Catechism

5 God's commandments

God has given mankind commandments in which He proclaims His will for their benefit.

5.1 Living in faith according to God's commandments Back to top

Belief in God has a decisive effect on the life of an individual as a whole. Believers strive to live up to the will of God through their thoughts and actions. They recognise in God the author of a righteous order.

In order that human beings may conduct themselves within the framework of this order, God, as their Creator, has given them commandments. The commandments bring to expression God's will concerning the structure of mankind's relationship with Him. Beyond that, they constitute the foundation for constructive relationships between people.

Since believers acknowledge God as their Lord and trust His works in awareness of His omniscience, they will inquire into the will of God and endeavour to subject their own will to His.

Already in the time of the Old Testament, there were men and women who allowed their faith to determine their actions. Hebrews 11 lists some examples. These witnesses of faith are also examples for Christians. Hebrews 12: 1 admonishes us to lay aside the "sin which so easily ensnares us", and courageously pursue the path of faith in battle against sin.

The greatest example is Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith. He was one with His Father and always subordinated His will to the will of God (Luke 22: 42). His unconditional obedience and fulfilment of all things which the Father had commanded Him encourages us to follow, and demands a conduct of life in accordance with His example: "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love" (John 15: 10). Thus Jesus Christ is the author of eternal salvation for all those who follow Him in believing obedience (Hebrews 5: 8-9).

Part of the Christian faith is the knowledge that salvation is attained by receiving the sacraments. The receiving of these divine acts of salvation and the expectation of the imminent return of Christ causes them to deny "ungodliness and worldly lusts [and] live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that he might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works" (Titus 2: 12-14).

To live "godly in the present age" means to align one's thoughts and actions with the will of God out of childlike trust, free from all hypocrisy and pretence. The basis of this childlike trust in our heavenly Father is His love for mankind. In obedience of faith, man subordinates himself to the divine will.

To establish "obedience to the faith" in the name of Jesus is the task of the Apostle ministry (Romans 1: 5; 16: 25-26). Those who remain in this obedience will align their lives by the doctrine of Christ (Romans 6: 17). That is true life in faith in accordance with God's commandments. It is in this manner that mankind's love for God comes to expression.

SUMMARY Back to top

God's will concerning the way in which our relationship with Him should be structured comes to expression in the Commandments. They furthermore constitute the foundation for prosperous relationships between human beings. (5.1)

Human beings accept God as their Lord in faith. They trust in Him and strive to live up to the will of God in their thoughts and actions. (5.1)

Jesus' unconditional obedience to His Father calls upon us to follow, and demands a conduct of life in accordance with His example. (5.1)

5.2 God's commandments–an expression of His love Back to top

God is love (1 John 4:16), and His commandments are an expression of His love. The purpose of the commandments is to help human beings live in accordance with God's will and in harmonious relationships with one another. God's commandments are to guide us to "love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith" (1 Timothy 1: 5).

God has created and blessed mankind. He has loved man right from the start. His preserving love also extends to the fallen creation. All of God's activity of salvation is founded upon His love. It was out of love that He chose the people of Israel (Deuteronomy 7: 7-8). In the commandments He proclaims His will to this people for their protection. It is also to this people, through whom all nations are to be blessed, that God sends His Son, Jesus Christ, as the highest expression of His love for the world (John 3: 16).

Jesus Christ also refers to the outstanding significance that God assigns to love already in the issuing of the law and in the proclamation of the prophets in the old covenant. When asked which is the "great commandment of the law" (Matthew 22: 36), He responded with two references 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: 37-40).

Jesus Christ is the conclusion of the old covenant and the beginning of the new covenant. In the new covenant, God opened up for mankind the opportunity to become His children and receive their very own divine nature, namely love: "... the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (Romans 5: 5). This indwelling love for God helps us recognise that God's love is shown in His commandments. This leads us to fulfil the commandments, not out of fear of punishment, but out of love to our heavenly Father: "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome" (1 John 5: 2-3; cf. John 14: 15, 21, 23).

5.2.1 Love for God Back to top

Man's love for God and his neighbour is rooted in God. Love is the nature of the Creator and therefore eternal: divine love has existed before all created things and will never end. All things are of Him, through Him, and to Him (Romans 11: 36).

Out of the love that God directs toward mankind, believers develop the desire to reciprocate this love (1 John 4: 19). Just as faith is man's response to God's revelation, so man's love is the response to God for the love he has received.

Ecclesiasticus 1: 14 states: "To fear the Lord [in other translations: "To love the Lord"] is the beginning of wisdom." Those who love God will have the longing to enter into fellowship with Him. The fact that the love of God has been poured out by the Holy Spirit into the hearts of those who are reborn is of special help in this effort (Romans 5: 5). This love for God is strengthened through the worthy partaking of Holy Communion. In this way it can grow within reborn believers and permeate them increasingly.

Those who love God will pursue love (1 Corinthians 14: 1). To love God is a commandment that applies to a person's entire being, and requires complete dedication: "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). Fulfilling this commandment gives content and purpose to life.

Love for God is to mould an individual's nature and define his conduct.

SUMMARY Back to top

God's commandments are an expression of His love. Their purpose is to help human beings live in accordance with God's will and in harmonious relationships with one another. (5.2)

The recognition of God's love in His commandments leads human beings to fulfil them out of love toward Him and not out of fear of punishment. (5.2)

5.2.2 Love for our neighbour–love for our fellow human being Back to top

"You shall love your neighbour as yourself" (Leviticus 19: 16-18). The Mosaic Law primarily defines neighbours as members of the people of Israel. It was only within this framework that the commandment at first applied. However, it was also extended to protect foreigners living in the country of the Israelites (Leviticus 19: 33-34).

The Son of God combined the commandments contained in Leviticus 19: 18 and Deuteronomy 6: 5 into the double commandment of love (Matthew 22: 37-39).

The example of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37) demonstrates that Jesus repealed this restriction on the commandment to love one's neighbour–which previously applied only to Israel. On the one hand, He defined one's neighbour as anyone in need of help. The parable does not specify whether He was talking about an Israelite or a Gentile: "A certain man went down from Jerusalem ..." On the other hand, one's neighbour can also be the person who provides help–in the parable he belongs to a nation held in contempt by the Israelites, a Samaritan. It becomes clear that the moment one person interacts with another they become neighbours. Our neighbour can therefore be any person with whom we come into contact.

This allows us to conclude that the domain within which the Ten Commandments (Decalogue) are valid is to be extended, and that they now apply to all human beings.

Most of the Ten Commandments have to do with one's neighbour (Exodus 20: 12-17). This is underscored by the fact that, when He addressed the rich young man, the Son of God placed the commandment to love one's neighbour on the same level as a number of commandments from the Decalogue (Matthew 19: 18-19).

Apostle Paul considers the prescriptions concerning one's fellow man to have been summarised into the commandment to love one's neighbour (Romans 13: 8-10). This insight is based on the Lord's statement that the double commandment of love encompasses "all the Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 22: 37-40). This statement is also found in the Sermon on the Mount, in connection with the "golden rule": "Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 7: 12).

