Christ, The Ten Commandments Including The Sabbath
As the Supreme Ruler of the universe, God has ordained laws for the government not only of all living beings, but of all the operations of nature. Everything, whether great or small, animate or inanimate, is under fixed laws which cannot be disregarded. But while everything in nature is governed by natural law, man alone, as an intelligent being, capable of understanding its requirements, is amenable to moral law. To man alone, the crowning work of His creation, God has given a conscience to realise the sacred claims of the divine law, and a heart capable of loving it as holy, just and good (Romans 7:12); and of man prompt and perfect obedience is required. Yet God does not compel him to obey; he is left a free moral agent. God is not arbitary.
In the wilderness, one morning, a thick, dark cloud had descended upon Mount Sinai, in front of Moses and the assembled children of Israel. "And Mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly." (Exodus 19:18). From the thick darkness flashed vivid lightnings, while peals of thunder echoed among the surrounding heights. The hosts of Israel shook with fear and fell upon their faces before the Lord. Even Moses exclaimed, "I exceedingly fear and quake". (See Exodus 19:16-19, Hebrews 12:18-21). Surrounded by a retinue of angels, He made known His law. Moses describing the scene says: "The Lord came from Sinai...and he came with ten thousands of saints: from His right hand went a fiery law for them..." (Deuteronomy 33:2, 3). These precepts of the Decalogue are based upon the great fundamental principle of love. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all the mind; and thy neighbour as thyself." (Luke 10:27). These Ten Commandments, described in Exodus, chapter 20, verses 1-17 are as follows:-
God's Law Proclaimmed From Mount Sinai
1. "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me."
Jehovah, the eternal, self-existent, uncreated One, Himself the Source and Sustainer of all, is alone entitled to supreme reverence and worship. Whatever we cherish that tends to lesson our love for God or to interfere with the service due to Him, of that we do make a god.
2. "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them..."
The second commandment forbids the worship of the true God by images or similitudes. The attempt to represent the Eternal One by material objects would lower man's concept of God. The mind turned away from the infinite perfection of Jehovah, would be attracted to the creature rather than the Creator. (See Romans 1:20-25).
"I the Lord thy God am a jealous God..."
The close and sacred relation of God to His people is represented under the figure of marriage. Idolatry being spiritual adultery, the displeasure of God against it is fitly called jealously.
"Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me." It is inevitable that children should suffer from the consequences of parental wrongdoing, but they are not punished for the parents' guilt, except they participate their sins. By inheritance and example the sons become partakers of the father's sins. Wrong tendencies, perverted appetites, and debased morals, as well as physical disease and degeneracy, are transmitted as a legacy from father to son, to the third and fourth generation. This fearful truth should have a solemn power to restrain men from following a course of sin.
"Showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me, and keep my commandments."
Jesus said, "If you love, me, keep my commandments". (John 14:15). "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments..." (1 John 5:3). "He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination...He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy." (Proverbs 28: 9, 13).
3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain." This commandment not only prohibits false oaths and common swearing but it forbids us to use the name of God in a light or careless manner, without regard to its awful significance. But the thoughtless mention of God in common conversation, by appeals to him in trivial matters, and by the frequent and thoughtless repetition of His name, we dishonour Him.
4. "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it."
The Sabbath is not introduced as a new institution but as having been founded at creation. It is to be remembered and observed as the memorial of the Creator's work. Pointing to God as the Maker of the heavens and the earth, it distinguishes the true God from all false gods. All who keep the seventh day signify by this act that they are worshippers of
Jehovah. Thus the Sabbath is the sign of man's allegiance to God as long as there are any upon the earth to serve Him. The fourth commandment is the only one of all the ten in which are found both the name and the title of the Lawgiver. It is the only one that shows by whose authority the law is given. Thus it contains the seal of God, affixed to His law as evidence of its authenticity and binding force.
