I was never a fan of the boxer once known as Cassius Clay, and later as Muhammed Ali. Even though I was not a fan, I admit he was one of the great ones in that sport. One of the reasons I didn’t care much for him was his obnoxious arrogance. He always referred to himself as “the greatest.”
We sometimes hear this discussion regarding college football and if a certain team is the greatest of all time. Or perhaps the conversation is about the greatest coach of all time. My team is in the midst of a run of success that is very nearly unmatched in the history of college football. So is it the greatest dynasty of all time in college football? Is the present coach the greatest of all time? It can be discussed at length.
The Pharisees approached Jesus once and trying to test Him they asked, “Which is the greatest commandment in the law?”
The law referenced the Old Law under which they lived. It has been said there was a total of 613 laws in the Old Testament covenant, 248 do’s and 365 don’ts. And the Jews were known to argue and disagree with which of the laws were most important. Asking Jesus to weigh in on the subject was certainly setting Him up. They were hoping His answer would cause division among His hearers. But such was not the case. In His omniscience, He gave the perfect answer.
Jesus’ answer, found in Matthew 22:37-39 was, “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.”
How interesting to note that He gave a summation of the entire Mosaical Law in one reply. What is the greatest command, Jesus? To love. Specifically, to love GOD, followed by, love your neighbor.
Paul, through inspiration of the Holy Spirit, gave the same answer in Romans 13:9, 10. He noted all the commandments could be summed up with this one saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” And he added, “love is the fulfillment of the law.”
Look at all 613 laws in the First Covenant and consider they all stemmed from the original commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai. Before there were 613 laws, there were the original 10 Commandments.
If we look at the 10 Commandments, we note the first 4 have to do with our behavior toward GOD. We are to love GOD. GOD is to be first in our lives, we are not to place idols in His place, we honor His name, we worship Him; and under the First Covenant, that worship happened on the Sabbath Day. (See my earlier blog for why we don’t worship on the Sabbath Day today.) All of this was to honor and love GOD.
The next 6 commandments of the Decalogue have to do with our behavior toward our fellowman. We are to love our neighbors. It is interesting to observe the first commandment on this list addressed our behavior toward our parents. And last on the list was a prohibition regarding coveting our neighbor’s possessions. All 6 of these govern our behavior toward our neighbors.
So Jesus summarized the entire Old Testament including the 10 Commandments with one reply. We are to love GOD and love each other.
Maybe that is why in 1 Corinthians 13 we are told: “And now abide faith, hope, and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
So what is the greatest? Love.
Jesus addressed it during His ministry when He said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35
I want to be a disciple. I want all to know that I am a disciple. I want to love more.