The Ten Commandments, as revealed by God, codified by
Moses, and ratified and magnified by Christ, are the perfect expression
of God's law. They are the foundation of all biblical teaching, showing
man how to express love toward God and fellowman, and are consequently
the focal point of Christian life.
When God initially spoke to the Israelites from
Sinai, He gave them the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:1-17). It is true that
the full covenant made with Israel at Sinai also contained other rules,
regulations and commands (Ex. 20-24). Yet the only code spoken directly
to the people, rather than through Moses, and written on the tables of
stone placed in the ark of the covenant was the code of the Ten
Commandments. The vital importance of these ten major precepts to our
culture has been recognized even by historians who see no uniqueness in
the Old Testament as a religious document.
Jesus Christ specifically listed five of the Ten
Commandments (fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth commandments)
when He told the young rich man, "If thou wilt enter into life, keep
the commandments " (Mt. 19:17). He also pointed out that the Ten
Commandments have two basic objectives (Mt. 19:16-22; Mk. 10:17-22; Lk.
18:18-23): (1) the first four show how one is to love, worship and honor
God, and (2) the final six give the basis for how to love other human beings.
Indeed, Jesus summarized the two basic objectives of the Ten
Commandments when He answered the Pharisee's question:
"Master, which is the great commandment in
the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God
with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy
mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is
like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these
two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Mt.
James wrote that "whoever keeps the whole law but
fails in one point has become guilty of all of it" (Jas. 2:10). What
"law" was James so strongly upholding in this context? He makes this
plain in the next verse by discussing two of the Ten Commandments
(the sixth and seventh commandments).
John wrote profoundly about God's commandments in his
first epistle: "And hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His
commandments" (I John. 2:3), for anyone "that saith, I know Him, and
keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in Him"
(v. 4). Moreover, "whatever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep
His commandments" (I John. 3:22).
Ultimately, the whole object is the love of God,
which is the essence of God's being: "For this is the love of God, that
we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome" (I
5:3). The entirety of the law-in both its major and minor points-has the
object of teaching us what godly love is. Yet even though each part is a
section of the whole, unique stress has always been placed on the
specific ten points first enumerated as such at Mount Sinai. One can see
an obvious reason for this.
The problems of our modern legal system are
well-known. Some laws are so badly worded that the individual citizen is
hard put to know exactly what the legislators had in mind
in framing them and how he is to adhere to those laws. On the other hand, each
individual is continually beset on all sides by a welter of picayune
regulations which seem to irritate more than help. How is one to come to
grips with the situation without having to become a professional lawyer,
as it were? The Ten Commandments, by contrast, are a paradigm for the
modern legislator. The Ten Commandments provide a few convenient
categories by which all laws can be summarized and organized.
the importance of the Ten Commandments as the basic summarizing
principles of God's mind, the following section gives a precis
[a concise summary] of each
and shows how it serves as a major category of rubric
[broad heading] under which many
important but more detailed commands can be systematized.
First Commandment: Worshipping No Gods But the
True God. Many regulations of the Old and New Testaments relate to
worshipping and honoring only the one God. In today's society there are
few who follow blatant polytheism. And though historians acknowledge
Israel as the cradle of monotheism, most educated Romans and Greeks also
thought in terms of a basic monotheism by the time of Jesus. Yet
polytheism easily exists in a more subtle form in every age and society.
Human nature naturally places the self rather than God at the center of
the personal universe. Man by nature first worships himself. Even the
initial impulse to worship a superior being-a god-or even the true
God-is often a selfish one, since such worship is undertaken in order to
stave off disaster (by sacrifice or other propitiatory means), or to ask
a favor, or to obtain salvation. Worship of God for its own sake is
completely possible only by means of the Holy Spirit.
Second Commandment: No Manufactured Images of
God. Human beings naturally like to deal with physical objects.
