Are Christians Required to Keep the Ten Commandments?
Today, the world is filled with hatred, murder, violence, wars, lying, cheating, and sexual perversion and promiscuity, yet most professing Christians claim that they are not required to keep the Ten Commandments. Few seem to realize that the problems of the world are a direct result of not keeping these laws. This chapter will prove that Christians today are still required to keep all of the Ten Commandments.
The question of commandment keeping has caused many heated arguments since the days of Christ. Some theologians have proclaimed that Christians no longer need to keep the commandments. Many claim that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is the end of the law and has released Christians from any obligation to keep the commandments. Is this true? Did the laws of God cease to exist with the death and resurrection of Christ?
What does the Bible say about this subject? If a person professes to follow Jesus Christ and believes the Bible is the inspired Word of God, they should look to the Bible for the correct answer to this important question.
WHO GAVE THE TEN COMMANDMENTS?
The first chapter of the Gospel of John contains evidence that the one who actually gave the Ten Commandments to Israel was the one who became Jesus Christ. As the Creator God, he was the one who created Adam and Eve and had mercy on Noah and his family. Abraham walked and talked with him on a personal basis and knew him as God Almighty:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made" (Jn.1:1-3 NIV).
The truth is that the Word was the Creator God who became Jesus Christ.
TO WHOM DID GOD GIVE THE COMMANDMENTS?
Exodus 20:1-17 contains the Ten Commandments as they were given to the tribes of Israel. These ten laws are the foundation of all law in the Bible. The first four pertain to love toward God, and the last six pertain to love toward our fellow humans.
A Review of the Commandments
Because the Ten Commandments instruct people to express love toward God and mankind, it is important to ask ourselves the following questions about these laws in order to see if they are truly a hardship from which humanity needed to be released:
- Is it unbearable to worship, honor, and praise the one who created the universe and set in motion the laws that allow us to exist?
- Is it a hardship to acknowledge the true God as the only giver of all life?
- Is it a hardship to have no idols and not to take God's name in vain?
- Is it cruel of God to expect us to observe the seventh day as a memorial of his awesome and wondrous creation?
- Is it a hardship to honor our fathers and mothers?
- Is it a hardship to not murder another human being?
- Is it a hardship to not commit adultery?
- Is it a hardship to not steal?
- Is it a hardship to not bear false witness?
- Is it a hardship to not be envious of your neighbor or lust after another man's wife or another person's possessions?
The answer to all of these questions is no, because all of God's laws are very good! There is nothing bad, evil, or wrong about these laws. They do not cause pain or suffering. Instead, they are designed to bring love and understanding.
For every effect there is a cause. All of the evil, pain, and suffering in this world is the effect of people breaking the Ten Commandments and other laws of God.
Given For the Good of Mankind
The reason God gave the Ten Commandments was for the good of mankind. After bringing the Israelites out of the land of Egypt, God tells them that he gave them the Ten Commandments because he loves them:
"From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, and you heard his words from out of the fire [this is when the Lord God who later became Jesus Christ spoke the Ten Commandments]. Because he loved your forefathers and chose their descendants after them, he brought you out of Egypt by his Presence and his great strength, to drive out before you nations greater and stronger than you and to bring you into their land to give it to you for your inheritance, as it is today. Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other" (Deut.4: 36-39 NIV).
God created the law for our benefit. It was designed to bring us happiness, joy, and prosperity during our lifetime. The Israelites were not willing to accept these laws as an expression of his love; instead, they rebelled in their hearts, minds, and attitudes:
"Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!" (Deut.5:29 NIV).
THE LAW IS PERFECT
Psalm 19 shows the full extent of the blessings of God's law:
"The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward" (Psa. 19:7-11 NIV).
In our modern age of science, we have learned that there are laws which always function automatically: the laws of physics, chemistry, mathematics and all of the laws necessary to keep the solar system functioning and life continuing. If there is not conformity to these laws, disaster, death, and destruction will occur.
In exactly the same way, all of the laws of God are a point of reference to which all people should look as a standard of behavior toward God and their fellow humans. The Ten Commandments are empirical laws that result in benefits for obedience and penalties for disobedience (Deut.30: 15-19).
Disobedience to these laws is sin: "Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness" (1.Jn.3:4 NIV).
The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament makes the meaning of 1.John 3:4 very easy to understand:
"Everyone that practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness."
In Romans 7:7, Paul states that he would not have known what sin was if the law were not there to show him. Moreover, he indicates that he is talking about the Law that is contained in the Ten Commandments, by citing the tenth commandment, "you shall not covet." Because this law is a part of the Ten Commandments, Paul must be inferring that sin is the transgression of these ten foundational laws. Paul also writes the following about God's law:
"So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good" (Rom.7:12 NIV). In verse 14 Paul states, "We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin."
The apostle James also says the same thing: "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it" (Jms.2:10). What he points out here is that the Ten Commandments are a part of a larger body of law and if just one part of the law is broken, the entire law has been violated.
These scriptures leave no doubt as to what God says is sin! Sin is the violation of these spiritual laws, and these laws are summed up in the Ten Commandments. From the beginning, the penalty of sin has been death (Rom.6:23). But, through the blood of Jesus Christ, forgiveness of sin is possible.
DID CHRIST DO AWAY WITH THE COMMANDMENTS?
We realize that human life and relationships between people must be based on love and directed by laws that govern these relationships. However, because God has offered the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, is it true that he did away with the Ten Commandments? Is it true that Christians should no longer be concerned with these precepts and principles?
Matthew 5:17 is the scripture that is most quoted in order to show that Jesus did away with the Law. However, Jesus himself said, "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" (Matt.5:17 NIV).
Some theologians and professing Christian leaders say that, in fulfilling the Law, Jesus did away with it. However, does this make any sense? How could Jesus not destroy the Law and still destroy it?
In order to prove that this scripture does not say that the law has been done away with, it is important to research the original language of the text. The English word destroy in verse 17, is translated from the Greek word kataluoo, which means tear down, demolish, do away with, abolish, annul, make invalid. Jesus said that we were not even to think that he would destroy or abolish the law! Yet, how many millions of professing Christians not only think he did, but actually believe it?
The English word fulfill in verse 17, is translated from the Greek word elaruoo, which means to fill to the full, to complete, to make full, to fulfill by doing. It is impossible to fill something up and empty and destroy it at the same time.
When studying the Bible, it is necessary to read scriptures in context, which helps to give the complete meaning to whatever subject is being studied. Therefore, it is important to research the rest of what Jesus says about the law.
"I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smaller letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished" (Matt.5: 18 NIV).
Is heaven and earth still here? Yes! Has everything in God's Word been fulfilled? No! Is the Law of God still in effect? Yes! Jesus says it is!
