Catechetical sermons preached in PCC Evening Worship Services, Feb 2013 to Dec 2017
WSC 42 of 107
“37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).
WSC 42. What is the sum of the Ten Commandments?
A. The sum of the Ten Commandments is, To love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind; and our neighbour as ourselves.1
1Mt 22:37–40; Mk 12:30–31.
It was a hectic day in the final week of the Lord Jesus’ earthly ministry. He was in Jerusalem for the Passover. He had preached three significant parables: the Parable of the Two Sons, the Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen, and the Parable of the Marriage of the King’s Son.
The unbelieving Jews perceived that He was talking about them. They were the elder brother who had words but no work; they were the wicked husbandmen who refused to pay their rent; they were those who were invited to the wedding but gave many silly excuses and refused to come.
Infuriated, the Jews came, one wave after another, to try to trap the Lord. The Pharisees and the Herodians, who hated one another, ganged up nevertheless and tried to trap the Lord by asking Him whether it was lawful to give tribute unto Caesar. If He said no, He would offend the Herodians and give them reason to apprehend Him. If He said yes, He would offend the Pharisees and give them occasion to discredit Him. But our Lord could not be outsmarted. He gave an answer that simultaneously silenced both the Herodians and the Pharisees.
Then came the Sadducees, the liberals of the day who did not believe in the soul’s existence or that there would be a resurrection. They asked whose wife a woman would be in heaven if she married seven brothers who died one after another. Again, the Lord silenced them by pointing out that there is no marriage in heaven.
Then came a Scribe who was an expert in the Law. Like the rest, he came to tempt the Lord (v. 35). “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” he asked (v. 36).
The Lord’s reply is essentially our text for this evening:
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
The Lord helping us, we want to meditate on these verses in this study. Let’s do so under four heads:
a. Love Summarises the Ten Commandments
b. Obedience without Love is Insincere
c. Vaunting Love without Obedience is Hypocrisy
d. Except we love our neighbour as ourselves, we love not
1. Love Summarises the Ten Commandments
There are three parts to our Lord’s statement. First, when asked what is the Greatest Commandment, He says:
“…Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment” (v. 37-38).
The Lord is, of course, authoritative in everything He says. But we must remember that the Lord came to fulfil the law of God that has already been published in the Old Testament. Therefore, it behoves us to ask: Where do we find this idea He just stated taught in the Old Testament?
Well, if you are familiar with the Old Testament, you will probably turn immediately to Deuteronomy 6, where the Jewish Shema is recorded. Shema means “hear.” It is the first word of Deuteronomy 6:4. Every Jew would have learned the Shema by heart. Undoubtedly, the Scribe would have understood the Lord to be quoting from the Shema. We read in Deuteronomy 6:4-5:
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”
There is a slight difference between what the Lord says and the words of the Shema. But we can overlook that for now. Doubtless, He has the Shema in mind. He regards the greatest commandment to be the command to love God with our whole being, as indicated in the Shema.
But the Lord does not stop there. He adds secondly:
“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (v. 39).
Where is this idea found in the Old Testament? It is actually found in Leviticus 19:18, amid a miscellaneous collection of law statements. It reads:
“Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD” (Lev 19:18).
But now, thirdly, the Lord adds:
 Take note of the three qualifiers. It is interesting to note how the Lord adds “with all thy mind” into the list of qualifiers. The Lord does not really replace “all thy mind” with “all thy might” because in the parallel account in Mark 12:29-30, we are told that the Lord lists four qualifiers – “with all thy heart,” “with all thy understanding,” “with all thy soul” and “with all thy strength.” Matthew records only three.
“On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (v. 40).
This is a profound statement. By this statement, the Lord suggests that all the other commandments found in the Old Testament can be hung on these two commandments. In other words, they can be reduced to, or summarised, by these two commandments: to love God and to love our neighbour.
For example, all the commandments in Leviticus 19 can be reduced to one of them. Leviticus 19:5 can be summarised by the commandment to love God. Leviticus 19:5 reads, “If ye offer a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the LORD, ye shall offer it at your own will”.
On the other hand, Leviticus 19:7 can be summarised by the commandment to love our neighbour. Leviticus 19:7 says, “When ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest.”
But now, if the two great commandments on which all commandments hang are spoken of as the first and second commandments, then surely, the second can hang on the first! Likewise, the Ten Commandments, which summarise God’s Moral Law, can hang on them.
