For the next few weeks we will be looking at the Ten Commandments.
I received an e-mail a while back, that contained the cowboy’s version of the Ten Commandments as they appear at Cross Trails Church in Fairlie, Texas:
(1) Just one God.
(2) Honor yer Ma &Pa.
(3) No telling tales or gossipin’.
(4) Git yourself to Sunday meeting.
(5) Put nothin’ before God.
(6) No foolin’ around with another fellow’s gal.
(7) No killin’.
(8) Watch yer mouth.
(9) Don’t take what ain’t yers.
(10) Don’t be hankerin’ for yer buddy’s stuff.
Of course, children have some unique perspectives on the Ten Commandments as well. For example, a Sunday school teacher was discussing the Ten Commandments with her 5 and 6 year-olds. After explaining the commandment “Honor thy Father and thy Mother,” she asked, “Is there a commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters?” Without missing a beat one little boy answered, “Thou shall not kill.”
What are the Ten Commandments? Are they law like we think of law? They don’t give any specific punishments…other than we are blessed if we follow them and cursed if we do not. They seem to be more like rules of conduct that we are supposed to abide by, or better yet, I believe they are statements of basic ethical principles that we are to live by. They were given specifically to the nation Israel, but were they only for Israel? What about the scripture that reads “we are no longer under the law”? We will talk about that in a bit.
The Christian and the Law
In the Bible there are three types of law:
A. First is Ceremonial Law – Involved sacrifices, offerings and methods of purification and cleansing typical or symbolic of the Messiah and fulfilled in the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ. Ceremonial Law had to do with those things which related directly to the Jewish religion, which was based on the sacrificial system…That is, in order to atone, or pay for their sins, the people would have to sacrifice; and their sacrifice often came with great ceremony.
A great deal of the worship of Israel was based on these sacrifices. All the rules about the Ark of the Covenant – (The Ark of the Covenant was an embodiment of God’s presence with the Israelites. The atonement cover (or “mercy seat”) that covered the ark was God’s throne (2 Sam 6:2) and God’s presence was above it (Lev 16:2); it was also the place where God met Moses and gave him commands (Ex 25:22). If someone approached the ark, they would effectively be in God’s presence – a sinner standing before a holy God who does not tolerate evil (Ps 5:4-6) – and would die as a result of their sins. For this reason, God had given the Israelites many rules concerning the Ark of the Covenant. It was to be kept in the Most Holy Place in the temple, hidden from view by a curtain (Ex 26:33). Only the high priest could enter the Most Holy Place, and then only after he had undergone ceremonial cleansing, made sacrifices to atone for his sins and the nation’s sins, and burned incense to conceal the atonement cover (Lev 16). When the ark was moved, it was covered with at least 3 layers of cloth by the priests to protect others from seeing it (Num 4:5-6, 15, 18-20); the priests/Levites carried it and everyone else had to stay about a thousand yards away (Josh 3:4). These laws enforced the concept of God’s holiness: sinful people couldn’t be in his presence, not even the high priest.) and later the rules concerning the Temple (The tabernacle was more than just a dwelling place. All the components of the tabernacle were part of an intricate visual aid to illustrate God’s relationship with His people. One aspect of this relationship was God’s requirement for complete obedience. God told Moses to create the tabernacle exactly the way He commanded. It was not to stray from God’s blueprint.” Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.” (Exodus 25:9)
To this end, God gave very specific instructions about the size of each component and the materials the Israelites were to use, as we will see in the following sections of this discussion. These seemingly cumbersome rules were not intended to burden the people, but to show God’s unquestionable authority and holiness, and emphasize that people could only come to God on God’s terms, not on their own. They had to obey reverently not only in the construction of the tabernacle, but also in the way they worshiped. Any irreverence or ritual uncleanness could result from an individual being cut off from his people or in death.) – All the Laws about the priests (Leviticus 21:5-23 “Priests must not shave their heads or shave off the edges of their beards or cut their bodies. They must be holy to their God and must not profane the name of their God. Because they present the food offerings to the Lord, the food of their God, they are to be holy. “They must not marry women defiled by prostitution or divorced from their husbands, because priests are holy to their God. Regard them as holy, because they offer up the food of your God. Consider them holy, because I the Lord am holy—I who make you holy. “If a priest’s daughter defiles herself by becoming a prostitute, she disgraces her father; she must be burned in the fire. “The high priest, the one among his brothers who has had the anointing oil poured on his head and who has been ordained to wear the priestly garments, must not let his hair become unkempt or tear his clothes. He must not enter a place where there is a dead body. He must not make himself unclean, even for his father or mother, nor leave the sanctuary of his God or desecrate it, because he has been dedicated by the anointing oil of his God. I am the Lord. “The woman he marries must be a virgin. He must not marry a widow, a divorced woman, or a woman defiled by prostitution, but only a virgin from his own people, so that he will not defile his offspring among his people. I am the Lord, who makes him holy.” The Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron: ‘For the generations to come none of your descendants who has a defect may come near to offer the food of his God. No man who has any defect may come near: no man who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed; no man with a crippled foot or hand, or who is a hunchback or a dwarf, or who has any eye defect, or who has festering or running sores or damaged testicles. No descendant of Aaron the priest who has any defect is to come near to present the food offerings to the Lord. He has a defect; he must not come near to offer the food of his God. He may eat the most holy food of his God, as well as the holy food; yet because of his defect, he must not go near the curtain or approach the altar, and so desecrate my sanctuary. I am the Lord, who makes them holy.”) – all these were based on special, specific offerings and sacrifices to God.
