The Great Commandment — Part One
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The Great Commandment — Part One

Matthew 22:34–40  (ID: 3565)

When Jesus issued the Great Commandment—to love the Lord with all your heart, mind, and soul and to love your neighbor as yourself—He wasn’t reducing the Ten Commandments to two. Rather, He was teaching that all of God’s law hangs on those two concerns. Alistair Begg walks us through the role of the law in the believer’s life, explaining that when the Holy Spirit fills our hearts with God’s love, then we’ll follow His rules—not to receive rewards or avoid penalties but because we love Him.

Series Containing This Sermon

Encore 2023

Selected Scriptures Series ID: 25919

Sermon Transcript: Print

I invite you to turn with me to Exodus and to chapter 20 and to follow along as I read from the first verse. Exodus chapter 20. And the God whose name we are praising in song is the God who speaks here in his Word.

Exodus 20:1:

“And God spoke all these words, saying,

“‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

“‘You shall have no other gods before me.

“‘You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

“‘You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

“‘Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but [on] the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

“‘Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

“‘You shall not murder.

“‘You shall not commit adultery.

“‘You shall not steal.

“‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

“‘You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.’

“Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, ‘You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.’ Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.’ The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.”


And I invite you to turn to the Gospel of Matthew and to chapter 22. Matthew chapter 22:34:

“But when the Pharisees heard that he”—that is, Jesus—“had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.’”

Father, as we turn to the Bible, we pray for the help of the Holy Spirit to grant to us listening ears for your voice, clarity in expression for my voice, and a deep-seated understanding of all that your Word conveys to us this day, so that we might be conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.

I think it was a man by the name of Jim Collins who wrote a book called Good to Great. I think the idea was that there are certain companies that are good, but only a number of them make the leap from being good to being great. I’ve been thinking about that this week because of a kind of reverse play on the basis of that phraseology. Because as you will notice here, we are dealing with “the Great Commandment.” The Great Commandment. Having last Sunday morning together thought about the Great Commission and now the Great Commandment, I said to myself, “Now, if we as a church can take hold of the instruction of the Bible in both of these areas at this particular point in our history, perhaps we can move from the greatness of this to becoming a good church.” A good church.

Jesus here, as you will perhaps know, is quoting from the Old Testament. He’s quoting first of all from Deuteronomy and the section that we will be using in a moment or two in our second service when we share together in a baby dedication: the Shema. Shema is Hebrew for “hear.” It begins, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord [your] God, the Lord is One.”[1] And that is the first part of the text that we have here in Matthew. And then, in the second, where he talks about loving of the neighbor, he’s actually quoting from Leviticus and chapter 19.[2] And so our purpose today is to be confronted by and to give consideration to this Great Commandment.

And in order to do so, it is important for us to have an understanding of the commandments as they are given to us in the Bible—indeed, an understanding of the law of God as it is presented to us in the Bible, and particularly an understanding of the place of the law in the life of a believer. It is absolutely crucial that we understand this, and I want to take some time leading up, as it were, to the text. If I never get there, then we’ll get there later on. But it would be less than helpful if I leave large swaths of the congregation behind by presuming on a certain understanding of the place of the law in the life of the Christian. It’s not only important that we understand it but that we embrace the all-demanding nature of God’s law, which, as we read, was given to his people in the context of redeeming grace, so that grace and law together are unfolding.

The Purpose of the Law

The Ten Commandments, which we just read from Exodus, were laws for God’s redeemed people. That is of vital importance: the laws that God gave were for his redeemed people. He did not take them out of the land of Egypt because they kept the Ten Commandments; he took them out, giving to them the Ten Commandments so that they might live by them, so that the moral law was to be for them a chart and a compass. When we think, for example, of Proverbs 3:5–6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not [rely] on your own [insight]. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will [direct] your paths”[3]—the commandments were given to them because he took them out, and the law was informing them of what God requires, and the Spirit of God was empowering them to do what God requires.

