Exodus 20: What do the 10 Commandments Mean for the Christian?
It is true the Law cannot make one righteous. Neither does the keeping of the Law sustain our salvation. However, Paul on several occasions states that we should not let Grace be an occasion for sin. In other words we should not let our freedoms be taken to far, and thus make the reason for our Grace be lost. Turning to Exodus 20 we can get a good understanding of the 10 Commandments and how we can apply them in our Christian lives, not for salvation or works of justification, but because scripture says that we should do works of righteousness. James 4:17 “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” How we choose to live out this freedom that has been given us in Jesus Christ is a direct reflection of the heart. These are just short paragraphs to get you thinking.
The first commandment “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”(.3) is a pretty straight forward translation. The Hebrew words used here are quite easily put to the English text of the King James Version. The word “gods” is the plural form of Elohim. This word indicates that there will be no other rulers, judges, divine ones, angels, works or special possessions of God. The word “before” is the Hebrew word paniym, which means face and is used here to indicate “before my face”, or “in from of” or “in presence of”. So the command is quite clear, Thou (you) shalt (will not) have anything that has authority over you before me. A Christian should not let anything interfere with the sovereignty of God over their lives. No other authority is to reign supreme over the Word of God. No government, carrier, relationship, or other aspect of our lives should be allowed to stop us from obeying the Word of the Lord. We should live outward lives that indicate who has supreme authority over our lives. That supreme authority is God Himself.
The second commandment “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image (v.4) When looking at this commandment we can see that the meaning “to cut or engrave”. Specifically it comes from the Hebrew pecel (peh’-sel) meaning idol or image. So the understanding is that we are not to make any image as an idol. The command goes on to include any likeness of anything that is in heaven, or in the earth, or in the sea, in fact it goes so far to say not even under the earth. Nothing should be made that is to appear to represent God, or any other idol. One should note that an idol is something that is obsessed over. We cannot use anything made by hands or in creation to represent God for worship of any kind. Our affections should be solely placed on God, nothing should be used to represent God, because we run the risk of worshiping what is created rather than the creator. We do not bow to crosses, the Eucharist, or to anything other than God himself. God will not share his worship with anything else.
The third commandment “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain” (v.7) This commandment is a warning that we should not take (bear), or lift up either literally or figuratively the name of the Lord. The meaning is that we should revere the name of the Lord, and should not take it lightly. We are not to frivolously use the name of the Lord to seal an oath, or to in effect evoke the Lord on our behalf. God is not a djinn to be uses as we will or conjured up for our purposes. With this comes a sense of respect and personal accountability. If we cannot use the Lord for an oath, then we must be honest and trustworthy in our speech and actions. We are to have a name that brings respect to the Lord. We are to honor the name of the Lord. The end of this commandment is frightening. The Lord says that He will defend His own name. Anyone who disrespects Him will be held accountable to Him. We should then live in truth and in Spirit giving honor and respect to the name of the Lord in our speech and our actions.
The forth commandment “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” (v.8) The Hebrew word for remember is zakar (za-kar’), and is used to cause to remember or as a memorial. The later verses further explain that there were seven days that God used to create the earth, and on the last day, God rested. This is a day to be kept in memorial of the provisions of God. In six days he created everything that was needed to sustain his creation. Then he rested. God took a break for his labors because they were completed. The Sabbath is referred to in the Jewish culture as a
Holly day which means basically an intermission. Much like where we get the word sabbatical. This is a time to get away from everything, to make a complete break to clear the mind, and spirit. This is a time of renewal. Even batteries need to be re-charged or replaced from time to time. Jesus said that the Sabbath was created for man, not man for the Sabbath. God knows we need a time to recharge and get away from all or our labors and worried. We need a time to clear our minds and to “just be still”. We need time to relax and remember why we are working so hard. Spend some downtime with the family. Take time off from all work and all work related items. Relax and enjoy the blessings the Lord has brought. If not you will weary yourself and suffer burn out. You will lose productivity. You will lose your joy, and you relationship with Christ will suffer, along with your relationship with your church, family, and friends. Your ministry will suffer if you do not take time away, and push the reset button.
The fifth commandment “Honor they father and thy mother.” (v.12). The word honour in is from the Hebrew kabad (kaw-bad’) and can be used in a positive or negative manner as most root words can. Given the context of the verse, mainly, that it will add longevity to your life or a better quality of life, it can be understood that it is to be used in a positive manner. So then it can be meaning to abound with, or to promote, be rich in, or to be honorable. So then we are to treat our father and mother with abundant honor. How then do we do this? The showing of respect is the primary way that a king is honored. Shows of respect mean; proper use of language in their presence, bringing of gifts, sharing of blessings from God (resources, food, income, health benefits, lodgings, etc…), spending time with them (sharing special moments, letters, birthdays, celebrations), showing affections towards them, respecting and supporting their decisions, understanding that without their guidance and provisions you would not be where you are today. Showing honor is a lifestyle of respect and gratitude.
