Monday, January 24, 2022

What Loving God Really Means

What are the two greatest commandments?  Yeshua was asked this once, and here's what he said in response:

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." [Matthew 22:37-40; NKJV]

This is probably the exact passage that you were quoted concerning this very topic.  In fact, it's likely the case that this passage was quoted as an excuse to ignore Torah ("Torah" is Hebrew for "instruction" and is typically translated as "law"), that is, God's Law.  The argument is that since all of the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments, then just obeying these two means we do not have to keep the rest.  There's just one slight problem with this interpretation.  Okay, several problems, but we'll get into those later.  What does it mean to love God?  Also, what does it mean to love your neighbor?  Should it be left to man to figure these things out for himself?

For starters, loving God is defined in several places.  One of these places is the second commandment, which is the one against idolatry.  Here's what the third commandment says:

4 "You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. [Exodus 20:4-6; NKJV]

Notice that in verse 6, it mentions those who love God and keep his commandments.  This is found elsewhere in Torah.  For example, in Deuteronomy 7:9.  There is no such thing as loving God without keeping his commandments, which is his Law.  If you are not doing the latter, then you are by definition, also not doing the former.  You may have noticed that there are many posts where I mention Deuteronomy 13.  In fact, this one chapter not only defines loving God as keeping his commandments, it also defines idolatry as rebellion against his commandments.  And it is also where the Deuteronomy 13 Test comes from.  We see a hint of this in the second commandment.  Notice in verse 5, the second commandment says that those who practice idolatry hate God.

So if loving God is keeping his commandments, then Torah tells us how to love God.  Interestingly enough, most of the commandments concerning how to love God are labeled by the Church as being the "ceremonial law", which they claim we do not have to keep because of what Yeshua did.  And as mentioned in my last post, the Church doesn't mind sidelining their "most important doctrines" if it means they get to keep their golden calves (among other things).

But there is another part to what Yeshua said.  He said that the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself.  If the Law of God tells us how to love God, and in fact keeping his Law is loving God, then it is also the case that God's Law tells us how to love our neighbor.  So Yeshua is correct when he said that all of the Law and the Prophets hang on those two commands.  But not because you don't have to worry about keeping the Law if you "love God" and "love your neighbor".  On the contrary, keeping God's Law is part of loving your neighbor.

That brings up another interesting issue.  Remember how I mentioned that the Church classifies some of the commandments as the "ceremonial law"?  Well, for those familiar with Church doctrine, you will know that there are typically three categories of Law in Torah.  These categories are (according to the Church):  The moral law (which the Church says we have to obey), the ceremonial law (which the Church says were done away with by Yeshua's work on the cross), and the civil law (which deals with punishments for breaking the moral law).  But is this division biblical?  Not quite.

Let's use what Yeshua said concerning the greatest commandments as a template on how to divide God's Law.  Since he said the Law hangs on "love God" and "love your neighbor", then the Law should be divided into commandments that tell us how to love God, and commandments that tell us how to love our neighbor.  Then, those commandments may be sub-divided if you wish, so long as Deuteronomy 12:32 is not violated.  Of course, someone will bring up the "what about" scenarios, which I will not cover in this post.  But I will say this much:  God does not hold us guilty of breaking a command that cannot possibly be kept.  And if you think otherwise, then you've fallen for the same trap that Adam and Eve fell for in the garden!

Here's another interesting point.  Since loving God is keeping his commandments, then really, all of the commandments are instructions on how to love God, regardless of whether we classify them into the "how to love God" or "how to love your neighbor" categories.  So even the commandments that concern how to love your neighbor are also concerning how to love God.  In other words, those that love God also love their neighbor.  But this doesn't work the other way around.  If you obey only the commands concerning how to love your neighbor, you indeed love your neighbor, but you actually hate God because you are ignoring the commands that are specific to loving God.

2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. [1 John 5:2-3; NKJV]

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