The First and Greatest Commandment

The First and Greatest Commandment

Jesus said that the first and greatest commandment is to Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

“You are to love the Lord Yahweh, your God, with every passion of your heart, with all the energy of your being, with every thought that is within you, and with all your strength. This is the great and supreme commandment.” Mark 12:30 TPT

The ten commandments in Exodus 20 record the First Commandment as, “You shall have no other gods before me.’ Exodus 20:3 NIV. Yet, according to Mark 12, when asked by a Pharisee who was an expert in the law, which commandment was the greatest, Jesus’ reply was the verse above. In other places, ‘strength’ is omitted. The Pharisee agreed with Jesus on the wording of the first and greatest commandment.

Jesus followed up by stating that the second commandment was like the first – love your neighbor as yourself – and that these two commandments summed up, or fulfilled, all of the law and the prophets. In other words, if we fulfilled them, there would be no need for the other eight. There was nothing greater than these two to govern the lives of men and their relationship with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

The First and Greatest Commandment

For thousands of years, mankind has read the first commandment, but have we understood the magnitude of it? As Christians, we know that we are not to worship any other thing or person as God. There is only one true God and having no other gods before our GOD was a clear directive. What Jesus said was the same, yet added dimensions we may not have fully considered when we accepted Christ as our Savior.

What does it mean to:

  • Love with every passion of your heart and all the energy of your being?
  • Love with every thought that is within you and with all your strength?

What does it mean and how do you do it?

Loving God

The starting place is that you love God. To do that, you must believe that He is real and that He rewards your faith as it says in Hebrews 11:6, TPT.

“And without faith living within us it would be impossible to please God. For we come to God in faith knowing that he is real and that he rewards the faith of those who give all their passion and strength into seeking him.”

You only love someone you trust and believe in. If you are a Christian, you have made a statement of faith and belief in God and His Son, Jesus Christ, your Savior. As a result, the Holy Spirit, the third member of the Trinity, is living inside you. This is love.

In this verse, the Hebrew word for love is agapēseis and the definition is: To love, wish well to, take pleasure in, long for; denotes the love of reason, esteem. That’s the first step in obeying the first and greatest commandment.

It also means that you have only one God – the true God and Father, Jesus Christ, His Son, and the Holy Spirit. You believe in the Trinity. Nothing comes between or before. No other relationship is more important. You are serving the one true God, the creator, redeemer, Savior, and Lord of all. God is the first and greatest. The first and greatest commandment is to love Him along with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Make Him Your God

We don’t just give mental assent to the reality of God. If we love, we have acknowledged Him (mental assent) and accepted His existence deep within our being – our heart and soul. When we make God our God, it’s personal. We are making a commitment much like that of marriage vows except that this vow changes our eternity.

When you make God your God, not just the God who created the world and everyone in it, it means you are entering into an eternal relationship with Him. In the process, you are also giving Him your life and every part of your being while here on earth. You are dying to self and living for Him.

When God is our personal God, He is also our Lord. That’s not a word we use much outside of Church. Lord literally means – someone or something having power, authority, or influence; a master or ruler. It was used a great deal in times past but, because we no longer live under the rulership of a person whose title is “Lord,” we tend to forget what it really means.

We don’t generally address other people with that word. However, in Biblical terms, this is the role of God in our lives when we are in a personal relationship with Him. He has power, authority, and influence. The wonderful thing for us is that He is a perfect and loving Lord and Savior.

Love God With All Your Heart

If you have ever fallen in love with someone, you know how this felt. You loved them with every tiny cell of your being. In our acceptance of Christ as our Savior, we experience this same feeling, this rush of joyful love. The word ‘kardias’ is used here and it means: the heart, i.e. the thoughts or feelings; also the middle.

