believe that the giving of
the Ten Commandments is part of a progressive and preparatory
revelation of God leading to our salvation in Jesus Christ. The Ten
Commandments are found in the Bible in Exodus 20:1-17 and
All have broken
fellowship with God and are in need of salvation. From our
birth our souls are affected by the sin of our first ancestors - we
no longer "naturally" seek God, but are in need of help from above.
When we sin we are further blinded to
the truth about ourselves and about God. When we sin we loose control of
our ability to choose what is good (Romans 7:15-25) and can loose
sight that what
we are doing is wrong. We must have help from beyond ourselves to be
reunited with God. The Ten Commandments give us light by revealing to
us the perfect will of God, the way of love.
were given to the people of Israel through Moses after they came out
of slavery in Egypt. God helped the people to be freed from
political and mental slavery to the Egyptians, but this was only the
beginning. God's desire is to free His people from being
slaves to sin and to endue them with the holiness without which they
cannot see Him.
The way God gave
the Law is significant for us. The words were written on stone to
show us that they were written from the beginning on our souls (Ex
31: 18); they were broken by Moses upon seeing the peoples' failure
to uphold them as a figure of what happens to our hearts when we sin
(Exodus 32:19); and they were written a second time on stone as a
figure of what God would do in saving us (Ex 34:1 & 28).
Perhaps it is
possible, as we are led by these events, to come to some
perception of the divine concern for us. For if the divine
Apostle speaks the truth when he calls the tables (of the Law)
[2 Cor 3] that is, the foremost part of the soul,
then it is possible to learn from this that human nature was
fashioned by the divine hands and beautified with the unwritten
characters of the Law, the intention of the Law lay in our
nature in turning us away from evil and in honouring the divine.
When the sound
of sin struck our ears, that sound which the first book of
Scripture calls the "voice of the serpent," but the
history concerning the tables calls the "voice of drunken
singing, " the tables fell to the earth and were broken.
But again the true Lawgiver, of whom Moses was a type, cut the
tables of human nature for himself from our earth. It was not
marriage which produced for him his "God receiving" flesh, but
he became the stonecutter of his own flesh, which was carved by
the divine finger, "for the Holy Spirit came upon the virgin and
the power of the Most High overshadowed her." When
this took place, our nature regained its unbroken character,
becoming immortal through the letters written by his finger. The
Holy Spirit is called "finger" in many places by Scripture.
Gregory of Nyssa from The Life of Moses
Jesus shows us
that the perfect Law of God calls us to a much deeper righteousness
than the outward fulfilling of the Commandments but includes the
intentions of our heart (Sermon on the Mount - Matt 5-7). The Law is
impossible to fulfill except by the One who was without sin, Jesus
the Jewish celebration of the giving of the Law of Moses. God chose
it as the time to pour out His Spirit, to give birth to the
Church, because the Spirit makes possible the rewriting of the Law
in our hearts, restoring God's image and giving us the grace and
strength to fulfill the Law in Christ.
for keeping the Commandments is not our salvation but our love of
God, having been first saved by Him.
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments..." Jn 14:15
"If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love..." Jn 15:10
God's Purpose in giving the Ten Commandments:
Our Use of the Ten Commandments:
they are a
part of living a reflective life to be used as an aid in
preparing ourselves for confession (in private or in public
worship or privately before a priest), in seeking to grow in
holiness by helping us to see and to bring before God areas of
our life needing transformation and by encouraging us to
practice the virtue opposite to the vice being prohibited
1 "God spoke these words and said: I am the Lord your God:
shall have no other gods but me."
In the first
God says we
are to "have no other gods but Him"
He says we
are "to have Him"
What is it "to
we can think
of the marriage vows where a husband and wife promise
have and to hold" each other
God says we
can "have" Him - but just as in marriage we promise to be
faithful, so we must forsake or
give up all other gods.
We are not to "commit adultery" with other gods, in other words,
we are not to believe in, to worship, to follow or obey or to
love any spiritual or material thing as if it was God.
We are not to
worship the Creation, not to be seduced by, as we promise in our
baptism, "the world; the flesh, or the devil".
