Believers are to be Sexually Pure

The Seventh Commandment:

“You shall not commit adultery” Exodus 20:14

 Question number 138 of the Westminster Larger Catechism teaches about what this commandment requires: 

 Q. What are the duties required in the seventh commandment? A. The duties required in the seventh commandment are, chastity in body, mind, affections, words, and behaviour;and the preservation of it in ourselves and others; watchfulness over the eyes and all the senses; temperance, keeping of chaste company, modesty in apparel; marriage by those that have not the gift of continency; conjugal love, and cohabitation; diligent labour in our callings; shunning all occasions of uncleanness, and resisting temptations thereunto.

 Sexual sin has become so common in our society that it is increasingly being considered socially acceptable by many people. Christians are being de-sensitized to through constant exposure through television, movies, radio, billboards, magazines and the internet. Marketers knows the power of sex appeal to sell anything. Presidents, pastors and other key public figures have fallen into this kind of thinking. Regardless of this shift in attitude toward sexual mores, God’s attitude remains the same.

“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality;  that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God” (1 Thess. 4:4)

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person– such a man is an idolater– has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.” (Eph 5:3-6)

God perfectly hates every form of sexual sin and He will eternally punish every sexually immoral person.

            “Fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” (Hebrews 13:4)

“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

This has been understood by God’s people throughout the ages. Job, perhaps the oldest book in the entire Bible records Job’s words concerning this matter:

“I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl. For what is man’s lot from God above, his heritage from the Almighty on high? Is it not ruin for the wicked, disaster for those who do wrong? Does he not see my ways and count my every step? (Job 31:1-4)

In the first book of the Bible, we see that this was already a prevalent sin. Joseph resisted an approached by Potifer’s adulterous wife in Genesis 39. Judah the son of Israel was a companion of prostitutes. Shechem committed fornication with Jacob’s daughter Dinah. David committed adultery with Bathsheba. Solomon was a polygamist.

In Proverbs 2:16-20 he gives one of the main reasons he wrote down the Proverbs:

To deliver you from the strange woman, from the adulteress who flatters with her words; that leaves the companion of her youth, And forgets the covenant of her God;18 For her house sinks down to death, And her tracks lead to the dead; None who go to her return again, Nor do they reach the paths of life. 20 So you will walk in the way of good men, And keep to the paths of the righteous. 21 For the upright will live in the land, And the blameless will remain in it; 22 But the wicked will be cut off from the land, And the treacherous will be uprooted from it.

The fifth chapter of Proverbs is devoted to the subject of the danger of sexual immorality. It is so powerful that I have chosen to include it in its entirety here:

“My son, pay attention to my wisdom, listen well to my words of insight, that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge. For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths are crooked, but she knows it not. Now then, my sons, listen to me; do not turn aside from what I say. Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your best strength to others and your years to one who is cruel, lest strangers feast on your wealth and your toil enrich another man’s house. At the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent. You will say, “How I hated discipline! How my heart spurned correction! I would not obey my teachers or listen to my instructors. I have come to the brink of utter ruin in the midst of the whole assembly.” Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer– may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love. Why be captivated, my son, by an adulteress? Why embrace the bosom of another man’s wife? For a man’s ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all his paths. The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; the cords of his sin hold him fast. He will die for lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly.”

Does reading this make you afraid? If so, good. God is showing you grace. God’s kindness leads us to repentance. “T’was grace that taught my heart to fear.”  

Is there any hope for you and me? Is there any hope for the sexually immoral person who truly fears God and cries out to Him for help, who turns away from his sin? Yes, praise God there is hope! In fact, that is the very message of the Gospel. The Bible shows that Jesus had great compassion for sexually immoral people if they turn to Him for mercy:

            “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to  cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”(1 John 1:9)

Immediately following the passage quoted earlier from 1 Corinthians 6:9ff,

            “Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor             homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers  nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God

Paul points us to the hope that is found only in the LORD Jesus,

            “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11)

The story of the woman caught in adultery is a powerful example. John 8:1ff

“But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

The only way to truly turn away from sin is to turn to the LORD Jesus in His Word. This kind of turning to the LORD is what repentance is all about.

“Therefore, putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.” (1 Peter 2:1)

One of the ways Christians “grow in respect to salvation” is in self-control, especially in the area of sexuality. One of the fruits of the Spirit is self control mentioned in Gal 5:22. Self-control was a theme in Paul’s preaching (Acts 24:24,25).

We all struggle to grow in self discipline. Many of us have developed lifelong habits or addictions that don’t just disappear. These types of “besetting sins” take proactive, aggressive measures to put to death. For some repentance means having to face the deepest pains and fears of our lives. God knows this. Jesus was a man just like us. “He was tempted in every way” yet remained absolutely pure. We can find comfort in the fact that He knows our temptations and trials. That’s why he gave us much help for the journey. Some of the help (means of growth) are: scripture memory and meditation, fasting, prayer, worship, In addition to these he’s given us each other for fellowship, intercession, encouragement, accountability, and counseling, sharing with others what God is doing in our lives, and hearing from others what God has done in their lives.

 “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith…”

 

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Get Rich Quick! (For Real)

The 8th Commandment is “You shall not steal.” Exodus 20:15

Evangelicals have always emphasized God’s care about the internal state and relationships, but sometimes we tend to neglect His cares about the outward circumstances of people. The Biblical moral requirement which God places on individuals and societies is to “love their neighbor” by maintaining and furthering their outward estate. Certainly our own outward estate is included in this because we are to “love our neighbors as we love ourselves.”

 

God cares about the material dealings between a man and his neighbor. In Psalm 15, David asked “LORD, who may dwell in your sacred tent?” and the answer was given: “The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart; 3 whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbor, and casts no slur on others; 4 who despises a vile person but honors those who fear the LORD; who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind; 5 who lends money to the poor without interest; who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.” Also in Zechariah 7:10 God says, “Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’ And in the next chapter he says: “These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against each other, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,” declares the LORD. (Zech 8:16, 17) From these passages we see that truth, faithfulness, and justice in contracts and commerce between man and man are a part of God’s Holy character and His moral requirement for us.

God’s concern for our outward estate is displayed in the blessing and promise that He gave to the Patriarchs, and in the Law of Moses. Abraham’s promise and blessing was not limited to internal joy, peace happiness, and hope. It also included external prosperity in the promised land, numerous descendants, wealth, health and peace. God delights to give external prosperity to His people.

In the Law of Moses it is particularly evident in God’s attitude toward stealing and restitution. In Lev.6:2-5The LORD said to Moses, “If anyone sins and is unfaithful to the LORD by deceiving a neighbor about something entrusted to them or left in their care or about something stolen, or if they cheat their neighbor, 3 or if they find lost property and lie about it, or if they swear falsely about any such sin that people may commit— 4 when they sin in any of these ways and realize their guilt, they must return what they have stolen or taken by extortion, or what was entrusted to them, or the lost property they found, 5 or whatever it was they swore falsely about. They must make restitution in full, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the owner on the day they present their guilt offering.

In the New Testament as well, we see God’s care about the outward estate of man. He required restitution to be made by believers who had stolen from others. In Luke 19:8 after the Holy Spirit led Zacchaeus to repent of stealing, he stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount. Jesus did not say, “No you don’t need to do that, you’re a Christian now.” Instead he said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham…” From this we can see that God desires the restitution of goods unlawfully detained from the rightful owners

God wants us to be generous and compassionate. The summary of the commandments is to love God, and love our neighbor, so we know that when the 8th commandment forbids something, the opposite duty is required. The opposite of stealing is maintaining and furthering the wealth and outward estate of our neighbor. If you look carefully at the assumptions and implications which the Bible draws from the commandment you will see that God wants us to give and lend freely, according to our abilities, and according to the needs of others.

 

The LORD Jesus said in Luke 6:30 “Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back….Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” and also, “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? (1 John 3:17) I love Ephesians 4:28 because it is a clear indication that the flip opposite of stealing is giving. It says: Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.” Also God tells us, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Galatians 6:10)  God will show us opportunities to “do good to all people” and sometimes in the strangest of places, and when we least expect it. The question is – will we seize the opportunities God gives us? A believer I know received a $20 Christmas gift card. While he was at a gas station one day, he overheard a clerk complaining that they didn’t have money to pay their bills, or buy Christmas presents for their kids, the believer gave them his Christmas gift card and simply said “Merry Christmas.” The clerk was speechless. How much more ready should we be to share with our brothers and sisters in need? In other words, when the commandment forbids stealing, it necessarily requires kindness, compassion, and generosity.

 

God cares about our feelings toward material goods. He tells us to moderate our feelings and behaviors towards them. This may not be readily apparent from the command, but it is implied because the only way to stop the desire to steal is to change the attitude and behavior toward material things. Why do people desire wealth in the first place? There seem to be many motivations, but they all boil down to the pursuit of happiness. It is ironic that Thomas Jefferson originally wrote “the pursuit of property” in the Declaration of Independence. The Bible calls this idolatrous pursuit a trap because it gives false hope and pride. 1Timothy 6:9 says, “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” And Galatians 6:14 says “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which[a] the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

 

God also wants us to keep, use, and dispose material goods that are necessary and convenient for the sustenance of our nature, and suitable to our condition. He tells us in Proverbs 27:23-27 to Know well the condition of your flocks, and pay attention to your herds; For riches are not forever, Nor does a crown endure to all generations. When the grass disappears, the new growth is seen, And the herbs of the mountains are gathered in, The lambs will be for your clothing, And the goats will bring the price of a field, And there will be goats’ milk enough for your food, For the food of your household, And sustenance for your maidens.”  In Ecclesiastes 2: 24-26 and 3:12-13 it says: There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen that it is from the hand of God. For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him? For to a person who is good in His sight He has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, while to the sinner He has given the task of gathering and collecting so that he may give to one who is good in God’s sight.” …“I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime; moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor—it is the gift of God.” Paul told Timothy to “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. 18 Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good [m]works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.” (1 Timothy 6:17-18)

 

God actually cares about the orderliness of our outward estate and material possessions. Aside from the laws of cleanliness which He gave Israel, and the orderliness of the worship and government he set up, there is also orderliness expected for the individual’s affairs. One example is in Isaiah 38:1 Hezekiah, the king of Judah was mortally ill, and God told him to “set his house in order.” Why would God have said this if He did not care how Hezekiah conducted his material affairs? God does care because He knows these have a direct bearing on the rest of our lives.

 

Have you ever heard the sayings: “God is a God of neatness and order” and “cleanliness is next to Godliness?” While these have been laid aside by many Christians today, they are still true and helpful sayings. It is important to God that we do our best to keep a clean and orderly home and business.  Have you ever seen a Christian with a continually filthy car, or house? We all struggle with managing time demands but a mature believer will do their best to keep their persons, belongings, and businesses orderly and clean because 1) all these things belong to God and we are entrusted with their care 2) God desires them to be kept in order and doing so honors Him 3) they are more useful and profitable when properly maintained 4) they are more aesthetically pleasing and attractive to others, a better reflection of God’s beauty and order 5) they are more enjoyable that way. As parents we need to be teaching our kids not only what to do, but why.

 

God wants us to find and remain in a lawful calling. In Genesis 2:15 we see that after the man was created, God gave him a specific job to do, namely cultivating and keeping the garden.  In Genesis 3:19 that job turned in to labor and toil, but was still required. The idea of remaining in our calling comes from 1 Corinthians 7:20 where it Paul wrote “Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.”

 

God wants us to be diligent in our callings.  He says, “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.”(Eph 4:28) Notice the diligence here is not for selfish gain, but for sharing! Quite the opposite of selfish ambition, here is the unselfish ambition of love. In Proverbs 10:4 God says, Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.” Need I say that poverty is undesirable because not only do you have nothing to eat yourself, but also nothing to share with others.

