Ten Commandments: Missing in #1 through #4?

Yesterday I gave you Jesus’ summary of the first four of the Ten Commandments.  At the end of the post, I observed that it seemed that something was missing from those four commandments – especially in the light of the way Jesus summarized them.  Did you think about what might be missing?  If not, consider again what’s in bold below – the first four of the Ten Commandments and their summary – and ask yourself what might be absent from them.

  • God is love.
    • You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
      • 1 – You shall have no other gods before Me.
      • 2 – You shall not make for yourself an idol.
      • 3 – You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
      • 4 – Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.
    • You shall love your neighbor as yourself; that is, treat people the same way you want them to treat you.
      • 5 – Honor your father and your mother.
      • 6 – You shall not murder.
      • 7 – You shall not commit adultery.
      • 8 – You shall not steal.
      • 9 – You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
      • 10 – You shall not covet.
  • We love because He first loved us.

What is missing is any explicit command that would directly benefit God.  Instead, the first four commandments sets us up to do things – but then the “things” get specified in the remaining six commandments, which directly benefit our neighbors and not God.

It’s as if the first four commandments are the Lord saying, “You have to be fully devoted to Me – more than to any other being in heaven or on earth” and the remaining six commandments are the Lord saying, “This is what I want to do with all that devotion you have for Me.”

If we stop and think about it, this is just what we should expect from a selfless Creator; He would not tell us to love unless He Himself loved.  It’s not as if God is going to preach something He doesn’t practice.  Therefore, He constructs the Ten Commandments by first making sure that we are devoted exclusively and wholeheartedly to Him (#1-#4) – and then He commands us to express that devotion by living for the welfare of those around us (#5-#10).

God’s not commanding us to do things that would directly benefit Him should not be hard for us to understand.  Consider this:

Ma and Pa Smith were approaching their 50th wedding anniversary.  All their children and grandchildren were excited and wanted to get Ma and Pa something very special in honor of the occasion.

The children:  “What gift or gifts can we give you?  We are all well off, so money is no object.”
Ma and Pa:  “We will tell you, but can we wait and tell you on our anniversary day?”
The children:  “Well, that’s a little unusual, but okay.”

The anniversary came and the whole family was gathered.

The children:”It’s time to tell us what we and our children can give you to express our love and appreciation to the two of you.”
Ma and Pa:  “What we want on this day is for all of you to love each other.”
The children:  “But we already love each other.”
Ma and Pa:  “We mean really love each other – deeply from the heart, forgiving every wrong one of you might have done to the other.  Love and accept each other as we have loved and accepted you.  If you believe in good conscience that you’re already doing this, fine; then just act as if this anniversary day of ours is going to last forever.  That is, never stop giving us this gift.  We have learned from experience that nothing else you could ever give us or do for us would make as much difference to our happiness as that you treat each other like you want to be treated by each other (not like you are being treated or have been treated by each other).  Show the greatness of your love for us by the greatness with which you love each other – even when we’re not looking, even when we’re long gone.

Through fifty years of family life, Ma and Pa Smith had learned that no gift a child – whether minor or adult – could give them mattered as much as each child loving the others.  Conversely, no gift from a child could compensate for the pain that came to the two of them from knowing that one of the children was at odds with another.  If flawed and human parents could learn this by the end, surely a good and holy God knew it from the beginning.

God does not need anything we have, and any love we express for Him sounds hollow if we’re harboring bitterness in our hearts toward each other.  Therefore, He asks for humanity’s complete and continual devotion in the first four commandments of the Ten Commandments that He might use the next six commandments to make each and every human being a blessing to the rest.

“God is love” and “We loved because He first loved us.”

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If you want to know where to find all of these commandments in your own Bible, see the post Ten Commandments: Scriptural Locations which gives the chapter-and-verse reference for each commandment and statement in the outline.

To My Christian Friends

People who call themselves Christians have a wide variety of beliefs.  And sometimes that variety includes no belief at all!  On one end of the spectrum are those who profess a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, believing Him to be the Son of God in accord with all that is written in the Bible.  On the other end are those who simply mean that they are not atheists.  In between are all other shades of meaning.  I know these great differences exist not only among the general public, but among my friends who call themselves Christians, too.  Therefore, it’s not easy to write a focused introduction of this blog for you.

Nevertheless, I appeal to your association with Jesus Christ…even if in name only.  This Christ by whose name you are willing to be called is the most important reality in your life today…or any other day that you live.  We have all neglected Him to varying degrees, but He invites us to repent and return to Him.  He welcomes us with open arms.  In Him we can find refuge from everything – EVERYTHING – that troubles us today.

He created life, and He Himself lived a human life…so He knows how to live.  He is willing to share that knowledge with us.  Not only that, He is willing to walk with us all the days of our lives.  And not silently.  He will speak softly to our hearts and direct us into paths of morality (the Bible would say “righteousness”).

Because you and I call each other friend, I appeal to you to summon whatever respect you might have for my judgment and use that to motivate yourself to examine the claims of Christ anew.  See if He has a greater claim on your thoughts and life than you have previously thought.  You may use this blog site to examine those claims but I am not seeking a following for myself.  I seek a greater following for Him.  Whatever you do – if my advice means anything to you – seek Him.

I am not saying you should join a church; in fact, I hope you won’t.  I am certainly not saying you need to become a missionary or even write a blog as I am doing.  I am saying, however, that if you seek Him you will find yourself loving your family and friends in a more sincere and pure-hearted way than you ever have previously.  He is Lord.  And He is worthy that we should live for Him and honor His name by which we are called.

See also these related posts:
[For those of you who want encouragement along these lines as well as those of you who demand more biblical explanation of these truths, refer to the companion blog A Bible Reader’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom, including the post Yes, I Am a Recovering Christian Leader.]

To My Pastor and Minister Friends

Those of you who are Christian pastors and ministers will have a special interest in this blog because its theme is the Lord Jesus Christ, and the glorious salvation that He offers.

Some of you know that I myself was a seminary student, minister, and pastor from 1979 through 1994 in St. Louis, Missouri.  Some of us even labored and prayed together.  I treasure those days…and I treasure every one of you.

All of us who labor for the gospel want to see the Lord glorified because He is so utterly worthy of all the praise humanity could give Him…and then some.  Thus, the common bond that exists between me and you – whether we know each other or not – is that we want to see Jesus honored as Lord throughout the earth as He is heaven.

While studying the Scriptures with all my heart and over many years, He opened my mind to see that we had taken on many tasks in His name which actually turned out to be distractions.  Instead of serving Him, these tasks actually prevented us from serving Him.  The most notable distraction we’ve taken on is trying to build the church.  I wrote about this in To My Churchgoing Friends  so I won’t repeat myself here, except to say that our church-building distracts from the kingdom of God.  The kingdom of God is an individual living under the lordship of Christ.    Our churches are a poor imitation of the New Testament church.  His church is the real thing, and it is not divided.  It is all those who are living in the kingdom of God, and, indeed, the Lord knows those who are His.

The sheep truly cry out for their Shepherd.  The saints long for the Holy One.  The children pine for the only One who is to be called Father.  We cannot meet their needs, but He most certainly can.  Therefore, we should forget everything else except extolling Him who loved us and released us from our sins by His blood.  Make Him preeminent.  Preach Him.   Obey Him.

That God Himself is speaking this word around the world today can be evidenced in many ways.  You yourselves know that these broken cisterns called church we have tried to build for Him cannot hold living water.  It has been a yoke which neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear.  Even recently you may have seen a document published called “A Jesus Manifesto.”  It was a stirring summons to Jesus.  My heart leapt as I read it, and then sank when it ended not with a call to repentance but with a promotion to buy the authors’ books.  These authors meant well and I do not condemn them.  We must, however, finish what such declarations have started.  We must act on the word to exalt Jesus alone.  We must forsake the trappings of church and loose the people from every bond.  The chariots of Pharoah could not cross the Red Sea as the Israelites had, because the crossing is by faith.

We have left our first love.  It is time to return.

Be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might.  Stand up for Jesus.  Let no one take His seat, for there is a King in Israel.  And Jesus is His name.

See also these related posts:

[For those of you who want encouragement along these lines as well as those of you who demand more biblical explanation of these truths, refer to the companion blog A Bible Reader’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom, including the post Yes, I Am a Recovering Christian Leader.]

To My Unknown Friends

So here we are.  You do not know me and I do not know you.  By some means, you have found this blog and wonder what you should do with it. 

You don’t need to know much about me.  So that you might know something, however, you can check About.

I write each post as a distillation of the essential and entire message of this blog but if you want a more comprehensive and detailed expression its message you can see Introduction.