God is saying
our desire should be first and foremost to be united with Him
and all our
needs will be met (but, thankfully, not all our wants).
"Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,
these things shall be added unto you. "
If we follow
after the true God, we will become more like God when we worship and
follow and seek Him out -
more wise, righteous, just, holy, good, loving, truthful.
Having "no other
gods" includes foremost renouncing our own will - we are not to be
God, though if we worship God faithfully we will become more and
more like God and participate in the divine life.
shall not make for yourself an idol, nor the likeness of any thing
that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the water
under the earth. You shall not bow down to them, nor worship them.
For I the LORD your God am a jealous God, and visit the sins of the
fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of
those who hate me, and show mercy unto thousands of those who love
me and keep my commandments. "
Commandment is like the First Commandment by "condemning all
worship which men have invented according to their own minds."
David says in the psalms - those
who worship idols become like them.
worship an idol, we become deaf, blind, dumb in spirit:
The idols of the heathen are
silver and gold, the work of men’s hands.
They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they
They have ears, but they hear not; neither is there any breath
in their mouths.
They that make them are like unto them: so is every one that
trusteth in them.
Psalm 135:15-18 also Psalm 115:5-8
A. God is not forbidding the making of carvings or pictures, but
false worship - God is not against ART
There are many
examples in the Bible were God commands the making of art:
sanctuary is Christ, our bodies the Temple of the Spirit, yet where
we worship can be beautified with pictures and figures and
sculptures but not for worship-these things can remind us of the
stories in the Bible or of individuals who are godly examples to us.
It is just as God's Word written evokes images in our mind that lead
us to God so are images a kind of language. [the Iconoclastic
B. God is forbidding the fashioning of objects resembling creatures
to protect or to bring luck or to be worshipped.
We see examples
in Paul's day -
17:16,22-30 and 19:23-30
C. God is a jealous God
This is a way of
describing God's desire that we worship one He who is worthy of
Worshipping anything else it hurts us spiritually dividing our soul
against itself. God wants our whole hearted devotion and will
raise us to great heights. This commandment is again a call to
D God is a merciful God
"visit the sins
of the fathers upon the children unto the 3rd and 4th generation of
those who hate me"
This reminds us
of the intergenerational effect of sin e.g. alcoholism, physical and
sexual abuse often cross generations. God does not punish an
innocent offspring for the sins of a parent (see Ezekiel 18 :20) but
the impiety of a parent often leads to the destruction of the
but woe to the
parent that is responsible for leading a young one astray (Mt
"and shows mercy unto thousands of
those who love me and keep my commandments.
God shows mercy
to a thousand generations--emphasizing that His mercy far exceeds
His vengeance [Calvin]. God is calling us to offer to Him true
"You shall not take the Name of the LORD
your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that
taketh his Name in vain."
What is it to
take God's Name in vain?
A. To use His name as a swear word.
Some use God's
Name (God, Jesus Christ) when they want to emphasize how they feel,
whether anger or frustration or excitement. It becomes easier
and easier to use God's Name in this way, the person thinks it will
make no difference, and then the person doesn't even think about it
at all. It may seem like a doesn't matter much or make a
but God says it
does. What you are guilty of is taking that which is holy and
pretending it is nothing
special - yet everything connected with God is special, is holy.
And if we
try to pretend it is not we are living a lie.
When we mention
God or Jesus Christ, it should evoke in us a sense of awe and
If our heads don't bow physically at their mention, we should bow
inwardly in our hearts [Philippians 2:5-11].
Jesus taught us his prayer, the Lord's Prayer, which begins:
"Our Father, who
art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name"
"Hallowed be thy
Name", in other words, may we keep your name holy and everything
associated with you. How could we pray this prayer and then
use God's name as a swear word?
B. To use His name in prayer that is not authentic
curse our neighbour or to ask God for things that will hurt us
is to use His Name in vain.
C. To make promises that we don't keep or to make an oath that is
for example: We
might say, "I swear to God that I will do this or that" or "As God
is my witness, I am telling the truth." These sorts of oaths
are not bad, unless we break them.
Paul gives examples of this sort of
oath - Romans 1 :9; 2 Corinthians 1 :23.
