The 10 Commandments

Text: Exodus 20:1-21
Date: Sunday July 30, 2023


A. SIMPLE OPENING: Today, I will be speaking on the topic of the Pursuit of Holiness. What I mean by ‘The Pursuit of Holiness’ is the desire inside of a Christian to grow in their desires and affections for God. The desires inside a Christian to increasingly love God, and see their faith strengthen over time. Perhaps the simplest way to begin today is by asking a question. Do you desire greater holiness? Better yet, are there clear indications in your life, that your passions, your affections, your desires, and your wills are coming into alignment with God’s design through your faith in Jesus?‌

B. MORAL LAW: Our passage today is a familiar one, but one that I hope to breathe new life into, the Ten Commandments. There exists today great misunderstandings of the Ten Commandments, and the role they play in all people’s life. The Ten Commandments historically have been referred to as the Moral Law. The same Moral Law that is invisibly written into the heart of every human alive, because all people are made in the image of God, has also been written on tablets of stone. In this sense, a person who has never seen the Bible, knows deep down in their soul that all 10 Commandments are true and right. All questions of morality, of ethics, always find their way back to the 10 Commandments.‌

C. CONTEXT: The opening verse reminds us of the context of this.‌​Exodus 20:2 ESV“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.‌The people of God had been slaves in Egypt, but God had miraculously delivered them by a series of signs and wonders. Now as a freed people, they were wandering through the wilderness, aiming eventually to come into their own land where they would be their own nation. God took Moses, their prophet, up on top of a mountain and God wrote these ten commandments on two tablets of stone. How will this new nation be governed? ‌

‌I. The Uses of the 10 Commandments

‌Let begin by asking the question ‘What is the Purpose of the Law?’ This question can be divided into two answers. First, is ‘What is the Purpose of the Law for a Nonbeliever?’ Second, is what is the particular purpose of the law for a believer.‌

A. A NONBELIEVER: When considering the unbeliever, I love how the Westminster Confession of Faith answers this question. It is written,

‌“The moral law is of use to unregenerate men, to awaken their consciences to flee from wrath to come, and to drive them to Christ; or, upon their continuance in the estate and way of sin, to leave them inexcusable, and under the curse thereof.”

1 Awaken their Conscience: From that confession, we see at least three parts to this response. First, the Moral Law of God serves to awaken the conscience of unbelievers. When a nonbeliever sees the standard of God by which they will be judged, they are pricked in their heart and realized their sinfulness. When they see the Holy statutes of God the soul of a man cannot help but inwardly shutter at their own failings and shortcomings.‌

2 Drive them Towards Christ: Secondly, this feeling of guilt ought then drive the nonbeliever to Christ who is their only salvation from the wrath of God. The law points nonbelievers to Christ who stands ready to forgive every shortcoming of their life if they will receive Him by faith.‌

3 Leave Them Inexcusable: Lastly, the law leaves all men inexcusable on the day of their judgment. For though has been written in words and etched on stone, it was first written on the human heart. No man, no matter their religious or cultural upbringing, can flee the inward knowledge of God’s eternal law. And so when they stand on their judgment day, and receive their just penalty for their sins, they will have no excuse that they did not know.‌

A Desparate Plea: Before I consider the law’s use for a believer I want to plead with those in the room who have yet to believe on Jesus. You will stand before a Holy God, and you will give an account for your life. There will be no excuse on that day. I plead with you, from one sinner to another, believe in Jesus. Hide yourself in Christ. Receive His forgiveness before it is too late.‌

B. A BELIEVER: Secondly, let us consider the unique role of the law in a believer’s life.‌

Not a Merit System: A believer knows that they cannot earn favor with God by obeying His commands. This is not a merit system, where God loves us more or less depending on our obedience. God’s love for us was secured in full by Jesus’ death on the cross, period. No amount of obedience or saintliness can add a drop of God’s love towards you.

1 How Much We Are Bound to Christ: I suggest two special uses of the law for a believer. First, just as the nonbeliever is caused to run to Christ by examining the law, so is the believer continually encouraged to abide in Christ as they deepen their knowledge of the law. The more we know God’s justice, the more we are in awe at Jesus who has fulfilled the law on our behalf when we could not.‌

2 A Path For Godly Living: But secondly, the law reveals the path of sanctification. When you believed in Jesus, you were born again in order to live a godly life. What is godliness, but following God’s law. Not just in external action, but from the heart, from our motivations. A Christian, out of no effort to earn God’s approval, but working from a place of being fully approved by God because of Jesus, angles their life to increasingly know God’s law, submit to God’s law, and live by God’s law. It is a pathway, whereby we regularly recognize where we have gotten off track, repent, and allow the Holy Spirit to bring us back into alignment.‌

‌II. The Structure of the 10 Commandments

‌Next, I want to instruct briefly on the structure of the 10 Commandments.‌

A. LOVE FULFILLS THE LAW: The Apostle says something very important about the law in Romans 13. We read,‌

Romans 13:10 ESV Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.‌

For the Apostle, all of the laws of God are summarized under God’s vision of love. Love is the guiding principle of all of God’s laws. Not just any kind of love. Not a love defined by our own vision and by culture. But a love defined and ordered by God. For Paul, a definition of love that contradicts God’s law is not love, that would be wickedness and evil. In other words, if you love the way that God has defined love, at all times, then you will perfectly fulfill the Ten Commandments.‌

B. LOVE GOD & LOVE NEIGHBOR: During one encounter with the religious leaders of the day, he was asked which of the commandments of God was the greatest. Jesus responded by quoting two verses from the Old Testament, one from Deuteronomy 6 and the other from Leviticus 19. Jesus said,‌​

Matthew 22:37–40 ESV And he 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 neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”‌

C. TWO TABLETS: When Jesus gave these instructions he was summarizing the 10 Commandments. Love God and love neighbor. The 10 Commandments were written on two tablets of stone, by God. The first tablet contained four laws that instruct how we are to love God. The second tablet contains six laws that instruct how we are to love our neighbor. The human soul is hardwired to do both! In fact, it is impossible to properly follow the commands to love your neighbor if you are not properly following the commands to love God. True love of neighbor, flows from a true love of God.‌

‌III. A Survey of the 10 Commandments

‌Let us now turn and examine the 10 Commandments. Time forbids us from examining in too great of depth of each of these commands, but let us take a survey of them together.‌

A. NO OTHER GODS: The first commandment states that we are to have no other Gods before Yhwh, the God of the Bible. For truly no other God exists. The language is such that we are to not permit any other God in his presence. The people of God are not Universalists, who believe that all faiths generally run in the same direction. God is not a toy to be trifled with. He is who He is. He will not be misrepresented. And we are taught that we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strengh. We are to have a Godward vision of life that saturates all of us.‌

B. NO IDOLS: The second commandment is that we shall not make any image of God nor worship any images. ‌

Directly: This commandment is distinct from the first commandment, as this regulates the proper form of our worship. The first commandment tells us who to worship. The second commandment structures how we are to worship. Particularly we are not to make idols or images of God for the purpose of worship. Some, especially in the tradition that I teach from, believe even further that this includes no images of Jesus Christ whatsoever. That would include nativity scenes, and children books, or movies and TV shows. I am undecided on that, as I believe there is a strong case to make from the text for that level of rigor, though I am not certian yet.‌

Why No Images: Why, no images of God? Any time you make an image of God, you are selecting particular qualities of God that you most like, and rejecting particular qualities of God that you reject. So a tv show may present Jesus as loving and compassionate, but fail to present him as just and righteous. An image may capture God’s wrath, but fail to capture his mercy. God will be worshiped as he is, not as we want him to be.‌

Idols of the Heart: Additionally, as we have taught many times in this Church, this commandment prohibits all forms of idols in our life. Anything that we love more, or enjoy more, than God, has become an idol. Even good things can be come idols if they are misplaced in our life. Children can become an idol if we love them more than we love God. Jobs can become an idol if we pursue it with more zeal than we pursue God. John Calvin once said that the human heart is an idol factory, and he wasn’t wrong. ‌

C. LORD’S NAME IN VAIN: The third commandment is that we are not to use the Lord’s name in vain. ‌

Directly: Directly we are not to curse or make light of the name of God as if he were nothing more than a piece of garbage. We are to honor God’s name, respect it, and elevate it. In fact, the old teachers of the Bible used to teach that even to hear the Lord’s name taken in vain ought to stir you to righteous indignation. How many times do we hear it taken on TV or in our surroundings, and we feel nothing.‌

