Recently it is has been said that anyone who does not love God above everything else is not a Christian. This is not quite right. Christians are those who, despite the reality that they did not love have been lavishly loved by God and who, now, by God’s grace, are learning to love God with all their faculties. Christians are resting in Jesus, who has loved God in our place. Christians are those into whose hearts God has poured his love, “through his Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Rom 5:5). In response, in his grace, we do love God but not perfectly, not yet and we do not approach God on the basis of our love for him but on the basis of his love for us in Christ.
The first commandment of God’s holy moral law is unequivocal: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 2o:3). In the ground (כִּ֣י) of the second commandment Yahweh Elohim declares, “I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 205–6; ESV). In Deuteronomy 6:5 the Lord summarized the 1st table of the moral law this way: “You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” This commandment was repeated in Deuteronomy 10:5; 11:3; and Joshua 22:5 among other places. Our Lord Jesus summarized the first table of the law by saying, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Matt 22:37; ESV). He called this “the first and great commandment.
That this is the moral law of God is really beyond doubt for those who believe the Bible. What is in question, however is this: to what end do we love God? Why? There are essentially two answers to this question. One answer is: in order that God might love me in return or in order that I might be saved and inherit eternal life. Our Lord Jesus had this discussion with a lawyer. Scripture says,
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying,
“Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”
And the lawyer answered, “You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
And Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live” (Luke 10:25–28
Everyone who would present one’s self to God on the basis of law keeping is bound to keep the whole law perfectly. God’s holy law has no place for trying nor has it any place for good intentions. Deuteronomy 27:26, which Paul quotes in Galatians 3:10 says, “Cursed is everyone who does not do continually everything that is written in the book of the law.” Notice the common verb in both Deuteronomy 27 and in Luke 10: “do.” Under the law doing, performance is all that matters.
Consider the traffic cop. You zoom past him in a construction zone. In your heart you were doing 25 but on the speedometer and the radar gun you were doing 40. What does the law say? “The day you speed you shall receive a citation.” That is the nature of the law. You can try to convince the traffic cop that, in your heart, you intended to drive 25 but you know it’s futile even before you open your mouth.
This is the problem we sinners have with Deuteronomy 27:26. This is why Paul says that all who rely on “works of the law” are cursed (Gal 3:10). Nowhere does he indicate or even hint that “works of the law” refers only the ceremonials laws. Immediately after this, in the very same verse, he quotes Deuteronomy 27:26. That is not “ceremonial law.” That’s a summary of God’s holy, abiding, moral law. That is why Paul goes on to contrast the law and works with faith and grace. “But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them” (Gal 3:12). The quotation in vs. 12 is from Leviticus 18:5 “You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am Yahweh” (ESV; emphasis added). The law demands, as we confess in WCF 7.2 “perfect and personal obedience.”
Adam was created able to so love God perfectly and personally. Mysteriously, he chose not to love Yahweh Elohim with all his faculties nor his neighbor (Eve) as himself. In so choosing and disobeying he plunged himself and all his posterity into death and judgment. As sinners, we are not only incapable of meeting this test, by inclination and nature we are unwilling. This is a great problem. It is bad news.
There is another answer, however, to the question: why should I love God?