God's Word For You is a free Bible Study site committed to bringing you studies firmly grounded in the Bible – the Word of God. Holding a reformed, conservative, evangelical perspective this site affirms that God has provided in Jesus Christ his eternal Son, a way of salvation in which we can live in his presence guilt free, acquitted and at peace.



© Rosemary Bardsley 2012

The love to which Christ commands us is a truly radical love. His commands concerning love are so radical, so different from the mindset of our society, that they seem impossible to obey, indeed, we are not even sure we want to even try to obey them. He commands us to a kind of love, and an extent of love that is all-embracing and limitless. He commands us to love people whom, if it were left to us, and if we are completely honest, we would really rather not know about. We would really rather leave them as faceless, nameless people. We would really rather not get close to them, for we are afraid that in their faces we would be confronted by their desperate need for this incredible love that Christ commands us to give them.

But this command to this impossible love does not only confront us in the poverty and wasted lives of the world’s destitute or the world’s ‘sinners’: it confronts us in our Christian neighbour – that person whose bitter criticism has hurt us, that person who has taken over the ministry that once was ours, that person who manipulates and uses us, that person who never says ‘g’day’ to us, who treats us as nobody. Even these, Christ commands us to love. Like this.



A.1 In the Sermon on the Mount:

We are to love our enemies [Matthew 5:43-48; see also Luke 6:27-36]
We are to love as God loves [Matthew 5:43-48]

In the Matthew passage Jesus pointed out that it is this kind of love, that reaches beyond the normal love that ‘even the tax-collectors’ show to each other, will identify us as children of our Father in heaven. It is a love that does not set up boundaries and limits. It reaches beyond those we might consider ‘worthy’ of our love, and loves those from whom there is no expectation of love being returned.


A.2 In the Parables:
We saw, in the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, that Jesus demands a compassionate, forgiving love, which is the opposite of the grudge-bearing, pay-back mindset of our human race, but which, if we express it, will demonstrate that we really know God and that we really understand his love and his compassion. This command to compassionate love is also found in the story of the Good Samaritan [Luke 10:25-37], Ephesians 4:32-5:2, Colossians 3:13 and 1Peter 3:8.

Deep thought about this love reveals that it is no common love. It goes beyond human love and human compassion. At the deep level at which Christ commands it, it can only be expressed by those who know his love, both as its motivation and as its example.



The two great commandments sum up and contain the whole of the law of God. They are expressed in extremely simple words. No one can fail to understand what the words mean. Yet to obey these commands is the greatest challenge that we will ever face in our life.

Reflection and response: Read the great commandments as they were recorded by Moses. What additional information is added in the other passages?

Deuteronomy 6:5 –

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.’

Matthew 22:37-38;

Leviticus 19:18

‘… love your neighbour as yourself.’

Leviticus 19:34; Matthew 22:39;

What makes these two commandments so difficult to obey? What do you personally find to be the biggest problem that stops you from keeping them?

Loving God with all that we are


Loving our neighbour as we love ourselves


These two commands cut completely across the self-centred, self-pleasing, self-promoting bent of our natures. That is the key difficulty with each of them. We want to live for ourselves. This love points and calls us away from ourselves – firstly to God, then secondly to our neighbour.

It is not loving God so that we can get his love, or eternal life – for that love would be really loving ourselves. That is the kind of love of which the devil accused Job.

It is not loving our neighbour to gain either saving merit that will end up in eternal reward, or give us a buzz in this life – for this love also is self focused, we are doing it not for the neighbour but for ourselves.

This love is God-focused: with all our being we want to please him because we love him.
This love is neighbour-focused: we are moved with deep compassion towards our neighbour, because we are overwhelmed by [1] his deep need, and [2] God’s compassion for us in Christ Jesus.

This is no ordinary love. It can only come from knowing God and being known by him.




The love for God that is commanded in Deuteronomy 6:5 and elsewhere translates into loving Jesus Christ with all that we have, for he and the Father are one [John 10:30]. To see him is to see God, to know him is to know God, to receive him is to receive God [John 12:44-46; 14:6-9]. He, the Son of God, is to be honoured with the same honour due to the Father [John 5:23].