 

God wants us to be frugal. Jesus was the example of frugality. In John 6:12 after He had fed the five thousand he didn’t say “Alright boys, the rest is for the birds.” No, He said, “gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.”  The result of this type of type of frugality is declared in Proverbs 21:20 “There is treasure to be desired, and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a fool spendeth it up.” Hence the saying “waste not, want not.” God wants us to be conservative in the use of our resources because He loves u s, and wants to make sure that we always have enough treasure and oil for ourselves and others.

 

God wants us to avoid unnecessary law suits. Even though God want us to “maintain and further the wealth and outward estates of ourselves and others” He does not want us to do it in an ungodly way. In 1 Corinthians 6:1-9 Paul rebuked believers who went to law against other believers over such matters. Instead they should have sought to work out their disputes through the Church courts.

There is however such a thing as a necessary law suit. Thomas Vincent explains:

“Question: Is it lawful, in the sight of God, to make use of the laws of men to recover or defend that which is our own, when it is said by our Savior (Matt. 5:40), “If any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also?” and by the apostle (1 Cor. 6:7), “Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another; why do ye not rather take wrong? Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?”

Answer: 1.Neither of these places of Scripture does absolutely forbid the making use of the law at all, or at any time, for the defense or recovery of our right. 2. That of our Savior doth forbid contention; and rather than to uphold it, to part with some of our right, such as a coat or a cloak, or any such smaller goods, which, without much prejudice, we might spare; but it doth not hence follow, if another should wrong us in a greater matter, and seek to undo us, that we ought to let him take all which we have in the world, without seeking our right by the laws under which we live; for if this were so, all sincere Christians would quickly be robbed and spoiled by the wicked, amongst whom they live, of all their livelihood. 3. That of the apostle doth forbid Christians going to law one with another before the heathen and infidel magistrates, which was a scandal to the Christian religion which they did profess; and he tells them, they ought rather to make up their differences about wrong and right amongst them-selves, and to suffer wrong rather than do anything to the prejudice of the gospel; but this doth not prohibit Christians, in a Christian commonwealth, to defend or recover their own by law; yet, so much is forbidden in these places, namely, the contending at law about small matters, especially in case of scandal, and the using the law at all, if there be not necessity. 4. That it is lawful in the sight of God to make use of the laws of men for defense or recovery of our right, is evident, from God’s appointment of a magistracy to execute those laws, who would be of no use might we not have the benefit of the laws; and because those laws are suitable to the judicial laws of God’s own appointment, which the children of Israel ought make use of for the defense and recovery of their right; and by the same reason Christians may do so too.”[i]

Not only should we avoid suing others, we should also avoid liability to be sued. We are told to “turn the other cheek” and give up our cloak in addition to our tunic, if someone sues us, but that does not mean we shouldn’t do everything we can to avoid be sued in the first place. We should strive to be “above reproach” and “avoid even the appearance of evil” in the conduct of our work.

 

God wants us to avoid unnecessarily endangering our wealth and outward estate. That means we should avoid situations like suretyship, gambling, certain types of investing, and other similar engagements. Suretyship is when you place yourself in a position to get stuck “holding the bag” when someone else doesn’t fulfill their obligations to pay or do what they promised they would pay or do for a third party. For example: co-signing on a loan is a type of suretyship that should be avoided if at all possible.  God says, “My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, if you have struck hands in pledge for another, if you have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth, then do this, my son, to free yourself, since you have fallen into your neighbor’s hands:  Go and humble yourself; press your plea with your neighbor! 4 Allow no sleep to your eyes, no slumber to your eyelids. Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of the fowler. (Proverbs 6:1-6) and He also says, “He who puts up security for another will surely suffer, but whoever refuses to strike hands in pledge is safe.” (Prov 11:15).  A good steward does not take unnecessary risks with his master’s belongings.

 

God wants us to procure, preserve, and further the wealth and outward estate of others, as well as our own. Over and over again God tells His people to look after one another, and take care of each other. In Leviticus 25:35, Deuteronomy 22:1-4 and Exodus 23:4-5 He is explicit:

“‘If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you.

If you see your brother’s ox or sheep straying, do not ignore it but be sure to take it back to him.

If the brother does not live near you or if you do not know who he is, take it home with you and keep it until he comes looking for it. Then give it back to him. 3 Do the same if you find your brother’s donkey or his cloak or anything he loses. Do not ignore it.

If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him. 5 If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help him with it.” In Genesis 47 God gives us an example of this in Joseph who furthered his neighbor’s wealth when he sold grain and collected the money from the people, and when he bought the lands for Pharaoh in Egypt. In the New Testament God tells us: Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Philippians 2:4 and Jesus says it most clearly in Matthew 22:39“And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

 

All these things are summed up in the Westminster Larger Catechism question number 141:

 

What are the duties required in the eighth commandment?
Answer: The duties required in the eighth commandment are, truth, faithfulness, and justice in contracts and commerce between man and man; rendering to everyone his due, restitution of goods unlawfully detained from the right owners thereof; giving and lending freely, according to our abilities, and the necessities of others; moderation of our judgments, wills, and affections concerning worldly goods; a provident care and study to get, keep, use, and dispose these things which are necessary and convenient for the sustentation of our nature, and suitable to our condition; a lawful calling, and diligence in it; frugality; avoiding unnecessary law-suits, and suretiship, or other like engagements; and an endeavor, by all just and lawful means, to procure, preserve, and further the wealth and outward estate of others, as well as our own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


[i] Thomas Vincent, Shorter Catechism Explained from Scripture

Tell the Truth

The 9th Commandment

The ninth commandment is, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

Most would summarize this commandment as “don’t lie,” but in reality it contains much more than this. It implies “Tell the truth.” Ever stop to think about why God wants us to tell the truth? Is it simply so that our situation will work better? Certainly that’s part of the reason, but ultimately it’s because God loves the truth. He loves it because it’s an aspect of Who He is, (“I am the Truth”) and therefore it is sacred! We have a moral obligation to love the truth, and consider it to be sacred. When we lie, or do not live by the truth, we do much more than harm each other – we positively assault God!  Need I say that it implies that there is such a thing as real, objective and absolute Truth. Need I say that this Truth is Holy? When we lie, suppress, ignore, refuse to stand up for, alter, or deny the truth we are being immoral and offending God.