So, let’s just say it, first of all, as axiomatic that according to our understanding of the Bible, the moral law of God not only is a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, to show us, to hold up the law of God, the Ten Commandments, as a mirror so that we might look at our face in them and see how we are on the wrong side of that. Immediately, number one: “You shall have no other gods before me,” which is the negative side of Deuteronomy 6: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind.”[4] In other words, “You shall have no other gods before me.”

But I recognize that a congregation such as ours is filled with all kinds of notions in relationship to this. I know that because I come across you, and I have had occasion to talk with you. And some people immediately, when we begin to move in this direction, start to ask the question, “Well, what about the place of Romans 6:14, where Paul is writing, and it says, ‘For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace’?” Some of you already in your minds are going, “Well, wait a minute. The law has an abiding place in the life of the Christian? What about Romans 6:14?” Well, I’m glad you asked. Actually, you didn’t ask. I knew you would ask, and so I asked. What is the answer to that?

Well, the answer is that we are not under law, first of all, as a way of justification. We’re not under law as a means whereby we can be set right with God. Secondly, we’re not under law as it relates to the Mosaic legislation. All of those civil aspects—and along with it, ceremonial aspects, too—are no longer under law in relationship to that. And thirdly, we are no longer under law as the dynamic of our sanctification—in other words, that being made more and more like Jesus is not taking place under the dominion of the law but is taking place as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, who conforms us to the image of Christ and uses the law of God to keep us on track.

“Well, yeah, but,” says somebody else, “what about in John, and in chapter 13 of John, where Jesus says, ‘A new commandment I give to you’?” John 13:34: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you [are also] to love one another.” And people say, “Well, what about that?” And what they’re usually saying when they say “about that” is, “Well, you see, there used to be the Ten Commandments. That was in the old days. But Jesus showed up, and he said, ‘No, no, no. I gave you a new commandment. And the new commandment is that you just love one another.’”

Love is guided by the law itself.

That would be rather strange, wouldn’t it—that Jesus would be setting aside the moral law so that his followers could then live free from the demands of the moral law? No, when you read what Jesus is saying there, it’s pretty clear that the newness was to be found in loving one another as he had loved his disciples. That comes again, actually, in 15: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”[5]

Now, you knew that the commandment said this in the same way that he internalizes the commandments: “You shall not kill, but I tell you, if you’re cursing somebody from your lips, you’re guilty. You shall not commit adultery, but in your heart…”[6] and so on. So when he says “a new commandment that I’ve given you,” he is saying what he’s saying, but he is not setting aside the moral law. No. Far from setting it aside, he made it perfectly clear to those who were listening to him in the Sermon on the Mount: “Do not think,” he says—this is Matthew 5:17—“do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

So we can safely reject the notion that the Ten Commandments have been now reduced to just two commandments—that the ten have been set aside. Jesus answers the question, and he says, “Well, the greatest commandment is this.” That was what they were asking. They were asking where it fit in the great summary of things. And you will notice—and the text helps us clearly with this, doesn’t it? You will notice that he says, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

In other words, he is providing them, us, with a summary of the summary. The summary of the law of God is in the Ten Commandments. The summary of the Ten Commandments given by Jesus is right here: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind” covers the first four of the Ten Commandments, and “Love your neighbor as yourself” covers the remaining six of the Ten Commandments.

So it’s very, very important that we grasp this. Because there is a prevalent notion around that somehow or another, in Jesus, the followers of Jesus are just left to figure out what love looks like for themselves: “This is what love means to me,” “This is how I view an expression of love,” and so on. And you get it not only within the framework of Christianity, but you get the notion pulsating through secular society. Have you seen any of the Gavin Newsom pro-abortion pillar boards? The one for California reads, “Need an abortion? California is ready to help.” And underneath, “‘“Love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no greater commandment.’ (Mark 12:31).” There you have it: the Bible turned upside down for the whole of California to see. That’s the notion: you can love your neighbor as yourself any way you choose, any time you want, any way you plan. Absolutely not! Absolutely not. Jesus is pointing out that his followers are not left to try and figure it out. He’s going to show them what love looks like. Love is guided by the law itself.