The sixth commandment “Thou shalt not kill.” (v.13) The sixth commandment seems like such a simple statement. Yet often times it is added to in order to say that capital punishment is not biblical. However, this commandment says that you shall not “kill”. The Hebrew word is ratach (rä·tsakh’) meaning to slay, or murder. To murder is to deprive of life according to the Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language 1828. 1 John 3:15 does specify that the application of this is more than just a physical act. The writer tells us that “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer:” This is because God looks into the intentions of the heart. Not only do I need to refrain from murdering someone in a physical sense, but I need to rebuke hatred in my own heart for others that may or may not have offended me. If I have allowed prejudice to establish a beachfront of sin in my heart, to hate, thus to be guilty of murder. This commandment has nothing to do with the power or authority of the government or of law enforcement, but everything to do with love of others; instead of selfish hatreds.
The seventh commandment “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” (v.14) This command is actually pretty straight forward. The word for adultery here is the primitive root na’aph (nä·af’) in Hebrew. This word is “to commit adultery” it is usually meant from a man and always refers to the wife of another man. It is a strong word and is associated with idolatry. You will not worship (love, adore) another man’s wife. Wow this is so beyond the physical act of sex with another man’s wife. Now we can see why Jesus said that to look after another man’s wife in lust is to commit adultery. That is because the original command actually says the same thing. No looking at another man’s wife to worship her in your heart, to love her in an ungodly manner. No actual sexual contact either. To do so you actually break not only this commandment, but the first, second, and tenth commandments as well. How dangerous the lusts eyes and the desires of our hearts can be.
The eight commandment “Thou shalt not steal.” (v.15) Now here is one that we always try to shorten, however; when we look at the Hebrew word use here we can see that there is no short order to this command. Ganab (gä·nav’), the Hebrew root, means to thieve (literally or figuratively) by implication, to deceive, or carry away; to get by stealth or deception. What then do we say to this? You will not practice theft either literally or figuratively by obtain by stealth or deception. You cannot take what is not yours literally you cannot. Neither can you take what is not yours through con, or ruse. You cannot take what is not yours through deceptive trade practices. You cannot be dishonest in your dealings would not be too far of a stretch. I think it could be summed up as this, if you want it, work for it. If you agree someone can earn a wage, then give them a fair wage. If you work for a fair wage then give the work that is do.
The ninth commandment “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” (v.16) To bear here means to answer (respond, testify, speak, sing, cry, give). The word for false is pretty simple and it means to lie (false, falsehood, falsely, vain, wrongfully, deceitful). Finally we can see the word witness which in the Hebrew means to evidence either abstractly (conceptually), specifically (explicitly, practically) or in record (as a source). This means you cannot lie about anyone, or any event either as a matter of oath, or as a matter of speculation. Jesus put it this way, let your yes be yes and your no be no. When you start to talk about things or people that you do not know you put yourself in danger of being judged in the same manner that you judged them. If you have to give witness as a matter of record for a court or an incident at work then you should speak plainly, never speculate and only relay the facts. You should avoid answering open ended questions, as these questions are designed to make you speculate. Being a witness is to present the details as you saw them, not others. Keep your conversation clean, no gossip. Be honest in word and in deed. Never lie and never listen to rumor, so you do not spread a lie and become a false witness. Remember loose lips sink ships. More than one church has been destroyed form the inside out because of rumors and innuendo.
The tenth commandment “Thou shalt not covet.” (v.17) To covet is to from the root chamad (khä·mad) in Hebrew and means to desire (take pleasure in). It is meant in a form that means to delight greatly or find desirable of precious. It can be used to mean delight, desire, or to lust after. I think we all know what this means. We can enjoy our neighbor’s good fortune, and celebrate with him in his blessings. We are not to desire to have the blessings that he has though. We should be content with what the Lord has blessed us with. We do serve the same God and we can never be happy for others if we are always comparing what they have to what we do not. The verse gets pretty explanatory, you will not desire your neighbor’s wife, servants, his means of living, any of his possessions, or his lifestyle. Ok that’s my neighbor’s stuff, what about the guy in TV? What about the guy done the block? Well lucky for us the definition of neighbor has already been litigated before the Messiah. Take a look at Luke 10:25-37. In there a lawyer sought to define what a neighbor was with Jesus. Jesus put is simple, everyone is our neighbor and we are to show mercy to our neighbors. We are then to be content with what we have. We are not to look to anyone else but God.
In summation I quote Romans 13:9. “For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” We are to treat everyone as we want to be treated. We are to love everyone as God loves us. You see if I love someone, then I want the best for them. I don’t desire to take what they have, because it makes them happy, and I love them and want to see their happiness. This is indeed to true sign of a believer, that we should love one another because God is love and everyone that loves is born again from God and knows God (1 John 4:7).