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#1 The Ten Commandments

Gold from God

Jan 9, 2022


by: Jack Lash Series: Gold from God | Category: God's Law | Scripture: Exodus 20:1–20:17

I. Introduction
A. And as I contemplate the end of my preaching ministry here at GPC, I want to cover some of the Bible’s most well-known passages. And so that’s what we’ll do the next eight weeks.
1. I don’t mean the most popular or most-loved passages in the Bible, but passages which the Bible itself draws special attention to.
a. The Ten Commandments
b. The Shema Israel
c. The Beatitudes
d. The Lord’s Prayer
e. The Greatest Commandment
f. The New Commandment
g. The Great Commission
h. The Institution of the Lord’s Supper
B. Today, we will talk about the ten commandments on two tablets, apparently the first part of Scripture ever put into written form.
C. Exodus 20:1–17 And God spoke all these words, saying, 2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. 7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. 8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. 12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. 13 “You shall not murder. 14 “You shall not commit adultery. 15 “You shall not steal. 16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
II. Observations
A. The ten commandments are Jewish.
1. 2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
2. Just as the messiah of God came through the Jews (in the person of Jesus), so did the law of God.
3. It was given to Israel at Mt.Sinai just after God delivered them from Egypt through the Red Sea.
4. I mean, think about how unlikely this is! An obscure tribe of Egyptian slaves rushes into the desert to hide from its pursuers, and then emerges forty years later with a law code summarized in ten brief commands, ten commandments which are the most influential moral code in the history of the world, and still have a profound effect today, over three thousand years later.
5. This can only be explained by the very first phrase in Exod.20:1, “God spoke all these words.”
III. We know some laws of the OT continue into the NT and some don’t – at least not in the same way. Are the ten commandments still binding on NT believers? Let’s look at the facts:
A. The first thing is that the 10 commandments are clearly special.
1. The Jewish rabbis tell us that there are 613 commands in the OT law. But the ten commandments are not just ten out of the 613. They are exceptional and set apart from all the others.
2. Spoken by God’s own voice out of heaven – Exod. 20:1; Deut. 5:22.
3. The giving of them was accompanied by extraordinary signs: flashing flames, the quaking mountain, loud blasts of the trumpet, thunder, thick darkness, a loud voice (Deut.5:22-27).
4. Written by God’s own finger on tablets (twice) -Exod. 34:1; Deut. 10:4
5. Written in stone – Not many things get written in stone. They are definitely meant to last.
6. Kept in the Ark of the Covenant – Exod.40:20, Heb.9:4
7. Given twice – Exod.20, then repeated by Moses almost word for word in Deut.5.
B. Each of the ten is clearly and specifically reaffirmed in the NT — except the Sabbath law, and we’ll get to that in a moment.
C. Whenever the 10 commandments are referred to in the NT epistles, they are cited as authoritative and binding. It is never implied that any of them have ceased.
1. Romans 13:8–9 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery (7), You shall not murder (6), You shall not steal (8), You shall not covet (10),” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
2. 1Timothy 1:8–13 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers (5), for murderers (6), 10 the sexually immoral (7), men who practice homosexuality (7), enslavers (8), liars (9), perjurers (9), and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.
3. James 2:10-11 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery (7),” also said, “Do not murder (6).” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.
4. Eph.6:1-3 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother (5)” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”
D. That brings us to how the ten commandments were handled by Jesus Himself.
1. Jesus also treated the ten commandments as if they were still in force.
a. Mark 10:17–20 As Jesus was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him...19 “You know the commandments: Do not murder (6), Do not commit adultery (7), Do not steal (8), Do not bear false witness (9), Do not defraud (9), Honor your father and mother (5)” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.”
2. Jesus asserted authority over the ten commandments: You’ve heard it said, but I say to you!
a. Matt.5:21-22 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.
b. Matt.5:27-28 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
c. His hearers were amazed at His authority.
(1) Matthew 7:28–29 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.
(2) Mark 1:22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.
(3) Luke 4:31-32 And he was teaching them on the Sabbath, 32 and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority.
3. That brings us to three stories of Jesus which seem to be based on the ten commandments.
a. Sermon on the Mount – Matt.5-7
(1) Here it seems clear that Jesus is acting like a new Moses.
(2) Why a reference to the mountain?
(3) And the main part of this new law He delivers is the Beatitudes, which bear a similarity to the ten commandments. But they were also very different than the OT law.
(4) And when He finishes the Beatitudes, it may well have provoked the question of whether He was claiming to undo the law of Moses and institute a new law. So, He adds this:
(5) Matthew 5:17-19 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 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. 19 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.”
b. And then just as Moses gave the ten commandments a second time in Deuteronomy, Jesus gives His sermon on the Plain – with very similar Beatitudes (Luke 6:17-49). If this isn’t supposed to imitate Moses, why a reference to the plain? Luke 6:17
c. Transfiguration in Matt.17:1-8
(1) Mountain
(2) Cloud descends over the mt.
(3) A voice from the cloud
(4) Face radiates
(5) Fear strikes the observers
(6) Both Moses and Elijah had spoken to God on Mt. Sinai – and they were the only ones.
(7) The point is that on the Mt. of Transfiguration, Jesus seems again to imitate Moses, only this time Moses himself accompanies Him, implying support for what He is doing.
(8) Now in Deut.18:15-19, God told the people through Moses, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen... 18 I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.
(9) And now on the Mt. of Transfiguration, with Moses & Elijah standing by, God speaks out of the cloud and says, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” – Matthew 17:5
4. So, we see on the one hand that Jesus reaffirms and stands by the ten commandments, but also that He asserts authority over the ten commandments, and over Moses, through whom they were given.
E. And that brings us to the question of the Sabbath, the only commandment of the ten in dispute, and pretty much the sole reason for the debate about the enduring nature of the ten commandments. How can we evaluate this question of whether the fourth commandment still applies to us?
1. On the negative side:
a. Never specifically reaffirmed in the NT.
b. Verses which seem to suggest it no longer applies: Romans 14:5; Gal. 4:10; Colossians 2:16-17.
c. The church kept not the seventh day (Exod.20:10), but the first day as its sabbath.
2. On the positive side:
a. Its place in the ten commandments. The sabbath is never mentioned as an exception in these NT passages (above) when referring to the commandments as a whole.
b. The Sabbath is a creation ordinance – Gen.2:3. God Himself does it first as an example to man.
c. Ex.16:22-30 They are already keeping it before Sinai (without explanation).
d. (These are important because most who argue that the Sabbath is no longer valid usually claim that it was a part of the ceremonial law instituted at Sinai which has now passed away.)
3. Unlike the other parts of the law of Moses which are set aside in the NT, nowhere is the fourth commandment explicitly set aside. But there are several verses which might seem to do so. So, let’s talk about them.
a. Col.2:16 Do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
b. Gal.4:9-11 How can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world...? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years! 11 I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.
c. Rom 14:5 “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.”
4. These three seem to all be talking about the same thing. (The idea that Rom.14:5 is talking about the same issue as Col. 2:16-17 seems evident from the fact that both connect special days with food regulations.)
5. Let me explain what I think is going on here.
a. When Moses sets up the sacrificial system of the law, there are three levels: there are weekly sacrifices on the sabbath day, monthly sacrifices at the new moon, and seasonal sacrifices at the various festivals (Numbers 10:10; 28:9–29:2). And throughout the OT, this formula, Sabbaths, new moons, and feast days, came to be used as a shorthand way of referring to the sacrificial calendar.
(1) 1Chronicles 23:31 whenever burnt offerings were offered to the LORD on Sabbaths, new moons, and feast days, according to the number required of them, regularly before the LORD.
(2) 2Chronicles 2:4 Behold, I am about to build a house for the name of the LORD my God and dedicate it to him for the burning of incense of sweet spices before him, and for the regular arrangement of the showbread, and for burnt offerings morning and evening, on the Sabbaths and the new moons and the appointed feasts of the LORD our God, as ordained forever for Israel.
(3) 2Chronicles 31:3 The contribution of the king from his own possessions was for the burnt offerings: the burnt offerings of morning and evening, and the burnt offerings for the Sabbaths, the new moons, and the appointed feasts, as it is written in the Law of the LORD.
(4) Ezekiel 45:17 It shall be the prince’s duty to furnish the burnt offerings, grain offerings, and drink offerings, at the feasts, the new moons, and the Sabbaths, all the appointed feasts of the house of Israel: he shall provide the sin offerings, grain offerings, burnt offerings, and peace offerings, to make atonement on behalf of the house of Israel.