Now, the challenge in this—and I belabor it purposefully—the challenge in this is that contemporary church life in America is awash in sermons that pay scant attention to this; is being overwhelmed by talks that appeal to the listener’s sense of well-being: congregations that are willing to be coaxed, maybe cajoled slightly, but are totally unprepared to be issued, from the Scriptures, by the Lord, with calls to duty. One author has suggested that these are features of contemporary evangelicalism—an evangelicalism that knows very little and cares very little about the law of God. Here, this is his perspective. What you will find there:

• an absence of a true and realistic understanding of the seriousness of sin

• superficial preaching that appeals to man’s felt needs and affection

• a general listlessness and lawlessness in the lives of professing Christians

• an absence of the fear of God in public worship and private living …

• churches relying on strategies borrowed from business and psychology[, and]

• a growing confidence in ourselves and an accompanying loss of confidence in God and in His Word[7]

Now, we say, “Well, this must be something that is unique to our age.” No. This is Martin Luther in his writings on Galatians: he says, “I fear that after our time” (after his time; that’s quite a time!), “the right handling of the Law will become a lost art. Even now, although we continually explain the separate functions of the Law and the Gospel, we have those among us who do not understand how the Law should be used. What will it be like when we are dead and gone?”[8]

Now, the very fact that we’re even doing the catechism speaks to this. If you take the earlier catechisms—not just the one we’re using, and perhaps not as much the one we’re using—but if you go back to those catechisms, the vast majority, at least a third of the catechism, were directly questions and answers relating to the law of God, asking, “What does God require? What is it that God expects to be for our rule of life?”

And if you pardon me, just another quote from John Murray in relationship to this. He says that when we affirm the fact that the rule of our life is in the law of God,

the statement of such a position is exceedingly distasteful to many phases of modern thought both within and without the evangelical family. It is [agreed] that the conception of an externally revealed and imposed code of duty, norm of right feeling, thought and conduct, is entirely out of accord with the liberty and spontaneity of the Christian life. We are told that conformity to the will of God must come from within, and … therefore any stipulation or prescription from without in the form of well-defined precepts is wholly alien to the spirit of the gospel. It is inconsistent, they say, with the spirit or principle of love: “Don’t speak of law, nor of moral precepts, nor of a code of morals. Speak of the law of love.”[9]

Now, some of you come across this. You will find it. You need to be alert to it. You read a book on Christian manhood, and in the book on Christian manhood, the author says, “You know, the problem with our men today is that they’ve grown up with all these dos and don’ts. That has absolutely spoiled their existence. They don’t need dos and don’ts. They need an adventure. They need to have an adventure.” Well, he’s obviously not involved in pastoral ministry. Because our men are having adventures, and not all the adventures are ones that God would necessarily condone—in fact, adventures by our teens and adventures by all of us. If we use our tummy as the deciding factor on what adventures are good for us and what adventures are allowable and what adventures are not allowable, how in the world is love to be constrained? How then is our own response to God’s compassionate grace towards us, how does it find its framework? How does it work? Well, you see, this is what happens: we look for a God that we can use rather than a God we obey, a God who will fulfill our needs, meet our longings, than a God before whom we need to surrender all the rights to ourselves.

Why is the evangelical church so flabby? Flabby. You say, “Well, that’s not a nice thing to say,” but we are. We’re flabby. I’ll tell you why: because we have neglected God’s law. We’ve neglected his law. John Newton, writing in his day to a correspondent, suggested that “a misunderstanding of the law of God lies at the root of most mistakes in the Christian life”[10]—that “a misunderstanding of [the place of] the law of God lies at the root of most [of the] mistakes in the Christian life.” Because that external constraint, which is there, given to us to frame our lives, when set aside… People say, “Well, it’s set aside because it was from a different time. It was set aside because it’s from a different age.” Depending on your background—whether you read Ryrie Study Bible, wherever it might be—you’ve already decided, “No, no, that’s got nothing to do with this time. That was for that time. It’s not for this.” Listen: “as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end”—that the law sends us to the gospel that we might be justified.