We are giving Him our heart. Aside from being the organ that keeps our physical body alive, what does heart mean? Here is how BibleStudyTools.com defines it:

The Heart as Center of Hidden Emotional-Intellectual-Moral Activity. “Man looks at the outward appearance, ” says Samuel, “but the lord looks at the heart” ( 1 Sam 16:7 ). The king’s heart is unsearchable to humankind ( Prov 25:3 ), but the Lord searches all hearts to reward all according to their conduct ( Jer 17:10 ). In the time of judgment God will expose the hidden counsels of the heart ( 1 Cor 4:5 ). Jesus says that the heart’s secrets are betrayed by the mouth, even as a tree’s fruit discloses its nature ( Matt 12:33-34 ). “A wise man’s heart guides his mouth, ” says Solomon ( Prov 16:23 ). Most important, the mouth confesses what the heart trusts ( Rom 10:9 ; cf. Deut 30:14 ).

The heart has emotions, wishes, desires, thoughts, and intentions. It remembers, reflects and meditates, and has insight or wisdom, and morals. It plans, makes commitments, and decides. Our heart is who we are beneath the exterior. It is our true self. It can become blind or be defiled.

The Big Decision

When we decide to love God with our whole heart, there is more involved than just an emotion. This is everything. We are giving Him the parts of ourselves no one else can fully see or completely understand. It includes the things we try to hide from the others but cannot hide from God. It’s the whole package! This is the first and greatest commandment.

This means that the decision to love the Lord Your God with ALL your heart has far greater implications and requirements than you may have originally thought.

God doesn’t want our words or our good deeds. In the Old Testament, He didn’t want their sacrifices. When He created us, it was because He wanted us. He wanted every bit of us – body, soul, spirit, mind, heart – All. The Word is really quite clear as to what God wants. He wants relationship, fellowship, communion, trust, and total, all-in love! This is how you obey the first and greatest commandment.

I would surrender my dearest possessions or destroy all that I prize to prove my regret, but You don’t take pleasure in sacrifices or burnt offerings. What sacrifice I can offer You is my broken spirit because a broken spirit, O God, a heart that honestly regrets the past, You won’t detest.Psalm 51:16-17 The Voice

Love God With All Your Soul

Your soul is your human life. As I read various commentaries, there was disagreement as to whether or not the ‘soul’ is immortal. Spirit certainly is. Most felt that the way the word is used tells us that soul is a word denoting human life – there are 40 souls on board the ship. When the body dies, the soul dies. Some believe that when the body dies, the soul lives and goes either to heaven or hell. This is what I believe, but, one way or the other, they agreed that the word ‘soul’ represents a human life.

The Hebrew word used to denote soul is ‘psychēs’ which means: From psucho; breath, i.e. spirit, abstractly or concretely. Your very life’s breath.

In this context, the commitment to love the Lord your God with all your soul is with your very life – your entire being. As translated above in The Passion, it says, “with all the energy of your being” and this seems a wonderful way to express soul.

When you obey the first and greatest commandment, to love with all your soul, you are committing every energy of your life to God. Everything that expresses who and what you now are belongs to God and this is how the commandment is fulfilled.

Love God With All Your Mind

The mind is a complex thing and is talked about often in Scripture. Yet, even in Scripture, the actual definition is often unclear since it sometimes mixes soul and mind. The mind is more than just the brain located in our skull. The mind is more than just an organ! Here is one viewpoint of what the ‘mind’ is.

“While the brain is a wonderful organ that directs the human functions, it should in no way be viewed as a mere machine.  If we are nothing but machines, and if our brains are understood as clockwork toys, how can we be regarded as free agents?

To the Christian, the mind is understood as the sum total of all a person’s conscious state which includes our thoughts, memories, feelings, and emotions.  It is human mind that distinguishes the responsibility and uniqueness of the human person.  Humanness demands creativity, the ability to think and act in totally new ways, to imagine new solutions and see things in novel forms.  

Hence, the mind distinguishes one person from another in the way the world is viewed, and analyzed.  The brain allows a variety in how each person synthesizes ideas, argues an issue, or expresses a mood.  However, when the brain is off, the mind is off!

In sum, the brain directs the millions of neurons that send different messages to various parts of the body.  However, it is the human mind, that nonmaterial part, that takes these sensations and messages and expresses them in unique ways–different for each individual.” Institute for Christian TeachingEducation Department of Seventh-day Adventists

The Mind

The mind is invisible and yet it is far more than just the brain. Above, they stated that if the brain shuts off, so does the mind. However, how do they know that? Is the mind part of the soul which may live on after the physical body dies?

I don’t really know the answer but have always believed that our soul and the part of us which is our chosen thought process lives after the body dies and this is what goes to heaven. There is obviously some aspect of our being that lives eternally in heaven or hell. I believe that includes the invisible thing we call the mind and that is how I will be referring to it here.

I believe that the mind consists of the things noted above – the sum total of our conscious state, thoughts, memories, feelings, emotions, responsibility, uniqueness, creativity, the ability to act in new ways, imagine new things, see things in new ways, distinguish things and people from one another, have ideas, arguments, moods, all expressed in unique, individual ways.

There is evidence that, even in an unconscious state, the mind continues to work at various levels as shown by people who were comatose, woke up, and had memory and awareness of things happening around them while in the comatose state.

Changing Our Mind

The Bible and experience clearly show us that we can make a decision (the mind) to change our emotions, moods, attitudes, decisions, beliefs, and viewpoints. We are told to change our minds!

“Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes.” Romans 12:2 TPT

This verse is telling us that it is our job to do this. A ‘total reformation’ is a change, and ‘think’ in Greek is the word ‘noos’ and literally means mind. A total reformation of your mind implies more than just a single choice. If you change your thinking in an area, this affects your actions, attitudes, and possibly far more. Here is a list of scriptures about our role regarding our mind or thinking.

  • Philippians 4:8 TPT, “So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always.” thoughts=logizesthe=reason, decide, conclude.
  • Romans 8:6 TPT, “For the mind-set of the flesh is death, but the mind-set controlled by the Spirit finds life and peace.” thoughts=phroneo-inclination or purpose.
  • 1 Peter 1:13 TPT, “So then, prepare your hearts and minds for action! Stay alert and fix your hope firmly on the marvelous grace that is coming to you. For when Jesus Christ is unveiled, a greater measure of grace will be released to you.” minds=dianoias=exercise of your deep thoughts.
  • Colossians 3:2 NIV, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” set your minds =phroneite=direct the mind to.
  • Philippians 4:6-7 The Voice, “Don’t be anxious about things; instead, pray. Pray about everything. He longs to hear your requests, so talk to God about your needs and be thankful for what has come. And know that the peace of God (a peace that is beyond any and all of our human understanding) will stand watch over your hearts and minds in Jesus, the Anointed One.” minds=noēmata=Purpose, or the intellect, disposition, itself.
  • 2 Corinthians 10:5 TPT, “We can demolish every deceptive fantasy that opposes God and break through every arrogant attitude that is raised up in defiance of the true knowledge of God. We capture, like prisoners of war, every thought and insist that it bow in obedience to the Anointed One.” thought=noēma=Purpose, or the intellect, disposition, itself. Deceptive Fantasy=logismous=Reasoning. Arrogant Attitude=hypsōma=bulwark, presumption, elevated place or thing.

As you can see, we are tasked with dealing with our minds – thoughts, dispositions, presumptions, reasonings, conclusions, inclinations, purposes, deep thoughts, and attitudes. When we obey the first and greatest commandment, to love the Lord our God with all our minds, this is what is involved. If you are submitting your mind to Him in obedience, there are multiple elements involved. Now, when Scripture addresses your mind and thoughts, as in the seven scriptures above, you see the scope of what is required. God wants everything because He already gave everything!

