Summary: Optional but important intro to a series on The Ten Commandments. Christians should live according to the commandments because, a) God gave them, b) They help us fulfill our role in his plan for salvation, and c) They are a guide to freedom.


A TV personality had as a guest on his show a congressman, who was advocating for displaying the Ten Commandments in public buildings. When asked why the commandments should be put on display in a courthouse, he answered, “Well, the Ten Commandments is not a bad thing for people to understand and to respect. Where better place could you have something like that than in a judicial building?” Then the congressman was asked, “What are the Ten Commandments,” and he struggled to come up with 3 of them! Maybe a better place for the commandments would be on his desk! (Note to preacher: This was on The Colbert Report, and the guest was Congressman Westmoreland. The clip is probably available online.)

We might laugh at the congressman, but his predicament reflects how the Ten Commandments are viewed in today’s culture. Many people think the Ten Commandments are a good thing to have around, but they don’t take them very seriously in their own lives. Others think they are outdated or irrelevant in today’s world.

As we begin a detailed study of the Ten Commandments, we want to think about this question:



The commandments do not begin with “Thou shalt not…” They begin in Exodus 20:1-2, “God spoke all these words: ‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.’”

“GOD spoke all these words…”

These are not anonymous words of wisdom posted by one of your “friends” on social media—like “Ten Rules for a Better Life,” or “Ten Ways to Make the World a Better Place.” These are the words of “the Lord your God,” the only wise God, who created the universe, gave life to humanity, and knows how life works. These of the words of Yahweh (Jehovah), who took on Pharaoh and the gods of the Egyptians in the ten plagues, and by his “mighty hand” (8 times in Exodus 3-14) delivered his people from the gods and armies of Egypt. He is the holy and righteous God, who will judge all people.

If we don’t begin with God, the Ten Commandments are only ten suggestions, or ten rules we might want to follow. Whatever.

God wanted the people to take him seriously, so he put on an awesome display of his power and holiness. Read Exodus 19:16-25.

The shock and awe of this sound and light show was too much for the people. Exodus 20:18-19 says, “When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.’”

Why did God present The Ten Commandments this way? In Exodus 20:20, Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”

Should we fear God? Does God want us to cower in abject dread of what he might do to us, or even try to hide from him? No, that is not what Moses meant. In fact, he said, “Do not be afraid…the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”

As Christians, we have no reason to be afraid of God. 1 John 4:14-18 says, “We have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

Yet, although we are confident in Christ, we must not take God lightly. A healthy fear or awe of God can help us resist temptation. Without a healthy fear of God, people are inclined to say, “I know God says _____________, but I am going to do what I want to do. God will just have to understand.” No, WE have to understand the awesome holiness of God and conform to his commands!

The fear of God might keep us from sinning! If we are tempted to lie, commit adultery, or fudge on our tax returns, the thought of disobeying God is horrifying. That is healthy fear, because it protects us from sin and its consequences.

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