Question 7: "What Does the Law of God Require?" - Matthew 22:34-40

Question:  What does the law of God require?

Answer: Personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience; that we love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and love our neighbor as ourselves. What God forbids should never be done and what God commands should always be done.

  • If you are in a conversation with your friends that may or may not attend church and someone brings up the idea of “law” and “religious laws”, how do you think the people around you would respond? What brings about these differences in each group?
  • Do you see people in our culture having a different understanding of the necessity of law concerning civil law (government regulations) and religious law (God’s law)?  Why?

  • The two major aspects of Christian righteousness are (1) To love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and (2) To love our neighbors as ourselves. 
  • The commandment to love your neighbor as yourself is an outflowing of recognizing and being immersed in loving God and being loved by God. 
  • God has set a bar that explains how we should approach and fulfill the law. 
  • The heart represents the seat of your intellect, your will, and your intentions. The soul represents your entire interior self, which are emotions, desires, and personal characteristics that make a person unique. The mind is the cognitive and rational abilities of each person.

Matthew 22: 34-40
But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 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. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Deuteronomy 6:5
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
Leviticus 19:18
“….but you shall love your neighbor as yourself”

God has certainly set a standard for what is required of us regarding the law.  The answer includes the idea that “personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience” are required.
  • What is your immediate response to hearing (1) that God gives us a law that we are required to live by and (2) that this is what is required of us?  Does this inhibit our freedom or ability to do as we see right?

The law of God requires all of us.  First, towards God and then toward others around us.
  • Do you notice in your own life that one of these (towards God/towards others) is easier?  Why do you think it is so?  
  • If someone asks “Why does loving God have anything to do with me loving the people around me?” -- How do you respond to this question?

Reflection on the law will reveal how we constantly fall short of achieving “personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience.”
  • The scripture says that we should love God with all of our hearts, soul, and mind.  In which of these do you feel the most comfortable or strongest? Why? Which might you feel the most room for growth? Why?

Jesus builds on his first command to love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind and says to love our neighbors as ourselves. “Our neighbor” means every human that is around us who might be in need. God says our love should first be expressed vertically (towards God) and then says it should move horizontally (towards others).
  • Can you think of any examples when you needed to first experience loving God before moving onto loving neighbors? Does this correlation make sense?

Regardless of how well we follow the law of God, God still loves us and Jesus willingly took our place by following the law perfectly, so that it would not be held against us.
  • Compare (1) the way that you have loved God by following His law with (2) the way that God has loved you in light of how well you follow His law.
  • How could this change the way that we love, care for, and think about those that God has put in our lives?

Great Law-Giver, you have spoken a perfect law, and you deserve perfect obedience. Let us not merely think that your law requires outward submission; it demands the full assent of our minds and our hearts. Who is equal to such a task? We confess that we fall far short of keeping your law. Amen.

Appendix for Group Leaders on Tough Questions

How Jesus Interpreted & Applied the Old Testament

How do Christians apply the Old Testament to following Jesus?  Why do we follow some of the Law’s commands but not others?  For example, Leviticus commands not to eat shellfish (11:9-12) nor to wear clothes made from two kinds of cloth (19:19).  It also prohibits sex between two men (18:22).  Is it inconsistent for Christians to teach that the prohibition on homosexual sex is still binding but the prohibition on shrimp and oysters is not?

Once again, Jesus modeled a hermeneutic (method of interpretation) for applying the OT Law to New Covenant believers.  We see this hermeneutic starting with him and maintained by the Apostles in the early church (sometimes through great debate and controversy).

Biblical scholars have often observed that Jesus and his Apostles treated different parts of the Law with different authority for New Covenant believers, but these differences were not random.  They followed a consistent pattern based on whether the law in question was moral/ethical, ceremonial, or civil:

  1. MORAL: Jesus did not relax the moral, ethical laws but repeated them in a way that emphasized their original intent.  The moral commands from the Old Testament are repeated in substance throughout the New Testament as instructions for New Covenant believers.

Matthew 5:17-20
 “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. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

  1. CEREMONIAL: Jesus claimed to supersede the ceremonial laws – including the dietary laws, sacrifices, and temple.  The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross fulfills and replaces the Old Covenant ceremonies and sacrifices.

Mark 7:15-23
There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

John 2:18-22
So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?"  Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

Luke 22:19-20
And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

  1. CIVIL:  Jesus creates a new, multi-ethnic people who are not citizens of one particular state. Therefore, he does not include the civil laws that governed Israel’s politics in any of his teaching to his disciples.

Matthew 28:18-20
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Jesus also claimed to author the “new covenant” that Israel’s prophets foretold.  One of the new covenant promises was that God would write the Law on our hearts.  For example:

Jeremiah 31:31-33
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

In light of the pattern above, this “law within them” must be referring to the moral law, not the civil or ceremonial.  Sinclair Ferguson explains:

Indeed we are entitled to ask: What is it in Torah (law) that has been written on our minds and in our hearts in the new covenant?  Can it be other than the Decalogue we are now empowered to love and keep?  It cannot be the ceremonial and civil applications of it.  We love the law because it is “spiritual” (Rom 7:14), that is, it is in harmony with the Spirit.  And in the Spirit we delight in the law of God after our “inner being” (Rom 7:22).  After all, the Lord Jesus, the man of the Spirit par excellence, loved and fulfilled the law…because in our humanity he genuinely loved what God’s Word told him God himself loved. – Sinclair Ferguson, The Whole Christ, 167