Matthew 22:34-46 Part 2


The question of the scribe, in the intimidating presence of the whole Sanhedrin, is for the purpose of putting Jesus to the proof (entrapping Him) – engaging Him in Theological debate concerning the types and classifications of the Law.  The hope is that they can show their superiority or (at least) their equality and retain some semblance of authority in Jerusalem.  Especially after they follow through with their plan to kill Him.

But Jesus’ answer doesn’t allow for that debate.  It is specifically from the Law, quoted from Moses; and it is designed to shut their mouths – for the Law directs attention to Christ!  And that’s the subject of His question to them (beginning in verse forty-one).

So, by His quoting directly from Moses with the obviously perfect response, the Pharisees can have nothing whatever to say with regard to His answer.  There is no debate.  There can be no debate!  So they can’t show superiority or equality or anything else!  And the obvious progression from the Law to the Son of David (verses forty-one and forty-two) leaves them speechless – daring not to ask Him another question or engage Him in another issue.

Now, as we move on to look at Jesus’ authoritative affirmation here, in verses thirty-seven through forty, I’m going to try to keep a sharp and narrow focus on what we’re doing, and place the emphasis on that progression from the Law to the Christ, because the Law drives men to Christ.

We could become heavily engaged in an exposition of the Commandments and the preaching of the Law (which would take from six months to a year).  And although that would be beneficial, I don’t think that’s what the text is requiring us to do.  So, instead, we’ll see what the text says and remain within the historical framework of Passover week.

Although the scribe is trying to engage Jesus in a debate or dispute concerning the Law – whether there was a great Commandment in one or another type of Law – Jesus quotes directly from Moses in Deuteronomy chapter six:  (And remember, this is an authoritative affirmation rather than a reply to His question.  Jesus did not debate.)


“You shall love Kurios (Jahveh) your God (Elohim) in your whole heart and in your whole self and in your whole mind.  This is the great and first Commandment.  Second, and similar to it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”


The first is Moses’ summary of the first four Commandments; and the second is Moses’ summary of the last six Commandments (from Leviticus chapter nineteen).  It is necessary for us to note (in order to refute the gainsayers) that Jesus did not summarize the older Testament Law Himself, but quotes the Word coming directly out of the Older Testament!

Another thing that’s very special here is the fact that in God’s Word, and in Moses’ Word, in the Older Testament, love for God and love for neighbor summarizes the Law!  God said it, speaking to Moses; and Moses wrote it!  (Properly defined), love is the critical factor for a Law-keeper – in the Old Testament!  What a shocker for a New Testament (only) fundamentalist!

So no one can rationally or Biblically associate Law exclusively with the Older Testament and love exclusively with the New Testament.  Law is inclusive of love in both Testaments; and love is inclusive of Law in both Testaments.

Now, the names of God (personal and proper Hebrew names) are Jahveh and Elohim (Lord and God in English, Kurios and Theos in Greek).  Elohim is the Name expressing the “Being” and attributes of God – His electing, predestinating, covenanting, loving, creating, everlasting Being.  Whereas Jahveh is His personal Name expressive of His activity in carrying out His righteous and holy will in Truth.  As you may remember, there are a number of Names by which God has revealed Himself, these being just two.

In the Deuteronomy chapter six passage, from which Jesus quotes, Moses is reiterating that which occurred at Mt. Sinai when God gave the Law to Israel.  And he says to Israel, “Shema Israel (Hear O Israel) the Lord our God is One Lord.  And thou shalt love the Lord your God in all your heart and in all your soul and in all your might….”

Thereafter, the “Shema Israel” became the rallying cry for the faithful in Israel – the one finger held up, indicating that God was one – not many; and that Israel was His people; and that Israel was to wholly love Him!

Now, as we all know, very serious mistakes are often made in man’s attempt to understand love.  I am, by no means, going to explore the depths of those errors here.  But there are many who would “sentimentalize” love – reading into it that affection, the definition of which is man-made, or self-concocted.  In other words men explore the depths of their own feelings, they go inside themselves, and what is found there is imposed upon the Scriptures, and the love of God.  So that, in result, the love which God has towers over all His other attributes, and all that He is is subordinated to His love.  This gives rise to the idea that God never hates His enemies; and that He continually stands, waiting, with tears, lovingly begging every person to come to Him.  This is man’s idea of what God’s love ought to be.  And it’s his idea of what man’s love ought to be too, because man ought to emulate God.

The second major error has to do with the assumed differences in the two Greek words agape and fileo.  Faulty interpretations can be found throughout the literature.  It is said that agape is love that God gives to His people; and fileo is family affection.  Agape is the “higher” love, in this view; and fileo is a much lower, less “spiritual” love.

And the third major error is the rational one which says that fileo is the love of the heart and agape is the love of the mind.  Many immature Reformed Christians, for example, will separate out everything that is affectionate and categorize that as “fileo”.  And they do the same with agape – it’s purely rational!  But the Scriptures don’t make those categories.  And they don’t lead us to those other two errors either!

