Ten Commandments Study, Lesson 6: Honor Your Father and Mother

From my new book, The Way of the Lord: A Study of the Ten Commandments. Click here to buy the book and Bible study so you can use it devotionally or work through it with a small group of Christian brothers and sisters… or to even give away to someone who desires to learn more about the way of the Lord.


[This commandment means] I should love, serve, respect, and care for my parents all their lives, and should obey them in all things that are reasonable and conform to God’s Law. …I also keep the fifth commandment by showing respect for teachers and elders; by obeying, as far as is lawful, those who hold authority in the Church, my employment, and civil government; and by conducting myself in all things with reverent humility before God and my neighbor. (To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism)

But the fifth commandment and similar Bible passages use the vocabulary of fear, honor, and worship, on a human level, to indicate the proper attitude of children to parents. And, moreover, they demand such reverence for parents as a consequence of our reverence for God. Our reverence for parents is not in spite of our reverence for God, but because of it. Deuteronomy 5:16 adds, “as the Lord your God commanded you.” Leviticus 19:32, Ephesians 6:1–3, and Colossians 3:20 also invoke divine sanction for the content of the fifth commandment. Jesus too… strongly defends the fifth commandment, even though he demands for himself a higher honor than for parents. (John Frame)

The terms “father” and “mother” remind those in authority that, like fathers and mothers, they are responsible for and should act in a loving and tender way, appropriately reflecting their particular relationship, toward those under them; and those under them are also encouraged to accept their authority more willingly and cheerfully, as if they were their parents. (Westminster Larger Catechism)

Introduction

In this lesson we move from primarily focusing on our vertical relationship with God to our horizontal relationships with our neighbors. The Ten Commandments are usually understood in the way Jesus defined the Great Commandment. The first tablet, commandments 1-4, emphasize our love for God, while the second tablet, commandments 5-10, focus on neighbor-love. Of course, it’s not quite as neatly divided as that description makes it out to be. For our love for other people, of necessity, shows up in our love for God, expressed in the first four commandments. Moreover, our love for God is the foundation for how we should treat other people. And we show our love for God when we show our love for our neighbors.

As you have no doubt noticed in the previous lessons, there is much more packed into each commandment than meets the eye. That will continue to be true throughout the rest of this study, and this commandment is no exception. The language of “father and mother” encompasses much more than one’s biological parents. Instead, the Israelites would have understood that to mean those in authority over you. The natural starting place is the home. But the impact of this commandment extends out in concentric circles to other spheres of authority, such as one’s teachers, employers, spiritual leaders, and civil government leaders, just to name a few. Yet, as the third quotation above, from the Westminster Larger Catechism emphasizes, those in authority should also act in loving and tender ways to those under their authority.

The last introductory note to emphasize before we get into this lesson is to point out that honor denotes respect and care, and in appropriate seasons of life, circumstances, and relationships, obedience. For example, a child living under his or her parents’ roof, ought to obey the loving guidance and discipline of his or her parents. Later in life, the adult child may choose to honor his or her parent by listening to their advice, but are under no obligation to necessarily obey what the parent’s advise. I hasten to add that honoring one’s parents should extend throughout the parents’ lifetime. As parents age, it is a loving and tender expression of honor to care for them, as parents once cared for their child.

As this lesson will help us understand, to honor one’s parents, or anyone else in authority over us, is ultimately to honor God who set those in authority over us. Yet, honor and obedience to human authority should only be expected insofar as the human authority conforms to the authority of God and his Word. Our first commitment is to God (commandments 1-4). Learning how to honor and respect those in authority over us in the home at a young age, ideally helps us better live in society, thereby making it a stronger and healthier society in which all may live and flourish.


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Ten Commandments Study, Lesson 5: Remember the Sabbath

From my new book, The Way of the Lord: A Study of the Ten Commandments. Click here to buy the book and Bible study so you can use it devotionally or work through it with a small group of Christian brothers and sisters… or to even give away to someone who desires to learn more about the way of the Lord.


First, under the repose of the seventh day the heavenly Lawgiver meant to represent to the people of Israel spiritual rest, in which believers ought to lay aside their own works to allow God to work in them. Secondly, he meant that there was to be a stated day for them to assemble to hear the law and perform the rites, or at least to devote it particularly to meditation upon his works, and thus through this remembrance to be trained in piety. Thirdly, he resolved to give a day of rest to servants and those who are under the authority of others, in order that they should have some respite from toil. (John Calvin)

 Q. 103What does God require in the fourth Commandment?

A. In the first place, God wills that the ministry of the Gospel and schools be maintained, and that I, especially on the day of rest, diligently attend church to learn the Word of God, to use the holy sacraments, to call publicly upon the Lord, and to give Christian alms. In the second place, that all the days of my life I rest from my evil works, allow the Lord to work in me by His Spirit, and thus begin in this life the everlasting sabbath. (The Heidelberg Catechism)

How do we keep the fourth commandment? By worshiping the Lord on his day. To keep something holy in the biblical sense is to dedicate it exclusively for worship. …To keep the Sabbath “to the Lord” is to give the day over to God, setting it apart for him and his glory. …The Sabbath is not only a day for worship, but also a day of rest. It is a day for ceasing from work, and especially from common labor. (Philip Ryken)

Introduction

We have now arrived at the most controversial of the commandments. Throughout church history, there have been a variety of perspectives on what the fourth commandment means and does not mean. What makes this commandment especially difficult to honor today is that our culture largely ignores it. It is merely the second day of the weekend. It’s a day for sleeping in and reading the paper, or it’s the last day of our child’s soccer tournament or our round of golf. It is a day for traveling home from a weekend getaway or vacation. Honoring it as a holy day does not appear to be on the radar screen of the world in which we live. In fact, some treat it as any other day of regular work. But that ought not be the way Christians view the Sabbath. But therein lies the question: How should Christians view this sacred, set-apart day?

A minority view has been that this commandment has been abrogated by virtue that the Sabbath day of the old covenant, Saturday, has been replaced with Sunday as the Lord’s Day, changed because it was the day our Lord rose from the dead. It is functionally the day the church still makes holy through rest and worship, but primarily because it is practical to do so, not because God has commanded it. Christians are called to gather corporately to worship God and since this day has already been set aside, it makes sense to keep it as a special day on the Christian’s weekly calendar.

On the other side of the spectrum, from a Christian perspective on Sabbath-keeping, is that Sunday is indeed the Sabbath of the new covenant. Christians are, therefore, commanded to focus on God in worship, both corporate as well as private, including with one’s family. It is also a day of rest from one’s regular work. This stricter view would prohibit any sports or leisure activities that were not focused upon, and set apart for, worshiping the Lord. This view does not intentionally promote legalism, but does emphasize that Sunday is a day to be made holy unto the Lord and therefore, the Lord’s should be our focus. I even read one proponent of this view that suggested naps would not be considered in keeping with this commandment.

A third option is not quite in the middle of the previous two; it leans closer toward understanding Sunday as the Christian Sabbath, or Lord’s Day. It is grounded in an understanding that the Sabbath is based in creation, following the example of God who worked for six days and rested on the seventh. Thus, not only does it emphasize resting from regular work on the Sabbath, but like the people of Israel who were called to remember their escape from slavery in Egypt, Christians are called to remember God delivering us from slavery to sin and death through the redemption Christ won for us through his Cross and Resurrection.

In Luke 4 we read that it was our Lord’s custom to worship on the Sabbath, so he clearly did not think it had been abolished. Yet, he did indicate in Mark 7 that all food was now permissible to eat, in the apparent abolishment of the Mosaic dietary restrictions. Furthermore, keeping the Sabbath was included in the decalogue, a summary of the moral law of Israel, which as we saw in an earlier lesson, remains authoritative and required for Christians to obey today. This view would not prohibit doing household chores, enjoying family recreation, and the like. Yet, it might still encourage one to ask: “Am I honoring the Lord on this day?”

Thus, the issue for most Christians today is not whether or not the Sabbath should be kept, but how it should be kept. What does it mean and not mean to keep the Sabbath holy? What is prohibited and what is permissible? Moreover, even if something is not expressly forbidden, what is the best and most integrity-filled way of keeping the spirit of the commandment, without degenerating into legalism? Paul cautioned his readers to beware of doing whatever they desired and hiding behind a claim of grace to cover their licentious decision. That seems an especially apt caution for Christians today when it comes to the fourth commandment. We want to walk the right path that guides us between the ditch of legalism on one side and licentiousness on the other.

Hopefully, the questions below will help you better understand the intentions and requirements of this commandment and enable you to find ways to obey and honor God’s desire for you to set apart the Sabbath as a special day to rest from your labor and to honor God with your worship of him. This lesson will also focus on the nature of work, rest, and time. May God help us employ all these spheres of our life to bring him glory and be a blessing in the lives of others.


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Ten Commandments Study: Lesson 4: Honoring God’s Name

From my new book, The Way of the Lord: A Study of the Ten Commandments. Click here to buy the book and Bible study so you can use it devotionally or work through it with a small group of Christian brothers and sisters… or to even give away to someone who desires to learn more about the way of the Lord.


Third Commandment: Honoring God’s Name

Taking the Lord’s name in vain refers primarily to someone taking a deceptive oath in God’s name or invoking God’s name to sanction an act in which the person is being dishonest (Lev. 19:12). It also bans using God’s name in magic, or irreverently, or disrespectfully (Lev. 24:10–16). The Lord revealed his name to Moses (Ex. 3:14–15), and he has continued to identify himself in connection with his acts on Israel’s behalf (see 6:2, 6–8). Yahweh is warning Israel against using his name as if it were disconnected from his person, presence, and power. (Note for Exodus 20:7, from the ESV Study Bible)

The idea of “taking”… Yahweh’s name may refer to an oath… though its broad semantic range… would permit interpretations forbidding vain oaths, use in magic or idolatry, or frivolous, thoughtless use… The commandment ultimately prohibits people from trivializing His name. The ancients held the name to constitute the essence of the named. This commandment thus forbids any careless, flippant, or crass use. Israel is forbidden from any use of the divine name that is less than fearful, reverent, thoughtful, and calculated. (The Lexham Bible Dictionary)

The third commandment requires the holy and reverent use in our thoughts, meditations, words, and writings of God’s name, titles, qualities, regulations, word, sacrament, prayer, oath, vows, casting lots, his works, and anything else by which he makes himself known. This treatment will be reflected in holy affirmations of our faith and conduct that matches our affirmation, to the glory of God and the good of ourselves and others. (The Westminster Larger Catechism)

Introduction

I had a professor in seminary who once said that if you pray for your team to win a game, you are taking the Lord’s name in vain. That was the first time I remember coming to understand that “taking the Lord’s name in vain” means much more than using God’s name as common swear word. To be sure, blaspheming the holy name of God by using it in such a profane way ought to also be off limits, but as the quotations above reveal, it means much more than that.

When we trivialize God’s name by using it to swear or promise that something we are saying is true, all the while knowing we are lying, that is taking God’s name in vain. When we do something sinful or evil in the name of God, we are misusing God’s holy name, which is always tied to his holy character. And frankly, when we are known to be followers of Jesus Christ, and yet live lives that are contrary to his will and character, we are telling a lie about the God we profess to love, follow, and worship, and thereby are misusing his name.

Thus, as you can tell from the preceding quotations and introductory remarks, “taking the Lord’s name in vain” covers a lot more ground than only using God’s name as a common curse word. In the questions below, you will have an opportunity to dig into Scripture related to this topic and explore a wide range of application of this third commandment. I believe God’s desire for us is to always seek to honor and glorify his name and live in such a way that when others see our lives, they will be compelled to praise our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).


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Ten Commandments: Lesson 3, Keep Yourself from Idols

From my new book, The Way of the Lord: A Study of the Ten Commandments. Click here to buy the book and Bible study so you can use it devotionally or work through it with a small group of Christian brothers and sisters… or to even give away to someone who desires to learn more about the way of the Lord.


IDOLATRY — the worship of something created as opposed to the worship of the Creator Himself. Scores of references to idolatry appear in the Old Testament. This shows that idolatry probably was the greatest temptation our spiritual forefathers faced. While we find bowing down to a statue no temptation, they apparently slipped into idolatry constantly. So serious was this sin that the prohibition against the making and worshiping of images was included near the beginning of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:4–6). (Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary)

While the first commandment prohibits worshiping gods other than the one true God, this commandment prohibits worshiping the one true God in a way that makes us think of him as having a physical form like something in his creation. To think of God’s very being as having a physical form is to diminish him, to dishonor him, to ignore the immense difference between the Creator and the creature. (Wayne Grudem)

After the first commandment rejects all other gods, so that only Yahweh remains, the second commandment rejects every wrong form whereby people desire to worship Yahweh. The first commandment opposes foreign gods, the second opposes self-willed worship of Yahweh. If you stand with your back to idols, then you must still learn to kneel properly before the God of Israel. You can get rid of all your religious idols, but in their place you must not erect an image of Yahweh. You may serve no other gods; but the Lord in turn wants to be served in no other way than He has commanded. (J. Douma)

Introduction

We often think of idolatry as worshiping a false god. We even understand idolatry as placing any person or priority in our lives before our commitment to God. And it is proper for us to think of idolatry in both of those ways. And yet, the second commandment also helps us understand that God requires us to worship him rightly. That means, among other things, we must be careful about too closely associating images with God himself. Religious images in our places of worship or prayer closets, or jewelry we wear around our necks, need to point beyond themselves, and not become the objects of our worship and devotion. Thus, even holy icons such as a sanctuary cross or stained glass window, if they garner our adoration, can become idols, or graven images, as the second commandment puts it.