Any human being can be the neighbour of another. Just how seriously Jesus takes this can also be inferred from the Sermon on the Mount, in which He even exhorts the people to love their enemies.

Love for our neighbour prompts us to show compassion to all who are in need of compassion, even our enemies. In practice, love for one's neighbour is demonstrated, for example, in unselfish efforts to benefit others, primarily those who are disadvantaged in one way or another.

Followers of Christ are not only called upon to practise neighbourly love in earthly matters, but also to refer others to the gospel of Christ. This is love "in deed and in truth" (1 John 3: 18). Our intercessions for the departed are also to be seen in this context.

"You shall love your neighbour as yourself" (Matthew 22: 39)–these words of Jesus give human beings the right to think of their own interests. On the other hand, the Lord places a clear limit on egoism, and exhorts us to treat all our fellow human beings with love.

Practised love for one's neighbour in any form deserves high regard. The more it is exercised, the more distress will be alleviated, and the more harmoniously structured our coexistence will be. The doctrine of Jesus Christ illustrates that love for one's neighbour comes to full fruition through love for God.

5.2.3 Love for our neighbour–love in the congregation Back to top

Love for one's neighbour should be especially manifest in the congregation: "Let each of us please his neighbour for his good, leading to edification" (Romans 15: 2). Jesus taught: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13: 34-35). The love of Christ's followers for one another is thus also an identifying feature of the Lord's congregation.

The standard that has been set for their love extends beyond the "golden rule" recorded in Matthew 7: 12: everyone is to love his neighbour just as Jesus loves His own. This love was manifested in the early Christian congregations by the fact that the multitude of those who believed "were of one heart and one soul" (Acts 4: 32). Admittedly, these congregations had to be repeatedly exhorted to reconciliation, peaceableness, and love.

Apostle John associated the commandment to love one another with the commandment to love God. The Apostle describes the appearing of the loving God to mankind in the sending of His Son and in the sacrifice of Christ, and concludes the following: "Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." He continues his train of thought in greater detail: he who says he loves God but hates his brother is a liar. From this he concludes: "And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother" (1 John 4: 7-21).

Accordingly, our love for God finds its expression in loving concern for our brothers and sisters in the congregation, irrespective of their individual personality or social standing. Apostle James describes any form of discrimination within the congregation as incompatible with the "faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory". No matter what the form of prejudice within the congregation, it violates the commandment to love one's neighbour. Based on this, James concludes: "... but if you show partiality, you commit sin" (James 2: 1-9).

"Love for one another" protects against any irreconcilability, prejudice, or contempt for individual members of the congregation. If the commandment to love our neighbour already requires us to help our fellow human being in situations of distress, this should be demonstrated first and foremost within the congregation: "... let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith" (Galatians 6: 10).

"Love for one another" is a special power that promotes cohesion within the congregation and brings warmth to congregational life. It prevents conflicts–which occur in any human society–from escalating into permanent antagonism. It enables us to accept our brothers and sisters as they are (Romans 15: 7). Even though the expectations, ways of thinking, and modes of conduct of some members of the congregation may not be comprehensible to others, they will not be denigrated or excluded as a result, but rather be met with tolerance.

Furthermore, such love will expand our view to the fact that others too are numbered among the Lord's elect, the "holy and beloved". This knowledge inspires all to recognise their duty to treat one another with warm compassion, friendliness, humility, meekness, and patience. If there is reason for complaint, we strive to forgive according to the words: "... even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do." Apostle Paul gives the following advice: "But above all these things, put on love, which is the bond of perfection" (Colossians 3: 12-14).

Every local congregation can be seen in the image of the body of Christ. Every individual belonging to the congregation is a member of this body. Thus all children of God are united and obligated to one another through their common head: "God composed the body, that ... the members should have the same care for one another." Each individual serves the good of the whole by taking an interest in the circumstances of others. It is a matter of course for us to show sympathy in sorrow and never begrudge good things to our neighbour: "And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honoured, all the members rejoice with it." All are to be aware: "Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually" (1 Corinthians 12: 12-27).

In the thirteenth chapter of the first epistle to the Corinthians, Apostle Paul shows the congregation the way of love, and concludes with the words: "And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." If love is practised in the congregation, the effects are more extensive than any gifts, talents, insights, or knowledge could achieve.

SUMMARY Back to top

The Mosaic Law primarily identifies the people of Israel as neighbours. As the parable of the Good Samaritan shows, Jesus lifted this limitation: every human being can be the neighbour of the other. (5.2.2)

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus even demands that the people show love to their enemies. (5.2.2)

Love for one's neighbour places limits on egoism. It inspires us to show compassion to all. Followers of Christ are not only called to show neighbourly love in earthly matters, but are also called to make others aware of the gospel of Christ. It is also in this context that our intercessions for the departed are to be assessed. (5.2.2)

Love for one's neighbour comes to complete perfection through love for God. (5.2.2)

The standard set for the love among Christ's followers far transcends the "golden rule" ("Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them!"). Each one of us is to love others in the same manner that Christ loves His own. This kind of love protects against irreconcilability, prejudice, and derogatory views of others, since it accepts brother and sister as they are. (5.2.3)

5.3 The Ten Commandments Back to top

The Ten Commandments comprise the core of the Mosaic Law, the five books of Moses (Torah). They bring to expression the kind of conduct that is pleasing to God and the kind that displeases Him. From them, specific instructions can be derived which demonstrate how the love for God and one's neighbour commanded by Jesus Christ is to be implemented in daily life.

In the Ten Commandments, God turns to all mankind and makes each individual personally responsible for his actions and conduct of life.

5.3.1 The term "commandment" Back to top

The designation "Ten Commandments" or "Decalogue" is derived from the biblical formulation "ten words" (deka logoi) in Exodus 34: 28 and Deuteronomy 10: 4.

5.3.1.1 The count Back to top

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.

5.3.1.2 The Ten Commandments in the Old Testament Back to top

The Ten Commandments are assigned outstanding significance within the Mosaic Law: only these commandments were audibly declared to the people by God on Mount Sinai (Deuteronomy 5: 22) and only these commandments were written into stone tablets of the law (Exodus 34: 28).

The proclamation of the Ten Commandments is part of the covenant that God made with Israel. Thereby He renewed the covenant into which He entered with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob earlier in history (Deuteronomy 5: 2-3). In Deuteronomy 4: 13: we read: "So He [God] declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone."

Keeping the commandments was a covenantal duty of the Israelites and was blessed by God (Deuteronomy 7: 7-16). Already the children of the people of Israel learned them by heart (Deuteronomy 6: 6-9). To this day the Ten Commandments have retained their great significance in Judaism.

5.3.1.3 The Ten Commandments in the New Testament Back to top

In the New Testament the Ten Commandments are reinforced and given deeper meaning by the Son of God. In the statements He makes, Jesus Christ shows Himself to be Lord over the Commandments, and indeed over the entire law (Matthew 12: 8). His words to the rich young man make it clear that eternal life can only be attained if, beyond the mere observance of the commandments, one is also prepared to follow Christ (Matthew 19: 16-22; Mark 10: 17-21).

