“All you need to do is love God and love people.”
You’ve likely seen words to that effect on church websites, signs, and bulletins. Those words also often show up in social media and even personal conversations with other believers. They capture a sentiment that is becoming increasingly popular in churches today: Let’s strip away the complexities of ministry in a modern world and focus on the basic biblical truth of loving God and man. It’s a goal that is clear, simple, and universally agreeable—it won’t generate controversy nor garner criticism. What could possibly be wrong with that?
Plenty actually, if the terms aren’t biblically defined.
The simplicity of a command doesn’t necessarily mean compliance is easy. Jesus said that to love God is to fulfill the greatest commandment (Mark 12:28–30) and the summation of every other commandment (in conjunction with loving one’s neighbor, Matthew 22:40). In other words, loving God is synonymous with obeying Him.
But it also concerns the heart motivations behind that obedience. In his sermon “Loving God,” John MacArthur considers the biblical foundations for loving God: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5).
You’re never going to be able to be obedient if this is external. This has to be internal. And notice the foundation of this extensive call to loving God in the previous verse: “The Lord is our God, the Lord is one.” Israel lived in a polytheistic world, which means there were many gods, many nations, and every nation had its own deities. There were gods all over the place—that is, false gods, gods that did not exist, fabrications of demons and men. But there is only one true God. The Lord is the one true God.
Therefore, you don’t need to worry about dividing your allegiance. You only need to love one God because there is only one God, and you need to love Him with all your capacities. This is what drives this obedience. The word “love” that our Lord uses in the New Testament accounts, in Matthew and in Mark, is from the verb agapaō, which is the love of intelligence, the love of the will, the love of purpose, the love of choice, the love of sacrifice, and the love of obedience.
It’s easy to say we love God. But it’s another thing altogether to do it. John’s sermon does away with the sentimentalized versions of love that proliferate today. Instead, he biblically considers what it means to truly love our Creator—something all of God’s people are called to do.
Click here to watch or listen to “Loving God.”