Another cause for division in Christianity, lies in whether the Ten Commandments are applicable today, as much as were enforced in the Old Covenant. It should surprise many Christians, that the Ten Commandments are actually more expedient in the New Covenant, rather than in the Old.
Exodus 20:3-17, is another passage of Scripture that covers the Ten Commandments—assumed as belonging to the Old Covenant. However, as a matter of principle, rather than just religious artefacts, these Commandments, are for eternity. A person cannot be a true Christian, without applying the significance of the Ten Commandments.
The Israelites did not contribute anything—enabling their release from slavery. Everything was through God’s directives, using Moses. The same God led them towards the sea obstacle; which humanly speaking, prevented their escape from the pursuing Egyptian army.
The Red Sea was not their enemy but just an obstacle. After conversion, Christians also face many obstacles that, humanly speaking, cause anxiety. It could be current occupation, as not compatible with Godly principles? The person may ask questions like, “how will I survive without income” etc.?
For a Christian, the enmity from behind comprises past sinful habits, including sinful companions and associates. After conversion, a person becomes vulnerable to reversion to issues of sinfulness. Without the Holy Spirit, it is impossible to overcome pulls of sinfulness. It is a question of how to obtain the Holy Spirit?
Therefore, baptism becomes necessary—so as to receive the empowering Holy Spirit—necessary for confidence and conviction in the new way of life (Acts 2:37-38). Without the Holy Spirit, challenges of life—like the Red Sea—can be extremely intimidating.
Nevertheless, the Israelites’ enemy was from behind. And their escape had to be miraculously provided by God. In the midst of their anxiety, God performed a miracle—invalidating their major obstacle—the Red Sea. God also used the same sea obstacle to destroy their enemy from behind—once and for all.
From that point, onwards, the enemy from behind was no longer bothersome to the Israelites. Obviously, some of those Israelites may have become gripped with anxiety, concerning future dealings with threats to their survival.
It was at that point that God provided the Ten Commandments. These statutes summarised basic tenets—necessary for relating to the one who performed the impossible—concerning their escape from slavery.
God could conveniently continue performing miracles, without Israelites’ involvement. But that would be treating them like zombies or robots. To appeal to their conviction, the Ten Commandments became necessary.
This would give those Israelites, the choice between obedience and disobedience. The resultant consequences would be a matter of the law of cause and effect. However, God would remain available for their communication, in case of unforeseen troubles.
The Israelites were caught up in a condition similar to what the newly converted Christians face, after deciding to follow Christ. A convert gets threatened by an enemy from behind, constituted in enslaving habitual behaviours.
To a Christian, previous habits are spiritual, as posing insurmountable threats. These constitute spiritual enslavements with sinful humanity. God’s Spirit cannot take over, before the suppression of the demonic forces that grip the individual.
It takes God’s miracle for a repentant person to commit to a baptismal decision (Luke 14:25-33). It is only false Christianity that assumes submission to baptism as stress-free. Submission to baptism symbolizes the miracle of crossing the apparently insurmountable Red Sea (1 Corinthians 10:1-4).
It was only after having crossed the Red Sea that the Israelites needed some code of ethics. The Ten Commandments would simply provide them with expected outcomes, after adopting a particular chosen path.
With the power of choice, between obedience and disobedience, the person reaps what is sown. All this resembles a parent who grants freedom to his child. The child would be bestowed with self-determination. But also granted with information on what to expect, when adopting or not adopting guidelines, on matters of survival and death.
God facilitated the freedom of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. But through the Ten Commandments, He bestowed them with some measure of responsibility on their part. Obeying or not obeying those commandments was a matter between life and death (Deuteronomy 30:19).
For survival, they were no longer expected to conduct their lives according to how they behaved while in slavery. Similarly, after baptism, a Christian becomes a new creation. Past behavioural habits cannot be entertained anymore, after Jesus has taken over (1 Corinthians 5: 17-20).
Paul’s counselling is that a baptized person should no longer conform to the world. But needs transformation, by the renewing of the mind (Romans 12:2). To the Israelites, this necessitated the Ten Commandments provision.
Nevertheless, the Ten Commandments are the same codes of ethics that apply to a person having taken a decision to follow Christ. In this regard, the price of freedom is in being attached to God who would have enabled such freedom. This qualifies the principle of clear communication with one’s Creator.
First Commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). The Israelites were expected to appreciate that God was the only one who released them from Egyptian slavery. Forgetting this important datum was more dangerous than remaining in condition of Egyptian slavery.
God was not to be shared with any other god, or principle. After all, God was the creator of everything, whether fearsome or not. The maximum security for the Israelites was in trusting God—putting all their confidence in Him, who would not disappoint them in any way.
Similarly, a converted Christian cannot pretend to trust God, when still trusting principles not expressly confirmed by Christ. The sinful conditions under which a person survived before conversion are a type of Egyptian slavery.
To a Christian, such bondage includes survival concerns like career, customs and traditions, as assumed necessary. This includes religious beliefs, held without confirmation from the one and only God. To a Christian, any principle, not coming from the mouth of Jesus should be viewed as coming from another god.