God has given men six days wherein to labor, and He requires that their own work be done in the six working days. Acts of necessity and mercy are permitted on the Sabbath, the sick and the suffering are at all times to be cared for; but unnecessary labor is to be strictly avoided. "Turn away thy foot from the Sabbath , from doing thy pleasure on My Holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and...honor Him, not doing thy own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure." (Isaiah 58:13). Nor does the prohibition end here. " Nor speaking thine own words," says the prophet. Those who discuss business matters or lay plans on the Sabbath are regarded by God as though engaged in the actual transaction of business. To keep the Sabbath holy, we should not even allow our minds to dwell upon things of a worldly character. And the commandment includes all within our gates. All should unite to honor God by willing service upon His holy day.
5. "Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee." God Himself, has placed upon parents the responsibility for the souls committed to their charge, and has ordained that in the earlier years of life, parents shall stand in the place of God to their children. And he who the rightful authority of his parents is rejecting the authority of God. The fifth commandment requires children not only to yield respect, submission, and obedience to their parents, but also to give them love and tenderness, to lighten their cares, to guard their reputation, and to succour and comfort them in old age. It also enjoins respect for ministers and rulers and for all others to whom God has delegated authority.
6. "Thou shalt not kill".
All acts of injustice that tend to shorten life; the spirit of hatred and revenge, or the indulgence of any passion that leads to injurious acts upon others, or causes us even to wish them harm (for "whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer" 1 John 3:15); a selfish neglect of caring for the needy or suffering; all self-indulgence or unnecessary deprivation or excessive labor that tends to injure health - all these are, to a greater or less degree, violations of the sixth commandment.
7. "Thou shalt not commit adultery."
This commandment forbids not only acts of impurity, but sensual thoughts and desires, or any practise that tends to excite them. Purity is demanded not only in the outward life but in the secret intents and emotions of the heart. Christ, who taught the far-reaching obligation of the law of God, declared the evil thought or look to be as truly sin as is the unlawful deed. (Matthew 5:27, 28).
8. "Thou shalt not steal."
Both public and private sins are included in this prohibition. The eighth commandment condemns manstealing and slave dealing , and forbids wars of conquest. It condemns theft and robbery. It demands strict integrity in the minutest details of the affairs of life. It declares that every attempt to advantage oneself by the ignorance , weakness, or misfortune of another is registered as fraud in the books of heaven.
9. "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor."
False speaking in any matter, every attempt or purpose to deceive our neighbor, is here included. An intention to deceive is what constitutes falsehood. By a glance of the eye, a motion of the hand, an expression of the countenance, a falsehood may be told as effectually as by words. All intentional overstatement, every hint of insinuation calculated to convey an erroneous or exaggerated impression, even the statement of facts in such a manner as to mislead, is falsehood. This precept forbids every effort to injure our neighbor's reputation by misrepresentation or evil surmising, by slander or tale bearing. Even the intentional suppression of truth, by which injury may result to others, is a violation of the ninth commandment.
10. "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his mansservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor's."
The tenth commandment strikes at the very root of sins, prohibiting the selfish desire, from which springs the sinful act. He who in obedience to God's law refrains from indulging even a sinful desire for that which belongs to another will not be guilty of an act of wrong toward his fellow creatures.
Such were the sacred precepts of the Decalogue, spoken amid thunder and flame, and with a wonderful display of the power and majesty of the great Lawgiver, the Creator of heaven and earth. As God's great rule of right was presented before the people of Israel, they realised as never before the offensive character of sin, and their own guilt in the sight of a holy God, "for sin is the transgression of the law". (1 John 3:4). In order that the obligations of the Decalogue might be more fully understood and enforced, additional precepts were given (Exodus 21:1 - 23:11), illustrating and applying the permanent principles of the Ten Commandments.
This Law should not be looked upon as much from the prohibitory side as from the mercy side. Its prohibitions are the sure guarantee of happiness in obedience. As received in Christ, it works in us the purity of character that will bring joy to us through eternal ages. To the obedient it is a wall of protection. We behold in it the goodness of God, who by revealing to men the immutable principles of righteousness, seeks to shield them from evils that result in transgression.
We are not to regard God as waiting to punish the sinner for his sin. The sinner brings punishment upon himself. Every act of transgression reacts upon the sinner , works in him a change of character, and makes it more easy for him to transgress again. By choosing to sin , men separate themselves from God, cut themselves off from the channel of blessing, and the sure result is ruin and death.