Because it is the law of God when it is preached. Because people say, “Well, I’m a nice guy. I do my taxes and everything else, and I try to look after my wife and my children and so on. And I just came here to get a little spirituality and to have a nice time. And it was going very well until you started that law stuff! Where do you come up with that law thing? That makes me feel not good. And I know that Christianity is supposed to make me feel good. And as soon as I no longer feel good, then I’ve got to go find another place where I feel good. I don’t need anybody, including God, telling me that I can’t have idols.” “You shall have no other gods before me,” says God. And let me tell you what it will look like when you get number one wrong: it’s a cavalcade that goes right through the remaining nine.

Now, you see, that is why I say to you, if we’re going to consider this Great Commandment—which we are about to—it is important that we give thought to these things.

Loving God

So, to the verses that we quoted in Matthew and chapter 22, in case you have already forgotten: “When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees…” And incidentally, if you look back to 22:15, the context is that the Pharisees were plotting “how to entangle [Jesus] in his words.” And so they came to him, first of all, and, you know, “We’re supposed to worship God. What about Caesar?”[11] He answers that one. Then they came to him, the Sadducees, about “What if this guy had seven wives, and they got married and remarried? And what will happen?”[12] Then he deals with that one, and that now “the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees”—which, of course, the Pharisees would be well pleased with—they got together. And presumably, they said, “You know, you’re the best at this. You’re the nomikos. You’re the lawyer. You’re the expert in the law. Why don’t you pose a question to test Jesus: ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’”

Now, you see, they were very particular about obeying the rules. It is estimated that they had 613 rules—various bits and pieces that they had added to the law. Incidentally, parenthetically, when you find a church that has set aside the Ten Commandments but still wants to be “holy,” you will find yourself in a church that has come up with more rules and regulations than you could ever imagine: “You can’t do this. You can’t do that. You can’t sing there. You can’t stand there. You can’t, you can’t, you don’t, you can’t, you can’t, you can’t. Oh, we don’t believe in the Ten Commandments—so we came up with our own 613 of them.” They had 248 that were positive and 365 that were negative—which should add up to 613.

Now, it is very, very important that their problem is, as revealed… If your Bible is open at 22 and 23, if you look at verse 28, Jesus says to them, “You know, you guys, your problem is that you outwardly appear righteous to others, but within, you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”[13] So they were really big on rules, really big on looking holy, really big on looking righteous. And Jesus says, “Yeah, you’re doing a really good job on the externals.” It’s very easy to pretend to be holy. You just meet the required status of whatever your group is: you wear the right clothes, you say the right words, you do the right things, you attend at the right times, and so on. And Jesus says, “The trouble with that is that although you appear righteous to others, within you’re full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” They made an external show, but without love, their appearance of religion was actually just an empty form.

And so it is that the beginnings of loving God in the way that he says God is to be loved is with an internal cleansing, not an external cleansing. I’m still, now, in chapter 23, prior to what we just read. But in verse 25, Jesus says, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they[’re] full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.”

You see, loving God starts with inward cleansing. Loving God starts with inward cleansing. The question posed on behalf of his colleagues was out of a community that had rules and ritual. If you like, we might say that they had made an idol of their religion. An idol of their religion. Because, as I pointed out, this quote from Deuteronomy 6 is, if you like, the positive side of the very first commandment of the Ten Commandments: “You shall have no other gods before me.” That’s the negative. What’s the positive? The positive is “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”

In other words, God is looking for complete commitment. And Jesus, when he confronts people, is also looking for complete commitment. “Great crowds accompanied him, and he turned [to them] and [he] said to them”—big crowds; it’s going great!—“‘If anyone comes to me and does[n’t] hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.’”[14] You talk about lessening the demands of following Jesus?

