John 3:16, Matthew 22:34--40, Exodus 20:3, Leviticus 19:18, John 13:34

It’s probably a good bet that if you asked the average Christian what the most important verse in the Bible is, they’d tell you that it’s what Jesus said in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” And it’s no doubt that this is the verse that so succinctly describes the process of personal salvation…so much so, that it is hoisted in the air on cards at football games, on crowded sidewalks by street preachers, and passed-out to strangers written in tracts.

But, it’s not the verse Jesus declared to be one of the two most important in the Bible.

In Matthew 22:34–40, one of the lawyers of the Pharisees attempted to trap Jesus, by asking Him what the greatest commandment in the law is. Jesus responded that: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. [38] This is the first and great commandment. [39] And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. [40] On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Jesus therefore told us directly that the first of the two most important verses in the Bible was Exodus 20:3, which read in-context with verse 2 says, “I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. [3] Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Put simply: We are to love God above all else, and to remove all false gods from our homes, our hearts and our land.

Then, Jesus quoted something surprising, especially to ‘casual’ Christians or non-believers who are aware of “The Ten Commandments”: He quoted Leviticus 19:18. Actually, the latter HALF of the short verse, which reads: “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.” So, contrary to popular belief, the second-most important Commandment in the Bible isn’t Commandment #2, #3, 4, 5, or even #10. It’s to “love thy neighbor as thyself.”

This command, which in the old testament wasn’t literally written on stone in “The Ten Commandments”, was nonetheless implied throughout the sentiments of the other 9 Commandments. We’re not to lie, murder, steal another’s wife or property: all things that would harm another person, as assuredly as those things would bring harm to us.

Jesus is so enamored of this principle, that He later enshrines this as what I like to call “The 11th Commandment.” Directly after the last supper, when He is with His disciples, just prior to the betrayal by Judas (which Jesus foreknew was imminent), Jesus proclaimed, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” (John 13:34)

Let’s return back to what I’d said in the beginning of today’s message: That most Christians would refer John 3:16 to you, if asked what the ‘most important verse in the Bible is’. After what we’ve discussed today, I’d say: In the spirit of truth, they’re not wrong. In John 3:16, Jesus tells us “…that whosoever believeth in him should not perish…” If one truly lives to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (as Jesus said in Matthew 22:37), then one honors the First Commandment in Exodus 20:3. And in what Jesus said (and later proved in what He DID, by giving-up His life on the Cross, as the only pure offering to redeem us from our sins), we know that God practices what He preaches regarding Leviticus 19:18: He loves us as He loves himself.

The most important verses in the Bible are Exodus 20:3 and Leviticus 19:18, …the principle of which are perfectly encapsulated in John 3:16. Remember to love God above all else, and to love each other as you would love yourself. May you be blessed…in Jesus’ mighty name, amen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *