UNDERSTANDING YOUR FAITH:

THE COMMANDMENTS

By Vic Scaravilli

Since Adam and Eve used their free will to disobey God, they forfeited their intimate friendship with God they previously enjoyed. But God offered man a second chance to be reconciled with Him out of His love and mercy. He did this by creating covenants with His chosen people.

A covenant is a family relationship of love and trust God establishes between He and His children. It is a solemn agreement between God and His people where He acts as a loving Father asking obedience from His children and promises to protect those who follow Him. There are three components of a covenant of God. First, God alone initiates it and man must accept it and be obedient. Second, covenants have a purpose in the salvation of mankind and third, there is an outward sign of the covenant.

Before Moses, God’s covenant with the Hebrew people required their faith in God and obedience to Him, but there was no explicitly defined law that governed their lives. Later, as the people matured, God gave Moses a covenant of the Ten Commandments that were to be the norm of their conduct. God continued to make Old Covenants with His people until He established the New Covenant through Jesus Christ.

The Ten Commandments or Decalogue are the written laws God gave to Moses who in turn gave them to the chosen people of God. These are recorded in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21. The commandments are not numbered in Scriptures but are broken down into 10 different components. We follow the division of the commandments given to us by St. Augustine in the 5th century while Protestants follow a slightly different format of using verse numbers to identify the commandments.

The Ten Commandments state what is required in the love of God and love of neighbor. Even though this was given in Old Testament times, it is still valid for all of us today because it contains the fundamental principles for leading Christian lives. Jesus taught the Jewish people how to interpret the commandments correctly and how to live them but first insisted they be obeyed. There are many references by other writers of the New Testament on the importance of following the commandments.

The first three commandments deal with the love of God. The first and most important is not to worship any other god. This means we must not place a higher priority on anything such as power, money, or pride ahead of God. Second, we should never use the name of the Lord in vain. In addition to showing reverence to God by not using His name in profane ways, it also means that we should never use God’s name in the name of illegal or immoral acts. Thirdly, we are required to keep the Lord’s Day by worshipping our God. As Catholics, this means celebrating the Eucharist.

The next seven commandments deal with relationships with people. The fourth commandment focuses on our family relationships where we are to love and respect our parents. Fifth, sacredness of human life is emphasized by the command of not willfully taking a human life. The sixth protects the chastity between a married couple and shows respect of the sacrament of marriage. Seventh, this command tells us to respect the property of others by not stealing. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor means that we should not lie or injure the name of others. The ninth commandment deals with motives and intentions within our heart that may lead us to commit sins against our spouse. Lastly, you shall not covet your neighbor’s goods deals, as does the ninth, about emotions in our hearts that would cause us to want to have what is not ours from our neighbors. This would include greed and envy.

The Ten Commandments was an Old Covenant given to the Israelites to give order in their lives by God. Jesus established the New Covenant between God and man. When asked which commandment is the greatest, Jesus summarized the 10 commandments by saying the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God and the second is to love your neighbor as yourself. (Mat. 22:36-40) These verses sum up all of the 10 Commandments.

The Writings of Vic Scaravilli

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