Jesus converses with a Pharisee respecting the law - See also Mark 12:28-34.
The Pharisees were gathered together - That is, either to rejoice that their great rivals, the Sadducees, had been so completely silenced, or to lay a new plan for ensnaring him, or perhaps both. They would rejoice that the Sadducees had been confounded, but they would not be the less desirous to involve Jesus in difficulty. They therefore endeavored, probably, to find the most difficult question in dispute among themselves, and proposed it to him to perplex him.
A lawyer - This does nor mean one that “practiced” law, as among us, but one learned or skilled in the law of Moses.
Mark calls him “one of the scribes.” This means the same thing. The scribes were men of learning - particularly men skilled in the law of Moses. This lawyer had heard Jesus reasoning with the Sadducees, and perceived that he had put them to silence. He was evidently supposed by the Pharisees to be better qualified to hold a debate with him than the Sadducees were, and they had therefore put him forward for that purpose. This man was probably of a candid turn of mind; perhaps willing to know the truth, and not entering very fully into their malicious intentions, but acting as their agent, Mark 12:34.
Tempting him - Trying him. Proposing a question to test his knowledge of the law.
Which is the great commandment? - That is, the “greatest” commandment, or the one most important.
The Jews are said to have divided the law into “greater and smaller” commandments. Which was of the greatest importance they had not determined. Some held that it was the law respecting sacrifice; others, that respecting circumcision; others, that pertaining to washings and purifying, etc.
The law - The word “law” has a great variety of significations; it means, commonly, in the Bible, as it does here, “the law given by Moses,” recorded in the first five books of the Bible.
Jesus said unto him - Mark says that he introduced this by referring to the doctrine of the unity of God “Hear, O Israel! the Lord thy God is one Lord” - taken from Deuteronomy 6:4. This was said, probably, because all true obedience depends on the correct knowledge of God. None can keep his commandments who are not acquainted with his nature, his perfections, and his right to command,
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart - The meaning of this is, thou shalt love him with all thy faculties or powers. Thou shalt love him supremely, more than all other beings and things, and with all the ardor possible. To love him with all the heart is to fix the affections supremely on him, more strongly than on anything else, and to be willing to give up all that we hold dear at his command,
With all thy soul - Or, with all thy “life.” This means, to be willing to give up the life to him, and to devote it all to his service; to live to him, and to be willing to die at his command,
With all thy mind - To submit the “intellect” to his will. To love his law and gospel more than we do the decisions of our own minds. To be willing to submit all our faculties to his teaching and guidance, and to devote to him all our intellectual attainments and all the results of our intellectual efforts.
“With all thy strength” (Mark). With all the faculties of soul and body. To labor and toil for his glory, and to make that the great object of all our efforts.
This the first tend great commandment - This commandment is found in Deuteronomy 6:5. It is the “first” and greatest of all; first, not in “order of time,” but of “importance; greatest” in dignity, in excellence, in extent, and duration. It is the fountain of all others. All beings are to be loved according to their excellence. As God is the most excellent and glorious of all beings, he is to be loved supremely. If he is loved aright, then our affections will be directed toward all created objects in a right manner.
The second is like unto it - Leviticus 19:18. That is, it resembles it in importance, dignity, purity, and usefulness. This had not been asked by the lawyer, but Jesus took occasion to acquaint him with the substance of the whole law. For its meaning, see the notes at Matthew 19:19. Compare Romans 13:9. Mark adds, “there is none other commandment greater than these.” None respecting circumcision or sacrifice is greater. They are the fountain of all.
On these two commandments hang - That is, these comprehend the substance of what Moses in the law and what the prophets have spoken.
What they have said has been to endeavor to win people to love God and to love each other. Love to God and man comprehends the whole of religion, and to produce this has been the design of Moses, the prophets, the Saviour, and the apostles.
Mark Mark 12:32-34 adds that the scribe said, “Well, Master, thou hast said the truth;” and that he assented to what Jesus had said, and admitted that to love God and man in this manner was more than all burnt-offerings and sacrifices; that is, was of more value or importance. Jesus, in reply, told him that he was “not far from the kingdom of heaven;” in other words, by his reply he had shown that he was almost prepared to receive the doctrines of the gospel. He had evinced such an acquaintance with the law as to prove that he was nearly prepared to receive the teachings of Jesus. See the notes at Matthew 3:2.
