05. God’s commandments
God has given commandments to mankind. In them He proclaims His will for the benefit of mankind. The commandments bring to expression how human beings should structure their relationship with God. In addition, the commandments are the foundation for positive relationships between human beings.
Those who recognise God in faith as the Almighty, Omniscient, and Loving One will inquire into His will, and will endeavour to align their thoughts and actions with the will of God, that is, in accordance with His commandments.
In the knowledge that God gave the commandments out of love for mankind, the commandments are not fulfilled out of fear of punishment, but out of love for God.
When asked which was the “greatest commandment in the law”, Jesus responded with two quotations from the Mosaic Law: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22: 36-40). The commandment to love God and one’s neighbour is also known as the “dual commandment of love”.
Man’s love for God is based on God’s love for mankind. Man seeks to reciprocate this love: “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4: 19).
Love for God is to characterise a person’s being and define his conduct.
The commandment to love God applies to the person as a whole and requires his full effort: “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12: 30). This signifies undivided devotion to God.
“You shall love your neighbour as yourself ” (Mark 12: 31; cf. Leviticus 19: 18).
The commandment requires human beings to treat all other human beings with love. It sets clear limits to egoism.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan (cf. Luke 10: 25-37), Jesus illustrated that loving one’s neighbour involves being merciful and acting accordingly.
Just how seriously Jesus meant these words can be inferred from His exhortation to even love one’s enemies.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.”
Matthew 5: 43-45
On the one hand, the example of the Good Samaritan demonstrates that this neighbour is anyone who is in need. On the other hand, the neighbour can also be the one who helps. Our neighbour can be anyone with whom we come into contact.
In addition to the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus summarised the following principles on neighbourly love in the socalled “golden rule”.
The term “golden rule” was coined in Europe in the seventeenth century in reference to the statement contained in Matthew 7: 12. Today the “golden rule” is a widely held principle in interpersonal relationships even outside of Christianity.
The “golden rule” is understood as a reference to the words of the Lord in the Sermon on the Mount: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7: 12).
That which Jesus taught His Apostles also applies to the congregation: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you [...] By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13: 34-35). This instruction to His disciples thus even transcends the “golden rule”.
The commandment to love one’s neighbour, to support one’s fellow human being and help in situations of need, should be especially evident in the congregation: “Let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6: 10). All who belong to the congregation have a duty to treat one another with sincere compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
“Love for one another” enables us to accept our brother and sister as they are (cf. Romans 15: 7), and protects against irreconcilability, prejudices, and contempt. It is a power that strengthens the cohesion in the congregation, awakens empathy and understanding for one another, and promotes willingness to help one another.
From the “high song of love”: “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
1 Corinthians 13: 4-7
The First Commandment: “I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods before Me.”
The Second 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 vain.”
The Third Commandment: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”
The Fourth Commandment: “Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.”
The Fifth Commandment: “You shall not murder.”
The Sixth Commandment: “You shall not commit adultery.”
The Seventh Commandment: “You shall not steal.”
The Eighth Commandment: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.”
The Ninth Commandment: “You shall not covet your neighbour’s house.” The Tenth Commandment: “You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbour’s.”
The designation “Ten Commandments” or “Decalogue” is derived from the biblical formulation “ten words” (deka logoi) in Exodus 34: 28 and Deuteronomy 10: 4. The Bible firmly establishes the count of the commandments at ten, but does not number them. This has led to differing ways of counting them. The counting method in use in the New Apostolic Church dates back to a tradition from the fourth century AD.
God gave the Ten Commandments to the people of Israel through Moses on Mount Sinai (cf. Exodus 19: 20). They were written upon stone tablets.
The Ten Commandments regulated the conduct of the Israelites toward God as well as one another. The proclamation of the Ten Commandments was part of the covenant which God made with the people of Israel. The observance of the commandments was compulsory and was blessed by God. Even the children among the people of Israel already learned the commandments by heart. To this day, the Ten Commandments have retained their great significance within Judaism.
