Luke 10:25-28 (NIV) On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
Not all Pharisees and teachers of the law were closed to understanding who God is and what He requires of His people. In the crowd that day was one who was legitimately interested in what Jesus had to say about how a person could inherit eternal life.
This teacher of the law, when questioned by Jesus about what the Scriptures said, correctly identified the two commandments in the Torah that Jesus Himself said were the two greatest (Matthew 22:34-40), the two commandments that, if integrated fully into a person’s heart and life, would enable fulfillment of all the rest. Those two are an all-consuming love for God that takes up every facet of a person’s life, and a love for others that motivates caring for them and meeting their needs as fully and as naturally as we care for ourselves and as we meet our own needs.
The basis for those two commandments being at the core of the lives of God’s people, and of enabling us to keep all of the other commandments through them is this: if a person loves God with all of their heart, with all of their soul, with all of their strength, and with all of their mind, then there is nothing on earth that will be able to move that person to rebel against God’s authority and sin against Him. And if that person loves their neighbor in the same way and to the same degree that they love themselves, there is nothing on earth that will be able to move them to sin against their neighbor. Paul takes this latter commandment to its fullest expression when he concludes that “love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:9-10)
Some might see this as legalism, focusing on “works of the law” instead of on faith in Jesus as the basis of eternal life. But the fact is, these words are from Jesus’ own lips, and are not just for the pre-resurrection dispensation. However, anyone who tries to love God with that kind of all-consuming love, and to love their neighbor with the same effective love with which they care for their own needs, will quickly find that there is no way for them to accomplish it in their own strength. It is only those receive a clean slate and a fresh start through faith in Jesus, and who have the Holy Spirit working unhindered in their lives who can love like that. It is not a matter of salvation by faith versus salvation by works. It is a matter of holy living enabled by saving faith.
Father, thank You for helping me to see how all of this fits together. It really is quite simple when we see all of the pieces hooked together. Now, Lord, help me to fully live out those truths in my day-to-day life, not by my own inadequate strength, but through the power of Your Spirit working through me. Amen.