7.       The Ten Commandments

Doctrinal Statement: The Ten Commandments are the concise statement of the fundamental laws of God written in stone by God Himself.

 

The Ten Commandments are remarkable for their depth of application and their conciseness. Consider that Federal law expands yearly by thousands of pages and State laws are similar in their growth. Yet, a little examination and thought will show the Ten Commandments are pretty much all that is needed if applied as principles.

 

Jesus, when asked which of the Commandments was the greatest, made them more concise still by summing them up like this.

*   (Mat 22:36-40 NIV)  "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" {37} Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' {38} This is the first and greatest commandment. {39} And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' {40} All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

 

With Holy Scripture as the context and foundation it might be argued that all the commandments could be reduced to only one, the eighth, consisting of only four words.

*   (Exo 20:15 NIV)  "You shall not steal.

 

Let me explain commandment by commandment.

  1. (Exo 20:3 NIV)  "You shall have no other gods before me.

*   To recognize other gods is to steal the recognition that the one True God deserves.

  1. (Exo 20:4 NIV)  "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.

*   Idolatry is to steal the truth of God’s actual being. God is Spirit to be worshipped in spirit and in truth.

3.       (Exo 20:7 NIV)  "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

*   To misuse the name of the Lord is to steal the honor and respect the Lord your God is entitled to.

  1. (Exo 20:8 NIV)  "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.

*   Forgetting Sabbath is stealing a God given gift and throwing it away. What should have been holy is made as trash.

  1. (Exo 20:12 NIV)  "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

*   If you don’t honor your mother and father per God’s commandment you have stolen what God wants parents to have.

  1. (Exo 20:13 NIV)  "You shall not murder.

*   Murder is the stealing of a life.

  1. (Exo 20:14 NIV)  "You shall not commit adultery.

*   Adultery is the stealing of fidelity and loyalty.

  1. (Exo 20:15 NIV)  "You shall not steal.

*   Taking anything not rightfully yours to take is stealing.

  1. (Exo 20:16 NIV)  "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

*   False testimony is stealing truth.

  1. (Exo 20:17 NIV)  "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."

*   Coveting is stealing in your heart. That is, breaking commandments in your thoughts.

 

Although the Ten Commandments are first spelled out concisely in the Old Testament they are still alive and well in the New Testament. Let’s check it out.

  1. (Mark 12:29 NIV)  "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.
  2. (Acts 19:26 NIV)  And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that man-made gods are no gods at all.
  3. (James 5:12 NIV)  Above all, my brothers, do not swear--not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your "Yes" be yes, and your "No," no, or you will be condemned.
  4. (Acts 18:4 NIV)  Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.

(Heb 4:9 NIV)  There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God;

  1.  Also, 6 through 9. (Luke 18:20 NIV)  You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'"
  1. (Mat 5:28 NIV)  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

(Mat 5:21-22 NIV)  "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' {22} But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca, ' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.

 

People sometimes assert the Ten Commandments have been made null and void by the sacrifice of Christ. This is not true. Christ did not do away with the law he fulfilled it.

*   (Mat 5:18 NIV)  I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

If plain scripture isn’t enough try this. Read a commandment and then ask yourself if it is OK to not follow its requirements. Clearly, God expects us to abide by each and every one. It is true that the sacrifice of Christ paid a debt we could not pay, but let’s not burden him with even more debt! Obey the commandments.

 

Some Comments

*   There are many more “Commandments” recorded in the “Torah” which are the first five books of the Bible. These books are attributed to Moses who is some times called the lawgiver. In fact Moses was not the lawgiver but the one that God chose to announce His laws.

*   However, the Ten Commandments are the basis for all “Moral” law.

*   In the Torah there are 613 “Mitzvot” or commandments identified and accepted by many Jewish scholars. It is my opinion that each of the 613 can be related in principle to one or more of the Ten Commandments.

*   Many of the Mitzvot are administrative in nature or pertain to implementation of the consequences for commandment breaking. Some are instructive concerning how God wants his people to live and relate to others.

*   For example, there are different penalties for different types of stealing. There are detailed instructions on food and cleanliness. There are many passages on how people are to interact. Although these commandments are supplemental in nature they are never the less the word of God and are to be obeyed in their context.

 

Homework

*   How many times did God write the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone?

*   How many sides of the stone tablets were written on?

*   In what geographical area were the Ten Commandments given to Moses?

*   Memorize the Ten Commandments in the Exodus 20 order.

 

A Few Closing Thoughts

Perhaps we would do well if we applied principle to law rather than trying to denote each possible form of violation of a general law. For example, a young man in the Philippines wrote a computer virus that wreaked havoc throughout the world. When he was identified, it was said there was no law against what he had done. In fact there are all kinds of laws that could have been applied in principle. Laws against theft, laws against vandalism, laws against invasion of privacy, and so forth all would be applicable. The basic law is once again, “Thou shall not steal.” Many dollars and much time were stolen from people whose computers were infected. Many dollars and much time were stolen from people compelled to protect their computers.

 

One of the most important aspects of the Ten Commandments is this; they provide a common and absolute standard for men to live by. Without the commandments each of us would be free to do whatever seems right in his own mind. This could be considered anarchy. Anarchy is actually the law of the jungle and leads to what is mistakenly referred to as survival of the fittest. Absolute “Freedom” inevitably leads to absolute despotism. God knows this and so gave us rules to live by so that he who is set free will be free indeed.

 

Let me share

*   It is in the nature of man to justify his actions or excuse them. Frequently this takes the form of, “I didn’t know it was wrong.” This doesn’t hold water in most cases. With just a little study of God’s principles and a little thought we can almost always avoid conscious wrongdoing. One of the principles to apply is don’t play with the margin. This simply means avoid even the appearance of wrongdoing. When in doubt make the safe decision.

*   When my boys were young they used to quarrel with one another. Once, this resulted with one punching the other. I told the son doing the hitting not to punch his brother. When it happened again his defense was, “I didn’t punch him, I slapped him.” I told him don’t slap your brother. The next time his defense was, “I didn’t slap him I shoved him.” Is the grown up world really all that different? Aren’t lawyers paid to make distinctions with no real difference? Don’t you think it’s time to insist our lawmakers, judges, and attorneys grow up?

*   Instead of removing the Ten Commandments from public places they should be placed in more and more public places. They should be taught in schools. They should be applied as principles to interpret secular law.