The law is an expression of God's idea. When we receive it in Christ, it becomes our idea. It lifts us above the power of natural desires and tendencies, above temptations that lead to sin.
Examples Of The Spirituality Of The Ten Commandments
It was Christ who, amid thunder and flame, had proclaimed the law upon Mount Sinai. (Exodus 20:3-17). The glory of God, like devouring fire, rested upon its summit, and the mountain quaked at the presence of the Lord. The hosts of Israel, lying prostrate upon the earth, had listened in awe to the sacred precepts of the law. What a contrast to the scene upon the mount of the Beatitudes! Under the summer sky, with no sound to break the stillness but the song of birds, Jesus unfolded the principles of His kingdom. Yet he who spoke to the people that day in accents of love, was opening to them the principles of the law proclaimed from Sinai.
In the book of Numbers, chapter 21 verses 4-6, we read that whilst the children of Israel were in the wilderness, the people spoke against God and against Moses, murmuring and complaining, asking why they were brought up into the wilderness. They found fault with thier Leader and this is why many were destroyed by serpents. Concerning this event, the apostle Paul says,
"Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents." (I Corinthians 10:9).
What does this prove? That the Leader against whom they were murmuring was Christ. In the fourth verse of the same chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul says that the fathers "did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ." So, then, Christ was the Leader and the Commander of Israel in their forty years' sojourn in the wilderness.
To further illustrate the above point, let us look at Exodus 20:1-3. "And God spake all these words, saying, I am the Lord Thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me." Who spoke these words? The One who brought them from Egypt. And who was the Leader of Israel from Egypt? It was Christ. Then who spoke the law from Mount Sinai? It was Christ, the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of His Person, who is the manifestation of God to man.
We read the words of Christ in John chapter 5, verses 22 and 23, that "the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son; that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father." Hence, as Christ is the manifestation of the Father in creation, so is He the manifestation of the Father in giving and executing the law, for He is the Creator of all created things, and the One whom all judgment has been committed.
Therefore, when on the mount of Beatitudes, Jesus said regarding the law, "I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill." Christ here uses the word "fulfill" in the same sense as when He declared to John the Baptist His purpose to "fulfill all righteousness"; that is, to fill the measure of the law's requirement, to give an example of perfect conformity to the will of God. (Matthew 5:17; 3:15).
Jesus, throughout his pilgrimage of love on the earth, was a living representation of the character of the law of God. His mission was to "magnify the law, and make it honourable."( Isaiah 42:21).
"Till heaven and earth pass", said Jesus, "one jot or one tittle shall in nowise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." By his own obedience to the law, Christ testified to its immutable character and proved that through His grace it could be perfectly obeyed by every son and daughter of Adam. On the mount he declared that not the smallest iota should pass from the law till all things should be accomplished - all things that concern the human race, all that relates to the plan of redemption. So long as heaven and earth should continue, the holy principles of the law of God will remain.
Because the law of the Lord is perfect, and therefore changeless, it is impossible for sinful men, in themselves, to meet the standard of its requirements. This was why Jesus came as our Redeemer. It was His mission, by making men partakers of the divine nature, to bring them into the harmony of the principles of heaven. When we forsake our sins and receive Christ as our Saviour, the law is exalted. The apostle Paul asks, "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law." (Romans 3:31).
Jesus further declared on the mount of Beatitudes, that "whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." (Matthew 5:28). When the thought of evil is loved and cherished, however secretly, said Jesus, it shows that sin still reigns in the heart. He who finds pleasure in dwelling upon scenes of impurity, who indulges the evil thought, the lustful look, may behold in the open sin, with its burden of shame and heartbreaking grief, the true nature of the evil which he has hidden in the chambers of his soul. The season of temptation, under which, it may be, one falls into grievous sin, does not create the evil that is revealed, but only develops or makes manifest that which was hidden and latent in the heart. As a man "thinketh in his heart, so is he;" for out of the heart "are the issues of life". (Proverbs 23:7; 4:23.)