Indeed, if you think about it, you will realise that the Lord Jesus probably had the Ten Commandments in mind when he spoke of the two greatest commandments, for the Ten Commandments can be divided into the same two parts! The first four commandments deal with our relationship with God. They appear to be able to hang directly on the Greatest Commandment, which is to love God with our heart, soul and mind. On the other hand, the last six commandments have to do with our relationship with fellow men. They appear to be able to hang directly on the Second Greatest Commandment, “Love thy neighbour as thyself.”
It is for this reason that our Shorter Catechism, Question 42, teaches us that:
“The sum of the Ten Commandments is, To love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind; and our neighbour as ourselves.”
But the Lord Jesus actually says more than that, for by calling the commandment to love God the greatest commandment and the commandment to love our neighbour the second greatest, the Lord suggests that every commandment may be comprehended under the commandment to love God.
Thus, the Second Greatest Commandment must hang on the Greatest Commandment. Can you picture it in your mind? The Lord appears to be summarising the Ten Commandments in the form of an inverted tree. The root of the Tree is the Greatest Commandment: Love God with all your soul, heart and mind. From the root are five branches. The first four branches are the first four commandments. The fifth branch is the Second Greatest Commandment, which is to love your neighbour as yourself. From this hangs six branches, which correspond to commandments 6 to 10.
If you think about it this way, you will immediately realise that every one of the Ten Commandments can be summarised by the commandment to love God.
- The First Commandment teaches us to love God’s being.
- The Second teaches us to love God’s worship.
- The Third teaches us to love God’s name.
- The Fourth teaches us to love God’s day.
Likewise, the second table may be summarised by the commandment to love our neighbour, which can be summarised by the Greatest Commandment. We must love our neighbour in order to love God because God commands us to love our neighbour.
- Thus, the Fifth Commandment teaches us to love our neighbour in regard to his position in life, or we may say, to love God’s appointment for our neighbour.
- The Sixth teaches us to love our neighbour in regard to his life, or we may say, to love God’s image in our neighbour.
- The Seventh teaches us to love our neighbour respecting his chastity, or we may say, to love God’s purity in our neighbour.
- The Eighth teaches us to love our neighbour in regard to his possession, or we may say, to love God’s apportionment to our neighbour.
- The Ninth teaches us to love our neighbour’s good name, or we may say to love God’s truth relative to our neighbour.
- The Tenth teaches us to love our neighbour regarding their present estate, or we may say, to love God’s providence in our neighbour’s life.
Can you see how love summarises the Ten Commandments?
But if this is true, then by necessary consequence, our second proposition must be true, namely:
2. Obedience Without Love Is Insincere
You see, if all the commandments can be reduced to loving God and our neighbour, then it must follow that any attempt to obey the commandments without loving God or our neighbour would be incomplete and insincere.
This is remarkable, isn’t it? One can keep or at least attempt to keep the commandments for various reasons.
- You can keep the commandments because it seems profitable to do so. For example, you can’t marry the pastor’s daughter if you don’t.
- You can keep the commandments out of fear of man because it is expected of you.
- You can keep the commandments out of a sense of duty just because it is commanded us.
- You can keep the commandments out of fear and self-preservation because failure to obey will incur God’s wrath.
- You can also keep the commandments out of a desire for reward because you believe that God will bless you only if you keep His commandments.
But all these reasons are, at best, incomplete, and at worst, sinful. Indeed, these reasons would lead to legalism. Obedience out of fear of man; obedience for the sake of obedience; obedience to keep God’s wrath at bay; obedience to get a payment from God: All these are legalistic obedience.
If the love of God is the greatest commandment, then it is clear that without love, such obedience is not acceptable to God.
Ultimately, the only acceptable basis for obedience is love, even wholehearted love—with all our heart, soul and mind.
What does it mean to love God with all our hearts? The heart is the core of our being. Solomon says: “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Prov:23). Therefore, to love the Lord with all our heart is to love him completely, sincerely, undividedly and wholeheartedly (cf. Ps 119:2). It is to be willing to give up everything which competes with our affection for the Lord.
What is it to love God with all our souls? The soul is the life of the person. Therefore, to love God with all our souls is to love God to the point of being willing to lay down our life to serve Him or to live for Him. It is to be willing to die for the honour of His name.
What about loving God with all our minds? This surely refers to loving God purposefully, with every thought held captive to the service of God’s glory. It is to have such a regard for God that His will supersedes our own inclination and thinking.
