Another great and difficult question rolled in the other day:
I have a question I’m hoping you can answer for me. In Matthew 22:37 (also, Mark 12:30 and Luke 10:27) it seems that there is an implied distinction between “heart,” “mind,” and “soul”. Is it possible, though, that the writer was using these terms just to emphasize that we must love God with our entire being and that there really is no distinction between these terms? Or, if there is a distinction, what is it?
Tough question. How would you answer it?
I think the Lord is speaking of our entire being. However, that doesn’t mean that there are not distinctions between the heart, soul, and mind.
Heart, soul, and mind can be unique. But they can also be used interchangeably as often happens in the NT.
Heart = inward self where feelings, emotions, and thinking occur.
Soul = the entire inner person.
Mind = the inward part of us where thinking occurs.
As you can see, all three terms overlap in meaning like a Venn diagram. But they are not identical. So when speaking of the place where belief occurs, the NT authors can speak of the heart (Mark 11:23; 16:14; Luke 8:12; Rom 10:9) or the mind (Rom 12:2; 2 Cor 4:4) or even the soul (Acts 14:22 seems to fit in this regard).
I found this very helpful article on what the Biblical word heart means.
I found this misguided article which argues that believing with the mind is not enough to be born again; one must also believe with the heart, that is, with the heart we “trust God,” that is, we “live for God.” The author, Mark Ballenger, makes this Lordship Salvation statement, “Those who truly know God will love God with all of their heart and mind (Matthew 22:37).”
Here is a similar article (anonymous) on heart and mind (discussing Matt 22:37), at the Ligonier.org website, in which the author says, “You can know all the facts about Christ but yet be damned because you do not love Him. Knowing and loving the true Christ are both essential to salvation.”
Because I’ve been immersed in the Gospel of John and Free Grace Theology for so long, I am startled when I see people take Matt 22:37 as a salvation verse. How anyone can reconcile that understanding with John 3:16 is puzzling to me.
There is a grave danger if our theology leads us to say that believing in Jesus Christ for everlasting life is not enough to have everlasting life. If we use the supposed heart and mind distinction to say that one must love God in order to have everlasting life, then we have distorted the message of everlasting life which the Lord of Glory gave us. We must not do that.