The Second Greatest Commandment

September 15, 2013
Joshua Adams
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The Second Greatest Commandment

A few weeks ago, I taught on the first greatest commandment at a Bible study.

Last night, I held a study and we revisited the same passage to look over the second greatest commandment. Then, much to my surprise, service this morning was on this exact topic, covering many of the same points and using many of the same scriptures. Speaking with someone from another church this evening, I found out that was their topic as well. It is one thing I’ve noticed over the years, that many times the SAME theme is taught by various teachers and churches… at the same time, with no coordination or planning. May it be that the Lord sometimes gives the same word to a people or area? Another topic for another day, I suppose!

Let’s give the passage that contains both the first and second greatest commandments a read, shall we?

Matthew 22:36-40

36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

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.

(also see it mirrored in Mark 12:29-33)


While the first and greatest commandment sets the foundation for how man is to live his life vertically, Godwards; the second sets the foundation for how man is to life his life horizontally, towards other men. So in one passage, we get two simple rules that sum up for the Christian how to live their lives both vertically and horizontally… toward God and toward men.

Christ gives us a single command that creates the heart that only naturally follows the rest of the commandments. I really love this… so I’ll say it again. Christ gives us a single command that creates the heart that only naturally follows the rest of the commandments.

So many of us try to change our attitudes or habits or actions or speech or whatever we feel is lacking in our Christian walk, but without dealing with the root of our problem, anything we change can be quite short lived. If there was one thing I’d ask the Lord for, it would be to create in me a deeper, more pure love for Him, for His people and for all those around me. Why? Because I know this is the root of any lack I have in living as a Christian should.

It makes it all so simple. The best approach to any problem is to seek out the root and fix the root.

My father owned a nursery (along with a landscaping business) and we grew up working with plants. If a plant was dying, you would typically look to the roots first. If it needed water, the water was applied to the roots, if it needed fertilizer, it was applied to the roots. If there was a problem with the roots, no matter what we did to the rest of the plant, it would die.

If you are sick, it’s best to find out what is causing the symptoms and treat that, rather than just treating the symptoms. I had a terrible wheat allergy and I kept treating the itching, the upset stomach and the fatigue, but the problem didn’t go away until I found the root of the issue and addressed it. Once I cut eating wheat out of my diet, the symptoms went away naturally.

This truth applies directly to what Jesus is telling us in this passage. Jesus is saying that the root, the foundation of how we should act, can be made whole up by putting focus and attention on one key element. Our love.

This second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. Love those around you.

If I love you, I won’t steal from you. If I love you, I won’t kill you. If I love you, I will encourage you, respect you and speak kindly to you. If I love you I will give, if I love you I will help, if I love you I will serve. If I love you I will give you the Gospel. If I love you I will reprove you with meekness. If I love you I will encourage you.

The scriptures are full of references to the importance of loving those around us. Let’s jump over to John real quick.

John 15:9-17

As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.

10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.

11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.

12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.

13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.


We are commanded to love one another! It is not suggested… it is not a “minor” commandment or side note. It is a foundation commandment. Let me put it this way… it’s where we start if we have trouble with the other commandments.

Also, take a look at the caliber of the love we are told to have. Whoa. That’s right. It says to love each other as Christ loved us. And how much did Christ love us? He laid down His life for us. A little bit humbling, huh?

If we also jump back and take a look at the first passage I shared, we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. It’s pretty clear that we aren’t to just kinda-sorta love people when we feel like it and in the ways we feel like it. Ya’know, like maybe just on Sundays, right? Or how about Sundays and Thursdays? Yea, we can limit our love to those days. And maybe we could just limit our loving to saying some nice things to a few random people.

Not so. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves, and even more… to love as Christ loved.


Love is the uniform of the Christian

Our love is how people around us are to KNOW we are Christ’s disciples. Our greatest testimony is our love for one another.

The World needs to see our love. Other Christians need to see our love.

John 13:34-35

34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.


Without love, what exactly are we showing the world? Without love, how are we different? When they look at us, they should see that uniform, the uniform of love.

Imagine what would happen if you were in a war and had no way to tell your squad members apart, no identifying mark, no uniform. And imagine if the very people you were sent to help, didn’t know who you were either… and in fact, you looked like like others who had come to kill them or harm them! But, what if you donned a uniform that set you apart, that made people wonder… “hm, they are different, maybe we should pay attention to those people.”

And what if that uniform was love and people started to notice that you and I had it where the world, for the most part, lacked it. What if they started noticing how kind we are, how giving we are, how helpful we are and so on. What if people stopped for a moment and said… “I want what they have.”?

Just the other day I was picking up a takeout of wings and was talking to the lady at the counter while I paid. I made some jokes and generally had a good time, but I went out of my way to make her smile and wished her a wonderful day. On my way out, one of the waitresses (who had been wearing an incredibly deep scowl) turned around and shouted out, “I want a cup of the happiness he’s got!!”, and oh, how I wish I would have invited her to church or given her a tract or shared the gospel or something! I just smiled and rushed out to my meeting over at the church. My point is this… people notice when you are kind because this world we live in is not kind. People notice when we are generous and truthful and honest and compassionate and joyful… because by and large, the world really is not like that.

