Jesus Didn't Reduce All of the Bible's Commandments to Just 2

jesusIn cooking, reduction is the process of thickening and intensifying the flavor of a liquid mixture such as a soup, sauce, wine, or juice by boiling. Reduction is performed by boiling liquid until the volume desired is reached by evaporation.

In mathematics, reduction refers to the rewriting of an equation or a mathematical expression into a simpler form.

In Chemistry, it is a chemical reaction in which hydrogen is added to, or oxygen is removed from, a compound. Opposite of oxidation.

Do any of these definitions apply when it comes to the reduction of the Bible’s commandments?  Some are prone to say or insinuate that Jesus “reduced” all of the Bible’s commandments to just 2.  Let’s take a look.

One of the Pharisees, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. ’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

There’s simply no justification for the idea of reduction here.  The Greek κρέμαται (krematai) can mean “hangs on,”  “depends on,” “is summed up in,” or even “is based on.”  The same word is used to describe the two thieves “hanging” on each side of Jesus at the crucifixion. Luke 23:39

What’s the point?  If we think that Jesus “reduced” all of the commands to only two, then we are likely to reduce their import in both being and making disciples.  The making of disciples requires and is accomplished by the means of “Teaching them to obey all that Jesus commanded.”  Matthew 28:19,20  

A disciple of Jesus “hangs on to” “depends on,” and “bases” their followership on the sum total of all the commands so that they may obey the two greatest commands.  They are not the only commands.  A disciple is never made by teaching someone these 2 commands and then leaving them to figure out how.  They knowledge and obedience of the commands are fleshed out in community.  The how depends on, is hung on, and are summed up in ALL of the other of Jesus’ commands.  If you reduce Jesus and His commands, you reduce and repackage Jesus Himself.  A few questions:

What are the dangers in overemphasizing that there are only, really two commands?

What are “all” the commands of Jesus?

Is using the word “reduce,” when it comes to the greatest commandments, wise?

Would you like to see “ALL” of Jesus’ commandments laid out in an organized form with scripture references?  CLICK HERE 


0 thoughts on “Jesus Didn't Reduce All of the Bible's Commandments to Just 2

  1. Tim Day says:

    My thoughts on these great questions:

    The danger is that we minimize the importance of obeying Jesus – and in so doing we disobey His command to teach them to obey. There is nothing more dangerous than disobeying an absolute and all powerful monarch, especially when that monarch’s commands are his loving instructions on how to be saved from imminent destruction.

    I can’t fully answer question 2 because I don’t know them all yet, but I am finding out and attempting, with the help of brothers and sisters, to discover and obey them. Improving our obedience quotient is one of the reasons for church.

    Using the word reduce is a bad idea because Christ’s commands bring life when obeyed in the framework of the first two, of which He was the perfect example.

  2. David Lim says:

    I understand that Jesus meant the two commandments to be SUMMARIES of “the law and the prophets” (= Old Testament). He stated the summary in another verse: Matt. 7:12!

  3. Carol says:

    Well, maybe “reducing” was liberating. When you think of Jewish life in the time of Jesus and all the laws in (orthodox) Jewish culture–were there 613?–that were to guide and form folks (can you just imagine the self-focus and self-modulation required?), stating two general guidelines would likely have been liberating. (And liberating wasn’t/isn’t necessarily easy or popular!)

    Commands like “go,” “fear not,” “treat others as you would like to be treated,” “care for widows and orphans,” “let your light shine”….come to my mind, but many others i’m sure can be cited. But to reduce our Jesus following life to getting the right list exactly right seems to me to be the inappropriate reduction…and would I suspect lead to a reduction of the grace, love, and magnanimity that Jesus’ life exemplified. (Just my opinion.)

    This is interesting to ponder/contrast: rule-laden Judaism (time of Christ) with Christian culture (western) today, which many would say ‘anything goes’ (n.b., “cafe serves church’s mission”article in today’s Chicago Tribune about a church spending 3 million on a place “catering to parents, kids” in a strip mall wherein they provide an indoor playhouse/coffeehouse for all to enjoy as outreach to young families; last sentence of the article…”there’s a lot of people hurting out there.”