Our Lives: Secondly, this statue oversees our lives and lifestyles. We are not to say that we are Christians and then live lives that are unbecoming of Christ, for that would be to take the Lord’s name in vain. It would be to assume the title, ‘Christ-one’ but to not honor him with your life.‌

D. SABBATH: The fourth commandment is to keep the Sabbath. Particularly this has reference to one day a week in which we rest and worship God with increased diligence. On this day we are to do no labor that is part of our regular routine. We are to disrupt our regular routine, to focus on God, on our family, and on our Church.‌

Most Often Ignored: This commandment of God’s is the most often ignored, and I will never understand why. God has only given us ten commandments, and many when I ask them if they are keeping a true Sabbath, they lightly explain that they don’t really do so. That is a serious thing. To know God’s command, and to take it lightly reveals that something is out of order in our life.‌

Exceptions: Even Jesus taught that there are exceptions to the Sabbath, as he talked about a man rescuing one of his sheep if it has fallen into a well on the Sabbath. From time to time, I must disrupt my Sabbath in order to take care of something important in the life of our Church, usually if one of our members i suffering in some unique way. But those times are rare. I guard my Sabbath. ‌

Costly: Lastly, keeping a Sabbath is Costly, especially in today’s careers. Your non Christian peers will work seven days a week. And that level of productivity may get them promotions that you will not get, maybe. What do you love more, honoring God, or your promotion?‌

E. HONOR YOUR PARENTS: The fifth commandment, and the first about how we are to treat each other is that we are to honor our parents.‌

Directly: Again, there are direct and indirect applications to this. We are to care for and love our parents as best as we are able. We must avoid speaking irreverantly about our parents even when they make mistakes. As our parents age, we must do all we can to take care of them, and provide for them as they have provided for us. For young children, they are not independent of their parents. They are not to break their parents rules.‌

God Over Parents: What about circumstances where a parent is asking you to do something that dishonors God? Jesus spoke about this in Luke 14:26,‌​

Luke 14:26 ESV “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.‌

Jesus is not teaching us to hate our parents as we would think about hating parents, for that would be to disobey the fifth commandment. The semantics of this verse reveal that he is teaching that we must love God even more than our parents, and be willing to disobey our parents in order to follow God if need be.‌

Indirectly: Indirectly, this verse speaks to all authority. Underneath this law is where we find other laws of God, such as honoring governors and those with authority over us. We find laws that instruct us not to move ancient and historical markers, for that would be to dishonor our fathers who went before us. Certain patriotic responsibilities are underneath this heading.‌

F. DO NOT KILL: The sixth commandment is that we must not kill. ‌

Directly: What is specifically prohibited here is a pre-meditated murder as a civilian. This does not speak to a government’s responsibility to use capitol punishment against evildoers, as is clearly taught in Scripture. It also does not speak of a soldier’s responsibility to kill in war. This law prohibits planned murder.‌

Jesus: But of course Jesus taught us the true depth of this law.‌​

Matthew 5:21–22 ESV “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 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.‌

Consider Christ’s words. Jesus takes the law and reveals how deep this law goes. It’s not just the murder that makes us guilty before a holy God. It’s the heart condition that murder flows out of, that is sinful too, and that makes us guilty. Anger. Insulting a brother. God did not design us for anger towards one another.‌

G. DON’T COMMIT ADULTERY: The seventh commandment forbids committing adultery and all of its various kinds. All fornication is included underneath this law (that is sex and sexual activity outside of marriage), things like incest, rape, homosexuality, polygamy, and so on. Underneath this category we would include the viewing of pornography or explicit material in films. All sexual activity outside of God’s design for sex between one man and one woman is sin, and is included here underneath this law. ‌Jesus: But again, Jesus shows us that far more than simply the will is considered here.‌​

Matthew 5:27–28 ESV “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.‌

Again, this is how we are to treat each other. All sexual desire or lust towards a person outside of you husband or wife is lust, and punishable by everlasting death underneath by God’s law. Even the first motions of the our heart, before we entertain it with our mind, reveals the corruption that is within and will be held accountable.‌