“So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone.” Deuteronomy 4: 13
Yes. Jesus reinforced the Ten Commandments. He even sharpened some of the commandments by giving them a deeper meaning and expanding their original scope.
His Apostles ultimately made it clear that breaking even one of the commandments amounted to a violation of the law as a whole: “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2: 10).
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgement.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgement.”
Matthew 5: 21, 22
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Matthew 5: 27-28
In the Ten Commandments, God is addressing all human beings. The individual bears responsibility to God for his conduct and the way he leads his life.
God’s commandments stand above the laws of the state. The sole deciding factor in deciding whether God’s commandments have been violated is the will of God, and not that of any legislator.
Every violation of God’s commandments is a sin. Sin causes human beings to incur guilt before God. The measure of the guilt arising from this sin can vary. God alone determines the magnitude of guilt. In individual cases it might even be that hardly any guilt is incurred before God as a result of a particular sin.
The whole law could be fulfilled by loving God and one’s neighbour in perfect fashion (cf. Romans 13: 8, 10). This was only possible for Jesus Christ.
“I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods before Me.”
The First Commandment means that God is Lord over all things. Only He, the Creator of all things, is worthy of worship and veneration. His will is to be obeyed.
Polytheism prevailed in the countries surrounding Israel. With the First Commandment God made it clear that He is the only God. Accordingly, only He is to be worshipped, and only He is to be served. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6: 4-5).
The term ‘polytheism’ is derived from the Greek words poly and theos, which mean “many” and “god”, respectively. The term is thus used in reference to the worship of several deities. – Even King Solomon, when he was old, turned away from the living God and sacrificed to the idols of the Moabites and Amorites (cf. 1 Kings 11: 7-8).
Any veneration or worship of anything— other than God, the Creator— that could be regarded by human beings as a deity is sin. This includes the worship of living beings, natural phenomena, objects, and real or fictional spiritual beings.
Accordingly it is a violation of the First Commandment to regard statues, animal figurines, stones, amulets, constellations, mountains, trees and fire, storms, etc., for example as gods
The fabrication and worship of the golden calf in the time of the Old Testament also represented a violation of this commandment of God: “So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a moulded calf. Then they said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!’” (cf. Exodus 32: 3-4).
Exodus 20: 4-5 forbids creating images of that which God has created: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image— any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them.”
The prohibition of creating and worshipping images must be seen in the context that there were images and statues that were venerated and worshipped as deities at the time.
No, we are not forbidden to produce images, sculptures, photographs, or cinematic presentations. Such things should not be venerated or worshipped, however.
The First Commandment states that there is only one God. This is the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the New Testament, the First Commandment is not only applied to God, the Father, but rather also to Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
The First Commandment calls upon us to honour God out of love. We worship God in adoration, obedience, and the fear of God. The fear of God develops from our love for God. It is not an expression of fear, but of humbleness, love, and trust in God.
It is important to accept God as He has appeared to the world: in Jesus Christ (cf. John 14: 9).
It is a violation of this commandment to make a god, as it were, of power, honour, money, idols, or even one’s own person, to which all other things are subordinate. Likewise, it is a violation of the First Commandment to develop conceptions of God based on our own wishes or views. It is also a violation against this commandment to see gods in statues, trees, natural phenomena, etc. Beyond that, other acts that contradict the First Commandment include Satanism, fortune telling, magic, witchcraft, spiritualism, and necromancy.
The term ‘magic’ is derived from the Greek and translates to mean “sorcery”, or “illusion”. Magic also incorporates the notion that one can influence or control people, animals, and even events and objects by way of specific actions (rituals) and/or words (magical formulas). Magic is often associated with the evil one.
Fortune tellers are people who are convinced that they can see into the future or foretell future events. They make their predictions on the basis of mysterious signs which they interpret accordingly. At the time of the old covenant, fortune telling was common practice in the royal courts, however, it was strictly forbidden to the people of Israel.
Necromancy is a special form of fortune telling: those who practise it try to contact the dead in order to ask them about future events; cf. 1 Samuel 28: 3 et seq.