Worshipping an invisible God and recognizing that He is more real than
even the physical world does not come easily. Therefore, man seeks
physical "aids" in worshipping God rather than coming to grips with the
true reality of the transcendent, invisible God inaccessible to the five
senses. Pagan worshippers seldom regarded their idol as the actual deity
itself. On the contrary, the idol was merely a representative of the
invisible god in heaven. The idol served as an aid to worship just as
the icons and statues still used in various religions, do today. Since
the use of images in reality only serves to impede true understanding of
the spiritual and invisible Creator God, it was-and is-forbidden.
Third Commandment: Not Taking God's Name in Vain.
Respect the world over is to a considerable extent demonstrated by
the manner in which one refers to the object of respect. One does not
address the chairman of the board frivolously or familiarly. To make use
of God's name lightly-whether as an interjection in day-to-day
conversation, or as a witness to an event which really doesn't concern
Him (swearing and taking oaths), or in a context which does not show
respect or honor-shows an unacceptable attitude toward God Himself. We
all eventually have to come to see God as the center of the universe and
of all reality. That required insight is impossible without the utmost
respect and honor toward God. How one uses His name is an outward
indicator of how one really feels towards Him.
The third commandment has a deeper meaning as well-we
are not to do anything that could hold God's name up to scorn. As
Christians-and as God's Church-what we do, what we teach and how we
teach it directly reflects upon God. We should take this responsibility
Fourth Commandment: Sabbaths for Rest and Worship.
The Sabbath command is very much a pivotal one, serving both as a
means of honoring and worshipping God and of aiding man. First of all,
the Sabbath is a memorial of Creation pointing to God as the Creator.
Secondly, the human body requires rest for efficient bodily function and
a proper mental outlook. Therefore, God commanded man to rest a full day
once a week plus setting aside certain other days for annual times of
rest and rejoicing. Man by nature needs periodic holidays. Had God not
given some to Israel, they would have invented their own. Moreover, God
not only gave weekly and annual days of rest, but He required that
slaves-and even beasts of burden-be allowed to enjoy rest on these days.
This was a demonstration of love for one's fellow man as well as
kindness to animals.
Thirdly, while periodical physical rest is sufficient
to meet physical needs, the Sabbath and annual holy days serve a
spiritual function as well. Indeed, this is their primary purpose. They
provide the opportunity for study and for meeting to receive instruction
in the ways of God. They provided the opportunity for worship and
intellectual and spiritual pursuits which may not be possible during the
day-to-day task of making a living. Again, any day of the week would
suffice for this as well as for physical rest. The spiritual aspect lies
in the fact that (1) it is a time God has chosen, a fact
significant in itself since one shows respect to God by worshipping
when, and as He says, rather than as the individual chooses; and that
(2) the choice of the seventh day also points back to Creation and, as a
consequence, to the Creator. Further, both the weekly and annual
Sabbaths serve to point out God's overall plan to man. This is all part
of the process of acquiring God's mind, which is perfect love. (An
expression of the fourth commandment to include the annual festivals is
indicated by some of the scriptures which utilize the plural form of the
Hebrew word shabbat.)
Fifth Commandment: Honor of Parents. The
parents are the first authority in a child's life. They are also the
first source and the first object of his love. By respecting and
honoring his parents the child learns respect for constituted authority
in general, and eventually learns respect for the ultimate authority,
God. In the same way, he learns love from the love of his parents. As he
returns that love, he begins to see how love must also be directed
toward a broader circle, and eventually toward the Source of all things.
Familial love is the basis of a stable family unit, which in turn is the
basis of a stable society. Loving one's parents is thus crucial in a
positive environment in which love is learned and expressed, and God
thereby worshipped. It is also a necessary step in learning to love God.
Sixth Commandment: Respect for Another's Life.
