But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 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. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
There is much to meditate upon involving these verses. What I would like to search out at this time is, “love” in them. As it has been written in Greek here, the word for love is “agape.” Hence, what does “agape love” really mean?
These are commandments. But how can the Lord command us to love? Is love not a feeling? Can feelings be commanded? How can this be?
“Agape” is a noun and “agapao” is its verb, which is Greek. The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon says the following about both.
Agapao, NAS Word Usage in the New Testament- Total: 143 times
beloved 8, felt a love for 1, love 1, love 75, loved 38, loves 20
Agape, NAS Word Usage in the New Testament - Total: 116 times
beloved 1, love 1, love 112, love feasts 1, love's 1
The definition from Strong’s says: perhaps from agan (much) [or compare <H5689> (`agab)]; to love (in a social or moral sense) :- (be-) love (-ed).
The truth about “agape love” is that most Bible dictionaries and lexicons do not do it justice.
We know that it is “a godly love.” The kind of love that is of God. It is the first fruit listed in Galatians 5:22-23.
We know from 1 Corinthians 13, that it is “the highest level of love” and without it, nothing else matters.
We could be the most gifted, the most knowledgeable or even do the most righteous deeds, even laying down our own lives for the poor, and without agape love, it is meaningless.
So what really is “this most important love” and how do we get it?
We can see it is a fruit of the Spirit. So He has it. We can see that this is the love listed in John 3:16. So God has “agape love for us” enough to send Jesus to make a way for our salvation.
We see it in our text verses, where Jesus, in His use of the Greek language, spoke it in Matthew 23:37, referencing Deuteronomy 6:5.
A lawyer of the Pharisees had asked Jesus "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" (Matthew 22:36). But in the reply of Jesus, He answered referencing two Scriptures and an explanation. Next Jesus said, “And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself'” (Matthew 22:39) and then followed it with an explanation, “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 22:40).
Jesus was referencing
I think we can all understand that if we would do right by God and our fellow man, in the manner the Lord has commanded, that we would not err or sin.
This is the same love word as in:
And also in
This is powerful. This is the dividing line between those who call themselves Christians and those who really are.
This is akin to the forgiveness verses. God has forgiven us a great debt and if we refuse to forgive others, then our forgiveness is cancelled (Matthew 6:14-15, 18:35, Mark 11:25-26). The Lord has said that if He extends us such great mercy, who are we to withhold it from another human? And that by comparison, we are forgiven so huge, and with another human, it so much smaller in comparison. This is a pale example, but what if we gave one of our adult children one million dollars, as a free gift. And his neighbor was in desperate need of 10 dollars, and he was asked to help and refused, so that he could hang on those ten, and the other 999,990 dollars. The Giver of all, Who owns it all, says this type of behavior is unacceptable. He rules. And He is also fair.
If we demand accountability of others to God, then by default, we must be accountable too. And with God, we all need the righteousness of Jesus, for we cannot save ourselves. And if we accept the love of God, but refuse to share it, then we put ourselves on the wrong side of God. We cannot eat from the Lord’s table of goodness and not share it with others. He will not have it.
So God chooses to love us, and says we are to love others with the same agape love and that if we do not, then we do not know Him. And for certain, on the day of judgment, we would hear,
We can say we believe, but obviously, if we have not love, then we are not really believing in the true life-changing way the Lord wants for us.
How could we accept such huge love, grace and forgiveness from God and be too stingy to pass it on? We would really have to think we are something and that His love and grace for us is not much. It is obviously possible to talk the talk, but not really be with His program.
We must realize that agape love is not a feeling. Agape love is a choice. If you choose to love in a hard case (an enemy or someone that in the natural you feel is undeserving) then you are doing right, feeling or not.
In researching for this message, I came across a great definition of agape love in someone’s message. They said it means, “to show preference to,” but I think “to give preference to” is more correct. With much research, I think they must have found the Helps Study of the Discovery Bible which says the following:
agapáō – properly, to prefer, to love; for the believer, preferring to "live through Christ" (1 Jn 4:9,10), i.e. embracing God's will (choosing His choices) and obeying them through His power. 25 (agapáō) preeminently refers to what God prefers as He "is love" (1 Jn 4:8,16). See 26 (agapē).
There may be similar definitions in the world, but this is the only I know of, that says it so clearly.
Jesus and the Father, saw our need and chose to sacrifice their own comfort, feelings and needs for our sakes. It was the most expensive choice ever made.
Even on the cross, Jesus was choosing to love. He “loved” the thief next to Him who came to repentance, and Jesus cried out for mercy for those who treated Him cruelly, even those unto death, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
I have spent many years loving some people who have repeatedly done me wrong. In this situation, many people have said to me, how can you do it? I can most honestly tell you, it is because of Jesus. But for Him, I would have shook the dust from my feet and let them hang their own selves. But I have chosen to love them anyhow and not allow hate to have its way. I am the winner. They are bound by hate and ugliness and I am free. And I pray they will wake up from the lies of the devil (I say this all humbly, believe me, I learned it the hard way, and God’s way is the best).
All of it, is only possible with God. If emotions happen to line up with agape love choice, great. If not, just do it with your love to God, in honoring what He commanded of us. If we want to go to heaven, then we must follow Jesus all the way. This is what the Lord who owns heaven and earth has done and this is what He expects of us.
The message that I found that really helped me and might bless you also, can be found at https://www.compellingtruth.org/agape-love.html.
For comparative analysis and meditation, each section of verses in the KJV and then the NIV2011.
Matthew 22:34-40 (KJV) But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 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. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Matthew 22:34-40 (NIV2011) Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Mark 12:28-31 (KJV) And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:28-31 (NIV2011) One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”