Do The Two Greatest Commandments Render The Others Unimportant?

All my life I’ve heard the false idea that if we obey the two greatest commandments in God’s law (love God and love your neighbor – Matt 22:36-40), it is not so important that we obey all of God’s other commandments (baptism, the Lord’s Supper, telling the truth at all times, etc.). Certainly that is the emphasis of most denominational churches. But I was surprised recently to hear this taught on the radio by a preacher for a church of Christ. How far some brethren have fallen!

When Jesus says in verse 40 “on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets,” he is not saying all the other commandments are unimportant. Instead he is saying true love for God and man is a summary of, and will cause / motivate us to obey, all of God’s other commandments. Godly love manifests itself in obeying God’s New Testament law (John 14:15), not in ignoring any part of it.

If I were to say the efficient operation of a gas engine “hangs” on the purity of the fuel, it would be a correct statement, but I wouldn’t be meaning to say the carburetor, fuel line, sparkplug, crankshaft, etc. are not important. It is true these other parts do not function if there is no gas, but it is also true the gas without these other parts is rendered moot.

Likewise when God commands us to love him and our neighbor, he is not saying we don’t need to concern ourselves with praying (I Thess 5:17) or trying to convert the lost (Acts 8:4).  Instead what he is saying is praying to God and teaching our neighbor is included in loving God and our neighbor. And if we don’t pray as we ought or work at personal evangelism as we should, that reflects upon our love for God and our fellow man.

Are loving God and our neighbor the two greatest commandments? By all means! Does that mean we can ignore heaven’s other commandments? God forbid! (Rom 6:1-2a); Jesus said it was important to obey both the “weightier” and the lighter matters of his law (Matt 23:23).

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