Second Commandment: “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below, you shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:4-6) (ESV).
Idol worship was prevalent in surrounding nations in times of Israel. The second commandment warns against being influenced into such stupidity. The virtuous conduct of the Israelites meant that they were to trust God, but distrusting everything that God did not say.
Apparently, the consequences of violating this commandment, exposes violators to a condition—worse than reeling under the mercy of former slave masters. The same applies to a person having been baptised, but still committed to principles, other than what Jesus commanded:
“’When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation’” (Matthew 12:43-45) (ESV).
Basically, the evilness of the referred generation, lay in violation of the second commandment. God is jealous and would not share His glory with anyone or anything else. A person reverting to sinfulness, after purification by God, is vulnerable to Satan’s mercy. God would have abandoned that person, due to that person’s upholding of other principles.
Third Commandment: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vail” (Exodus 20:7) (ESV). This climaxes the first two commandments. However, while appearing as serious with the Israelites, the consequences are actually more disastrous with the followers of Christ:
“Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matthew 12:31-32) (ESV).
How does this Scripture apply, as in taking the name of the Lord in vain? The secret is in appreciating that the Son of Man is different from the Son of the living God. This is clarified where Christ declared that flesh and blood had not revealed the true identity of Jesus to Peter (Matthew 16:13-18).
Ordinary people saw the Son of Man in Jesus—whom they likened to Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. But Peter had seen the Son of the living God in Jesus. To appreciate the significance of the Son of the living God, one needs to attend to one of the sections of Isaiah’s prophesy:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6) (ESV).
The child born to us is Son of Man, who Jesus said people could denigrate, without attracting the penalty associated with blasphemy. This Son of Man, was familiar to most people who could not perceive what Peter had perceived (Matthew 16:13-18).
But the Son given to us—has His name revealed as: “Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” This Son cannot be revealed by flesh and blood. We have to be clear in that the given Son is different from the child born to us. The given Son is Spiritual.
While the child born to us—as Son of Man, can be seen and touched—the Son given to us cannot be seen and touched—except as revealed by God. This is why Jesus said, flesh and blood had not been involved in revealing this to Peter (Matthew 16:13-18).
This Son, as given to us cannot be perceived by ordinary people. But a person with this revelation is exposed to the danger of blaspheming (Matthew 12:31-32). Carelessness in handling such revelation is tantamount to violating the third commandment, with consequences that attract the referred condemnation.
Peter clearly perceived the Son given to us—who most people could not perceive—as revealed only by God in Heaven. But had he deliberately trivialized this revelation—Peter would have been exposed to the violation of the third commandment.
Christianity is popular with most people—limiting it to the benefits associated with healing and other goodies. But Jesus declared: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39) (ESV).
Christianity is not a casual matter—as most people suppose it to be. It implies tinkering with either, taking the Lord’s name in vain, or taking the Lord’s name seriously. Taking the Lord’s name in vain attracts consequences—as not being found guiltless by the Almighty God (Exodus 20:7 and Matthew 12:31-32).
The only way to avoid consequences of violating the third commandment is taking seriously the first two commandments. But the first summarizes everything. In the second, idol worship signifies failure to appreciate the implications of the first commandment. This, eventually leads to the consequences of violating the third commandment.
Fourth Commandment: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labour, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” (Exodus 20:8-11) (ESV).
To the Israelites, this commandment required six days of hard work—for purposes of own survival—but requiring rest on the Seventh Day Sabbath. The Israelites, while under God’s authority, lived during the perpetuation of surviving under the curse of Adam, due to the Garden of Eden incident:
“’Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return’” (Genesis 3:17-19) (ESV) (Emphasis mine).
Can this scripture emphasize more, that hard work is designed for humanity, only after the sin of Adam? Before sinning, Adam had lived his life in harmony with God’s creation. His expulsion from the Garden of Eden implies toiling without tangible benefits, as the person eventually returns to the dust from where he came.
Before the Garden of Eden incident, Adam lived within the bounds of God’s Kingdom. There was no hard labour, except provisions of God’s Kingdom. The curse of Adam—applicable to humanity—included the Israelites, who could also not access God’s Kingdom, as Jesus had not yet come. But the Israelites carried a sign of God’s Kingdom—the Sabbath rest.
Sabbath-keeping strictly required everyone within one’s household, being compelled to also keep the Sabbath. This implies the significance of God’s Kingdom, as would apply at Christ’s second-coming. Jesus will establish God’s Kingdom, where Satan will be bound for a thousand years (Revelation 20:4).
Under Jesus, all humans will be compelled to live according to the dictates of God’s Kingdom—regardless of whether such people would be Christians or not. The Sabbath-keeping Law depicts the significance of God’s Kingdom that will be established, specifically for one thousand years.
Some prophetic Scriptures describe this period as the Lord’s Day (Malachi 4:1-5). This is why, to the Israelites, the Seventh Day Sabbath was a sign, but not a reality (Exodus 31:13). The Seventh Day Sabbath is a sign that points to the significance of Jesus Christ, who gives rest to humanity (Matthew 11:28).