“Ascribe greatness to our God.”
Deuteronomy 32: 3
“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 vain.”
The Second Commandment warns that one should keep all things that have to do with God and His name holy.
When God identified Himself to Moses in the burning bush, He gave His name. “I AM WHO I AM.” Here the name is not merely a mark of distinction. This name also describes the being of its bearer. Thereby God announces that He is changeless and eternal in His being. Individual human beings experience God in different ways, but God nevertheless remains changeless.
The being and majesty of God must not be infringed in any way. Out of reverence, devout Jews never utter the name “I AM WHO I AM” (Hebrew: Yahweh) aloud. Thereby they seek to avoid any—even unintentional—misuse of God’s name.
“And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you”’.”
Exodus 3: 14
Human beings are to speak of God in love, reverence, and full awareness of their responsibility.
When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He instructed them to address God as the “Father in heaven” (cf. Matthew 6: 9).
When Jesus brought to expression: “And I have declared to them Your name” (John 17: 26), He was thereby illustrating the nature of God, namely love (cf. 1 John 4: 16).
We are to keep all things that have to do with God and His name holy. This applies to our thoughts, speech, and conduct of life.
As Christians we are especially committed to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. As children of God, who bear the name of the Father and the Son, we have a great responsibility to keep the name of God holy.
Blasphemy is a serious abuse of the name of God, by way of which God is intentionally vilified, derided, or berated. Anyone who curses using the name of God or invokes God while telling a lie is taking the name of God in vain. Even the careless use of the names “God”, “Jesus Christ”, or “Holy Spirit” in loose talk or jokes is a violation of the Second Commandment.
In the course of history, people have frequently taken God’s name in vain in order to enrich themselves, wage wars, (e.g. the crusades), discriminate against other human beings, or to torture and kill—all in the name of God.
The Second Commandment is the only Commandment that contains a threat of punishment in the case of its violation. The Bible does not tell us what this punishment consists of. For us, the primary motivation for keeping this commandment should be love for God and reverence, not the fear of punishment.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus forbade swearing. It should be understood that this applies to frivolous swearing in daily life, but not, for example, to taking an oath in a court of law.
If someone calls upon God as witness in a mandatory oath formulation (“So help me God”) in order to bring to expression his obligation to be truthful to God, he thereby publicly professes his faith in the omnipotent, omniscient God.
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”
The Third Commandment is an exhortation to set aside one day of the week in order to worship God and occupy oneself with His word. For Christians this is the Sunday—the day on which Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead.
God rested on the seventh day of the creation and hallowed it. The day of rest has been given to us as a holiday in which we are to thank God for His work of creation and honour Him.
Already before the law was given on Sinai, God had designated the Sabbath as the day that was to be kept holy. During the journey of the people of Israel through the desert, Moses proclaimed: “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Tomorrow is a Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord” (Exodus 16: 23).
On the Sabbath, the people of Israel were to rest from their work and turn to God without distraction. The Sabbath served to praise the Creator and commemorate the liberation of Israel from captivity in Egypt. Those who honoured the Sabbath and avoided personal business and idle talk (cf. Isaiah 58: 13-14) were promised blessing.
Keeping the Sabbath—the seventh day of the Judaic calendar—holy was part of the law for the Israelites. Jesus went to the synagogue on the Sabbath and healed the sick, which was a kind of work, according to the understanding of the Israelites, and thus a violation of the commandment. Here Jesus, the Lord over the Sabbath, made it clear that doing good to others is more valuable than a purely formal fulfilment of the Third Commandment.
‘Synagogues’ are places of worship in which Judaic congregations have gathered for divine service since their captivity in Babylon. These were verbal divine services that consisted of prayer, reading from Holy Scripture, and interpreting it.
“The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”
Mark 2: 27
Christians hallow the Sunday as the“Sabbath” because Jesus resurrected from the dead on a Sunday. Thus thefact that Christians hallow the Sunday is also a profession of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
A reference to the significance of the Sunday as the holy day of the Christians can be found in Acts 20: 7: “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul [...] spoke to them...” Here as well as in 1 Corinthians 16: 2, it is the first day of the week—the Sunday—that is set aside.
