The Giving of the Commandments
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Exodus, chapter 20. We want to consider together the law of God. In chapter 19, which gives us the background and the setting for the law of God, we have learned that the setting for the giving of the law was one of mercy and of grace and of love. We want to re-emphasize that, because we believe that an understanding of the law of God in its right perspective is most important. There is such a great deal of misunderstanding about the so-called Ten Commandments. I would like for us to learn now what we can about them so that we will be able to put them in their right perspective.

Extremes In Teaching

I am sure you are aware that there are extremes in relation to the teaching of the Ten Commandments as there are in relation to other vital truths. For example, there is one extreme that wants to abrogate the law of God completely and says that the law of God has absolutely no bearing and no relationship to people today. Then there is the other extreme that wishes to impose the law of God on everybody as a rule of life and insists that people do not observe this law as a rule of life. I believe there is a middle-of-the-road position taught in the Word of God, and I think we can find it. Let us look at chapter 20 and refresh our minds as to what we are talking about when we speak of the law of God, the Ten Commandments:

Exodus 20

1And God spake all these words, saying,
2I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

I want to pause just long enough to make mention of a thing which we are not going to dwell on now; we will be talking about it more later. I want you to notice that the preface to the law of God is the story of redemption. Will you keep that in mind? Before God talks about the law, He talks about redemption. Then He says in verse 3:

Exodus 20

3Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
4Thou 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.
5Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
6And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
7Thou 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.
8Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
10But 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 the gates:
11For 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.
12Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
13Thou shalt not kill.
14Thou shalt not commit adultery.
15Thou shalt not steal.
16Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
17Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's.

Thus comes to an end the reading of what we commonly refer to as the Ten Commandments. They are referred to also as the Decalogue, and it would be wise for you to get that word into your vocabulary if you do not already have it. They are referred to also as the Ten Words; of course there are more than ten words, but the suggestion is that each commandment is the Word of God. These are the ways in which commentators speak of them. They are referred to in the Word of God as the Covenant, and they are referred to in the Word of God as the Testimony. If you will become familiar with those words, you will be able to discern what the meaning of the Ten Commandments actually is.

Written In Men's Hearts

The first thing I would like for us to get clear in our hearts and in our minds is that this was not the first time the Ten Commandments were given. Will you keep that in mind? Because we read in the Word of God about the introduction of the law, immediately we assume that the law was introduced in the days of Moses. That is not true. I am going to show you why in a moment. Moses gathered together these Ten Commandments in one complete unit, and thus from a human standpoint he is given credit for writing the law. I am going to show you from the Word of God that these Ten Commandments were written somewhere else before they were written on tables of stone. I want you to see that because I want you to see that the Ten Commandments did not belong exclusively to Moses, nor did they belong exclusively to the nation of Israel as some are prone to think.

Turn with me, please, to the book of Romans, chapter 2. This chapter describes the condition of man–not the condition of the Israelites, not the condition of the Jew, but the condition of any member of the human race–whether he be Jew or Gentile. The chapter begins with the words:

Romans 2

1Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.
2But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things.
3And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?
4Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?
5But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath of revelation of the righteous judgment of God;
6Who will render to every man according to his deeds:
7To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:
8But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrightouesness, indignation and wrath,
9Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil [not notice] of the Jew first and also of the Gentile;
10But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:
11For there is no respect of persons with God.
12[Now notice] For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;
13(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.
14[Notice this] For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:
15[Notice carefully] Which shew the works of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)
16In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.

Notice verse 15. The Gentiles, we are told–not the people who were there when Moses came down from the mountain and presented the Ten Commandments–have this written in their hearts, which simply means that God gave the law long before He gave it to Moses. Moses gathered it together and made a group of ten out of it, so that we have what are known as the Ten Commandments.

Stated In Principle Prior to Moses

Let's go back to chapter 20 of the book of Exodus as I anticipate a question that may be in the minds of a number of you, and that is, “What difference does it make? What difference does it make whether the law was given the first time in chapter 20 of the book of Exodus, or whether it was given before that?” The point is that we are answering the question that is in the minds of some: “Is the law related only to the nation of Israel, or does it apply to every human being?”

I would like to show you, as we go over these commandments one by one, how they were stated in principle as laws to be obeyed long before they were given to Moses as the Ten Commandments. Notice the first commandment:

Exodus 20

3Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
4Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven 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.

