Bible College of Western Australia

The Essential Commandment: Love

by David Shalley.

INTRODUCTION.

Is there such a thing as the essential Commandment? There is and it is sometimes referred to as the “Eleventh Commandment”. It is a statement that contains the essence of the whole Decalogue: “Love is the fulfilment of the Law” (1). Love is the purest expression of the character of God. It is because of this that He has given to us the dignity to make choices along with the moral accountability that goes with that. It is when we are immersed in and yielded to that stream of love that we love Him the best and are enabled to channel that love to others.

FREED TO CHOOSE GOD’S WAY

God has not declared the Ten Commandments redundant to the Christian faith. When we accept Christ as Saviour His Law is engraved upon our hearts and His Holy Spirit seeks to reflect it to the world via our lives (2). In fulfilment of this Old Testament prophecy, believers have been freed to reflect the nature of their loving Father (3), to which the New Testament adds its own “Amen” (4). Once indwelt by the Spirit of God the Christian is released to live in freedom and at a standard surpassing the legalistic nit-picking of the Pharisees and their modern day heirs. Once we are Christ’s we are free, free to choose the way of Godly living – A journey wherein old choices are being replaced with the new (5). This is grace in action, leading us by love to walk in the footsteps of Christ.

FREED FROM LEGALISM

Sadly, many fall back into the false security of legalism, believing that works are still the way to please God. They never have been and they never will be! Christian works are to be the evidence of grace making radical changes to both the heart regime and visible life of the believer (6) True growth stems from a love relationship with Jesus. The legalist takes relative issues and turns them into absolutes: majoring on social graces, clothing styles, diet, Bible translations, musical preferences, and so on… These become the marks of acceptance and fellowship that are centred on issues rather than on Christ (7). God has called us to freedom from non-absolutes. Our problem now seems to be how to handle such liberty. In some ways we struggle, rather like the former citizens of the USSR, unable to cope with new found freedoms. Paul illustrates the right way in his discussion about meat and idols, where he appears to be saying both yes and no at once to the same question (8). He was not equivocating. He was simply yielding to the principle of love for others, which to Paul was paramount. Because Paul was in love with God he fulfilled the first part of the Decalogue and was able thereby to fulfil the demands of loving his neighbour, thus honouring the latter part. Paul had developed a mature Christian conscience (9).

THE WAY OF LOVE

In the Gospels, Jesus proclaimed a New Commandment. This is the “Essential Commandment”, the source from which the other Ten flow (10). It is the Law of Love which in no way contradicts the Decalogue. In this Jesus penetrated the letter to reveal the Spirit, pointing to the importance of motive and character. In all that Jesus said and did, not once did He discount the Ten Commandments. He was Himself the embodiment of the law (11). The very purpose of His coming was, not to set aside the Law, but to make it possible for us to meet its demands out of love rather than any cold sense of duty.

However, the “Essential Commandment” isn’t really new at all! (12). One can find the elements of Jesus’ summation of the Law (13) in the books of Moses (14). So what is new? : The revelation that Jesus makes it possible for us to share in His life and to live as he lived. For where Christ reigns there is love. Where love controls the Law is not breached. Love carries the deed beyond duty to a response of devotion. Love is both lavish and generous, in stark contrast to calculating legalism. Love pours out its precious ointment with no thought of the cost to itself. As love thinks of and ministers to others, it discovers its own needs are met.

Every breach of the Decalogue comes down to lack of love for Christ. All hatred of heart is due either to the absence of submission to Christ or wilful disregard of His loving direction. So the simple key for the Christian is: “loving obedience to Christ” (15).   For to love God is to leave no room for rivals in the heart, admit to respect for His character and a desire to spend time with Him. Loving others as oneself begets love for parents, quenches hatreds, upholds the vows of marriage, and respects the property and reputation of others. Finally and supremely, love discovers that satisfaction is found in God alone.

Our lives conform to the Law of God when, and only when, we love Him with all of our “passion, prayer, intelligence and energy” and “love others as well as you love yourself”(16). A Christian faith that reflects, communicates the heart of Christ is a life that gives. Take a moment to reflect on that word “GAVE” in those words from John’s gospel: “For God so loved the world that he gave…” (17)

This is the challenge facing believers who desire to communicate the reality of the Gospel in today’s world: If we do not live in a way that will draw others to Christ (rather than repelling them), nothing we say will have any impact on them.

