As a result of Adam’s sin and the fall of the human race, man is born with a rebellious nature. He is self-willed, self-seeking, and not inclined to submit himself to the law of God.
It stands to reason that since God created humanity he has the right to establish laws governing our conduct.
But even here our corrupted thinking often comes to light.As in the case of Pharaoh, many today ask, “Who is the Lord that I should obey his voice…?” (Exodus 5:2). I counseled with one lady (and many like her since) whose life had become complicated because of sin, and yet she had no concept that the sovereign creator had established laws and that there are consequences for violating them. Her attitude was that “I am my own person and no one has the right to challenge my actions.” But the fact is that whether or not a person believes there is a God or acknowledges God’s right to establish a law or concedes that God is just in imposing a penalty for breaking it, the truth stands. God is a holy God, has a law, hates sin, and will punish sinners.
The First Command
The first commandment, according to Jesus when asked to list the chief command, is “thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength” (Mark 12:30).
The first four of the Ten Commandments, therefore, can ultimately be understood and summarized under the single, positive directive to love God with all that we are.
More specifically, then, the first one of the Ten Commandments is, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). The pagans worshiped many gods, but there is but one true and living God. The psalmist writes, “Our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands” (Psalm 115:3-4). What a contrast! The idols were made by men’s hands or conceived in their minds. But the God of heaven rules by his sovereign power, executes his will, and fulfills his purposes.What folly to bow down to an idol! What sinful arrogance to say to the Almighty creator, “I prefer a god of my own making.” The Bible repeatedly condemns idolatry, yet the thinking of liberal inclusivism today is that sincerity in any religion or any form of worship is an evidence of divine grace.
Idolatry is a sin and therefore clearly not the result of grace in the heart.
But idols are not only those false gods devised by the heathen; they include anything that keeps us from loving the Lord with all our heart, mind and strength. It is any substitute for the true God. The New Testament admonishes: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).
The idols that are often worshiped in our day include physical possessions and pleasures, money, success, and recognition. Some of these things are described in the book of Hebrews as “the pleasures of sin for a season,” but many of these things are not actually bad in and of themselves. But they become nothing less than idolatry when we allow them to come between us and a single-minded pursuit of God in Christ Jesus.
The Second Command
And then we look at the second commandment, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image…Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them…” (Exodus 20:4-5). Here God prohibits his people from making any carved image to represent him or anything from heaven or earth that would become the object of worship. No one has seen the Lord so how could we make any kind of an image that would correctly portray him? We will necessarily be limiting God the moment we seek to portray his majesty with any image or object for worship.
God must reveal himself; and he did that in sending forth his Son.
Jesus Christ is described as “the image of the invisible God…” (Colossians 1:15). Yet even our view of Jesus Christ should not just be through painted pictures and carved statues, but by faith through the revelation given in the scriptures.So the most potent antidote to our breaking the second of the Ten Commandments is provided for us by God himself, in the beautiful person and work of Jesus Christ, received by grace through faith.
The Third Command
In this first section of the law, which speaks of our obligation to God, we are also told, “Thou 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” (Exodus 20:7). Consider some of the ways that the Bible describes God’s name. His name is holy (Ezekiel 36:22-23). His name is glorious and fearful (Deuteronomy 28:58). His name is excellent (Psalm 148:13). His name endures forever (Psalm 135:13).Psalm 111:9 speaks of the respect that God’s name deserves: “Holy and reverend is his name.” His name is obviously taken in vain when used as a part of profanity, but neither should his name be used carelessly or in any manner that fails to give the honor due him.
His name is also taken in vain when lip service is rendered without living up to that profession.
It was said of Israel, “They did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues. For their heart was not right with him, neither were they steadfast in his covenant” (Psalm 78:36-37). Jesus brought the same charge against the Pharisees of his day saying that they drew near to God with their mouths but their hearts was far from him. Even Christians can therefore take God’s name in vain, when we render only lip service rather than true obedience. God will not hold him guiltless that dishonors his name. Man may assume it is a trivial matter but God declares the offender is guilty before him. The day is coming when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. Those who once scoffed at his name will then have to acknowledge his greatness.
The Fourth Command
Our duty toward God culminates with: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy…” (Exodus 20:8). The ceremonial restrictions pertaining to the Sabbath day have ended but the principle of observing a day of rest and worship remains. Early Christians met on the first day of the week and John referred to it as “the Lord’s day” (Revelation 1:10).
The world rushes on with its business and entertainment seven days a week, as if there were no God to worship.
Surely the Lord’s people ought, on the Lord’s Day, to set aside a day for worship, to be in God’s house and not allow ourselves to be caught up in the same vain pursuits and frantic pace of the ungodly.The psalmist said, “I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved” (Psalm 119:47). We know the law was not given in order for us to earn our own salvation, but when salvation is given by the grace of God it produces a love for the commandments of God. This should come as no surprise, since the commandments reflect the perfect goodness of God in Jesus Christ! (Matthew 5:17). And the longing of our hearts, as Christians, is to see and know and resemble Him better every day.