Summary: Is it enough just to love God? By that we mean, it is enough to be well pleasing to God to simply love Him? Some Christians would say yes, others no, but what does God's word say? That is the focus of this lesson.
Last week I asked a dozen people this simple question, “Is it enough just to love God?” Only two people said “yes it was enough just to love God,” while the other ten emphatically said, “no it’s not, we have to obey Him.” So what is the answer? Is it enough just to love God? In other words, is loving God enough to be pleasing to Him and to be rewarded with eternal life in Heaven? While many in my unscientific survey said no, the Bible has another answer and that is yes, it is enough just to love God. Let me show you why that is.
#1. Loving God is the most important of all the commandments.
When an inquisitive scribe asked Jesus “Which commandment is the most important of all?” (Mark 12:28) Jesus did not reply that all the commandments were equally important. Rather, He singled out one command as the most important, saying: “‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these’” (12:29-30).
Notice the scribe’s response to Jesus’ answer: “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that He is one, and there in no other besides Him. And to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices” (12:32-33).
The scribe correctly recognized that Jesus was saying that to love God was greater, or more important, than obeying the Ten Commandments, or keeping the Sabbaths, or giving the tithe, or all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices, or any other commandment. Later, in his epistle to the Colossians, Paul echoes our Savior’s words, saying, “And above all these things” (that is the commandments in 3:1-13), “put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (3:14). Again, Paul said, “So now faith, hope and love abide… but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).
Let’s bring this down to where we are today. Loving God is more important than practicing non-denominational, non-institutional Christianity. Loving God is more important that singing praises to Him without instruments, or taking the Lord’s Supper each first day of the week, or practicing the proper roles for men and women in the assembly. The command to love God is even more important than the command to be baptized. That is not to say that these things are not important, they are of great importance, but loving God is greater still.
For our Lord and Paul, to love God is greater, more important, than all the commandments; in fact, love is the adhesive that binds all other commandments together. That is why it is enough just to love God. As we will see, if we love God, we will keep His commandments, even the least of them.
#2. If we love God, we will keep His commandments.
I think one of the reasons that many of the people in my informal survey were hesitant to acknowledge that it is enough just to love God, is because there are many professed Christians who say they love God but do not keep His commandments. However, Jesus could not be any plainer when He said, “‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep my word… Whoever does not love me does not keep my words’” (John 14:23a, 24a).
Those who say they love God, but do not keep His commandments are liars and the truth is not in them (cf. 1 John 2:4; 4:20). Only those who genuinely love God will obey His commands.
However, as shocking as it might sound, we must be careful not to put all our emphasis on obeying God’s commands as a means by which one is well pleasing to and accepted by God. (Don’t get me wrong, we must obey God, but obedience is not a means to an end, it must first and foremost be an outgrowth of a love for God.) It is possible, to a certain extent, to obediently keep God’s commands but not love Him. However, know this, God hates obedience that is not rooted in love, He calls it hypocrisy. Jesus demonstrated this when He quoted the prophet Isaiah, saying, “‘You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me; in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men’’” (Matthew 15:7-9).
Now, before you say this passage is only talking about vain worship that is produced from false doctrinal systems or religious error, consider Isaiah’s original statement, “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor Me with their lips, while their hearts are far from Me, and their fear of Me is a commandment taught by men” (Isaiah 29:13).