The Hermeneutic of Love

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As I read and study the Bible, I am convinced that the two most important verses in all the Bible are found in Matthew 22.

In this chapter, the religious leaders of the day were continuously trying to trap Jesus in order that they might have Him arrested. The Pharisees and the Sadducees took turns trying to trick Jesus by offering seemingly unresolvable moral and ethical dilemmas that would pit God’s rule against the rule of man. It is in this context, after failing once already, and having “heard that he had silenced the Sadducees” a lawyer from within the ranks of the Pharisees asked the following question: “Which is the great commandment in the Law?

The Law of Love in the Old Testament

Jesus responds by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5. He states, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” He then adds, “A second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” He concludes, “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22: 34-40, emphasis added).

Do you realize what Jesus just stated? He claimed that the entire Hebrew Bible, what we refer to as the Old Testament, is summed up in these two commandments. In other words, all thirty-nine books found in the Hebrew Bible, and all the commandments of God are were packed into these two commands. Keep in mind that the religious leaders added over six hundred “laws” to keep from breaking the actual Laws of God. That is incredible.

The Law of Love in the New Testament

You will recall in Matt. 5:17-18, Jesus states, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (emphasis added).

In other words, Jesus is saying that His first coming was to fulfill all of the Law and the Prophets of the Old Testament. He did this because He loved the Father (John 14:31), and as our example of a humble servant (John 13:1-20), Jesus points us directly to this hermeneutic of love.

As we read the Bible, understanding that the Old Testament anticipates Christ’s coming and the New Testament reflects on the first coming of Christ, we find that every passage points us to our need to love God and to love man. Furthermore, we see that we are unable to do this apart from God. This is why Proverbs 28:9 is so shocking to us, “If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.” Also, John 9:31 tells us explicitly that “God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.”

Proclaiming the Love of God

For the unbeliever, Isaiah 64:6 reminds us that “all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” Understood through the hermeneutic of love, this is true because everything we do apart from a love for God is sin. We can do much “good” because of our love for man, but without a love for God, our deeds are simply humanistic, which is to say, not Christian.

This is why we proclaim the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is a hurting world who does not understand their need to love God and love man in light of God’s love for man. As you read through your Bible, see if you cannot see this hermeneutic of love in every passage. In so doing, I believe you will be challenged to trust more fully in Christ because He alone perfectly loved and obeyed the Father. And through your trust in Christ, you will find that your love of God overflows to the point that you cannot help but share the message of hope in Christ alone as an act of love and obedience to a world lost in a selfish and sinful love.

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