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The Great Question for the Church (Matthew 22:34-40)

First Baptist Church https://fbcbartow.org

“The Great Question for the Church”

(Matthew 22:34-40) [on screen]

Series: “God’s Fulfilled Promise”

Rev. Matthew C. McCraw, EdD

First Baptist Church, Bartow, Florida

July 26, 2020

The Passage

Matthew 22:34-40

34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they came together. 35 And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test him: 36 “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?” 

37 He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and most important command. 39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”


Sometimes when you’re a part of something important you learn that there is one crucial piece of advice, or one main thing, that you need to know. A friend of mine was in the Marine Corps and he told me that as they went through their basic training, or boot camp, the most important thing to remember was to not draw attention to yourself; just keep your head down and do what you were supposed to do.[show picture on screen]

This morning we are in Matthew 22:34-40.  Today, we’re going to hear from Jesus concerning the greatest commandment of God. 

The passage that we will look at this morning is very familiar to many Christians and probably familiar to most of us. This passage is famously known as the Great Commandment. 

As we know, the Pharisees and the religious leaders have been questioning Jesus over and over again. Now, they ask, “Which command in the law is the greatest?”

That’s a good question for us all: what’s the most important thing for us to do as followers of God?

Well, let’s see how Jesus answers the question. 

Let’s go ahead and read the passage. Look at Matthew 22:34-40:

34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they came together. 35 And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test him: 36 “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?” 

37 He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and most important command. 39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

Let’s pause for a moment and go to the Lord in prayer as we explore this passage.


For those of you who have a great memory, you may remember that I’ve preached this sermon before. In fact, it’s been nearly three years. I last preached this passage on August 27, 2017, as I was preaching in view of a call to be pastor at this church. 

Well, here we go again. 

Let’s look into this question and the answer that Jesus provided. 

Let’s explore first . . . 

I. The Question (v. 36) [on screen]

The Pharisees let the Sadducees have a shot in last week’s passage and now they are at it again themselves. This question came from a Pharisee who was also an expert in the law.

Most likely these experts in the law would debate each other as to which of the Old Testament laws were most important. Perhaps they thought Jesus might bring clarity, or perhaps they wanted to test Him. We religious leaders like to debate things from time to time. 

Jesus didn’t seem to mind this question, no matter the intentions of the man asking the question.  In fact, we’ll see in just a moment that Jesus answers the question straightforwardly.

We read that this man respectfully addresses Jesus as “teacher” and asks Him the question in verse 36: “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?”

Let me just say, this question is pertinent for the church today. No matter why the man asked the question, we can benefit from the answer. 

Well, let’s look to see how Jesus answered the question.  First, we hear from Jesus . . . 

II. Answer #1: Love God (vv. 37-38) [on screen]

Look at verse 37.

37 He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.

So, here is Jesus’ answer.  He doesn’t dodge the question.  He doesn’t answer it with another question.  He just answers the question matter of factly.

He says to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind! Basically, He’s saying, “Love God with everything in you!”

Jesus continues in verse 38, “This is the greatest and most important command.”

Some of your Bible translations may say that this is is the “first” commandment.  Well, what does this mean?

First of all, let me point out that this command would have been very familiar to the Jewish leaders and teachers.  It’s probable that many of them would have agreed with Jesus on this answer.

This was given to the Jewish people in the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 6, verse 5.

5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. [on screen]

This is what the Jewish people called the Shema.  Every faithful Jewish person would know the Shema.

So, this is not literally the first commandment, as in the first of the Ten Commandments. However, this is the most popular and most central command to the Jewish people. 

It seems clear then that what Jesus meant is, in fact, how many Bible translations communicate the verse; He probably meant that this was the greatest and most important commandment.

Jesus’ response captured what is most important for the follower of God to do: love God with everything. 

Church, the greatest way that we can be faithful to God’s commands is to love Him!

Does Jesus stop there? No, He does not.  He keeps going.

In reference to the question asked by the expert of the law, Jesus provides . . .

III. Answer #2: Love People (v. 39) [on screen]

Look back at the passage. Look at verse 39: “The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus gives them more than they are asking for.  He not only provides the greatest commandment, He provides the second greatest as well: to love your neighbor as yourself!

We must grasp the importance of the fact that Jesus included this.  He had to have thought that it was vital to include this because He provided it even though He wasn’t asked about it.

The Holy Spirit guided the writers of the New Testament to include this for our benefit and for the benefit of the Church throughout all ages in all parts of the world.  Wemustgetthis!  Wemustloveothers!


One aspect of this that we must acknowledge is that it’s assumed that we do, in fact, love ourselves.

Most of us don’t have any problem loving ourselves.

When we’re thirsty, we get ourselves something to drink. [show picture on screen]

When we want to take a nap, or go for a jog, or watch TV, we do so. [show picture on screen]

When we want to have some eggs, bacon, and grits, praise the Lord, we do so. [show picture on screen]

No one has to teach us to love ourselves; we naturally do so.  We love ourselves!

Jesus is saying, the way that you think about yourself all the time, the way that you meet your own needs, think that way towards others!