Sinclair Ferguson has an amazing statement on this. He says, “The higher the position something occupies [in] the scale of divine blessing, the more subtle [is] the temptation to worship it.”[15] Did you get that? The higher something lies in the scale of divine blessing. I love my wife. I’m devoted to her. I love my children. So do you. I love my grandchildren. See what Jesus is saying? “You can’t love them more than me. You can’t turn your wife or your husband into an idol. You can’t turn your children and their well-being into an idol.” He says, “You mustn’t do that. Because God says, ‘Don’t do it.’ You better not turn your preaching into an idol. You better not turn the blessings of the church into an idol.” That’s what he’s saying. And that’s what these guys were missing: complete commitment.

Deuteronomy 6—which is what we’re quoting—God had promised to his people a new covenant. Remember, Jeremiah is prophesying—Jeremiah 31—and God says through the prophet Jeremiah, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.”[16] “I’m going to put it in them and write it on their hearts.” They were good at the externals. They were good at the law, externally. They were so good at it, they had even added a bunch of their own. But they missed exactly what the word of the prophet had been. And the word of the prophet was that “I am going to wash you. I am going cleanse you. I am going forgive you. And I’m going make your heart the shape of my law. I’m going to write my law on your heart, so that to do my law will be a delight.”

Because, you see, the Ten Commandments are just the original plan of God for the well-being of humanity. This is what was written into the DNA of Adam and Eve, if you like. This is why they had a sense of right and a sense of wrong. That is why, you know, when Paul is writing to the church in Rome, and he says, you know, “When the Gentiles, who do not have the law by nature…” Right? They don’t have the law. The Gentiles did not grow up with the law of God. He says, “They do not have the law by nature. But when they do what the law requires, they’re a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.”[17]

What does he mean? Well, he goes on: “They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.”[18] So in other words, he’s saying this: that the natural law is written into the DNA of humanity—the sense of oughtness, the sense of right and wrong; so that even those who reject the law of God, who reject the Word of God, know inside of themselves that something is out of line, that something is wrong. And so the great transformation that has to take place is internal—to get changed from the inside. “I will write the law on their hearts.” And the basis upon which all of this was to take place was the divine dealing with sin.

You see why in coming to this, when you talk with your friends and they say, “Well, you know, I think I do pretty well; I try my best; I don’t do anybody any harm”—so they’ve reduced everything to “I don’t do anybody any harm, and actually, I’m quite a charitable person as well.”

“Really? Well, do you love God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul, all your strength?”

“No, I wouldn’t say I do that. But I don’t think that’s really important, is it?”

“Oh, yeah, it’s important. It’s the first commandment.”

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.” And the basis on which that has all taken place is the cleansing of their sins: “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”[19] How the Lord proposes to do that Jeremiah doesn’t actually go on to say. But he says, “This is what God is going to do: he’s going to cleanse people from the inside out, and he’s going to write his law on their hearts.”

The fountain from which our love for God flows is the fountain of God’s love for us.

Well, of course, maybe he thought that Isaiah had covered it perfectly. Because Isaiah tells us that there is one who is coming who was “wounded for our transgressions,” who was “bruised for our iniquities,” that “the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and [by] his stripes we are healed.”[20] And he is the only one who kept the law of God in its perfection. He is the only one who can say with the psalmist, “I delight to do your will, O [Lord].”[21]

And when we read on in the Bible, we realize that the Jesus who is answering this question is the Jesus who’s going to go to the cross and who, by the sacrifice of his blood, all the blessedness of forgiveness and atonement will be made, consummated, completed. And that is exactly what has happened. The prophet says, “There’s coming a day when this will be internalized—when it won’t simply be ‘Oh, I have to do this, and I have to do that’ but ‘I delight to do your will.’” Why? Because my heart has been changed. “There is a fountain filled with blood,” and “drawn from Immanuel’s veins.”[22] The fountain from which our love for God flows is the fountain of God’s love for us.