Idolatry Forbidden

You will remember that back in chapter 11 of the book of Genesis God put a stop to one of the greatest idolatrous movements this world has ever seen. He laid down a law: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing in heaven above, or in earth beneath.” You will remember that the people gathered together at the tower of Babel, and they said:

Genesis 11

4And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.

You will remember that I have told you that the words “may reach” are not in the original text, as is indicated by the fact that they are in italics, and the suggestion is not that these people made a great high tower that they expected to reach to Heaven. The suggestion is that they built a tower the top of which they inscribed with heavenly images and heavenly symbols. God said, “We have got to stop that.” When He said, “We have got to stop that,” He denounced idolatry. So idolatry was mentioned as being forbidden even in the book of Genesis as the nations of the world were just beginning.

Turn, please, to chapter 35 of the book of Genesis:

Genesis 35

1And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother.
2Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods [idols] that are among you, and be clean and change your garments:
3And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went.

Idolatry once again was condemned long before this first commandment was given to Moses.

Taking God's Name In Vain Forbidden

Now will you notice verse 7:

Exodus 20

7Thou 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.

All too often we are prone to think that this commandment refers only to profanity. I want to suggest to you that this is only a meager interpretation of it. The interpretation that includes all that God has wrapped up in this commandment concerns the matter of taking the name of God upon you and then living such a life that the name of God is blasphemed because of the careless life you live. God condemns that. Here Moses took it and put it in a few compact words: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” But if you were to go back to chapter 20 of the book of Genesis, you would find the story of Abimelech, king of Egypt, and Abraham, the leader of Israel; you would find in that chapter that Abraham took the name of God in vain, and when he did, God condemned the whole situation. So you see there was an emphasis placed upon this commandment even before Moses wrote it down in what we call the Ten Commandments.

Keeping the Sabbath Day

Notice again in chapter 20 of the book of Exodus, verse 8:

Exodus 29

8Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
10But 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:
11For 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.

Turn back, please, to the book of Genesis, chapter 2, to notice the establishment of this fourth commandment for the first time. As we turn back to this portion of the Word, let me say something because it may be in your minds; as I said, we will be dealing with each commandment in detail later. This is a commandment related to the seventh day, not to the first day. We have a very bad habit of speaking of the first day of the week as the Sabbath day, and that is not correct. The first day of the week is not the Sabbath day. The seventh day is the Sabbath day, and that is the day which God hallowed and upon which God rested.

If you are familiar with the teaching of Seventh Day Adventists, you know that one thing which they object to all Christendom's doing is saying that the seventh day was changed to into the first day; they say that there is not a passage of Scripture anywhere which says the seventh day was changed into the first day, and they are exactly right. We want you to keep that in mind without any further discussion. We read in verse 1:

Genesis 2

1Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
2And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all the work which he had made.
3And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it [or hallowed it]: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

Here we have an announcement concerning the Sabbath day as a holy day long before the Ten Commandments as such were given to Moses.

Honoring Father and Mother

Now, back to chapter 20, and notice verse 12:

Exodus 20

12Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

This commandment is fifth in number, but if we look at the examples that were given to us in the book of Genesis concerning Jacob and concerning Joseph, we see that God had already given this commandment concerning honoring father and mother. So this is not the first time God said, “Honor thy father and thy mother.”

The thing that I want you to see is that the people who lived and died before Sinai had the law. They had these principles by which they were to live, because these are principles that govern the whole human race.

Killing Forbidden

In verse 13 you will notice:

Exodus 20

13Thou shalt not kill.

Here is a commandment. It is wrong to kill. Was this the first time it became wrong to kill, or was it always wrong to kill? Well, you remember what happened to Cain and Abel. You remember that Cain slew Abel, and immediately God said to Cain, “Where is Abel thy brother?” Abel said, “Am I my brother's keeper?” God said, “Thy brother's blood crieth to Me from the ground,” and God punished the murder of Abel by Cain.

Also, in chapter 9 of the book of Genesis, when the covenant with Noah was established, several provisions were made, and one of the provisions of that covenant prohibited murder:

Genesis 9

5Surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man.
6[Now notice this] Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God made he man.