The Sunday should be a day of restand a day of celebration for the soul. Above all, we keep the Sunday holy by worshipping God in divine service, absorbing His word in faith, having our sins forgiven, and partaking worthily of the body and blood of Christ in the sacrament of Holy Communion. Keeping the Sunday holy also entails that we preserve and intensify the effects of the divine service upon us.
Those who cannot attend divine services hallow the Sunday by seeking a connection with God and the congregation in prayer. This applies, for example, to those who have to work, as well as the sick, the disabled, or the aged.
The commandment to keep the Sabbath holy calls upon believers to examine their activities to determine the degree to which these are consistent with the purpose of the day that is dedicated to the Lord.
“Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.”
The Fourth Commandment is directed to all people of all ages and requires them to show the respect and appreciation due their father and mother. It is the only commandment that promises a reward.
Like the Mosaic Law in general, the Fourth Commandment is linked to the desert migration of the Israelites. The people were to provide help and support to older members of their families, and thereby show them honour. The promise of “long days” was understood as wellbeing in earthly life. In Israel, the commandment was also understood as an instruction to adults to take care of those who had grown old and tend to them in the case of illness.
We read that the twelve-year-old Jesus was obedient to His mother Mary and her husband Joseph: “Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them” (Luke 2: 51). Jesus’ care for His mother can be clearly inferred when He commended her to the care of Apostle John, even in the hour of His death (cf. John 19: 27).
The letters of Apostle Paul expressly admonish children to be obedient to their parents.
No matter their age, children have a duty to honour their parents. The way in which this commandment is concretely put into practice may vary depending on age, social environment, and societal practices.
A child’s duty to obey is, however, limited by the reference of Apostle Peter: “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5: 29).
The term “social environment” refers to a person’s living conditions, which include heritage, family and relatives, income and wealth, education, profession, religious affiliation, and other conditions of life.
When children honour their parents out of love and gratitude, and thus appreciate them, obey them, and take care of them, the blessing of God will rest upon them. This blessing will reveal itself primarily in spiritual gifts.
In the understanding of the people of the Old Testament, “long life” was an expression of God’s blessing. In the new covenant, the blessing of God is demonstrated primarily in spiritual gifts.
Spiritual gifts come from God and make the believer “rich”. Among others, these spiritual gifts include love, patience, joy out of the Holy Spirit, knowledge of the truth of the gospel, childhood in God, forgiveness of sins, the sacraments, hope in the fulfilment of God’s promises, and sharing in these promises.
Yes. In their lifestyle and in their duty to raise the children, parents carry a great responsibility and are to see to it, through their own God-pleasing conduct, that they do not make it difficult for their children to esteem their parents. If parents do not fulfil these duties, they cannot expect obedience from their children either.
Under no circumstances can the Fourth Commandment be used to justify a child’s duty to obey if such obedience would result in a violation of a divine commandment by either the parents or the child.
“You shall not murder.”
Life is given by God. He alone is Lord over life and death. No human being has the right to terminate a human life.
The literal translation of the commandment from the Hebrew text is: “You shall not murder”. Accordingly, the Fifth Commandment forbade the unauthorised killing of human beings. It quite expressly did not apply to military service or the death penalty.
Jesus did not confine the observance of this commandment to its literal fulfilment. The important thing for Him was the individual’s inner attitude. It was for this reason that He said: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgement.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgement’” (Matthew 5: 21-22). In 1 John 3: 15 the Apostle supplements this as follows: “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer.”
The beginning and end of human life lies in the hand of God alone. Only He is Lord over life and death.
This commandment continues to apply today even though violence often prevails on earth and though many people have little regard for the lives of others. In addition to the prohibition against terminating human life, it also implies a duty to respect, protect, and preserve human life.
Any violation of the Fifth Commandment is sin. The guilt before God resulting from it may vary (cf. Question 230).