    For me the tension is not in focusing on “obeying” Jesus (folks have done monstrous things in that vein) so much as realizing that Jesus- following is not ‘anything goes.’ Maybe using the ‘love God, love your neighbor’ mantra, having to answer “spend 3 mil on a public play area, in a busy strip mall” might fail the “does this exemplify or liberate appropriately our understanding of Christ’s call to love in a way that we interpret his life and scripture to be leading”? Or maybe I should say it fails the test for me.

    Thanks for the post, Miguel. Got me thinking!

  4. Marc Winter says:

    Carol, Well said! Living the life of Christ cannot be reduced to Scriptures. Living the life of Christ cannot be guided by obeying the Scriptures. Living the life of Christ requires singular dependance on knowing and loving Christ, made real by seeking Him with all of our heart. Any reliance upon obeying Scriptures, takes all mankind back to the dark ages of the OT. Arise and shine for your light has come, and His name is Jesus. We must remember that in the widest sense, this whole organized “Christianity” has been an utter distraction from the simplicity of knowing Christ as Paul, or Stephen and the early believers knew Him. Without the benefit of all of the scrolls, guided only by their personal living relationship to Christ, Sometimes in the small company of others of the same passion, and some times in just twos or threes, these first believers changed the world forever. Today in our large companies of various sorts, and tons of mammon, we can hardly influence one soul to become one of the institutional group, and then they become just like us, spiritually deaf.

  5. Laurie Norris says:

    Sometimes when life gets complicated and a decision has to be made, I can submit my choices to these two lights and see more clearly. Also I don’t go too far wrong if I accept the boundaries shown by those lights.

  6. David Woods says:

    Actually, I think He quite nicely helped to differentiate between the specific laws that were still expected of us (such as refraining from fornication), and the ones that weren’t (such as stoning adulterers) by making this statement. Maybe that’s what it is. More of a discerning clarification than a reduction.

  7. Marc Winter says:

    David, I think I agree. For those who want the will of God, Jesus said we would know….

    If our hearts are aligned with Jesus, and His kingdom purposes, we will know, what is the will of God. We will not need to be thinking in terms of a chapter and verse quote. Having read the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit has that data in our consciousness to draw from any time, and any way He chooses.
    Even if we have not read the Scriptures, we are at a deficit, but there is still the back up of the inner witness.

  8. David Woods says:

    I’ve meditated on this further, and I’ve come to believe that this is part of how Jesus fulfilled the law without destroying it as mentioned in Matt 5:17 .

    The law obviously seems to have changed. We no longer do animal sacrifices, or (as I said earlier) stone adulteresses, but there are still certain things expected of us as Christians that come from the law, so how does this fit with the law being fulfilled by Jesus without being significantly changed?

    I think the answer lies in the differentiation that I mentioned earlier, and in the verse quoted in this post. The differentiation is that between actions and judgments. By coming, dying on the cross, ascending to heaven, and sending us back the Holy Spirit, He has simultaneously given us (by the power of the Holy Spirit) the ability to get sin out of our lives, and progressively become less and less sinful–AND taken the place of judge and executioner formerly given to the people, and the clergy of OT times.

    By providing for the righteousness of–and becoming the judge of–humanity, he fulfilled the purpose of the law–which was to both cleanse, and judge. The law didn’t become different in any way. We are still cleansed and judged—it was just OUR ROLE in it that changed. In OT times, WE (they) performed the cleansing sacrifices and judged (and executed) one another in respect to sin. But now, those duties have been transferred to Christ, the only perfect one capable of doing them–and therefore, the law has been fulfilled without being changed. We are still cleansed and judged according to the law, just by Him, instead of each other.

    Make sense?

    • David Woods says:

      I guess I should have added that our role NOW (post-crucifixion) is exemplified by the verse mentioned by Miguel in this post. That is to love God, and love our neighbor. I believe this was Jesus’ way of giving us a clear way to discern which part of the old law we are to hold to, and which to relinquish to Him. You can’t truly love God, and allow yourself to enjoy fornicating, and you can’t truly love your neighbor as you are stoning them, for example.

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