Moreover, in some Christian traditions, to worship God in any other way than what he has explicitly commanded in Scripture, is to violate the second commandment. What does that mean? There has been no consensus in Christian history, but that does not mean Christians should not seek to be faithful to God regarding what he has said about our worship of him. We never want to be careless or too casual when it comes to our worship of God. The Old Testament is filled with examples of those who were not necessarily worshiping false gods, but they were guilty of worshiping the one true God in a way he did not prescribe. This lesson will help us think more thoroughly and carefully about what it means to focus too closely on images in our spiritual lives, as well as doing our best to worship God in the ways he has commanded, and by which he is most glorified.


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Ten Commandments: Lesson 2, One God Only

From my new book, The Way of the Lord: A Study of the Ten Commandments. Click here to buy the book and Bible study so you can use it devotionally or work through it with a small group of Christian brothers and sisters… or to even give away to someone who desires to learn more about the way of the Lord.


There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body or parts, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the maker and preserver of all things, both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there are three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. (The Articles of Religion of the United Methodist Church)

That for the sake of my very salvation I avoid and flee all idolatry, witchcraft, superstition, and prayer to saints or to other creatures. Further, that I rightly come to know the only true God, trust in Him alone, submit to Him with all humility and patience, expect all good from Him only, and love, fear, and honour Him with all my heart. In short, that I forsake all creatures rather than do the least thing against His will. (The Heidelberg Catechism)

The first commandment embraces faith, hope, and charity. When we say ‘God’ we confess a constant, unchangeable being, always the same, faithful and just, without any evil. It follows that we must necessarily accept his words and have complete faith in him and acknowledge his authority. He is almighty, merciful, and infinitely beneficent… Who could not place all hope in him? Who could not love him when contemplating the treasure of goodness and love he has poured out on us? Hence the formula God employs in the Scripture at the beginning and end of his commandments: ‘I am the LORD.’ (The Catechism of the Catholic Church)

Introduction

God begins his commands to Israel with a reminder of who he is and what he has done for them. He is not just a god who exists. He is the covenant God of Israel. He is the one who created them, called them as his people through Abraham, and promised them he would be their God and they would be his people. This covenant relationship is the defining mark of who Israel was as God’s people and it continues today for those who are in Christ Jesus. God has once again rescued us, this time from sin, death, and despair. Our covenant God has given us the supreme gift of his Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. When we trust in Christ alone, we enter a covenant in which God says he will never leave us nor forsake us but instead, will be with us forever.

God’s covenant people have been rescued, redeemed, and reconciled by God’s grace. God continues his work of reshaping us in his image as we obey the commands he has provided for our good. Thus, we must not divide our loyalty, for there is only one God worthy to be believed in, worshipped, and obeyed. This lesson will help us better understand what that means and its ramifications for our lives.


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Lesson 1: The Law of God

From my new book, The Way of the Lord: A Study of the Ten Commandments. Click here to buy the book and Bible study so you can use it devotionally or work through it with a small group of Christian brothers and sisters… or to even give away to someone who desires to learn more about the way of the Lord.


God’s moral law is abundantly set forth in Scripture, the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments), other Mosaic statutes, sermons by the prophets, the teaching of Jesus, and the New Testament letters. It reflects his holy character and his purposes for created human beings. God commands the behavior that he loves to see and forbids that which offends him. (J.I. Packer)

…the Ten Commandments represent the pathway out of our own self-orientation and into a whole new orientation that puts God, ourselves, and others in their rightful places. (Timothy Tennent)

I should understand the Ten Commandments as God’s righteous rules for life in his kingdom: basic standards for loving God and my neighbor. In upholding them, I bear witness with the Church to God’s righteousness and his will for a just society. (To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism)

Introduction

Jesus commands us to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. This, he declares, summarizes the law and the prophets. The Apostle Paul, too, taught that obeying God’s commandments was an expression of love for God and others. In other words, Christian love has a shape to it. It is not a mere feeling. That shape is a way or pattern of life that reflects the very character of God because it comes from him and is commanded by him. Not only does the Law of God reveal God’s character to us but it is also for our good and the good of society.

In this lesson you will discover and meditate upon what the Law of God is and why we have it. God’s Law is not a list of arbitrary rules and regulations designed to oppress our freedom. Instead, these commands are life-giving because they are given by One who loves us and desires the best for us.


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