Mark and Luke say that this had such an effect that no man after that durst ask him any question, Luke 20:40; Mark 12:34. This does not mean that none of his disciples durst ask him any question, but none of the Jews. He had confounded all their sects - the Herodians Matthew 22:15-22; the Sadducees Matthew 22:23-33; and, last, the Pharisees Matthew 22:34-40. Finding themselves unable to confound him, everyone gave up the attempt at last.
Thou shalt love the Lord - This is a subject of the greatest importance, and should be well understood, as our Lord shows that the whole of true religion is comprised in thus loving God and our neighbor.
It may not be unnecessary to inquire into the literal meaning of the word love. Αγαπη, from αγαπαω, I love, is supposed to be compounded either of αγαν and ποιειν, to act vehemently or intensely; or, from αγειν κατα παν, because love is always active, and will act in every possible way; for he who loves is, with all his affection and desire, carried forward to the beloved object, in order to possess and enjoy it. Some derive it from αγαν and παυεσθαι, to be completely at rest, or, to be intensely satisfied; because he who loves is supremely contented with, and rests completely satisfied in, that which he loves. Others, from αγαν and παω, because a person eagerly embraces, and vigorously holds fast, that which is the object of his love. Lastly, others suppose it to be compounded of αγαω, I admire, and παυομαι, I rest, because that which a man loves intensely he rests in, with fixed admiration and contemplation. So that genuine love changes not, but always abides steadily attached to that which is loved.
Whatever may be thought of these etymologies, as being either just or probable, one thing will be evident to all those who know what love means, that they throw much light upon the subject, and manifest it in a variety of striking points of view. The ancient author of a MS. Lexicon in the late French king's library, under the word αγαπη, has the following definition: ΑσπαϚος προθεσις επι τη φιλια του φιλουμενου - Σομψυχια . "A pleasing surrender of friendship to a friend: - an identity or sameness of soul." A sovereign preference given to one above all others, present or absent: a concentration of all the thoughts and desires in a single object, which a man prefers to all others. Apply this definition to the love which God requires of his creatures, and you will have the most correct view of the subject. Hence it appears that, by this love, the soul eagerly cleaves to, affectionately admires, and constantly rests in God, supremely pleased and satisfied with him as its portion: that it acts from him, as its author; for him, as its master; and to him, as its end. That, by it, all the powers and faculties of the mind are concentrated in the Lord of the universe. That, by it, the whole man is willingly surrendered to the Most High: and that, through it, an identity, or sameness of spirit with the Lord is acquired - the man being made a partaker of the Divine nature, having the mind in him which was in Christ, and thus dwelling in God, and God in him.
But what is implied in loving God with all the heart, soul, mind, strength, etc., and when may a man be said to do this?
4. He loves God with all his mind (intellect - διανοια ) who applies himself only to know God, and his holy will: - who receives with submission, gratitude, and pleasure, the sacred truths which God has revealed to man: - who studies no art nor science but as far as it is necessary for the service of God, and uses it at all times to promote his glory - who forms no projects nor designs but in reference to God and the interests of mankind: - who banishes from his understanding and memory every useless, foolish, and dangerous thought, together with every idea which has any tendency to defile his soul, or turn it for a moment from the center of eternal repose. In a word, he who sees God in all things - thinks of him at all times - having his mind continually fixed upon God, acknowledging him in all his ways - who begins, continues, and ends all his thoughts, words, and works, to the glory of his name: - this is the person who loves God with all his heart, life, strength, and intellect. He is crucified to the world, and the world to him: he lives, yet not he, but Christ lives in him. He beholds as in a glass the glory of the Lord, and is changed into the same image from glory to glory. Simply and constantly looking unto Jesus, the author and perfecter of his faith, he receives continual supplies of enlightening and sanctifying grace, and is thus fitted for every good word and work. O glorious state! far, far, beyond this description! which comprises an ineffable communion between the ever-blessed Trinity and the soul of man!