Any orderly society has certain restrictions on the taking of
human life. Absolute prohibition against taking human life does not
exist in human society, but the basic principle is, at least,
recognized. A number of Old Testament laws governing warfare and the
execution of criminals relate to a physical nation rather than to a
spiritual church. Life could be taken under certain circumstances.
However, Jesus showed that even hating was wrong, since hating preceded
murder and murder never embodied love. Even Old Testament laws clearly
taught that lack of care for the safety of another was only one step
removed from deliberate murder. A number of laws regulated potential or
actual cases of manslaughter. If a man accidentally killed another, the
law protected him by allowing a place for him to flee to. That is, it
prevented another life from being taken in revenge for the accident. On
the other hand, the one guilty of manslaughter had to suffer a temporary
exile, which demonstrated the seriousness of the incident, showing that
he might perhaps have prevented a death had he been more careful. In
other cases, the guilt of the careless individual was more clearly
defined, as for example, in not building a guard rail on his roof or not
keeping a belligerent farm animal safely locked up. Clearly, more than
just premeditated murder is being regulated and punished.
Seventh Commandment: The Marriage Institution.
Adultery is probably the most blatant offense against another
person's marital partner. Forcible adultery (rape) or consenting
adultery both violate an intimate bond between husband and wife, even if
the wronged partner is not aware of it. Consenting adultery strikes at
the very bedrock of society, the marriage family unit, shattering the
most intimate human bond. Rape constitutes a violation of another
person's body, mental and physical health, and right to make personal
decisions. Rape could never be considered an act of love.
Other unlawful sexual practices (e.g. homosexuality,
bestiality) are illegal, both because they degrade the human mind and
body, and because they are a substitution of the God-ordained marital
bond. Sexual relations with near of kin are potentially hazardous to
unborn offspring. Premarital sexual relations are potentially adulterous
since the partners in such relations may eventually marry someone else.
Similarly, to live together sexually before marriage is to give a
distorted view of the purpose of marriage and perhaps to take away an
important physical incentive for marriage in the first place. All of
these have consequences for one's ability to love others.
Finally, since marriage is also a picture-in
miniature-of God's plan, a wrong approach towards marriage can cause one
to overlook the important spiritual truths about the ultimate and
eternal Family of God which can be learned from a proper marriage.
Eighth Commandment: Respect for the Property of
Others. Love for another requires respect for his empirical self,
which includes his family and his physical possessions. While the
greatest possession one has is life, and the next greatest is one's
marital partner and family, personal property may be an important
necessity for continued existence. To take another's property in a poor
society, may sentence him to malnutrition and a slow death. In a more
affluent society, it may produce mental and emotional consequences.
Consequently, we must learn to respect the rights and needs of others.
Ninth Commandment: Honesty in Dealing with
Others. This commandment is phrased in a legal manner because one of
the most obvious ways to defraud another is to testify falsely against
him in court. This could cause loss of property, freedom, or even life.
Yet, complete honesty and aboveboard dealing is also envisioned. One
has, in a sense, witnessed falsely when he uses a scale which has been
tampered with. Misrepresentation to get ahead means that a more
deserving person is passed over. Lying to boost one's ego, thereby
deflating someone else's, is also blatant disregard for another. Such
self-centered dealings to the exclusion of others are unconscionable and
the antithesis of love-a violation of the ninth commandment.
Tenth Commandment: The Beginning of True Love is
in the Mind. The specific phrasing of this command proscribes
desiring what is not lawful for an individual to have: another person's
property or mate or position or whatever. In a sense, this gets at the
heart of the four previous commands. One does not kill unless he desires
something another person has or can give him (such as property, a better
position, an improved reputation, the elimination of a threat or
problem, etc.). Even revenge can usually be traced back to envy, a form
of covetousness. One does not commit adultery or other sexual sins
unless he has first desired what he was not entitled to, what he was not
allowed to have. One does not steal or gain through dishonesty without
first taking possession of the forbidden object in one's mind. If a
person can control his nature at this point, many of the other
temptations shall take care of themselves. Indeed, the tenth commandment
is Spirit in form and content-it is concerned with the unlawful
desire in the mind as well as the specific act. In this sense, it points
to and foreshadows the future teachings of Jesus Christ. As Paul wrote
in Philippians 2:3,5: "Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory;
but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves....
