Monday 1st February 2021
The Greatest Commandment
Pastor Soong Kok Kee
Mark 12: 29-31 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
The context of this reply starts from verse 28 when among the Pharisees, an expert in the law, wanting to test Jesus, (Matt 22: 34-40) asked Him that among the 613 commandments in the Old Testament (248 of them positive, 365 negative) which of them is the greatest, thus the above reply from our Lord. Our Lord’s answer is from Deut 6:4-5 and Lev 19:18 and this entire quotation is generally called “the Shema.” Today, the ancient custom of beginning the synagogue service with the recitation of the Shema is still being observed.
Raymond C. Ortlund in his article “Priorities for the Local Church”, mentions three priorities of the Church – Upward towards God, Inward towards one another in Christ and Outward towards the world at large. Of course, the Church means you and I, His called-out saints, not the building – the Church is all of us whom He called out to be His own, you and I and all who belong to Him. For this devotion, we will only look into the first priority, leaving the other two for the next two devotions.
The greatest commandment is to love God with everything we have, wholeheartedly – all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength. The point here is that God’s wholehearted love must not be answered in a half-hearted way. When God loves, He loves the world; when He gives, He gives His one and only Son. He gives Him up and spares Him not. This commandment is called the greatest because it epitomizes the most excellent response to the Most Wonderful Being.
When we love God wholeheartedly, with everything we have – needless to say, there will be nothing we will not do for Him. Truly, if we really love God wholeheartedly, with everything we have:
We will serve Him joyfully and sacrificially with all the spiritual gifts He has blessed us with.
We will give cheerfully to the best of our ability to support all the ministries of the Church.
We will reach out to touch as many lives as we can so that those we touch may know of His love.
Some of you who are reading this may be wondering why in the world Christians are doing all these out of their own time, out of their own expense with seemingly nothing to gain. I have personally come across doctors, lawyers, engineers, accountants, businessmen, IT experts and a host of other professionals who have given up their lucrative career or practice to study in the Seminary to become pastors or missionaries for a fraction of what they have been earning. What insanity is that, the world may ask? That’s giving up everything to love God with everything we have – practicing the Greatest Commandment. It’s never easy for the world to understand that!
It is always the desire of every Christian not to want anyone to perish, but everyone to come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior, especially our family members, relatives and friends. But they can’t love someone they do not know, let alone love him wholeheartedly. One sister shared Christ with her mum and her mum’s response was if Jesus would reveal Himself to her, she would believe. Her daughter continued to pray and some nights later, Christ did reveal Himself to her and she became a faithful believer. With God nothing is impossible.
Do you think any of the 12 apostles could have personally converted Paul, a student of Gamaliel, and who eventually wrote almost half of the New Testament? It took the appearance of our risen Lord on the road to Damascus to convert him. So, my dear brothers and sisters, if you have any proud, hard-hearted and stubborn family members or friends whom you have been trying to convert, you can pray the same for God to reveal Himself to them. With God, nothing is impossible, and He sometimes works in mysterious ways, with His wonders to perform.
PRAYER: Dear God, we thank you for giving us your one and only son Jesus Christ to die on that cruel cross for our sins so that we may have forgiveness of sin and eternal life. Help us to live out that Greatest Commandment in our lives, and in doing so, may we become a testimony to others to also know you as Lord and Savior. We pray for all those we have been witnessing to. Touch their lives in a special way Lord, and if need be, reveal yourself to them Lord, that they may know you are indeed a living God. In Jesus precious name we pray, AMEN.
耶稣回答说：“第一要紧的就是说：‘以色列啊，你要听！主我们神是独一的主。你要尽心、尽性、尽意、尽力爱主你的 神。’ 其次就是说：‘要爱人如己。’再没有比这两条诫命更大的了。”
这个回答的上下文从第28节开始，当时法利赛人中的一位想考验耶稣的律法师问祂（马太福音22:34-40），在旧约的613条诫命（其中248条是正面的，365条是负面的）中，哪一条是最大的，因此我们的主作出上述的答复。我们主的回答来自申命记6:4-5和利未记19:18，这整段引文通常被称为 “希玛”（the Shema）。时至今日，犹太会堂仍遵守这古老的习俗，以诵读 “希玛” 开始敬拜。
雷蒙德·奥尔特伦德（Raymond C. Ortlund）在他的文章 “地方教会的优先事项” 中提到了教会的三个优先事项： 向上 – 向上帝、向内 – 在基督里彼此相向，以及 向外 – 向整个世界。当然，教会指的是您和我，祂所召唤的圣徒，而不是建筑物 – 教会是祂所呼唤的我们所有人，您和我，以及所有属于祂的人。这次的灵修，我们先关注第一个优先事项，其他两个优先事项将留到下两期的灵修。
最大的诫命是以我们所有，全心全意地爱上帝 – 尽 心、尽 性、尽 意、尽 力。这里的重点是，我们决不能三心二意地回应上帝全心全意的爱。当上帝爱时，祂爱全世界；当祂赐予时，祂赐下祂的独生儿子。祂全然地献出祂的独生子，毫无保留。这个诫命之所以被称为最大的诫命，因为它体现了对最奇妙的上帝的最卓越的回应。
当我们以所拥有的一切，全心全意地爱上帝时 – 不用说，我们没有什么不会为祂做的。的确，如果我们以所拥有的一切，全心全意地爱上帝：
正在阅读此文章的一些人可能在想，为什么基督徒愿意在看似没有获得任何好处之下，花时间和金钱作这些事。我个人遇到过医生、律师、工程师、会计师、商人，资讯技术专家和许多其他专业人士，他们放弃了待遇优厚的职业或执业，到神学院学习，成为牧师或传教士，领取他们以前高薪收入的一小部分工资。世人可能会问，这是什么疯狂之举？那就是放弃一切，以我们拥有的一切去爱上帝 – 实践这最大的诫命。 全世界都很难理解这一点！