Jesus continues to explain the laws and commandments of God:
"Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least [Greek: 'less than nothing'] in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commandments will be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt.5:19 NIV).
FULFILLING THE LAW AND COMMANDMENTS
We know that Jesus Christ came to fulfill (bring to pass) all the prophecies in the biblical record about his first coming. The prophecies about his second coming are yet to be fulfilled.
But, what did he mean about fulfilling the law and commandments? The prophecy of Christ coming to fulfill the law is found in the Book of Isaiah:
"The Lord [Jesus Christ] is well pleased for his righteousness sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honorable" (Isa.42:21 KJV).
The English word magnify in verse 21, is translated from a Hebrew word which means to make great or cause to be great. This is exactly what Jesus Christ did to fulfill the law to its fullest. He magnified the law by showing how good and beneficial it is.
As the God of Israel (Jesus Christ) he gave the law of God (the Sovereign God), which includes the Ten Commandments. When he gave these laws, he fully intended for Israel to keep the 'letter of the law.' In return, they would be blessed with tremendous physical blessings. See Deut.28.
"Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!" (Deut.5:29 NIV).
Although the Israelites understood the physical basis for keeping the law, they did not comprehend the spiritual intent and meaning of the laws and commandments of God.
A part of the plan of God for the salvation of humanity called for Jesus Christ to come and explain the spiritual intent and meaning of these laws and commandments. This is precisely what he did and it is recorded in Matthew, chapters 5, 6, and 7, and Luke, chapter 6.
All of the teachings of Jesus Christ about God's commandments bring their full spiritual meaning and intent into focus!
CHRIST AND THE COMMANDMENTS
The question of eternal life is on the minds of a lot of people today, just as it was on the minds of people during Jesus' day. A young man asked Jesus about this very subject:
"Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?" "Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments" (Matt.19:16-17 NIV).
If Jesus had come to abolish the commandments, why did he tell this young man to keep them? Jesus told the young man in no uncertain terms that, if he expected to receive eternal life, he must keep the commandments!
Jesus continues his answer to the young man:
"Which ones?" [which commandments] the man inquired. Jesus replied, "Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself" (Matt.19:18-19 NIV).
Part of these instructions are from the Ten Commandments, and the instruction "to love your neighbor" is from the covenant between God and national Israel (Lev.19:18). This shows that eternal life is not gained only through obedience to the Ten Commandments, but one must also love one's neighbor because all of the commandments are based on the principle of love (Matt.22:37-40).
The young man answers, "All these I have kept, the young man said. What do I still lack?" (Matt.19:20 NIV). Apparently the young man thought that he would receive eternal life immediately, because he had done these things to the best of his ability; however, "Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me" (Matt.19:21 NIV).
This whole account shows that we must keep the commandments if we are to receive eternal life. Moreover, we must not only keep the commandments but also totally devote our lives to God and follow Jesus Christ without reservation.
Jesus was not the soft-spoken person that most people have imagined. Neither was he an insipid and feeble personality, which is falsely depicted in so many artist's conceptions of Jesus (hanging pictures, and setting up idols of Jesus actually violates the second commandment against idolatry). On the contrary, Jesus was a dynamic, powerful, personality who spoke the truth without reservation.
Jesus spoke openly to the Pharisees and Scribes (the religious leaders of his day) who were in opposition to his teachings:
"Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: 'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.' You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men. And he said to them: "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!" (Mk.7:6-9 NIV).
Jesus emphatically argued that people are hypocrites if they reject the law of God and claim to worship him!
Do You Love God?
How Do You Know That He Loves You?
Jesus says that if we love him and his God, the Father, we will keep his commandments:
"Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him. . . If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me" (Jn.14:21, 23-24 KJV Para.).
Consider also how Jesus says that we can remain in his love: "If you obey my commands, you will remain [remain and live in] in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love" (Jn.15:10 NIV). This shows that we are commanded by Jesus Christ to follow his example. This was understood and taught by the apostle Peter: "To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps" (1.Pet.2:21 NIV).
If we keep the commandments, we show our love for the Father and Jesus Christ, and they will love us. However, if we do not keep the commandments by transgressing God's law, we show that we hate God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ!
Jesus says, "You are my friends if you do what I command" (Jn.15:14 NIV). You are a friend of Jesus Christ if you do the things that he has commanded. But, you are his enemy if you do not keep his commandments: "Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior" (Col.1:21 NIV).
This is what every human mind is truly like:
"For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean'" (Mk.7:21-23 NIV).
Sin begins in the mind as Jesus says, which is why we have to change our way of thinking and the way we live our lives. This change must come from within us—within our minds and hearts. Repentance must come from the heart. One must also accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins. Only then can we love and obey God from our hearts.
God's solution to removing sin is not the removal or destruction of the commandments that show us what sin is, but a change of heart from within! Once a person has repented, been baptized, and received the Father's holy spirit, God's purpose is to truly establish his law within the minds and hearts of men and women. Through the holy spirit, Christ in us motivates and leads us, which enables us to truly keep the commandments.
The New Covenant
"This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people" (Heb.8:10 NIV).
This is how we are truly reconciled to God the Father. There is a change of mind, which is called conversion. One is converted from a hostile, sinning, evil-minded person into a loving, commandment-keeping person who does the will of God. After conversion, a person is no longer an enemy of God!
THE FATE OF GOD'S ENEMIES
What will happen to the enemies of God? What is their ultimate fate?
Jesus says that just professing his name does not make one his friend:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" (Matt.7:21-23 NIV).
If you are not doing the will of the Father, you are not a friend of Jesus Christ and God the Father. If you are not a friend of Jesus and God the Father, you are an enemy and will be destroyed instead of being saved:
"But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them [through his holy spirit and the keeping of his commandments]—bring them here and kill them in front of me" (Lk.19:27 NIV).
The apostle John wrote a stinging rebuke to those who say that they know Jesus Christ and claim to follow him, but do not keep the commandments: "The man who says, I know him [Jesus Christ] but does not do what he commands [does not practice God's law] is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (1.Jn.2:4 NIV). The Book of Revelation shows that liars will not be in the Kingdom of God, but they will be burned up in the Lake of Fire! (Rev.21:8, 27; 22:15).
"But if anyone obeys [Greek: is keeping] his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how [that is, by this] we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did" (1.Jn.2:5-6 NIV).
If we say that we are Christians, we should follow Christ's example of how to live our lives. If we refuse to do this, we are liars and hypocrites.
Will you believe the teachings of men or the teachings of God's Word through Jesus Christ? There is no salvation unless you believe God! The Bible clearly teaches that if we truly love God, we will keep his commandments:
"This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out [practicing and living by] his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome" (1.Jn.5:2-3 NIV).
