10/13/2011 by Clay Gentry
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.
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.
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).
The people’s emphasis in Isaiah’s day were obeying God’s commands, but not loving Him. The only reason they obeyed God was because that is what they were taught to do, not because their obedience flowed from a heart of love. This should be a warning to us in the church today. We can, unwittingly teach obedience for the sake of obedience and not as an outgrowth of one’s love for God. Take baptism for instance. A young person, who, from their earliest years, had been taught they must be baptized in order to be saved, might obey the command to be baptized because that is what they have been taught to do, not because they love God. Again, take any part of our assembly, singing, praying, taking the Lord’s Supper, etc. A person can go through the motions of obeying the commands to do these things simply because that is what they been taught to do, not because they love God. And this is what God calls “vain worship.”
Consider the church at Ephesus as another example of this sort of, obedience the sake of obedience mindset. In Revelation 2:1-3, 6 the Lord recognized the Ephesian’s obedience to Him through their patient endurance, and willingness to stand for the truth by rejecting false teachers. On the outside this congregation seemed like the faithful, sound church. Nevertheless, sandwiched between the Lord’s commendations is a sobering warning,
“‘But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent’” (2:4-5).
Christ called for the Ephesians to repent of losing their love for Him. Their worship was in vain, not because it was unscriptural per say, because their obedience did not flow from a heart of love. The truth of the matter is obedience will not produce love. No amount of obedience to the truth can be a substitute for a lack of love for God. Only love for God can produce faithful obedience. That is why Paul said, the only thing that matters is “faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6).
Ultimately, if the Ephesians did not repent of being loveless, the Lord was going to snuff them out. The warning given to the Ephesians is a warning for the church today: the church can practice truth all day long, but if it does not flow from hearts that love God, then repentance is in order or the Lord will snuff it out. Therefore, we must recognize that it is enough just to love God, because only those who love Him will obey Him in an acceptable, pleasing manner.
God promises glorious blessings to those who love Him. For those who love God, He promises them, and them alone, wonderful and marvelous blessings.
- The many sins of those who love God much will be forgiven, but for those who love God little, little will be forgiven (Luke 7:47).
- The Father loves those who love Him and He and Christ will only dwell with those who love God and Christ (John 14:23).
- “And we know that for those who love God” and only those who love God, “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purposes” (Romans 8:28).
- Only those who are “rooted and grounded in love” will have “strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ” (ref. Ephesians 3:14-21).
- Grace is dispensed only to those who love God (Ephesians 6:24).
- God has promised those who love Him that they will be spiritually “rich and heirs of the kingdom” (James 2:5).
- Ultimately, the “outcome of [our] faith, the salvation of our souls” is tied to our love of God (1 Peter 1:8-9).
Why is it enough just to love God? Because, God’s great and wonderful blessings only apply to those who love Him.
How to fall in love with God. As we close, let’s turn our attention to how, as Paul said in (Philippians 1:9), to “abound, more and more” in our love for God? First, since, “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19) our love for God will only flourish if we know more of His love for us. Therefore, we need to search the scriptures daily to learn the depths of God’s love for us through His Son and in turn we will fall deeply and passionately in love with Him who saved us from our sins.
The second way, to fall in love with God is to share God’s love with others. Jesus said, the second most important commandment is “to love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). When we love others, not in “word or talk, but in deeds and truth” (1 John 3:18), then, and only then, is the love of God perfected in us (ref. 1 John 4:12). That is to say, that when we love others, God’s love is brought to maturity in our lives. Thus, our love for God increases when we love others, especially our brethren (cf. 1 John 4:20-21).
As we have seen, it is enough to love God. Why? Because to love God is the greatest and most important commandment of all (Mark 12:28-34). Only those who love God will obey His commands in an acceptable manner (John 14:21-24). And, the Lord has promised great and glorious blessings only to those who love Him. Our first and foremost responsibility is to grow deeply and passionately in love with God through the learning the depths of His love for us and sharing His love with others. My prayer for you is that you might be rooted and grounded in love with all those who are being saved. God bless.
If you would like to reprint this article in your church bulletin, you may use these as a three part series: It Is Enough To Love God – Prt 1; It Is Enough To Love God – Prt 2; It Is Enough To Love God – Prt 3