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Why did God give us the Ten Commandments?

Jesus summarized the entire Old Testament moral instruction into two simple commands: Love God with all your being and love your neighbor as yourself. His words were actually a shortened summary of the Ten Commandments , which God spoke to the people of Israel after their deliverance from Egyptian bondage. (Exodus 19-20) Those commandments outlined God’s moral will concerning their relationship to Him and to fellow human beings. Bearing in mind the occult ideas and pagan practices of surrounding nations, the commandments corrected any false notions about God which may have crept into Israel’s belief system during their 400 year captivity. These laws generalized how He was to be worshipped and how they were to treat their fellow Israelites. (see Exodus 20)

Commandments 1-4 explain how God is to be loved:

1. He alone is to be worshipped.

2. He was represented in a physical manner (for occult purpose)

3. His holy name was not to be used for magical incantations

4. The seventh day was to be honored as a day of worship.

Commandments 5 - 10 show how we are to love one another:

5. Respect parents (for they instruct their children about God)

6. Respect the life of another human being.

7. Respect marriage.

8. Respect another’s property.

9. Respect a person’s reputation

10. Guard your heart from coveting, envy and jealousy.

The Ten Commandments represent God’s moral law. They reflect his holy character and his purposes for humankind. They are the minimum standard of conduct that God requires of his people and the basis for judgment for those who disobey.

God never meant for us to think about the Ten Commandments as a system of works to gain his approval or gain spiritual merit. Often, people in general will think of these laws as a means of salvation, believing that if they obey them perfectly or at least, sincerely, they will be accepted by God. No; these laws cannot save us. Salvation is given by God’s grace based upon our faith in Christ alone.

But God ‘s laws do serve another important purpose. They uncover the dark side of human nature (see Galatians 4, Romans 2-3). The Bible points out that humans are spiritually corrupt and tend to think about God in wrong ways and treat other humans inconsistently, often maliciously. These laws define such behavior as morally wrong, an expression of the sinful human nature. Such conduct and motives displease God and offend his good and holy character.

For this reason, the Ten Commandments present a serious problem for every human being. Since we are not able to obey God’s laws perfectly, we stand accused and condemned of violating God’s precepts. These laws point out our shortcomings. They cannot make up for our spiritual deficiencies. Even our sincere efforts to obey them are inadequate to save us. We are left in a desperate situation, needing forgiveness from the One whom we offended. We can only cry out for mercy and grace to a just and holy God. It is at such a time when the Gospel of Jesus Christ becomes good news for every sinner who repents. The law points to our need for grace and mercy and that grace and mercy is provided for us by a loving God in the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. As our substitute, Jesus took upon himself the judgment we deserved. (Romans 3:25-26, John 3:16) Through Jesus, we find forgiveness and acceptance with a holy God in spite of the fact that we are sinners. (Romans 5:8)

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