10 or 2? The Greatest Commandments and You

        Some American Christians are metaphorically up in arms over a curious issue. Representations of the Ten Commandments have been removed from public places, court houses, etc, and removal of these icons is threatened elsewhere. A great fight has ensued with either side casting the other in a not too pleasant light.

        On one end of the spectrum, secularists claim the Ten Commandments is an ancient outdated list of dos and don’ts that has no place in a country in which church is divided from state. Christians counter that the nation was founded on the Ten Commandments and that our entire system of jurisprudence is based upon them. The latter consider the disagreement as an attack against the Christian moral code by anti-Christian government-first authoritative bigheads, atheists, statists, and secular humanists. Those against the posting of the TC consider its supporters as backwoods half-brained ninnies living in the past.

         Both parties might step back from the fight for a while to consider what the New Testament actually says. While the Ten Commandments have indeed been foundational in Christian circles, it is only because Christians have stopped at a place in their development and did not apply the actual teachings of Jesus:

         “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” [Matthew 5:17-20]

         Well, this statement certainly seems to support the traditional keeping of the Ten Commandments. For the record, though, the Lord is actually referring to the entire Torah, which is composed of 613 commandments. However, as did the Pharisees, so do many Christians. There is a higher mandatory standard that many in both camps fail to keep which keeps them out of the kingdom. That’s why the Lord continued His teaching on the subject by adding caveats:

         “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.” [Matthew 5:21-22]

         “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” [Matthew 5:27-28]

         “It was said, ‘WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE’; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” [Matthew 5:31-32]

         “Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD.’ But I say to you, make no oath at all…” [Matthew 5:33-34]

         “You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” [Matthew 5:38-39]

         “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven…” [Matthew 5:43-45]

         Only two of the preceding six statements refer to one of the Ten Commandments. The point here is that there is much more than the mere celebrated ten that so many people are willing to fight about. To add to the above caveat list wherein the Lord makes the proper amendments, we also have an even more curious teaching on the opposite end. Whereas the Lord got into fine detail regarding what the Torah actually states, He also pares down all of that detail into a prima facie foundation with reference to not only the Law of Moses but His own voluminous teachings:

         But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” [Matthew 22:34-40]

         Jesus said the remaining 611 commandments of the Torah and the entirety of all prophetic writings are suspended from the strong upper framework of the two greatest commandments of all. And guess what?

         Only one of the two greatest commandments is listed among the Ten Commandments.

         There is obviously then, much misunderstanding and misapplication of the Ten Commandments themselves and the true teaching regarding them. Can anyone find a single quote by the Lord Jesus in reference to the ten? How about among the apostles? The fact of the matter is that the Ten Commandments are not mentioned one time in the entire New Testament. Not even once.

         This means there was a different standard among the early believers than is among most of us. It means their Christianity was a completely different Christianity. They were not hung up on lists and they did not give but partial commitment. They knew that if they properly obeyed the two greatest commandments, they would also be fulfilling all the rest of the applicable commandments that had not already been fulfilled.

         Therefore, what we should be posting are the Two Commandments, not the Ten Commandments.

         In addition, the early believers knew that wearing one’s religion upon one’s proverbial sleeve was anathema to real Christianity, and that obeying the commandments did not mean posting a select few on the walls of buildings and the institutions of man, but on our hearts.

         We are the building. We are the wall. We are the medium the Lord has chosen to advertise Himself to the world.

         You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

         Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

         But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was, how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory? For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory. For indeed what had glory, in this case has no glory because of the glory that surpasses it. For if that which fades away was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory.

         Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech, and are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.

         Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. [2Corinthians 3:2-18]

         As stated here, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of our Lord Jesus whose love has been poured out within our hearts if we have indeed been filled with His Spirit. It is He to whom the greatest commandment is applied. And it is to each other that the second is applied. These two living commandments (not suggestions) make the entire curriculum of the Lord work properly and bring it to life. They are based on love for Him and love for one another.

         Obeying the Two supersedes obeying the Ten.

         “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” [John 14:15-18] [1]

            © 2012 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Posted on February 18, 2012, in Teaching and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Man will always try to find the easy way, I guess. It is a very good thing that we don’t have to just rely on ourselves isn’t it? Great post! God bless!

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  2. Yes, exactly. Our Lord is so incredibly gracious. He is always there to help. He is an ever-present and faithful Father. He creates communities of loving and unified believers where each has a place at the table and a ministry contribution. Thanks for your comment and God bless you as well.

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  3. Great Post. As we are brothers in Christ, created in His Image, love for Him and for each other should not be a hard thing. Unfortunately, we often make it so out of our own self-interest and pride. Will we never learn? Two forces are at war within us.

    THINK ABOUT IT:

    The purpose of the enemy of our faith is both accusing and condemning. He is an obstacle to our Spiritual GROWTH. Satan draws us away from God to make us helpless to ourselves and to others! He pushes; agitates; speaks in half-truths; says do, do, do, then maybe…; he encourages our willfulness against God; tells us we are inadequate and in the same breath tells us we don’t need help; and, in our confusion, he encourages complaining.

    The purpose of the Holy Spirit is to reveal the whole Truth, to convict us, to bring us forgiveness and peace, and to draw us to God and unite us. He emphasizes not our will but His will; He empowers and encourages us to be all we can be! Praise God!

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  4. Thanks, Don. Great comment! I appreciate the well thought-out response. Your life is a living testament to the love of Jesus.

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  5. The two are in the ten. The first five follow love the Lord and the second five are relating to each other, love your neighbor.

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  6. Right you are, Paul, though technically it breaks down to the first three and the latter seven.

    The greatest commandment is first listed in Scripture in Deuteronomy 6:5 following the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4). It is also listed at least in part in Deuteronomy 10:12, 11:13, 13:3, and 30:6, and also in Joshua 22:5.

    The command to love our neighbor is found in Leviticus 19:18.

    Thanks for your comment!

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  7. you could take it a step further…

    John 13:34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

    Galatians 3:10-14 For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, TO PERFORM THEM.” Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.” However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “HE WHO PRACTICES THEM SHALL LIVE BY THEM.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE”— in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

    The law was given to show us we need God and once we have accepted God’s plan, we no longer live by law but by faith in the one he sent, Jesus. God’s plan from the outset is to rescue us from our own self-destruction. He is amaaaazing!!

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    • Thank you for a great comment, Susan! The wonder and love of our Lord Jesus never ceases to amaze. Though He blessed us with freedom to choose and though we deliberately chose wrong, He took responsibility for our salvation and paid the price. It is impossible to keep the Law without His help. It is impossible to be good, to be righteous, to produce good fruit in our lives, and to please God without faith, without His help, and without His holy presence. He is the best, He is the greatest, and He truly is amazing. All glory to Him!

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