Christian Churches of God
The Ten Commandments
(Edition 3.0 20020214-20070302-20090314)
Christ, as the Angel of the Covenant, gave the Law to Moses at Sinai. He said that it would not pass away. The Ten Commandments represent and show us the spirit and intent of God’s Law.
The Ten Commandments
When we see a red traffic light, what do we do? We stop. Why do we stop? Because it is a law. Why is that law in effect? To save lives.
All parents have laws for their children, don’t they? We all know the laws our parents have for us, even though we might sometimes forget them. Why do they make these laws? Because parents want to keep their children safe. Laws are for our protection. That is exactly why our loving heavenly Father has given us laws -- for our protection. God gave us His Ten Commandments for the same reason that our parents give us rules to obey, because He loves us and wants to protect us and keep us from harming others and ourselves.
Before God gave the Commandments, He told Israel in Exodus 19 verse 5:
Exodus 19:5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine (NKJV throughout).
We see in Exodus 34:28 that God referred to the Ten Commandments as the “words of the covenant”.
Exodus 24:28 So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.
If we, today, will obey Him fully and keep His Covenant, He will bless and protect us just as He promised to do back then.
Although God gave many laws, judgments and statutes in the Bible, the Ten Commandments are at the heart of them all because they show love, first to God, and then to our fellow human beings. They are so important to God that He not only spoke them to the people, but He also wrote them with His own finger (Ex. 31:18), not once, but twice. If they are so important to God, then they must become important to us as well.
How many of us can recite the Ten Commandments? We cannot expect to follow God’s command to obey them if we do not know them.
We will now read each of the Commandments and see what it is that God commands all people everywhere, through all the ages, young and old alike, to do. Then we will discuss them and see how they apply to our lives. They are found in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5.
(Have the children take turns reading each of the Commandments.)
1 And God spoke all these words, saying:
2 "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
3 "You shall have no other gods before Me.
4 "You shall not make for yourself a carved image– or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth;
5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me,
6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
7 "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
8 "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.
11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
12 "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.
13 "You shall not murder.
14 "You shall not commit adultery.
15 "You shall not steal.
16 "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
17 "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's."
Let us now look at each Commandment individually and see exactly what God is telling us.
I. “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.”
When the Israelites first went into Egypt, they served only the One True God. But after 400 years of slavery there, they fell into the system of worship in Egypt. The Egyptians had many gods for different aspects of their life, such as for cattle, the weather, their crops, and so forth, After God freed the children of Israel, and rescued them from that ignorance and sin, they once again turned to the Egyptian pagan ways of worship and made a golden calf to represent the Egyptian’s moon god, which was named Sin. God was very displeased with this sin, as He had told them not to have any other gods, but to keep the Covenant He had made with Abraham, their ancestor, to worship Him and no one else.
Other gods can be anything that we put first in our lives, so God is telling us to be sure to put Him first, and to care more about what He says than what anyone else says. He tells us in many places in the Bible that if we love Him, we will keep His Commandments. Keeping them shows our love for Him, and makes us His people, and for our obedience He will bless and protect us.
God called Abraham His “friend” (2Chr. 20:7, Isa. 41:8, Jas. 2:23) and He called David “a man after Mine own heart” (Acts 13:22). They were examples of people who obeyed God, and God praised them for it. When they disobeyed Him, they were punished. By reading about the lives of David and Abraham, we can see what happened when they obeyed God as opposed to what happened when they disobeyed Him.
It is important to realize that we don’t always get into trouble immediately when we disobey, so it is a mistake to think that we have gotten away with it. Sooner or later we must face the consequences of our actions. Everything we do has consequences, and God wants us to think before we act. We need to ask ourselves, “Are my actions in line with God’s Law?”
II. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”
This absolutely rules out worshipping or bowing down to any statues, or crucifixes (crosses), or Stars of David, or using any kinds of images or pictures in our worship of God. We cannot worship anything or anyone, except God. Some will say that a certain rock star, or sports figure, or movie star is their idol. They are guilty of breaking the Second Commandment.
