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The Ten Commandments

 

The Ten Commandments are found both in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. They are very important as they are stated twice in the Old Testament, and referred to often in the New Testament. Jesus himself used the Ten Commandments often in his evangelism endeavors, and Paul emphasized their importance in Romans.

 

The first four commandments pertain to the relationship of the Israelites with God, and the other six deal with social relationships within the body of Christ. The Ten Commandments were designed to lead Israel into a life of holiness, and holiness is the major theme of the next book in the Old Testament: Leviticus.

 

By the time of Christ many looked at the Ten Commandments in the wrong way; they thought that obeying them would lead to eternal life and prosperity on earth. Neither of these interpretations are what the Ten Commandments are teaching. The Ten Commandments reveal sin, and are a great schoolmaster.

 

Many in today’s church think that the Ten Commandments are no longer needed because we are under grace, but this is not entirely true. We are under grace but the law reveals sin (Romans 3:20), and the Ten Commandments are a great evangelistic tool. God has spoken through them and we must take them seriously.

 

Hearing the voice of God through the Ten Commandments is not just to receive information, but to meet God. God did not give us His commandments so that we could memorize them, but so that we could live better for Him. We do not live for Him to earn our salvation, but in response to our salvation. These Ten Commandments have been neglected and forgotten by many in today’s church, and I have seen the need to write about them. All scripture unless otherwise indicated will be from the King James Version (KJV).

 

Exodus 20:1-17

Then God spoke all these words: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery.

1.    Thou shall have no other gods before me.
2.    Thou shall not make unto thee any graven image.   
3.    Thou shall not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
4.    Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.
5.    Honor thy father and thy mother.
6.    Thou shall not kill.
7.    Thou shall not commit adultery.
8.    Thou shall not steal.
9.    Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
10. Thou shall not covet.
  
The FIRST Commandment
 
Exodus 20:3
“Thou shall have no other gods before me.”
 
We live in an age of antinomianism—an age that is against law. Western society is addicted to having few laws and maximum flexibility. We call people that choose to abide by the word of God and refrain from indulging in sinful lusts “legalists”.
 
We choose to abide by God’s laws because the first commandment assumes theism, and not just theism but monotheism. God is superior to the false gods of our day (in the forms of paganism, world religions, philosophies, self-fulfillment, and other forms of idolatry). The first commandment calls for ultimate allegiance to God. In our day there are many things to worship in place of God. While not all these things are necessarily evil, desiring them above God is.
 
For example, it’s not wrong to pursue a debt-free life, but putting this desire above worshipping God is wrong. Someone obsessed with a debt-free life may choose to spend all their time reading self-help books, listening to financial podcasts, and may compromise worshipping the Lord on Sunday and serving the Lord in ministry.
 
Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12:34). What we truly desire and treasure will consume all our time. Those who claim to have no treasure worship themselves. Oscar Wilde once said, “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” Today many worship other things besides God, and Christianity is filled with believers who put other gods before the one true God. Anyone can fall prey if they are not in the Word daily and spending time with God. The best defense is a healthy fill of the Word of God.
 
The SECOND commandment
 
Exodus 20:4-6
“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments”

I am a regular street preacher and often preach from the 10 commandments. When I preach from this commandment I address those who have created God into their own image. Today there are many who have created a god of the Bible that is not the true God. They do not believe in a God who sends people to Hell, a God who punishes sin, hates evil, or opposes false doctrine and idolatry. The God of the Bible is not a God who makes many comfortable, and so it’s no wonder that many have rejected Him, as many have chosen the path leading to destruction and not the path leading to eternal life (Matthew 7:13).

 
We need to worship the one true God. Our worship betrays our theology and how we worship shows what we believe. If you walk into a church and the worship is like that a rock and roll concert then this reveals what they value, regardless of what they preach and claim to believe. People in such churches are probably immature in the faith, and this is shown in how they worship. 
 
The THIRD Commandment
 
Exodus 20:7
“Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.”
 
In our day there are many who take God’s name in vain on a daily basis. It amazes me why these blasphemers do not take the name of Buddah, Mohammad, or Joseph Smith in vain. They take God’s name in vain because they know that He is the one true God, and the religious leaders of the world’s major religions are phonies and fakes. God’s name is “I AM WHO I AM” and this name implies sovereignty and self-existence. Those who are saved could not know the name of the Lord by flesh and blood, but only by the Holy Spirit of God (Matthew 16:17). God allows his name to be misused and blasphemed by evil men, and in His grace wants them to repent and turn from their ways (2 Peter 3:9). God is a jealous God for His Holy name. In Ezekiel God insists that He will rescue Israel because of His holy name:
 
Ezekiel 36:22-23
“Therefore say unto the house of Israel, ‘Thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes.’”
 