Jesus Christ opened up an entirely new perspective on the Mosaic Law (see 4.8)–and therefore also on the Ten Commandments. Apostle Paul brought the purpose of the Mosaic Law–according to the understanding of the Old Testament–to expression as follows: "For by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3: 20).

Violation of even a single one of these commandments makes a person guilty of breaking the law as a whole (James 2: 10). Accordingly, all human beings break the law–and thus all human beings are sinners.

The law makes it possible to recognise sin. Only the sacrifice of Christ, the foundation of the new covenant, is capable of washing away sins that have been committed.

The Ten Commandments also apply in the new covenant. They are binding upon all human beings. The reason for the changed understanding of the Ten Commandments also lies in the fact that–in accordance with the prophecies recorded in Jeremiah 31: 33-34–God's law is no longer written on stone tablets, but rather into the hearts and minds of all mankind. The law as a whole is fulfilled by fulfilling the commandment of love for God and one's neighbour (Romans 13: 8-10).

5.3.1.4 The wording Back to top

The wording of the Ten Commandments in use today is not the same as that contained in the Bible text. A simple format that is easy to remember and that keeps the original meaning is preferred.

The Ten Commandments in their present-day wording Back to top

First Commandment

I am the Lord, your God. You shall have no other gods before Me.

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.

Third Commandment

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

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.

Fifth Commandment

You shall not murder.

Sixth Commandment

You shall not commit adultery.

Seventh Commandment

You shall not steal.

Eighth Commandment

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.

Ninth Commandment

You shall not covet your neighbour’s house.

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 Ten Commandments in Exodus 20: 2-17 Back to top

First Commandment

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.

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.

For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

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.

Third Commandment

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.

For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day.

Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

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.

Fifth Commandment

You shall not murder.

Sixth Commandment

You shall not commit adultery.

Seventh Commandment

You shall not steal.

Eighth Commandment

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.

Ninth Commandment

You shall not covet your neighbour’s house.

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 Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5: 6-21 Back to top

First Commandment

I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.

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.

For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

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.

Third Commandment

Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you.

Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm;

therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

Fourth Commandment

Honour your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may be well with you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you.

Fifth Commandment

You shall not murder.

Sixth Commandment

You shall not commit adultery.

Seventh Commandment

You shall not steal.

Eighth Commandment

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.

Ninth Commandment

You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife;

Tenth Commandment

and you shall not desire your neighbour’s house, his field, his male servant, his female servant, his ox, his donkey, or anything that is your neighbour’s.

SUMMARY Back to top

The Ten Commandments comprise the core of the Mosaic Law. In them God addresses all human beings. (5.3)

The proclamation of the Ten Commandments, which the people were obliged to fulfil, is part of God's covenant with Israel. (5.3.1.2)

Jesus Christ opened up a new perspective on the Mosaic Law and thus on the Ten Commandments. They are also valid in the new covenant. (5.3.1.3)

The text of the Ten Commandments is recorded twice in Holy Scripture: Exodus 20: 2-17 and Deuteronomy 5: 6-21. (5.3.1.4)

5.3.2 The First Commandment Back to top

I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods before Me. Back to top

5.3.2.1 God–Lord and Benefactor Back to top

"I am the Lord your God." This statement stands as an introduction to all the commandments that follow, and brings to expression that God is Lord over all. Unrestricted sovereignty is due Him, the Creator of all things. He establishes the law through His word. He is to be obeyed.

The Old Testament attests of this awareness in the books of the law, in the Psalms, and in the prophets. The New Testament emphasises: Christ is Lord. His divine will is binding.

God is not only the ruler, but also the protector. In His blessing He reveals Himself as a benefactor to all human beings.

5.3.2.2 God leads out of bondage Back to top

Although God is absolutely sovereign and accountable to no one, He nevertheless explains His demand of obedience to the Israelites: He led Israel "out of the house of bondage" and out of slavery in Egypt. He is the God who leads into freedom. He is the redeeming God.

God, who liberated the people of Israel from foreign rule in an earthly sense, reveals Himself as the benefactor of all human beings in a much greater sense in His Son Jesus Christ: out of love, God sends His Son. The latter sacrifices His sinless life on the cross out of love and in obedience. Ever since, all human beings have had the opportunity to be redeemed from bondage to sin and death. Those who recognise the significance of redemption will want to show love and obedience to the Redeemer. The close relationship between the First Commandment and the call to love God is emphasised in Deuteronomy 6: 4-5: "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."

5.3.2.3 Worship and the fear of God Back to top

Only God the Lord is worthy of worship. Only He is to be served.

The forms of worshipping God in the old covenant are various. The Psalms attest that praise and adoration come to expression in prayer. The sacrificial service in the temple was also a form of worship.

Over the course of time, the temple cult misled the people to practise an externalised and ritualised worship of God, which was already denounced by the prophets (Amos 5: 21-22, 24). Jesus also picked up on this prophetic tradition and taught: "But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4: 23-24). Thus the proper worship of God is not a purely formal act, but rather consists of a human being's complete devotion to God.

Devotion to God is also defined by the fear of God, that is to say respect for God. The fear of God is not an expression of subservient fear, but rather of humbleness, love, and trust. It expresses itself in the worship of the Most High out of childlike love, and in unconditional acceptance of God's majesty. The fear of God is evidenced in the endeavour to keep the commandments, in other words, to avoid sin.

5.3.2.4 The prohibition against worshipping other gods Back to top

"You shall have no other gods before me." With these words, God makes it clear that He is the only One to whom worship and reverence as God are due. The veneration or worship of anything else that human beings might consider divine–be they living creatures, natural phenomena, objects, or real or imagined spiritual beings–is sin. Paul writes: "For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus, through whom are all things, and through whom we live" (1 Corinthians 8: 5-6).

5.3.2.5 The prohibition of images Back to top

Israel was surrounded by peoples who worshipped constellations and natural phenomena, statues, animal figurines, stones, and the like, as gods or their manifestations. The Israelites allowed themselves to be influenced by such cults and from time to time created images which they worshipped, for example, the golden calf (Exodus 32).

The biblical wording of the First Commandment forbids the fabrication of any images of things created by God: "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" (Exodus 20: 4-5).

The prohibition against the fabrication and worship of images must be seen in the context that images and statues were venerated and worshipped as divinities.

Human beings are not to make any image of God for themselves, but rather accept Him as He has appeared in the world: in Jesus Christ, the self-revelation of God in the flesh. Here it is not a matter of an external form of appearance, but rather of God's nature and will (John 14: 9).

Christian tradition does not regard the First Commandment as a prohibition against making pictures, sculptures, photos, or films, however. Among other things, this position can be derived from the fact that, according to the biblical account, God Himself commissioned sculptures to be made (Numbers 21: 8-9).

5.3.2.6 Violations of the First Commandment Back to top

The veneration and worship of statues, idols, or amulets, as well as mountains, trees, and natural phenomena, are violations of the First Commandment. Further violations of the First Commandment include Satanism, fortune-telling, magic, spiritualism, and necromancy.

It is contrary to God's will to make a god, as it were, of power, honour, money, or one's own person, to which everything else must be subordinate. Likewise, it is a violation of the First Commandment to create a conception of God that is defined by one's own wishes or opinions.

The First Commandment calls on us to honour God out of love and accept Him as He has revealed Himself. Such worship of God is conducted in adoration, obedience, and the fear of God. In this manner the words are fulfilled: "Ascribe greatness to our God" (Deuteronomy 32: 3).

Devotional images, icons, statues, and the like do not have any sort of religious function in the New Apostolic Church. They are not worshipped. They are not ascribed any spiritual powers or healing effects.

SUMMARY Back to top

The words: "I am the Lord, Your God" bring to expression that God is due unrestricted sovereignty. Through His word He makes laws that are to be obeyed. (5.3.2.1)

God is the only one whom worship is due. The worship of any other living creatures, natural phenomena, objects, or real or imagined spiritual beings is sin. (5.3.2.3; 5.3.2.4)

Human beings are not to make any images of God, but are rather to accept Him as He has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ. (5.3.2.5)

Veneration of God also occurs in worship, obedience, and the fear of God. (5.3.2.6)

5.3.3 The Second Commandment Back to top

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. Back to top

5.3.3.1 God's name Back to top

When God spoke to Moses from the burning bush, He stated His name (Exodus 3: 14). This was at the same time an act in which God revealed His being. The name "Yahweh", which God made known here, can be translated as "I shall be who I shall be" or also as "I am who I am". In this way, God reveals Himself as the One who is totally identical to Himself, unchangeable, and eternal.

Out of reverence, Jews avoid speaking the name of Yahweh. To this day, whenever this name of God appears in the text of the Old Testament, Jews speak the name "Adonai" ("Lord"). This is an effort to avoid the danger of taking the name of God in vain, even unintentionally.

The Old Testament also mentions other names for God, for example "the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" or the "Lord God of your fathers". These names refer to divine acts in history as experienced in the time of the patriarchs. God is also called "Lord Sabaoth" ("Lord of hosts"). Here the term "hosts" refers to the angels.

God is also described as "Father" (Isaiah 63: 16). When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He told them to address God as the "Father in heaven" (Matthew 6: 9). The designation "Father" makes it clear that human beings may turn to the loving God in childlike trust in all matters.

In the great commission given to the Apostles (Matthew 28: 19) and in the blessing recorded in 2 Corinthians 13: 14, God is referred to as "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit". This name reveals the divine being in hitherto unknown clarity: God is triune, and is invoked and worshipped as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is forbidden to speak of the three divine persons in an inappropriate manner.

5.3.3.2 Forms of taking the name of God in vain Back to top

Anyone who speaks the name of God should do so in the awareness that he bears responsibility to God for this.

Blasphemy is a serious abuse of the name of God by way of which God is intentionally vilified, derided, or berated. Anyone who invokes the Almighty while telling a lie is also taking the name of God in vain.

In the course of history, people have frequently taken God's name in vain in order to enrich themselves, wage wars, discriminate against other human beings, or to torture and kill.

Violations of the Second Commandment can also be found in daily life. Any loose talk using the names "God", "Jesus Christ", or "Holy Spirit" is sinful. It is no different for curses in which God or Jesus are mentioned–even if only in altered form–and for jokes which feature God, the Father, Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit. Such talk degrades God's majesty and the holiness of His activity. This is to be considered "coarse jesting" as described in Ephesians 5: 4.

5.3.3.3 The threat of punishment Back to top

The second part of the commandment states: "... for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain." This makes clear that God's commandments must be taken seriously. The Bible is silent on the question of what this punishment specifically entails. Anyone who becomes aware that he has used God's name in vain and repents of it may hope for forgiveness.

Love for God and the fear of God–not fear of any punishment–should be the primary motivation for obeying the Second Commandment.

5.3.3.4 Hallowing God's name–prayer and conduct of life Back to top

The Second Commandment admonishes us to keep holy everything that has to do with God and His name. This also applies to our conduct of life. As a Christian, the believer bears a special responsibility toward the divine name. If those called by His name were to conduct their lives dishonourably, they would thereby dishonour the name of God.

On account of their relationship to their heavenly Father, God's children bear a high degree of responsibility for keeping the name of God holy, as they bear the name of the Father and the Son (Revelation 14: 1).

5.3.3.5 Oath–Vow Back to top

The question of whether it is permissible to take an oath by invoking–or to make a vow using–God's name is linked to the Second Commandment. While this was permitted in Israel (Deuteronomy 6: 13; Deuteronomy 10: 20), swearing was forbidden in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5: 33-37).

The inconsistent statements about swearing in the New Testament (James 5: 12; Romans 1: 9; 2 Corinthians 1: 23; Philippians 1: 8, etc.) allow us to conclude that the prohibition against swearing was not regarded as a general standard of conduct. Accordingly, Christian tradition applies Jesus Christ's prohibition only to frivolous swearing in daily life but not to taking an oath in a court of law, for example. When someone calls upon God as witness in a mandatory oath formulation ("So help me God")–in order to declare his obligation to be truthful to the Eternal One–he thereby publicly professes his faith in the omnipotent, omniscient God. Such an oath is not seen as a sin.

SUMMARY Back to top

With the name "Yahweh"–"I shall be who I shall be", or "I am who I am"–God identifies Himself as the One who is completely identical with Himself, unchangeable, and eternal. (5.3.3.1)

Blasphemy is the serious abuse of the name of God. (5.3.3.2)

The Second Commandment is the only Commandment that contains a threat of punishment. (5.3.3.3)

It admonishes keeping the name of God holy, also in one's conduct of life. (5.3.3.4)

Frivolous swearing while invoking God's name is a violation of the Second Commandment. (5.3.3.5)

5.3.4 The Third Commandment Back to top

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Back to top

The Third Commandment is an exhortation to set aside one day of the week in order to worship God, gratefully remember His deeds of salvation, and occupy oneself with His word.

5.3.4.1 Reasons for the Third Commandment in Israel Back to top

The Sabbath is to be kept holy as part of the order of creation because God rested on the seventh day of creation and hallowed it (Genesis 2: 2-3; Exodus 20: 8-11). Thus the holiday has been given in order to honour and commemorate God's creative work, which benefits all of mankind.

Another reason for keeping the Sabbath day holy is recorded in Deuteronomy 5: 15: "And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day."

The day of rest therefore serves to praise the Creator and recall Israel's liberation from captivity. Besides this, the Sabbath commemorates God's deeds upon mankind and for His chosen people in particular.

5.3.4.2 The Sabbath in Israel Back to top

Even before issuing the law on Mount Sinai, God had set apart the Sabbath (Exodus 16: 4-30). He gave the Sabbath as a gift, as a day on which the people of Israel were to rest from work and turn to God without distraction. Thus the Sabbath was a day of rest and, at the same time, a holy day. It was characterised by a special sacrificial service (Numbers 28: 9-10). Those who honoured the Sabbath and avoided personal business and idle talk (Isaiah 58: 13-14) were promised blessing.

5.3.4.3 Jesus Christ and the Sabbath Back to top

Jesus' position on the Sabbath differed fundamentally from that of the law-abiding Jews. The conduct of the Son of God makes it clear that the law and the gospel assessed the Sabbath differently. Although Jesus did go to the synagogue on the Sabbath (Luke 4: 16), He nevertheless healed the sick there (Luke 6: 6-11)–which was considered by the scribes to be work, and thus a violation of the Third Commandment. For Jesus, on the other hand, healing the sick was an expression of divine beneficence, and thus also permissible on the Sabbath.

