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 neighbourwhich 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 helpin 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 conflictswhich occur in any human societyfrom 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 Lawaccording to the understanding of the Old Testamentto 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 lawand 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 thatin accordance with the prophecies recorded in Jeremiah 31: 33-34God'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 neighbours house.

Tenth Commandment

You shall not covet your neighbours wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbours.

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 imageany 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 neighbours house.

Tenth Commandment

You shall not covet your neighbours wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbours.

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 imageany 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