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The Ten Commandments: an interpretation


Frederick Christopher Bouter, MA

© Institutio Scripturarum

James: "As somebody that looks into the mirror and immediately forgets his own face, so is the person that hears the Word of Freedom and does not act upon it. But blessed is the person that hears it and does it!"

In the Sermon on the mount the Lord Jesus gives us examples of how to interpret the ten commandments in accordance with the kingdom of God that, as He said elsewhere, is already now among us. You can read the ten commandments in the twentieth chapter of Exodus. Here we elaborate on them.

Anything can go against the first commandment. We are extremely inventive in playing our own gods by setting up other gods. To give a few examples: your car, sex, drugs, music, your personal stars and idols (or saints, or Hindu gods, etc.) and leaders of any kind (that sooner or later become kinds of 'führers' anyway. [Except for a few very humble and very mature examples. God does call on us to recognize those that labor for our souls as if they were personally responsible for us; that they may not do this with groaning]. The bible warns us against the trusting in 'princes' however, to warn us not to overdo it).

Any form of greed (addiction, philosophy, overenthusiasm about any theory) goes against the second commandment. The bible calls greed idolatry.

Expletives of many a kind are ways of taking the Name of God in vain. Gosh (God), damn (G.D.), Jeewish (Jesus) go against the third commandment. If you absolutely must say something, say 'shit!' And even that is against proper etiquette. When we use expletives deep down in our hearts we curse the All-Holy One. That is why Job offered up sacrifices for his children, for he was afraid that they had cursed God in their hearts (read: subconscious). Solomon in Ecclesiastes 7.22 says that our hearts very often know that also we have accursed others. And only already because of that it is an accursement of God, for the second great commandment is equal to the first great one. 'Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.' (See Matt.22.34-40). Teach yourself therefore to bite off your tongue and say at most 'shucks', 'chips!' or 'thunder (and lightning)!' My own father said (and that very seldom) 'thunder!'

Christians sin spiritually against the fourth commandment whenever they attempt to do things by their own power instead of by the grace of the Holy Spirit and by Him that can strengthen us in all things. Salvation leads you into the 'sabbath' of works. Christ becomes our law when we have been born again. The flesh, old nature, has no real power. The old man, Adam, has been crucified with Christ. Quit quitting!

Children that are disobedient sin against the fifth commandment and fail to honor their parents. We do the same whenever we are disobedient. The prophet Samuel told king Saul that disobedience is as the sin of divination and self will is as iniquity and idolatry. We must honor our heavenly Father and our heavenly Mother, the new Jerusalem [see Gal. 4.26](i.e. the Church consisting of all believers).

Any form of anger, irritation, contempt, racism and hatred is a form of killing your fellow man emotionally and goes against the sixth commandment.

Any form of leering at (certainly porno in any shape or form) a person outside of marriage, is adultery in the heart.

Any form of laziness, slackness, cheating on your tax return goes against the eighth commandment (in all things without becoming too slavish [cf. the balanced advice of Ecc.7.16,17]).

Any form of slander, false rumors, misrepresentations of any kind, on purpose or subconsciously, are a form of bearing false witness. Watch out what you believe! There are many 'winds of doctrine,' philosophy, empty deceit, pseudo theory, conspiracy theories and what have you. They all go against the ninth commandment.

Excessive use of the lottery, compulsive gambling, envy or adulating enthusiasm about the luxury and beauties on the silver screen and on the boob tube, they are all vices that go against the tenth commandment. The Apostle Paul advised us: 'Let fornication, any kind of uncleanness and greed not even be mentioned among you; as it is seeming unto saints: and (forms of)shame(fulness), foolishness and (things that are) off-color, but rather thankfulness.'

I know people like strict Baptists will vilify me for this, but the bible is not all negative. In fact it says: 'Nothing is unclean in itself, but to him that thinks it is unclean, to him it is unclean (Rom. 14. 14)!' However, of course sin is sin. God created sex, but not adultery. He made the vine, but drunkenness and all it causes is our misuse of what He made. And so it must be with everything.

I am not saying therefore that drinking and even things like the lottery are evil in themselves, but if something is too powerful for you, stay away from it. The excessive use of the lottery, gambling and worse forms of unfruitful financial buggery show a deep discontent in our society. Where are the old virtues of thrift and contentness? Where is the energy to build something up in a dedicated way? We have become like spoiled little brats that want instant satisfaction.

Therefore the bible exhorts us to think upon all things that are true, honest, pure, lovely, etc. [see Phil.4.8,9].

The good news of Christ's Work delivers us indeed from the curse of the Law (Gal.3.13) and I certainly do not want to argue that we must keep the ten commandments in order to earn our way into heaven.

Under the Law it was not exactly required to love your enemies. Christ therefore preaches a higher law, namely actually His Own Person.

In the sermon on the mount He shows that coveting starts deep in your own heart and that you can adulterate a woman already by longing for her in your heart [This goes further than only expressing your fantasy in your thoughts! Unconsciously your emotions can lead you already astray, even when you confess your sins! Therefore taking a second good look and remembering that second time is already coveting!] and that a simple term of abuse is already in fact murder (of character).

If we remain in Christ, then we live a higher law than the ten commandments, namely the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, Who set us free from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8.2).

But I thought it good after the example of the ten commandments (which also according to the apostle Paul are good in themselves), to elaborate these selfsame commandments to make ourselves more aware of our own sinfulness and also to point out that if one transgresses a single commandment, one becomes guilty [after the flesh] of all ten and therefore Christ had to be made a curse. Therefore also I have tried to show that each commandment is a microcosm of all ten.

Christ has fulfilled the Law for us in the deepest sense and therefore the grave had no grip on Him. But certainly it is still a good thing to let the ten commandments shine in Him Who did no sin, in Whom was no sin and Who did not even know sin! If we are too lighthearted about sin consciousness, then we cannot confess sins to the root.

Therefore this elaboration.

Each commandment by itself is a microcosm of all the commandments. For example adultery is stealing sex, etc. The Bible (James 2.10) does not state for nothing that even though one were to keep the entire law, but fail on one point, then one would be guilty of the whole law! Click the corresponding number to read a short analysis of each commandment as a microcosm.

Commandment One / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10

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