Joy: In Context
Scholars caution against interpreting Scripture without addressing its context. The Greatest Commandment is a broad Biblical theme. It’s God’s prescription for Man’s fallen condition. In Eden’s Garden, God’s relationship with Man was perfect. God designed it that way and declared it to be so. Then Man questioned God’s love for him. He was tempted to love himself more than God and then rejected God by choosing his own desires over those of God. That’s how sin entered the human race. The Bible is a record of God’s actions to restore His relationship with Man. So the Greatest Commandment is God’s instruction to rebuild that lost relationship. It is a state of being rather than a task to be undertaken.
You shall have no other Gods before Me, (Exodus 20:3).
The love God requires expresses itself in worship of Him. This is Man’s ‘right’ state of being as defined by God. The divine call is found in Deuteronomy 6:4 –
Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is one Lord,
This draws attention to God’s unique worthiness to be worshiped. He alone is Self-existent and infinite in all His attributes. Our priority is to worship and honor God for Who He is. The necessity of commanding Man’s love for God only underscores the heights from which Man has fallen.
In the Garden of Eden, Man’s worship was ‘face-to-face.’ After the Fall, Man faced the prospect of loving God from his fallen, spiritually dead state. After Adam, there was no memory of what it was like to love and worship God as He intended. The Apostle Paul noted this when he wrote:
Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then I shall know even as also I am known, (I Corinthians 13:12).
The Greatest Commandment is a call to worship. And that call holds the promise of once again worshiping God face to face. When that promise is realized worshipers will experience eternal journey into His inexhaustible love. How do we know that? Look here…
And that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God, (Ephesians 3:17b-19).
Did you see it? His love surpasses knowledge. It is infinite. For eternity we may plumb its depths and explore its heights, but we will never reach its end. So, God’s call to love Him above all calls us to infinite joy in a relationship that cannot be exhausted or fully explored.
Question: Is the certainty of infinite joy encouraging to you? Would it encourage someone that didn’t know about it? Will you help make sure they know?
Soli Deo Gloria!
David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1991), 57. Bosch makes this point regarding any interpretation of the Great Commission apart from the setting and themes of Matthew. D. A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996), 130. Carson makes the larger point of interpretation consistent with Biblical themes, not just those by one Biblical writer or another. This broader point is engaged here.
Vernon M. Whaley, Called to Worship: The Biblical Foundations of Our Response to God’s Call (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2009), 5. “God created to establish relationship with those who are like Him (see Genesis 1:26 NLT)—and because He loves us—and loved us—even before we were born. He wants to reveal Himself as Lover of our souls.”