H. DO NOT STEAL: The eighth commandment all theft and its various kinds are prohibited. When I speak of various kinds I refer to deceitful actions towards another person, fraudulent actions. Anytime someone overreaches in a contract, slightly adjusts the measures and weights in their own favor, makes a person guilty of theft. This includes actions such as using your advantage over someone in poverty to pressure someone to give up more in a contract than is fair. The Reformers would consider such action as being lazy at work theft for you are being paid by someone fraudulently.‌

Positively: I could have done this for each of the prohibitions above, but consider the virtues that are commended in this precept. Contentedness in one’s lot. Willingness to live by one’s own honest labor. Frugality in one’s lifestyle. Sincerity and justice in our dealings and contracts. Liberality towards the poor.‌

I DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS: The ninth commandment instructs us not to bear false witness, which covers all the various kinds of lies we might think or speak. Our neighbors are not to be injured by our word.‌

Indirectly: This of course covers all sorts of speaking falsely. Lying, Gossiping, Boasting, Exaggerating the truth, positioning a discussion to leave out important details in order to benefit your case. The law forbid from acting impartially towards the rich or towards the poor. We are to be honest and fair to all people in all cases.‌

J. DO NOT COVET: Lastly, the most condemning of all, we are not to covet. This tenth commandment covers all types of thought and desire. Simply, we are not to desire what God has not allotted to us. We are not to desire someone’s spouse, or property, or goods in any kind.‌

Positively: From a positive perspective we are to be content with what we have. Joyful at God’s sovereignty over our lives. Whether that be much or little, whether that has a future with far more or a future with far less, let God be God. We must not have a desire for that which is not ours. This truly is a majestic law that governs our mind and how we think.‌

‌IV. Reflection on the Law

‌I would like to close today by briefly reflecting on what this all means for a believer and why this is so important. Recall the opening question, ‘How do I grow in my holiness?’ A significant part of that answer, is that we push into our faith daily, we depend on the Spirit to align our life to God’s Holy Law.‌

A. LACK OF BATTLE CONCERNING: The great concern for me, and why this sermon is so important, is that modern Christians are busy every day breaking various commands of God with not a care in the world. It’s one thing to know that you are not as concerned with hearing the Lord’s name taken in vain as you ought to be, and to be in a battle asking God to transform your heart. It’s another entirely to be careless about it, or worse yet to laugh at it in films. It’s one thing to know you are grieving the Spirit by not taking a Sabbath, and to be asking God to grow you and develop. It’s another entirely to know God’s law, and to be content with breaking it. It’s the lack of battle that concerns me! It’s one thing to know your harboring anger towards a brother and to be asking God to rid you of a murderous heart, it’s another to just accept it, with no grieving over the condition of your soul.‌

James 2:10 ESV For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.‌Something towards the nonbeliever here...‌

B. THE GOSPEL: And if you discover weakness in your flesh today in this room, run to Jesus. Let your weakness and inability to live up to the law of God perfectly cause you to flee to Jesus for refuge. May your weakness not cause fear, but may it make the the Gospel so much sweet, as you truly behold the depth of what Christ had to forgive. As the Puritan Walter Marshall again says it this way:

‌“The ten commandments bind us still… to shew [us] what duties are holy, just and good, well-pleasing to God, and to be a rule for our conversation. The result of all is, that we must still practice moral duties, as commanded by Moses; but we must not seek to be justified by our practice.”

‌Do you see, the law, which outside of Christ once stood condemning us, revealing to us our sin and weakness, not has a completely different role. Now that we have been saved by Jesus and his death on the cross, we no longer fear the law and its judgment over us. We know we will never live up to it. Rather, it now becomes a guide to lead our thoughts, and heart, and willful choices towards great obedience of God. The Christian desparately wants to all of themselves into conformity with God’s moral law. Anywhere where we recognize forbidden lusts or desires, immoral speaking, or sinful actions revealed in us, we both simultaneously leap for joy that we have a savior who has forgiven us for all of our sin. And then we push into our faith, and ask the Holy Spirit to change us from the inside out and make us more like Christ.


‌Close with a Pastoral Prayer and invite towards repentance.

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