We have to also remember that the Ten Commandments are themselves “heads of the Torah” or in other words, the 9th Commandment is a summary statement covering a broader area of morality.

Knowing this, the Westminster assembly divines wrote the shorter catechism questions 77-78 to tell us: “The ninth commandment requires the maintaining and the promoting of truth between man and man, and of our own and our neighbor’s good name, especially in witness bearing” and it “forbids whatsoever is prejudicial to truth, or injurious to our own or our neighbor’s good name.”

What the Ninth Commandment Requires of us:

Aside from the basic assumptions that it makes concerning God and His sacred truth, the 9th Commandment requires some general things and some particular things of us. [i]

“The general requirement of the ninth commandment is maintaining and promoting truth between man and man. We do this by speaking the very truth to, and of one another, from the heart.” “These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against your neighbor, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,” declares the LORD.” Zechariah 8:16 and “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” and Ephesians 4:25 “LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart”

“The particular requirement of the ninth commandment is in reference to our own, and our neighbor’s good name.” At first it may be difficult to see how this is required; but if you think about the legal context of the command, it becomes clear. Someone who bears false witness does so in order to give their neighbor a bad name. God wants us to be witnesses who testify truthfully at a trial, or any other time, regarding the behavior/character of our neighbor.

It should also be fairly obvious that God actually wants us to maintain and promote the good name of every human being as far as possible, including our own good name. “All ought to maintain and promote their good name, especially believers; chiefly magistrates and others to whom public trust is committed. Also ministers unto whom is committed the charge of souls.”

But how do we do this? According to Vincent, we maintain it by deserving it and defending it.

We should strive to deserve a good name before men. “Although we can do nothing to deserve a good name in the sight of God, yet we may deserve a good name in the sight of men, by being good, and by doing good. In order to deserve a good name among men we must be holy, humble, harmless, wise, loving, and patient, meek, just, righteous…”

It’s worth mentioning that some well meaning, intelligent Christians disagree with this. They think that they ought not to maintain or promote their good name, or defend themselves from false accusation, but rather be silent because Christ was silent before his accusers. They forget that his silence was a part of a specific plan, and the set foreknowledge of God; That plan was for him to die by there hands. Our situation is not His situation.  God’s plan for us is to live among them as His witnesses.

Why should we maintain and promote the good name of ourselves and others?

1st) For the glory of God. It is everyone’s principle duty to aim at this, and they ought to design their own honor only in subordination to this. Mat 5:16, 1 Pet 2:12

2nd) A good name is a precious thing. “It renders men more useful to one another, causing mutual love unto, and confidence in one another, whereby their mutual concerns and advantage, both civil and spiritual, are exceedingly promoted.” It seems to me that many Christians today do not understand this truth. Many don’t seem to care about their honor or the honor of their brothers and sisters, or the honor of their LORD. “Well I guess I’m just a big sinner, saved by grace” they say, and leave it at that. But is that attitude in accordance with God’s word?

“We may defend the good name of ourselves and others by:

1. By clearing ourselves from false aspersions, and vindicating our innocence the false accusations of our adversaries. Acts 24:10-13

2. By speaking sometimes in commendation of ourselves, but only when there is need, and that very sparingly, modestly, and humbly, and unwillingly, always abasing ourselves, giving God all the glory for anything in ourselves that is praiseworthy. Eccl 7:1, Prov 22:1

*It is not good, as some Christians do, to say only negative things about yourself, and never say any positive things. This is presenting a half-truth, which is a whole lie.

3. By looking after, and having a good esteem the worth and the good things which are in our neighbors. Phil 2:4, 1 Thess 5:13

4. By liking, loving, desiring, and giving thanks to God for our neighbors’ good name and fame. Rom 1:8

5. By a ready receiving of a good report concerning our neighbors and rejoicing in it. 3 John 3, 1 Cor 13:6

6. By deafening the ear against, and discouraging tale-bearers, backbiters, and slanderers who speak evil against their neighbors. Ps 15:3, Prov 25:23.

7. By grieving at their faults, which expose them to disgrace, with desires and endeavors to promote their amendment and the recovery of their reputation. 2 Cor 2:4”

Doesn’t love tell us that if we know of someone who has fallen into disgrace, we should be grieved for them, help them mend their behaviors, and try to do whatever we can to help them recover their good name? I thank God for the people in my life that have been willing to love me like this.

8. By giving them the honor they deserve when we speak of them, speaking well of them behind their backs, freely acknowledging their gifts and graces, and good things, and preferring them in honor before ourselves. 1Peter 2:17, 3 John 12, 1 Corinthians 1:4, 5, 7, Romans 12:10, Philippians 2:3

9. By defending their reputation and good name and trying to prevent or stop any evil or false report concerning them, and to vindicate them so far as we can; especially when we are called before a magistrate to bear witness of their innocence so far as it is consistent with the truth. 1 Samuel 22:14,

10. By concealing and covering their faults and infirmities when we may, with unwillingness to expose them to disgrace; in the spirit of meekness endeavoring to restore them when they are overtaken and fallen into sin. 1 Peter 4:8, Matthew 1:19, Galatians 6:1,

11. By reproving them privately, and before others only when there is need, and that with respect unto their condition, and remembrance of what is praiseworthy in them.  Matthew 18:15, 16; Revelation 2:2, For example, “You know son, you’ve been doing a great job lately getting yourself dressed in the morning; However, you still need to brush your teeth.”

