Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?
And he said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
This is the great and first commandment.
And a second like unto it is this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
On these two commandments the whole law hangeth, and the prophets.Matthew 22:36-40 ASV
“One of them” means one of the Pharisees. The “first team” would now take up the challenge, and the Pharisees themselves would confront him with a question in a field wherein they imagined they had a vast superiority.
Their strategy was to ensnare Christ in some technical fault regarding countless questions of the law. One of their best legal minds was put forward with a question regarding the “great commandment.”
Of course it is obvious that they hoped Christ would name a commandment, ANY commandment.
They would then accuse him of belittling the others!
That they were themselves guilty of what they hoped to accuse in him was no problem. Their motives and intentions were totally devoid of any honesty or fairness.
Their pre-assumption in asking such a question was founded on the false opinion that there are relative ranks among God’s commandments, some being more and others less in importance.
God said, “ALL thy commandments are righteousness” (Psalms 119:151). Yet, in a sense not intended by them, Christ singled out the “great commandment.”
Jesus’ answer is far more than a clever summary of all the commandments. It is the fundamental commandment underlying the whole economy of redemption.
That is why Christ came. That is the purpose God had in saving man, that the Father might be loved for his own blessed sake.
Such a plea for love was lost upon people like the Pharisees. A bleeding child might have pleaded for the affection of a mad dog with the same results!
In a technical sense, all the law and prophets do hang on the twin injunctions Christ named before the Pharisees.
The first five words of the decalogue deal with man’s relation to God, and the second five have to do with man’s relationship to men. The fifth commandment might go in either group.
A profoundly significant deduction required by Christ’s words on that occasion is that man’s heavenward duties are more important, ranking higher, than his man-ward duties.
This, of course, is utterly different from the prevailing concept that lays great stress on human obligations such as “Thou shalt not kill,” etc., but makes the other class of religious obligations secondary.