Until the age of 21 I had no idea how to use a washing machine. I knew you had to somehow use washing powder, but I was clueless as to where it went, which powder to use or which buttons to press.
Fortunately, after the dirty clothes had piled up for a week, I found the washing machine manual. I studied the manual and ended my quest with a successful outcome – clean clothes.
The instruction manual, published by the makers of the washing machine, made all the difference between success and failure.
The Bible is God’s Instruction Manual for life and makes all the difference to our success or failure. Not laundry or financial success, but real success: living a life that honours God, loves others and continues into the next world with great joy.
When God created Adam and Eve, our original parents, the 10 Commandments were written on their hearts. But since they disobeyed God, God had to write the Law down on stone so that we can know what pleases him.
The 10 Commandments are therefore a summary of what pleases God and always relevant, applicable and necessary – especially in our day and age.
Here are, at least, 9 truths about the 10 Commandments.
1. The Ten Commandments define what is good and evil
We live in a world where many people call good evil and evil good.
The Jihadist Suicide bomber believes killing infidels is good.
The Abortionist believes the murder of pre-born babies is good.
The Racist believes hate is good.
The advertising executive may believe that covetousness is good.
The progressive sexologist may believe that pornography and adultery can be good things.
But who gets to decide what is good and what is evil?
Christians believe that God is the creator of all things and therefore God defines what is good and evil.
2. The Ten Commandments are foundational to the rest of the Old Testament law
The people of God at Mount Sinai not only heard the word of God, they heard the voice of God. God spoke literally “words”/ instructions (cf. Exodus 34:28) to the entire assembly.
We have come to know these ten “words” as the 10 Commandments.
The rest of the laws, commandments and precepts were given by God to Moses – who wrote them down for the people.
“These words the Lord spoke to all your assembly at the mountain out of the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice; and he added no more. And he (God) wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me (Moses).Deuteronomy 5:22
The two stone tablets, on which the 10 Commandments were written, were later stored in the Ark of the Covenant.
Thus, the 10 Commandments were to be part of the very heart and soul of God’s people.
The rest of the Old Testament laws and precepts are applications, implications and case studies of these first Commandments.
3. The Ten Commandments show us who God is
And God spoke all these words, saying,
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.Exodus 20:1-2
God is God (v2), our Creator.
The only one living and true God whose existence is everlasting, without beginning or end. He is the Creator and Preserver of all things, whether seen or unseen.
He is the “LORD” (v2).
The word “LORD” speaks to God’s special, covenant love for his people. It is God using all his great power and goodness on behalf of his people to rescue them out of the house of slavery.
The 10 Commandments tell us who God is and what he has done and therefore what God’s people must be and do.
God said not to worship other God’s because he is the only true God.
God said not to steal because he promises to provide for his people.
God said not to bear false witness because he is thoroughly truthful and never lies.
God said not to murder because he loves and values human beings.
4. The Ten Commandments were not given to save
The 10 Commandments were never given to the people of Israel to save them. By the time God gave the Israelites the 10 Commandments they were already saved.
God had rescued the Israelites out of Egypt, not because they were good, but because he is gracious and kind.
Salvation is not the reward for obedience, but the reason for our obedience.
5. The Ten Commandments set us apart from the world
The people of Israel were to obey the 10 Commandments (as best they could) so that the surrounding nations, who worshipped false gods, would marvel at them and say, “Wow, that’s pretty impressive! What a great God you must serve!”
See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous/ right as all this law that I set before you today?Deuteronomy 4:5-8
The same is true for Christians.
As we seek to obey the 10 Commandments, our non-Christians friends may mock us, but deep down they should think, “Wow, that’s pretty impressive! Maybe they’re onto something? Maybe their God is real?”
Keeping the 10 Commandments is meant to be an evangelistic tool to aid us in being witnesses to the world.
God, in Jesus, saves us from the house of slavery – slavery to the power of sin, death and Satan.
We are then called to live a different, set apart, holy life that demonstrates we serve a holy, good, wise God.
(cf. 1 Peter 1:13-16, 2:9-10)
6. The Ten Commandments don’t frustrate life, but enhance life
Many people think, “God is a bit of a spoilsport and he doesn’t want us to have fun. He made up ten arbitrary rules to keep us from having fun.”
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The 10 Commandments (indeed the entire Bible) is for good not for our bad.
We have the Instructor’s Manual. If we want to function optimally it’s best to follow the guidelines.
I will keep your law continually,
forever and ever,
and I shall walk in a wide place (freedom),
for I have sought your precepts.Psalm 119:44-45
God knows it’s best for us to worship him only and not a false idol.
God knows it’s best for us not to hate or murder people, not to covet or commit adultery, and to be content with what we have.
7. The Ten Commandments are still relevant today
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets (Old Testament); I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”Matthew 5:17-20
Jesus did not come to do away with Old Testament or the 10 Commandments.
Jesus came to fulfill the Old Testament and show us how we should strive to keep the 10 Commandments in a Christian way.
8. The Ten Commandments show us how to love
What does it actually mean to love God and other people?
The 10 Commandments tell us.
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.Romans 13:8
When you act in real love to God and others, you by default fulfill the law.
That’s exactly what Jesus said:
And Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”Matthew 22:37-40
The entire Bible, and particularly the 10 Commandments, show us what is means to truly love God and truly love others.
For example, loving God means serving Jesus , the invisible God made visible, alone.
Loving God means having no carved images or counterfeit gods that demand our allegiance.
Loving others means not murdering or hating them.
Loving others means not committing adultery with them, not stealing from them and not bearing false witness against them.
The law and love are allies – we need them both. Without the Law we won’t know what real love looks like.
9. The Ten Commandments are spiritual and drive us to Jesus
The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans Ch. 7 about how the 10 Commandments pointed out his sin:
For we know that the law is spiritual (supernatural, from God), but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.Romans 7:14
By the end of Ch. 7 Paul felt pretty wretched about his many sins:
Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!Romans 7:24-25
The truth is that we can never perfectly obey the 10 Commandments.
We need the Lord Jesus Christ who did perfectly keep the 10 Commandments and then died for our sin so that we may be accepted by a Holy, just, good God.
I found this article to be a great help in my thinking.
I recommend the small booklet, “Keeping the Ten Commandments”, by JI Packer.