Yes. Unborn life is to be respected and protected because it is to be assumed that a human life given by God exists from the moment of conception onward.
Yes, because a human life given by God is terminated.
Yes, even killing in self-defence is a violation of the Fifth Commandment.
Killing in war is a violation of the Fifth Commandment. For the individual, the commandment implies a responsibility to avoid killing wherever possible. In individual cases it may be that one’s actions barely incur any guilt before God in such situations.
Anyone who provides active euthanasia— that is, who performs actions that lead to the death of a dying person— violates the Fifth Commandment.
Passive euthanasia—that is, the decision not to take any measures to prolong life—is not considered a violation of the Fifth Commandment, provided certain strict conditions are met. The decision to abstain from taking any measures to prolong life is first and foremost up to the patient himself. In the event there is no advance medical directive, this decision should be made solely in consultation with doctors and relatives after a responsible assessment of the patient’s best interests.
No human being has the right to end a human life. Thus the death penalty is a violation of the divine order. In addition, the New Apostolic Church does not recognise the death penalty as a suitable deterrent or means of community protection.
No. The killing of animals is not covered by the Fifth Commandment. God expressly allows for animals to serve as food for human beings (cf. Genesis 9: 3). Nevertheless, even the life of the animals is to be respected. This derives from mankind’s responsibility to preserve the creation.
“You shall not commit adultery.”
Marriage is the lifelong union between a man and a woman as desired by God. It is based on an act of free will which is expressed in a public vow of fidelity.
Any married individual who has sexual intercourse with anyone other than his / her spouse commits adultery. Likewise, anyone who has sexual intercourse with a married person commits adultery.
Already at the time of the Old Testament, marriage was considered a covenant protected by God and blessed through prayer. At that time, adultery was punished by death.
“And after they were both shut in together, Tobias rose out of the bed, and said, ‘Sister, arise, and let us pray that God will have pity on us.’ Then began Tobias to say. ‘Blessed art Thou, O God of our fathers, and blessed is Thy holy and glorious name for ever; let the heavens bless Thee and all Thy creatures.”
Tobit 8: 4-5
Jesus Christ gives unequivocal support to monogamy (marriage to one partner). This is the form of matrimonial cohabitation of man and woman desired by God and appropriate to believing Christians.
Jesus also expanded the interpretation of the Sixth Commandment beyond its original meaning. In the Sermon on the Mount He said: “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5: 28). This means that “adultery of the heart”, in other words, adultery played out in thought, can occur despite an outwardly blameless conduct of life.
‘Monogamy’ describes the situation where a man is married to only one woman and a woman is married to only one man.—The Old Testament often speaks of ‘polygamy’ (marriage to several partners) in the sense that one man was married to several women.
In the New Testament, divorce is considered a violation of the Sixth Commandment: “Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Mark 10: 9). The only exception in which divorce was permissible was in the case of adultery committed by one’s spouse (cf. Matthew 19: 9).
The New Testament’s statements concerning divorce served, above all, to improve the situation of the woman, who only had very limited rights in antiquity. The woman was thus to be protected from being arbitrarily cast aside by her husband.
Marriage is intended to be permanent (cf. Matthew 19: 6; Mark 10: 9). In view of this, it is advisable to protect and promote marriage.
The commandment also implies that both partners should be devoted to one another in faithfulness. The obligations arising from the commandment include the sincere endeavour on the part of both partners to pursue their path of life together in love and the fear of God.
Divorced and separated persons have their place in the congregation and are cared for by their ministers in unbiased fashion. Divorced and separated persons are not excluded from receiving the sacraments.
Divorced persons who wish to remarry will receive a wedding blessing upon request. This is intended to give them the opportunity to make a new start. It should always be kept in mind that Jesus did not treat people with harsh punishment, but rather with love and grace (cf. John 8: 2-11).
“You shall not steal.”
It is forbidden to take the goods or possessions of another person. One is not permitted to unlawfully acquire or damage the property of others.
