The Greatest Teaching In The Bible
The word of God is overflowing with wisdom, insight, revelation, and generally good ideas to live by. But what is the greatest teaching in the Bible? Is it to “do good”? Love God? The Golden Rule? If I had to boil it all down to a single principle, what would it be?
Jesus did something like this in Matthew 22:30-40.
“ Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
What did this Bible teaching mean back then?
At face value, this has a simple takeaway. It seems that Jesus is saying that loving God (and therefore loving His creation) is the greatest commandment.
However, we often overlook the setting in which Jesus said this. He was speaking to experts in the law. The men asking this question had deeply invested their entire lives to studying the law. The same law that Jesus just quickly summarized, and in a sense, simplified.
The Sadducees and the Pharisees, though very different in thought and practices, shared one thing; zeal for the law. I can only imagine this swift simplification of the 613 commandments in the old testament, not counting the oral traditions that pharisees held as law, would have been offensive. How dare this rough around the edges, Galilean, street preacher reduce the hundreds of laws that have shaped an entire nation and culture to something as basic as love?
What we often miss in this conversation is the radical implications that Jesus was communicating to these law experts…what He was saying silently to this very specific audience. Jesus was provoking them to consider that the entirety of the law’s purpose was not actually to produce holiness, lawfulness, cleanliness, or even right standing before God. It was always meant to produce love. AND THEREFORE, if the point of the law is love, not justification..Jesus was challenging these men to trust God for their salvation…Not the law, not the traditions, not sacrifices, not a spotless record, not THEMSELVES. It’s always been about loving a God who we trust to save us. A God we trust is bigger than our ability to behave, to please Him, to do good things.
Think of it this way…
if you were in a romantic relationship with someone who was also in control over paying all of your bills, providing your food and housing, you transportation, and so on…it would be impossible to love them without those privileges in the back of your mind all the time. You would feel pressure to “love” them in such a way that keeps you in their good graces. You want to convince them of your worthiness so that they keep providing those things for you. It wouldn’t really be love, would it? It would be a business-like, transactional relationship.
Jesus was inviting his audience out of a transactional relationship into a loving relationship. A relationship that is based in monumental, soul consuming, eternal trust – not acts of sacrifice meant to attain and maintain favor.
What does this Bible teaching mean today?
That is still what God is inviting His people to do. Love Him in a relationship that is based on trust, not fear. He isn’t interested in our efforts to impress Him. He’s interested in a heart that walks humbly with Him (Micah 6:8), trusting that He is sufficient for all our needs, both here on earth and in eternity.
What are you doing to “buy” God’s grace? Are you pursuing holiness out of fear? Are you avoiding sin to avoid punishment?
There is a better way. Choosing to love God and love others with your life as an overflow of trust in Jesus is what life in abundance looks like. And that is the greatest teaching in the Bible.
What should I do next?
To apply the truth of Scripture, we must ask the Holy Spirit to reveal where it is not yet present in our lives. Where have you resisted, hidden, or ignored this truth in your life? Take some time to pray and seek what the Lord says about your trust in Him….about the nature of your relationship with Him. Let Him lead you to an intimate and personal application. If you would like a deeper understanding of the Bible, what it means to trust Jesus, love God, and love others, a DTS at YWAM Asheville is a great place to start. The only DTS requirements is a heart that is hungry for God, a willingness to learn, and a readiness to be transformed. YWAM schools are designed to reveal this very teaching in greater depth. We focus on how we can be better lovers of God and the world around us. Join us for the next YWAM Discipleship Training School here in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina!