The Commandments Identify Sin


Week 9: Ten Commandments Study, #9, & #10

In this study we will look at the ninth and tenth commandments, we’ll examine the text to provide some additional insight.

“You shall not testify falsely [that is, lie, withhold, or manipulate the truth] against your neighbor (any person). Exodus 20:16 AMP

To provide a deeper understanding of this commandment we are going to consult preacher and bible scholar Matthew Henry’s commentary on the ninth commandment:

The ninth commandment concerns our own and our neighbour's good name. This forbids speaking falsely on any matter, lying, equivocating, and any way devising or designing to deceive our neighbour. Speaking unjustly against our neighbour, to hurt his reputation. Bearing false witness against him, or in common conversation slandering, backbiting, and tale-bearing; making what is done amiss, worse than it is, and in any way endeavouring to raise our reputation upon the ruin of our neighbour's. How much this command is every day broken among persons of all ranks!”

When I read his explanation honestly I was personally convicted because my mind immediately goes to gossiping. It’s so easy to bring up another person’s name in conversation with someone else and it may at times be completely unintentional but you’ll find yourself speaking on another person’s business when you may not even have all the details.

“You shall not covet [that is, selfishly desire and attempt to acquire] your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” Exodus 20:17 AMP

Again we consult Matthew Henry on this:

“The tenth commandment strikes at the root: Thou shalt not covetExod. 20:17. The foregoing commands implicitly forbid all desire of doing that which will be an injury to our neighbour; this forbids all inordinate desire of having that which will be a gratification to ourselves. “O that such a man’s house were mine! Such a man’s wife mine! Such a man’s estate mine!” This is certainly the language of discontent at our own lot, and envy at our neighbour’s; and these are the sins principally forbidden here. St. Paul, when the grace of God caused the scales to fall from his eyes, perceived that this law, Thou shalt not covet, forbade all those irregular appetites and desires which are the first-born of the corrupt nature, the first risings of the sin that dwelleth in us, and the beginnings of all the sin that is committed by us: this is that lust which, he says, he had not known the evil of, if this commandment, when it came to his conscience in the power of it, had not shown it to him, Rom. 7:7. God give us all to see our face in the glass of this law, and to lay our hearts under the government of it!”

What stands out most to me in this commentary is the understanding that this and all the other commandments identify our sinful nature. Here in commandment number 10 we see that covetousness points to the sin of discontentment, envy, jealousy and even lust.  All these sins start with a thought that then turns into a desire and if left unchecked we act on these things which lead to sin. This is why it was so important that the nation of Israel (God’s chosen people) kept these commandments. They were always intended to show us our sin and help us move away from our sinful nature and seek to live holy lives as God has asked of us. (1 Peter 1:16)

 I pray this study series has helped you understand that just as God’s people needed the commandments to identify their sins at that time we still to this day also need the commandments in the same way.  Let us also remember that the first four commandments reveal how we should love God, while the last six reveal to us how to love ourselves and one another.

“As religion towards God is an essential branch of universal righteousness, so righteousness towards men is an essential branch of true religion. Godliness and honesty must go together.”

Matthew Henry


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