The Summarization of the Law

The Summarization of the Law

Perhaps you have heard this number repeated when speaking about things related to the Word of God: 613. A man named Rambam, a medieval Jewish scholar calculated that all of the laws contained in the first five books of the Old Testament were 613 in total. 613 is a large and daunting number to remember, however, there are certain phrases within the entirety of the Old Testament that can be used as a summary of all 613 laws. For instance, Micah sums up the Law by saying to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God (Mic. 6:8). God Himself in the book of Habakkuk would sum it up by saying that “the just shall live by faith” (Hab. 2:4). But what is the most accurate summary of the laws of God as revealed in the Old Testament?

In Matthew 22, Jesus is questioned from seemingly every prevailing thought of His day. He answered questions from the Pharisees (22:15-22), the Sadducees (22:23-33), and the Lawyers (22:34-40). It was when one of the lawyers spoke up and asked Jesus which commandment of the Law was the greatest is when God Himself in the form of the person of Jesus tells us what the most complete summarization of the Law is. Jesus responded to that question by saying, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (22:37-40). Jesus was borrowing from the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.

So, you see then that according to Jesus, the laws of God can be summed up with love. Love towards God first and our fellow man second contains each of the 613 laws of the first five books of the Old Testament. What the laws of the Old Testament served as were a moral code. Meaning that they were the guidelines for those ancient Jews to live by. The same could be said for God’s laws as revealed in the New Testament. I believe that you could still say that God’s principles in the New Testament, or the ways that He has directed the Christian race to live can be summed up in loving God first and your neighbor second.

Perhaps you might think that that is too much of a dumbed-down approach to theology. That God and His divine revelation are much too deep to be condensed in that way. It would not appear that Jesus thought that way toward the commandments of old, so I would not find a problem in applying that to the new. Though there are less than 613 individual principles in the New Testament, it still can be hard to keep all of these things in our minds. Therefore, I find it helpful to keep in mind to love God first and our neighbors second above all else.

So, as we go through our routines in the future, let us not forget to love. Let us love our God most of all but also our fellow human beings. Despite personal preferences, political ideologies, race, or drastic lifestyle differences, remember that everyone is created in the image of an all-powerful, all-good, and all-loving God (Gen. 1:26-27). Let the love of God be reflected in your actions as you “let your light so shine before all men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).

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