SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 6 February 2022
Sermon Text: Exodus 20:1-2
Sermon Series: “The Ten Commandments” (#1)
Watch Sermon Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Z0C5zjb_Bw
I. “God spoke all these words”
II. Given to the Church called and redeemed
III. The guardian leading believers to Christ
Seeking God’s grace and wisdom, I’d like to begin a new sermon series from today and it is on the Ten Commandments or the Decalogue. I plan to deal with one commandment per sermon, starting from an introduction today. So it’ll be a series with eleven sermons in total.
As its beginning, we have the first two verses of Ex. 20 to contemplate. These verses are not only the basis or foundation on which all Commandments stand, but also the extent to which every word of the Ten Commandments conveys. It is like how Gen. 1:1 defines and describes, as the very first verse of the Bible, what follows in the rest of the Book. Without understanding the meaning and extent of Gen. 1:1, no one can hear what the Bible says, none can see what God has done and still does. Likewise, Ex. 20:1-2 defines the nature and message of the Ten Commandments.
So, let us see how this introduction defines the Ten Commandments as the very word of God for His own people.
I. “GOD SPOKE ALL THESE WORDS”
The very first truth we must hear from v. 1 is the nature of these words. These are the words of God – He spoke these words. It is neither man’s speech nor his idea. Moses said these words to Israel, but he simply delivered what God had commanded him to speak. These words are from God Himself.
This means that the Ten Commandments are unique, unlike all other words spoken by men. Its message is special, incomparably different from every form of sayings and proverbs in all cultures of the world. For example, the idea of forbidding theft is found from almost all cultures, yet the eighth commandment which says, “You shall not steal,” is unique and none other can be compared to it because the Lord God Almighty spoke it.
Therefore, these Commandments have the supreme authority and lasting effect. It is not like a judgment pronounced at a courtroom, nor like the law of a nation. Whereas an appeal can be made against a court decision, against even the constitution of a nation, none can either appeal to its falsehood or claim immunity from the obligation this very words of God impose. This is because the all-knowing, all-powerful Creator of the universe said it; because the only righteous Judge of all living beings under the sun gave these Commandments.
Therefore, everyone who reads and contemplates on these Commandments must recognise the overarching authority and power as well as effect and obligation and weight of what the Lord God said. This is the introduction to the Ten Commandments. So, you and I must hear it with reverence, read it in awe, ponder it with humbleness, seek God’s grace and wisdom with full gratitude, and speak of it with praise, giving honour to God.
II. GIVEN TO THE CHURCH CALLED AND REDEEMED
An important truth we need to know is that these Commandments are given exclusively to the Church called and redeemed through the blood of Jesus. The Ten Commandments are not for the unbeliever in the world. Hearing this, you might wonder whether I said it correctly – but, yes, I said it correctly – the Ten Commandments are given to the Church called and redeemed by and through the blood of Jesus.
Let me explain what I mean by it. First of all, I said it because God says in v. 2, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” Saying ‘I am the LORD your God,’ God means that He is the God of the covenant to Israel, or in other words, the God of the promise He made with Israel. And that promise or covenant was made with their forefathers, Abraham first, then, Isaac and Jacob. Israel was not a nation God accidently found and chosen extemporaneously. Rather, God had made His promise with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob on behalf of their descendants who would, by God’s grace, become a nation centuries later. To this nation of Israel, God finally speaks and reveals that He is their covenant God. So, what follows is God’s word given to and for His own people and nation Israel, none other.
In addition, God also specifies who He is with the words of the second half of v. 2, “I … brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” God is their Rescuer, and the recipients of these words are no longer slaves but freemen. Therefore, these words are the words of the Rescuer spoken to all His people freed from their slavery. As these words testify, the Commandments are designed for and given to Israel, none other.
The ethnic Israel was God’s Church in the OT era. And its continuation in the NT times is the Church composed of all believers of Jesus Christ from nations and tribes and tongues. Listen to the apostle Paul speaking in Gal. 3:29, “if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” Not only Paul but also Peter teaches the same in 1 Pet. 2:9, saying, “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for [God’s] own possession.” In these words, Peter refers directly to the words of Ex. 19:5-6. Listen to the words of Ex. 19 and see what these verses say about the identity of Israel, “if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, you shall be My treasured possession among all peoples … and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
In this way, the Ten Commandments have always been for Israel or God’s Church – that is, the ethnic Israel in the OT and the spiritual Israel in the NT. Its authority and power and effect and weight have always been the same for God’s Church. But it’s not for the outsiders of God’s covenant.
Some of you might still wonder why it is so. Then, consider it this way. The Ten Commandments are the culmination of all biblical laws. All laws in the Bible can be summed up under these ten precepts. And these ten can be further boiled down to two, as Jesus pointed out in Mk. 12, that is, to love God and to love our neighbour.