God takes His name seriously, and in this passage Israel showed serious disobedience in forsaking His holy name. God acted in this case not for the disobedience of Israel, but to show His own name holy.
 
In the same way the multitude of believers who forsake His name will be judged. Many have chosen to forsake His name by their reductionistic theology. Many man-centered worship services are in existence today where the preaching is all about self-help, and they have redefined God as a healer of the flesh, rather than a savior of the soul. Life is not all about possessions, or financial freedom, for the most important thing in life is Christ (Ecclesiastes 12:13,Matthew 12:37) and to reach the world with the gospel (Mark 16:15).
 
If we truly loved the Lord God with all our heart, soul, and mind, then we would take His word seriously and seek to live and obey it. If we truly loved our neighbor as ourselves then we would do all that we could to bring the gospel to others. This can be accomplished in many ways, but I highly recommend good gospel tracts.

 

The FOURTH Commandment

Exodus 20:8-11

“Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.”

 

Growing up in California, honoring the Sabbath Day seemed optional for the average Christian. Many Christians chose to work on Sundays and many churches set the service times around the schedules of peoples’ jobs. Many had no real appreciation for the Lord’s Day worship, and thought of it as just another day. I had convictions about honoring the Lord on His day of worship, but many disagreed with me, because they were not being taught the value and the importance of honoring the Lord on his Sabbath. In one article I defined the Sabbath and said the following:

 

The Hebrew verb for Sabbath is shabbath means literally to “rest from labor.” The first mention of the day of rest is in Genesis 2:2, where it says, "By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work". Being omnipotent, God did not need to literally sleep--- He rested since He had nothing else to create. God made the Sabbath for man to rest from his work, refresh himself, and bless his soul with the word of God. In the Old Testament, the Sabbath is a major consistent theological theme, and a commandment that zealously needed to be followed. In the New Testament, however, the weekly observance of the Sabbath is no longer a commandment (Matthew 11:28-30), but is a freedom for God’s people (Hebrews 3).[1]


I argue in my article that Christians must worship the Lord on the day of worship, and they must set aside a day of the week to glorify God, get nourishment, and connect with others.

So many have forgotten the value and importance of the Sabbath worship, and have put themselves and their desires above God’s. This is what I call “Lord’s Day nonobservance”. It’s a position of disobedient brethren who treat the Lord’s day as any other day, and/or those who may attend church but do nothing while there.

The Lord’s Day is not the same as the Sabbath, because it is the day that the follower of Christ gathers and worships with other believers. The careful believer will not rob the Lord’s Day observance with activities that would detract from the full meaning of the day. I have a practice of turning data-mode off on my BlackBerry on the Lord’s Day, to avoid the distractions of email, etc. So many of us would improve our walk with God and our spiritual maturity if we took the fourth commandment seriously.

The FIFTH Commandment

Exodus 20:12

“Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.”

 

The word “honor” means to treat someone with proper respect. For example, on the job you treat your employer with proper respect because of his/her position. If you dishonor their authority you will lose your job.

We live in a day where this command is disrespected in our homes. Many dishonor their parents and do little of what they ask. God has placed parents as authorities that we should follow. Honoring your parents not only means treating them with respect, but it also means providing for them when they age.

In France in 2003, 15,000 elderly died as a heat wave spread across Europe. What was sad about this is that many of these elderly were abandoned by their children who left them in their homes, as they escaped the heat and continued on with their lives. They treated their parents like trash. As a consequence of this the French made a new law. In article 207 it says that adult men & women are legally responsible for their elderly parents. It takes a civil law for people to honor their parents, and I hope that here in the USA it does not take a national tragedy and shaming of our parents to create such a law!

So many today want God’s blessing, but they do not want to follow His commands. The apostle John writes “Whoever says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” (1 John 2:4-6, NIV) The fifth commandment promises a blessing for those who obey it. So honor your parents and receive the blessing.

The SIXTH Commandment

Exodus 20:13, ESV

“You shall not murder.”

 

The KJV translates this verse as “Thou shalt not kill” while other translations say murder (ESV, NIV, NAS, HCSB, NKJV). The Hebrew word ratsach by definition means to murder, or kill. The word appears more than 30 times in the Hebrew Canon. Those that think the verse should read “thou shalt not kill” are condemning capitol punishment, killing in self-defense, going to war, hunting, killing dangerous insects, etc.. Looking at the context of the Hebrew word, God in no way condemns capitol punishment as shown in other places in the Old Testament. In Joshua 7 we learn of Achan’s sin, and how he coveted and stole things that did not belong to him. Joshua was commanded to stone and burn Achan and his family as a consequence to this sin. So if God was against killing, then why would He himself be involved in the capitol punishment of Achan?