The same principle described above concerning the breaking of the seventh commandment, may be applied to all of the other nine. For example, let us consider the sixth commandment, "Thou shalt not kill" (Exodus 20:13). In the book of 1 John, chapter 3, verse 15, we read that "Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him." The spirit of hatred and revenge originated with Satan, and it led him to put to death the Son of God. Whoever cherishes malice or unkindness is cherishing the same spirit.
"Be ye therefore perfect, even as your father which is in heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5:48).
The word "therefore" implies a conclusion, an inference from what has gone before. (Read the whole chapter of Matthew 5). Jesus has been describing to His hearers the unfailing mercy and love of God, and He bids them therefore to be perfect. Jesus declares that you may become like him in character, and stand without fault in His presence. "Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy." (Jude 24).
The conditions of eternal life, under grace, are just what they were in Eden - perfect righteousness, harmony with God, perfect conformity with the principles of His law. The standard of character presented in the Old Testament is the same that is presented in the New Testament. (For the apostle John explains, "I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which you had from the beginning" 1 John 2:7. See also Genesis 2:1-3 and Exodus 20:8-11.) This standard is not one to which we cannot attain. God has made provision that we may become like unto Him, and He will accomplish this for all who do not interpose a perverse will and thus frustrate His grace.
By the revelation of the attractive loveliness of Christ, by the knowledge of His love expressed to us while we were yet sinners, the stubborn heart is melted and subdued, and the sinner is transformed and becomes a child of heaven. God does not employ compulsory measures; love is the agent which he uses to expel sin from the heart. He changes pride into humility, and enmity and unbelief into love and faith.
The Jews had been wearily toiling to reach perfection by their own efforts, and they had failed. Christ had already told them that their righteousness could never enter into the kingdom of heaven. Now He points out to them the character of the righteousness that all who enter into heaven will possess. Throughout the Sermon on the Mount He describes the fruits, and now in one sentence He points out its source and its nature: Be perfect as God is perfect. The law is but a transcript of the character of God. Behold in your heavenly Father a perfect manifestation of the principles which are the foundation of His government.
God is love. It is His nature to give. His very life is the outflow of unselfish love.
Jesus said, Be perfect as your Father is perfect. If you are the children of God you are partakers of His nature, and you cannot but be like Him. Every child lives by the life of his father. If you are God's children, begotten by His Spirit, you live the life of God. In Christ dwells "all the fulness of the Godhead bodily" (Colossians 2:9); and the life of Jesus is made manifest "in our mortal flesh" (2 Corinthians 4:11). That life in you will produce the same character and manifest the same works as it did in Him. Thus you will be in harmony with every precept of His law; for "the law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul." (Psalm 19:7). Through love "the righteousness of the law" will be "fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit" (Romans 8:4).
The Law Of God And His Righteousness
"But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you." (Matthew 6:33).
The righteousness of God, says Jesus, is the one thing to be sought in this life. Food and clothing are minor matters in comparison with it. God will supply them, as a matter of course, so that anxious care and worriment need not be expended on them; but to secure God's kingdom and His righteousness should be the only object in life.
In 1 Corinthians 1:30, we are told that Christ is made unto us "wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption". Since in Christ dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9), it is evident that the righteousness which He is made to us is the righteousness of God.
When the Psalmist addresses the Lord in Psalm 119:172, we are told that his tongue "shall speak of Thy word: for all Thy commandments are righteousness". The commandments are righteousness, not simply in the abstract, but they are the righteousness of God. This may be further illustrated in Isaiah 51:6,7, "...My righteousness shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished. Hearken unto Me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is My law..." What do we learn from this? That they who know the righteousness of God are those in whose heart is His law, and therefore that the law of God is the righteousness of God.
This may be proved again, as follows:
"All unrighteousness is sin" 1 John 5:17
"Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law." 1 John 3:4
Sin is the transgression of the law, and it is also unrighteousness; therefore sin and unrighteousness are identical. But if unrighteousness is transgression of the law, righteousness must be obedience to the law.