And these Commandments and laws are not the steps of a ladder that would lead anyone to salvation. No one can attain his own salvation by keeping these or any laws because man can never do anything good nor can accumulate any merit before God. That’s because all things man does are only sinful and there’s nothing commendable in his works. It is like thorns bear seeds that produce nothing but more thorns; a lily or rose will never come out of a seed of a thorn bush. Likewise, since Adam who fell in sin, all his descendants are under sin and all we do are sinful.
It means that no one can claim to be good or righteous before God by keeping any or all of these Commandments. None can say, ‘God must be right with me for I haven’t stolen anything from anyone, neither killed anyone in my life, let alone bearing false witness against any of my neighbours. So, who else would be in heaven but me?’ No one can say that. These Commandments are not designed to give anyone any hope of saving oneself. No matter how hard anyone keeps these precepts, his endeavour will always be in vain, futile. Instead, the Commandments and laws are given to all who are saved by the grace of Jesus Christ, like what these verses we’ve read from Ex. 20 point out – “God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.’”
III. THE GUARDIAN LEADING BELIEVERS TO CHRIST
Truth is that the Ten Commandments are the guardian leading Christians to Jesus Christ. In other words, these Commandments help you and me to look to Jesus and always remember His saving grace. This proves once again why these Commandments are for all who belong to the Church of our Lord Jesus.
How do these precepts lead us to Jesus? First of all, these laws reveal man’s inability to keep them. Each of these Commandments deny anyone’s claim that he/she can or has kept these laws, thus, deserves a favour of God. Guess that anyone has kept a law, for example, the 6th Commandment that says, “You shall not murder.” But if he covets anything of his neighbour, he breaks the simple requirement of God’s law, that is, ‘be faithful to the one and same Lawgiver who commanded man not to murder as well as not to covet.’ If anyone breaks any law, he disobeys the One who gave and enacted all laws. In this way, the Commandments reminds us of our total inability to meet the requirements of God, the Lawgiver.
While the Commandments reflect our such incapability, they reflect the Righteous One, Jesus Christ, and what He has achieved for us. He has satisfied the requirements of the law and has power to save us. The Commandments appeal to us that we can satisfy the law’s requirement only through Jesus, thus, attain salvation in Him. Listen to Col. 1:14, “[in Christ] we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” God’s law clearly testifies that the righteous Jesus can give us His life and free us from sin and death. This is how the laws and Commandments lead us to Jesus.
Secondly, the Ten Commandments which are the culmination of all laws of the Bible are a roadmap for our holiness. In other words, every commandment describes the destination you and I are going to arrive. These Commandments tell us that you and I and all believers will ultimately have no other gods but the God of the Bible; then, we’ll not take God’s name in vain; we’ll always remember the Sabbath and keep it holy, and so on! Although you and I are somewhere in our journey toward this destination, eventually we’ll be there and fulfill all these laws by satisfying each of them! This is what the Ten Commandments tell us.
It is true that we constantly grow in holiness since the moment we believed in Jesus. We realise more and more that we belong to Jesus and have a task of living on earth to the glory and honour of Him the Lord. We become less interested in sinning and are more satisfied with following Jesus. The law of God which is represented by the Ten Commandments presents to us the way we’re advancing in Jesus and the destination we’ll arrive at last by the power of Jesus. In this sense, the Ten Commandments are a roadmap of every believer’s path of holiness or sanctification.
Isn’t it exciting? When we reach that end of our sanctification in Christ by His grace, we’ll see the smiling Lord with open arms along with all the saints in heaven, singing praises to the Lord and welcoming us. We’ll reach there as the Lord empowers and enables us all the way through. Then, we’ll be holy as Christ is holy, and blameless as He our Lord is blameless!
The last point you and I must remember is this – as the Commandments are the guardian that leads us Christians to our Lord Jesus Christ, it urges us to trust and rejoice in the Lord Jesus always. This is once again why the Commandments are for Christians and not for the unbeliever. As the Commandments clearly show us to which way the Lord is taking us in our sanctification, you and I must rejoice in Him. No matter how many times we fail and break His righteous laws, Jesus empowers us to have one tiny victory over sin today, and more victories we’ll enjoy tomorrow and the days coming. Then, one day, we’ll at last defeat sin and its curse, that is, death, and sing the song of victory together with Jesus and all saints in heaven! So, ‘you must trust and rejoice in Him now and always!’ is the message of God’s Commandments.
Having our trustful guardian, the law, the Commandments, have a clear view of the roadmap of your heavenward journey, and trust in the Lord with full joy in your heart and mind and soul. This is the introduction to the Ten Commandments.
May God bless us as we seek His grace and wisdom, His glory and honour, in this sermon series on His righteous and gracious Commandments. By God’s grace, we’ll open our ears and hearts to the First Commandment next Lord’s Day. ***