For the first time in my ministry, I have been studying in some depth the Ten Commandments. This has been a most profitable study in my own heart and life. I have been encouraged to share my notes, and while it is not the same as the message, I pray that someone might gain some profit from what is written. Lord willing, I will seek to share my notes on each message over the coming weeks.
“Intro to the Decalogue – A Common Thread”
Text: Exodus 20:1-17, “And God spake all these words, saying, 2I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 4Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. 7Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. 8Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.12Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee. 13Thou shalt not kill. 14Thou shalt not commit adultery. 15Thou shalt not steal. 16Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. 17Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.
Intro: From the records of ancient civilizations three millennia past to the laws of modern civilization, there is a common thread that resounds with each person. It will not leave them alone and the points it makes haunts every person who has ever lived or who will ever live. From a human perspective, each culture has resorted to establishing a set of punishments for those who seek to break the common thread that keeps humanity in line. From a divine perspective, the common thread only serves to prove that God is indeed true and every man a liar, and also points to an unfathomable doom reserved for each who disobey Deity.
If you were to find and visit a tribe that exists in a stone-age type of environment, you would find that little has changed with respect to this particular facet of human history and literature. The historical veracity of the common thread is unchallenged even though the literature originally presented is no longer in known existence.
Some seek to denigrate the thread to a mere set of standards which may or may not be requisite upon humanity. Others hold it to such importance that the working of grace is reduced to something unattainable. Others repeat the same lines and explanations accompanying those lines with little study or understanding.
The thread, which is common to all of mankind, is the Ten Commandments. Known also as the Decalogue, these were presented to Moses on Mt. Sinai directly by the hand of God. Whether we agree or not about how they arrived, and whether we agree or not about the level of their importance, and whether we agree or not as to whether we are bound by them, no sane or rational person would disagree that the Ten Commandments have become the foundation of each culture that has ever existed in some form or another. Even tribes living in a stone-age existence have had through oral transference been called to account those laws which do and could descend from God alone.
We understand that there are actually many more than just ten commandments. However, all of the commands of God are adequately summed up in these ten which can divided in two distinct patterns. The first five deal with the relationship man has with God, while the last five deal with the relationship man has with and towards others.
With the Lord being our helper, may we give prayerful thought and consideration to “Introduction to the Decalogue – A Common Thread.”
- I. The Problem
– Before one can continue, we must give due consideration to a major flaw in man’s thinking today. Are these words only first given to us when they appear in itemized format in Exodus 20? No, these commands of God appear before Moses goes up to Mt. Sinai and communes with God. The very first chapters of Genesis deal with God’s desire for worship of Himself alone, marriage, murder, lying, and covetousness to name just a few of the commandments.
- A. The Appearance of the Commands
- Gen. 1-3 establishes God as the beginning of all things. It shows He is to be worshipped and that He will not permit other things to be placed ahead of Himself.
- Gen. 2establishes God’s order for marriage which by default excludes adultery as permissible behavior.
- Gen. 4establishes there is a penalty for murdering another and for lying to God about actions taken.
- We come to the New Testament and Christ takes the understanding of the law to a level that infuriated the Pharisees. The law given to Moses was not merely for external purposes, but was given to reveal the true nature of the inward heart of man.
a. Hatred = same as murder
b. Lusting = same as adultery
c. Covetousness = same as stealing
- Ultimately, the Savior made it clear that all of the commandments can be summed up in the two greatest of laws. These are to love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, and mind. The second is to love your neighbor as yourself. There is not a third to love yourself. The first or greatest law is summed up in the first five commands of Exodus 20. The second law is summed up in the last five of Exodus 20.
- B. The Access to the Commands – Rom. 1:20, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.” Humanity cannot ever claim that the laws he sets out to establish are of his own doing, and neither can man ever claim that he is not away of the Supreme Creator who gave the laws does not exist. Even Cain knew he had sinned against both God and his brother even though no written laws were in existence. No matter where you go in the world, each group of people have either written or oral laws. All of these without one exception find themselves as a direct or indirect result of what was originally given by God. We know that all come as direct descendants of Noah’s three sons, and even after the flood, the giving of animals as a blood sacrifice for the covering of sin was a certain factor of life. God established His demands on the party of eight, and it was their responsibility to pass those commands on to their descendants. If this was not done either through willful ignorance or deliberate disobedience, it does not demean the necessity of obedience to God or to His commands.
