Can Man Love God?

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind (Luke_10:27)

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The Love Commandment

The love command that Jesus uttered in Luke 10:27 has become a golden rule for virtually all variations of Bible based religions. All other teachings from the Bible take a back seat to yield to this venerable command especially that it came from the lips of the Savior.

25On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?27He answered, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” 28You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live” (Luke 10:25-28).

Jesus reminded his listeners of this command as it was recorded in Deuteronomy 6:5. Now He used it, He used the answer of the expert of the law, or perhaps what the man heard from Jesus in Matthew 22:37 to form his answer, to summarize the Ten Commandments which became even more powerful and encompassing than the original version as Moses received from mount Sinai. It penetrates deep into the heart and reveals sins no other commands can.

Chance for success

Let’s go back to the Ten Commandments to reflect on how mankind has measured up to this Old Covenant’s golden standard. The Ten Commandments are just a more concrete version of the law that was written in the conscience of our first parents in the Garden of Eden. Mankind with or without the Ten Commandments had failed to keep even a single point of the law, and this is not to even mention what is written in James 2:10: “For the one who obeys the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.” Is there a living being that has never failed in at least one point of the law?

What about the new golden rule, the love command? Jesus is supposed to make it harder for the religious people of His time to prove their own righteousness through the golden rule. He wants His hearer to stop raising their fists saying “We are willing to do all the words that the LORD has said (Exodus 24:3)” but instead be on their knees acknowledge their failure and place their trust in Him. If they could not keep the Ten Commandments, what chance do they have of keeping the love command?

Jesus used the love command to point out sin in the hearts of those who did not physically commit adultery, or murder anyone. The old commandment says: “Thou shalt not commit murder,” the new commandment says: “You must not commit murder in your heart.” The old commandment says: “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” the new commandment says “You must not commit adultery in your heart.”

No, the love commandment is not the golden rule, it’s the new death sentence to all who try to get righteousness through it. The chance for success is not slim, but none.

The nature of Man

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)
Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins (Ecclesiastes 7:20)
If we say we do not bear the guilt of sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8)
The human mind is more deceitful than anything else. It is incurably bad. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners (Mark 2:17)
For from within the hearts of men come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery (Mark 7:21)

Is there any chance man in such fallen condition can fulfill the love command? From the heart and mind that is “more deceitful than anything else?” But Jesus knew this already. He gave the command to stop man from deceiving himself, to get them off their pedestal, to realize that they are “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked (Revelation 3:17).”

The honesty of Peter

15Then when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these do?” He replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus told him, “Feed my lambs.” 16Jesus said a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus told him, “Shepherd my sheep.” 17Jesus said a third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love me?” and said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus replied, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-17)

Notice the words “love” in the passage above, one in bold and one in bold red. The one in bold red. The word love in bold red has the Strong number 25 for the Greek word ἀγαπάω, or agapáō, the same word that is used in the love commandment, while the word love in bold black has the Strong number 5368 for the Greek word φιλέω, or philéō, denoting a fondness between friends.

When Jesus asked Peter for the third time whether he loved him, He came down to Peter’s level and used the word “philéō” instead. Peter never once used the word for “agapáō.” As gung-ho as anyone could be, Peter refused to commit to ἀγαπάω, or agapáō.

What is love?

The way Jesus asked Peter for the first two times whether he ἀγαπάω, or agapáō, him, is the same way He gave mankind the love commandment, to humble them, to make them realize that they’re mere man hence incapable of loving God with all their hearts, minds, and souls.

So God wrote in 1 John 4:10 to settle it once for all that love is not about man loving God, but it’s about God who is compassionate and merciful toward man.

In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10)

It’s God who loves the world, and not the other way around.

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 (John 3:16)


Man inherently cannot love God. They think they can but in fact they love themselves. In saying they love God they elevate themselves to a higher level than they really are. They φιλέω, or philéō, God but mistakenly think that they can ἀγαπάω, or agapáō, Him. To fulfill the love commandment is to agapáō God, which is humanly impossible.

Nghi Nguyen

- Scripture quoted by permission. All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: This is my own opinion on the topic, which does not necessarily reflect the church's theology, or beliefs of the individuals in it — Nghi Nguyen

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