But if we do
this and then lie, we have not only made ourselves untrustworthy to
others, but we have dishonoured God by our careless use of His Name,
which stands for Truth itself.
Jesus warns us
about swearing oaths in God's name, or in the name of any other
created thing -
why not simply
say "Yes", when we mean "Yes", and "No" when we mean "No". [Matthew
"Remember that you keep holy the Sabbath-day. Six days
shall you labour, and do all that you have to do; but the seventh
day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shalt do no
manner of work, you, and your son, and your daughter, your
man-servant, and your maid-servant, your cattle, and the stranger
that is within your 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 seventh day, and hallowed it."
"Remember the Sabbath day..."
Jews, the Sabbath day is Saturday, the last day of the week
Christians, the Sabbath day is Sunday, the first day of the
week, because it is the day on which Jesus was raised from the
dead. We see this celebration in Acts 20:7 when the
disciples gathered to break bread
"In it you shall do no manner of work..."
Jesus says that
we are not to take this so literally that we do harm - we are still
to do necessary work - e.g.
doctors, nurses, police
But Jesus says that "the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the
Sabbath." What he is saying is that the Sabbath day of rest is
something given to us as a gift by God for our own spiritual and
physical health and renewal. We are to cease from work, so
that we allow Him to work in us. We place ourselves more
securely in His hands so that we may continue to be formed and
shaped and created by Him. [Calvin]
If we can't take
Sunday off, we should try to make up for it by taking another day.
We are "to keep it holy..."
How do we keep
the Sabbath day holy?
In the time of
the prophets, God spoke through Isaiah [56:2] and Jeremiah
[17:21-27]and Ezekiel [20:12-13; 22:8; 23:38] and complained that
his Sabbaths were polluted -
people were worshipping other gods; the Sabbaths were not
remembered; and they were made unholy, because people did not hold
that day as any different from other days.
God does not
have a need to be worshipped by us, our worship does not add
anything to Him, but when we worship Him we are helped, it keeps us
focussed upon the One who is truly good. When we come for
worship, our faith is built up, our hope is renewed, we are reminded
and taught about love -
is about forgiveness and sacrifice (self giving).
Sabbath is also a reminder that we are not indispensible
nothing we do is
that important. It is a help in humbling us, in helping
us to keep perspective on our life - that it is from God and to be
lived to His greater glory. It is a great excuse that God
gives us not to do anything and a source of great joy. It
should be something we look forward to each week.
"Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long
in the land which
the Lord your God gives you..
on the notes from Calvin's Institutes)
What does it mean to honour?
to obey them
Colossians 3:20-21 (not blind obedience to unrighteousness)
Ephesians 6: 1-4 (obey your parents in the Lord)
disobey a mother or father to be put to death under OT
Deut 21 :
- to be
thankful to them - they have brought us into this life
- they were there for us when
couldn't care for ourselves, attending to our needs & we ought
to care for them as they become weak in later life
reminds us of our obligation of honour and gratefulness Mt
Why should we honour our parents?
response is to rebel against authority (our pride).
Following this command teaches us humility. God has willed
that we be under them - it is easiest to accept submission from
our parents, from this we learn submission to others in
authority. Submitting to governing authorities (police,
laws of the land), teachers, bosses leads us to understand
ultimately submission to God's authority over us.
"that you life may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives
contains a promise of long life
the family unit
ordered, leads to a society that is well ordered, governed
we have parents, we submit -
childishness rules over wisdom
we have bosses, we submit - otherwise nothing happens
we have governments, we submit to laws - otherwise chaos
(think of the
benefits of laws
road traffic, the organization
settled life -
Other implications of this Commandment:
There is a
call on parents to be worthy of honour and respect - do
not provoke your children to anger [Ephesians 6:4; Co13:21]
by not keeping your word, by not being just and fair, by abusing
your authority, by not turning your heart to your children
"You shall do no murder"
Bible, Calvin's Institutes, Catholic Catechism)
What Does "Murder" Include?
of this Commandment: [Matthew 5:22-23] [1 John 3:15] Includes a
from the outward
act of murder
to the inward
holding of anger in our hearts.
