What are our Responsibilities with the 10 Commandments?

ReverendFun.com comic on the 10 Commandments

Dear Pastor Andy, What do the 10 Commandments reveal about the responsibility of being human? This is what I have: Humans have great responsibility in obeying the 10 Commandments, if they choose to do so. The 10 Commandments require humans to conform to each and every rule, and in doing so, will demonstrate love and respect to God, as well as to one another. Any thoughts to build on this?

My Reply:
If you’ll look at the 10 Commandments, you’ll see that they’re actually divided into 2 categories, both of which demand the responsibilities of God’s people.

Commandments 1-3 are about our responsibilities towards God (probably because in all aspects of our lives, God should be first):

  1. You shall have no other gods before the Lord
  2. You shall neither own nor worship any idols, for the Lord is jealous and refuses to share you with anything or anybody
  3. Don’t misuse the Lord’s name.

The remaining 7 Commandments are about how to treat other humans:

  1. Keep the Sabbath
  2. Honor your parents
  3. Don’t murder
  4. Don’t commit adultery
  5. Don’t steal
  6. Don’t bear false testimony against your neighbor
  7. Don’t covet your neighbor’s stuff

You’ll also find explanations to these throughout the rest of the Torah (Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Numbers).

But now notice also that, though the 10 Commandments (and the rest of the Mosaic Law) do help us demonstrate love and respect to God and one another, it’s also important to remember that they’re also to remind God’s people of the importance for their holiness to God – separation from the ways of the world. For instance, in the beginning of Leviticus 18, the Lord said, “You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices.” Also, in verse 24, God says, “…this is how the nations that I’m going to drive out before you became defiled…” In other words, many of the things that the Law tells God’s people not to do were done in Egypt, Canaan, and by people in the surrounding nations. God’s people were meant to be holy – to be different and to stand out among them, like a light in the darkness.

So they’re not just in order to demonstrate love and respect for God and others, but to keep us holy, set apart from the rest of the world, for God…I guess you could say they were given as God’s requirements for the Hebrews.

Update: September 2016:

There actually seems to be a debate about this today among Christians. Some say that since Jesus had been raised, the Law was completely abolished, like they crumpled it up into a ball and threw it away – some get this idea from what Paul said in Ephesians 2:15 and Galatians 3:24-25; there are also some who take the stance of those from Judea in Acts 15 who say people must become Jews before becoming Christian; then there are Christians like me who say that though we’re saved through faith in Christ, not by keeping the Law, the Law is still necessary, however, for discipleship. Let me back this up:

  1. Jesus’ words: First off, in Matthew 5:17, Jesus said that He didn’t come to do away with the Law, but to fulfill it. Also on this, if Jesus was to abolish the Law completely, then there would be no reason for Matthew to write down anything taken from the Sermon on the Mount, for such was where Jesus corrected their understanding of obedience to it. Granted, the target audience for that Gospel was to Hebrew Christians who grew up with the Law, but if the Law was to be completely thrown out, then mentioning all that would’ve been just a waste – like when you’re talking about something and go off on an irrelevant rabbit trail and have to return back to the point.
  2. OT References in the NT: When I first read through the New Testament, I realized there was a lot of referring back to the Old Testament. So I figured that if I’d read the Old Testament next, then I may understand the New Testament better, and I was correct. It’s like watching Star Wars’ “The Empire Strikes Back” before watching episodes 1-3 (like most of us had to do). When Vader told Luke he was his father, it was a huge surprise to everyone. Also, everything about the planets, the blowing up of Leah’s planet, etc. was all new news to us. But then, when we watched episodes 1-3, it all made sense because in those, they talked about everything beforehand. So by watching it in that order, when Vader told Luke of him being his dad, it would be like, “yeah, duh,” and all the planets were familiar. So if the Old Testament has no place in the New Testament, then why bother mentioning it, especially to the Gentiles, as Paul did some couple hundred times? Obviously, because we need to understand the background of our faith, which is founded in the Hebrew Scriptures. And why would the Gentiles care or even understand any of what the Old Testament said? The answer to that is in the next point:
  3. Words of the Jerusalem Council: In Acts 15, people from Judea were going around teaching Gentile Christians that if they must become circumcised, as was customary to Jews, if they were to become Christians, because, you see, Christianity is the fulfillment of Judaism. So Paul and Barney went to the Jerusalem Council to ask them about this. After Peter went on about how the Law was mostly just a burden on their people, there was therefore no reason to place this impossible burden upon the Gentiles, especially since they’re saved now through faith in Christ, not by trying to obey the Law. So James gave the Gentiles instructions of things to avoid (eating meat sacrificed to idols, sexual immorality, consuming blood, and eating strangled meat). Then, he said, “For these Laws of Moses have been preached in Jewish Synagogues in every city on every Sabbath for many generations.” In other words, since Hebrew and Gentile Christians are now worshiping together through faith in Christ, they’re being taught the Law. And if they’re not under the Law (anymore), then why do they need to hear it? For discipleship.
  4. Christianity is the Fulfillment of Judaism: It’s important to remember that Christianity is not a Gentile faith, but the fulfillment of Judaism – the final upgrade, I suppose you could say. And in this upgrade, Gentiles are now invited to participate with the Hebrews. I explain this in my post about what a true Jew is. Jesus was the Jews’ Messiah, originally.
    1. He was born a Jew, grew up in the culture, was regarded as a Jewish Rabbi who taught the Truths of God to the Jews and brought these Truths first to the Jews, and His means of death and salvation were in sync with the requirements of the Mosaic Law.
    2. Moses talked about the Messiah coming one day to rescue God’s people, all the Hebrew prophets looked forward to the Messiah’s arrival, and theologically-speaking, the whole Old Testament points to Jesus.
    3. The first Christians were Jews. It wasn’t until some traveled to Antioch that the Gentiles had even heard of this awesome opportunity. The main reason Christianity became known as a separate faith is because in the days of the early church, Roman persecution was great against the Christians. So in order to escape, many traveled to other Gentile cities/nations, where they shared the Gospel there. Jews weren’t so harshly persecuted though. Plus, as explained and argued in the book of Hebrews, many Hebrew Christians desired to escape Christian persecution by backing away from the upgrade and returning to the old Judaism, which was under the now-obsolete Law.

One thing that people who disagree about this point to is that Jesus said the Law can be summed up in 2 commandments:

  1. Love God
  2. Love your neighbor

OK, but how do you love God? Read the Old Testament – it tells you how to love God through the experiences of the Patriarchs and prophets. It also tells you what not to do, through the behaviors of the Israelites and those of the surrounding nations.

How do you love your neighbor? It’s in the Old Testament – read it.

So we’re saved through faith in Christ, as all the writers of the Bible say, but the Law is not “abolished” or “obsolete”, for it’s through such that we are discipled into being Holy, just as God is Holy.

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