What the Ninth Commandment forbids:

“The Ninth Commandment forbids whatever is prejudicial to the truth, or injurious to our own or our neighbors good name. There are two general prohibitions in this commandment:

First, whatever is prejudicial to the truth: “This includes all falsehood and lying whatsoever, whether it be lies to make mischief, like false accusation of others; or lies to make gain, like falsifying our word, over-reaching our neighbors for advantage to ourselves; or lies to make wonder, as in the inventing of strange or false news; or lies to make sport or jokes; or lies to make excuse, such as in all lies for the covering of our own or others faults.” Colossians 3:9, Revelation 21:8

It may sound overly philosophical to say as Josiah Royce says that a liar is “a man who willfully misplaces his ontological predicates.”[ii] Lying is as simple as saying the opposite of what one thinks or believes to be true. “Speaking truthfully” is making our speech conform to our concept of truth. Ex: Saying “red” when you think “green” is a lie. It may be quiet different than “Speaking the truth” which is making our speech conform to reality. Speaking what we believe to be true does not guarantee truthful speech. We could be in error in our concept of the truth. Some distinguish between “moral” truth – speaking consistently with what we believe, and “physical” truth – speech that lines up with reality. There has been an ancient debate in philosophy regarding if and how man can objectively know and “speak the truth” at all. It was a reference to that debate when Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” Little did he know that the Truth was standing right in front of him. In the case of extreme sophistry or skepticism like you see in the popular postmodern thinking the distinction b/w true and false is actually denied, or puts truth utterly beyond the reach of man.[iii]

Many people today see ultimate truth as relative or even unattainable. But God says that truth is absolute. We need to conform our thought lives and our speech to it. The more consistent we are with God’s Truth the more consistent we are with reality, and blessings inevitably flow. The opposite is to do as Francis Schaeffer put it “When you go against the grain of the universe you get splinters.” Remember: All of public and private reality belongs to God, and is a part of His Truth. Truth is one of God’s attributes and therefore it is sacred and absolute. The implications of this are huge, and far too much to delve into here, but suffice it to say that there is only one correct worldview: the Biblical Christ centered one. By necessity therefore all other worldviews should be at some point inconsistent with reality and fatally flawed. A large part of the apologetic endeavor as Francis Schaeffer has pointed out is to lovingly show our lost friends how their worldview doesn’t hold water.[iv]

We live in a culture dominated by pragmatism. Pragmatism teaches us to value things by only their effectiveness at achieving the goals we set. Deep theological training, teaching, or preaching is tolerated only in so far as it is seen to work. But what happens when the goals we set fall short of the command and purposes of God, or our observational powers fall short of the depths of its workings?

2) The second general thing that the ninth commandment forbids is: “Whatever is injurious to our own, or our neighbor’s good name: This includes:

a) doing anything that is a just cause of an evil report, and may prejudice our reputation among men, such as committing adultery, theft, fraud and any kind of baseness and wickedness which is not only dishonorable to God, but also dishonorable to ourselves. Proverbs 6:332,33; 1 Samuel 2:24, 30.

b) All boasting and vain glory, and that whether we boast of a false gift, or those gifts which we really have, whereby we really debase and render ourselves contemptible in the eyes of God, and of the more judicious Christians. 1 Corinthians 13:4,5; Proverbs 25:14, Matthew 23:12

c) bearing false witness against ourselves, in accusing ourselves of things we are not guilty; or by denying the gifts and graces that God has given us, endeavoring to lesson our esteem so that we might identify with those from whom we have been redeemed.

d) imprudent and unnecessary telling or displaying of all real weaknesses, leading to the scorn of the wicked and ungodly.”

There is so much that needs to be said here regarding using gifts and graces; but I’ll restrict my words to considering that Vincent points out “bearing false witness against ourselves.” Not only is this true externally in a court of law, but in all relationships, and especially in ourselves.

M. Scott Peck says that “sanity is a commitment to reality at all costs.” Sanity is costly because reality about ourselves can be painful. It can be painful to honestly admit and face our glory or our depravity. True acceptance is only possible when we are truly known by another, even if not fully. That’s what makes intimacy so difficult for so many men and women.

In addition to all this the 9th Commandment also forbids:

a. Perjury, or false swearing and false accusations, or anywise bearing false witness our selves, or suborning  others to bear false witness against our neighbor. Zechariah 8:17; 2 Tim 3:1-3; Ps 35:11; Proverbs 19:5; Acts 6:12,13

b. Judging, evil speaking, and rash censuring of our neighbors for doubtful or smaller matters, especially when we are guilty of the same or greater faults ourselves. Acts 18:4; Mat 7:1,3; Romans 2:1; James 4:11

c. Scoffing, deriding, reviling and reproachful speeches unto the face of our neighbors, and all backbiting of them which may wound or detract from their due reputation. Ps 1:19,20; Ps 15:1,3; Lev 19:16; 1 Tim 5:13; 2 Cor 12;20;

d. Raising or taking up evil reports against our neighbor, without good proof. Exodus 23:1; Ps 15:3; Prov 29:12

Doesn’t love tell us that this is the case?

“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:2-3 (NKJV)


[i] Thomas Vincent was a contemporary of the Westminster Assembly of Divines. He wrote and excellent book called, “The Shorter Catechism Explained from Scripture.” In this article I have taken what he wrote and attempted to modernize, expand, comment on, and apply it to situations from today.

[ii]Josiah Royce was an influential American philosopher who lived from 1855–1916. His major works include The Religious Aspect of Philosophy (1885), The World and the Individual (1899–1901), The Philosophy of Loyalty (1908), and The Problem of Christianity (1913). He was a contemporary of William James. Source: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/royce/

[iii] P.915 The Great Ideas: Vol 3, Mortimer Adler ed. (Chicago: Encyclopedia Brittanica;1952), p915

[iv] Francis Schaeffer implemented a technique he called “taking the roof off” of the unbelieving worldview, in which he performed a reductio ad absurdum showing the logical impossibility and self-contradictory nature of other worldviews.

