We recall how all 3 synoptics recorded “The Transfiguration of Jesus Christ”. 3 of Jesus’ closest followers witnessed Moses and Elijah speaking to Jesus concerning his upcoming departure.
Moses and Elijah (representing the Law and the Prophets) spoke to Jesus…The Living Word. What if the point is that the Old Testament always has something important to say? But what if the veil that the O.T. put up needed to be first ripped away so we could see and hear Jesus in every single utterance?
Jesus seemed to think so. Both Paul and John did too. But let’s check out one very important way that they perhaps revealed a glory within the Law that had been previously concealed.
WHAT IS THE FIRST AND GREATEST COMMANDMENT IN THE LAW TO INHERIT ETERNAL LIFE?
Jesus was asked this question as recorded by the synoptics and we have probably all stumbled over his answer. (For the record, the term “The Synoptics” refers to Matthew, Mark and Luke who all wrote a similar account of Jesus’ Life. John’s account is vastly different but we know completely true. (John 21:24)
1. What is required for inheriting eternal life according to Jesus (via the Synoptics)?
2. What is required for inheriting eternal life according to Paul and John?
3. Why do they seem incompatible?
4. What if John and Paul merely explained the same thing that
Jesus said from a different perspective?
I believe that Paul and John focused on what Jesus had accomplished on the Cross; we would call it New Covenant revelation. Their language expressed how they saw the Old Testament now that Jesus had given the New Covenant via his Death and Life.
Where the synoptics recorded prophetic Jesus speaking figuratively, Paul and John spoke from “The Holy of Holies”. The Synpotics recorded his words from their vantage point of peering through the veil at God’s glory. Paul and John spoke clearly of his glory because they knew they were in God.
None of the synpotics clearly spoke of the reality that Christians exist “in Christ”.
They also never spoke of Jesus’ love for people.
They did not record a single passage concerning “Believe in Jesus” for life. Not one time.
They almost completely neglected to mention grace and the gift of salvation.
The gave no allusion to the idea that Jesus was going to crucify our sinful self in his death and raise us up in his life.
Basically, for whatever Holy Spirit inspired reason, they failed to really articulate the New Covenant.
WHY DIDN’T THEY RECORD JESUS’ MESSAGE THAT PAUL PREACHED?
But recall what Matthew and Mark said concerning how he spoke differently to everyone else than his Disciples. Mark 4:33,34 ~ “With many such parables He was speaking the word to them, so far as they were able to hear it; and He did not speak to them without a parable; but He was explaining everything privately to His own disciples.”
John was his closest disciple. After Paul’s conversion, he said in 1 Cor.15:9,10 that by God’s power he labored mightily; more than all the other Apostles! (More than Peter, James and John).
Maybe God wanted 3 witnesses to testify to the Historical facts of Jesus’ Incarnation and then Apostles to declare the revealed Gospel in it’s fullness!
All I know is that the Gospel is veiled in the Synpotics but fully unveiled by Paul and John.
THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT ACCORDING TO JESUS IN THE SYNOPTIC’S.
Jesus quoted from Moses, what is known as “The Shema”, which means ” Hear” or “The Hearing”. It was at that time and often still is the bedrock of Judaism. This Command was higher than the 10 Commandments, according to Jesus himself! It is ~
“Hear O Israel, the Lord your God is One and you shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, mind and strength.”
All 3 synoptic’s recorded Jesus quoting almost verbatim from The Shema/Hearing.
Jesus said keeping The Hearing was how they would inherit eternal life. This actually confirmed what Moses said in Deut.30, where he said numerous times that doing so “would be their life” or “do this and live” or “will have life”.
Both John and Paul clearly preached grace and eternal life as a gift to be received by faith. We all know this.
John used “Believe” concerning Jesus about 100 times! Compared to only a handful of times in all the synoptics combined. My favorite is John 20:31, which I will mention later.
Paul wrote all about how “the righteous will live by faith.” Romans. 1:17, 2 Cor.5:7 and Gal.3:11 are only a few of his quotes from the OT. There are many other examples from Paul of course but “The righteous will live” is my focus here.
Is it impossible to think that “love the Lord your God with all your being” to have eternal life and “Believe in Jesus” could actually be very similar ideas? Remember that 1 Cor.13 says “Love always trusts, always hopes….”
So love is actually rooted in trust. Which makes perfect sense. How can you continually love someone that you can’t trust? Not up close, that’s for sure. At best, from a distance.
Perhaps that’s why Jesus became flesh. To demonstrate the trustworthiness of Our Father. To reveal the love of Our Father for us would surely inspire a trusting love within us! Perhaps we could not actually love God (according to New Covenant standards) until he fully revealed love and we believed in said love.