I think we sometimes fail to realize the depth of what total commitment to God really means. We throw a few outward things down at the foot of the cross and go on with our lives. We stop doing some obviously sinful things and even go to church. But, what about the deepest parts of us? That is where God is looking, and what He wants is this deepest inner man, who is the true self, not the one we dress up to look presentable. This is what it means to commit to the first and greatest commandment.

I think we sometimes fail to realize the depth of what total commitment to God really means. We throw a few outward things down at the foot of the cross and go on with our lives. We stop doing some obviously sinful things and even go… Click To Tweet

Love God With All Your Strength

It doesn’t seem like there would be anything left to give after looking at the heart, soul, and mind. But, there is one more thing – all your strength. The Greek word is ‘ischyos’ and literally means all of your strength, might, power, force, ability. The full potency of all that is within.

Remember the scripture – “So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” Zechariah 4:6 NIV. The New Testament says it differently but it’s the same idea. God wants our strength to come from Him, not on our own. He wants to take our strength and turn it into His.

Nehemiah 8:10 says that “the joy of the Lord is our strength.” 1 Chronicles 16:11 says ‘to look to the Lord and His strength,’ Philippians 4:13 says, ‘I can do all this through him who gives me strength.’ He is the strength of our life and His desire is for us to rely upon Him for everything.

This doesn’t mean that we are to be weak. Just the opposite. It means that, in Christ, we are given power. 2 Timothy 1:7, NIV says, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” We are strong in the power of HIS might – not our own.

The First and Greatest Commandment

The divine exchange in the first and greatest commandment involves every single aspect of a human being. Your heart, soul, mind, and strength. There is nothing left but God – no other god, no self. Just obedience to the first and greatest commandment.

The Exchange is old for new, sin for forgiveness, hell for heaven, death for life, temporary for eternal, and fear for peace. It is everything of the sinful flesh exchanged for all that is most good in the Eternal. This is what the first and greatest commandment is asking for and giving in return.

At first, it may seem that what is being asked is unreasonable. However, if we look at it correctly, it is what is being given that is unreasonable! It is the extravagant love of God waiting to be lavished upon us when we are ready to extravagantly relinquish control. It is our weak and inadequate flesh being exchanged for the very life of God.

The Lifetime Transaction

Are you ready? It isn’t a one-and-done transaction. It takes a lifetime to complete. It is actually a constant, growing exchange of old for new. But only if we allow it to be. God is never the one who is holding back. There is a flood of goodness, newness, joy, grace, and love ready to be poured out. Since we might not be able to handle it all at once, we receive it as we are ready and willing. In times of hardship, we don’t have to be ready or ask, He just gives before we even know we have a need.

I pray that you are built up and strengthened in the knowledge of what the first and greatest commandment really means and that it brings you great joy and anticipation. It is all about divine love.

I would encourage you to also read this wonderful blog from His Dearly Loved Daughter – The Greatest Commandments: Called to Love.

Download your free Scripture Cards for the First and Greatest Commandment – Click Here

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**We use verses from different Bible translations.
To see more information about the copyright for each one, please visit our Scripture Citations.

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Podcast for the First and Greatest Commandment

6 thoughts on “The First and Greatest Commandment”

  1. Great job Fleda! I pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to do the work in me to help me fully surrender my heart, mind, soul, and strength to God and love Him deeply with all that I am!
    (I am going to add this link to my post on the greatest commandments too.)

  2. What a great and thorough post, Fleda. I love how you took each aspect of putting God first and broke it down so completely as to not leave any doubts of what is meant. And in exchange, your comment about what we receive is so unbelievable and unreasonable. But it’s all because we have a loving Heavenly Father who only wants the best for us.

    1. Thank you so much Wendy. It’s wonderful to hear these kind words from my hero! That’s no joke – you are my hero. I always have fun breaking down Scripture and want to make it practical. My love to you!

    1. I appreciate the ‘passion’ of The Passion Translation! Sometimes, it changes the wording so much that people might not recognize the verse, but most of the time, it does what its name implies – imparts a sense of passion. Thank you for reading and commenting.

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