Jesus Christ has the authority to liberate the day of rest from the constrictions of strict legalism: "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2: 27).

5.3.4.4 From Sabbath to Sunday Back to top

"For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath" (Matthew 12: 8)–these words of Jesus, which document His divine authority over the law, were also fulfilled in the changing of the day of the week that is hallowed by nearly all Christians: while the seventh day of the Jewish calendar–the Sabbath–is hallowed in Israel, Christians celebrate the Sunday. The reason for this is that, according to the unanimous testimony of the gospels, Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead on this day of the week (Matthew 28: 1; Mark 16: 2; Luke 24: 1; John 20: 1). For Christians, hallowing the Sunday is therefore also a profession of Jesus Christ's resurrection and a remembrance of Easter.

After Christ's ascension into heaven, the early Christians still held on to their Jewish traditions, which also included keeping the Sabbath day holy. This changed with the missionary work among the Gentiles. Over the course of several decades, the Sunday developed into the Christian holiday. The first references to the significance of the Sunday can be found in Acts 20: 7 and 1 Corinthians 16: 2.

In AD 321, Emperor Constantine I decreed Sunday to be a day of general rest in the Roman Empire. In Christian countries, this regulation has largely retained its validity up to the present.

5.3.4.5 Keeping Sunday holy–in divine service Back to top

Above all, believers sanctify the Sunday by worshipping God in divine service, believingly accepting His word, receiving forgiveness of sins in a repentant attitude, and worthily partaking of Christ's body and blood in the sacrament of Holy Communion. In so doing, believers commemorate Christ's sacrifice and act of redemption, celebrate the Lord's resurrection, and direct their eyes to His return. By attending the divine service, believers show their gratitude for Jesus' acts of salvation. This also brings to expression their longing for God's word and the sacrament.

Members who are unable to attend divine services on account of professional activity, sickness, disability, or age hallow the Sunday by seeking a connection to God and the congregation in prayer to the best of their abilities. God draws near to them and grants them peace, comfort, and strength (see 12.4.3).

Those holidays of the church year (see 12.5) which do not fall on a Sunday are also celebrated with divine services.

Beyond that, the Sabbath–as a day of rest–is a model of the rest we have been promised with God. The link between the Third Commandment and this future "day of rest" is described in Hebrews 4: 4-11. To achieve this goal, it is necessary to make use of "today", and believingly accept God's word and sacrament in the divine service (Hebrews 3: 7).

5.3.4.6 Working on Sundays–between duty and sanctification Back to top

Those who sanctify Jesus Christ in their hearts (1 Peter 3: 15) will seek fellowship with Him in divine service whenever possible. Those who have to work on a Sunday should seek to connect themselves to God and the congregation through prayer.

5.3.4.7 The structure of the Sunday Back to top

As far as possible, the Sunday should be a day of rest and remembrance of the gospel. It is the soul's special day–here its needs stand in the foreground. Divine values such as peace and fellowship contribute to sanctification.

The commandment to keep the Sunday holy calls upon believers to assess the degree to which their activities are consistent with the purpose of this day, which is consecrated to the Lord. Their primary concern should be to deepen and preserve the effect of the divine service.

If the Sunday is utilised in this way, the faithful live in accordance with the exhortation in Psalm 118: 24: "This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it."

SUMMARY Back to top

The Sabbath serves to praise the Creator and recall Israel's deliverance from captivity. It is on this day that God's deeds upon mankind and His chosen people are commemorated. (5.3.4.1)

Christians celebrate the Sunday, the day of Jesus Christ's resurrection, as the Sabbath. (5.3.4.4)

Attendance in divine service demonstrates the believer's gratitude for Christ's deeds of salvation. (5.3.4.5)

The Sabbath as a day of rest foreshadows the promised rest we will have with God. (5.3.4.5)

The Third Commandment calls upon believers to structure the Sunday as a day dedicated to the Lord. (5.3.4.7)

5.3.5 The Fourth Commandment Back to top

Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you. Back to top

The provisions of the Ten Commandments that apply to interpersonal relationships begin with the Fourth Commandment. The Commandment does not contain any kind of prohibition, but rather demonstrates the mode of conduct that is pleasing to God. It is directed at people of all ages, and requires them to accord their father and mother the esteem and appreciation they are due. The specific implementation of this commandment can take different forms, depending on particular life circumstances such as age, social environment, and social norms and customs.

5.3.5.1 The Fourth Commandment according to the understanding of the Old Testament Back to top

Like the Mosaic Law as a whole, the Fourth Commandment stands in the context of the Israelites' desert migration (Deuteronomy 5: 16). It is from this historical situation that the original meaning of the commandment can be derived: it applied first and foremost to the liberated Israelites (according to the understanding of the time, it thus did not include women, foreigners, or slaves). They were to show honour to the older members of the family by providing them with support in this arduous journey. The promise mentioned in the commandment also applied to the Israelites: they were to live long–that is things were to go well with them–specifically in Canaan, the land that had yet to be conquered. Here it becomes clear that, for the people of the old covenant, "long days" were associated with earthly life. When the Israelites later settled in Canaan, the children honoured their aged parents by providing for them and caring for them in the event of illness.

Several writings of the Old Testament give interpretations of this commandment: for example, Ecclesiasticus 3: 12 relates the Fourth Commandment to the relationship with the now aged parents: "My son, help thy father in his age, and grieve him not as long as he liveth." Proverbs 1: 8 admonishes obedience toward father and mother, and according to Tobit 10: 12, even one's parents-in-law are to be honoured: "And he said to his daughter, 'Honour thy father and thy mother-in-law, which are now thy parents, that I may hear good report of thee.' And he kissed her."

5.3.5.2 Jesus Christ and the Fourth Commandment Back to top

According to Luke 2: 51, Jesus subordinated Himself obediently to His mother Mary and her husband, Joseph. Just how far His devotion to His mother extended is demonstrated by His conduct on Golgotha: on the cross He honoured Mary by commending her to the care of Apostle John (John 19: 27).

In His conversation with the rich young man the Son of God mentioned the Fourth Commandment as being important for attaining eternal life (Mark 10: 17-19). In His teaching activity, the Lord reproved the teachers of the law for undermining that aspect of the commandment which applied to providing for one's parents in their old age (Mark 7: 9-13).

5.3.5.3 The Fourth Commandment in the letters of Apostle Paul Back to top

The letters of Apostle Paul expressly mention the Fourth Commandment. Children are admonished to be obedient to their parents (Ephesians 6: 1-3; Colossians 3: 20). The disobedience of children toward their parents is even included in the so-called catalogue of vices (Romans 1: 30; 2 Timothy 3: 2). On the other hand, fathers are also admonished to behave in a considerate way toward their children (Ephesians 6: 4), and mothers are to love their children (Titus 2: 4). Here it becomes clear that, in addition to the obligations arising for children from the Fourth Commandment, parents also have obligations toward their children.

