Christian Living

It’s Ten Commandments Not Ten Suggestions

Let the Bible—Not Society—Guide Our Behavior

God gives Moses Ten Commandments, which he passes on to the people. We find these listed twice in the Old Testament (Exodus 20:3-23 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21).

They provide the foundation for the rest of the laws in the Old Testament, which Bible scholars tell us number 613 commands. That’s a lot to keep straight, so boiling it down to ten main ones is helpful.

The Ten Commandments

  1. Do not have any other gods.
  2. Do not worship idols (“other gods”).
  3. Do not use God’s name wrongly.
  4. Keep the Sabbath day holy.
  5. Honor your parents (which carries a blessing).
  6. Do not murder.
  7. Do not commit adultery.
  8. Do not steal.
  9. Do not lie (give false testimony).
  10. Do not covet.

The first four relate to our relationship with God, while the last six relate to our relationship with other people.

The fifth one, which is the only one with a blessing attached to it, serves as a transition between the four God-honoring commands and the six people-focused commands.

Though these were once affirmed by most people—including those who didn’t believe in God—this is no longer true.

The first four have slipped away from society’s consciousness, especially number four, which is something many Christians now disregard.

Of the remaining six commands, most are falling away from our culture’s moral perspective, with people having little concern about adultery, lying, and coveting.

The prohibitions against murder and stealing are now gray areas, and too many people fail to honor their parents.

Of these Ten Commandments, people tend to at best consider them as ten suggestions and at worse to disregard them completely.

Jesus Fulfills the Old Testament Law

Yet some people are quick to point out that these Old Testament laws, even the Ten Commandments, no longer apply. This is because Jesus says he came to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17).

Yet within the same verse he says he didn’t come to abolish them. And he says it twice. While he did fulfill—and thereby negate—the ceremonial commands in the Old Testament with his sacrificial death and resurrection, he built upon and clarified the rest.

Sometimes Jesus confirmed them, but most times he extended them.

Consider his expanded teachings about murder and adultery. He extended murder to include anger (Matthew 5:21-22). And he extended adultery to include merely thinking about it, that is, lust (Matthew 5:28).

Jesus’s Top Two Commands

Jesus’s chief teaching, however, comes when he summarizes the Ten Commandments, along with the expanded list of 613, down to just two.

He says we’re to love God and love others. It’s that simple.

Jesus teaches that the most important command is to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. And he says the second greatest command is to love other people as much as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39).

Realize, however, he doesn’t tell us to love them more than we love ourselves, but we shouldn’t love them any less.

And we shouldn’t treat Jesus’s commands as suggestions, either—even though the world does. We should take them quite seriously and do everything possible to obey them fully.

To do anything less is unacceptable.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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