Have you heard people saying that should God ask of them why He ought to admit them into His heaven, they would say because they have kept and do keep the Ten Commandments?
We believers understand this would nullify the Gospel completely because the Gospel is all of grace and keeping the Ten Commandments would be seen as something we do for salvation … where the Lord Jesus did it all on the Cross. Does this mean that as Christians we can ignore the Ten Commandments and not adhere to them at all?
The simple answer is definitely not. The Ten Commandments is God’s way of controlling life and livelihood amongst all people, especially the people of God. When we adhere to its teaching we find that we, our families, friends, colleagues and society in general will enjoy life, caring for, looking after and protecting each other … with God being glorified because these Laws express His desire and requirements for all mankind.
When you think of the first recipients of the Law, Israel, they saw the Law as a duty. To them it was like being put in a box strictly controlling them and limiting any type of happiness. It was a burden … it was do this and don’t do that. It was negative in presentation but also in practice.
On the other hand, for Christians, people who have been enlightened by the Spirit and brought to spiritual life, keeping the Ten Commandments is a joy … because we see the Law intended for our benefit and protection from the hand of a Good, Loving Heavenly Father. What we need to see is the spiritual dimension of the Ten Commandments.
Firstly, we you read Matthew chapters 5-7 you will see Jesus’ exposition on the Ten Commandments. Secondly we see the first four Commands (Ex 20:3-11) relate to our duty and relationship with God:
Mt 22:37 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.
The next six Commands (Ex 20:2-17) relate to our duty and relationship to each other. (“Each other” goes further than those within our family or Church, it includes every other person on the planet.)
Mt 22:39 And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
Where the first four deal with whole-hearted love for God, the second six deal with love for our neighbor (everyone other than ourselves) in an unselfish manner. Join me as we look at each Command individually and briefly over a few days …
1) The unique place of God in our thoughts.
Ex 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me.”
The words “before me” actually mean “to my face”. The LORD is God and to come with another god or other gods … literally, in His face, is prohibited. The same idea is taking another wife when the first wife is still alive. It is the breach of an exclusive personal relationship. Bringing that marital aspect into the relationship with God helps us to understand what God intended in this first Commandment. Although related to the next Commandment, verse 5 tells us that God is jealous (“for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God,”). You can see how easy it is for us to apply the marriage breach to God as God and His people are in a covenant relationship and when we look at
Rev 19:9 “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!”
God often refers to His relationship with His people as Him being a husband. In Christ, we understand this perhaps far better than the people of Israel did because God, as the lover of our souls needs to be the first object of our hearts. He must be loved “with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the reason God needs to have a unique place in our thoughts. Daily and constantly we need to be thinking about God, His love for us displayed at Calvary, our new creation, His daily provision and our eternal home … yet added there needs to be dependence upon God. We have constant needs and so does our world. We are exposed to world news (and news from our country) daily. These together with our needs ought to be presented to God throughout each day. Surely this is what it means to have God in our thoughts all the time … including us avoiding sin because He sees!
2) The unique honour due to God.
Ex 20:4 “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.”
The concept of an idol is a something hacked or chiseled into a “likeness”. Usually it was made from wood and covered with some type of metal, though it included a cast likeness. As Christians an idols could mean many things, but firstly this Commandment forbids us using some image … “likeness” as a means of worshipping God. This could be a picture, a statue or an object of some sort. It is for this reason reformed churches do not have anything in the church that could distract the worshipper from focusing on God Himself. Neither do we try to picture what God looks like because no one knows what God looks like.
Secondly, this Commandment includes aspects of the First Commandment in that it forbids the worship of another so called god represented in the shape of a carve or cast image. The second part of verse 5 and 6 shows the seriousness of this Commandment. Many people who refuse God and raise their children to do the same find generations of hardened hearts that aggressively reject any thought or discussion about the God they reject … although largely they do not quite know why they reject God! They have been taught to block God out of their minds. In turn this results not only in stubborn refusal of God, it secures His displeasure in punishment. Yet all families who love God and promote loving God in their families find the pleasure and blessing of God in their lives.
Our Glorious Heavenly Father, help us to … Love you with all our hearts, souls and minds for Jesus sake. Amen.