On These Two Hang

As Christ explains the greatest commandment in God’s Law (Mt 22:36), He identifies it as loving God supremely, with everything we are and have. (37-38)

He adds that the 2nd most important command is similar: loving others as we love ourselves. (39)

Christ then says something striking: On these two hang all the law and the prophets. (40)

We do well ponder carefully what Christ means here; He is evidently describing the foundation of morality, how it all works, the principle interconnecting all moral precepts, the key to understanding the entire body of Scripture, as well as the essential nature of God Himself, and how we rightly relate with Him. (1Jn 4:16b)

For one law B to hang on another law A would mean A supports, is aligned with, and gives proper orientation and context to B. B derives its importance and relevance from A. So, Christ is telling us that the laws of love for God and Man uphold all the other laws of God and give them their relevance, importance and weight. (Mt 23:23)

Christ is saying all the commandments of God, every single law in Torah, and everything the Prophets say about them, derive from, are supported by, and reveal the Law of Love. Thus, to omit or neglect any law of Torah is to sin against Love.

It’s no wonder then when we find Christ emphasizing that those disobeying even what we think might be the least important commands of Torah will be least in His kingdom – for they’re ultimately violating Love. (Mt 5:19)

We can now more clearly see why it’s an error to try to divide up Torah into moral, civil, and ceremonial dimensions: since all of Torah is about Love, violating or dismissing any part of it is immoral (Ja 2:10) – the very definition of sin. (1Jn 3:4) God doesn’t give His people commands merely to make us distinct and different, or to distract or encumber us: all God’s commands are righteousness (Ps 119:172) — windows into what it means to love God, ourselves and each other.

So, we shouldn’t be asking if some obscure law relates to Love, but how: the goal of every nuance in Torah is to enable us more fully in Love (1Ti 1:5); those who miss this don’t yet understand Torah. (6-7)

Saying then that some of the laws in Torah are just for the Jews and not for all of us is really saying some part of Love isn’t for all of us; that God wants only the Jew to have the fullness of Love, that some dimension of Love is only for Israel. It’s really saying God loves the Jew more than the Gentile, and expects the Jew to love more, and to walk in a more complete definition and sense of His love than anyone else.

But God isn’t partial in Love (Ro 2:11); our national identity is irrelevant as it relates to Love (Ga 3:28); He’s making us all into one in Him (Jn 17:20-21), perfecting His love in us. (1Jn 4:12) God isn’t divided (1Co 1:13), and doesn’t divide His body up like this. (1Co 12:27)

The entire body of Torah is complete, perfect (Ps 19:7), consummately revealing Love, as well as the perfect character of God. If we add to His laws, or take anything away from them, for ourselves or for anyone else, either in our teaching or way of life, we’re obscuring the definition of Love. (De 4:2) So, again, it’s no surprise that Christ says Torah, in it’s entirety, will outlast Heaven and Earth. (Mt 5:18)

Love is for Jew and Gentile alike, for you and me alike. Love is the fulfilling of the Law (Ro 13:10) and the fulfilling of the Law is love — what it means to love God and others: it is to keep all His commands. (1Jn 5:3) There’s no difference between obeying God’s law and loving God and others: we can’t distinguish between them. Those who aren’t keeping all of God’s commands aren’t walking in love; they’re not walking with God as they should. (1Jn 2:4-5)

Let’s not leave any part of Love out of our lives, out of how we’re loving God, ourselves and each other. Anything other than obeying all of God’s law isn’t the fullness of Love.

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3 thoughts on “On These Two Hang”

  1. Thanks for the article. It makes sense to me and see how keeping Torah provides us guidance on living Godly. I am looking at Gal 3:22-26 and meditating on this,.

  2. One might reason that since there are different laws for men and women, and different laws for priests than for the rest of us, that God’s love actually is defined differently for different people. So then, why not allow for a difference between Jew and Gentile, and conclude that some of God’s laws are only for Jews and not for Gentiles?

    This is a great point, that God has special roles for each of us and provides instructions that are unique to each role. As our responsibilities differ, what love looks like also differs based on what is appropriate for fulfilling our role. When there are such differences in our roles and responsibilities, God makes this clear.

    That said, it is a mistake to arbitrarily conclude that some laws are for one role and not for another when God has not clearly said so, or when context does not make this unavoidable. There are some laws I simply cannot obey because I am not a Levite, or because I am male and not female, or because I am married and not single, etc. If I cannot actually obey a particular law by definition of who I am and the role I have been given, then it is obvious that this law is not for me.

    So, how do I know which laws are for me? The simplest and most reasonable answer is: all the laws which I am able to try to obey.

    Perhaps the easiest way to see this, to find the tie that binds this all together, may be to look carefully again at the First and Great Commandment: love for God Himself. The implications of the Great Command guide us: we love His ways and His laws supremely because we love Him.

    For example, suppose a wealthy patron offered to pay you $10K for every command of Torah you obey for a month which is not already considered a moral law in your culture (which you’re likely already obeying). If you value that kind of money, then you’ll identify all the laws in Torah which might possibly pertain to you and keep them with all diligence. You wouldn’t eat unclean food (De 14), or work on Saturday (Ex 20:8-11), and you’d make some tassels with blue thread and wear them (Nu 15:38 De 22:12).

    But … you wouldn’t offer a freewill offering at the temple (Le 1:2-3) because you can’t; and you won’t give a tenth of your crops and herds to the Levitical priests (since they own no property in Israel and so can’t support themselves – Nu 18:26, De:14:27,29) because you can’t.

    When our heart finds God’s laws more precious than gold, because He’s so exceedingly precious, we will obey all of His laws that we’re able to obey; we won’t look for ways to arbitrarily break up Torah into parts which we are or aren’t interested in following.

    Further, I find it impossible to define sin from scripture in any other reasonable, coherent, consistent way, other than to violate some part of Torah which we’re able to obey by choosing to not to obey it. (“Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” 1Jn 3:4)

    Arbitrarily excluding any part of Torah which we might reasonably obey if we wanted to, arbitrarily presuming it isn’t for us for today, when God has not explicitly said so in clear and unmistakable terms, is (I think) to deceive ourselves. (“Thou hast trodden down all them that err from thy statutes: for their deceit is falsehood.” Ps 119:118)

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