THE IMPACT OF SIN

We need to consider the victims of those who engage in the “seven deadly sins”. For God hears their cry. Selfishness is what basically opposes the notion of a just God. “I don’t see the need for me to be accountable”. A cry that denies the fact that the God who loves me always has my best interests at heart. This minimises the character of God and the magnitude of his sacrifice for our salvation. He wants only the very best for us both individually and collectively.

Society has become critical of any reference to individual accountability for the purpose of setting self-interest above all. Any such suggestion is howled down as being judgemental.   That is to say that perpetrators of wrong doing should not have their actions counted against them. Presumably that is being too harsh. Allied to this is the popular image of God as a fierce, short tempered, person who seeks revenge upon wrongdoers. This is a total fallacy and largely a result of media stereotyping of people of Christian faith, especially ministers, pastors, priests and so on, as legalistically cruel, without compassion or as bumbling idiots akin to Rev Collins in Jane Austen’s “Pride & Prejudice”. It is a rarity to see any positive media reference to Christianity, past or present. Yet when one takes a serious look at history one finds a multitude of references to the positive contributions that have been made and are still being made by Christians worldwide. Not only is this so regarding the overwhelmingly positive record of true believers but a afresh look at the Biblical record regarding God and judgement reveals the following:

THE GRIEVING HEART OF GOD

  • God who is constantly hurting for the victims of the sinful actions of others, be they individuals or society at large.
  • God who warns people that if they don’t change then, to end the suffering of victims, He will take action.
  • God who is endlessly patient with people.
  • God who is ready to forget the sin of those who turn their lives around and seek to follow His ways.
  • God who GAVE Himself voluntarily in Christ to make this option available to all.
  • God who grieved over the then world at the time of Noah.
  • God who grieved over the pain and suffering of the victims of the evil excesses in Sodom & Gomorrah. {for these dot points refer refs (18)}

As Leslie Weatherhead once wrote:

“The cross is a small part of the suffering love that is deep in the heart of God. God, for all time, had been suffering on the cross of human sin, pain, violence & death & would continue to do so until ultimately He wins the victory over sin, pain, violence & death”

We need to remember that God’s justice is PROTECTIVE not punitive. He defends & protects the innocent, lifts up the helpless, and makes wrongs right (19). It is a child who deserves two parents, a young woman who deserves to be respected and honoured by men, it is to be seen in a marriage in all its facets- maintained by mutual giving and respect, it is a society that deserves to go about in peace and safety, it is about families not losing loved ones in some thoughtless accident, it’s a community that does not exploit anyone for profit, it is society where education is equally available to all (20).

God feels the pain of victims of our sin. In Scripture it is as though God is saying to us: “When you hear of folks in anguish do you ever think of how my heart aches with the woe of it, with the anguish of it all? If I beheld a city and wept over it how much more would I weep over the agony of those troubled hearts, over lives that seek to live without my sustaining power?”

CONCLUSION

He calls us to so live that others will turn to Him, the only source of happiness and peace. Consider again the Fruit of the Spirit (21). Where these are abundant in a life the God’s Law is not broken. Let us end as we began: “Love is the purest expression of the character of God…It is when we are immersed in and yielded to that stream of love that we love Him the best and are enabled to channel that love to others.”

_______________

References:

(1). Romans 13:8- 10

(2). Romans 5:5; Galatians 4:6-7

(3). Ezekiel 36:26-30; Jeremiah 31:31-34

(4). 2 Corinthians 3:1-6; Hebrews 8:10; 10:15-16

(5). Titus 2:1-15; Ephesians 4:17-32

(6). James 2:14-18

(7). Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 7:21; 23:23

(8). Romans 14

(9). Colossians 2:13-23; Hebrews 7:18; 8:13.

(10). John 13:34-35

(11). Matthew 5:17

(12). 1 John 2:7-11

(13). Matthew 22:37-40

(14). Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18

(15). John 14:15

(16). Mark 12:28-31 (Message)

(17). John 3:16

(18). Genesis 18:17-21(Message); Exodus 3:7; Job 34:28;1 Samuel 9:16;

2 Samuel 22:7; Psalms 9:12; 18:16; 34:17; 55:17

(19). Psalm 140

(20). See Jeremiah 9:24; Proverbs 29:7;; Isaiah 1:17; 10:1-2; Matthew 23:2

(21). Galatians 5:22-23

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