 

No, God is against unjust killing, which is called murder. This is why modern translations more correctly translate Exodus 20:13 to “You shall not murder.” Murder is not just an action, but it’s also an intent of the heart according to what Jesus says in Matthew 5.

 

When I go out evangelize to people on the streets I often give them the “good person test”. I go through the Ten Commandments and one of the questions that I ask is if you have ever hated someone before. Usually people say yes, and if so then they are guilty of murder in the heart which is also sin. Hating someone can very well lead to actually murdering them, and that is why hate is wrong and needs to be put to death.

 

The SEVENTH commandment

 

Exodus 20:14

“Thou shalt not commit adultery.”

 

We live in a day where this commandment is being violated left and right. Sex is all around us. It’s in our TV, our music, our books, our newspapers, and all over the internet, and is hard to escape. Our society thinks its perfectly okay to sleep with another man’s wife, sleep with someone you are not married to, etc. The youth of our day are constantly having sex, and so few feel remorse about it. Marriage is under attack, and so many live with their spouse and avoid getting married. Our entire society is in danger because of our disobedience to the seventh commandment. Albert Mohler says:

 

Adultery begins a breakdown of order that threatens the entire society, first how can we trust each other if we cannot trust each other in our most intimate commitments? If we cannot maintain trust and fidelity within the small and inherently meaningful universe of marriage, how can we trust each other in commerce, in politics, in business, in culture, in life?[2]

 

We need to get back to purity and obeying the word of God. God blesses those who obey Him. Those who are pure going into marriage may be rare, but they will be blessed.

 

 

The EIGHTH Commandment

 

Exodus 20:15

“Thou shalt not steal.”

 

One summer when I was living in Redding California I got a job that paid well. The job was a challenge at first, but I quickly overcame the challenges and was doing a good job for a while. Then as I got bored I developed a habit of playing a bit on my laptop, surfing the web, sending emails, instead of doing my job. I got away with it for a while, but eventually the Lord had to judge me and I was removed from my position. I had stolen a bit of time from my employer during those days, when I should have been working. I was guilty of breaking the eighth commandment and although I was not stealing money, property, possessions or anything like that, I was stealing.

 

Many people think that this commandment only refers to money and possessions, but stealing can cover so much more. Often when I witness to people I ask if they have ever stolen anything. Most of the time people tell me that they have not, but when I ask if they have ever stolen time from their employers by texting, Facebooking, emailing, or chatting when they should be working, most admit that they have stolen something.

 

This command is so necessary for society to function. Stealing from others robs them of their trust and ruins relationships and our testimony as the salt and light of the world (Matthew 5:13-14). These days many that steal may not go into a store and use a gun to rob a cash register, but steal instead from the comfort of their keyboards.

 

I had a roommate once that spent a great deal of his time illegally downloading movies. I once confronted him with it, but he refused to repent and there was nothing I could do. Sadly, there are millions who download music, movies, and games without paying for them. God calls this sin, and sin will be judged. Our world is fallen and so people sin carelessly without even feeling guilty for what they are doing. Martin Luther said, “If we look at mankind in all of its conditions, it is nothing but a vast wide stable full of great thieves.”[3]  The apostle Paul said in Ephesians 4:28, “He who has been stealing must steal no longer…” (NIV) Christians should take the command not to steal seriously, because our Lord commands that we not steal.

 

The NINTH commandment

 

Exodus 20:16

“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”

 

Lying is a dangerous sin, one that the Bible repeatedly condemns. In Proverbs 6:16-19 (ESV) the text says:

There are six things that the LORD hates,
   seven that are an abomination to him:
haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
   and hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked plans,
   feet that make haste to run to evil,
a false witness who breathes out lies,
   and one who sows discord among brothers.

Lying is one of the most hated sins of the Lord. The first reference of this text is that of a court of law scenario. The culture of the Bible days was that of honor where reputation meant everything. Someone giving a false witness could end up being killed. There are many references in the Old Testament about speaking the truth and not bearing a false witness. In Zechariah 8:16 the text reads, “These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates.” Also Proverbs 14:5 reads, “A faithful witness will not lie: but a false witness will utter lies.” In the New Testament the apostle Paul also commanded us to tell the truth at all times (2 Corinthians 1:17-18).

Telling the truth does not just mean telling the truth when we are put on trial, when we are questioned. No, telling the truth means being honest about everything. Being honest does not necessarily mean telling every single detail about a situation, but it does mean to be truthful.

