex. 20.13; Deut. 5.17). Each of these last six commandments has a positive side. Not only must we not murder our neighbors, but we must do what we can to protect their wellbeing – as, we hope, they will do toward us as well.
The seventh commandment protects the integrity and importance of marriage and the family (Ex. 20.14; Deut. 5.18), and instructs us – as Jesus later clarified, both here and with the sixth commandment (Matt. 5.21, 22, 27, 28) – to keep our affections pure and undefiled.
The eighth commandment protects the property, which God entrusts to us, from being unlawfully seized by others, whether robbers or governments or church leaders (Ex. 20.15; Deut. 5.19). The ninth commandment reminds us that only the truth sets us free from deceit, lies, slander, and false witness; therefore, we must always be careful to bear true witness to the world (Ex. 20.16; Deut. 5.20). And the tenth commandment reminds us that all sin, all violation of God’s Law, every transgression and all rebellion against the Lord begins in the heart, where we covet above all the persistent tendency to want to be a law unto ourselves (Ex. 20.17; Deut. 5.21).
The way of love
The second great commandment summarizes the duties and guarantees provided in the last six of the Ten Commandments. As we love our neighbors as we love ourselves – even more, as Christ has loved us – we serve as channels of the grace of God to the world, communicating and demonstrating His love, and appealing to the hearts and minds of the people among whom we live to seek the Lord, Who loves them with the love they experience from us.
What do we propose to put in the place of these commandments, if we will not learn, receive, and obey the Law of God? Do we suppose that we can improve on God Himself for how we would be loved by others, and how we must love them? Will we just follow a hunch, or some fleeting intuition or flighty sentiment in showing “love” to the people to whom God sends us each day?
Or will we take up the plain, clear, Law of God, and the statutes, rules, precepts, and testimonies that help us understand how to apply that Law? The righteous person – the person who inhabits and expresses the righteousness of Jesus Christ – is steeped in the Law of God (Ps. 1), so that he thinks as God does, feels as God does, and values as God does with respect to how he will relate to the people around him.
Paul says that we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2.16). He likewise exhorts us to gain the mind of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8.5-9). The mind of Christ and His Spirit is a mind of love; this also is the mind of God the Father toward the world (Jn. 3.16). We have the privilege of being vessels of the love, love so amazing, so divine, that it fills and possesses us, and empowers us to live as vessels of grace to the world (2 Cor. 4.7-15). Is this the life we embraced when we professed faith in Jesus? If it is, then we will make it our business, as the Spirit writes the Law of God on our hearts (Ezek. 36.26, 27), to learning how that holy and righteous and good Word of God applies to all our relationships, roles, and responsibilities – loving God and our neighbors according to the great commandments of Jesus.
For reflection or discussion
1. Which of the last six commandments would you not like someone to obey toward you?
2. Why can we not fulfill the last six commandments without daily increasing in obedience to the first four?
3. Do you think reviewing and praying through the Ten Commandments each day would help you to increase in love for God and your neighbors? Explain.
Next steps – Transformation: Memorize the last six of the Ten Commandments, and pray through them throughout the day.
T. M. Moore
One way to add reading and meditation in the Law to your daily devotional life is to download A Kingdom Catechism, which contains 135 questions and answers to help you make better lawful use of God’s Law in your daily life (click here).
For additional insight to the contemporary relevance of God’s Law, download the three studies in our Scriptorium series, “The Law of God: Miscellanies” by clicking here.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.