Is it possible that Paul and John were actually preaching the same message that Jesus spoke but with a different emphasis?
Consider this. Both John and Paul had a very high Christology. They focused on Jesus’ victory via the Cross and His Resurrection. They focused on Jesus’ words concerning himself and His accomplishment. Jesus’ Promises. Jesus’ Blessings. Jesus’ love for us and Our Father’s love too. The gift given to us by Jesus. The life we already have in Christ.
The synoptics did not record one time that Jesus spoke of his love for anyone. All 3 books, somehow did not mention the fact that Jesus commanded us to love one another **as He loved us**. We know that this is the New Covenant commandment to believers that matters most because it’s higher than the Law. But that love is also completely rooted or dependent on believing in his love for us!
The synoptics message was focused on “What you must do…”. You must. You shall. You stop. You must not. Do, do, do…. John and Paul focused on “Jesus did”.
So what if they understood Jesus’ command to love the Lord, from a slightly different vantage point? What if John and Paul understood that to “believe in Jesus” actually meant “to love the Lord your God…etc…”?
Did you know that Paul referenced “The Great Command”, otherwise known as the Shema/Hearing? He definitely spoke of it but did not actually quote it. He very specifically quoted many verses around it in Deut.30:6-16, but did not mention it. Get this. Paul was the greatest New Testament writer to articulate the differences between the Law and the Gospel. In all his writings concerning righteousness in the Gospel versus the Law, he never once quoted the Shema. But he clearly alluded to is. Why? What if he reinterpreted the Shema/Hearing?
I need to mention that Deut.30:6-16 is the exact same passage that Jesus quoted in Luke 10:25-28, Mark 12:28-33 and Matthew 22:34-40.
So think of this. When Jesus spoke of the way to “have life”, he clearly mentioned the Hearing in Deut.30 as the way (in the synpotics/from the Pre-Cross perspective). When Paul mentioned how “The Righteous will live” and be saved, he clearly mentioned the exact same passage but basically quoted everything **except** the Shema! What was Paul up too!?
Both were preaching the same Gospel. Salvation has never been by works but by grace through faith!
What if Paul was simply explaining (from the New Covenant perspective), what Moses and Jesus meant by “love the Lord your God…?” What if believing in Jesus is loving the Lord your God with all your heart, etc….
At this point, I implore you to please read Deuteronomy 30:6-16 that I will post below. Please don’t skim over this but let these ideas sink deep into your heart because there is still life within them, now that the veil has been removed. Look for the key phrase “Will live” or “will have life”. What does it say about the key to having life? Keep in mind that these words about “love God” was referred to as “The hearing”. Remember, these people did not have any written Law at that point except the 10 Commandments. They were wilderness wanderers who were daily experiencing miraculous encounters with God. They were basically like many of the Jews of Jesus’ day who followed him out into the wilderness to be fed from a few loaves and fishes…
“6“Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live. 7“The LORD your God will inflict all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you, who persecuted you. 8“And you shall again obey the LORD, and observe all His commandments which I command you today. 9“Then the LORD your God will prosper you abundantly in all the work of your hand, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your cattle and in the produce of your ground, for the LORD will again rejoice over you for good, just as He rejoiced over your fathers; 10if you obey the LORD your God to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law, if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and soul. (Paul will quote from 11-15) 11“For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. 12“It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ 13“Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ 14“But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it. 15“See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; 16in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the LORD your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it.
After you’ve read Deut.30:6-16, please read Romans 10:6-17. Notice how much of the Deut. verses Paul directly quotes and admire what he does with the Shema/Hearing. He speaks of how important “Hearing” is the entire time! “faith cometh by shema and shema by the word of Christ.” But while he did confirm the Truth spoken by Moses and Jesus, he also seems to reshape it. Perhaps it’s better to say that he re-examines it from a Post-Cross perspective, after having seen, known and believed the love of God.
Because we had to know and believe the love of God before we could love with his kind of love. So at the exact moment that every Torah following Israelite or follower of Jesus would have expected Paul to quote Moses and Jesus (pre-Cross) with the Shema from Deut.30, Paul said something quite different…but maybe the same…
“6But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: “DO NOT SAY IN YOUR HEART, ‘WHO WILL ASCEND INTO HEAVEN?’ (that is, to bring Christ down), 7or ‘WHO WILL DESCEND INTO THE ABYSS?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” 8But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”
According to Paul, the Shema that Moses gave was the righteousness of faith that speaks. I should mention that every use of “word” in these passages is not Logos but “rhema” which is “The Spoken word”. It’s the “Heard word”, not the written word. Paul said this “Heard word” of faith that Moses spoke of but it’s now known as “believe in Jesus” and have life.
