The Ten Commandments

The ten commandments are the most well known and some of the most important commandments of God to his people Israel.  The ten commandments are found in Exodus 20, as follows:

 "And God spake all these words, saying, I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.  Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 

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. 

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. 

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, the manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. 

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

Thou shalt not kill. 

Thou shalt not commit adultery. 

Thou shalt not steal. 

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. 

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. " 

The two greatest commands according to Jesus was to love God and the second was to love our neighbour. 

We read in Mathew 22:36-40, "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 neighbour as thyself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

Interestingly, it appears that we can directly relate the first five commandments to the greatest commandment which is to love God.  In other words, if we love God with all of our hearts, minds, and souls we will obey the first five commandments.  If we love our neighbour, we will obey the last five commandments.

As Mat 22:40 reads, "On these two  commandments hang all the law and the prophets."  The first five of the ten commandments do hang on the greatest commandment in that if we love God we naturally would obey all five.  They are, thou shalt have no other Gods before me,

thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image,

thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain,

remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy,

honor they father and thy mother. 

As we will discuss later, if we honor our father and mother when we are young and all through our lives, this teaches us to love our Father in heaven as well.

The second five commandments relate directly to loving our neighbour.  The word neighbour is even mentioned in the last two.  The last five commandments are,

thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal,

thou shalt not commit adultery,

thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour,

thou shalt not covet thy neigbbour's house, wife, manservent, maidservant, ox ass or anything else. 

It is also interesting that the commandments that tie in to the greatest commandment of loving God are listed first and the commandments that tie into the second greatest commandment of loving our neighbour are listed second. I would like to discuss each commandment and how it applies to us today as well as with the Jewish people.

The first commandment:  Thou shalt have no other gods before me.  There are no other gods.  To have other gods is to deny the one true God.  God said in Deuteronomy 4:34-35   "Or hath God assayed to go [and] take him a nation from the midst of [another] nation, by temptations, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm, and by great terrors,  according to all that the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before  your eyes?  Unto thee it was shewed, that thou mightest know that the LORD he [is] God; [there is] none else beside him."

Deut. 4:39 reads, "Know therefore this day, and consider [it] in thine heart, that the LORD he [is] God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: [there is] none else."

While in the wilderness, Jesus says the following in Mathew 4:8-10, "Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;  And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.  Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve."

We know how this commandment can apply to us as well.  Jesus says Luke 16:11-13, "If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true [riches]?  And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?  No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." 

We should have not have other gods or nothing that is more important to us than God. 

This means different things to different Christadelphians as you know.  Some think we should study the Word and work for the truth every waking moment with no televisions or other distractions.  Others feel that we can have other interests as long as they don't interfere with what is most important.  We have to decide for ourselves which is the correct route.  If we take the more liberal view we must remember the parable of the sower and how outside interests can choke our faith.

The second commandment: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.  The second was designed to ensure that Israel's conception of God should remain purely spiritual, and not degenerate into the worship of Him, the Invisible through the medium of some visible symbol.  God allowed a go between in Moses and a king in Saul, but all had to realize that what another human said is not on the same scale as what He God said.  We read in Exodus 20:22:23 "And the Lord said unto Moses Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven. Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold."  The Israelites saw how God spoke to Moses. They did not need symbols.

It is part of human nature to like something we can see.  Something that is glorious to the eyes.  Although this is not really a god made of gold, people today like to wear crosses and have stunning churches.  They cannot just rely on their faith and belief in a God that we cannot see.  They must have something glorious that they can see.  The Christadelphians avoid doing this.  Also, we don't and should not have total dependence on one person's view of the truth.  We must study the Word for ourselves and discover the truth for ourselves.  We can rely on others advice and opinion but that is all. 

It is also part of human nature to follow someone and make his word God's word.  To almost respect that person as they would God.

The third commandment: Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.  Both the flippant and the deceitful use of the divine name were strictly forbidden.  Leviticus 19:12 reads, "And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD."  Blaspheming God's name was punishable by death.  Leviticus 24:15-16 reads, "And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, Whosoever curseth his God shall bear his sin.  And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the LORD, shall be put to death." 