This is not a type of love that we have to learn to understand, but it is a type of love that we have to learn to demonstrate. We know what it means to love in this degree because we love ourselves.  But, for many of us, we still need to learn how to show it to someone other than ourselves.

So, Jesus says to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

This is our task, to seek the greatest good for our neighbor, just as we seek good for ourselves.  What a weighty command that this is from Jesus.  This is a difficult task!

Jesus is asked this question: What is the greatest commandment? He provides the first answer: love God with everything you have, and He provides the second answer: love your neighbor as yourself, and finally we have . . .

IV. The Conclusion (v. 40) [on screen]

So, here’s the end of the matter. Look at verse 40: All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.

Jesus declares before all of the religious leaders of His time, and by the power of the Holy Spirit before us today, that everything else in all the commandments depends on these two commandments.

That is a strong statement. Let that sink in for just a second.

If Jesus says that these two commandments sum up all of the Law and the Prophets, I dare say that they are a good goal for the church today to focus upon.

Although we can just trust Jesus on this, we should also notice where other teachings of Scripture echo this truth proclaimed by Jesus. 

Remember in 1 Corinthians 13:13 where Paul says, “Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love—but the greatest of these is love.” [on screen]

Or, in 1 John 4:7-8 where John says, “Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” [on screen]

Or, when Jesus says in John 15:12-13, “This is my command: Love one another as I have loved you.  No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.” [on screen]

Or, when Jesus says in John 13:35, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” [on screen]

And there are plenty more verses that support these two supreme commands that are built on love: love God and love others. 

Concluding thoughts:

I believe that we can conclude from this passage (and from the rest of Scripture) that the entire law of God can be summed up in one word: love.

We must ask ourselves how we can love God with everything that we have and also love our neighbors as ourselves.

Well, the beautiful thing is, God has not left us to do this by our own power.

By the work of Jesus, God rescues us from the curse of sin and gives us new life and new affections through the power of His Holy Spirit!

God wants us to love Him and He wants us to love others, so He will help us do it.

We must focus first and foremost on loving God. This is the greatest command for the people of God: Love Him with everything. Our knowledge of Him is not enough; we must love Him.

Second, we focus on loving others.  I believe that as we do the first command more and more, the second will come naturally.  As we love God more and more, we will fill up with love and it will overflow to others.

Well, who are “others?”

First, remember, elsewhere in Scripture Jesus was asked, “Who is my neighbor?” and Jesus shared the story of the good Samaritan.  The man that showed love to the destitute man was the one least likely to show love; a Samaritan.  Yet, he did so.

So, we should show love to everyone, even those that are very different than us.

Secondly, I believe that Jesus wants us to love other Christians.  This is spelled out numerous times in the Bible as well.  Remember 1 John 4:7-8?  Remember John 13:35?  We are to love one another!

That brings us to our bottom line: We can summarize this passage like this:

Bottom Line: The greatest task for us is to love God, love the church, and love others

Love God. [on screen]This is the greatest commandment for the people of God, and certainly for God’s church.

Love the church. [on screen] We are to love one another.  For the Christian, to love one’s neighbor certainly includes his or her brothers and sisters in Christ.

Love others. [on screen] As the Good Samaritan showed love to a man that is normally considered his enemy, we are to likewise show love to all people: both in our community, and around the world.

Indeed, this is our vision for who we are as a church: we exist to develop disciples who love God, love the church, and love others. [on screen]

Before we leave I want to give you a few applicational steps that you can take to apply this passage to your life this week.

Weekly Challenge: [on screen]

  1. Discover the love of God[on screen]

Look deeply into the Word of God.  Fall more and more in love with Him.

If you’re not a follower of God, turn to Him and experience His great love!

  1. Take action to love God more [on screen]

Realign your affections towards the richness of God.

Pray, read the Word of God, meditate on the Bible, memorize the Bible, spend time fasting and seeking God, live the Word of God.

  1. Take action to love others more [on screen]

Make a list and compare how you love yourself versus how you love others.  How do I love myself?  How do I love others?

Consciously remind yourself to think of others. Forgive someone.  Bless someone.  Share the Gospel with someone.  Help someone in need.


Let the Word of God change you.

If you are a follower of Jesus, strive to love God and love others. 

If you’re not a follower of God, I want to tell you that you will experience no greater love than the love of God, and He can change your heart to love Him and love others.

(Gospel presentation)

(closing prayer)

Response Song – Have Thine Own Way


If you have any sort of spiritual decision that you would like to make, you can contact me or any of our staff and we would be glad to talk to you anytime.


-Church building closed; worship only!

-Giving: online, by mail, pick up

-Prayer 4:10 PM every day

-Prayer walking (Tuesday 9 – AM, Thursday – 6 PM, Sunday – 3 PM); starting in August. 

Well, things are a little different right now, but we’re glad to be here to worship the Lord. Just a few housekeeping items: when you leave, please leave out of one of the exits that you came in. We want to keep things as healthy and clean as possible. Also, if you want to congregate and talk you can do that but please go outside and move away from the exits. You can talk in the parking lot as long as you want!

VBS Video

Let’s dismiss by singing the Doxology. 

(Sing Doxology)

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