The Whole Law

August 24, 2021

He said to Him, “Which ones?” Jesus said, “You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, honor your father and your mother, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?" (Matthew 19:18-20).

Jesus’ reply to the young man’s question, “Which ones?” was to select the 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 5th Commandments, which constitute the 2nd Great Commandment, you shall love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:37-40). Why these and not the others?

First, the 2nd tablet of the Law (our duty toward men) is not the whole Law of God.

Second, these have to do with physical, personal relationships which can be observed and measured, not with one’s personal relationship to God which cannot be observed and measured. It would take a lot of consistent discipline to say “All these things I have kept from my youth.” Jesus did admire such moral discipline from the young man (Mark 10:21), Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him. . . . However, this did not mean that the young man loved God, as the rest of the story tells us. 

Third, you cannot keep the 2nd tablet of the Law (our duty toward men) perfectly without keeping the 1st tablet of the Law (our duty toward God) perfectly. You cannot be before men what you are not before God. It is in loving God first (Commandments 1-4) that we are enabled and empowered by God to love our fellow man (Commandments 5-10). 

Fourth, the Commandments of God address the true spiritual need of the person for God. Jesus makes that clear in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 - 7). The Commandments are more than an outward, physical demonstration of piety. They spring forth from an inward, spiritual love and relationship with the true and living God.

In all of this man’s religious discipline he reflected a true determination to honor the Law of God to the neglect of his spiritual relationship to God. And that’s a big part of the problem with religious people today - it is the cart before the horse; it is the righteous attempt to be spiritual rather than the spiritual attempt to be righteous. Jesus will point this out in v. 21.

“Lord Jesus, how patient, gracious, kind and compassionate You are to us that You would encourage us to search our heart, mind, and soul to see our true spiritual condition. Well did Your servant David observe, ‘You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom’. So, create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. To Your honor and glory I ask, Amen.”


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