Are the 10 commandments still relevant today?

Ps Lim Lip Yong // May 12, 2019, 11:58 pm


Photo by Alexander Michl on Unsplash

The essence of the 10 commandments is not just a set of legal requirements to govern our actions. It is not just a set of do’s and don’ts; you can do this, you can’t do that.

Instead, it is a set of definitions of who we are as Christians.

If you look at the 10 commandments and understand what it is, it will show you how a Christian is supposed to look like. It will give you a value system, a basis for building your life.

In fact, not just building your life, but building a whole civilisation.

To draw us to Himself

The first four commandments relates to our relationship with God; it is the vertical axis on which our faith hangs.

The first commandment – in abbreviated format – says: “You shall have no other gods” (Exodus 20:3).

This relates to our worship. It is a declaration that, in the universe, there is only one God and His name is Jehovah.

The second: “You shall not make idols” (Exodus 20:4), relates to our works. The works of our hands must never become what we worship.

The 10 commandments are a set of definitions of who we are as Christians.

God is invisible and beyond human capacity to formulate or to capture or to box up.

And at the same time, if you look at this statement today and you ask Christians not to make idols, I promise you, most will never make an idol. They won’t go home one day, in the throes of their devotion to God, take out the kids’ Play-Doh, make something and worship it. 

But I tell you what Christians might do when they begin to taste success. They may begin to think: “Hey, it’s me”, and they start worshiping the works of their hands. 

The second commandment is there to establish this: That we need to realise that if there is anything good, if there are successes, we need to give God the glory.

When you go to heaven, and you receive the crown of glory from the Lord and you stand before Jesus Christ, your irresistible response will be to take that crown and put it at the feet of Jesus. Because at that moment, the clarity of eternity will seep into your heart and you will know that it is only by the grace of God that you stand and you will not be able to take any glory for yourself.

God wants to step into the frame of our time and He wants us to give time to Him.

The third: “You shall not take His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7), pertains to our words. In its most basic essence, it means we do not use the name of God as a swear word.

But it is not just that. The moment you tell people that you are Christian, immediately there will be an expectation of behaviour, an expectation of integrity.

If your words are not right, if you say things that are wrong, if you don’t keep your promises, it brings disrepute to His name because you carry His name as a Christian. So there has to be a great sense of awareness about what we say, because God’s name is at stake.

And the fourth: “Keep the Sabbath holy” (Exodus 20:8), relates to our week, the rhythm that God has created for us. God wants to step into the frame of our time and He wants us to give time to Him.

These four commandments are categorical in their coverage concerning our walk with God. And they define for us a clarity as believers, that when God comes into our lives, He’s looking at our worship, our works, our words and our week.

If you define your relationship with God and measure your relationship with Him in these four areas, you will get a good picture of what God wants to do in your life.

The way of the Cross

The next six commandments relate to our relationship with others; this is the horizontal axis of our faith.

This, together with the vertical axis, gives us the cross.

The fifth commandment says: “Honour your father and mother.” (Exodus 20:12) Within the essence of this is God establishing a foundation for family and for marriage.

Marriage is always between a man and a woman. A family is always constructed by a male father and a female mother and they form the authority in the house.

Valuing life is not just about not taking a life away, but it’s how we treat the lives around us.

Therefore, you honour the father and mother; you obey them and you ascribe value to them. This is literally a foundation for a society, for a community, for a nation, for a civilisation and for our lives as well.

The sixth commandment: “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13), shows us that God esteems highly every single life, including unborn life. Jesus gives further explanation to this, that by our words, by our treatment of people, we can commit murder. (Matthew 5:21-22)

Valuing life is not just about not taking a life away, but it’s how we treat the lives around us.

The seventh commandment: “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14), is a statement about our sexuality. That the expression of our sexuality must and only can happen within marital boundaries.

“You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15) is the eighth commandment, where God establishes a clear foundation of the rights of ownership by individuals. This is a foundation for society. 

The ninth commandment: “You shall not bear false witness” (Exodus 20:16), lays the foundation of a just system in the society.

For Israel literally to be a nation where there is true justice requires people to speak truthfulness. That is why true justice can seldom exist no matter how wonderful the laws are, because it still depends on an individual’s truthfulness.

And finally, the 10th commandment: “You shall not covet.” Here, God places a boundary in regards to the pursuit of wealth, position and status. God talks about economics in a clear manner. And this is important because it circumvents men’s selfish nature. Greed, oftentimes is the underlying factor that governs our economic system.

An expression of our worship

The 10 commandments are not just a set of rules to govern behaviour. They are not just a means to control.

They speak much deeper things to us as believers.

Do the 10 commandments fill your life? Do these statements of value express who you are?

Because that is what we are supposed to be.

This is what it means: That our first and foremost allegiance is always to our Lord Jesus Christ. (Luke 6:46) That you acknowledge His lordship, you obey Him.

Your life is an expression of how He defines us through the 10 commandments.

This article was adapted from Pastor Lim Lip Yong’s sermon, “Thriving in culture”, which was first shared in Cornerstone Community Church on September 9, 2018.

How do we thrive in an uncertain world?

Reflection and Discussion

  1. Consider your worship, works, words and week – are there areas we have withheld from God? What do you think He wants to do in that area of your life?
  2. Which of the commandments do you find most challenging to live out? Why?
  3. If you haven’t already done so, commit the 10 commandments to memory today. They are God’s blueprint for our daily lives as Christ’s disciples.
About the author

Ps Lim Lip Yong

Ps Lip Yong is the Executive Pastor of Cornerstone Community Church. An accountant by training, he responded to God’s call into full-time ministry in 2001. He is an excellent teacher of the Word, preaches with passion and is an engaging communicator. His messages stir and challenge the hearts of his listeners and move them in response to God’s work in their lives. He is married to Wendy and they have three boys.