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus."
READ THESE SCRIPTURES FROM YOUR OWN BIBLE:
Exodus 20:1-17 - God gives Israelites
the Ten Commandments.
Matthew 19:17 - Jesus tells rich man
to keep the commandments.
Matthew 19:16-22 - Commandments have
two objectives, love, honor and worship of God and love of man (See Mark
10:17-22 and Luke 18:18-23)
Matthew 22:36-40 - The great
commandment of the law.
James 2:10 - Fail in one point of
the law and you are guilty of all.
1 John 2:3 - We know Him if we keep
1 John 2:4 - He that saith I know
Him and keeps not His commandments is a liar.
1 John 3:22 - Whatsoever we ask of
Him, we receive because we keep His commandments.
1 John 5:3 - For this is the love of
God that we keep His commandments.
1) Which of the
following is false? The 10 Commandments are...
a) revealed by God
b) ratified and magnified by Christ
c) the perfect expression of God's love
d) the foundation of biblical teaching
e) showing man how to express love toward God and fellowman
f) are the focal point of the Christian life
g) are no longer required
h) all of the above
2) Historians have recognized the vital importance of these ten major
precepts to our culture even when they gave little importance to the Old
Testament as a religious document. True or False?
3) Jesus never told anyone to keep the commandments. True or
4) Finish this verse from Matthew 19:17:
"If you will enter into life ____ ___ ___________" [3 words]
5) Finish this verse from James 2:10:
"For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point he
is _____ __ ____"
6) Finish this verse from 1 John 2:3:
"And hereby we do know that we know him if we ____ ___ ___________" [3
7) Finish this verse from 1 John 2:4:
"He that saith I know him, and keepeth not his commandments __ _ ____ [3
words] and the truth is not in him."
8) Finish this verse from 1 John 3:22:
"And whatsoever we ask we receive of him, because we ____ ___
9) Which phrase best completes this sentence? The entirety of the
law - both its major and minor points - has the object of teaching us:
a) what His demands are
b) How narrow the road to Salvation is
c) what godly love is
d) the burden of being a Christian
10) Man by human nature first worships himself. True or False
11) Which best completes the sentence? Worship of God for its own
sake is completely possible only by...
d) the Holy Spirit
12) It is quite permissible to have a symbol of God or Jesus to aid you
in your sincere worship of them. True or False?
13) What we do in our worship, the Work of God, what we do, what we
teach and how we teach it directly reflect on God. True or False?
14) Which apply? The Sabbath is...
a) kept on Saturday
b) from sunset [even] Friday to sunset [even] Saturday
c) is a memorial of creation
d) points to God as Creator
e) a physical rest
f) a spiritual renewing
g) point to the over all plan of God
h) all of the above
15) Which does not apply? Parents are...
a) the first authority in a child's life
b) first source and object of love
d) necessary step in learning to love God, who is infallible
16) Which is worse?
a) killing a person
b) hating a person
c) both equally bad
17) Caring for the safety of your fellowman is an important element of
the sixth commandment. True or False?
18) Which of the following are related to a discussion of the 7th
e) sexual relations with near kin
f) living together outside wedlock
g) all of the above
19) Respect for the property of others includes them, their family,
their possessions and their property (real estate). True or False?
20) The ninth commandment is best understood and kept by invoking the
godly principle of ________ [what]
21) The 10th Commandment shows us that both love and sin begins in
the mind with a thought. True or False?
22) The 10th Commandment is...
a) Spirit in form and content
b) concerned with the act of covetousness, such as envy or revenge
c) concerned with the unlawful desire of the mind.
d) all of the above