Continuing with a series of articles that appeared in
"DISCIPLESHIP JOURNAL" - issue 21 - 1984 (Vol.4, number 3)
The Apostle Paul tells us that "love is the fulfillment of the
law" (Ro.13:10). Here are some ideas for how we can learn what
love demands by studying the Ten Commandments. Such
considerations can give us concrete, clear directions for doing
something we often find hard to define.
by Dr.John A. Sparks
BLUEPRINT FOR LOVING
The Ten Commandments
DURING YEARS OF WORKING WITH college students and studying
Scripture with adult groups, I often hear troubled pleas for a
clearer understanding of how the second table of the Ten
Commandments ought to be regarded and acted on by Christians.
That statements so clear and simple should cause so much
consternation seems strange until we remember that Christ Himself
had to reteach the meanings of the commandments to the crowds who
had come to hear Him. Why? Because the very leaders who should
have known so much about these commandments, the scribes and
Pharisees, had distorted their meanings (Mt.5:21,27,31,33,38,43).
Why then should we be any different? We need the clarifying
words of our Savior as He comments on the second table as much as
did the crowds, scribes, and Pharisees of old.
The commandments are extremely important to Christ. Yet one
common notion is that the Decalogue is something for the nation
of Israel in the Old Testament and that it is of only passing
interest to New Testament Christians. Many Christians, old and
new, say something like this at one time or another.
But Christ explained that He came not to abolish the law but to
fulfill it (Mt.5:17-18). He said we are not to teach the
relaxation of any of the Ten Commandments (Mt.5:19-20). True
enough, the law is a source of frustration for the unbeliever
because it makes his miserable state apparent. But Christ sets
men free from such a burden and His commandments and His laws can
be a joy to us.
Another common objection to the commandments is that they
cannot create joy because they are negative.
Consider carefully this charge. Our era is fond of the
positive. "Positive thinking," "positive goals," "positive
self-image" - all these are part of the preoccupation with "being
positive." Parents are counseled not to say that blunt, negative
word "no" to their children. Instead, when Junior is doing
something wrong, his father and mother are supposed to channel
him into something "positive," never draw strict limits.
The examples are endless, but suffice it to say that our age
adores the positive and is repulsed by the negative.
Having said that, it is little wonder that Christians, who
are, after all, creatures of the age in which we live, find
ourselves at odds with the Ten Commandments, especially the
second table. There they are - "Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt
not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal." They are the
negatives of the Word, or as some refer to them, the "don'ts" of
Scripture. The Christian has to short circuit the cultural
programming he has received about "negative and positive" before
he can profit from the commandments.
Actually, those who argue against the commandments this way
are not really consistent in regarding other negatively stated
standards. For example, do those who berate the "negativism" of
the commandments also object to the first ten amendments to the
U.S. Constitution? Those amendments - the Bill of Rights - are
predominately stated in terms of "thou shalt not." Remember what
they say in part: Congress shall make no law respecting an
establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise
thereof.... No soldier shall in time of peace be quartered in any
house.... and so forth. "No," "not," and "nor" appear over
fifteen times in the Bill of Rights. Yet one seldom hears the
Bill of Rights described as "just a list of no, no's!" The
accusation of negativism directed at the commandments is really a
specialized attack against their content, not a consistent stand
against negatively stated standards.
Negatives and restraints are good things. God provides them
to correct us, reprove us, and guide us on the path He would have
us take. These negatives and our thorough knowledge of what is
prohibited by them help keep us out of the path which the evil
one wishes us to take. It does us well to remember that when
Christ answered Satan in the wildemess, when He fought against
temptation in its starkest and most enticing form, He quoted two
out of three times the negative wamings of Scripture: "Man does
not live on bread alone..." and, "Do not put the Lord your God to
the test" (Mt.4:4,7).
MURDER AND LIFE
Thou shalt not kill - that is the injunction of the sixth
commandment. Life is given by God and, consequently, cannot be
taken except in self-defense, capital punishment or a just war
(Under the NT "just wars" so-called, cannot be for the Christian
to partake in. See my in-depth study for the truth of the matter
on "Warfare and the Christian" - Keith Hunt).
Actually taking someone else's life will normally not be the
kind of temptation from which the Christian has to keep himself.
