NOT FAR FROM THE
What is mankind’s highest responsibility to
God and man? The answer to that question was given on highest
authority in a conversation held in the Temple of Jerusalem. "Then
one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together,
perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, ‘Which
is the first commandment of all?’.
This question was the last of several that
examined every aspect of Jesus Christ during the four days before
His trial and crucifixion. It was also at this time that each family
was inspecting their chosen Passover lamb to be sure that it was
"without spot or blemish." For nearly 1500 years that
had served as a picture of the sacrificial death of Christ for He
was ‘the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world."
The chief priests, scribes and elders examined
Jesus regarding His authority. "By what authority are You doing
these things, and who gave You this authority to do these things.?"
Mark 11:27, 28.
The Pharisees (religious legalists) and Herodians
(religious supporters of Roman authority) examined Him regarding His
loyalty to Jewish political desires or loyalty to the Roman
government. –"Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar?" Mark
The Sadducees (religious rationalists who denied
all supernatural beliefs) examined Him regarding what they
considered an impossible contradiction regarding the teaching of a
literal resurrection? Mark 12: 18 – 27.
Later, Jesus would be examined by the Jewish High
Priest and the ruling body of Israel and, after that, by the Roman
governor, Pilate. Concerning the religious leaders we find that
Jesus answered them so well that "…no one dared question Him." Mark 12:34b. Concerning Pilate we have
the words of Pilate himself, "I find no guilt in this Man."
A SINCERE SEEKER
The last person to examine Jesus before His
arrest and trial was a Scribe. The primary responsibility of scribes
was to make copies of the scriptures. Because of the meticulous ways
they produced copies of the scriptures scribes became very
knowledgeable of them. They also became very knowledgeable of the
Jewish commentary on the scriptures called the Talmud. As a
result, they were looked upon as having the authority of religious
This scribe not only possessed an intellectual
knowledge of the scriptures, but had unusual spiritual perception as
well. Upon hearing Jesus’ answer to the Sadducees, he knew that
Jesus had answered them well. He immediately asked Jesus which of
the commandments was first or greatest of all. In this, he was
examining Jesus regarding His highest values.
THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT
Jesus did not quote from any of prestigious
teachers of Israel nor did He quote any time honored tradition.
Without hesitation He quoted what is known among devout Israelites
as the Shema. "…The foremost is, ‘Hear O Israel; THE LORD OUR GOD,
IS ONE! 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. THIS IS THE FIRST COMMANDMENT. AND THE SECOND,
LIKE IT, IS THIS: YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS
YOURSELF.’" Mark 12:29-31. This is a quotation of the Greek
translation of Deuteronomy 6:4, 5.. This commandment gives us
mankind’s highest responsibilities to God.
YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD
The word Jesus used for love is "agape". This is
a love in which the mind and will are more dominant than emotional
affection. It may be defined as "an unconditional commitment of
thoughts, words, and actions to be in the best interest of the
object of our love.
WITH ALL YOUR HEART
- your affection
WITH ALL YOUR SOUL - immortal being
WITH ALL YOUR MIND - intelligence and
WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH - power of intense
When our love for Jehovah is supreme it will
motivate us to delight in being that person and doing those things
that please Him and refrain from being that person and doing those
things that offend and grieve Him.
"For this is the love of God, that we keep His
commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome." 1st
THE SECOND GREATEST COMMANDMENT
After giving mankind’s highest responsibility
Jesus added the second; "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS
YOURSELF" This He quoted from Leviticus 19:18.
We are to love God more than ourselves because He
is greater than we are. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves
because they are equal to us.
Out of the second greatest commandment flows the
Golden Rule that Jesus gave in His sermon on the mount, "Therefore,
whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is
the Law and the Prophets." Matthew 7:12.
To this the Apostle Paul would later add these
beautiful words; "Owe no man anything except to love one
another; for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For
the commandments, 'you shall not commit adultery," "you shall not
murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not bear false
witness," "You shall not covet," and if there is any
other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘YOU
SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ Love does no harm to a
neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.’" Romans 13:
8, 9b, 10.
To an impressive degree this scribe grasped the
spiritual truth that Jesus taught. He answered, "Right,
Teacher, You have truly stated that HE IS ONE; AND THERE IS NO ONE
ELSE BESIDES HIM;; AND TO LOVE HIM WITH ALL THE HEART AND WITH ALL
THE UNDERSTANDING AND WITH ALL THE STRENGTH, AND TO LOVE ONE'S
NEIGHBOR AS HIMSELF, is much more than all burnt offerings and
sacrifices."" The response of Jesus was, "You are not far from the
kingdom of God." We gather that Jesus was implying that the
scribe possessed the spiritual understanding that, if faithfully
pursued, would lead him into the kingdom of God.