The Biblical scope and concept of agape (love) which Jesus uses here, extends from a close, personal sexual relationship (to the overall experience of marital, physical love) to all community related relationships, and to God’s relationship to His people and to His people’s relationship to Him!  And the different kinds of Biblical literature extend that concept even further.  Song of Solomon is a good example.

For example, Moses wrote that Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah, and worked fourteen years for Laban in order to get her (Genesis twenty-nine).  Jacob also loved Joseph more than any of his other children.

Moses also wrote that God set His heart on the fathers and their descendants (Exodus twenty-three, at verse four), and therefore He kept them in His Covenant!  Jeremiah wrote (in chapter thirty-one, verse three) that Yahveh loved His people, therefore He is faithful to them.

And on the negative side, fallen human beings love wicked things!  Agape is used.  Isaiah said (chapter one, verse twenty-three) that everyone loves a bribe!  And loving a woman can result in evil deeds.  Love for self and death and evil always gives rise to evil deeds!

So, as you can see, we have all kinds of uses of the word “love”; and the three errors mentioned before are denied by a simple reading of the Scriptures!

Now, God’s love for His people is a very strong concept in the whole Older Testament.  In fact the love and marriage and conjugal relationship between a man and his wife is used extensively as an analogy.  And, as analogies go, the importance which is placed on marriage in the Christian community arises out of the prototype, which is the relationship which God has with His people.  It’s one of love.

And the judgmental language of many of the prophets against Israel and the pagan nations is often formed within the concepts of fidelity and infidelity, which are marital terms.  That’s especially true of Hosea whose entire prophecy is set within the framework of an unfaithful wife.

Israel didn’t act in a way reciprocal to God’s love, which is a requirement of a faithful people.  God loves of His Own initiative, in Himself, and He acts in accordance with that.  And He requires that His people reciprocate that love to Him alone in obedience, submission and devotion!  The Older Testament absolute is that that’s the only way to live.  Everything else is “not living”.

So, we are to be so attached to Him and what He has done, that we have eyes only for Him; and He is the One Who sets the standard for the ways that reciprocal love is to be expressed – just as He sets the absolute standard for the way love is to be expressed between men and women, parents and children, neighbors and neighbors, etc.  We are to love Him because He first loved us and accomplished great and mighty things – for us!

So as you can see, the great dichotomies between love and law just don’t exist; and neither can we make such sharp distinctions as are often made between agape and fileo love.  The difference between the two uses is here only:  fileo love (often called “brotherly” love) is one of the senses and emotions.  It is not less “godly” than agape love, for God has given us senses and emotions to be exercised and enjoyed within the standards He has given us.  But the word “fileo” has been given to us in order to describe in a primary way, love which arises from the senses.

Whereas agape love is love (equally affectionate – if not more so!) which is guided by purpose!  Purpose is its primary characteristic.  Jacob so loved Rachel that he worked fourteen years in order to get her.  His love for her was not just of the senses, but was purposeful!

Yahveh “set His heart on the fathers and their descendants” in purposeful love.  “God so loved the world that He gave His Only Son….”  There is eternal, Divine affection – with purpose for the world – necessitating the giving of the Son of God for its salvation.

Now.  Since God’s revealed purposes are the standard, those who love other things, who set their hearts on purposes other than God’s purposes, love the evil rather than the good; the false rather than the true.  (And that’s agape too.)  Therefore love for God will set the whole heart, person and will toward Him and do His will – His purpose – resulting in love for what is right and love for treating others in a godly way.  It is the Great Commandment.

So how does God will for us to love Him?  What’s the standard?  How is our affection for Him to be expressed?  What is the purpose of our love – as revealed to us by God?  As a summary of the first four Commandments (which are, themselves, a summary of the entirety of the Law) this first, and great, Commandment says that we will never have another person or thing as an object of worship before God’s face!  We will worship Him alone – according to how He wills to be worshipped.  (His Standard – His Law)

The Great Commandment says, secondly, that we will have nothing and make nothing and use nothing by which we worship Him.  But that we will only worship Him according to His Words.

Then it says, thirdly, that His Name is holy (since it is His Name); and we are not to bear it or use it in an empty, or vain, way.

And lastly, we are to purposefully love God by honoring His creation mandate to rest one day.  He purposed renewal and regeneration and rebirth; and the Sabbath foreshadows that.  So therefore we are to keep the day holy for the same purpose.  (Purposeful love.)  That’s the first four Commandments, the summary of which is love in your whole heart, person and will!


“Hear O Israel:  the Lord our God is one Lord.  And you shall love the Lord your God in all your heart and in all your soul and in all your might.  And these words, which I command you this day, shall be in your heart; and you shall teach them diligently unto your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.  And you shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets (phylacteries) between your eyes.  And you shall write them upon the posts of your house and on your gates.”