We can have heroes, who are people that we look up to and admire because of their good example, but they are not to take the place of God in our lives. Try to think of some ways that a person could put someone first before God.
III. “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.”
God’s name is special. It identifies who He is and what He does. We should only use it with the utmost respect, reverence and awe, and never in anger, slang, or profanity. The way we use God’s name shows how we feel about Him. Do we properly fear and revere God as we should?
We actually profane God’s name when we call ourselves “Christian” – that means we are part of the body of Christ, which is the Church of God – and yet behave in a way that the Bible condemns. If we say we are Christian and yet we lie and steal or break the other Commandments we are dishonouring God’s name. Our actions should bring honour not dishonour to His name.
So many movies, television shows, and people from all walks of life think nothing of casually using God’s name. He says He will not hold them guiltless who do this. Another way that people take God’s name in vain is in the use of euphemisms (that means the substitution of an inoffensive word for one that is offensive). For example, saying, “good gracious” instead of “Good God”, or “golly” and “gee” for “God.” Using these expressions are wrong because they are euphemisms for taking God’s name in vain.
IV. “ Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”
This is the Commandment most ignored and attacked by mankind. The disobedient can’t see why it makes a difference which day they keep holy.
But listen to what God said about the Sabbath in Exodus 31 verses 13 through 17:
Exodus 31:13-17: Speak also to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you. 14 You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. 15 Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. 16 Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. 17 It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.’
That was true then, and it is true now because God does not change (Heb. 13:8). It is a sign between God and His people forever. Keeping the seventh-day Sabbath identifies us as His people.
Let us look at when and how God created the Sabbath in Genesis 2:1-3.
Genesis 2:1-3: Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. 2 And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
After God had finished his physical creation, and had made man, then He made the Sabbath for man (Mk. 2:27). He did not make it just for Israel, but for all men. He made it by resting Himself, then blessed it and made it holy. He rested and made it holy, and commands us to rest and keep it holy. Nowhere in the Bible can we find where God changed this. We have the example of Jesus Christ and the Apostles keeping the Sabbath. The Apostle Paul told us we are to imitate him as he imitated Christ (1Cor. 11:1).
Only God can make something holy, and He chose the seventh day of the week to make holy. We can choose whether to obey or disobey to keep it holy.
When God tells us to rest on the Sabbath, He is not telling us just to sit idly and do nothing. It is a special day. It is a time for solemn assembly with others who believe as we do. It is a time to worship our Creator and spend time with Him, seeking to learn more about Him, and to draw near to Him. It is a time to turn our focus from our normal activities and to focus on spiritually renewing our minds.
How do we keep the Sabbath holy? By assembling ourselves together to worship and praise God and to learn more about Him. We draw closer to Him by fellowshipping with others who believe as we do, singing and praying and studying His word. Isaiah 58:13-14 tells us that God wants us to call the Sabbath a delight. In order to do that, we must prepare ahead of time. We should never let the Sabbath find us unprepared. We have six days to think about and prepare for the Sabbath as we do our other work.
How do we profane the Sabbath? By doing our own work, by having others work for us (such as going out to a restaurant to eat), by being preoccupied with our own ideas and interests and by not making God the centre of our attention that day.
The Bible has a lot to say about the Sabbath. We need to know how God feels about His Sabbath that He made for us, and why. We are not free to do as we please on this day. See also the paper The Sabbath Day (No. CB21).
The Fourth Commandment ends the first section of the Ten Commandments that specifically tell us how God wants us to relate to Him.
V. “ Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.”
As we just learned, the first four Commandments show us how to love God. The last six, beginning with the Fifth Commandment, tell us how to love others. All are summed up in Matthew 22:37-40.
Matthew 22:37-40: Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.
This text above is the answer Christ gave when He was asked which was the great commandment in the Law. So we can see that these two summarize the entire Law.
The Fifth Commandment is the first commandment that includes a promise that our days may be prolonged. How does honouring our parents make our life longer? For one thing, if we are obeying our parents we won’t be indulging in destructive habits like drugs, immorality (promiscuity), lying, stealing, cheating, and other damaging behaviour. Also, if we are obeying and honouring our parents, God will bless us.