But the commandment means much more than refraining from
killing. It requires, for example, that we take a strong public
stand against murder or violence done to others and that we give
support and aid to those policing agencies charged with the duty
of investigating and preventing violent crime.
Each year over 21,000 people are murdered in the U.S. alone
(remember this article was written in 1984 - Keith Hunt). Tens of
thousands more are maimed or left emotionally scarred from
assaults and attempts on their lives. The old and the young - two
of the most defenseless groups in society - are often victims. If
one remembers that for each of these victims there are mothers,
fathers, brothers and sisters, friends, wives and children who
have their loved ones torn from this world, often for the most
paltry, insignificant reasons, then one begins to see the moaning
heartache and distortion murder brings to the world. If we add to
this the hundreds of thousands of children killed by abortion, it
is easy to see that we desperately need to hear and heed this
(And let me add which President since Wade verses Row, giving the
basic freedom to practice abortion, has STOPPED IT!!? Not a one
of them! Do you think a "President" can really fulfil his work
under the name "Christian" [and they all say they are
"Christian"]? I would think a true dedicated Christian would not
be able to sleep at night, literally, and go mentally in torment,
until "abortion on demand" is totally against the law, and made a
captital crime to practice. This is just ONE reason that a true
Christians can not run for President - in todays society, such a
person would be laughed at, ridiculed, shunnned, and would never
get out of the dug-out to run for the office of President.
ABORTION ON DEMAND IS TOTAL MURDER!! No person - no Christian
person can be in charge of a town, country, and ALLOW abortion on
demand. If he/she has not the POWER to STOP the present law that
most countries in the world now practice, then he cannot possibly
be in politics or public office. He or she should put politics
out of their mind and get busy at PROCLAIMING the truths of God
and the laws of God.
I've said, and I'll say it again, when I see a Joseph of the book
of Genesis, who has the WILL and the POWER to INACT God's laws
[one being NO abortion on demand], I'll be the first in line to
vote for him/her. See my study "Political Voting and the
Christian." - Keith Hunt).
Leaving the question of outright murder aside, we must
recognize that all such unjustified violence has its root in the
heart. It is precisely to this problem of our disfigured hearts
that Christ spoke. He said in Mt.5:21-22 that we are mistaken if
we believe that only the convict locked in the state prison or
the "hit man" roaming the street with a gun is a murderer. Says
our Lord to each of us, "You are really all murderers at heart!"
(cf. Ro.3:10-18; Mt.15:16-19). That certainly takes us back. What
can this charge mean?
For many years a comic strip called "Out Our Way" appeared
in newspapers nationwide. In almost every installment the author
had in cartoon caption the words, "the urge to kill." Usually
these words represented the unspoken thoughts of one of the
characters about someone else who was causing him consistent
frustration. All who read the comic knew he would not actually
kill, but we identified with the sentiments.
At some time every reader of that comic strip had thought
about someone, "I could kill him! If no harm would come to me, if
no one would think ill of me, or if no one would send me to
prison, I could be rid of this person and his influence on me!"
No matter how we may wish to deny it, when thoughts similar
to these - anger, hatred, unforgiveness - kindle in our minds and
hearts, they are the small flames which become the roaring fire
of murder. That we do not act out our heart's desire does not
mean we obey the sixth commandment. Only as our hearts are
reshaped by the work of the Holy Spirit can we say that our
rebellious, murder-prone tendencies are gradually overcome.
Surely, then, loving our neighbors, the general formula for
understanding the second table of the law (Ro.13:8-10), means
that we do not kill or do violence to them.
But the commandment also means that we vigorously support
efforts to protect these same neighbors against the violent
depredations of others. "Thou shalt not kill" also means we
should pray and work for the reordering of our whole deformed
heart, which in its flawed state is the root of the murderous
impulses which eventually work their ways into acts of bloodshed.
But, as if this were not enough for us to attend to, there is one
final instruction for us in the sixth commandment.
To carry it forward is a lifetime of work. Christians stand
against death. At the same time, we are to be the champions of
spreading life. As Christians we should enrich our neighbor's
life at every opportunity. We should endeavor to make our
neighbor's days vital, zestful, meaningful. We should not kill
our neighbor's enthusiasm for the wonder of the created world by
our "take it for granted" attitude. We should not kill his
interest in searching the Word by our demeanor of superiority. We
should not kill this exuberance for an evangelistic outreach by
saying, "That has all been tried before." Instead we should
steadily enliven, inspire, and animate our brothers and sisters
in Christ. We ought to direct our energies at reviving the
dedication of a neighbor who has fallen away.