Every faculty of our being was given us that we might render acceptable service to our Maker. When, through sin, we perverted the gifts of God and sold our powers to the prince of darkness, Christ paid a ransom for us, even His own precious blood. “He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them.” You are not to follow the customs of the world. “Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” 5T 542.1
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As the will of man co-operates with the will of God, it becomes omnipotent. Whatever is to be done at His command may be accomplished in His strength. All His biddings are enablings. COL 333.1
God requires the training of the mental faculties. He designs that His servants shall possess more intelligence and clearer discernment than the worldling, and He is displeased with those who are too careless or too indolent to become efficient, well-informed workers. The Lord bids us love Him with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and with all the mind. This lays upon us the obligation of developing the intellect to its fullest capacity, that with all the mind we may know and love our Creator. COL 333.2Read in context »
And the claim to be without sin is, in itself, evidence that he who makes this claim is far from holy. It is because he has no true conception of the infinite purity and holiness of God or of what they must become who shall be in harmony with His character; because he has no true conception of the purity and exalted loveliness of Jesus, and the malignity and evil of sin, that man can regard himself as holy. The greater the distance between himself and Christ, and the more inadequate his conceptions of the divine character and requirements, the more righteous he appears in his own eyes. GC 473.1
The sanctification set forth in the Scriptures embraces the entire being—spirit, soul, and body. Paul prayed for the Thessalonians that their “whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23. Again he writes to believers: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God.” Romans 12:1. In the time of ancient Israel every offering brought as a sacrifice to God was carefully examined. If any defect was discovered in the animal presented, it was refused; for God had commanded that the offering be “without blemish.” So Christians are bidden to present their bodies, “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God.” In order to do this, all their powers must be preserved in the best possible condition. Every practice that weakens physical or mental strength unfits man for the service of his Creator. And will God be pleased with anything less than the best we can offer? Said Christ: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart.” Those who do love God with all the heart will desire to give Him the best service of their life, and they will be constantly seeking to bring every power of their being into harmony with the laws that will promote their ability to do His will. They will not, by the indulgence of appetite or passion, enfeeble or defile the offering which they present to their heavenly Father. GC 473.2Read in context »
The tent was full, and about two hundred persons stood outside the canvas, unable to find room inside. I spoke from the words of Christ in answer to the question of the learned scribe as to which was the great commandment in the law: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” Matthew 22:37. The blessing of God rested upon me, and my pain and feebleness left me. Before me were a people whom I might not meet again until the judgment; and the desire for their salvation led me to speak earnestly and in the fear of God, that I might be free from their blood. Great freedom attended my effort, which occupied one hour and ten minutes. Jesus was my helper, and His name shall have all the glory. The audience was very attentive. 4T 281.1
We returned to Groveland on Tuesday to find the camp breaking up, tents being struck, our brethren saying farewell and ready to step on board the cars to return to their homes. This was one of the best camp meetings I ever attended. Before leaving the ground, Elders Canright and Haskell, my husband, Sister Ings, and I sought a retired place in the grove and united in prayer for the blessing of health and the grace of God to rest more abundantly upon my husband. We all deeply felt the need of my husband's help, when so many urgent calls for preaching were coming in from every direction. This season of prayer was a very precious one, and the sweet peace and joy that settled upon us was our assurance that God heard our petitions. In the afternoon Elder Haskell took us in his carriage, and we started for South Lancaster to rest at his home for a time. We preferred this way of traveling, thinking it would benefit our health. 4T 281.2
We had daily conflicts with the powers of darkness, but we did not yield our faith or become in the least discouraged. My husband, because of disease, was desponding, and Satan's temptations seemed to greatly disturb his mind. But we had no thought of being overcome by the enemy. No less than three times a day we presented his case to the Great Physician, who can heal both soul and body. Every season of prayer was to us very precious; on every occasion we had special manifestations of the light and love of God. While pleading with God in my husband's behalf one evening at Brother Haskell's, the Lord seemed to be among us in very deed. It was a season never to be forgotten. The room seemed to be lighted up with the presence of angels. We praised the Lord with our hearts and voices. One blind sister present said: “Is this a vision? is this heaven?” Our hearts were in such close communion with God that we felt the hallowed hours too sacred to be slept away. We retired to rest; but nearly the entire night was passed in talking and meditating upon the goodness and love of God, and in glorifying Him with rejoicing. 4T 282.1Read in context »