Physical Harm to
the body of another:
violence of all kinds directed at another
kind of physical assault
pushing, slapping, kicking... sexual assault of any kind.
Examples: abortion (except in extreme cases), euthanasia,
to another (psychological harm)
threats, intimidating others, cursing them anything that leads
them to be afraid -
tempting others to sin, especially those who are under one's
authority or who are weaker (especially children see Matthew
18:6-7, Luke 7:15)
Why Are We Forbidden to Murder (intimidate, hate,...)?
God is the
giver of life, and loves and cherishes all life
any action that limits the freedom and growth of another. When
people live in fear of another, it limits their freedom as human
beings and stunts the growth of their soul.
Just before the
flood, the whole world was filled with violence (Genesis 6:11)
Violence is the sign of the final degradation of the soul - the
opposite of giving one's life for a friend (love) is to take another
life out of self love (hate).
What Can We Do About Violence?
Look for its
source in your soul - envy, covetousness, revenge, lust for
power, frustration, injustice
at the heart
of reconciliation is forgiveness - recall God's forgiveness of
each of us, even while Christ was being tortured and was hanging
on the Cross.
kills. If anger is in us, we are to humble ourselves and put on
the Lord Jesus Christ:
then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved; compassion,
meekness, and patience, forbearing one another.
"You shall not commit adultery"
Bible, Calvin's Institutes, Catholic Catechism,...)
What Does" Adultery" Include?
Fornication: the sin of sexual intercourse outside of marriage
Incest: any sort of sexual relations within a family is strictly
forbidden (Lev 20)
sexual relations between men or between women (Lev 20)
Temptation in the form of thoughts that arise in the mind are not
sin, unless we
ourselves to dwell on those thoughts.
Why Are We Forbidden To Have Sexual Relations Outside Of Marriage?
sexual relationships within a marriage will serve to strengthen
a whole community since there are otherwise jealousies, hatreds
that arise when people have many partners, couples also find it
harder to be faithful to one another if they have had other
(many) partners before marriage.
How Can We Lesson the Power of this Temptation?
those who would be hurt by your unfaithfulness - love your vows
of fidelity in marriage, the hearts and the union that Christ is
hallowing, more than some momentary bodily pleasure
with a stranger -
within marriage (seeking grace to transform lust for your spouse
into self giving love)
another as a child of God and wanting the best for them) is the
antidote to Lust (using another person simply for what they can give
"You shall not steal"
(References: Bible, Calvin's
Institutes, Catholic Catechism)
Why Are We
Forbidden To Steal?
All things come from God and are
given to individuals for their benefit and well being but also for
the well being of others - we are only stewards of the garden
to whom much is given much will be required -
spiritual gifts given for good of
all - (Ephesians 4:7-16).
Also, the way we handle our
possessions, our material goods is a kind of test that God gives us
If we can be trusted in little
things God will trust us in big things (Lk 16:9-12) - the true
riches spoken of are spiritual - wisdom, understanding, love...
What Can We Do
Practice generosity to God
(e.g. tithing) and to others (e.g. hospitality) so that we
acquire a generous heart, not one that is stingy, grasping,
"You shall not bear false witness against
Bible, Calvin's Institutes, Catholic Catechism)
This 9th Commandment is a call for us to LIVE IN THE TRUTH
Jesus tells us
that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life - if we want to live in
Him, we must live in Truth. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of
Christ is the Spirit of Truth.
is to live our lives according to lies, deceit and falsehood.
Jesus said to
those that did not believe in Him -
"You are of your
father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do.
He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the
truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie,
he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father
How do we
Break this Commandment?
when you lie?
you even if you are telling the truth. (e.g. never cry wolf)
Paul says that, as Christians, we are to "put away lying, "Let each
of you speak truth with his neighbour", for we are members of one
another." Ephesians 4:25
The TRUTH must be spoken in LOVE
Not being a false witness, means that we are to bear witness to the
When Jesus was
being questioned by Pontius Pilot, Jesus said, "For this cause I was
born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should
bear witness to the truth." John 18:37
Let us open our
mouths to bear witness to Jesus and to His Gospel.