The Secret to Contentment

Remember when you looked at that guy and thought, “Man, he’s got it so good! I wish I had what he has.” Sure you do – I do every time I see my brother in law’s I-Pad2! And when you add marketing to the mix, it can fan this flame into a raging fire.  It did with the lady arrested for firing pepper spray into a crowd at a Wal-mart in California just to clear a path to a crate of Xbox’s on Black Friday.[i]  What really scares me isn’t the pepper spray; it’s how prevalent this kind of thinking is in the American church! Prevalent? Yes! Statistically speaking at least, she probably went to church on Sunday too. I just hope nobody sat in her pew!

It’s sad mostly though, because I do the same things. OK, maybe not with actual pepper spray and X-boxes, but certainly with my thoughts about other things. Do you? If so, please read this article. I’ve tried to study what God has to say about this subject. It has been quite a challenging effort – His ideas and mine were very different.

In Exodus 20:17 God tells us, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”  This is the Tenth Commandment.

So basically it says “don’t covet.” To covet means “to want ardently; to long for with envy” with particular reference to something that is not ours. [ii]  The Westminster Larger Catechism teaches that the sins forbidden in the tenth commandment are, discontentment with our own estate, envying, and grieving at the good of our neighbor, together with all inordinate motions and affections to anything that is his.”[iii]

Coveting includes discontentment:

Ahab coveted Naboth’s vineyard which was beside his palace in Samaria. Even though Ahab already had nice vineyards, he wanted his neighbor’s desperately.  He offered Naboth a better vineyard for it, or if he preferred, cash. When Naboth refused, saying it was his family’s heritage, Ahab was so upset that “he lay down on his bed and turned away his face and ate no food.” In short, he threw a temper tantrum so severe that his wife Jezebel hatched a plot to murder Naboth and hand the vineyard over to Ahab. [iv]

Haman was discontent on account of Mordecai. God had given Haman a family, a powerful position, many royal privileges, and the highest honors in the Babylonian court. And yet he said, “all of this does not satisfy me every time I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate.” [v] And so his discontentment became his demise.

Lot’s desire for better pastures led him to Sodom, and cost him his wife, his sons-in law, and his estate.

A godly man once said, “A spirit of discontentment is sinful because it involves dissatisfaction with God’s providence. The discontented person really feels that God is not treating him right. Thus discontent amounts to finding fault with God. Therefore discontent is really a form of irreverence, and unbelief in the goodness and love of God.”[vi]

And this discontentment leads to coveting, jealousy, and envy, which in turn lead to strife, bitterness and misery. In short, if you want to make your life miserable, let it be discontent.

In reality the Tenth Commandment says a lot more than “don’t covet.” By implication it “forbids discontentment with our own estate, envying, and grieving at the good of our neighbor, together with all inordinate motions and affections to anything that is his.”[vii] It also “requires such a full contentment with our own condition , and such a charitable frame of the whole soul toward our neighbor, as that all our inward motions and affections touching him, tend unto, and further all that good which is his.”[viii]

J.G. Vos describes it this way: “Contentment means willingness to accept that condition in which God’s providence has placed us, without murmuring or complaining, or being envious at the blessings or prosperity of others.”[ix]

Most American Christians would agree with this conceptually, but at the same time, if we are honest, many of us sigh in frustration. We sometimes feel like God requires us to do something impossible. We think, “How can I make myself be content when I feel so envious?”

Well, that’s the question – Can a person who is greedy, discontent, jealous, or envious simply change their attitudes toward money, relationships, power, and prestige by willpower and become content? No. It’s impossible that way. But it is possible another way, if you know the secret.

In Philippians 4:11-12 Paul alludes to “a secret of contentment,” “…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

In Hebrews13:5 the writer told us exactly what the secret of being content is. In the context of: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have,” he wrote: “ because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”And we see that this is what Paul meant too because he said in the next verse, ““I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:13) You see, the secret to overcoming discontent and coveting is learning to trust God to the point where we can honestly say, “I know that God is with me, and will never forsake me.” This kind of trust leads to true heart obedience in this area, and should be our goal in repentance.

At the heart of our coveting is a fear that we can’t trust God’s goodness and love to us in our particular situation.  Maybe this stems from forgetting the promises of God to always be with us, provide for us, and cause all things to work together for our good. But do we ever really forget that? Not really. I think that what really happens is we subconscious think to ourselves:

“I know God is love and He loves the world; but I doubt whether God truly loves me. I know my evil, my guilt, my failure, my shame – how could God possibly love me? Surely He can’t – so I need to trust in myself, or some other thing like fortune, fame, power or pleasure.”

And so we assume we can’t trust God, and we work hard to obtain these idols that our hearts have created to trust in as substitutes, and we pursue them at all costs, even to the point of pepper spraying other people for them. We forget that the heart of the Gospel is this message:

“God loves me and He will never stop loving me; He is with me and He will never leave me.”

I’m reminded of verses like: “Even while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” and “We love God because He first loved us” and “No one who comes to me will I ever drive away.” God’s love towards me never has, and never will depend on my righteousness. It depends only on the righteousness of Jesus Christ, my self-sacrificing GOD.

When we come to trust in God this way, we begin to pray, “Thank you LORD God! Thank you for loving me, a sinner. Thank you for giving me this indescribable gift!” And just like that, God has turned our covetous idolatry into thankful contentment with our True Obsession and the New Desire of our hearts.

In place of discontentment and coveting God gives us gratitude as Elizabeth Barrett Browning writes:

Because thou hast the power and own’st the grace
To look through and behind this mask of me
(Against which years have beat thus blanchingly
With their rains), and behold my soul’s true face,
The dim and weary witness of life’s race,—
Because thou hast the faith and love to see,
Through that same soul’s distracting lethargy,
The patient angel waiting for a place
In the new Heavens,—because nor sin nor woe,
Nor God’s infliction, nor death’s neighbourhood,
Nor all which others viewing, turn to go,
Nor all which makes me tired of all, self-viewed,—
Nothing repels thee, . . . Dearest, teach me so
To pour out gratitude, as thou dost, good!