5.3.5.4 The broadening of the Fourth Commandment in Christian tradition Back to top

Over the course of time, the Fourth Commandment developed a broader meaning. While the wording of the commandment only speaks of honouring one's parents, Christian tradition also regarded this commandment as an obligation to acknowledge all authority. The Fourth Commandment relates primarily to one's conduct with respect to one's forefathers.

Any obligation of obedience–even toward one's parents–is tempered by the standard: "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5: 29).

5.3.5.5 The Fourth Commandment in modern life Back to top

Regardless of their age, children have the unaltered task of honouring their parents.

If their relationship with one another is characterised by love and trust, parents can expect obedience of their children. Adolescents are called upon to become aware of all the care their parents have shown them in the course of their childhood and youth. This leads to a thankful disposition. Esteem and respect should be perceptible in their dealings with parents, as well as in their conversations with them and about them.

There is also an obligation for parents that arises from the Fourth Commandment: they bear a high degree of responsibility in raising their children, and are to ensure–through their own God-pleasing conduct–that they do not make it difficult for their children to esteem them. Through the way in which they treat, speak with, and speak of their own parents and parents-in-law, parents set an example for their children. It is conducive to a harmonious family life when parents and children treat one another with love and thereby build up and maintain a relationship of trust.

Fulfilling the Fourth Commandment also entails loving acceptance of one's parents even in high age. If one's conduct is characterised by thankfulness, love, and trust, the Fourth Commandment is fulfilled and the blessing of God can rest upon it. In the conception of the Old Testament, "long life" is an expression for God's blessing. In the new covenant this blessing reveals itself primarily in spiritual gifts.

SUMMARY Back to top

The regulations that apply to interpersonal relationships begin with the Fourth Commandment. It does not contain any prohibition, but rather demonstrates a God-pleasing mode of conduct. (5.3.5)

In addition to the obligation of children to honour their parents, parents also have obligations, namely to provide for their children and set an example for them. (5.3.5.5)

If the commandment is fulfilled, it attracts the blessing of God. (5.3.5.5)

5.3.6 The Fifth Commandment Back to top

You shall not murder. Back to top

5.3.6.1 The prohibition against killing in the Old Testament Back to top

The literal translation of this commandment from the original Hebrew text is: "You shall not murder!" In its original meaning, the Fifth Commandment forbade the unauthorised, unlawful shedding of innocent blood which was damaging to the community. It did not refer to military service or the death penalty.

In terms of penalties, the Mosaic Law distinguished between inadvertent, negligent, and deliberate homicide (Exodus 21: 12-14).

Generally, killing was punishable by death in Israel. In the case of the first two kinds of homicide referenced above, however, the perpetrator had the option of avoiding this punishment: if he succeeded in reaching one of the "cities of refuge", he was safe from the avenger of blood (Numbers 35: 6-34). In the case of deliberate murder, however, the death penalty was unavoidable.

The Old Testament mentions killing on several occasions, for example in connection with the conquest of the land of Canaan or the battles of the people of Israel against the Philistines. Warfare was also considered a legitimate means of protecting Israel from idolatry.

5.3.6.2 The prohibition against killing in the New Testament Back to top

Jesus' interpretation of the Fifth Commandment went far beyond the original meaning: "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). Thus He did not confine the observance of this commandment to its literal fulfilment, but also took into account the individual's inner attitude. Accordingly we read as follows in 1 John 3: 15: "Whoever hates his brother is a murderer."

5.3.6.3 The significance of the Fifth Commandment today Back to top

Life is given by God. God alone is the Lord of life and death. Therefore no human being is entitled to terminate a human life.

Violence and disregard for life in today's society must not relativise the commandment.

The commandment not to murder also incorporates the duty to protect and preserve human life.

5.3.6.4 Specific questions concerning the Fifth Commandment Back to top

All specific questions are to be answered with a view to the basic principle that God is the source of all life. He is the authority in whose hands the beginning and end of human life lies. No human being is entitled to violate this divine order.

Death penalty

The New Apostolic Church does not recognise the death penalty as a suitable deterrent, and therefore does not regard it as a suitable means of community protection either.

Wars

Killing in war constitutes a violation of the Fifth Commandment, even though the individual is hardly able to influence the events. However, even in such exceptional situations, it is the individual's responsibility to choose the lesser evil and to do his very best to avoid killing. Even in certain cases where one might attempt to justify the use of violence in order to prevent greater harm, or for the purposes of self-defence, killing is a violation of the Fifth Commandment.

Grounds for justification and exemption from guilt

Even killing in self-defence is a violation of the Fifth Commandment. Regardless of the legal penalty, however, the guilt incurred before God may, in this and in similar cases, be minimal.

Killing unborn life

Unborn life is to be respected and protected, since it must be assumed that it is, already from the moment of conception, a human life given by God. Thus the Church disapproves of killing embryos–that is abortion as well as the destruction of artificially generated human life. If, however, a medical prognosis concludes that a mother's life is in danger, her life should be saved. Although such a case still constitutes a violation of the Fifth Commandment, the guilt incurred may certainly be minimal.

Suicide

Suicide is a violation of the Fifth Commandment.

Assisted suicide

This applies to a terminally ill person for whom there is no prospect of healing and whose suffering cannot be alleviated.

Active assisted suicide

Active assisted suicide is a violation of the Fifth Commandment, just like helping someone to commit suicide.

Passive assisted suicide

Any decision regarding measures to prolong life is, first and foremost, up to the patient himself. In the event there is no statement of will, this decision should be made solely in consultation with doctors and relatives after a responsible assessment of the patient's best interests. Neither of these cases is considered a violation of the Fifth Commandment.

Euthanasia

The killing of handicapped or maimed human beings is a violation of the Fifth Commandment.

Killing other living creatures

The killing of animals is not covered by the Fifth Commandment. Genesis 9: 1-3 expressly allows for animals to serve as food for human beings. Nevertheless, the life of the mute creatures is also to be respected. This derives from mankind's shared responsibility for the preservation of the creation. It is every individual's duty to respect all life.

SUMMARY Back to top

Life has been given by God. He alone is Lord over life and death. Therefore it is not permitted for any human being to terminate a human life. (5.3.6.3)

According to its original meaning, the Fifth Commandment forbids the arbitrary, unlawful shedding of blood which is harmful to the community. (5.3.6.1)

Jesus did not limit the fulfilment of this commandment to its literal observance, but rather also takes into account the inner attitude of the individual. (5.3.6.2)

The commandment not to murder also includes the mandate to protect and preserve human life. (5.3.6.3)

5.3.7 The Sixth Commandment Back to top

You shall not commit adultery. Back to top

5.3.7.1 Marriage Back to top

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 (Matthew 19: 4-5).

The Bible describes various forms of marriage. Whereas the Old Testament often speaks of polygamy (marriage to many partners, understood here as one man married to several women), Jesus Christ–and with Him the New Testament, gives unequivocal support to monogamy (marriage to one partner) as the form of matrimonial cohabitation of man and woman that is desired by God and appropriate to believing Christians (Matthew 19: 5-6; 1 Timothy 3: 2, 12; 5: 9).