The followers of Christ are expected to live according to Christ dictates. They do not necessarily have to worry about six days of hard work—let alone Sabbath-keeping. They are no longer expected to work or be anxious of how they would survive (Matthew 6:25-34). See [Works bring the opposite of what is intended].
Living under Christ’s authority denotes the significance of Sabbath-keeping, as given to the Israelites. The only difference is that in Jesus the entire seven-day-week, carries the Sabbath significance. Jesus’ followers have arrived at the perpetual Sabbath rest—as not expected to work, anymore.
In other words, true Christians are no longer under the curse of Adam. But are expected to take advantage of the provisions of God’s Kingdom (Luke 16:16). Due to lack of understanding, others actually, emphasize on principles of hard work including other dictates associated with Law-keeping.
Yet Paul also weighs in: “These are a shadow of things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ” (Colossians 2:17) (ESV). This gets even more complicated, when other preachers—even state that Sabbath-keeping has been done away with. All this triggers unending controversies in Christianity. See [Unpacking the myth about Law and Grace].
Misunderstandings emanate from violation of the first three Commandments, as shown in Exodus 20:3-7). Nothing appears as giving hope to a sinful humanity, portrayed by Jesus as an evil and adulterous generation. This could not be the case where the four commandments would not be randomly violated.
Commandments #5 to 10: The remaining six commandments carry the principle of co-existence, among humanity. To the Israelites—just as well as those committing themselves to follow Christ—everything is summarized in a Hebrew lawyer’s conversation with Jesus:
“And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? How do you read it?’ And he answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live’” (Luke 10:25-28) (ESV).
Apparently, the Lawyer recognised the significance of the Ten Commandments. The first four implied loving God with all one’s heart and with all one’s soul and with all one’s strength and with all one’s mind.
Having achieved this type of relationship with one’s Creator, the last six commandments become a joy to accomplish. The person becomes altruistic and enjoys serving people, unconditionally, all the days of his/her life. See [Christianity is defined in one word: Altruism].
The last portion, concerns relationship with one’s neighbours, as regulated in the last six Commandments. Clearly, our salvation lies in observing these Ten Commandments. In His own words, Jesus then declared: “do this, and you will live” (Verse 28).
However, Jesus later showed what must have not been fully understood by Jewish Law-keepers. Thanks to the inquisitiveness of that legal expert. In their concept of applying the Ten Commandments, the neighbour had been regarded as one of their own, and not necessarily a stranger.
The Ten Commandments, as received by the Israelites, were considered applicable among the circumcised community of Israel. A proselyte from outside had to be circumcised, before inclusion. The Lawyer—who I consider to have been analytical—sought this clarification by asking a simple question: “And who is my neighbour?” (Verse 29).
The Ten Commandments had nothing to do with living under the Old or New Covenant, though qualified in the Old Covenant. These are principles, applicable to all humanity. While treated as applicable only to the Israelites, in Old Covenant, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, enabled the inclusion of the rest of humanity.
What must now be taken as of significance is that the Ten Commandments were not done away with. They are actually validated, more in Jesus, than in Old Covenant. This is why Jesus declared:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes 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 does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-18).
The Scribes and Pharisees, had been limited to strict Law-keeping as living under Adam’s curse, (Genesis 3:17-19). The only time the Israelites experienced God’s Kingdom was on Sabbath days. However, Christ’s followers experience God’s Kingdom, perpetually, as long as not violating any of the Ten Commandments.
In other words, in Jesus, true Christians enjoy the perpetual Sabbath. True Christians have become new creation, so that their behaviour is totally different from how the world behaves. It is a question of either being conformed to this world, or being transformed, by the renewing of the mind (Romans 12:2).
The formidable challenge in Christianity is persecution; which was common in first century, leading to the murder of Jesus and the early disciples. As long as Christians are happily conforming to this world, they are off the mark.
They assume being right when enjoying good relationship with those not controlled by the Ten Commandments. But such good feelings should, actually, be cause for concern, as being the only proof that something would not be right. See [The only time a Christian should be depressed].
The mainstream Christianity can be tested against the Ten Commandments, as validated in Jesus’ principles. Those whom Jesus described as an evil and adulterous generation, can certainly not be included in His Kingdom.
This is notwithstanding those stretching the issue of grace, as licence to invalidate the Ten Commandments. The common cause of failures in Christianity lies in entertaining teachings that did not come from the mouth of Jesus. This includes the Trinitarian doctrine, which in my view, causes clouding, even against what is simplified in this analysis.
But perhaps the troubles of Christianity originate from shifting the focus, more towards Paul’s epistles, against Jesus’ teachings? For instance, what Jesus taught in Matthew 23:8-12 seems invalidated, as not compatible with leadership in Christianity, as known today. See [Christianity is a full-time commitment for the baptized].
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing reliefs to those having witnessed strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long awaited providential oasis of hope.
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