IT TAKES FAITH TO KEEP GOD'S LAW
Think about it for a minute! Does it require any faith not to obey God's laws? The truth is, it requires absolutely no faith to violate God's law. On the other hand, it takes faith, belief, and works to love God and keep his commandments. In the Book of Revelation there is an astonishing statement, which shows that those who have the faith of Jesus Christ also keep his commandments:
"And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascends up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receives the mark of his name. Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus" (Rev.14:9-12 KJV).
This type of faith calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God's commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.
If a person truly believes God the Father and Jesus Christ, that person will be obedient to them. Anyone who argues with God and against his commandments by claiming it is not necessary to obey his law does not truly believe in God and does not have the true faith of Jesus Christ.
Abraham is an excellent example of someone who had true faith. The Bible shows that he believed God! But how much? To what degree and how did Abraham act on that belief and faith in God?
"By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going" (Heb.11:8 NIV).
This shows that a person can only obey God through faith. However, most professing Christians have been led to believe that it takes faith not to obey!
What else is recorded about Abraham's obedience? How much did he believe and how far did he go in his obedience? He was called to take his only son and use him as a sacrifice to God. Abraham faithfully obeyed, without question. He did this because of his faith and obedience toward God. The Creator God intervened before Abraham was able to sacrifice his son and he provided a ram to be used as the sacrifice instead (Gen.22: 1-19).
We are told that Abraham's faith was made perfect through his works of obedience (Jms.2:21-24). But this was not the only thing that God recorded for us about Abraham's faith and obedience. The promise given to Abraham was passed on to Isaac and Jacob because of how Abraham lived his life:
"Because Abraham obeyed me and kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees and my laws" (Gen.26:5 NIV).
Abraham exhibited his faith and belief in God as he obeyed God's voice, kept God's charge, and kept God's commandments, statutes and laws, which define righteousness:
"Your righteousness is everlasting and your law is true Yet you are near, O Lord, and all your commands are true May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous" (Psa.119:142, 151, 172 NIV).
An honest look at the teachings of Jesus Christ and the apostles leaves no doubt that, if we want to follow God's way of life, we must keep his commandments!
The reason most people, which includes most professing Christians, do not want to keep the commandments is not because these laws are harsh or bad, it is because of the hostility people hold in their minds toward God and his law:
"The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God" (Rom.8:7-8 NIV).
If we say the commandments are no longer in effect, we disagree with God the Father and Jesus Christ, which means that we do not want them in our lives.
Should a Christian keep the commandments of God? The answer found in the Bible is that a person cannot be a true follower of Christ unless they obey and practice all of the commandments.
HOLINESS AND THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
God is extremely interested in the holiness of his people. When God created mankind, he created them in his image. More than that, God intends for mankind to be patterned after himself in character and in holiness, which is why God developed a system that would make it possible for him to be with his people and to establish a pattern of holiness so that mankind could duplicate his character. This ultimately led to the new covenant with which God is dealing with spiritual Israel (the elect of God). He called the elect to become examples of his holiness, which is accomplished through placing his spirit within individuals. And he maintains the elect in that state of holiness through his spirit and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
THE FIRST COMMANDMENT
"I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. "You shall have no other gods before me. 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. 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, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments" (Deut.5:6-10 NIV). See also Ex.20:1-6.
The Creator God states that he is the Deliverer who has proven himself to be far superior to all Egyptian gods by virtue of the great miracles he performed in delivering the Israelites out of Egypt. Moreover, God wants to bless mankind beyond their wildest dreams. But in order to do this, mankind must accept God as the only true God.
Have No Other Gods
"You shall have no other gods before me" (Deut.5:7).
People can make gods out of almost anything, including the quest for material goods and family relationships. Anything that becomes more important in one's life than one's relationship and love for God is one's God. Without the commandment to have no other gods, the other nine have no meaning—God is the true God.
THE SECOND COMMANDMENT
"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. 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" (Ex.20:4-5 NIV).
What does God mean by a graven image? Are all carved objects forbidden? Are rugs and drapes that have images of flowers, birds, and trees woven into the fabric forbidden? Is it forbidden to make or own statutes?
God does not want mankind to make any idol, sculpture, or carved image for the purpose of worshiping it. Mankind is forbidden to create anything to be used as a substitute for the one true God. An idol can be anything that one puts in place of or in a more prominent place in their life than the true God. The expression "I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God" means that the Eternal God alone should be worshiped because he is the only righteous and loving God.
Under the first covenant with national Israel, Exodus 20:4-5 referred to the Creator God who later became Jesus Christ the Savior of humanity. Under the new covenant this commandment now refers to God the Father who is the Supreme Sovereign God.
"So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords"), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. But not everyone knows this. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do. Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak" (1.Cor.8:4-9 NIV).
Idols are empty gods or nothingness; they do not have inherent life. An idol can be in virtually any form—animate or inanimate—including mental images or concepts. It is anything man esteems as more important than obedience to the true God.
Paul writes the following to the Colossians about idolatry:
"Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry" (Col.3:5 NIV).
From the very beginning, idolatry has been a problem. Adam and Eve trusted their own minds and desires and obeyed Satan. Adam and Eve put knowledge before God; thus, knowledge became their idol! Idolatry was prevalent in the days of Abraham. Israel worshiped and served the idols of Egypt:
"And I said to them, "Each of you, get rid of the vile images you have set your eyes on, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt. I am the Lord your God." "But they rebelled against me and would not listen to me; they did not get rid of the vile images they had set their eyes on, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. So I said I would pour out my wrath on them and spend my anger against them in Egypt. But for the sake of my name I did what would keep it from being profaned in the eyes of the nations they lived among and in whose sight I had revealed myself to the Israelites by bringing them out of Egypt. Therefore I led them out of Egypt and brought them into the desert" (Ezk.20:7-10 NIV).
Some claim that Numbers 21:4-9 is an example of God altering part of the second commandment:
"The Lord said to Moses, "Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live. So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived" (Num.21:8-9 Para.).
Did God modify the second commandment by telling Moses to make an image of a serpent and place it on a pole? No! The bronze serpent was only a copy of a real serpent but not an idol. It was not a substitute God. Israel was commanded to look at the serpent, not to worship it. It was a reminder of their sin and that they had to obey God in order to have the penalty of their sin removed.
The second commandment does not forbid making copies of created things, but it forbids making them into idols to be worshiped. God offered Israel redemption from death when they obeyed and looked at the bronze serpent on the pole. Why did the people have to look on the bronze serpent to live? One reason was that God was establishing a symbolic picture of a greater future redemption. Christ said:
"Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (Jn.3:14-16 NIV).