So are we wearing the uniform of the Christian? Because Jesus said “by this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another”!


The most precious fruit

Love is the most precious and most important fruit a Christian can have. In Corinthians we are told that we can have every other gift, every other fruit… but without love, we are nothing.

I Corinthians 13:1-13

1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.


No matter how learned we become in the scriptures, no matter what gifts we have and no matter what faith we have… it is all worthless if we do not have love. The Word is clear in that no matter who we are, what we have done that seems incredible or amazing, if we do not act and live out of love, then we are nothing.

Oh, how many times in my past I’ve been so focused on everything else in the walk that I lost sight of this. How many times I focused on all the does and don’ts. But those things come after love… because, and I’ll say it again, Christ gives us a single command that creates the heart that only naturally follows the rest of the commandments.

Keep in mind that this does not negate the other commands and the rest of scripture as some might want us to believe. The passage above does not say “forget about all these other things, just go get love.” Actually, it says that without love, the other good things are worthless. I have to make this note, because there are those who would say that as long as we love everyone, we needn’t worry about anything else, which is simply not true.


So who do we love?

Great, so we know we are to love. Awesome. I can love most people… but surely God doesn’t want me to love EVERYONE? I mean, there are definitely people who are don’t deserve to be loved, people who are cruel and nasty to us or just downright rude? Maybe people who have betrayed us or hurt us? Surely, God would not ask us to love them?

Wrong! Who are we to choose who gets to be loved? Who are we to choose who is unlovable? God has told us to love as He loves and He loves unconditionally. We are told to love our enemies, those that hurt us, hate us and use us. Talk about a challenge! This one has been something I’ve been convicted of recently. There are some people who I have had to forgive and love that is quite hard for me… people who have hurt me and used me. But I don’t get to pick and choose what parts of the Word I obey and so I’ve spent much time in prayer, and praise the Lord, He has given me the rest and the strength to love them too.

Some of the most hated people, some of the most despised and lowly people were the publicans (tax collectors), yet we were told to love them too!

Matthew 5:43-47

43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

(see the mirror in Luke 6:27-35)


So let’s apply this now.

In I John we are told that we are to love in more than word… but in deed! Who cares if you say you love them. That means nothing. But if you show them in deed, that’s when people believe. A man can tell his wife he loves her everyday, but if he never shows that love, what do those words mean?

If I walk up to my brother and tell him I love him every single day… but I also steal money from his wallet occasionally, do you think he will believe that I love him? If I tell my sister that I love her every day, but I never spend any time with her, never say anything kind to her and never encourage her… do you think she will believe that I love her? If I tell you that I love you once… then never talk to you again, do you believe me? If I tell a random person on the street and never do any harm to them, but also never do anything positive either… will they believe me? No, they wont!!

Take a look at the scripture below. We are to take this from word to deed. Act upon it!

1 John 3:11-23

11 For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.

12 Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.

13 Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.

14 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.

15 Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.

16 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.

17 But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?

18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

19 And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.

20 For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.

21 Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.

22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.

23 And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.


I’d like to make mention of something my pastor said this morning. In many other religions and philosophies, we see a similar truth to the “Golden Rule”, but everywhere it is written outside of scripture, it speaks of NOT doing something bad to someone else because we don’t want them to do it to us… however in Matthew 7:12 it tells us to DO those things that we want people to DO to us. That’s a positive statement! That is a proactive statement. It doesn’t just mean don’t do bad things… it means to actively go do good things to and for people.

So let’s apply!


So are we showing love?

So what about us? Do our deeds show our love? Do the people around us know we are Christ’s because of the overwhelming love we show to those around us?

Do we have love for those closest to us? Great! Do we have love for everyone else? What about those that hate us? Those that use us?

Makes you think about how you live your life, doesn’t it?

Remember that Christ gives us a single command that creates the heart that only naturally follows the rest of the commandments.

In closing, look at this awesome encouragement from Paul to Philemon. Paul was proud of his brother, in that Philemon’s love for the saints refreshed their bowels (their hearts). It encouraged them. I pray that my love would encourage the people of God!! And I pray that your love would do the same, dear Christian.

Philemon 1:4-7

I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers, Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints; That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother.


More verses on the subject of love!

Romans 13:8 -  Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.

Galations 5:13-14 – For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Galations 5:22-23 -  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Ephesains 4:2 - I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;

Ephesians 4:15 - But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

Ephesians 5:1-2 - Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. (goes on to talk about all the things we shouldn’t do… amazing that all those things are just to be replaced with love)

Colossians 1:3-4 - We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, (Paul is rejoicing in that the people at Colosse are known for their love!)

I Thessalonians 3:12 - And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you:

I Timothy 6:11 - But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. (Paul wrote this to Timothy, a young “pastor”)

2 Timothy 1:7 - For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

James 2:8 - If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:

1 Peter 2:17 -  Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.

1 Peter 3:8 - Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:

1 John 2:10 - He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.

1 John 4:7-8 - Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

1 John 4:11-12 - Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

1 John 4:16 - And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.

1 John 4:20-21 - 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? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

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