For this reason, because he is God, who is to be loved with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, Jesus commands that we love him more than we love anyone else. Love for him must take priority over all other loves.

Reflection and response: Write out the phrases from Matthew 10:34-39 that teach that Christ must be our first and most important love.





This love to which Christ commands us is only possible by knowing God and by knowing his love.

The last words of Jesus’ prayer to his Father in the presence of his disciples in the upper room were:

‘I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.’ [John 17:26]

At this poignant hour, at this moment just before the end, Christ focused on the key purpose, his key activity that dominated the whole of his life and ministry, that dominated him even in his death: that he made the Father known in order that God’s love, the same love that Father has for the Son, may be in his disciples.

This is incomprehensible to our puny self-focused minds. It is love on a completely alien level. It is not human love.

But one thing we can see clearly from the words themselves, even if we do not understand the depth of this statement: that for this love to be in us we must first know God. For this love of God to be in us, indeed for Christ to be in us, Christ must first make the Father known to us.

For this reason we must never think that we are becoming more loving, more god-like, by:

  • Watching our spiritual barometers in efforts at introspective self-analysis
  • Concentrating on our sins and trying to get rid of them
  • Listening to the sin-lists of others
  • Looking at our own piety

We must repent of this idea that we can generate this love by looking at ourselves and making the necessary corrections.

This love is only made possible by knowing God in his Son, Jesus Christ, who has made him known. To become loving like God, we must look at him in the place where he is made known. Only face-to-face with him can we ever reflect his love. For this reason Paul wrote to the Corinthians that it is as we contemplate the Lord [see NIV footnote, or KJV] that the Holy Spirit does his work of transforming us into his image [2 Corinthians 3:18]. Simply put, we become like Christ by looking at him, not ourselves.

This radical love to which Christ commands us, and which is his purpose for us, comes only from knowing God.

The love that Christ accepts is uncalculating and uncalculated love that wells up from a heart over-whelmed by his love. It is this kind of love that will also express itself in obedience to his commands for the sake of Christ himself, and not for merit or reward. [Example: the woman in Luke 7:36-50.]

Leon Morris comments:
‘We have seen that the New Testament consistently sees love as originating in God, which may be expressed explicitly with the absolute use of noun or verb. “Love is of God.” Writes John; he also says, “Everyone who loves has been begotten from God” (1John 4:7). And, “We love, because he first loved us” (1John 4:19). In such passages the transformation that makes us loving people is God’s work. People do not transform themselves, nor are they gripped by an overmastering passion; they are changed by a divine creative work.’ [p230, Testaments of Love’ ]




This love that is commanded by Christ is no ordinary love. It is his love. It is love like his. The New Testament gives us some particular descriptions of this love so that we can see how it expresses itself in the context of our daily lives. For example:

Reflection and response: Read the verses. Discuss the key concept about love in the context of the verses, and write your conclusions about their practical meaning

Key concept


Practical meaning


Romans 12:9

1 Peter 1:22

1 John 3:18

Preferring the other person


Romans 12:10

1 Corinthians 13:5

Philippians 2:3-4

The only thing we owe each other

Romans 13:8

Serving each other [kindness]

Galatians 5:13-15

Bearing with each other [patience]

1 Corinthians 13:4

Galatians 6:2

Ephesians 4:2

Building each other up with the truth

Ephesians 4:15-16

Bring unity and encouragement

Philippians 2:1-5

Colossians 2:2


Christ’s command to love confronts and challenges each one of us, shaking us in the very centre of our being. As you look at Jesus Christ and his love, then look at his command to love, how are you challenged with the implications and application of this command that we have studied through this session?

Reflection and response:

Aspect of Christ’s command

Implications and application for my life

To love God with all of me

To love my neighbour as myself

Jesus – to be my first love

Loving as Jesus loved

Loving one another

Love generated and motivated by knowing Christ and his love

The characteristics of love