Before the Lord gives Moses the ten commandments and the rest of the Law, He reminds Moses that “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery…” Obedience comes out of gratitude because of what the Lord has done. God did not save them because they were good or law-abiding, but now having saved them He gives the Israelites the law. It’s a common pattern in Scripture – salvation followed by obedience.
The New Testament is abundantly clear Christian is not under law (Romans 6:14, Galatians). We are not saved by grace and sanctified by law observance. Galatians wants us sternly that if we go back to any of the law, we bind ourselves to all it’s curses and blessings.
The law is good and was there to be a guardian or schoolmaster to drive people to Jesus. As Christians, we walk in the Spirit and in doing so “accidentally” fulfil or, more often, surpass it. So when we read the law, we are not bound by it but we can look at how Jesus fulfils it and walking in the Spirit’s guidance goes beyond it!
1 You shall have no other gods.
The “you” is singular not plural, because the Law was both corporate to all Israel and individual to each person. Being filled with the Spirit is a community thing (Eph 5:18 is the plural “you” too) and an individual thing. Walking by the Spirit we put to death other gods and false saviours like self medicating with drink and drugs, success and the pursuit of money that compete with our affections.
2 You shall not make an image.
God can’t be easily represented by things – they limit Him too much. The issue with carved images and idols is that when we use a thing to represent God, we end up worshipping the thing not God.
3 The way we talk about God
You shall not take the name of the Lord in vain. God’s names describe aspects of His nature, so we are careful not to blaspheme. I’ve noticed that many of our brothers and sisters who have English as a second or third language often say “Oh my God”, usually without realising they are blaspheming. It’s so endemic on TV and radio that they just pick it up as they learned English. Stop it!
God rested on the seventh day when he finished creation. If you go back to the creation account and look at the 7th day in Genesis 2:1-3 you’ll notice it is the only “day” that doesn’t have the formula “and there was evening and there was morning, the nth day”. The Sabbath rest was meant to last for ever. Salvation is the rest from work this command and principle points to. There is no idea of a holy day in the New Covenant although there is freedom for those whose faith think special days are important (Romans 14 – with the implication that weak faith leads to observance of special days!).
That said you are daft if you don’t take a day of rest every week, you’ll burnout!
5 Honouring parents
Families hold nations together both then and now. The whole system of ancient Israel was built around family units -marriage, inheritance, Jubilee and so on. The command was to honour which means to respect and give precedence to. When Paul commands us to be filled with the Spirit, he follows that with instructions on family life including this commandment changing live long in the land to live long on the earth. The promises for the people of God are now global in reach.
6) Murder – the shortest commandment. Life is sacred and given by God – don’t take it.
7) Sexual ethics – adultery is not a private matter or sin, it affects the community. Sexual ethics are expanded on throughout scripture, but boil down to no sex outside of a marriage between a man and a woman. That’s radically different to our culture and will require walking in the Spirit to fulfil!
8) Property ownership is God ordained. So if you are a thief, stop stealing and get a job! (Ephesians 4:28)
9) Don’t give false testimony
Lying is one of those rocks in so many life that people need to get rid of. Jesus is our supreme example and we are called to be His witnesses, so lying and false testimony are to be put to death.
10) No coveting
Possibly the sharpest and hardest one. Many read the ten commandments and think not done that, not done that… and get to this one and are nailed by it! In the Spirit we can learn to be content in all circumstances (Phil 4:11)
Know that you are not bound by these to be righteous – God has already made you righteous, but know that as we walk in the Spirit, filled with Him, we can go way past these commandments in God’s love, grace and power.