Honestly, now that we’ve seen His love for us demonstrated on the Cross, we can believe and know his love that he lavished on us. He even poured this love out in us because has has given us the Holy Spirit! Perhaps that’s why no one after the Cross was recorded saying or giving the Shema/Hearing command in the entire New Testament! Love God is truly good but it is also Old Covenant to command it. Now it’s a given. Why? Because when you actually believe in Jesus, you automatically love God.
Faith and love operate together but faith is the foundation for love. We believe in His love for us and that opens our heart to his love poured out in us! The Old Testament referred to this as allowing him to “circumcise your heart”. It’s receiving “eyes to see and ears to hear…” Belief in His perfect love opens the door of our heart to willingly receive the Holy Spirit, which is the Spirit of Love! (2 Tim.1:7) This receiving of his love is what it means to believe in Jesus and by truly doing so, we are filled with his love!
“8Because God is love, and everyone who does not love does not know God. 9In this the love of God is known to us: for God sent his only Son to the world so that it shall live by him. 10In this is love: it was not that we loved God, but he has loved us, and he sent us his Son, the atonement for the sake of our sins. (1 John 4)
Love for God is not something I have to work up according to a Law. The Love for God is the Love of God, which has been given to me as a free gift. It’s in my heart because I believe in the love God demonstrated for us in Jesus! The Love from God is the very same love for God and I am not trying to love God, I am being loved by God and just like a child naturally loves their parent because their parent loves them; I can’t help but love Our Father. We don’t have a Law to love God. We have the Love of God woven into our very being. The Love of God pumps through my veins because of the Lifeblood of Jesus. I’m not commanded to love God, it would now be unnatural for me to not love God. Love for God is my default response because I’m a New Creation.
This is what it means to believe in the Name of Jesus. This is what it means to have life.
John 20:31 “these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”
Now that we know the Love of God for us and that same love is in us, we continually grow more mature in His love.
FINAL POINT ~
Did Jesus tell the Old Covenant Jews to literally obey the Letter of the Law (Which Paul said kills) or did he point at the intent and Spirit of The Law, which gives life and within that heart…they could find him. They could believe and follow him. They could know the Truth, which means the Reality that was concealed within the Law and they could be set free!
Many of the Old Covenant Jews followed him into the wilderness (like Moses) after they were baptized (like Moses) and asked him for food. John recorded this beautifully but the synoptics did not capture the unveiled grace and life that John did. But this was the same Jesus speaking!
In John 6, they came searching for him ~ ” 26Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.27“Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” 28Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?”
“What shall we do?”
The Jews under the Law were asking him the same question concerning obedience and Life. Is Salvation and eternal life by works or something else?
Next verse ~ “29Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”
It is a work. The so-called “Work” is believe!
Later in John 6, to the same audience ~ 40“For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”
Believe in the Love of who Jesus is. That’s always been Our Father’s will. Whether in the Old Covenant or the New. That’s why Hebrews 11 spoke of so many Old Testament Saints who were righteous by faith. Now that we better understand the Old Covenant Laws fulfilled by and through Jesus, we can experience the Promises given concerning Our Father’s nature within the Old Testament. God has not changed.
God has now been perfectly revealed. We aren’t commanded to love him. By believing in who Jesus is and what Jesus revealed concerning Our Father, we do love him.
“Love God” is indeed not a New Covenant Commandment. It’s a gimme. In other words, it happens when we obey the command to believe. Yes, I do believe we have more than one command in the New Covenant. We are commanded to believe First. Second, we are commanded to love one another. The reason Jesus didn’t articulate this in John 13 is because he had already clearly spoken it over 50 times in John chapters 3-12. The 11 disciples he spoke John 13:34 to were believing.
1 John 3 clearly details the 2 New Covenant Commandments but he also merges them as one. Because they are absolutely interwoven, just as The Lord your God is One God.
” 23This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. 24The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.”
First Commandment – Believe.
Second Commandment – Love.
But you can’t actually do one without the other. And we don’t throw out “love God”, as we see in 1 John 4 ~ ” 19We love, because He first loved us. 20If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.”
1 John mentioned “love God” quite a few times, but he never mentions it as one of God’s command to us, New Covenant believers. He only mentions the idea that “if you love God”, you will actually obey the New Covenant commandment and love others.
So yeah…I love God. I don’t talk about it a lot because I’m too busy talking about his love for me and you…even the world. And I believe that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Because we are focused more on his goodness than our obedience. Therein lies obedience.
That is life.