Truth Taught- We are called to love God with all our heart
and our neighbor as ourselves
For the last 5 weeks or so we’ve been looking at the false interpretations of God’s Law by the Scribes and Pharisee of ancient Judaism. Literally, how these apostate Jewish leaders had so mishandled and twisted God’s Word for their own benefit that what God had intended as a real benefit to others had been all but lost. They were apostate and had drifted away from God and His Law.
In order to not be bound by God’s overarching desire that His people are loving and kind toward all people they took a verse from the Old Testament that was written with the Nation of Israel in mind and applied it too narrowly and reduced the strength of the love they were to show. Here, the issue was in both understanding God’s desire and a faulty application.
Matthew 5:43–48 (ESV)
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
1. The Jewish Tradition: Hate Your Enemies
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
Matthew 22:34–40 (ESV)
34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Here, Jesus is not referring to the Ten Commandments but other commands found in God’s Law and ranks these two as first in importance. It’s important to notice that both have love as their emphasis. Love God supremely and love your neighbor as yourself.
Deuteronomy 6:5 (ESV)
5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
Leviticus 19:18 (ESV)
18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
What did these lost religious bible interpreters do with God’s perfect Law? They twisted it again for their own use. It went something like this…
Since Leviticus 19:18 strictly tells me I’m to love my neighbor and my neighbors are all my fellow Jews then it must be okay to not love other people. Now, if I don’t love other people who are not Jewish like I am then it must also be okay to hate them.
Believe it or not, this is exactly what the Rabbis taught the people. Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. Their enemy was made up of all Gentiles whom they hated. They taught others to love your fellow Jews and hate everyone else. They reached their faulty conclusion from God’s Word by twisting and narrowing it’s meaning.
So, the Scribes and Pharisees interpreted God’s Word too narrowly and they did something else that we very convenient. They left out something found in the original Leviticus passage… love your neighbor as yourself
Do you see how they also diminished the power of the type of love they were to show their neighbors. To love someone as you love yourself is a fairly strong love isn’t it? The reality is that we probably love ourselves too much and our neighbor too little. But for them, they just happened to not teach that part. Do you see the danger here in twisting and leaving parts out of God’s Word?
2. God’s Command: Love Your Enemies
44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
Does God really endorse hating all who are not of Jewish descent? God’s love is not bound to any ethnic group but God loves people from all ethnicities.
Revelation 5:9 (ESV)
9 And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
Revelation 7:9–10 (ESV)
9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
God cares for other people besides those who are Jewish. He also loves Gentiles as well. This is not just a New Testament idea but also is found many places in the Old Testament. The command to leave the edges of the field unharvested were for the poor and the foreigners. Sanctuary cities were a safe place for the foreigner. Even the Temple itself was built to draw in others from the nations to worship God.
Isaiah 56:6–7 (ESV)
6 “And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,
and to be his servants,
everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it,
and holds fast my covenant—
7 these I will bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
for all peoples.”
Proverbs 25:21, “If your enemy is hungry, do…what?…feed him. If he’s thirsty, give him water to drink. And, O by the way, the Lord will reward you.” That’s Proverbs 25:21-22. Well that’s the Old Testament. The Old Testament is love your neighbor and your neighbor includes your enemy. All right, so you’ve got tradition in Jesus time. Love your neighbor and your neighbor is this very, very narrow group of people that you prefer and hate your enemy. That’s tradition. Old Testament teaching, love your neighbor and your neighbor means everybody, including your enemy.
The Pharisees had the wrong idea as to who their enemies were. People of other ethnicities are not your enemies simply because their look differently than you do. An enemy is someone who persecutes you and is out to get you often desiring to physically harm you in some way. These people are your enemies. An enemy hates you. That’s the issue here. They hate you and the natural response is to hate them back, to get even. God says, No!
Notice, God doesn’t say hate them but love them. Beloved is it really possible, as Christians, to love someone who hates you? This can only take place if the Holy Spirit is living within us.
Now, let’s look at the kind of love we are to show those who hate us and who persecute us. The love God shows them is a good indicator as to the type of love we are to show them.