Another reason for having the people look at the bronze snake was to prove their obedience through faith and works, just as when Naaman, the Syrian leper, dipped himself in the river Jordan seven times. He obeyed the instructions of God's prophet through faith and works. This bronze serpent later became an idol to Israel because, in their minds, they turned this replica of a snake into a god and worshiped it (2.Kgs.18:4).
The last part of the second commandment indicates that God will punish children for the idolatrous sins of their parents? But is this what it says? Absolutely not. The curse of idolatry comes on the children who hate God and worship idols as their fathers did. To hate God means to esteem idols above the true God and to show hostility towards his law.
God is fair! He does not punish the innocent for the sins of the guilty. God reminded the Israelites of this principle: "Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin" (Deut.24:16 NIV). This principle carried over to all of mankind as they came in contact with God's covenant people and his laws.
THE THIRD COMMANDMENT
This is God's instruction to people regarding the use of his name:
"You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name" (Ex.20:7 NIV).
Before the new covenant was ratified, God allowed people to swear by his name. To Israel God said:
"Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name" (Deut.6:13 NIV).
But Jesus instructed his disciples to discontinue swearing:
"Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord. . . .' Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one " (Matt.5:33, 37 NIV).
To swear falsely by Jesus' name is obviously taking God's name in vain. But, Christ clarified the intent of the law by stating that any kind of swearing is breaking the intent and spirit of the third commandment. But how is this so?
This issue can be more fully understood, by examining comments in the Book of Hebrews:
"When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, "I will surely bless you and give you many descendants." And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised. Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged " (Heb.6:13-18 NIV).
To swear is to commit God as a witness in confirmation of a person's desire and capability to perform what is promised. Human beings, unlike God, are unable to remain perfectly constant in purpose and they have great difficulty keeping their word due to their weaknesses and the influence of Satan. Thus, if God allowed men to swear by his name, every time man failed to perform his oath, God's name would be misrepresented.
This is why Jesus said, "Anything beyond these [yes or no] is of [the] evil [one]." James also supported this: "Above all, my brothers, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your "Yes" be yes, and your "No," no, or you will be condemned" (Jms.5:12 NIV).
Under the covenant that God had made with national Israel, he allowed them to swear because he had invoked his name on them. He wanted them to have help in avoiding sin. He was willing to bear with them in their weaknesses for a time, but there came a time for them to grasp that the name of God is above all names, including the name of any mortal man. Thus, they were told to no longer swear by his name.
Taking God's name in vain can involve more than misusing the names by which he is called. Taking God's name in vain is claiming to represent God, but in reality denying his existence and power.
Salvation comes only through Jesus' name: "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12 NIV). Because it is through the authority of Jesus (Jesus' name) that salvation is made available to humanity, his is the only name besides the Father's name that is considered holy. See Lk.1:49.
After grasping the reality of the greatness and glory of Jesus, one can begin to understand the importance of using his name with respect, awe, praise, truth, and thanksgiving.
"Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Col.3:17 NIV).
Paul told the Colossians that every word spoken and every action taken should be done as Jesus would do it. Anyone who says Christ is living in him and then lies is taking God's name in vain. All false prophets and false brethren are taking God's name in vain. Moreover, the penalty for breaking the third commandment is still in effect today:
"The Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes his name in vain" (Ex.20:7 NASU).
THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT
The Book of Genesis records that, after God had prepared the earth for his human creation and placed Adam and Eve in the garden, he set apart the seventh day as holy time:
"Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground God saw all that he had made, and it was very
good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day. . .." (Gen.1:26, 31NIV).
"Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made" (Gen 2:1-3KJV).
God established the weekly cycle with the first six days designated as work days and the seventh day designated as a day on which no work was done.
There are two Hebrew words in verses 2-3 that should be understood because they hold an important key to understanding how God the Father and Jesus Christ view the Sabbath.
The English word blessed is translated from the Hebrew word barak, which means to kneel, to praise or to salute. This word seems to be used to indicate abundant and effective life and longevity. As used in Genesis 2:2-3, it means to bless, to imbue with power for prosperity, success, fecundity, and longevity.
The English word sanctified is translated from the Hebrew word quadash, which is a denominative verb which means to be hallowed or holy, to consecrate, to prepare, to dedicate. The verb quadash designates the state of something that is sacred. Therefore, the Sabbath is different and set apart from anything that is common or profane.
The Creator God's act of blessing and sanctifying the seventh day was not just a pronouncement, but also the actual creating of a specific period of time for a divine and holy purpose. This day has God's attribute of holiness as a part of its existence.
Made for Man
The Creator God intended the Sabbath to be one of the fundamental aspects of his worship system, from the beginning of creation:
"Then he said to them, 'The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" (Mk.2:27 NIV).
The seventh day of the week is very different from the other six because it is a period of time created and set apart (sanctified) from regular time. Moreover, it has a spiritual dimension within its existence. It is obvious from the enormous amount of information that God has had recorded about this particular day that the seventh day has a very special meaning to God the Father and Jesus Christ and they intend for all of mankind to eventually observe the Sabbath as holy time.
The Calendar and the Sabbath
The calendar today is not the same calendar that the ancient Israelites used nor is it the one that was used during Jesus' lifetime. In the 16th Century, ten days were dropped from the calendar that is in common usage today. However, a detailed study of all of the changes to the calendar used today reveals that the seven-day weekly cycle has never been altered.
Furthermore, the Jews today and throughout history adamantly maintain that they have not lost track of the weekly Sabbath. They claim that they have been worshiping God on the correct day since their exodus from Egypt. To state that the Sabbath day has been lost is without foundation and discounts the written records of the Jewish people, religious and secular history, and archeological evidence. All of these records provide ample evidence, which shows that time has not been lost and that the Sabbath day is still the day we call Saturday in the weekly cycle.
The seven-day weekly cycle has never been altered from Creation. Since the Sabbath was again revealed to the nation of Israel, the awareness of this holy time has remained with the people of God and is still a part of the world's calendars.
IS THE SABBATH JEWISH?
Some insist that the Sabbath observance is only a part of the Jewish faith and it is not for any other race of people. The Bible, however, clearly states that the Sabbath was created by God on the day after he created mankind and that it was created and sanctified to benefit all of humanity (Gen.1:31; 2:2-3).
Notice what Jesus Christ who was the Creator God said to the legalistic Scribes and Pharisees when he explained the nature of the Sabbath:
"Then he said to them, 'The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" (Mk.2:27 NIV).
The seventh day was created thousands of years before the descendants of Judah were called Jews. During that entire time period, it was never called the Jewish Sabbath. Because the Sabbath was created for the benefit of all mankind, it is incorrect to call the Sabbath 'the Jewish Sabbath.' It is God's Sabbath!
