Posted by: adventlife | June 28, 2015

The Great Commandment in the Law, by Nic Samojluk

Greatest Commandment

Matthew records in chapter 22 the following exchange between Jesus and an expert in Jewish law:

36“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37And 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.’ 38“This is the great and foremost commandment. 39“The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ 40“On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

The Jewish lawyer’s question suggests, in my opinion, that he had a great commandment in mind that differed from the one contained in Jesus response. Given the fact that the Jewish leaders at that time had given such prominence to the fourth commandment of the Decalogue, my guess is that he expected Jesus to identify the Sabbath as the great commandment.

In his response to the Jewish lawyer, Jesus provided a summary of the Ten rules he himself had given to the human race. Thus, the first four commandments itemized our love towards God, and the last six our love towards our fellow men.

The Great Commandment in the Second Section of the Decalogue

If Jesus were physically present among us today, here is the question I would probably ask him: “Master, which is the great commandment in the second section of the Decalogue?” I recognize that each one of the six commandments is very important, and I am cognizant of the fact that, whoever breaks one of them is guilty of breaking God’s entire Law.

New International Version
For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it [James 2:10]

Nevertheless, since Jesus did give more importance to our duty to love God, I am assuming that the violation of one of the six might have more deleterious consequences than the violation of the other five, and my assumption is that the sixth commandment would be the greatest of those six.

My reason is quite simple: If I dishonor my father or my mother, I can repent later on and partially undo the damage done to my parents. The same can be said about the other five, except the sixth one. Once I take the life of a human being, there is no way to undo the damage; the deed is final and irreversible. This is why, in my opinion, the sixth commandment is more offensive to the Lord than the other five.

The Great Commandment Among the Ten

There is no doubt in my mind that our duty towards God is supreme. Nevertheless, I wonder what Jesus would say about the greatest commandment among the ten. Most Adventist would probably suggest that the greatest one among the ten would be the Sabbath commandment. In one sense, this is true; nevertheless, from another point of view, the greatest among the ten, I dare to submit, is not the Sabbath but rather the one that forbids the shedding of innocent blood.

The True Nature of the Sabbath

This seems to be evident from Jesus response to the Jews who had the wrong view of the Sabbath.

New International Version
Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. [Mark 2:27]

From this statement made by Jesus, I conclude that human life is more sacred than even the Sabbath. If I worship the Lord on the wrong day of the week, no one looses his life. But when I take the life of an innocent person a murder has taken place and innocent blood has been shed, which is evil in the sight of the Lord.

New International Version
Moreover, Manasseh also shed so much innocent blood that he filled Jerusalem from end to end–besides the sin that he had caused Judah to commit, so that they did evil in the eyes of the LORD. [2 Kings 21:16]

The Jewish Leader’s Fatal Mistake

This is where the Jewish leaders made a fatal mistake, I believe. They elevated the sacredness of the Sabbath way above the sacredness of life—even the life of their own Messiah and rightful King. They killed the Son of God and rushed home to keep the Sabbath holy. We Adventists need to learn from their fateful error and avoid repeating what they did. We need to hold the right to life to its pristine biblical position.

Those Jewish leaders felt that the Sabbath was so sacred that the keeping of a single Sabbath day properly would result in the advent of the promised Messiah.
“Shabbat: If Israel will keep just one Shabbat properly, Mashiach will come immediately.” [ ]

Ellen White’s View About the Sacredness of Human Life

It is true that Ellen White had an elevated view of the sacredness of Sabbath, but she also had a high view of the sacredness of human life; and her view did not exclude
those waiting to be born.

“If the father would become acquainted with physical law, he might better understand his obligations and responsibilities. He would see that he had been guilty of almost murdering his children, by suffering so many burdens to come upon the mother, compelling her to labor beyond her strength before their birth, in order to obtain means to leave for them.” [White. Selected Messages, Vol. 2 (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1958), 429-430.]

Jesus View About the Moral Value of Children

On one occasion women brought their children to Jesus to be blessed by him. The disciples felt that this would be a useless distraction from the sacred mission of their master. When Jesus realized what was taking place, he reacted as follows:

New International Version
But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. [Luke 18:16]

We tend to value human beings on the basis of their stage of development, age, and position, but Jesus did not recognize those distinctions. On the contrary, he felt that children had some advantages over grown-up men and women.

New International Version
And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. [Matthew 18:3]

Jesus’ view of the high value of children was so pronounced that he made the following strong condemnation against those who dared to harm them.

New International Version
“If anyone causes one of these little ones–those who believe in me–to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. [Matthew 18:6]

Jesus Eschatology and Children

In fact Jesus eschatology was based on the way we treat “the least of these.”

New International Version
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. [Matthew 25:31]

New International Version
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ [Matthew 25:40]

Can you imagine the deep implication of the above passages: Our eternal destiny will hinge on the manner we have treated “the least of these.” Considering this, can we dare to ignore or even harm any of these human beings the Lord values so highly?

More: For more on this issue, read the following:

“The ultimate form of child abuse”


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