The church is to be the people of the truth and her testimony is to shine out into a dark and wicked world. Jesus said, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” (John 17:17) It is very important to be truthful and honest in these last days because, ultimately, truth is about God (John 14:6). When we lie we do not show ourselves to be followers of Christ.

In the church today there are so many who lie and are not entirely truthful. In the job market many choose to lie on their résumés, applications, and some continue to do so until they are caught. God may allow a liar to get away with his sin for a season, but he will be judged. Just because God does not strike a liar dead or judge a liar immediately does not mean that God does not care about lying. God does care, and hates the sin of those that lie.

When I witness to people I use the “good person test” engineered by Ray Comfort of Living Waters ministries and one of my questions involves lying. Amazingly, in all my witness encounters I have met some that have professed never to have told a single lie in their lives. I find this very hard to believe, unless that person is very confused on his definition of lying. Lying is not being truthful.

As Christians we have a twofold responsibility in this world: to make God look good, and to make Him well known. We make Him look good by our truthfulness, and how we live our lives. We make Him well known by telling others the truth about him. Proper Biblical evangelism involves telling the entire truth about God. There are many churches that tell only half the story; these are not Bible-based churches but man-centered churches. A church that honestly seeks to evangelize sinners will not only focus on the good news, but will tell the bad news as well, which is about sin, judgment, and hellfire. A great book that tells the honest truth to sinners about their final destiny without God is called One Minute After you Die by Erwin Lutzer. I enourage Christians to use it in their evangelistic efforts to win the lost. God is pleased with those who are truthful about Him in their witness, so go and tell the truth in love.

The TENTH commandment

Exodus 20:17

“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.”

 

This is a commandment that I personally have had a hard time following. Contentment is something that none of us find easy. Many of us want, and want, and want, and are never content with what we have. At the time of this writing I am single, and I long to be married. I look at the lives of others and I want what they have. I want their salary, their house, their car…. I think that I have failed somewhere along the paths of life and that’s why I remain single. But I know that God is ultimately in control, and His timing will bring someone into my life and put an end to my singleness.

 

Learning to trust and be patient with a sovereign God is not easy in an instant-gratification culture that craves material possessions and consumerism. Patience is a fruit of the spirit. Paul writes “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.” (Galatians 5:22, NIV)

 

Our society does not value patience because patience means we need to wait. We crave materialism and indulge in idolatry and covetousness. Watch TV and see all the commercials that fill the tube that lure you to buy, buy, and buy. We are constantly getting messages that what we have is not good enough, and that we need more! I have made numerous mistakes in the past by following my materialistic lusts, and have lived to regret many of them. The consequence of my sin is a large credit card debt that I still am not able to pay. I desire to be patient and to wait on the Lord to provide me a higher income so I can make more progress on paying back my debts.

 

Jesus warned against covetousness and said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19-20, NIV) Jesus wants us to store our treasures in heaven and not on earth. There is nothing wrong with buying books and resources to aid in your knowledge of the word of God, but there is something wrong with someone who spends a great deal of his time working so that he can get more possessions for himself.        

We need to take an honest look at our heart’s desire and ask ourselves what we truly value in life. Do we desire to evangelize lost souls and grow in our walk with God, or do we desire something else? Where our treasure is, our heart will be (Matthew 6:21). If the Lord were to look at your Facebook page would He be convinced that your treasure is with Him, or something else? If He were to look at your checkbook, what would He find? What do we spend most of our time thinking about? Is it about glorifying Him or glorifying ourselves?

 

The rich young ruler in Luke 18 prided himself on his possessions. He had great wealth and when he came to Jesus he said that he had kept the commandments, but Jesus showed him how much he lacked. This man was definitely guilty of breaking the first and last commandments. He had another god above God, and his god was wealth, and his wealth was what he coveted and was committed to. This man was not ready for the kingdom, and went away sad. We need to not be like the rich young ruler and not worship our possessions as he did.

 

As Christians we reach the conclusion that these commandments point us to Jesus Christ, who is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets (Matthew 5:17). The commandments show us our sin, and how much we are missing the mark. We can be thankful for God’s grace for allowing us to enter into heaven through Jesus Christ who died for the entire world (1 John 2:2, John 3:16). We do not keep the commandments to earn our salvation, but we keep them in response to our salvation and we ultimately place our rest on Christ whose perfect obedience fulfills the law.



1 John M. Wolf, “Honoring the Lord’s Day”, Church Education Resource Ministries, available from http://www.cerm.info/bible_studies/Theological/lords_day.html ; Internet; accessed 31 December 2010.

[2] Albert R. Mohler, Words from the Fire (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2009), 133.

[3] Martin Luther, The Large Catechism of Martin Luther, trans. Robert H. Fischer (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1963), 40.

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