Keeping of the Sabbath is Important
The Book of Hebrews was written about thirty years after Christ's resurrection and contains the following statement:
"There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God" (Heb.4: 9 NIV).
Most Bible commentaries and even the Bible marginal references contain the correct Greek translation of the word 'rest' as 'keeping of the Sabbath.' The English word 'rest' is translated from the Greek word 'sabbatismos', which means 'Sabbath'; therefore, verse 9 should read,
"There remains therefore a keeping of the Sabbath to the people of God."
To draw near to God in worship and fellowship on the day he set apart at creation for this purpose, he wants his followers to cease from their normal activities on the Sabbath.
It is without question that both the Bible and secular history record undeniable evidence that the apostles and the early church observed the seventh-day Sabbath. Therefore, it must be concluded that those who want to follow God today must also observe this seventh day as instructed by God's word.
THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT
The Creator God (the one who became Jesus Christ) told the Israelites at Mount Sinai: "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you" (Ex.20:12; Lev.19:3 NIV). God intends this commandment to be applied to both minor and adult children.
Adam, the first son of God, dishonored his father (the Creator God) who created him, by eating the forbidden fruit. the Creator who was a perfect example as a father, instructed Adam in love and warned him about the death penalty for disobedience. However, Satan, an enemy of God and man, sowed the seeds of doubt and rebellion in Adam who became God's first disobedient son.
Jesus and the apostle Paul said the following about obedience to God's law:
"For God said, 'Honor your father and mother' and 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death '" (Matt.15:4 NIV).
"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 'Honor your father and mother'—which is the first commandment with a promise—'that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.' Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord" (Eph.6: 1-4 NIV).
The expression: "Obey your parents in the Lord" means that children, even adult ones, must obey their parents as Christ obeyed his. This statement also restricts the obedience to those acts which are in harmony with God's will, including a child's conduct with unbelieving and overbearing parents.
There are many examples in the Bible of how to properly honor and obey one's parents. The way Jesus interacted with his Father gives us the perfect example of how to honor our own parents, as well as our heavenly Father.
THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT
Terminating the life of an individual is perhaps the greatest offense that can be committed against a person. If someone steals, it is possible to have the stolen goods returned or provide compensation in place of the item that was taken, but no man can restore a stolen life. According to Jesus, the greatest gift a man has to give is his life; therefore, the greatest thing anyone can lose is eternal life. Only God has the authority to kill human beings: "See now that I myself am He. There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal . . ." (Deut.32:39 NIV). Because of this, when God spoke to Israel from Mount Sinai, he said: "You shall not murder" (Ex.20:13 NIV).
God's intention in the sixth commandment is to forbid the taking of life unlawfully. God did not forbid men from killing humans under all circumstances in ancient Israel; he authorized representatives to act as his executioners and take the lives of criminals that he had sentenced to death. God is very clear regarding the difference between 'killing' and 'murdering.'
The sixth commandment has been in effect since creation: "You [Jews] belong to your father, the devil, . . . He [Satan] was a murderer from the beginning . . ." (Jn.8:44 NIV). It clearly was a sin to murder, long before Moses was even born.
Immediately after the great flood, God inspired a reminder not to murder: "And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. 'Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man'" (Gen.9:5-6 NIV). When a person is guilty of killing another person unlawfully, the murderer is to be put to death for his crime.
Paul confirms this God-given authorization in men and governments:
"Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. For
he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer" (Rom.13: 1-4 NIV).
After Cain murdered Abel, he feared that he was going to be killed: "And whoever finds me will kill me" (Gen.4:14 NIV). His fear was based in the knowledge that Abel's family had, by law, the right to execute him. God's patience and purpose allowed Cain the opportunity to live. Therefore, God forbade anyone to kill Cain by promising a sevenfold punishment on anyone who did.
The Israelites were God's avengers who carried out the execution of heathen nations:
"However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites … as the Lord your God has commanded you. Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the Lord your God" (Deut.20:16-18 NIV).
Because God says "It is I who put to death and give life," it is apparent that Israel had the God-given authority to destroy the pagan nations that he had sentenced to death, as well as other nations who became enemies of Israel.
When Jesus came, he expanded the definition of murder past the letter of the law and into the spirit of the law:
"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell" (Matt.5:21-22 NIV).
The Greek word raca and the English word fool in Matthew 5:22 show that murder reaches past the physical act and is a part of a mental process.
The Greek word raca corresponds to a very derogatory Aramaic insult which, in essence, means you blockhead or you idiot. The use of the word raca expressed great displeasure, disregard, anger, or contempt for another person. The English word fool is translated from the Greek word moros, which means dull or stupid. Both of these words are meant to insult another person and to show one's utter contempt for the life of another person.
It is clear from the context of what Jesus says that, if a person has or expresses feelings toward another person that are inconsistent with a godly attitude, that person is guilty of a crime against the other person. In the extreme case that person is guilty of murder and worthy of death in the Lake of Fire.
As with every action, the actions leading to murder have a beginning. Anger and disrespect for another person are steps toward murder. When God did not accept Cain's offering, he became very angry and he transferred this anger to Abel when he murdered him.
Notice what Paul wrote to the Ephesians about anger:
"In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold" (Eph.4:26-27 NIV).
Jesus Christ came to save mankind, to soften the hardness of hearts, and to change attitudes. God's holy spirit is the spirit of love in which there is no room for uncontrolled anger.
"My dear brothers take not of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires" (Jms.1: 19-20 NIV).
"But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. . . put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator" (Col.3:8-10 NIV).
More is required of one than simply to not murder just because of fear of the penalty. God requires people to control their anger toward each other. In most cases, there is more than one step from anger to murder. Anger leads to judging another as worthless (raca) so that he is held in contempt. When someone judges his brother in this manner, he is judging the law, according to James 4:11. People who do this are squelching love; thereby, they allow hatred to enter into their heart and mind.
The final step toward murder is to think of a fellow human as a worthless fool, which is the same as judging someone as being a sinner and unworthy of life. John said, "Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him" (1.Jn. 3:15 NIV).
A person who hates someone is a murderer even if they do not commit the physical act of murder. According to Jesus, the way to keep from being a murderer is to practice forgiveness and reconciliation (Matt.6:14-15). All those who have God's holy spirit have the power and ability to love both their brother and their enemy.
At Jesus' second coming, all those who want to obey God's way of life will practice the law of love toward other people:
"The Lord said to Moses, Do not do anything that endangers
your neighbor's life. I am the Lord. Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord" (Lev.19: 1, 16-18 NIV).
THE SEVENTH COMMANDMENT
God designed marriage to be a permanent relationship. When God brought Eve to Adam and joined them together in marriage he said:
"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh" (Gen.2:24 NIV).
