Yes, Valentines Day recently past by with it’s red and pink, flowers and frill (and this year, snow!). The main theme of Valentines Day is, obviously, Love. I’ve often pondered what may be the greatest love verses in the Bible, the verse that give us the Greatest Commandments, to love God and love our neighbor. The Gospel’s record these commands:
Luke 10:27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
Matthew 22:37-40 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. (38) This is the great and first commandment. (39) And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (40) On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Mark 12:30-31 And 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.’ (31) The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
The Apostle John doesn’t record Jesus giving these commands specifically but does talk more about love than the other three gospel writers. For example:
1 John 3:16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
1 John 3:18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
1 John 4:8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
And of course from the Gospel of John, John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Let’s consider the first set of verses that give us the first greatest commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” What’s it really mean to love God with all those aspects of yourself, with your heart, soul, strength, and mind? I looked it up, and found a great expounding of what it means to love God with your whole self. It’s a little lengthy, and somewhat technical, but it renders well what it really means to love God. It’s worth taking time to carefully read.
This excerpt is from Adam Clark (1760-1832) who authored a commentary on the entire Bible that is found on many websites as well as computer Bible programs. We would not agree with all Adam Clark writes on other topics, but note what Charles Spurgeon wrote concerning Adam Clark.:
“Adam Clarke is the great annotator of our Wesleyan friends; and they have no reason to be ashamed of him, for he takes rank among the chief of expositors. His mind was evidently fascinated by the singularities of learning, and hence his commentary is rather too much of an old curiosity shop, but it is filled with valuable rarities, such as none but a great man could have collected. Like Gill, he is one sided (Arminian – believed you could lose your salvation), only in the opposite direction to our friend the Baptist….If you have a copy of Adam Clarke, and exercise discretion in reading it, (Click critique of Adam Clarke) you will derive immense advantage from it, for frequently by a sort of side light he brings out the meaning of the text in an astonishingly novel manner. I do not wonder that Adam Clarke still stands, notwithstanding his peculiarities, a prince among commentators. (from Commenting and Commentaries)
Adam Clark commenting on Matthew 22:37 “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.””
Thou shalt love the Lord – This is a subject of the greatest importance, and should be well understood, as our Lord shows that the whole of true religion is comprised in thus loving God and our neighbor.
It may not be unnecessary to inquire into the literal meaning of the word love. Αγαπη , from αγαπαω , I love, is supposed to be compounded either of αγαν and ποιειν , to act vehemently or intensely; or, from αγειν κατα παν , because love is always active, and will act in every possible way; for he who loves is, with all his affection and desire, carried forward to the beloved object, in order to possess and enjoy it. Some derive it from αγαν and παυεσθαι , to be completely at rest, or, to be intensely satisfied; because he who loves is supremely contented with, and rests completely satisfied in, that which he loves. Others, from αγαν and παω , because a person eagerly embraces, and vigorously holds fast, that which is the object of his love. Lastly, others suppose it to be compounded of αγαω , I admire, and παυομαι , I rest, because that which a man loves intensely he rests in, with fixed admiration and contemplation. So that genuine love changes not, but always abides steadily attached to that which is loved.
Whatever may be thought of these etymologies, as being either just or probable, one thing will be evident to all those who know what love means, that they throw much light upon the subject, and manifest it in a variety of striking points of view. The ancient author of a MS. Lexicon in the late French king‘s library, under the word αγαπη , has the following definition: ΑσπαϚος προθεσις επι τη φιλια του φιλουμενου – Σομψυχια . “A pleasing surrender of friendship to a friend: – an identity or sameness of soul.” A sovereign preference given to one above all others, present or absent: a concentration of all the thoughts and desires in a single object, which a man prefers to all others. Apply this definition to the love which God requires of his creatures, and you will have the most correct view of the subject. Hence it appears that, by this love, the soul eagerly cleaves to, affectionately admires, and constantly rests in God, supremely pleased and satisfied with him as its portion: that it acts from him, as its author; for him, as its master; and to him, as its end. That, by it, all the powers and faculties of the mind are concentrated in the Lord of the universe. That, by it, the whole man is willingly surrendered to the Most High: and that, through it, an identity, or sameness of spirit with the Lord is acquired – the man being made a partaker of the Divine nature, having the mind in him which was in Christ, and thus dwelling in God, and God in him.
But what is implied in loving God with all the heart, soul, mind, strength, etc., and when may a man be said to do this?
1.He loves God with all his heart, who loves nothing in comparison of him, and nothing but in reference to him: – who is ready to give up, do, or suffer any thing in order to please and glorify him: – who has in his heart neither love nor hatred, hope nor fear, inclination, nor aversion, desire, nor delight, but as they relate to God, and are regulated by him.
2.He loves God with all his soul, or rather, εν ολη τη ψυχη , with all his life, who is ready to give up life for his sake – to endure all sorts of torments, and to be deprived of all kinds of comforts, rather than dishonor God: – who employs life with all its comforts, and conveniences, to glorify God in, by, and through all: – to whom life and death are nothing, but as they come from and lead to God, From this Divine principle sprang the blood of the martyrs, which became the seed of the Church. They overcame through the blood of the Lamb, and loved not their lives unto the death. See Revelation 12:11.
3.He loves God with all his strength (Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27) who exerts all the powers of his body and soul in the service of God: – who, for the glory of his Maker, spares neither labor nor cost – who sacrifices his time, body, health, ease, for the honor of God his Divine Master: – who employs in his service all his goods, his talents, his power, credit, authority, and influence.
4.He loves God with all his mind (intellect – διανοια ) who applies himself only to know God, and his holy will: – who receives with submission, gratitude, and pleasure, the sacred truths which God has revealed to man: – who studies no art nor science but as far as it is necessary for the service of God, and uses it at all times to promote his glory – who forms no projects nor designs but in reference to God and the interests of mankind: – who banishes from his understanding and memory every useless, foolish, and dangerous thought, together with every idea which has any tendency to defile his soul, or turn it for a moment from the center of eternal repose. In a word, he who sees God in all things – thinks of him at all times – having his mind continually fixed upon God, acknowledging him in all his ways – who begins, continues, and ends all his thoughts, words, and works, to the glory of his name: – this is the person who loves God with all his heart, life, strength, and intellect. He is crucified to the world, and the world to him: he lives, yet not he, but Christ lives in him. He beholds as in a glass the glory of the Lord, and is changed into the same image from glory to glory. Simply and constantly looking unto Jesus, the author and perfecter of his faith, he receives continual supplies of enlightening and sanctifying grace, and is thus fitted for every good word and work. O glorious state! far, far, beyond this description! which comprises an ineffable communion between the ever-blessed Trinity and the soul of man! (http://studylight.org/com/acc/view.cgi?bk=mt&ch=22&vs=37#37. Accessed 2-17-2014)
So, if you took the time to study that explanation on loving God, are you then a living Valentine for God? Do you daily and moment-by-moment “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength?” Choose now and every morning to more and more live your life as an ever-being-written love note to God. Make your life a living Valentine to Him because He wrote His Valentine to you with the blood of His own Son on the cross.
Bible Quoted: English Standard Version