To put the proposition into mathematical form;
Unrighteousness = sin (1 John 5:17)
Transgression of the law = sin (1 John 3:4)
Therefore, the two definitions of sin may be represented as this;
Unrighteousness = transgression of the law
The above is a negative equation. The same thing stated in positive terms would be;
Righteousness = obedience to the law
Now, what law is it obedience to which is righteousness, and disobedience to which is sin? It is the law which says, "Thou shalt not covet"; for the apostle Paul tells us that this law convinced him of sin. (Romans 7:7). The law of ten commandments, then, is the measure of the righteousness of God. Since it is the law of God, and is righteousness, it must be the righteousness of God. There is, indeed, no other righteousness. As we see that the law of God is the transcript of His character, it is easy to see that to fear God and keep His commandments is "the whole duty of man." (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ revealed that the commandments "Thou shalt not kill" and "Thou shalt not commit adultery" may be viewed in a more deeper way. He showed that even a look or a thought may be a violation of the law, and that it is indeed a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. The degree of morality that God requires now from Christians, is no different than that He required from His people who were called Jews. God requires the same from all men in all ages.
In this Christ did not reveal a new truth, but only brought to light and unfolded an old one. The law meant just as much when He proclaimed it from Sinai as when He expounded it on the mountain in Judea. When in tones that shook the earth, He said, "Thou shalt not kill", He meant, "Thou shalt not cherish anger in the heart; thou shalt not indulge in envy, nor strife, nor anything which is in the remotest degree akin to murder."
Take the first commandment, "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me." The apostle tells us of some "whose god is their belly." (Philippians 3:19). But gluttony and intemperance are self-murder; and so we find that the first commandment runs through the sixth.
It is clear therefore, that the day of the investigative judgment in which we are living, God will judge every secret thing, whether it be good or evil. The law of God is the standard in the judgment and it determines the quality of every act, hence the law forbids evil in thought as well as in deed. So the conclusion of the whole matter is that the commandments of God contain the whole duty of man.
The scriptures further tell us that,
"For as many as have sinned without the law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified...In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to the gospel." (Romans 2:12,13,16).
To justify means to make righteous, or to show one to be righteous. Now, it is evident that perfect obedience to a perfectly righteous law would constitute one righteous person. But for one to be judged "a doer of the law", it would be necessary that he had kept the law in its fullest measure every moment of his life. If he had come short of this, he could not be said to have done the law. It is a sad fact therefore, that there are in all the human race no doers of the law, for both Jews and Gentiles are "all under sin; as it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one." (Romans 3:9-12). In all the world, there is not one who can open his mouth, to clear himself from the charge of sin, which it brings against him. "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23).
The law, being "holy and just, and good" (Romans 7:12), cannot justify a sinner - "by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight" (Romans 3:20). In other words, a just law cannot declare that the one who violates it is innoscent. God's law will not bear false witness.
Christ said, "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all these evil things come from within, and defile the man." Mark 7:21-23. In other words, it is easier to do wrong that it is to do right; and the things which a person naturally does are evil. Evil dwells within, and is a part of the being. Therefore the apostle says, "The carnal [fleshly, natural] mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God." (Romans 8:7,8). And again, "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would." (Galatians 5:17). Since evil is a part of man's very nature, being inherited by each individual from a long line of sinful ancestors, it is very evident that whatever righteousness springs from him must be only like "filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6), compared with the spotless robe of the righteousness of God.
The impossibility of good deeds proceeding from a sinful heart is thus forcibly illustrated by the Saviour in Luke 6:43-45; "For every tree is known by his own fruit...A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil..." That is to say, a man cannot do good until he first becomes good. Therefore deeds done by a sinful person have no effect whatever to make him righteous; but, on the contrary, coming from a evil heart, they are evil, and so add to the sum of his sinfulness. Only evil can come from a evil heart, and multiplied evil cannot make one good deed; therefore it is useless for an evil person to think to become righteous by his own efforts. He must first be made righteous before he can do the good that is required of him, and which he wants to do.
How may the righteousness that is necessary, in order that one may enter the kingdom of heaven, be obtained?