In marriage, each partner has a role designed to function in harmony with the other. God forbids the destruction of this union when he said, "You shall not commit adultery" (Ex.20:14 NIV). But when men and women rejected God and his law, they began to live by their own rules regarding marriage.
Beginning with Adam, it was a sin to commit adultery. Hundreds of years before the time of Moses, Joseph said it was a sin against God for him to have Potiphar's wife (Gen.39:9).
After God brought the Israelites out of Egypt, he revealed his law forbidding adultery, which if practiced will protect the covenant relationship of marriage.
Later, in Christ's time, John the Baptist told Herod Antipas that it was unlawful for him to have Herodias, his brother Philip's wife (Matt.14:4). The lust that Herod and Herodius shared for each other resulted in Herodius leaving her husband to marry Herod.
Because of the hardness of people's hearts, God allowed the Israelites to dissolve a marriage agreement without condemnation by the letter of the law. The reason John the Baptist condemned Herod for marrying Herodius was that, according to the law of God, it was forbidden for a man to marry the divorced wife of his living brother. Such a marriage was "uncovering your brother's nakedness" (Lev.18:16). "If a man marries his brother's wife, it is an act of impurity [an impure deed]; he has dishonored his brother. They will be childless" (Lev.20:21 NIV).
Adultery and other sexual immorality are forbidden by God because marriage is to be a permanent, private, pure, and an intimate relationship between a man and a woman. Jesus says, " From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded. . ." (Lk.12:47-48 NIV). God required more of Israel than the heathen; furthermore, even more is required of those who have his holy spirit.
God commands, upon the penalty of death, that a man cannot have sexual relations with someone else's wife (Deut.22:22). But due to hard-heartedness and unconverted minds, God allowed a man to divorce a wife under certain conditions. These conditions of divorce did not sanction divorce or modify the marriage relationship, but did protect the divorced spouse (See Deut.24:1-4; 21:10-14; Ex.21:7-11).
Jesus explains why Moses instructed a man to give his wife a bill of divorce:
"Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning" (Matt.19:8 NIV).
Jesus Christ as the Creator God set the perfect example in marriage by marrying only one nation, Israel. When he divorced Israel he did so because of her spiritual adultery (idolatry), but he did not remarry any other nation. Death frees a person from marriage vows; thus, when Jesus died, it ended his marriage to ancient Israel. After his resurrection, he was free to marry spiritual Israel. All who will be saved must become spiritual Israelites (Rom.7:1-6; Gal.3:29; Eph.2:11-19.
Today's Attitude Toward Sex and Marriage
The New Testament teachings do not forbid multiple wives for one man if a valid marriage agreement is in place with each partner, except in the case of a man who is in the office of an elder (an overseer).
Paul's instructions to Timothy are for believers today: "Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, . . ." (1.Tim.3:2 NIV).
Today, the prevailing attitude toward marriage is very similar to the time before the Great Flood. Most people, including many professing Christians, approach marriage for selfish reasons, especially regarding sexual relations. This attitude places children and family needs secondary to a person's own sexual desires.
Many psychologists and sociologists who agree with this attitude write books and articles promoting extra-marital affairs as a healthy part of marriage. Such authors emphasize that society is moving away from a traditional commitment in marriage as a bond involving commitment, and towards marriage as only a good or bad relationship. These individuals falsely believe that sexual fidelity should be removed from the marriage commitment because it is unnecessary and unnatural.
It is clear that people do not want to feel guilty for any of their illicit practices; thus, they cast aside God's laws as being out of date and they substitute their own. Many people blatantly deny God's existence, and others proclaim that the commandments are no longer in effect and they are free to live as they please:
"But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them" (2.Tim.3:1-5 NIV).
Jesus Christ makes it clear how a believer should view the seventh commandment: "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matt.5:27-28 NIV).
Lust begins in the mind. Acts forbidden by God that are lived out in one's mind are sin, even though no overt physical act is committed (Jms.1:13-15). Anyone who lusts after someone else's mate is committing adultery. The best defense against adultery is loyalty to one's own spouse and love and respect for one's neighbor.
God considers premarital sex to be the same as adultery, because everyone has the potential of becoming someone's mate (Deut.22:13-14, 20-21). Those who know and obey God also know he made their bodies for his holy use: "Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, "The two will become one flesh" (1.Cor.6:16 NIV). God intends a person's body to be the temple of God; therefore, it is a defilement of God's holy place to join in such a sexual union. See 1.Cor.3:16-17.
Incest, Homosexuality, and Bestiality
"It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father's wife . . . Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders" (1.Cor.5:1; 6:9 NIV).
It is strange that some can see the harm and evil in incest but not in homosexuality? Inordinate lust blinds people to the penalties of their evil practices. Terrible sexually transmitted diseases that cause blindness, insanity, and death are rampant among those who practice promiscuity and the spread of disease is an indication that something is drastically wrong with this type of behavior.
The practice of polygamy has ancient origins and is not condemned by God. According to God's law, polygamy is not adultery because there is a marriage agreement in place with each partner. See Chapter 16 for details about the practice of Polygamy.
Jesus' Instructions Regarding Divorce
Jesus gives clear instructions to his disciples about divorce:
"It has been said, 'Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.' But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery" (Matt.5:31-32 NIV).
"Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery" (Mk.10:11-12 NIV).
"Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate" (Matt.19: 4-6 NIV).
Marriage is more than a sexual union; it involves a commitment in which both parties agree to belong to each other and to share their lives in a loving relationship.
Ephesians 5:22-25 teaches that, in order for God to bless a marriage, the husband must love his wife as much as he loves himself and the wife must recognize that it is God's will that her husband is to lead the family.
Jesus made only one exception in allowing divorce. The Greek word he used for that exception is porneia, which is translated into English as immorality, whoredom, harlotry, unchastity, fornication, adultery, lewdness, and uncleanness. Porneia includes all unlawful sexual acts, such as extramarital sex, premarital sex, homosexuality, and incest. By extension, it can refer to any act that demonstrates that one partner willfully abandons the precepts of the marriage agreement. Spouse abuse and desertion are two examples of attitudes and behaviors which violate God's law pertaining to a marriage.
The purpose here is to protect the victim whose mate has committed an immoral act. There are very real dangers and penalties that the victim may not be able to face, such as physical danger, unwanted pregnancy, serious diseases, and mental or emotional damage.
A person who divorces for porneia is not causing the guilty partner to be an adulterer or an adulteress, because the offending mate has already become one. Divorce for porneia is just reflecting the fact that the marriage contract has already been broken (See Deut.22:13-27; Matt. 19:9).