This is a definite statement concerning the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” and it was given long before Moses went upon Mount Sinai. Incidentally, I would like to emphasize what we discussed in some detail when we were studying the book of Genesis; it is that all of these movements for the abolishment of capital punishment should be considered in the light of this passage of Scripture. You should not be swamped and overwhelmed by all the pleas for the abolishment of capital punishment. If you were to vote to abolish capital punishment, you would be voting contrary to the Word of God; all the statements that are made about how uncivilized it is, how heathenish it is, are contrary to what God said. God established capital punishment, and it should be maintained for the best interests of our society.

Committing Adultery Forbidden

Now, going back to Exodus, chapter 20, you will notice verse 14:

Exodus 20

14Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Here is a law, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Was it all right to commit adultery before Moses gave this law? Are we to think that men could do what they wished about this matter until Moses gave them this law? Not at all. Keep in mind that Moses gathered the laws together in what we call the Ten Commandments as God gave them to him again on Mount Sinai. You will remember that in chapter 3 of the book of Genesis, when God created a wife for Adam, He established the law of one woman to one man, and He said in that chapter that any other procedure was adultery. The Lord Jesus Christ, when He was discussing the subject of divorce in chapter 18 of the Gospel of Matthew, mentioned a writing of divorcement that Moses permitted in order to alleviate some of the ills that were transpiring in the nation of Israel, and then He said, “But from the beginning it was not so.” He quoted this law, not from chapter 20 of the book of Exodus, but from chapter 3 of the book of Genesis. So the law related to adultery was established long before the law was given to Moses on Mount Sinai.

Stealing and Lying Forbidden

Verse 15 of Exodus, chapter 29 says:

Exodus 20

15Thou shalt not steal.

Read again the story of the brethren of Joseph on their way to Egypt and on the return trip home, and find out what happened when the money that should have been paid for the grain they had purchased in Egypt was found in their sacks. It was wrong to steal then as it was wrong at Sinai and as it is wrong now. Then you will notice in verse 16:

Exodus 20

16Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

This commandment is usually summed up in one word–lying, meaning being economical with the truth, not stating things as they actually are. Was this the first time that it became wrong to lie? Was it all right to lie before Moses received the law on Mount Sinai? The first sin that was committed, the first sin that was committed in the world, was not disobedience. It was lying.

If I were to ask you without any warning, “What was the first sin that was committed?”, I daresay that most of you, if not all of you, would say, “Disobedience–when Even disobeyed God and ate of the forbidden fruit, the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” But that was not the first sin. The first sin was lying when the Devil came to Eve and suggested that God was being too strict in relation to the Garden of Eden, and Eve fell right into his plan and said, “Yes, God has said that we shall not even touch the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” God had not said anything about that. If you read the record carefully, you will find that Eve told a lie right to begin with; part of the expulsion from the Garden of Eden was related to this original sin: “Thou shalt not lie.”

Covetousness Forbidden

Now, verse 17 of Exodus, chapter 20:

Exodus 20

17Thou shalt now covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.

There is an illustration of the sin of covetousness in relation to Isaac and Abimelech in the land of Egypt.

So you see from these brief references to these passages in the Old Testament that what Paul said in Romans, chapter 2, verse 15, is true. People had the law written in their hearts long before the law was written on tables of stone. The importance of such a suggestion is that the law does not belong solely to the nation of Israel; it is erroneous to think that the law had no bearing upon anyone but the Israelites. That is what some folk will tell you, but you can see that the law was given long before it was given to Moses on Mount Sinai.

Ten Commandments Related to Christians

Now we want to look at the other side of the question. People will tell you that those of us who live on this side of the Cross have absolutely no relation to the law at all, that the law has no relation to us. I think the way properly to understand that would be to understand what the New Testament has to say about the law, the Ten Commandments.

Turn with me to the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 22, as I suggest to you what will be the result of our little journey through the New Testament–namely, that every one of the Commandments is repeated in principle in the New Testament as the fruit of a Spirit-filled life with the exception of the Commandment related to the Sabbath day. The only commandment not repeated in the New Testament is the commandment related to the Sabbath day. Every other one is repeated as being related to a Spirit-filled life, as we shall see in just a moment.

Turn to Matthew, chapter 22, and notice verse 34:

Matthew 22

34But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together.
35Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,
36Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38This is the first and great commandment.
39And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Love Fulfills the Law

Here the Lord Jesus Christ related the Ten Commandments to one word, and that one word is “love.” If love is properly produced in our lives, we will have no trouble with the Ten Commandments, so-called. The Apostle Paul takes up that same thought, if you will turn to the book of Romans, chapter 13, and notice how he refers to the Ten Commandments in relation to the believer, in relation to the Spirit-filled Christian:

Romans 13

8Owe no man any thing, but to love one another; for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.
9For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love they neighbour as thyself.