We pronounce God's name Yahweh or Jehovah.  These may or may not be close to the true pronunciation of God's name.  We may not blaspheme God's true name in our day, but the word God and his son Jesus is used in a vain way in our day and age.  To use God's name in vain in any form cannot be good.  It shows a lack of respect, and it places us with the worldly in our day and age.

The fourth commandment: remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.  The sabbath day was a sign between God and Israel.  There are some denominations today that think we should still honor it.  The Seventh Day Adventists think we should keep it today because it is part of the ten commandments.  They think the rest of the law of Moses was done away with but the ten commandments are eternal.  We don't feel this way, of course.  The sabbath played an important part in the well being of the Israelite people and all the people the dwelt in Canaan.  As we know, the law served the well being of the Jews.  They couldn't eat pork or shell fish because in those days there was no way to cook it in a healthy manner. All people need a day of complete rest to maintain good health. The Sabbath served this purpose as well as honoring God. In this way the Jews were more advanced than other societies of that time, who worked their slaves to death.  Note that all were to have a day of rest including sons, daughters, servants, cattle, and even strangers in the land.  Even the cattle were to have rest.

The fifth commandment: Honor thy father and thy mother.   We can all say that disobeying this commandment has caused a lot that is wrong with our society. We have to remember that God is our heavenly father and he is as much our father as our worldly father and mother. When we obey our parents when we are younger we are better prepared to honor our heavenly father when we are older. This is one of the ten commandments because is the foundation to having a good society and it points to the need to honor God our entire lives. Again the law served to benefit the well being of the jewish people and their society. I included this commandment with those that tie in to the greatest commandment because of the need to honor our God in heaven.

The sixth commandment: Thou shalt not kill.  We know that Jesus added to this commandment in the sermon on the mount.  We read the following in Mathew 5:21-22: "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a  cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire." 

It is sin to have an evil thought even if it doesn't reach the point of physical action.  When we are told to love our neighbour this means we are not to act like we love our neighbour and hide something different in our minds.  Poor language, name calling, and evil thoughts is unacceptable just as murder is.

The seventh commandment: Thou shalt not commit adultery.  Both the Old and New Testament emphasize this commandment. Jesus also said that evil thoughts are wrong before they lead to adultery as well. 

The eighth commandment: Thou shalt not steal.  Very little explanation is needed with this commandment.  Again some have differing opinions at times with this commandment.  As an example, I once had a very religious supervisor who thought it was stealing to make a few personal copies using a copying machine at work.  We had to use a pay phone if we needed to make a long distance call in an emergency from work.  The company I worked for at the time told him to quit being that strict.  It cost the company more to keep records of a few personal copies than allow employees to make the personal copies.  The point I want to make is that we should not steal while convincing ourselves in our minds that we are not.  It is human nature to take something from our work place for example and make an excuse that our salary is not high enough.

The ninth commandment: Thou shalt not bear false witness.  Another term for false witness is false evidence.  We should not give false or misleading evidence against our neighbours no matter if it is in a court of law or just gossip with a friend.  One who love's his neighbor will not try to mislead others.  To twist the truth or to saying something false against our neighbour breaks the second greatest commandment.

The tenth commandment is not to covet.  Thou shalt not covet they 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.   To kill, commit adultery and steal was to offend against one's neighbour in action; to bear false witness was to offend against him in word; to covet what was his was to offend against him in thought.  We should have respect for our neighbour.  We should not covet in an evil or negative way anything our neighbour has or does.  It is part of human nature to not be satisfied with what we have in our lives.  We want something different or we want something more. 

If we put God first, things in this life become secondary to our desire to serve God.  If we want more, it should be more knowledge of God's Word or better ways to serve him.

In conclusion, we should remember the importance of the two greatest commandments and the ten commandments.  If we make gods of other things in life or if we use God's name in vain sometimes we have to ask ourselves if our hearts are in the right place.  Do we really love God If we spread false information about our neighbours or other brethren and sisters or if we covet what others have?  Follow the two greatest commandments and we will obey all of God's commandments.

If we disobey some of the lesser commandments, it may be an indicator we should not ignore.  It may indicate that we do love God or our neighbour as much as we should.  

David Thomas Jr.