Already in the Old Testament, marriage was understood as a covenant protected by God (Proverbs 2: 17; Malachi 2: 13-16) and blessed through prayer: "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).

Generally, couples where at least one partner should be New Apostolic may receive a wedding blessing in the New Apostolic Church upon their request. This blessing of God contains powers that will enable them to fashion their future life together in a manner desired by God. This includes the serious endeavour on the part of the married couple to pursue their path of life together in love and the fear of God.

Marriage, as it corresponds to God's will, is an image of Christ's fellowship with His church and is therefore holy. It obliges both partners to honour and love one another (Ephesians 5: 25, 28-33). Marriage is intended to be indissoluble until death: "Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate" (Matthew 19: 6). In view of this, it is advisable to protect and nurture marriage.

5.3.7.2 Adultery Back to top

In general terms, any married person who has sexual intercourse with someone other than his/her spouse, or any unmarried person who has sexual intercourse with a married person, commits adultery. According to the words of Jesus: "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), "adultery of the heart" can occur despite an outwardly blameless conduct of life. This commandment is not only violated by committing the actual act of adultery, but already when it is played out in thought (Mark 7: 20-23).

5.3.7.3 Divorce Back to top

In the New Testament, divorce is assessed as sin: "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 (Matthew 19: 9).

The gospel of Mark describes the remarriage of a divorced person as adultery (Mark 10: 11-12). According to further statements in the New Testament, divorce and remarriage during the lifetime of the divorced spouse are violations of the Sixth Commandment. Remarriage after divorce was apparently–though with certain exceptions–not accepted in the early Christian congregations (1 Corinthians 7: 10-11, 39; Romans 7: 2-3).

The New Testament's statements concerning divorce need to be seen in the historical and social context of the ancient world: they served, above all, to improve the situation of women, who only had very limited rights. The woman was to be protected from being arbitrarily cast aside by her husband.

The abovementioned quotations from the Bible notwithstanding, the church still faces the question of how to deal with divorced persons. Here the overall personal circumstances are to be taken into account. It can be difficult to make decisions that correspond to the spirit of the gospel. It should always be kept in mind that Jesus did not deal with mankind in the spirit of the legalities of the old covenant, but in the spirit of love and grace (John 8: 2-11).

Like any other sin, adultery and divorce require forgiveness. When a marriage ends in divorce, it is usually the case that both partners have contributed to it. The degree of individual guilt may vary. For example, there are cases in which one partner may use violence or may not wish to maintain the marriage. It is therefore good for both partners to earnestly examine themselves and take stock of the personal idiosyncrasies and modes of conduct that have contributed to the situation.

Separated and divorced persons are not excluded from receiving the sacraments. They have their place in the congregation and are cared for by their ministers in unbiased fashion.

Divorced persons who wish to remarry and who request a wedding blessing will receive it. This is to provide them with an opportunity for a new start.

5.3.7.4 Holy conduct in marriage Back to top

Marriage should be honoured and the matrimonial bed kept "undefiled" (Hebrews 13: 4). The insight that the body of a reborn individual is the dwelling place of God, and also the property of the Most High, results in the obligation to live a holy life (1 Corinthians 6: 19-20). This applies in particular to one's conduct in marriage (1 Thessalonians 4: 3-4; see also 13.3).

SUMMARY Back to top

Marriage is the union of man and woman as desired by God. As an image of the fellowship of Christ with His church, it is intended to be indissoluble. Given this context it is advisable to protect and promote matrimony. (5.3.7.1)

Any married individual who engages in sexual intercourse with anyone other than his or her spouse, and any unmarried individual who has sexual intercourse with someone who is married, commits adultery. (5.3.7.2)

Violation of this commandment has already occurred if adultery has already been played out in thought. (5.3.7.2)

5.3.8 The Seventh Commandment Back to top

You shall not steal. Back to top

5.3.8.1 Theft in general legal systems Back to top

It is forbidden to take that which belongs to another person. This prohibition of theft, which has its source in God, is one of the basic principles of human legal systems and serves to ensure protection of, and respect for, property.

However, the commandment to love one's neighbour also entails that property should not be used in an avaricious and selfish way. Possessions thus also imply responsibilities.

Generally, theft is understood as the illegal misappropriation of another person's property. This can apply to both material things and intellectual property. It is forbidden to unlawfully acquire or damage the property of others. Likewise it is forbidden to deceive others in order to thereby acquire undue gain at their expense. The lust for power and profit must be held in check. It is also necessary to respect the dignity and wellbeing of others.

5.3.8.2 The prohibition against theft in the Old Testament Back to top

Originally the prohibition against stealing was intended, above all, to outlaw kidnapping. The purpose of this was to protect free men from being kidnapped, sold, or held captive. In Israel, kidnapping was punishable by death–in contrast to property offences, for which one was able to atone by material compensation: "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). This was therefore an offence that was punishable by the most severe of all possible penalties.

Beyond that, it was also a punishable offence to steal another person's property. The Mosaic Law required compensation to be made for stolen property. As a rule, twice–and in more severe cases even four and five times–the amount stolen had to be replaced (Exodus 22: 1, 4, 7, 9).

5.3.8.3 The prohibition against theft in the New Testament Back to top

In His conversation with the rich young man (Matthew 19: 16-23) Jesus quoted the Seventh Commandment. In Mark 7: 20-23, the Lord described theft as a sin, which has its root in the hearts of men and defiles them. In these passages, the Seventh Commandment is interpreted in traditional Old Testament terms.

In John 10: 1 the Seventh Commandment is extended and elevated to a spiritual level: "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber." This is a reference to those who lead others to believe false teachings. They are thieves and robbers who act like wolves, searching for prey among the believers, and trying to snatch them from Christ's flock (Acts 20: 29).

5.3.8.4 Various forms of theft Back to top

Although theft in the literal sense occurs when material or intellectual property is taken from others, there are also other forms of theft. For example, fraud can also amount to theft according to the meaning of the Seventh Commandment.

The event related in Luke 19: 1-10 illuminates this aspect. The fortune of the tax collector Zacchaeus was in no small measure amassed through fraud. After Jesus had come to his house, the tax collector promised: "Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold" (Luke 19: 8). This example extends the concept of theft even further in the area of interpersonal relationships: it also includes usury, exploiting another person's misfortune, misappropriation, and embezzlement. Fraud, tax evasion, corruption, and squandering money entrusted to one's care also fall into this category.

Thus the Seventh Commandment is an admonition not to touch or unrightfully diminish the property of one's neighbour, nor to rob him of his honour, reputation, or human dignity.

SUMMARY Back to top

It is forbidden to misappropriate the possessions of one's neighbour in any way whatsoever. (5.3.8.1)

The Seventh Commandment is also an admonition not to encroach upon the honour, reputation, or human dignity of one's neighbour. (5.3.8.4)

5.3.9 The Eighth Commandment Back to top

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour. Back to top

5.3.9.1 Original meaning Back to top

At first, the Eighth Commandment pertained to false statements made in court. For the Israelites, the "neighbour" (see 5.2.2) was generally anyone with whom they interacted in everyday life. Both false accusation and untrue testimony were considered "false witness".