"Thou shalt not kill" is an injunction against murder, but
it is also a challenge to bring life - life which really only
begins with belief in Jesus Christ.
ADULTERY AND FAITHFUL LIVING
The prohibition of adultery is intended by God to protect
the fundamental unit of society, the family. The marriage vows of
husband and wife exhort them to be faithful to one another and to
Infidelity threatens to break apart the family unit. We know
the results only too well today. Children are damaged when child
raising is disrupted. If adultery leads to divorce, the children
are often the victims of custody fights by which the parents
continue to hurt each other. All the wrongs and slights of the
past become the ammunition of the divorce battle. Confidence,
privacy, and consideration are shattered in the exchanges. Those
of us who practice law witness the awful, wrenching impact of
unfaithfulness on husbands, wives, children, and friends.
Christ warns us that while this seventh commandment may be
externally broken with the adulterous affair, its breach begins
with the lustful longings of the heart. Those desires may be for
sexual gratification. However, a husband may simply desire
"greater understanding" from another woman when his wife seems
not to understand him. Or, the husband may be "too busy" with his
career to give needed attention to his wife. She may fall into
the companionship of another man and eventually share herself
with him as if she were his wife.
In either of these cases, initial discontent with one's own
spouse and, often, a blindness to one's own faults, lead to
greater discontent. Finally, the unhappy spouse begins to think:
"If I were only loved by someone else, I would be truly happy."
How can we deal with these beginnings of lust and
irritation? When we are discontent we ought to pray for guidance,
proper communication, and a spirit of forgiveness about whatever
has come between us. But prayer, communication and forgiveness
should all be set in the unalterable commitment that we will be
faithful to our husband or wife. If the thought, even the glimmer
of the thought, arises that some other person would be more
enjoyable or understanding, then Christ tells us we have to take
immediate and drastic action. Christ says that if your eye is
wandering longingly after someone other than your spouse, you
should pluck it out (Mt.5:27-30). He says that not to encourage
acts of self-mutilation but to emphasize how important it is to
deal with such lust while it can still be controlled. As in all
the areas covered by these commandments, the external sins begin
with the internal desirings of our hearts.
Each person can take practical steps to deal with desires
for someone of the opposite sex. Avoidance is a good technique.
If a woman from some other office makes a man's heart beat at a
morning coffee break, then he should skip the break until he has
himself under payerful control again.
Sending the proper signals to others about one's intentions
is important for them and for oneself. A Christian counselor once
explained that he had devised certain techniques to protect
himself and those he was counseling from losing control. He knew
that he had many unhappy wives visiting him for help. From time
to time some ofthem, because of the natural temptation stemming
from their unhappy marriages, began to be too reliant on and
intimate with him.
In order to counter that temptation both in himself and in
them, he placed numerous large pictures of his wife and children
in his counseling office. These were reminders to him that he was
happily married and they were signals to his counselees that he
Each of us knows techniques by which we can put some social
distance between ourselves and persons of the opposite sex to
whom we are attracted or who are attracted to us. We must always
remember that prayer for a faithful heart is the single best way
to guard against the lust of the flesh.
To love our neighbor means to regard ourwives and husbands
as the true treasures they are. It certainly means to confess our
sins of the wandering eye, the sexual fantasy, the fleeting,
wishful glance at another.
However, true marital faithfulness is part of a larger
pattem of faithfulness in our daily lives. We must be faithful to
our God, faithful to our own word, and faithful to our friends,
employers, and employees. If we practice fidelity in these
places, faithfulness in marriage should follow. Ultimately, it is
the utter dependability of our God which is the example of what
being faithful really means. He is immutable, He is unvarying, He
THEFT, COVETING, AND REJOICING
"Thou shalt not steal" and "Thou shalt not covet" are
intimately related. What would a world be like in which at every
turn one were confronted with thieves? Some citizens of our major
cities know what that is like. If they leave goods in a car for
just a few minutes, the goods are gone. Elaborate locks and
security precautions increase the cost and inconvenience of life.
Billions of dollars are lost each year to large, organized rings
Thefts are sometimes described as crimes "against property."