Some I Have Felt Were Not Far From The Kingdom of
I think of several people over the years of my
ministry who seemed to sincerely approve the truths of God. They
accepted the teachings of the word of God as God’s truth and even
seemed to delight in God’s word. Some were husbands of wives who
were strong Christians and they attended church services over many
years with their mates. I felt that they were "not far from the
kingdom of God."
I have known others who had a deep sense of their
sin and their lost condition. They were fully aware that they were
sinners under the just condemnation of God’s law. The battle they
were fighting was that they doubted they could ever quit their
sinful habits or that God could forgive and save such an awful
sinner as they perceived themselves to be. I felt that these were
not far from the kingdom of God because I know that Christ has
received the punishment for their every sin as their substitute. I
know also that Christ is able to give them victory over every sin
that holds them in bondage. I know also that they have already made
tremendous progress in their journey towards the kingdom of God
because the toughest thing with most people is to get them to see
that they are a bad enough sinner that they need to get saved.
There is another group that had bought into the
Devil’s lie that heaven on earth is achieved by the abundance of
possessions; the pursuit of pleasures, and a successful rise to
prominence. They had discovered three fatal flaws in the scheme: 1.
Things that bring an initial euphoria lose the power to thrill over
time. 2. Mankind was created to live in fellowship with God and when
God is not in the life, there is an emptiness that cannot be filled
any other way and, 3. The unbreakable law of the harvest is "God
is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For
he who sows to his own flesh will of the flesh reap
corruption…" Galatians 6:7, 8a. Some of these people had already
experienced disappointment, disillusionment and were tasting
despair…and realized the worst was yet to come. They were giving
serious thought to the words of Jesus, "The thief does not
come except to
steal, and to kill, and to destroy; I have come that they may have life, and
may have it more abundantly." John 10:10. These I felt were surely
not far from the kingdom of God.
SOME DANGERS IN BEING NOT FAR FROM THE
KINGDOM OF GOD
To Be Not Far From The Kingdom Is Still
Not To Be IN The Kingdom
Our physical birth, no matter how noble, only
made us children of our earthly parents, members of the human
family, and citizens of the nation in which we were born.
Until we have experienced a spiritual birth by
the Holy Spirit we are not children of God nor do we hold
citizenship in God’s kingdom.
"Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly,
truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the
kingdom of God…That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that
which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to
you, ‘You must be born again’". John 3:6, 7.
WE CAN FALL INTO A DANGEROUS COMPLACENCY WHEN WE
ARE NOT FAR
We can feel that we are only one step away and
can take that step any time. But those of us who have been saved
many years have observed numerous people who allowed their
spiritually complacent condition to become fatally chronic.
Who has not heard the saying, "The road to hell
is paved with good intentions". That phrase was coined to describe
people who were not far from the kingdom of God but became fatally
complacent about taking the final steps of entering the kingdom of
TO DIE SUDDENLY WHILE NOT FAR FROM THE KINGDOM IS
TO BE LOST FOREVER
When the Korean war was winding down the Chicago
Tribune told of a mother and father who went to O’Hare airport to
welcome their soldier-son back home. They saw the airplane on final
approach. It had almost reached the runway when it exploded. Every
person on board was killed. Their son was not far but sudden
death meant never. It has been thus so with many who were not far
from the kingdom of God.
THOSE WHO ARE NOT FAR FROM THE KINGDOM BUT
DIE LOST WILL RECEIVE A MORE SEVERE JUDGMENT
"Then He (Jesus) began to rebuke the
cities in which most of His mighty works had been done because they did not
repent. Woe to you, Chorazin!. . .Bethsaida! For if the mighty works
which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon they would have
repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. . .it shall be more
tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you."
Matthew 11:20. 21, 22. Verses 23 and 24 have a similar comparison to
Capernaum and Sodom. ". . .For everyone to whom much is given,
from him much will be required; . ." Luke 12.48.
Did this scribe press on to enter the kingdom of
God? We don’t know. Perhaps God chose to leave that question
unanswered because each person who is not far from the
kingdom of God gives the answer to that question in their particular
We encourage those who are not far from the
kingdom of God to:
- Acknowledge they have sinned and come short of the glory of
God. (See Romans 3:23)
- 2. Acknowledge that Jesus Christ received the punishment for
their sin on the cross (See Romans 5:6-8)
- 3. Ask Jesus Christ to save them and believe Him to do it.
(See Romans 10:13)
Copyright © 2002 Thomas E Berry
All Scriptures quoted from NKJV unless otherwise noted
Copyright © 2008 Truth Helpers Inc.