Now, why? Why is love so closely related to the second table of the Decalogue, which is directed at our relationship to man? The answer is found in verse 10:

Romans 13

10Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

It is amazing how the Spirit of God in the New Testament amplifies the law and makes it so much broader and deeper and more meaningful. You see what He is saying? If you have the love of God in your heart, you are not going to lie to someone. If you have the love of God in your heart, you are not going to steal from someone. You don't tell a person you love him and then take what belongs to him. You don't tell a person you love him and then lie to him. Do you see how these things that we call the Ten Commandments are related to the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in our lives?

Our Relationship to the Holy Spirit

Turn with me to Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 30, and perhaps this will become even more evident:

Ephesians 4

30Grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

Keep in mind that this passage of Scripture is addressed to Christians–Christians in whom dwells the Holy Spirit. We have told you before that your attitude toward the Holy Spirit may be threefold. You may be controlled by the Holy Spirit: “Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with [controlled by] the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). You may quench the Holy Spirit (I Thessalonians 5:19). That is, when the Holy Spirit Who lives within you suggests to you certain things that need to be done in the name of the Lord, you can pour cold water on Him. You can tune a deaf ear to Him. You can say, “No,” and you quench the Holy Spirit when you do. Then the third thing is that you may grieve the Holy Spirit. “Grieve” is a love word. You don't grieve your enemies; you grieve someone you love. The Holy Spirit loves you, and when you do certain things, you grieve the Holy Spirit, you hurt Him, you cause Him to withdraw, figuratively speaking, into the corner of your heart, to stay there with a strained relationship until things are made right.

Things That Grieve the Holy Spirit

What are the things that are grieving the Holy Spirit in our day and time? Look at verse 25 and you will see a portion of the Ten Commandments repeated:

Ephesians 4

25Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.

Isn't that exactly what Moses said when he summed it all up by saying, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour?” If we lie, we grieve the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 4

26Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:
27Neither give place to the devil,
28Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the things which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

What was the commandment? Thou shalt not steal. Here we are told that if we steal, we will grieve the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 4

29Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

What was the commandment that would tie in with “no corrupt communication proceeding our of your mouth”? “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” Look down at verse 31:

Ephesians 4

31Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:

When you have time, compare the word “malice” with the word “covet,” and see how malice ties in with coveting that which your neighbor has. Covetousness grieves the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 4

32Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.

Will you turn, please, to chapter 6 of the book of Ephesians and notice verse 1:

Ephesians 6

1Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.
2Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise;
3That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.

This is the New Testament. This is the letter to the Ephesians. No Bible scholar would even faintly suggest that the book of Ephesians has anything to do with legalism. And yet, right here in the midst of this letter, is repeated one of the commandments: “Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment of promise.”

Fruit of the Spirit

Turn with me, please, to chapter 8 of the book of Romans, and notice a familiar passage of Scripture that will help explain why I say to you that the New Testament interpretation of the Ten Commandments is that the Ten Commandments are the fruit of the Spirit working in our lives:

Romans 8

1There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
3For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
4That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

We are interested in verse 4:

Romans 8

4That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

As we walk after the Spirit, we will automatically honor our fathers and our mothers. We will automatically refrain from stealing and lying and committing adultery, etc. When we don't, we are walking in the flesh instead of in the Spirit.

We should be able to see from these passages of Scripture that every one of the Ten Commandments, with the exception of the one related to the Sabbath day (and when we discuss the commandment we will tell you the reason for that) is repeated in the New Testament as a principle of Christian living, the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

What we have endeavored to show you is that the law was older than Moses. It was written in the hearts of men before it was written on tables of stone. And we have endeavored to show you that although the law, as far as its penalty is concerned, was taken out of the way when the Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled the righteous demands of the law upon the Cross, the principles embodied in the law as indications of righteous living become the fruit of the Holy Spirit when our hearts are yielded to Him and when we walk after the Spirit and not after the flesh.


Home Contact Us Bible Studies Books King James
Abilene Bible Church Living Bible Studies
Dr. Daiqing Yuan Tim Temple Dr. Joe Temple
Some icons on this site used courtesy FatCow Web Hosting

www.livingbiblestudies.org