Author: Ron Graham
The Ten Commandments
—And how Christians should regard them
Time ~ 3. Wandering in the Wilderness
Span ~ 40 years
Books ~ Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
Figures ~ Moses
Begins with ~ Exodus from Egypt across Red Sea
Ends with ~ Entry into promised Land across Jordan
Ten of the laws which God gave to Moses on Horeb were written upon two tablets of stone. These are recorded twice in the Bible: Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5.
The first four commandments concern respect for God, and the last six respect for society.
The Ten Commandments Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5.
1 — I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods
2 — You shall not make or worship an idol
3 — You shall not take in vain the name of the Lord your God
4 — Observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy
5 — Honour your father and your mother
6 — You shall not murder
7 — You shall not commit adultery
8 — You shall not steal
9 — You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour
10 — You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife or possessions
Note:— Arrangement of the Ten Commandments. There are differences in the manner of numbering the ten commandments. The scripture says there were ten commandments on the tablets of stone. However in quoting them, it joins them all together and does not insert numbers to separate the commandments. There is guesswork in summarising the commandments as I have done, and there is room for some difference.
1 What are the 10 Commandments to Christians?
A ministry of condemnation instead of salvation
In 2 Corinthians 3:7-18 Paul speaks of the law that was "engraved on tablets of stone" at the time when Moses's face shone. So we know that he refers to the ten commandments in particular. Note Paul's descriptions of these ten commandments:
- "Of the letter [not] of the Spirit" (v.6)
- "Ministry of death" (v.7)
- "Ministry of condemnation" (v.9)
- "That which fades away" (v.11)
Something we are not obeying
We all break the 4th commandment to keep the seventh day. Notice that we cannot adjust this law to our liking by rewording it as "one day in seven". The law as God gave it clearly says "the seventh" day (Exodus 35:1-3, James 2:10).
- (i) you keep this law,
- (ii) you transgress it and stand condemned, or
- (iii) it doesn't apply to you.
You and I need to think about each of those options carefully, and in our mind tick one, the right one.
Something replaced by a new and better law
The ten commandments would be "decrees against us" if Christ had not abolished them and replaced them with "the law of Christ" (Colossians 2:14, Hebrews 8:6-7, Galatians 6:2).
2 What the Ten Commandments are Not
They are not the basic morality
The ten commandments draw from, and express, several elements from a common or basic morality that was revealed by God to all the world from creation (Romans 1:18-21-32). That basic morality, which originated with God, is expressed to some extent in most systems of law, including Australian law. We would all be very surprised indeed if it were lacking in the law of Moses.
The ten commandments, however, are not this basic morality. Basic morality is also a part of the law of Christ, making the law of Moses redundant in that respect. It is obvious, anyway from what they omit, that the ten commandments are not adequate as a basic moral code. For example they make no mention of sorcery (Exodus 22:18), oppressing the poor (Exodus 22:21-27), and drunkenness (Galatians 5:19-21).
They are not the basis of the Law of Moses
Jesus said the law of Moses was based on two commandments (Matthew 22:34-40)...
- 1~Love the Lord your God with all your heart
- 2~Love your neighbour as yourself
The first four of the ten commandments are based on love for God, a commandment found elsewhere in the law of Moses (Deuteronomy 6:5).
Likewise, the last six of the ten commandments are based on love for neighbour, another commandment found elsewhere in the law (Leviticus 19:18). So the rest of the Law is not based on the ten commandments, rather the ten commandments are based on other parts of the law.
They are not the basis of Christianity
The basis of Christianity is faith in Christ the Son of God, and a reliance upon his death and blood as a sacrifice for our sins, together with his resurrection and ascension to God's right hand that he might intercede for us (Galatians 3:10-14, Romans 8:34).
We certainly do not live by the ten commandments today, for under them we would be condemned! Remember, Paul called the ten commandments "the ministry of death" (2Corinthians 3:7).
The New Testament is at pains to explain that the ten commandments were abolished at Christ's death (Colossians 2:14, 2Corinthians 3:7-11).