Although divorce was allowed for porneia, it was not required. The person who repents can be forgiven through Jesus' sacrifice:
"The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" No one, sir," she said. "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin" (Jn.8:3-11 NIV).
Ideally, the sins of porneia should be solved through repentance and forgiveness whenever possible.
PAST SINS CAN BE FORGIVEN
God forgives past sins of ignorance:
"In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30 NIV).
People who have been divorced and remarried before conversion begin their new life in Christ in their present married condition. God blots out all their past errors, including adultery:
"Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool" (Isa.1:18 KJV).
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1.Jn.1:9 KJV).
THE EIGHTH COMMANDMENT
In today's society we must use locks, safes, alarms, fences, guards, and electronic devices to protect private and public property from being stolen. This system of protection is a sad reminder that the eighth commandment is not universally being observed. God said from Mount Sinai, "You shall not steal" (Ex.20:15 NIV), but the world today is not heeding this command of God.
There are many reasons why people steal. Some steal because of hunger, but others steal because they are too lazy to work. And some simply steal as a method of getting something for nothing. Some feel they do not receive enough pay from their employer, so they justify stealing as payment that is due them; however, most steal because of greed.
Jesus plainly states that it is the evil man that covets the property of others:
"He went on: "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, . . ." ( Mk.7:20-21 NIV).
"Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexual immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God" (1.Cor.6:9-10 NIV).
In his letter to the Ephesian Church, Paul declares:
"He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need" (Eph.4:28 NIV).
God places a higher value on human life than on material goods. Kidnaping (stealing a person) carried the death penalty, but the penalty for stealing property was restitution of the goods plus a specific fine depending on the value of the property and other factors:
"If a man steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it, he must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep" (Ex.22:1 NIV).
If the original property had been sold or destroyed and cannot be returned; therefore, restitution was more costly.
"If the stolen animal is found alive in his possession—whether ox or donkey or sheep—he must pay back double" (Ex.22:4 NIV).
Borrowing something with the intention of not returning it is stealing:
"The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously" (Psa.37:21 NIV).
Included in the letter and the spirit of the eighth commandment are extortion, fraud, and deceit for the purpose of illegally taking something from another person. See Lev.6:1-5; 19:11-13; Deut.19:14; 25:13-16; 27:17.
The biblical record shows it is the spirit of the law that is important. Desiring the things that belong to someone else is committing theft in the heart. Stealing is the taking of something that is not rightfully yours to take, no matter what it is.
THE NINTH COMMANDMENT
"You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor" (Ex.20: 16 NIV).
The violation of this commandment has been the root of much doubt, suspicion, and feelings of insecurity for mankind throughout the ages. People are not capable of telling the whole truth all the time because they lack perfect perception and recall. Therefore, God initiated a safety factor: "Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses" (2.Cor.13:1 NIV). (See also 1.Tim.5:19).
God gave this law to protect the innocent from the inability of people to recall all of the truth and liars with malicious intent (Deut.17:6-7). Protection through this system depends on the character of the witnesses. With people who are trying to be honest, this law gives some measure of protection. However, because so many are not consistently truthful this law is virtually ineffectual in today's world:
"For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander" (Matt.15:19 NIV).
The primary reason for the ninth commandment is to instruct people that they are not to knowingly lie. To tell untruths knowingly with the intent to deceive is a sin punishable by death. Even falsehoods told unknowingly can cause serious problems.
The English word false in Exodus 20:16 is translated from the Hebrew word sheqer, which can be translated as untruth, deceitful, deception by lying, and corruption of truth. Thus, a lie is a statement known to be untrue, that is made with the intent to deceive.
Satan introduced lying and deception to man and is actively promoting it today (Jn.8:44):
"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Eph.6:12 NIV).
Satan doesn't want the laws of God written in the hearts and minds of mankind. He hates truth, which includes God's word. The parable of the wheat and tares is an example of how Satan creates complex situations to destroy God the Father's children (Matt.13:37-43). Although Satan's servants appear as righteous individuals, the Father knows his children and will eventually separate them from Satan's servants.
Satan is very effective at deception, because he mixes truth into his lies. God always tells the truth (Heb.6:18); thus, if Satan always lied, there would be no difficulty in discerning truth. However, Satan's goal is to confuse mankind by telling a mixture of truths, half-truths, and outright lies. Most of humanity follow this same pattern of deception by mixing truth with untruth to serve their own needs.
THE TENTH COMMANDMENT
When God created Adam and Eve, they were given free access to their needs, such as food, water, and shelter. Moreover, they were guaranteed equal access to the Creator yet they lacked the character to be content with what they had been given.
Humans have the ability to reason and the free will to choose and act but most are not satisfied with their share of life, which leads to looking at others and coveting what others have. Remember, Eve began coveting (unlawfully desired) the fruit of a tree that was not hers to have.
The tenth commandment expresses God's will concerning wrongful desires: "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor" (Ex.20:17 NIV). This commandment clearly defines unlawful desire and its violation as a root of other wrong feelings, attitudes, and actions, which lead to the breaking of other commandments. Covetousness is an unlawful desire to possess things that belong to others.
Covetousness is a root cause in this world of the “haves” and “have nots.” Because of covetousness, opportunity to succeed is controlled in almost every nation in the world. Selfish legislation, influence, customs, traditions, and manipulations have been used to control freedom and equality.
The key to godliness is contentment, which is the opposite of covetousness:
"He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need" (Eph.4:28 NIV).
"Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed [unlawful desire]; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions" (Lk.12:15 NIV).
God shows that sharing is a way of life and love. Most people measure success by wealth, whereas God measures success by love.
Coveting involves more than things or power. Excessive desire of anything can be covetous: "Treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God" (2.Tim.3:4 NIV). Faithful believers should have every reason not to serve desires of the flesh, because God is their source of help and balance.
"Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming" (Col.3:5-6 NIV).
Love overcomes covetousness. Love that comes from God's spirit is the most important gift a person can give to another:
"Do to others as you would have them do to you But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked . . ..Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven" (Lk.6:31, 35, 37 NIV).
Indeed, the commandments are a tremendous blessing toward living a life that God blesses. They develop harmony in families, society, and life, which is what God wants for all the world to eventually have. But today, the elect represent a very small portion of humanity. They are the vanguard who are supposed to be living this way, upholding this way, and teaching this way. And they will have a part in teaching this way to the entire world.
THE TWO GREAT COMMANDMENTS
In Matthew 22 Jesus Christ says that the whole law was held together by just two commandments:
"And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine. But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And second is like to it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matt.22:33-40 KJV). See also Deut.6:5.
THE FIRST GREAT COMMANDMENT
"Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment" (Matt.22:37-38 KJV).