In short, obedience to God’s law for any other reason than out of love for God is insincere and unacceptable in the sight of God. But can any of us keep the law of God out of perfect love? Of course not. If you are unconverted, you are still dead in sin and trespasses. If you are converted, you have a remnant of corruption in you. Even the most mature believer will obey with a mixture of love and selfish reasons. The disciples of the Lord, for example, clearly loved the Lord, and yet, they had a degree of legalistic attitude. Remember how they asked the Lord what they would receive, seeing that they gave up everything to follow Him?
 Wisdom says in Proverbs 8:35-36─ “For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the LORD. 36 But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.” Notice how hating one’s soul is the same as loving death.
The Lord did not condemn them, but gently sought to steer them in the right direction. He tells them that they would indeed be rewarded, but they would also have persecution. He tells them that the last shall be first. He tells them He would die for their sin.
Thank God for the Lord Jesus Christ, who alone can love God perfectly, and, therefore, keep God’s law with perfect love! And thank God for the Spirit who dwells in us and enables us to love God sincerely so that our obedience, though tainted with sin, can be acceptable in the sight of God.
But if we cannot keep God’s law out of perfect love, why don’t we just love God without trying to keep the law? We are, after all, under grace, not under the law!
To answer that, let us be clear thirdly that …
3. Vaunting Love Without Obedience Is Hypocrisy
To vaunt is to boast. Almost every Christian claims to love God. Some will even loudly proclaim their love for God.
- The athlete just won the race in the finals held on Sunday. He throws up his hands and says: “Thank You Jesus, I love you.”
- Some will shed copious tears as they sing, “I love you, Jesus. I love you, Jesus, deep, deep, down in my heart.”
- Some cannot look at a picture of Christ without deep emotions welling up from the bottom of the heart.
What is this emotion? Surely, this is love in its purity.
Of course not! How the Lord ties love with the Commandments suggests that love cannot be divorced from obedience. Besides, the Lord Himself says, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15). And did not John say, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments” (1 Jn 5:3). In other words, loving God means keeping His commandments. So it is clear: If we love God, we must keep His commandments.
This makes sense, doesn’t it? If you claim to love your dad, but you care not for his wishes, then clearly, you don’t really love him.
Thus, love without obedience is hypocritical. Vaunting love with obedience is crass hypocrisy.
But obedience to what? Someone may say, “I love God, and I keep His commandments,” yet disregard the Ten Commandments. We ask him, “Why? Aren’t you being hypocritical?” He says, “No, I just don’t believe that the Ten Commandments is for Christians. Christians are under grace, not under the law. We only have one commandment, namely the new commandment to love one another.”
But how do we love one another? Is loving one another merely a feeling? Clearly not. If loving someone does not involve doing something for the person, what kind of love is that? But if you have to do something, then what should you do?
Well, the answers to these questions resolve themselves as soon as we remember that the Lord is summarising the Ten Commandments when He teaches us that we are to love God with all our heart, soul and mind; and we are to love our neighbour as ourselves.
The fact is: Unless we keep God’s commandments as summarised in the Ten Commandments, we cannot claim to love him.
- So the syncretist who says, “I love Jesus as much as I love Mohamed,” is being a hypocrite, for he is violating the First Commandment even as his words come out of his lips.
- So, the guitarist in the Charismatic Church may sincerely contribute to the worship service. He may sincerely believe he is doing what he does out of love for God, but his service is hypocrisy, for it is against the Second Commandment.
- So, the preacher who swears a string of profanity and then loudly proclaims his love for Christ is parading his hypocrisy.
- So, the runner who wins the race on Sunday and then thanks Jesus for giving him strength to win the race is also a hypocrite, however sincere he may be.
- So the man who says he loves God and then withholds support for his parents because he intends to give the amount to the church is really a hypocrite.
- So, the woman who claims to love God but oppresses her domestic helper is really being hypocritical, for she is violating the Sixth commandment.
- So, the man who claims to love the woman he is committing adultery with is being a hypocrite because he is heaping God’s wrath not only upon himself, but upon the woman he claims to love by his violation of the Seventh Commandment.
- So, the man who manipulates the church accounts to throw the auditors off track is really a hypocrite. He may claim he does so out of love for the Lord so that the Lord’s money is protected from taxes, but in violating the Eighth Commandment, he indicates his hatred for the Lord and His laws.
- So, the woman who tells a lie for her church mate so that she would not get into trouble, far from loving her, is exhibiting hatred for God by disregarding the Ninth Commandment.
- So the man who claims he loves God only and has no love for money, but would only return to worship the Lord when the Lord has made him rich is simply a hypocrite, plain and simple.
Remember: Vaunting love without obedience is plain hypocrisy.