(5) Nehemiah 10:33 for the showbread, the regular grain offering, the regular burnt offering, the Sabbaths, the new moons, the appointed feasts, the holy things, and the sin offerings to make atonement for Israel, and for all the work of the house of our God.
b. This expression is never used in any other way.
6. So, when Paul uses this same language in his epistles, it doesn’t seem like he’s talking about the fourth commandment. He’s talking about the sacrificial calendar, which did pass away in Christ, and was no longer binding on believers in the NT.
7. So, it seems to me that these verses aren’t meant to nullify the fourth commandment. (In fact, the Sabbath was not just for the people of Israel. It was the only holy day which was to be imposed even upon outsiders in Israel.)
8. Remember when we saw that Jesus asserted authority over the law and supremacy over Moses? Well, this is especially true when it comes to the sabbath law.
a. In Matthew 12:8 Jesus claimed that He was “lord of the Sabbath” (cf. Luke 6:5; Mark 2:28), a strange thing to say if the sabbath was being abolished along with the ceremonial law.
(1) It is as if the point He wants to make is that He is in charge of the Sabbath because He wanted to change it somehow, not that He wants to abolish the Sabbath.
(2) Maybe it’s not so surprising that the church went forward celebrating the Lord’s day
b. And yet in Mark 2:27 He said, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath."
(1) Why would Jesus say that the Sabbath was made for man, thereby implying that man needs the Sabbath, while He was in the process of stopping it?
IV. Application
A. We are people under the law of Christ.
1. We have been given instructions and guidance by our Lord. We operate by a different set of principles. We are supposed to look different. We will inevitably be thought of as weird at best, and despicable at worst.
2. 1Corinthians 9:20–21 To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.
a. Is the law of Christ different than the law of God? Yes and no.
b. The moral law of God continues, but it is also transformed in Christ.
B. The law of Christ is a law of freedom and grace.
1. 1John 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
2. James 1:25 and 2:12 refer to the law of Christ as the law of liberty.
C. Morality is based on spirituality. The two go together.
1. What other basis for morality could there be?
2. Proverbs 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.
3. The fear of the Lord is the foundation of living rightly.
4. Without the fear of the Lord, any system of morality is empty.
5. Josephus pointed this out: “Whereas other law-givers had made religion a department of virtue, Moses made virtue a department of religion.”
6. Morality begins with, Have no other gods before the LORD your God, who brought Israel out of the land of Egypt.
7. The ten words spring from the first word: “You shall have no other gods before Me.”
8. These laws go way beyond our duty toward others. They are a description of how to live in allegiance to God, not as independent, self-sufficient individuals, but living lives under God, depending on Him, serving Him, honoring Him in the way we live.
9. Whatever you do – eating or drinking or anything else – do all for the glory of God. – 1Cor.10:31.
10. 1 He must be given preeminence over everything else.
a. 2 Your worship must be addressed directly and only to Him.
b. 3 Your speech must be honoring to Him.
c. 4 Your calendar must be structured around Him.
d. 5 Your family relationships are to be lived out in light of the One who gave them to you.
e. 6 The way you treat other people’s lives must be in line with God’s will.
f. 7 The way you handle your own sexuality must be in line with His will.
g. 8 The way you treat other people’s possessions must be in line with His love.
h. 9 The way you speak about others must be in line with His love and truth.
i. 10 Even your desires must be in conformity with His will and in trust of His goodness.
11. Our society’s rejection of the ten commandments does not represent a shift of morality so much as a shift of religion.
D. We find the gospel embedded in the ten commandments.
1. God saves Israel, then commands them, not the other way around.
a. Before the commandments in Exod.20, there is Exodus 19:6 “You shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (See 1Pet.2:9.)
b. His salvation is the ground of human obedience, not the result of it.
c. Or to put it the other way around, obedience is the result of salvation, not the cause of salvation.
d. Christian obedience is not an attempt to gain the favor of God. It is the expression of gratitude for the undeserved favor of God. God gives before He asks us to give. God opens His heart to us before He asks us to open our hearts to Him.
2. All of our doing is only because of what he has first done for us. – Kevin DeYoung
3. This is extremely important! The Pharisees were zealous about the ten commandments.
a. It’s not enough to be zealous for the law! It’s not enough to be zealous for morality!
E. The ten commandments show us our need for Jesus. But they also show us Jesus. They are actually messianic.
1. They teach us not only what we’re supposed to be like, they teach us what He is like.
F. Recommend book by Edmund Clowney, How Jesus Transforms the Ten Commandments