Originally the commandment against stealing applied first and foremost to kidnapping. There the purpose was to protect free men from being kidnapped, sold, or held captive. While it was possible to redress property offences by material compensation (atonement), kidnapping was punished by death in Israel: “He who kidnaps a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, shall surely be put to death” (Exodus 21: 16).
The theft of another person’s property was also punishable. The Mosaic Law required compensation: “If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and slaughters it or sells it, he shall restore five oxen for an ox and four sheep for a sheep” (Exodus 22: 1).
Jesus described theft as a sin. Theft has its source in the heart of the individual: “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man” (Matthew 15: 19, 20).
In the literal sense, theft occurs when material or intellectual property is taken away from others. However, usury, exploitation of a situation of need, embezzlement, fraud, tax evasion, corruption, and squandering money entrusted to one’s care must also be seen as violations of the Seventh Commandment.
In addition, the Seventh Commandment instructs us not to rob our neighbour of his honour or reputation, and not to attack his human dignity.
Usurers take advantage of others by demanding an excessive, unreasonable price for goods or services.
Embezzlement occurs when a person misappropriates the assets of others which were entrusted to his care. On one hand, the term ‘corruption’ refers to services performed (but primarily money given) in order to obtain something one is not entitled to obtain (bribery). On the other hand, corruption also occurs when a person allows himself to be bribed.
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.”
“False witness” is an untrue statement with respect to someone else. Every “false witness” is a lie. The heart of the commandment is the instruction to speak and act truthfully.
Originally the Eighth Commandment applied to false statements made in court. Both false accusation and untrue testimony were considered “false witness” in the sense of this commandment. If the court discovered that a witness had made a false statement, this witness would receive the punishment which would have applied to the defendant had he been found guilty (cf. Deuteronomy 19: 18-19).
Jesus Christ referred to the Eighth Commandment on several occasions. He pointed out that the violation of this commandment is an expression of an improper attitude and that it defiles a person (cf. e.g. Matthew 15: 18-20).
Today the meaning of the Eighth Commandment transcends the original prohibition against untruthful speech and actions. White lies, half-truths, and statements intended to conceal the true facts, as well as slander, are thus also violations of the Eighth Commandment. Bragging and exaggeration, duplicity and hypocrisy, spreading rumours, defamation and flattery are likewise expressions of untruthfulness.
Everyone is called upon to strive for sincerity and truthfulness. Our conduct in society and in business should also be oriented by the Eighth Commandment.
Untrue assertions about another person which do him harm, do injury to his honour, or offend him are described as defamation or slander.
Christians are called upon to give true witness by believing in the gospel, proclaiming it, and conducting themselves in accordance with it.
“You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbour’s.”
The last two of the Ten Commandments are very closely linked in content. They are thus often counted as one commandment. There are various versions of these two commandments in the Bible. Exodus 20: 17 mentions the neighbour’s house first, while Deuteronomy 5: 21 mentions the neighbour’s wife first.
The core of the Ninth and Tenth Commandments is the statement: “You shall not covet”. This does not prohibit every form of human desire, only the sinful lust after the wife or property of one’s neighbour.
If this desire is directed at that which is dear and valuable to another person, or that which belongs to him, it becomes sinful lust. Then it will have a destructive effect. Desire can develop into greed and most often has its source in envy.
Since the beginning of time, Satan has sought to tempt human beings to sin by awakening within them the desire and lust for forbidden things.
The Old Testament relates an example of the extreme consequences that resulted from King David’s desire for the wife of his neighbour. This desire eventually led him to deceive, commit adultery, and commit murder (cf. 2 Samuel 11).
If sinful craving is not restrained, it will soon be put into deed. The consequences are described in James 1: 15: “Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”
Galatians 5: 19-25 shows that sinful cravings lead to sinful actions. These are described as the “works of the flesh”. The Bible counters these cravings with the term “self-control”. This is manifested in moderation and abstinence.
“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practise such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”
Galatians 5: 19-25
The Ninth and Tenth Commandments assign mankind the task of watching over the purity of their hearts. They are to fight off any temptation to sinful actions.
“As obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.”
1 Peter 1: 14-15