1 Tim 6:6 describes the Christian duty of contentment. It is a duty because a large part of loving God is to trust Him. Particularly trusting in His love for you no matter what the situation He providentially places you in. Trusting that He loves you and ultimately intends and causes good to you, no matter what it looks like, feels like, or what other people tell you it looks like or feels like at the time. Trust Him no matter what your marriage looks like, no matter what your health looks like, no matter how you’ve failed Him and others. I call that stubborn trust.

It was that kind of trust that broke out into thanksgiving and praise when Paul rose up in the midst of his prison cell, bruised and beaten. It was that kind of stubborn trust that kept Joseph in slavery, and prison. He knew that God can use even sin sin-lessly. It was that kind of stubborn trust that allowed Jesus to say to God, “Into your hands I commit my spirit.”

Will you trust Him like this today?


[ii] Webster’s New World Dictionary of American English, Victoria Neufeldt, Ed. (Cleveland: Simon &Shuster, Inc; 1988), 320

[iii] The Westminster Larger Catechism Question #120

[iv] 1Kings 21:4

[v] Esther 5:13

[vi] The Westminster Larger Catechism: A Commentary by Johannes G. Vos, GI Williamson, ed.(Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2002), 402-406.

[vii] Westminster Larger Catechism Question #148

[viii] Westminster Larger Catechism Question #147

[ix] J.G. Vos, WLC Commentary, p. 405

God’s Law for Believers Today

The Bible says, “The Law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul[i] and God knows that we need this kind of restoration today. As believers we are bound by Christ to fully conform to the Law’s righteous demands with our hearts, minds and bodies. The LORD said that this kind of full conformity is in fact, what it means to love Him – “Whoever has my commandsand obeys them, he is the one who loves me.[ii]

 Someone may ask, “What! A perfect standard?”  To which the answer is a resounding: Yes. Think about it: If God required less from us, it would be ungodly.  He cannot desire less than the best for Himself and for us. And so Jesus says, “Be ye perfect therefore as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”[iii] And yet who among us can claim such perfection? No one. Unfortunately that admission is the precise point at which most Christians leave their consideration of God’s Law. That is very sad.

Jesus made it clear that “Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”[iv]

CHRISTIANS DO USE THE LAW OF GOD:

The old divines distinguished between the three uses of the Moral Law: pedagogical, evangelical and magisterial.

The first use is the pedagogical use. It comes from the word “pedagogue” or teacher. It refers to the use of the Law as a means of instruction, specifically, teaching non-believers of their need for Christ. Like a bright light it illumines God’s holy character; like a mirror it shows the ugly truth of our unholiness, sin and guilt, as well as God’s consequent judgment and just wrath towards those outside of Christ. It exposes their need for a Savior.  It is the “bad news” that is pre-requisite for the proper reception of the “good news” of grace and mercy in Jesus Christ. It is, after all, quite sensible for person to refuse a cure, when they don’t have a disease. The Law provides the diagnosis of their dire spiritual condition.  Is this a part of our evangelism efforts?

The second use is the evangelical use, and it’s for evangelicals, or Christians. The Law is a guide for Christian living, an instruction manual on how to love. It serves the function of a mirror for believers as well, showing us where we need to repent and trust God more. Another thing it does is show us what Jesus is truly like. He is not only the Author, but the Perfector of our faith. As we increasingly study and conform to His commands, our minds are renewed, we put on the mind of Christ more and more, our thinking begins to conform to His thinking, our perspectives align with His, and our attitudes, and our affections, and our habits.  We begin to desire and pray for things that He desires. We begin to see Him, as He shows Himself to us. In the Law we have “the wisdom from above” that enables us to “test and approve” what God’s perfect will is for us in the specific situations of our lives.

The third use is the magisterial use, and it is for the magistrate, or the civil government. It is the standard of righteousness and justice for making laws, the morality that should be legislated. It is the wisdom for judges to seek out when deciding difficult cases.

Every Christian should take the time to study His commands in depth, or with a degree of diligence, and according to a plan. It’s easy to get bogged down in them, or distracted from this task. Satan does not want us to know our Father’s character, will, or wisdom for our lives, nor to experience the blessings that inevitably flow from such knowledge. “Blessed is the man…whose delight is in the Law of the LORD and on His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season, his leaf does not wither, whatever he does prospers.”[v]

In the Law we have the revelation of God’s own moral character which is our standard of morality. “Be holy, for I am holy.” In the Law we have the revelation of God’s will for our lives. We also have in it the “Wisdom from above” for our lives.

THE SAME LAW IN THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS:

In the Old Testament there were three major types of law: Civil, Ceremonial and Moral. The civil law dealt with the government of the nation of Israel (which by the way was the only true theocracy that has ever existed on planet earth.) The ceremonial law distinguished between clean and unclean things and people, emphasized public health, diet and sanitation, as well as worship in the tabernacle and temple. It regulated the priesthood, prescribed means of worship, and various sacrifices and festivals. The civil and ceremonial laws of Israel foreshadowed Christ. They also provide the vital cultural backdrop for a proper understanding Old Testament characters and their actions. It is worthwhile to read and understand these laws.

The moral law is different. It is not limited to the time and place of the political nation of Israel because it pertains to God and His unchanging character. summarized in the Ten Commandments and it declared the holy and just character of God and His expectations for His people.

While the civil and ceremonial laws were restricted to the Nation of Israel, and because of that largely does not have use for the Christian today, the Moral Law has never changed for God’s people. The difference between the Moral Law for the Old Testament people of God and for the New Testament people of God is this: after the ascension of Christ, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon believers, writing the Moral Law upon our hearts. We understand the perfect righteous demands of the Law were fulfilled in and through Christ. The Moral Law is now written on the internal tablets of human hearts, as opposed to the external tablets of stone. Yet the fact that the Holy Spirit has written the Moral Law upon our hearts does not absolve us from the responsibility to study it and use it.