The first part of this commandment says to "love God with all your heart." What does it mean to love God with your heart?
The Bible indicates that the heart is the director of one's house or body. The heart is the place where thoughts are formulated, directed, and multiplied. And it is a place where ideas of various kinds direct the actions of the body. The heart is the center of an individual, where thoughts enter, grow, and expand.
Throughout the scriptures we see that the heart needs to be cleansed:
"The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: "Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done" (Gen.8:21 NIV).
Because the human heart is evil from its youth, how can we have a pure heart? The answer is that humans need a change of heart. The writer to the Hebrews speaks of God's promise to change the human heart as a part of God's new covenant with national Israel and the rest of humanity:
"For this is the covenant [agreement] that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people" (Heb.8:10 KJV).
"This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin" (Heb.10:16-18 KJV).
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment" (Matt.22:37-38).
Just as the temple was cleansed with blood by the priesthood, one's mind must be cleansed by the blood of Christ, because it is the present dwelling place of God's holy spirit. When this is done, the mind becomes pure and clean—a place where God, through his spirit, can dwell.
Because we are human, have free will, and a proclivity to sin, our hearts can be evil or good according to what we do with what enters into them. If teachings of evil or falsehood are internalized, they can bring forth the fruits of evil and death. Teachings of truth and good will bring forth fruits that result in eternal life. Whatever we see and hear enters into our mind. And if we do not put those things that are evil out of our minds, we will bring the death penalty on ourselves.
In Matthew 22:37, the English word mind is translated from the Greek word dianoia, which means wholly or with all your being. The scripture that Jesus quoted from says to love God with all one's might (i.e., with one's whole being). See Deut.6:5. To love God with one's whole being includes all that one is, as well as one's physical wealth. When one worships God with their whole being, God and his ways take priority over everything else in one's life.
"And you shall love the Lord your God . . . with all your soul."
What is a soul? A human being is a soul. When "Christ poured out his soul to death," he poured out the part of his body that sustains life—the blood. Every part of our body depends on the blood, and the condition of our blood determines our health. When the blood no longer meets the necessities of the body, the body dies, just as Christ’s body died after he poured out his soul (his blood).
"Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he [Christ] poured out his life to death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors" (Isa.53:12 NIV).
If the body is the soul, the essential part of the soul is the blood. Moreover, the body takes direction from the heart and mind. If one has complete control of their mind, they can control their soul, body, or flesh, which makes it possible to overcome evil and love God. However, this is very difficult as we can see by looking at what the apostle Paul had to say about keeping the flesh under control and in subjection to the mind:
"We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.' (Rom.7:14-20 NIV).
"So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin" (Rom.7:21-25 NIV).
The Heart, Mind, and Body Connection
The heart and mind of a person directs the life of that person; therefore, it is very important to watch what we allow to enter into our hearts and minds. If we allow lies and hatred into our hearts and minds our minds will naturally direct our body to sin. In order to love God with "all your heart" you must strive to keep your mind full of the things of God and eliminate the things that oppose God and his way of life.
Matthew 22:37 could easily be translated as follows :
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your life, and with all your thoughts."
How do you worship (i.e., show your love to God) with your whole existence? One way is to bring him gifts or offerings from your labors. Another and more important way is to keep your mind (God's holy place) free from all sin. One should replace all sin with the ways of God. But if you do not worship God with your abundance (physical substance), you are neglecting the first and Great Commandment.
If we love God with all of our being, we will share the fruits of our labor with him, our fellow Christians, and our fellow man in the form of gifts and offerings. More importantly, we will give of ourselves to help others who are in need. When we do this, we also obey the second Great Commandment to love our neighbors.
What is the one thing that causes your mind to be strong and able to control the rest of your body so that you can fulfill the first Great Commandment?
Strength comes from the spirit from heaven that washes away the past and imbues us with the holy spirit that elevates us above the will of the flesh and the darkness that once engulfed us. If we are in submission to the holy spirit, we put the deeds of the flesh to death. Then, our souls can act in accordance with life:
"Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live" (Rom.8:12-13 NIV).
The holy spirit is the governing power of mercy and justice that sees beyond the physical realm and establishes us as a holy person. The holy spirit enables us to obey the holy, righteous law of God:
Romans 7:7-25 NIV
"What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, "Do not covet." But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good' (vs.7-12).
"Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful' (v13).
"We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it' (vs.14-20).
"So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin" (vs.21-25).
THE EXAMPLE OF PETER
In order to love God with all our might and heart, we must first allow the holy spirit to direct our lives. Moreover, we must be in subjection and harmony with God through obedience to the truth. Thereby, our lives become perfect. This concept is conveyed in the following scripture:
"Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart" (1.Pet.1:22 NIV).
The only way humans can have control over the lust of the flesh (the physical body) is with the help of the holy spirit. With this help, one can establish a heart, mind, and power center that will have the power to direct one's life. Then, one's life will be in subjection to and in harmony with the things pertaining to gaining eternal life.
The key to eternal life is the first Great Commandment:
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your life, and with all your thoughts."
THE SECOND GREAT COMMANDMENT
"And the second is like it [the first]: 'Love your neighbor as yourself'" (Matt.22:39 NIV).
The second Great Commandment also commands us to love. It instructs us to love our neighbor as ourselves. The whole law is performed by loving God and loving one's neighbor. All the other commandments and laws of God that are meant to govern the behavior of humanity toward God and fellow humans are built on the foundation of these two Great Commandments.
When one is able to perform these two Great Commandments, one has performed all of the things God desires one to do, and the rest of the commandments and laws of God will become easy to perform. Moreover, one will have met all of the righteous demands contained in the Law and the Prophets.
If one truly understands these two Great Commandments, one will have no trouble understanding that it is necessary to obey the Ten Commandments and that they have not been done away with by Jesus Christ.
To what extent do you personally love God? Remember that to love God with all your heart means to have a mind that has been cleansed from all sin, purged of false teachings and evil behaviors that lead to darkness and death, and filled with the goodness of God that will bring everlasting life.
To love God one must be striving to have one's entire life subject to the will of God. Moreover, one must love God with all of one's being and be a good steward of whatever things that God has given them.
WHAT WILL YOU DO?
Now that you know the biblical truth about the Ten Commandments of God and the law of God, what will you do? James, the brother of Jesus Christ, writes:
"Therefore to the one who knows to do good, and does not do it, to that one it is sin" (Jms.4:17).
Will you continue in sin or will you repent and turn from sin? Will you choose the way of sin, which leads to eternal death: "For the wages of sin [the transgression of the law] is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom.6:23). Or will you choose God's way, which leads to eternal life through Jesus Christ.
The Choice Is Yours Choose Life!
By B.L. Cocherell and C. E. Barrett b4w5