STUDY | Spend the week studying Matthew 16:13–20. Consult the commentary provided and any additional study tools to enhance your preparation.
DETERMINE | Which discussion points and study questions will work best for your group.
PRAY | Pray for our pastors and this week’s message, the upcoming group time, your group members, and their openness to God’s Word.
LANDING POINT | I will build my life upon the Great Confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, my risen Lord and Savior.
Remember the 4 Rules for Small Group Discussion
- Confidentiality. What’s said in the group stays in the group.
- No cross-talk. Be considerate of others as they share. Refrain from side conversations and texting during group time.
- No fixing. We are not in the group to fix each other. Jesus does that part.
- Sharing. Be sensitive to the amount of time you share. Don’t talk too much or too little. Every person brings something valuable to the group.
As your group time begins, use this section to introduce the topic of discussion.
LONGING FOR LOVE
What one thing does God value more than anything else from us? Knowing the answer to this important question would allow you to focus on the main thing God desires from you. You wouldn’t get caught up in the smaller, less important details of life, and you could spend your life on what truly matters.
Jesus was once asked which of the commandments is the greatest. His answer shows us that love is the most important thing on which to focus your life. It’s what you should spend your time, resources and efforts on—loving God and others in the name of Jesus.
A truly great church is marked by love for God and others. Within this kind of church, believers understand they were made for love. And they were made to receive and give it to others. They look to Jesus as the only Person who can truly satisfy their deepest desires for love. Experiencing His love motivates them to share it with others, to give them a taste of the all-satisfying love of Jesus.
Q: What does “love” mean for people in our culture today? How is that different from what you read in the Bible? How is it similar?
Q: When was the last time someone said or did something that expressed their love for you? Share with the group.
Select 2-3 questions to discuss as a group.
PUT TO THE TEST
There was a time when a lawyer approached Jesus with a question: “Teacher, tell us, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?” This lawyer was a Pharisee, a group respected for their strict devotion to the Law. The question was a test. The lawyer was hoping Jesus would discredit Himself with His answer. Tension filled the air as the lawyer and the other Pharisees gathered around Jesus, waiting for His answer. What would Jesus reveal about Himself and His understanding of God’s law?
Read: Matthew 22:34–40. How has your faith has been tested?
Q: Jesus said the Pharisees “neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness” (Matthew 23:23). Where have you seen Christians doing this today?
THE HEART OF THE LAW
Jesus saw the bait behind the question, and He didn’t fall for it. His answer was simple and concise. He said, “You should love God with everything you have. This is the first and greatest commandment. But there’s another one like it. You should love your neighbor as you love yourself. Everything written in God’s law and His Word hinges on these two commandments.”
Love God and love others. That’s the principle Jesus gave to summarize all of God’s law. Everything God commands comes down to these two all-important commands.
Q: What is required to love God with everything you have?
Q: Is it possible to love God and not love others? Why or why not?
Select 2-3 questions from this section to answer.
What does it mean to follow the Great Commandment and love God with everything you have? How is it possible to live a life in which everything about you—your thoughts, words, and actions—are driven by a love for God?
Love for God begins with your view of God. Who is He to you? Do you see Him as a loving Father who loves and delights in you? Or is He more like a cop looking to bust you for being a sinner? Do you see Him as being patient and ready to forgive, or as someone who is always angry and vindictive?
Thankfully, you have God’s Word, which reveals what God is really like. His Word gives you a glimpse into His good and loving character. This gives you a true perspective of Him. When you have perspective, you can worship God with praise and thanks. You can express your love for Him with adoration for His perfect, unchanging character.
Q: How would you describe God in one or two words?
Another way to cultivate a love for God is to value Him. We value those things and people most important to us. To value God means that your relationship with Him is your ultimate priority. When your relationship with Him takes priority, you are willing to surrender all you have—inside and out—to be with Him. It means surrendering your will, your past and your desires to Him.
Q: What things can you give priority to rather than God?
To desire is too long for someone or something. Desire is like smelling something wonderful being prepared and following the scent, expecting to find a delicious meal that satisfies your hunger. When you love God, your desire for Him grows. If you experience your desire for God growing, that’s a great indicator that your heart has been captured by His love. If you don’t feel a desire God, do a heart check. Ask God to reveal anything that might be a block in your heart.
Q: What’s one thing you can do this week to express your desire for God?
Another way to cultivate a love for God is by obeying Him. Love grows in the heart that obeys God no matter what. Obeying God may require hard and painful decisions. He may ask you to do things that seem like the last thing you would want to do. However, His love is at work behind every command. There is a goal behind each command: your growth, and God’s glory.
Q: Recall a time when obedience to God was hard or painful for you. What did God teach you through your experience?
Select 1 question from this section to ask your group.
CALLED TO CARE
The greatest thing you can do in life is to love God with everything you have. But experiencing God’s love is something that makes us want to share it with others. That’s why Jesus tells us to love our neighbors like ourselves.
After His resurrection, Jesus spoke with Peter and asked him three times, “Do you love me?” (John 21:15–19). Each time Peter responded, “Yes, Lord, you know I do,” and each time Jesus replied, “Feed my sheep.” Jesus was calling His disciples to be like shepherds who care for their sheep as the Good Shepherd cares for His.
There was another time when Jesus wanted to show the Pharisees what God’s love is like. He compared God’s love to a shepherd who has a hundred sheep and loses one of them (Luke 15:3–7). This shepherd, moved with love, leaves the ninety-nine to find the lost sheep. When he finds it, he rejoices and throws a party celebrate.
If you’re a disciple of Jesus, you are called to be a shepherd, to express your love for God by caring for the needs of others. Look around you and you will see sheep that need your love. Some are lost. Some are hurting. Some are stuck or struggling. A truly great church is one filled with searching shepherds who live to love and are called to care for others.
Q: How would you live differently if you saw yourself as a searching shepherd?
Q: Who needs your love the most right now? How can you express it to them?
Thank God for His love that knows no limits. Praise Him for what He has done through Jesus to bring you into a relationship with Him. Ask the Father to reveal people in your life who need to experience His love through you.
Midway through this week, send a follow-up email to your group with some or all of the following:
- Read Philippians 1:3–11 and reflect on what this passage says about Paul’s love for God and others.
- Ask the group to share any stories or lessons learned where they see God at work in their lives.
The Shema: Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:5, a command that became the Shema, a prayer that was and continues to be recited twice a day by Jews.
Heart, Soul, and Mind: “From the viewpoint of biblical anthropology, “heart,” “soul,” and “mind” (v. 37) are not mutually exclusive but overlapping categories, together with demanding our love for God to come from our whole person, our every faculty and capacity.”
A Right Attitude: The double command to love God and others reveal that the attitude of your heart matters most to God. Without the right attitude, obedience to God can become legalistic. What Jesus was pointing to with these two commands was the principle of love, that it is something that can be applied in a variety of circumstances.
Two in One: “It is impossible to love God without loving people, for his law and heart’s desire is to love others. The measure by which we know if we are truly loving people is if we love them as much as we love ourselves (cf. Eph. 5:28–31).”
1. John D. Barry et al., Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016), Mt 22:38.
2. D. A. Carson, “Matthew,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition), ed. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland, vol. 9 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 523.
3. Craig Blomberg, Matthew, vol. 22, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 335.
4. Stuart K. Weber, Matthew, vol. 1, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 358.