Again, if your imagination allows it, can you see the entire Sanhedrin, robed and tasseled and braided – and all of them with these frontlets (or phylacteries) hanging down between their eyes (as described in this passage)?  And inside was the Law.  And with great arrogance they confront Jesus about the Law; and He quotes form the very passage where the phylacteries are mentioned!  And summarizes the very Law which is inside them!  And when that shuts them up, He says, “but wait:  what does it seem to you concerning the Christ?”  We’ll get to that later, but I just wanted to paint the picture for you again.  It’s quite striking I thought.

But this is the way we are to love the Lord our God.  And the Great Commandment summary of the Law says “you are to love (Him)… in your whole heart and in your whole self and in your whole mind.

You’ll notice that most everyone, including the translations, say “with your whole heart”, etc.  And I’m sure that I’ve done that too.  But the Greek word is clearly “in your whole heart…” with no compelling reason to change it to “with”!  So, in other words, with great affection, the purposes of the heart, the purposes of the self and the purposes of the mind should be so “set” upon God and His will!

The “heart”, which is considered the “center” of man, is the center of his volition.  And we do not love God “with” it, but “in” the whole heart – in the center of man. 

The “self”, or the “person” is the Hebrew word “nephesh”, which is translated “soul” usually.  But the Hebrew Scriptures, nor the Hebrew mind knows no dichotomy of “soul” and “person”.  “Nephesh” is the whole self.  It’s me!  Not just the center of my will, but the whole me.  And we are to love Jahveh Elohim in the whole self!  Affection and purpose are no longer to be toward the “self”, but the “self” is to be exited and God is to become the center of the affections and purpose.

And thirdly Jesus says, quoting Moses, “and in your whole mind” – in your whole reason and understanding!  Not to love God with reason and understanding, but to love your God in your entire reason and understanding!!!

So the whole of the heart; the whole of the self; and the whole of the reason and understanding are to be so saturated with true affection for God; and with His Divine purpose.  And that purpose is for Him to be worshipped and held in such high esteem as is commanded in those first four Commandments – which is a summary, in itself, of our entire duty to God.

“Second”, Jesus says (verses thirty-nine), “and similar to it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

The first and great Commandment is our duty to love God – in our whole heart, self and mind.  Not so the second, which is similar to it!  We are not to love our neighbor in our whole heat, self and mind.  That would be idolatry!  The second is not just like the first, or “as”; but rather it is similar.  And the similarity exists in the fact that this is also a summary of the Law, the second table of the Law, like the first and Great Commandment is the summary of the first table of the Law!  It is also similar in that we are to love our neighbor with purposeful affection!  It’s the same word!

You are to honor parents and all other authorities – praying for them and working for them and supporting them in their need and in their positions under God (the fifth Commandment).  You are to bring life and honor and reputation to your neighbor in every way, and do nothing whatever to promote his death or his demise or his dishonor (the sixth Commandment).  Do this “as” your self, Jesus says.

You shall promote your neighbor’s chastity and strengthen his marriage and support his family and build his relationships; and you shall do nothing to pervert his virtue or any of his family’s virtue.  (The seventh Commandment)  You don’t hate yourself… do this “as” your self!

You will build your neighbor’s reputation and legal standing in the community.  You will not exonerate yourself or make yourself look better, by bearing false witness concerning your neighbor!  (The ninth Commandment)  You don’t hate yourself and your own reputation and your own freedom… do this “as” your self!

You will do all you can to legally preserve your neighbor’s household – his wife, his home, his property, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.  You will not use legal manipulation to your benefit to secure with malice any of your neighbor’s things!  You will not covet what belongs to him.  (tenth Commandment)  You don’t hate yourself and your things… do this “as” your self.

Second, and similar to it, you shall love your neighbor “as” yourself.  Jesus did not say “love your neighbor like you love yourself”; He did not say “love your neighbor in comparison to the way you love yourself….  He said, “love your neighbor “as” your self.  Mindful, purposeful, benevolent, affectionate obedience of God’s Word on your neighbor’s behalf – to his benefit.

“…not that we first loved God, but that He first loved us and gave Himself for us….”  He set His face upon us with purpose.  And that great love involved incalculable suffering… in order that we might have life and have it abundantly.  We are now ransomed; and God our Father is reconciled to us and made ours by Covenant!  And we are to love Him as ours (Jesus said “love the Lord your God…).  He is ours – our Creator, our Owner, our Ruler!

We are to conduct ourselves to Him as ours with obedience to Him, and dependence on Him.  As the Psalmist says in Psalm one hundred and three, we are to love God “with all that is in us”.  The stream of our affections must run entirely toward Him.  The powers of our whole person must be engaged toward Him, and we must love Him more than anything else – in our whole heart, in our whole self, in our whole mind… and, similarly, our neighbor as our self.

Then Jesus said, “What does it seem to you concerning the Christ…?”  For your consideration next time why does Jesus now move from the Law to the Christ?  What’s the purpose?  What’s the Connection?