5.3.9.2 Examples of false witness in the time of the Old Testament Back to top

When dealing with cases involving the death penalty in Israel at the time of the Old Testament, at least two witnesses had to be summoned to court (Numbers 35: 30). If these accused the defendant using false testimony, he was, given the corresponding verdict, executed despite his innocence (1 Kings 21).

If, however, the court found that a witness had given false testimony, then this witness would receive the punishment which the defendant would have received if he had been found guilty (Deuteronomy 19: 18-19).

In Jewish wisdom literature, bearing false witness is associated with lying in general: "A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who speaks lies shall perish" (Proverbs 19: 9).

5.3.9.3 Examples of false witness in the time of the New Testament Back to top

Jesus Christ repeatedly referred to the Eighth Commandment (e.g. Matthew 19: 18). He pointed out that violation of this commandment is an expression of an improper attitude and that it defiles a person (Matthew 15: 18-19).

The Son of God likewise had to experience what it meant to be accused by false witnesses: His death sentence was the result of such false testimony (Matthew 26: 57-66; Luke 23: 2). Even after His resurrection, the chief priests and elders circulated yet another lie (Matthew 28: 11-15). Jesus Christ, "the Faithful and True Witness" (Revelation 3: 14), suffered the lies of the false witnesses with regal dignity.

5.3.9.4 False witness today–prohibition against lying and fraud Back to top

All false witness is a lie. In a broader sense, the Eighth Commandment can be understood as a prohibition against any dishonest conduct (Leviticus 19: 11). Due to the imperfection inherent in human beings, no one will succeed in speaking nothing but the truth. However, the more diligently a person follows Christ, the more he will speak and act in a truthful manner.

Apostle Paul advises: "Therefore, putting away lying, 'Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbour'" (Ephesians 4: 25). To speak truth with one's neighbour does not, however, imply that everyone in every case may or should reproach his fellow man with unpleasant truths. Much evil could result if someone were to relentlessly denounce all the mistakes made in his surroundings. Even the Eighth Commandment is subordinate to the principle of loving one's neighbour. Great care should therefore be taken in speaking to–and about–others. Accordingly, Proverbs 6: 19 states that "a false witness who speaks lies" is an abomination to God. This is also true for "one who sows discord among brethren".

5.3.9.5 Further violations of the Eighth Commandment Back to top

Everyone is called upon to strive for sincerity and truthfulness. Our conduct in society and business should also be oriented by the Eighth Commandment.

Besides giving false testimony in court and blatantly lying, white lies, half-truths, statements intended to conceal the true facts, and slander are violations of the Eighth Commandment. Likewise bragging and exaggeration, duplicity and hypocrisy, spreading rumours, defamation, and flattery are expressions of untruthfulness.

5.3.9.6 False and true witness in the spiritual sense Back to top

The triune God is the epitome of truth (John 17: 17; 14: 6; 16: 13), whereas the Devil is the father of lies (John 8: 44). The true witness of the Holy Spirit stands in opposition to his false witness.

Christians are called upon to give true witness by believing in the gospel, proclaiming it, and conducting themselves in accordance with it.

SUMMARY Back to top

At first the Eighth Commandment only applied to bearing false witness in a court of law. Both false accusation and untrue testimony qualified as false witness. (5.3.9.1)

All false witness is a lie. In the expanded sense, the Eighth Commandment can also be seen as a prohibition against any dishonest conduct. (5.3.9.4)

Christians are to give truthful testimony by believing in the gospel, proclaiming it to others, and living a lifestyle in accordance with it. (5.3.9.6)

5.3.10 The Ninth and Tenth Commandments Back to top

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. Back to top

5.3.10.1 Different counting methods and versions Back to top

The last two of the Ten Commandments are closely linked to one another in terms of content. They are often counted together as the Tenth Commandment, for example in Judaism, whereas they are most often separated into the Ninth and Tenth Commandments in Christianity.

There are different versions of these two commandments. In Exodus 20: 17, the house of one's neighbour is mentioned first, whereas Deuteronomy 5: 21 first mentions his wife.

5.3.10.2 Covetousness–the cause of sin Back to top

The core of the Ninth and Tenth Commandments is the statement: "You shall not covet ..." It does not prohibit each and every form of human desire, only the sinful lust after the wife or property of one's neighbour. Such desire–like breaches of many other commandments–violates the commandment to love one's neighbour (Romans 13: 9).

Since the beginning of time, Satan has tried to entice mankind to sin by awakening desire and lust for forbidden things (Genesis 3: 6). Adam and Eve succumbed to this desire and fell into sin through their disobedience to God's commandment. 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."

Covetousness–understood as sinful craving–originates within a person. It causes unclean thoughts to arise. If it is not restrained, this sinful thought will be transformed into a deed. This becomes clear in the words of the Son of God: "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies" (Matthew 15: 19).

The Ninth and the Tenth Commandments assign man the task of watching over the purity of their hearts. This includes the endeavour to reject any temptation to commit sin.

5.3.10.3 Coveting the spouse of one's neighbour Back to top

In the Old Testament, David and Bathsheba provide a stark example of where the desire for the wife of one's neighbour can lead, namely to adultery, lies, and murder (2 Samuel 11). The Son of God also addressed the correlation between coveting the wife of one's neighbour and adultery (Matthew 5: 27-28). In Christian understanding, the commandment not to covet the wife of one's neighbour also prohibits a woman from desiring her neighbour's husband. If this covetousness is directed at the spouse of another person, this constitutes a violation of God's commandment. In this sense, 1 John 2: 16-17 can also be understood as a warning against such covetousness: "For all that is in the world–the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it."

5.3.10.4 Coveting the property of one's neighbour Back to top

At the time of the Mosaic Law, a man's house, field, and livestock represented his possessions–as did his wife, male servant, and female servant. The commandment forbids coveting the property of one's neighbour. Such covetousness can lead to avarice and stems mostly from envy.

Covetousness drives the greedy to take possession of the property of others without any regard for them. The poor were often exploited by the unbridled greed of the powerful. Countless wars have also come into being in this way.

According to Ecclesiastes 5: 10, greed, like the love of money, is boundless, and cannot be satisfied. Apostle Paul calls the covetous "idolaters" (Ephesians 5: 5) and describes the love of money as "a root of all kinds of evil" (1 Timothy 6: 10-11).

5.3.10.5 Overcoming sinful desire Back to top

Galatians 5: 19-25 states that sinful desire manifests itself in sinful conduct, in "works of the flesh", which are then described in dramatic fashion. Christians, however, should keep away from such sins: "And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." Apostle Paul assigns the following task: "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." To "walk in the Spirit" means to bring forth the fruit of the Holy Spirit, namely "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." Here the term self-control refers to self-restraint which manifests itself in moderation and abstinence. This virtue prevents budding desire from escalating into covetousness.

Christians are admonished to conduct themselves in accordance with their calling and to resist sinful desire "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).

SUMMARY Back to top

The last two commandments are very closely linked to one another in terms of content, and are often counted together as the Tenth Commandment. The core message common to both is the sinful desire for the wife or possessions of another human being. (5.3.10.1; 5.3.10.2)

The Ninth and Tenth Commandments assign human beings the task of safeguarding the purity of their hearts. (5.3.10.5)