For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
In many ways God is benevolent to His enemies. They have experienced many general blessings from God whom they hate. He causes them to receive the rain like He sends upon His own people. The Lost have food to eat and houses to live in. They have most everything that His own people have while on this earth. John Calvin called this dynamic, common grace. That’s the grace God shows to even those people who will never love Him back. God’s enemies are not loved, however, with the same eternal love He has for the elect. This is how we too are to love our enemies. We are to show them kindness, pray for them and show them benevolence as well. Yet, there is a love that I have for my wife, family, and church that I don’t have for my enemies. Jesus is not saying to love your enemy life you love your wife and children.
Proverbs 25:21 (ESV)
21 If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat,
and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink,
3. Loving Your Enemy Shows That You’re Becoming Like Your Heavenly Father
46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
A. Sinners love people who love them
46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
We are not becoming like our Heavenly Father if we only love others who love us.
Fallen man is not incapable of loving. The doctrine of Total Depravity does not mean that original sin has not made sinful mankind incapable of any good but that every good that is done by fallen man is tainted with sin and evil. Love is no different. It is extreme self-centered love at best. If you love me then I will love you.
That’s the cry of fallen man. I’ll be good to you if you’re nice to me.
Jesus tells us that even those seen as great sinners such as Tax Collectors practice that sort of love.
B. Christians love people who do not love them
48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Like God who shows kindness to the lost in many ways we too are to show the same kindness to our enemies. This love is in itself extraordinary. Why would anyone show love to someone who hates them and wants to do them harm? Why would an army ever bring in food and water to their enemy the day before a great battle? Why would they do this? The truth is they wouldn’t. Yet, this is exactly the love we are to show those who hate us. The reason is straightforward and simple, this is what God does and this is what He commands His followers to do.
The translation that we have is somewhat misleading. The word perfect does not mean perfection or sinlessness but comes from the Greek word which means complete or full. So, what our Lord is telling us is that as believers given a new heart and being made into His image we are to possess the same type of extraordinary love that God shows to His enemies. This is the fullness or the completion of real love. This greatly surpasses the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.
4. God’s Ultimate Love for His Own
The love of God as manifested in common grace is the love of God as creator which consists of providential kindness, mercy, and longsuffering. It is an indiscriminate and universal love which constrains to the bestowing of all physical and spiritual benefits short of salvation itself. It is received and experienced by the elect and non-elect alike (see Matt. 5:43-48; Luke 6:27-38).
The love of God as manifested in special grace is the love of God as savior, which consists of redemption, the efficacy of regenerating grace, and the irrevocable possession of eternal life. It is a discriminate and particular love that leads him to bestow the grace of eternal life in Christ. It is received and experienced by the elect only.
Like grace, the saving love of God is undeserved. This is but to say that the love of God for sinners, which issues in their salvation, finds no obstacle in their sin. God loves us while we were yet sinners precisely in order that the glory of His love might be supremely magnified. It was when we were still “powerless” that “Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6). Again, Paul stressed that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8; cf. Deut. 7:6-8). Consequently, the sole cause of God’s saving love for sinners is God Himself!
There is absolutely nothing found in us that would cause God to love us. We did not merit this love in any way.
1 John 4:9–10 (ESV)
9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Here is what the Bible tells us about God’s magnificent love…
Before time began and before anything was created including any people, in eternity past God had already set His love upon those whom He would save to be His and to be the possession of His Son.
Ephesians 1:4–6 (ESV)
4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
Paul tells us that it is God’s love that motivated God to select or predestine some for adoption as sons and daughters through the shed blood of Jesus. It was God’s will to do so. Why did His love compel Him to save those chosen before the foundation of the world? So that those whom He chose and saved would praise God for His glorious grace.
This special saving love is what took Jesus to the cross. Jesus died because God had set His love upon you and to save you took His Son’s life. Jesus died so we would live. This is Sovereign Eternal Love. The love that far exceeds any other.
“Behold the amazing gift of love
The Father hath bestowed,
On us the sinful sons of men,
To call us sons of God!” (Isaac Watts)
Matthew by D A Carson in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary
A Theology of Matthew by Charles Quarles
A Gospel of Matthew by France
Matthew by Craig Bloomberg
Matthew by Doriani
Matthew by Charles Price
Matthew by Leon Morris
Blue Letter Bible