As for you, I have tried to write in as open and understandable a way as possible.  Although English is my native language, I’m glad that it is one of the most commonly spoken languages in the world today – so as to reach the most people.  I try to always remember that I am writing for irreligious as well as religious people, non-spiritual as well as spiritual people, and sinners as well as…actually I don’t believe there are any human beings who aren’t sinners.  Therefore, let me say that I write for those of you who sin a lot and those who sin a little.  I write for those who consider themselves Christians as well as those who do not.  I recognize that there are many varieties of Christians and even more varieties of those who are not Christians.  I write just as much for you who are atheists and agnostics as I do for those who profess some sort of faith.  I write for every adult age group, but hope also that my writing is accessible to children, who always seem to have an interest in our wonderful Lord Jesus Christ.  Even if you feel you don’t fall into any of the groups I have explicitly mentioned in this paragraph, I have written for you, too. 

I say again: You are the reason that I write this blog.  Whatever your background, race, nationality, age, gender, religious affiliation (or lack thereof), political affiliation, degree of sinfulness, or other form of human categorization, know that God loves you and His good news (of which I write in this blog) is for you.  Though I am by no means the sole source for the truth that you find here (any human being is capable of making known the truth about God’s kingdom), I am not for that reason absolved from being accurate and complete.  And I hasten to add that if it were not for the Bible, I would know hardly anything about God.     

There is no human being that I do not want to hear and believe the message of this blog.  Thus, while you and I may be unknown to each other, it seems quite appropriate for me to call you friend.  For as Jesus Christ, when He told us to how to love one another, said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to give his life for his friends.”

To My Churchgoing Friends

You know – or at the very least know of – Jesus Christ.  This blog therefore presents you with a choice: Him or intermediaries.  That is, will you serve Jesus Christ who, because He is God, is everywhere at all times – or will you serve those institutions, groups, and individuals who claim that you must serve Jesus through them?  You cannot serve two masters.  The reason that your Christian life has frustrated and disappointed you is that you have been trying to serve both.

I myself was once an avid churchgoer.  In fact, I was a pastor.  My goal was to see my church serve God.  Toward that end I studied the Bible endlessly, seeking to follow its instruction regarding church life.  I struggled with the fact that the things required to sustain a church today (e.g. donations,  incorporation, tax-exempt status, or building permits) were not commanded in the New Testament.  Therefore, I saw a diversion of energy from serving Jesus to serving the church.  It didn’t even help to  eschew institutionalism because house churches also siphon away energy and distract from true service to the Lord (which is simply a life lived in generosity witnessed by the Lord).  The obvious model to follow was the church of the New Testament, but in all my years of ministry I could never find a church which successfully imitated it.

My experience coincided with what my study of the Bible was revealing to me: the church of the New Testament was scaffolding for the coming kingdom of God.  What Jesus taught us to pursue was not the church, but rather the kingdom.  Therefore, the reason that the church since then has failed over and over again must be that the kingdom had come on the timetable that Jesus and His apostles had proclaimed (“in that generation” according to them).  People have been saying for years that “if the Lord tarries” – well, apparently He hadn’t tarried after all!  (For elaboration, see Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again.)

Thus today we have a church of the flesh (i.e. visible) and a church of the spirit (i.e. invisible).  The former is what people try to build for God – like Peter trying to build those tabernacles for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah on the mountain; the latter is comprised of all those whose hearts belong to Jesus…and only He knows who they truly are.  They are the body of Christ, and they do His will daily wherever they find themselves in this world.  They are connected directly to Him – not attending meetings according to the schedules of human shepherds.

There are really only two useful things that a church of the flesh does today: preach the gospel of Jesus and serve the poor.  You don’t have to join a group of people, though, to do those two things.  Therefore, the question is “Why are you attending church?”  If it is to seek the kingdom of God, are you finding it there?  Or are you merely finding the kingdom of church?

Therefore, your choice is: will you seek first the kingdom of God or will you seek the kingdoms of men?

I don’t expect you to accept my assertions without thinking, praying, and examining the Scriptures.  On the other hand, please don’t reject my assertions without doing the same things.  The most time-effective way for you to understand what I am saying about Jesus Christ is to read the Introduction which contains an overview with summary, and links to details.

If you don’t read anything else, however, know this: Jesus Christ is indeed the way, the truth, and the life.  However great you have thought He was, He is greater.