- C. The Authority of the Commands
- The giving of the law – God – There cannot be a moral law without the One who gave the law in the first place. If there was no God, there would be no law to tell us what to do. We would live in a constant state of what the Judges described as “every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” Without the God of the morals, there are no absolutes and thus no morals. For example, in Timechanger, the main character of the movie at first clearly intimates that it is acceptable to teach a little boy that it is wrong to steal marbles yet do so without telling him about the God who declared that it is wrong to steal. After being given the ability to go forward in time from the late 1800’s to the modern 20th century and seeing the folly of his way, he quickly has a change of heart and realizes the folly of trying to teach morals apart from God. Spiritually, the heart of man is completely and totally depraved. He wants nothing of or from God including the laws He has established. He longs to be able to assume that the laws which bind us and keep us safe have somehow just evolved through the trial and error of human existence.
- The fulfilling of the law – Christ – Matt. 5:17– With Christ’s coming, He was able to show that the only way to God was by keeping the law perfectly. The problem was that not one human has ever been able to do so. In fulfilling the law, Christ was also able to be our Sin-bearer, because only a perfect Person could become sin for the sinner.
- The penalty of breaking the law – Rom. 3:23– Every society has a code of conduct and there are penalties associated with breaking those laws. This was established in the beginning by God.
- The impossibility of keeping the law – Jam. 2:10 – If we break even one minute particle of the law, we are guilty of breaking all. Thus even a person who says, “I am good because I have not murdered anyone” is just as guilty of murder before God if the only commandment that is broken is telling a lie or bearing false witness.
- D. The Ability of the Commands
- Brings forth death and only serves to damn the soul – Rom. 6:23– The wages of sin is death. Even if we could strive with all of our being to keep the commands in their entirety, the purpose of the law is clear in that it makes demands that cannot be kept.
- Establishes the barrier between God and man – There are none who seek after God and there are none who are righteous. Not one person desires the truth of God’s commands. This creates a barrier between us and the holy God that cannot be overcome by mere conformity to a set of standards, no matter how good the standards or the efforts may be to adhere to them.
- E. The Assurance of the Commands – Ps. 19:7-11
- Converts the soul – Too often preachers run to the good news of the gospel and yet fail to impress upon the hearer that there is even a need of the gospel. The why is simple – it is the total depravity of the heart. However, the problem is more complex due to the reality of the law first damning the soul because there is no keeping of the law except by the Perfect God-Man. So, when the law is proclaimed as the standard, the gospel becomes the perfect good news.
- Makes wise the simple – The things of God confound the wise of this world, but they bring wisdom to those who really they have no wisdom apart from the Giver of all wisdom. A read through the Proverbs will bring great enlightenment to the searching heart.
- Rejoices the heart
- Enlightens the eyes
- Endures forever
- Warns servants
- Provides great reward to those who keep them – However, we know that we cannot in our depraved state keep the laws of God. No man, unless and until he is drawn by the Holy Spirit of God to repentance, can ever hope to achieve the ability to obey the commands of God, much less to do so with a willing heart.
- F. The Adversary of the Commands
- He seeks to demean it. From the very beginning, his purpose was to thwart the commands of God by bringing them into question. “Yea, did God really say?” as seen in Genesis 3.
- He seeks to destroy it. The evil one has no love for the laws of God for they reveal the truth. If he can destroy the law and its importance in the minds of men and women, then he will temporarily succeed. But, the truth is much greater than he could ever hope to be. Because Christ came to fulfill the law, and in so doing, became not just the Perfect Lawgiver, but the Perfect Law-fulfiller. As perfect Man and also perfect God, Christ proved once and for all that man could not live by bread alone but by EVERY word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Satan can never ultimately destroy what is deemed eternal by God.
- G. The Adoring of the Commands – Ps. 119:97, 163 Our hearts should be turned in love not just to God, but to the Words that He has left to us. His words are to be a delight and as David, we should esteem them more than our daily food. We cannot ignore what we are to love. Truly, His commands should be our meditation day and night. Do we adore the commands of God? Do we relish in the joy that comes from obeying Him because we now have the ability as true believers to do so, as distinct from that time when we could not because we were dead in trespasses and sins.