HOW TO RIGHTLY UNDERSTAND THE TEN COMMANDMENTS:

The ninety ninth question of the Westminster Larger Catechism deals with this issue. The eight principles it lays out are wonderful, but they can be a bit intimidating in the old and high language of the Puritans, so I’ll try to break it down and unpack them into modern times:

Principle #1: That the Law demands perfect, perpetual and personal obedience with the whole man. The Bible teaches that “the Law of God is perfect[vi] and “whosoever shall keep the whole law and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”[vii] The LORD Jesus taught that in God’s eyes anger at a brother makes one just as guilty before God as actual murder, when He said, “anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca, ‘is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell…”[viii] Then he equated lust with actual adultery in the heart, “anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.[ix]

Principle #2: That the Law is spiritual.[x] “Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.[xi] Therefore it demands conformity of the whole person including body, mind, including the reason, the imagination, affections, will, words, behaviors, as well as the spirit.

Principle #3: That there is some overlap in the commandments. A thing may be required or forbidden in several commandments, but in different respects. For example, the tenth commandment forbids covetousness, and this as Scripture tells us is included as a form of idolatry which is forbidden in the second commandment.[xii]

Principle #4: That if a duty is required by a commandment, the contrary sin is forbidden. For example, the fourth commandment requires the duty of “remember the Sabbath” and in Isaiah we read of the implied sin forbidden: “not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words…”[xiii] Also, if a sin is forbidden by a commandment, the contrary duty is required. For example, the first commandment forbids the sin of having any other God’s besides the LORD. Jesus gives us the implied duty which it requires: “Thou shalt worship the LORD thy God and Him only shalt thou serve.[xiv] Also where a promise is given, the contrary threatening is implied, and vice versa.

Principle #5: That what God forbids is at no time to be done; and what he commands, is always our duty. This is plain. As Moses said, “And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today? Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.”[xv]  And yet every particular duty is not to be done at all times. This is not so obvious. Jesus demonstrated this principle regarding the duty required in the fourth commandment when he rebuked the Pharisees who had accused him of breaking the Sabbath. His hungry disciples picked grain and ate it as they walked through the fields. He said, If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”[xvi]

Principle #6: The sixth principle is quite unpopular. It states that if one sin or duty is forbidden or required, then all of the same kinds of sins or duties are forbidden or required; together with all the causes, means, occasions, and appearances thereof, and provocations thereunto. It’s unpopular because it strikes at the core of our impure heart’s desire to evade the duties or sidestep the prohibitions.

For example, the 5th Commandment requires the duty of honoring our parents – and that’s exactly what the Pharisees did – well, at least in their minds. They thought that because they were good at honoring them with their words, and obeying them as children, and rising in their presence that they were keeping the 5th Commandment.

All of those things are certainly required, but what about when it came to sacrificing time, energy and financially to care for them in their old age? They did not do so well. Instead they found a way to sidestep this duty, a loophole of sorts, similar to tax evasion. They could donate their estates to the Temple treasury, making it “devoted to the LORD” legally when they die.[xvii] So in their minds when their aging parents asked for help financially, they would refuse to help them saying: ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God.’

For this reason Jesus harshly rebuked them: “Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:  “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’”[xviii]

According to Jesus, if we try to get by with a minimum degree of obedience, we like the Pharisees, may be honoring him with our lips, while our hearts are far from Him. The Law demands wholehearted obedience.

Principle #7: That if God forbids or commands something for us as individuals, not only should we ourselves obey, but we also ought to do whatever we can (according to where God has placed us) to make sure that they are obeyed by others. For example, in the fourth commandment when God said to the fathers that “neither you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your manservant, nor your maid-servant, nor your cattle, nor the stranger that is within your gates” it implies that the man is to do what he can to ensure obedience in those he is responsible for. We see this implied in what Joshua said, when he was speaking to the Israelites about choosing whom to serve: “As for me and my house” he did not leave it simply at “as for me.”

What does this mean for our dealings with those outside of our family? According to Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan we are our neighbor’s keepers.  This was not a new invention. That’s why when God was giving the instructions to Israel, He said, “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him.”[xix] It is always our duty to seek not only reconciliation, but also righteousness in so far as we are lovingly able to with our neighbor. After all, righteousness is the only path to true blessing, and that is what we are to desire for our neighbor. Are we too comfortable, or too cowardly to do this? Are we too apathetic?

Principle #8: That when something is commanded to others, we ought as we are able to help them. The Bible says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another– and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”[xx] And also, when something is forbidden to others, we ought not to partake with them in what is forbidden them. The Bible says, “neither be partakers of other man’s sins; keep thyself pure.”[xxi]

And “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.”[xxii] A classic example of the latter is the “receiving of stolen goods.” We know that if something stolen is offered to us, we should not receive it. Just as if we see our brother falling into temptation we should do what we can to help him. “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”[xxiii]

My goal is to write a series of essays presenting a right understanding of God’s commandments, and touching on the uses and the application of the specific commandments for the believer today. It is my prayer that God would stimulate in myself and others further meditation, prayer according to God’s will, and true obedience, and in so doing a greater conformity to, and closer communion with God in Christ.

Coming up next week….The Tenth Commandment.

[i] Psalm 19:7 NAS

[ii] John 14:21 NAS

[iii] Matthew 5:48 NAS

[iv] Matthew 5:19 NIV

[v] Psalm 1:1-3 NAS

[vi] Psalm 19:7 KJV

[vii] James 2:10 KJV

Viii Matthew 5:21NIV

[ix] Matthew 5:28NIV

[x] Romans 7:14KJV

[xi] Matthew 22:37NIV

[xii] Colossians 3:5 KJV

[xiii] Isaiah 58:13 KJV

[xiv] Matthew 4:10 KJV

[xv] Deuteronomy 4:8-9NIV

[xvi] Matthew 12:7 NIV

[xvii] Matthew Henry’s Commentary, Leslie F. Church, Ed (Grand Rapids: Zondervan; 1961), 1279.

[xviii] Matthew 15:1-9 NIV

[xix] Leviticus 19:17KJV

[xx] Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV

[xxi] 1 Tim 5:22 KJV

[xxii] Eph 5:11 NIV

[xxiii] Gal 6:1-2 NIV

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