Jesus is a Redeemer, that is his name; he came into the world on this very business, to redeem his people, to redeem them from all iniquity (Titus 2:14 (NIV) who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.), from this present evil world, from our vain conversations. He hath shed his precious blood to purchase us, we are bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20 (NIV) you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies). We are none of our own, we are his, the purchase of his blood; and we may be confident that he dearly loves us, for he dearly bought us; and if he had not dearly loved us, he would never have given himself for us (Galatians 2:20 (NIV) I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me). That was the highest testimony of his love; he loved us, and washed us from our sins in his blood (Revelation 1:5 (NIV)and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood). He will redeem us from the wrath to come.
16 You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
17 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
The tongue is a restless evil. It sets the whole person on fire, James 3 tells us. And so the ninth commandment is aimed in part at bridling the tongue. It’s aimed at bridling the tongue with truth, teaching us to put off falsehood, to put off lying. In our culture, to accuse someone of telling a lie is a serious insult, so many people hesitate to even use the term. I think that this hesitancy reveals fallen man’s heart to shy away from this commandment—as well as his need of this commandment.
What does it mean that we think the command “thou shalt not lie”or the word lie is impolite? It probably indicates that in some ways we’re already shading the truth. We’re already pulling back from a full expression of what’s good, what’s right, and what’s true. And the ninth commandment convicts us of that. It points out our fallenness when it comes to our use of the tongue and the destruction that the tongue represents.
And, likewise, the tenth commandment: “Thou shalt not covet.” If you can imagine the heart having hands, coveting is like the heart grasping for things, desiring things, laying hold of things that don’t properly belong to it. What’s remarkable and beautiful about this commandment—about all of Scripture, in fact—is that even though the commandment addresses something inward (that inward grasping of the heart), it also points out the social implications of that interior grasping. So we have “thou shalt not covet anything that is thy neighbor’s.” Not our neighbor’s spouse, not our neighbor’s cattle, not anything that belongs to our neighbor.
The tenth commandment sets for us a kind of boundary that protects against the way covetousness tends to cross lines. We are tempted to cross the line of desires, longing for things that aren’t properly in our possession. We cross the line of property, grasping for things that belong to another person (your neighbor’s cattle, your neighbor’s spouse). So our coveting actually, socially, does injury to our neighbor. And there’s another line that we cross. When we covet, what we’re actually saying is that God has not apportioned his creation properly because he hasn’t given us everything we desire. And so the heart, in its fallen, sinful way, grasps for things that don’t belong to it and seeks for things that actually belong on the other side of ownership—to the neighbor or to God.
These commandments speak to us, and they call us forth to truth-telling. And not just to truth-telling, but to the truth spoken in love. They call forth a bridling, a restraining, and a channeling of desire to things that are good and right. They call us to things that God has legitimately given to us for our enjoyment, and to be content in how God has distributed his blessing, how he rules his creation. They call us not to go outside of that contentment by taking things, for if we do, we destroy society, culture, and our neighbors. This is true even if the taking of what doesn’t belong to us is only a taking in heart.
Christians are obligated to obey the Ten Commandments, because what we find in the Ten Commandments are the laws of God. What we find in Jesus’s interpretation in the Sermon on the Mount is that the standards of the law are much higher than we had assumed. It’s not just not committing adultery and not murdering and not stealing. Jesus says, in interpreting the sixth commandment, that if you harbor bitterness, if you’re unable to forgive someone, if you call a person raca (that is, to consider him a nonperson), then you’ve murdered that person in your heart. He also says that if you lust in your heart, you’re breaking the seventh commandment and committing adultery. And you are being greedy if you’re materialistic and you’re not radically generous. So Jesus raises the bar of the commandments to the highest level.
Martin Luther wrote that you cannot break the rest of the commandments without first breaking the first one. That is, if you break the commandments, you are looking at other things as your ultimate value and your god rather than God himself.
Luther also said that when there is a negative prohibition in the Ten Commandments, a positive implication is assumed. Therefore, when it says that you ought not to murder, it also means that you ought to radically love others, even neighbors and enemies. And when it says you ought not to commit adultery, the assumption is that you’re supposed to be faithful to your wife or to your husband and to recognize sexuality as a beautiful gift from God. And therefore if you’re in a marriage relationship, you ought to recognize that it is a conventional commitment between a man and a woman. When it says that you ought not to steal, the understanding is that you ought to be radically generous.
These are the responsibilities that Christians have in responding to the Ten Commandments. But the problem is that we’re unable to obey them perfectly. So how are we going to resolve that tension?
Jesus Christ is the second Adam, the true Israel, the individual divine corporate head and representative who has come to fulfill the obligations of the law perfectly in himself. His obedience and righteousness now gets imputed into our lives, thereby giving us the ability to obey the obligations and the demands of the law. Even when we don’t obey them perfectly, we know that we are not going to be crushed by the law, and we will have confidence as we seek to obey the law of God because we know that Jesus Christ has fulfilled those requirements perfectly for us. Therefore, we can live without fear of rejection from God for our disobedience or lack of perfect obedience. But we know that Jesus Christ has accomplished all these things, fulfilling the requirements of the law perfectly for us.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
If we read the entire Bible, Old and New Testaments, we come to see that the command to remember the Sabbath day has two aspects to it.
First, it’s a crucial practice. In our lives we’re commanded to have a rhythm of work and rest, and we are forbidden to overwork.
We’re also commanded to nurture our bodies and our souls. We’re not supposed to nurture only our bodies. We’re to rejuvenate our souls through fellowship and through prayer and devotion and worship every week.
It’s also true, however, that the New Testament shows us that the Sabbath day points to a deeper kind of rest. Hebrews 4 in particular says that when we believe in Christ and the gospel, we rest from our works. Which means the great burden of having to prove ourselves and having to earn our salvation is lifted from us. In this life we get much of that deeper rest, and yet it’s only completely realized in the future in the new heavens and new earth. And we look for that and we long for that. It’s deeply consoling especially at times in which we’re very weary.
The fifth commandment to honor our parents should also be read in light of the gospel. The command says that as children, we should obey our parents. As adults, we should respect and listen to our parents. And yet the gospel also reminds us that God is our Father, by grace we’re brought into his family, and he is our primary source of love. And if our primary phileo relationship is with him, then we are able to love and honor our parents well, not looking to them to provide what can be found in God alone.