So what happened when Christ came and died on the cross? He was the perfect sacrifice. He paid the price not just for our sins, he paid for the sins of ALL people of ALL nations throughout ALL ages.
So what purpose would there be for ceremonial law any more? If we did something bad and decided we were going to sacrifice a goat so God would forgive us, what would we be saying about Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross? We’d be saying that Jesus’ blood on Calvary wasn’t enough to atone for my sins. “I need Jesus AND A GOAT”… “I need Jesus, and I need to “do” this or that…which is ridiculous. There is no sin that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross cannot cover. So what reason then do we have to continue with the Ceremonial Laws? There is no reason. These laws were just a shadow, just a picture of what was to come. So that, when Jesus DID come to earth and shed His blood for sin, people would UNDERSTAND what it meant. That’s the first kind of Law – the Ceremonial Law – and we no longer obey those Laws because Jesus fulfilled those Laws in Himself.
B.- Judicial or Civil Law – Regulations given to the Jews for civil government. Civil Laws provide for the day-to-day government of a nation. The civil laws were those that told you what to in cases of personal injury or property damage. Often the civil laws in the OT set down a certain punishment for a civil offense. Do we obey the Old Testament Civil Laws anymore? Well, we probably obey more of them than you think! If not the actual letter of the law, at least our laws are based on the principles behind God’s Civil and Judicial laws.We don’t stone people, our punishments are different, but we still know what is wrong and what is right based on God’s civil and judicial laws.
C. Moral Law – The Ten Commandments, are precepts that carry a universal demand. In other words, the Moral law is intended for all people at all times. Every person, every nation, every generation, for all time. The Ten Commandments don’t state certain punishments for not following them, however there are a couple that suggest a reward for following, but somehow we just know that there are “consequences”.
Now, there were three positions concerning the Law:
a. Legalism – Salvation can be earned by keeping the law…or by doing or not doing certain things…This is what the Pharisees were known for – adding rule upon rule for the people to follow.
b. Anti-nomianism – Which is a rejection of law. The denial that the law is binding on Christians today. “It does not matter if we sin, we have the blood of Christ as our atonement”…
c. Our position – Let’s call it the Christian position – Although the law is not a means to salvation; it is nevertheless, a rule of Christian conduct (Rom. 3:28-31). “Though the believer is not under the law’s condemning power, he is under its commanding power. The law does not give life; but it guides life.”
I. The Origin of the Ten Commandments –
A. In their original setting, they were designed to keep Israel pure and distinct from the surrounding nations. (God wants the same for the church today.)
B. They are a revelation of the will of God (Romans 2:18)
C. They are a revealer of sin. Romans 3:20 says that “no man will be made righteous in His sight by observing the law. Rather through the law we become conscious of sin” The law makes us aware of our sin and because of that we know that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
D. They are a restraint on evil and set a clear standard for life. They are condensed statements of how to live and relate to God and others successfully. In one sense, the rest of the Bible comments, amplifies, interprets, warns and gives historical examples of those who kept or broke them and of the consequences of blessing or curse in each case.
II. Pertinent Observations
A. The ten commandments may be summed up under two. In general, the first division is more important than the second (Matt.22:37-40).
The first four deal with our relationship toward God.
The last six deal with our relationship toward our fellow man.
Love is the common thread that links the commandments together and provides the motive to obey… This is why Jesus said “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, strength, and soul; and love your neighbor as yourself.”
- Next week we will look at Commandment #1