APPRECIATING THE PURPOSE OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
“The Ten Commandments no longer apply to believers since we are now living under grace.”
To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement?
[Lead: The statement is not correct. The commandments still stand today and must be obeyed by every believer].
Also known as the Decalogue, were God’s original code given to His people through Moses on Mt. Sinai.
Whereas there is only one God, Jehovah, the Godhead consists of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
This set of laws was a statement of the terms of the covenant that God made with His chosen people and contained the essential principles of the moral law that God expected all His people to live by.
The Ten Commandments are found in two places in Scripture:
Exodus 20:1- 17
i. The Commandments are an expression of God’s Lordship.
As a preamble to the Ten Commandments, God gave the basis and authority by which He issued the commands.
“And God spoke all these words, saying: 2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.”
ii. The Commandments are a demonstration of God’s Love.
In issuing the Ten Commandments, God expressed the nature of His relationship with His people.
“And God spoke all these words, saying: 2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you
out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.”
God reminds Moses that He is not just any other god; but the God who, out of love and compassion, had delivered them from the yoke of slavery in Egypt.
The Commands carry the authority of God as Lord and to disobey these commands was to disobey God Himself!
They reflect the person and character of God. They are given for the benefit of the followers by a loving Father and a benevolent God.
To disobey them is to undermine God’s love.
2. Are the ten commandments still relevant today?
Whereas some have considered the Ten Commandments to no longer apply to believers, such assertions are not backed up by Scripture.
It is clear that the Decalogue carried a permanent obligation and was affirmed in the New Testament.
i. Jesus reaffirmed the enduring nature of the Commandments
Jesus declared that He had not come to do away with the Commandments:
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
18 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
ii. Jesus re-established the significance of the commandments
In His teaching Jesus emphasized the importance of keeping the Commandments within the context of the Kingdom of God.
19 “Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
Jesus considered the observance of the Commandments as part and parcel of the Kingdom journey to eternal life.
iii. Keeping the commandments alone is not adequate for eternal life
When the rich young ruler declared that he had kept the Commandments since childhood, Jesus was greatly impressed by such a rare commitment to keeping God’s commands.
Interestingly though, Jesus did not declare him righteous and fit for eternal life. Instead Jesus told him that something more was necessary.
16 “know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.”
The Law however serves to reveal God’s demands for righteousness. ‘The law is a mirror that reveals where we are dirty, but you don’t wash your face in the mirror (James 1:22-25). Only the blood of Jesus Christ can cleanse us from sin’ (1 John 1:7,9; Hebrews 10:22).
The Ten Commandments were designed to cover two critical components of our relationships:
The love for God and the love for one another.
36 “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.”
“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
a. The First Commandment – Worship Jehovah only
The first commandment is outlined in Exodus 20:3 and also in Deuteronomy 5:7.
It shows that God’s first requirement of His people is on the matter of theology – the knowledge and understanding of their God. They are to recognise one God and one God only.
3″You shall have no other gods before me.
i. It is a demand for the exclusive worship of Jehovah
Though most of Israel’s neighbors worshipped a multiplicity of gods, this commandment prohibited the consideration of any other god besides Jehovah.
“You shall have no other gods before me.”
ii. It is a pointer to an exclusive way to God
While many religions allow for many different ways of reaching deity, Christianity is founded on this first commandment – that there is no other God beside Jehovah; and that there is no other way to this God except through Jesus Christ.
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
In an increasingly pluralistic society, inclusivity is politically correct and exclusivity is considered dogmatic and intolerant. Yet, obedience to this Commandment gives us no room to entertain the possibility of other gods besides Jehovah – whether gods of other religions or cultural gods of our ancestors.
b. The second commandment – Do not make for yourself an idol
4 “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.
5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,
6 but showing love to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
In some of the Christian traditions, this commandment is often combined with the first commandment and considered as part of it.
Consequently the last two commandments are split into two to make ten.
However, a majority of the Church consider vs. 4-6 to be a separate commandment which deals with the matter of idolatry.
i. It is a prohibition against the manufacture or creation of idols
“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.”
ii. It forbids the worship of anything other than God
4 “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. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship
iii. Idolatry is the most detestable sin before God
In this second Commandment God gives a very strict order to Israel not to engage in idolatry. In fact, this is the only commandment with a warning of severe punishment with serious consequences on the extended family members.
God considers idolatry to be the worst kind of sin. Indeed if there was any sin that caused God to punish His people severely, it was the sin of idolatry. God says that idolatry provokes His jealous anger in much the same way adultery would provoke the jealous wrath of a spouse.
iv. Spiritual objects or symbols can become idols before God
The Bible shows that even very good religious symbols or practices can become idols when they replace the direct worship of God. That is why King Hezekiah destroyed the bronze snake Moses had made for Israel in the wilderness.
2 Kings 18:3-4
3 He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David had done.
4 He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles.
He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan.)
v. Jesus considered the love of money as idolatry
Jesus singled out money as a key idol of our time, whose worship is mutually exclusive to the worship of God.
13 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
15… What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.”
Even good Christian practices, symbols, or leaders can become idols. Hence Holy Communion, Fasting, Anointing oil, Pastor, Bishop, etc can become our Nehushtan, if they become the focus of our faith in place of God Himself. So, beware because any one of us can easily fall into this grievous, toxic sin.
Though many have considered the Ten Commandments irrelevant to today’s believer, it seems clear that the principles behind the Decalogue are enduring and cannot be ignored.It is therefore important that we not only learn them, but also seek to apply them into our daily life encounters and experiences. In fact, it is impossible to worship God if you disregard the first 2 commandments!