See also these related posts:

[For those of you who want encouragement along these lines as well as those of you who demand more biblical explanation of these truths, refer to the companion blog A Bible Reader’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom, including the post Yes, I Am a Recovering Christian Leader.]

To My Atheist and Agnostic Friends

You are going to heaven when you die.  (For elaboration see Everyone Is Going to Heaven.) 

I write this blog so that when you get to heaven, you won’t have to be surprised or ashamed. 

Though the Bible be misinterpreted and misused a thousand different ways, yet its truth shines through to those humble enough to accept the Savior it proclaims – Jesus Christ.  He Himself is the truth.  He certainly spoke the truth, and would not back down even when it could have spared Him suffering, humiliation, and death. 

Would you dare to read the Introduction to this blog?  Or True Christianity?  No one needs to know that you are doing this reading.  If you have the courage, see where it will lead you.

To My Buddhist Friends

I hope you will not think my words too forward.  Even if you do, please be patient enough to read at least a little of what I have written.  For once you have read enough of this blog to understand its central message, I trust that you will appreciate the love and integrity that impel me to write it.

You may see words and phrases on this blog that you have seen before, and thus think you understand my message.  However, you have probably only heard part of the story of Jesus Christ.  Once you have heard His story in its fullness, I believe you will acknowledge that it truly is music to any ears that long to hear of peace with our Creator.

May I ask that you read the Introduction?  Or another place you could start would be Churchless Christians .  You do not have to read everything on this site.  I am not looking for any followers.  On the contrary, I am pointing you to the One who abides with you always – the One who will teach you all you need to know.  He died and rose again from the dead that we might not be separated by religion, culture, or heredity.

To My Hindu Friends

You may wonder why I think a Hindu would be interested in a Jew from the land of ancient Israel.  Hinduism comes from India with an ancient culture of its own.  My explanation and defense is that I am an American with no ties to the Middle East, and yet I find great comfort in the Jew from ancient Israel: Jesus of Nazareth, Savior of the whole world.  God is taller than our mental walls.

Jesus transcends religions, ethnicity, and culture.  In Him we all come together.  He lived a life of peace and yet died at the hands of violent men.  He was raised from the dead because death could not hold Him.  Why?  He was God in the flesh, and He reigns henceforth on heaven’s throne.

Would you give Him some attention?  If so, read the Introduction which will summarize for you the entire message of this blog.  Thank you for reading this far, and, if I may, namaste.

To My Muslim Friends

My blog is not about religion.  Rather it is about God…as a Person.  No one will ever know that you have read this blog unless you tell them.  My purpose in writing it is to make known that indeed God is one, and that the fullness of His character and purpose are made known through Jesus Christ.

Set aside, at least for the moment, the great debates between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.  Consider one man – Jesus of Nazareth, and the life that He lived.  Though He did no violence to anyone, yet violence was heaped on Him in abundance.  And though violence was heaped upon Him, yet He did no violence in return.  Is this not a life worthy of our attention? 

I ask you to read the posts Churchless Christians and Jesus Is the Father if nothing else.  If they interest you, you might also want to read the Introduction and  Don’t Tell Anyone You’re a Christian Right Away .

Jesus died for your sins as much as He did for mine.  We shall all live with Him together forever.  It is my honor to be able to assure you of this (Everyone Is Going to Heaven).

To My Jewish Friends

I am a Gentile, and it may seem presumptuous for any Gentile to try to tell a Jew about God.  If so, please forgive me.  My defense is that I write not to tell you about another religion, nor to encourage you to go to church.  Rather, I write to tell you about the most outstanding Jew I’ve ever known.  If you already know Him yourself, there’s no need for you to read any further.  My sole purpose is to draw attention to the Messiah of Israel who is the Savior of the world.

Everything I know about God comes from the Jews.  The New Testament, of course, was as much a product of ancient Israel as was the Old Testament.  I am a Gentile who, by the grace of God, has been called to share in the inheritance of Israel.  It is a calling that has gone out not just to me, but to every human being.

I am grateful to God for His gift of the Jews to the world.  Most of all, I am grateful to God for Him who has been the most exquisite expression of Israel to the world: Joshua of Nazareth, Son of David, Son of Abraham. 

If you don’t read anything on this blog, please read Introduction or  True Christianity.  If those interest you, you might also be interested in Churchless Christians or Don’t Tell Don’t Tell Anyone You’re a Christian Right Away.  

Only God will know if you have ever read any of this blog so there is no need to be afraid.