But theft is really a crime against persons. Persons work hard
for money with which to purchase needed goods. When these goods
are taken, in some sense the embodiment of the owners effort and
time is stolen (Lk.10:7).
Theft almost always arises out of coveting, though it is
possible to covet something without actually stealing it.
To covet is to wish enviously for that which belongs to
another. It demands that one concentrate one's energies and
efforts on that which one covets. Why is coveting so
First and foremost it may lead to theft. "I want it" may
lead to "I must have it" and thence to "I will take it" So the
wishes of the heart may be translated into acts of theft.
Second, if we earnestly desire what another possesses, our
coveting occupies our time and saps our energy - time and energy
that could be used to further the Kingdom of God.
Suppose our friend, George, has just written a book and
achieved a measure of fame. He has been interviewed on a
television program or two and has been asked to lecture at the
next conference of some society. He has had success. Let's assume
we experience the tensions of coveting. We want in the worst way
to receive the attention and notoriety George has.
The cancer of coveting attacks us in many ways. When we see
George we may purposely avoid asking him about his book and its
success. Because he has what we want, it is too painful for us to
talk about it. Or perhaps, rather than genuinely rejoicing with
him about his efforts, we may belittle him ever so cleverly by
saying, "They haven't made that book of yours into a movie yet
have they?" Perhaps our covetous attitude will drive us to try to
write something that will get us the attention George got, no
matter what the sacrifice.
Coveting is usually what could be called an attack of faulty
perspective. We focus so intently upon getting what someone else
has that we lose our perspective on life. We are consumed by
desire. We lose our equilibrium. We become dizzy with the rush
toward what we covet.
The commandments against stealing and coveting warn us
against these dread maladies. Covetousness and stealing bring us
to a state of suffering just as quickly as the worst infections
and vitruses. But the commandments offer us a tremendous positive
challenge. We are not to take from others or covet what, they
have. Instead, we are to give to others and to rejoice in what
blessings they have received. We ought not to wish less for them
and more for our selves, but more for them and less for t
Above all, coveting and stealing are at root dissatisfaction
with God's providential order of things. Our Maker has said He
will provide us with every needed thing on this earth if we will
only seek first His Kingdom (Mt.6:33). We need to, team to
glorify God in the little He has given us and the much He may
have given others. Only then will the storm of covetous yearning
quiet within us so that we may serve our neighbors.
FALSE WITNESS/TRUE WITNESS
Witnessing is a very important part of each person's life.
Too often we assume, witnessing is limited to evangelism and
courts of law. Of course, the commandment against bearing false
witness was intended to warn against false or inaccurate
statements in court. There, false statements may mean the loss of
life, liberty, or property, and therefore the witness is charged
not to perjure himself. However, each of us is always a witness
and each of us is always an observer.
Every man's or woman's every word and act gives a testimony
about what he or she believes to be true or false in life. But
what does our witness hold up before others? Unfortunately, we
often witness to the wrong things in the wrong ways. We tell
partial truths about others when it serves us best. If we are
trying to present someone else as mean and short-tempered, we
skip telling about the times when he was moderate and patient
with us. We exaggerate and slander ever so skillfully. Why, we
even delight in occasional falls and frailties that we can pass
on to others, though we pretend to be genuinely chagrined. We are
outstanding witnesses - but on behalf of the evil one.
If he had carefully coached and trained us himself, the
devil could have hoped for no better witnesses. Backbiting,
depressed cynicism, maliciousness, sniping statements and, best
of all, church squabbles and fights, usually over things that
matter very little, show us to be convincing witnesses for the
prince of darkness.
But Christ wants us to be witnesses for Him! Are we able?
Often, the remarkable answer is "no." We can talk of baseball,
football, weather, politics, sewing crafts, child rearing, and so
forth. And yet we cannot make conversation about anything even
remotely connected with our faith. Businessmen who could convince
hard-headed bankers to invest funds in plastic molding machines
that are only on the drawing board somehow cannot seem to blurt
out a few words about how Christ altered their formerly dreary
existence. The housewife who "talks the leg off" of the neighbors
for hours each day clutches when her friend is at the end of her
secular rope. It seems incredible, but it is true in case after
How can we be better witnesses for Christ? There are three
simple steps: Prepare, Practice, and Plunge.