There is a movie, a golf movie. And a conversation takes place between Bobby Jones, who spent his entire life as an amateur, and he’s talking with one of the other guys, who’s a professional. And the guy who’s the professional says to him, “Bobby, why do you play golf?” He said, “Because I love it. Because I love it. Why do you play?” He says, “For money. Lots of money. That’s why when I play you, I’m going to beat you.” The true golfer who loves golf keeps the rules not simply because of the potential of reward, not solely on account of the penalties that accrue to being out of bounds, but he keeps it because he loves it. She loves it.

“‘I love you, Lord, and I lift my voice to worship you.[23] And because I love you—a love that has grown from your love for me, because this is love: not that I love God but that he loved me and sent his Son to be an atoning sacrifice for my sins,[24] so that when I stand up against the template of the Ten Commandments and I realize, ‘I am foul before all of these,’ the answer is not that I am justified by the keeping of them, but it is that I am justified by the one who has kept them perfectly and who has borne the penalty for all who have violated those laws”—so that it brings us to the wonder of God’s goodness.

Sinclair, when we read a book together at our eldership the last time around, has got a masterful quote on this. And I think we should stop here. I can see some of you are drifting—back into consciousness. This is how he puts it: “The law-maker became … law-keeper, but then took our place and condemnation as though he were the law-breaker.” He wasn’t the lawbreaker. We’re the lawbreakers. He took our place as though he were the lawbreaker. In him, requirements have been met, “fulfilled in him, its prescriptions fully obeyed, its penalties finally paid. All that [then] remains is for this to be imputed to us in justification and imparted [to] us in sanctification through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.”[25] That’s why Paul says it is the work of the Holy Spirit—Romans 5:5—that sheds God’s love abroad in our hearts. It is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that is the true spring of love to God.

We’ll leave it there, pick it up later.

Just a moment of silence.

Father, we pray you’ll help us with this, individually and as a church congregation, so that we don’t fall down, on the one hand, into some slavish legalism or slip off the other side of this narrow ridge of the law of liberty into just complete chaotic lawlessness. We want to be students of your Word. We want to acknowledge freely that if we spend our entire life trying to fix things, trying to say no, trying to say yes, then we would never, ever be in a position to stand before you. Only the Lord Jesus has met all the prescriptions of the law. Only in Jesus have the penalties of the law been meted out so that we, who so readily break your law, may find refuge in him. Help us, even as we sing our closing song, to lay hold of this truth. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

[1] Deuteronomy 6:4 (ESV).

[2] See Leviticus 19:18.

[3] Proverbs 3:5–6 (ESV).

[4] Deuteronomy 6:5 (paraphrased).

[5] John 15:12 (ESV).

[6] Matthew 5:21–22, 27–28 (paraphrased).

[7] Alistair Begg, Pathway to Freedom: How God’s Laws Guide Our Lives (Chicago: Moody, 2021), 22.

[8] Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians (1535), trans. Theodore Graebner.

[9] “The Sanctity of the Moral Law,” in Collected Writings of John Murray, vol. 1, The Claims of Truth (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1976), 198.

[10] Sinclair Ferguson, “The First and Most Broken Commandment,” Desiring God, April 13, 2021,

[11] Matthew 22:17 (paraphrased).

[12] Matthew 22:24–28 (paraphrased).

[13] Matthew 23:28 (paraphrased).

[14] Luke 14:25–26 (ESV).

[15] Ferguson, “First and Most Broken.”

[16] Jeremiah 31:33 (ESV).

[17] Romans 2:14 (paraphrased).

[18] Romans 2:15–16 (ESV).

[19] Jeremiah 31:33–34 (ESV).

[20] Isaiah 53:5 (KJV).

[21] Psalm 40:8 (ESV).

[22] William Cowper, “Praise for the Fountain Opened” (1772).

[23] Laurie Klein, “I Love You Lord” (1978).

[24] See 1 John 4:10.

[25] Sinclair B. Ferguson, Devoted to God: Blueprints for Sanctification (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2016), 179.

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.