Highlights: The Ten Commandments Part 1

This book by A.W. Pink is a brief exposition of the Ten Commandments. If you use an eReader, there are some free resources available online. To read it for free on your iPhone/iPad click here; on your Kindle click here.

Don’t let its size fool you. While weighing in at under 100 pages, it has a lot to offer. So much so that all of my highlights alone could fill about three of my normal blog posts. Instead of filtering out most of my highlights, I’ll break it up into three posts. In this first one will be the highlights from commandments 1-5. Part 2 will be the highlights from commandments 6-10. And Part 3 will be devoted to my highlights from the closing chapter, “A Word to Parents.”

I’ve organized each highlight under it’s own chapter. And without further ado, here are my favorite quotes with some thoughts on what I learned from them.

“And God spake all these words, saying, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage”

The words at the close of the second commandment, “showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me and keep My commandments,” make it crystal clear that the only obedience which God accepts is that which proceeds from an affectionate heart.

God said to, “love Me and keep My commandments.” God has never asked for or wanted merely external obedience to His will absent of our loving Him. Jesus said it like this, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” A formal profession of following God, while not desiring Him with the heart, is not obedience. Love and obedience are not mutually exclusive, they go hand-in-hand. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

Rightly understood the precepts of the New Testament are but explications, amplifications, and applications of the Ten Commandments.

I believe he is right about that. And nowhere is this better proved than in Jesus’ sermon on the mount. Jesus only used a few of the commandments as an example, but what He did is show us the proper method for interpreting and applying them, and He probed into the depth of their meaning. Jesus did not do away with the Ten Commandments, rather the opposite. What Jesus taught in the sermon on the mount was what the commandments have always meant. Rather than thinking merely externally, they are brought to bear on our consciences as well.

1. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me

We are so apt to rest contented if we can but approve ourselves before men and maintain a fair show of godliness outwardly; but Jehovah searches our innermost being and we cannot conceal from Him any secret lust or hidden idol

I know in my own life it’s easy to feel good about myself; feel more spiritual, when I’m not struggling with any “big” sins; sins that are more extreme and obvious. But when this kind of thinking breeds pride and self-dependence, I’m no closer to God than if I was in open rebellion. I can’t settle for things like not looking at porn, not cursing or murdering people, while I settle for things like lustful and hateful thoughts. These are examples from Jesus’ sermon, but it applies to all areas. We are called to “be perfect, as Your heavenly Father is perfect,” which is not just outward perfection, but a perfection of thoughts and intentions as well.

They are idolaters and transgressors of this first commandment who manufacture a “God” as a figment of their own minds.

That object to which we render those desires and services which are due alone to the Lord is our “God,” whether it be self, gold, fame, pleasure, or friends.

Most of (probably all) the readers of this blog will never physically bow down or pledge their life long devotion to some idolatrous object. But that in itself is not enough to avoid idolatry. Jeremiah Burroughs says something similar, “For whatever you lift up in the high place, that’s your God, whatever it may be. Therefore, if you lift up the praise of men and make it your end, you make that your God.” Every good and perfect gift comes from above, however, no gift is valuable or worth enough by itself to be prized apart from the Giver. Even as we enjoy His gifts, may our ultimate delight be found in the Giver.

2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image…

Since God is a spiritual, invisible, and omnipotent Being, to represent Him as being of a material and limited form is a falsehood and an insult to His majesty.

This second Commandment is but the negative way of saying “God is Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”

“No one has ever seen God,” said the apostle John. You’d think that kind of a statement would only apply prior to the coming of Jesus Christ. And even if limited only to the Old Testament, we still might have cause to be a little wary. What about the experiences of men like Moses and Isaiah? But John is saying this even after the advent of Christ. He was incarnated, crucified, resurrected, and ascended, yet he still says no one has ever seen God. The person of Christ, being God and man; is just as much of a mystery as the Trinity. True, but a mystery for our human minds. God is incorporeal; no physical body; no physical bounds. In Christ He radiates His glory and reveals His nature, but His real being, or essence, is not capable of being seen with physical eyes.

3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain

“Whatever we think and whatever we say of Him should savor of His excellency, correspond to the sacred sublimity of His name, and tend to the exaltation of His magnificence” (Calvin). Anything pertaining to God should be spoken of with the greatest sobriety.

What a madness it is when men anger you, to strike against God and provoke Him far more than others can provoke you! But though their fellows do not censure, nor the police arrest, nor the magistrate punish them, yet “The Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his Name in vain.”

It’s all too easy to say things without thinking. This is a sobering word from Jesus, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak”. And Jesus teaches us to pray, “Hallowed be Your name.” Part of honoring God’s name is to always reverence Him with the way we speak in general, and especially the way we speak of Him. I’m reminded here not to take the things of God lightly.

We also need to watch out for cultural biases. We ought to look at sin the way God does, not from any other influence. Local and federal governments will never charge us with a crime or arrest us for misusing God’s name or cursing Him, or any sin of the heart for that matter. But God’s law is over and above civil laws, and what God forbids, we must forbid, whether it be legal or not.

4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy

It is to be carefully noted that it consists of two parts, each of which bears directly upon the other. “Six days shalt thou (not “mayest thou”) labor” is as Divinely binding upon us as “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.”…The revealed will of God is that man should work, not idle away his time; that he should work not five days a week (for which organized labor once agitated), but six.

This is an interesting observation that has been challenging my thinking. Usually with this commandment I spend so much time thinking about what it means to keep the Sabbath holy, I completely overlook the opposite part of it. I had never heard it emphasized before, that to keep this commandment properly also means six days of work before the day of rest. As a modern American worker I can find myself going through the work week coveting my two days off each weekend. While I’m not going to quit my job and find one that works me six days a week, I have begun to rethink how I can be more diligent with my time on one of my two days off. Rest is both necessary and for our enjoyment, however, I believe we are much more prone to err on the side of leisure rather than labor.

5. Honor thy father and thy mother

God has ordained civil authority for the general good of mankind, for were it not for this men would be savage beasts preying upon one another. Did not the fear of magistrates restrain those who have cast off the fear of God, were they not afraid of temporal punishments, we should be as safe among lions and tigers as among men.


Part 2

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