The big 10 — Reviewing the commandments
Published 11:41 am Thursday, February 4, 2016
Let’s consider the Ten Commandments. Yes, commandments. Not suggestions. We could write about the Ten Commandments in this space for the rest of this year and still not exhaust all that there is to say about them.
You may be very familiar with the list. Perhaps you have the list memorized in order. 1. No other gods. 2. No idols. 3. Do not take the Lord’s name in vain. 4. Remember the Sabbath. 5. Honor your father and mother. 6. Do not murder. 7. Do not commit adultery. 8. Do not steal. 9. Do not bear false witness. 10. Do not covet.
As you look at this list, you will notice that the first four commandments focus on our relationship with God.
The final six commandments focus on our relationship with one another.
Jesus’ response to the Pharisees in Matthew 22 when asked which commandment is the greatest highlights this division. Jesus responded by summing up the law, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
He then gave the second greatest commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Note that the two commands Jesus gave in response to the Pharisees’ question correspond with the two tables of the law. Jesus’ first command has to do with our relationship with God, and summarizes the first four commands. Jesus’ second command has to do with our relationship with other people, and summarizes the final six commands.
This is important because it helps us to see that the list of commands in Exodus 20 is not exhaustive. It is not intended to be a list prohibiting every possible sin.
In fact, we could say that just as Jesus’ list of two commands in Matthew 22 is a summary of what God requires of us, so is the list of 10 commands given to Moses in Exodus 20.
Jesus said as much in His sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:27-28).
Jesus said similar things with regard to anger, divorce, oaths and loving our enemies. Jesus makes it clear that obedience to God is not limited to rigid obedience to a list of 10 commands.
I love the way the Westminster Larger Catechism deals with the Ten Commandments.
As an example, it asks in Question 136, “What are the sins forbidden in the sixth commandment?”
To which it replies, “The sins forbidden in the sixth commandment are, all taking away the life of ourselves, or of others, except in case of public justice, lawful war, or necessary defense; the neglecting or withdrawing the lawful and necessary means of preservation of life; sinful anger, hatred, envy, desire of revenge; all excessive passions, distracting cares; immoderate use of meat, drink, labor and recreations; provoking words, oppression, quarreling, striking, wounding and whatsoever else tends to the destruction of the life of any.”
My point is that we may be tempted to look at the Ten Commandments and think we are in pretty good shape.
I have never murdered anyone. Check. I have never committed adultery. Check. I am not a thief. Check. But the WLC, and Jesus in Matthew 5, make it clear that we have all broken all ten commands.
There is none righteous, no not one.
So what hope do we have? Our only hope is Jesus. He is the only one to perfectly obey the Law. He is the one who died in our place to pay for our sins.
His righteousness is credited to the account of all those who repent of their sin and place their faith in Him.
This is our source of hope. Christian, seek today to live a life pleasing to God by the power of the indwelling Spirit in your life.
But when you fail, and you will, trust in the One who already lived the perfect life in your place.
It is only through His righteousness that you can truly please God.
Adam Blosser is the pastor of Drakes Branch Baptist Church. He can be reached at email@example.com.