Of course, we must know what we believe. Our understanding
of our faith should increase daily as we set aside time for Bible
study and prayer. All too often we have not taken the time to
know more about what we believe. Pleading ignorance can be an
easy way out of witnessing. But even in courts of law there are
experts and non-experts. Both can be good, effective witnesses.
One need not be a graduate of a theological seminary to carry the
Word of God to others. None of the disciples had a single degree
or special qualification other than that the Lord had chosen each
of them. If He has chosen us, then we, too, should he ready (I
Among other things, preparedness means knowing a few
techniques and practicing them in advance. Here are a
few ideas that might be of help. I have found them helpful for
college students and young adults, but they certainly can be
adapted to one's own particular use.
Practically all of us have a friend to whom we wish to
witness who confides in us about a personal problem. It might be
a death in the family, a failure, or consternation about what to
do in a certain situation. After listening and, perhaps, offering
an idea or two, earning his trust, we might say, "Bill, if I were
you, I'd pray about it. I'm going to put you on my prayer list. I
guess I have never asked you, but, do you have any religious
convictions?" Another opener might be, "Were you raised in any
particular Christian denomination? Do you attend a church now?" A
question that often helps start discussion is, "What is the most
important thing in life to you other than your wife and family?"
Here is another idea. Most Christians attend Sunday morning
service and Sunday school. We may even attend a Sunday evening
service as well. (I'll put or add - Sabbath school and Sabbath
service - Keith Hunt). Unfortunately, for the rest of the week we
seldom talk to anyone else about what we hear in those two or
three hours. But it can be a good "across the fence" opener for a
Sunday afternoon. "Bill, something our minister said this morning
really got to me. It hit me right where I live. I've been
bothered by it ever since." Bill has to ask, after an
introduction like that, what was said, Now we can rehearse the
whole sermon right there in the back yard. If remembering the
sermon is a problem, take notes and then add, "What he said got
to me so much I even wrote part of it down." Bill learns three
things from this exchange. We take time to go to church, we get
help there for daily living, and we care enough to share it with
(Are you seeing 7th Day Sabbath observing people, this can just
as easy apply to us - Keith Hunt)
Prepare, plan, practice. Executives I spend hours going over
a "big presentstion." Is there any bigger presentation than the
gospel to others in the world? Being a witness takes preparation,
but it also takes the nerve to take the plunge. Sky divers tell
us they can do all the ground preparation and even try jumping
from towers, but at some point the ground preparedness must give
way to the real thing. When we take the risk to stick our necks
out just a little for Christ, we find that the Holy Spirit
provides the words we need and the appropriate time in which to
say them. The ninth commandment teaches us, then, to be true and
ready witnesses for Christ.
The second table of the law is full of additional meaning
for each of us. Meditate on it. Look up parallel passages. Think
what a joy it can be to love our neighbors by being obedient to
the requirements and opportunities of this portion of God's Word.
When this article was written DR.JOHN A.SPARKS, Ph.D., was a
Professor of business administration at Grove City College, Grove
City, Pa., a lawyer and elder in a Presbyterian Church of Grove
City, and President of Public Policy Education Fund, Inc., /na.
He and his wife Marion and their children were actively involved
in Christian schooling.
I consider the above article to be a fine and good understanding
of that part of the Law of God (the Ten Commandments) which is as
Jesus said when asked about which was the greatest law, "....and
the other is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
How anyone when looking in and meditating on the 10 Commandments,
can come up with a theology that "abolishes" them for Christians
under the New Covenant, just BLOWS ME AWAY! Such ideas that some
"fundamental" teachers and preachers have proclaimed in North
America in the last 100 years, are so "off the wall" - so far out
"in left field" - so inept and so lacking in any sound Bible
reading, I have to believe they are from planet Pluto, certainly
not from the part of the universe where the Eternal Holy One
I ask you to get the heart and mind of DAVID, start with reading
Psalm ONE. As a kid growing up in Britain, being schooled in a
Church of England school, we had to LEARN BY MEMORY Psalm One.
David was a man after God's own heart, so it is written, and one
reason why he was, is that he LOVED the LAW of God. He was not a
perfect man, but his imperfections, faults, and sins, did not
stop him from LOVING GOD'S LAW!
Now your ready to read and meditate upon Psalm 119.
Entered on this Website March 2008