How do we honour our parents? By showing respect to them, obeying them, being courteous and polite to them, and following their example as they follow God. God desires our obedience above all else. He says that is how to show love to Him, and our parents want no less from us.
Children need to be taught this Commandment from a very early age because learning to obey this Commandment helps us to begin a lifetime habit of respecting authority, rules and laws -- both God’s and man’s laws. Then, as we get older, we will have no problem transferring the love, obedience and respect we have for our parents to our heavenly Father.
VI. “You shall not murder.”
Life is a precious gift from God, and since only God can create life, only He can decide when a life should end. Society today is so far away from God and His instruction that murder is used in movies and television for entertainment, and people cheer. People who watch a lot of television see countless murders every day, and that causes them to become desensitised to violence.
But God says in Matthew 5 that we are not even to be angry with our brother. God’s way is the way of love, not strife. The Bible does teach that there is a time to be angry, but we need to be sure our anger is directed toward injustice and sinful acts, not people. There are also certain acts for which God allows a government to impose the penalty of capital punishment for the good of the society. This does not violate the Sixth Commandment.
VII. “You shall not commit adultery.”
This Commandment refers not only to marriage infidelity, or being unfaithful, but also to any moral impurity before or after marriage. There is nothing to interpret or to be confused about in this Commandment.
We must learn to look at situations through God’s eyes, and not the world’s. Purity in both deeds and thoughts is so important to God that He tells us in Matthew 5:27-28:
Matthew 5:27-28: You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
VIII. “You shall not steal.”
Everyone has the right to own property. God gave each one of us that right, and the Eighth Commandment protects that right. We are only entitled to what we work for and earn, or what someone gives us as a gift. If we get anything any other way it is wrong. This applies to grades, money, or things. God commands us to respect the rights of others and their property just as we want others to respect ours.
There are many ways of stealing, including not giving an honest day’s work for a day’s pay, not giving our best when we’re hired to do a job, or borrowing something and not returning it. Think of some other examples.
Malachi 3:8-10 shows that we can steal from God:
Malachi 3:8-10 Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, 'In what way have we robbed You? 'In tithes and offerings. 9 You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation. 10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this," Says the Lord of hosts, "If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.
There are numerous ways to break God’s Commandment against stealing, so we need to be especially vigilant and take care to always be on guard.
IX. "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”.
God loves truth; His word is truth. A list of things God hates is in Proverbs 6:16-19.
Proverbs 6:16-19 These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: 17 A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, 19 A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.
Among the six things God hates, two of them involve lying. God wants us to always speak the truth. We should love truth. Since we don’t want people lying about us, God commands us not to lie about anyone else. It ruins reputations, damages character and the good name that it took someone a lifetime to build.
In John 8:44 Jesus called Satan the father of lies. We do not want to be guilty of following the example of Satan. In the past, we have all been guilty of lying, but we must repent and remember Proverbs 12:22.
Proverbs 12:22 Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, But those who deal truthfully are His delight.
We cannot stay with the truth without God’s help because He also tells us in Jeremiah 17:9-10:
Jeremiah 17:9-10 "The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? 10 I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.
If we ask, He will help us.
X. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”
This Commandment addresses how we think, more than what we actually do. Since all sin begins in the heart (or mind), it lets us know that God is not only concerned with our words and actions, but also with our thoughts.
Mark 7:21-23 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a man.
“To covet,” means to crave or desire in an improper way. It goes beyond just admiring something that someone else has. It includes envy, which is resentment of the fact that someone has something we don’t. It is a longing or yearning for something to which we have no right.
To fight covetousness we must trust that God will provide a way for us to meet all of our legitimate needs. We should focus on God and His instructions to us in all areas of our lives, because He promises great peace to all whose mind is stayed on Him (Isa. 26:3). If our focus is on God and what He wants, we won’t give in to evil thoughts and desires.
As stated before, the Ten Commandments are summed up in the Two Great Commandments – love God and love your neighbor. If we follow this admonition our Father will be well pleased with us.