But finally, let us understand that …
4. Except We Love Our Neighbour as Ourselves, We Love Not
The Lord Jesus says the second greatest commandment is “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
Who is our neighbour? The Lord was once asked this question by an expert of the Law (Lk 10:29). How did He answer? Well, he did not answer directly. Instead, He told the Parable of the Good Samaritan and urged the lawyer to be like the good Samaritan. In other words, we should not be asking whether a person is our neighbour so that we may know whether we should do good to him. Instead, we should be neighbours to anyone who needs help, and it is within our capacity to help. In other words, our neighbour is anyone who can benefit from our help.
But what does it mean to love our neighbour as ourselves?
We all know how to love ourselves. We do so automatically. We eat when we feel hungry; we drink when we feel thirsty; we rest when we feel tired; we dress ourselves to look presentable; we pamper ourselves with luxuries. “No man ever hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it,” says the apostle Paul (Eph. 5:29).
So what is it to love our neighbour as ourselves? Clearly, it is to love our neighbour as truly and sincerely as we love ourselves. It is to seek to be aware of our neighbour’s need and to fulfil it when it is within our capacity.
Of course, there is no way for us to love our neighbour as profoundly as we love ourselves because we are constantly aware of our own needs, whereas our awareness of our neighbour’s needs is limited by contact and by what information is conveyed to us.
In any case, what the Lord is suggesting is that unless we love our neighbour as ourselves, we do not love them at all.
Who is the supreme example for us to imitate? Clearly, it is the Lord Jesus Christ who laid down His life for us even while we were yet the enemies of God.
His love is unconditional. His love is a perfect example for us to imitate. The apostle John says:
“Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 Jn 3:16).
Conversely, John also says:
“If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1Jn 4:20 -21).
Can you see how these words relate to the Lord’s answer we have been considering? The fact is that the second greatest commandment hangs on the greatest commandment. So we cannot claim to love God if we do not love our neighbour as ourselves. We cannot love our neighbours as ourselves unless we know the second table of the Ten Commandments and seek to keep them out of love for God.
The doctrine that is derived from our text is the basis of Question 42 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism:
“WSC 42. What is the sum of the Ten Commandments?
A. The sum of the Ten Commandments is, To love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind; and our neighbour as ourselves.”
We have seen how this answer is part of our Lord’s answer to the Scribe who asked Him which is the greatest commandment.
We have also seen how we may derive four principles from our Lord’s answer:
a. Love Summarises the Ten Commandments
b. Obedience without Love is Insincere
c. Vaunting Love without Obedience is Hypocrisy
d. Except we love our neighbour as ourselves, we love not
These are also the implications of the doctrine contained in Question 42. But what shall we do with these implications?
Well, we have already touched on some of the applications along the way. But let me highlight just three things.
First, let us remember we cannot love God without obedience nor obey God without love. None who refuses to keep God’s commandment can claim to love him. No one who keeps the Lord’s commandment for any reason other than love and gratitude can expect God to be pleased with him.
Therefore, let us seek both to know the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s grace to walk with Him. It seems so difficult, but it is difficult, nay impossible ONLY if we seek to walk according to our own wisdom and power. If we live by the power of the resurrection, we shall be able to do all things through Him who strengthens us. Let us, therefore, daily seek the grace of the Lord to please Him and to enjoy Him in the way that He has appointed for us.
Secondly, “let us not be weary in well doing…let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Gal 6:9-10). Let us remember that none who loves not the brethren can claim to love God. And loving the brethren involves seeking to be aware of their needs and seeking to fulfil them so that we may be said to love our neighbour as we love ourselves.
Thirdly, let us meditate on the wisdom and goodness of Christ and let our hearts be filled with awe and gratitude towards Him.
It is Christ who teaches us that the summary of the Ten Commandments is love. Had he not done so, we would think that mere outward conformity is all that is required.
Christ shows us how to keep the commandments and how to love. He shows us that it is possible to keep the law perfectly and to love perfectly. He was tempted like as we are, yet without sin. He conformed to the law of God perfectly. And he loved Father perfectly in His heart, soul and mind. He shows us how to love one another by laying down His life for us.
Christ also fulfilled the demands of the Law on our behalf. He was made under the law to keep the law on our behalf. He died on the Cross for us to pay the penalty due to our sins.
Christ teaches us the meaning of the commandments. He shows us how to keep them and pays for our failures while keeping them on our behalf. If our hearts are not filled with gratitude and love towards Him for what He has done for us, then we must be heartless. Oh, may we respond to His love by imitating Him and loving Him by obeying Him. Amen.