THE 10 COMMANDMENTS AND GOD’S KINGDOM

PMW 2017-064 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

Introduction

Postmillennialism expects a day when “the earth will open up and salvation [will] bear fruit, and righteousness [will] spring up with it” (Isa 45:8). It expects the discipling of the nations to teach all the things Christ taught his disciples (Matt. 28:19), which included the continuing relevance of God’s law (Matt. 5:17–19; cp. Rom. 3:19, 31). This is because the law reflects God’s character which is “holy and righteous and good” (Rom. 7:12). Because of this, postmillennialists would do well to learn God’s law and its practical applications.

Learning Deuteronomy well is a good place to start. And the structure of Deuteronomy is helpful for reinforcing and expanding the application of God’s law. Let me explain.

Deuteronomy 6:4–26:15 appears to be a random collection of laws, a general scholarly consensus discerns its basic organizing principle: these laws follow the order of the ten commandments. In this, the largest section of Deuteronomy, Moses provides the commandments’ broader implications by offering practical applications (cf. Deut. 1:5; cf. Deuteronomy Introduction). Though the outline is not overtly presented by Moses, given Moses’s orderly mind and compositional skills, along with the outline’s general fit, it is strongly suggested. We must understand also that since the law comes from one God and is unified many overlaps and inter-relationships exist between the commandments.

The first commandment (Deut. 5:7) highlights God’s unique and absolute authority. It is developed in Deut. 6:1–11:32. This section exhorts love of God (e.g., 6:5) and obedience to him (e.g., 6:6). For example, it warns against testing him (e.g., 6:16), reminds Israel that God is worthy of respect (e.g., 7:6–8), and proclaims God’s blessings for obeying him (Deut. 11:1–32).

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The second commandment (Deut. 5:8–10) emphasizes God’s dignity, especially in worship. It is expanded on in Deut. 12:1–32. For example, in discouraging the adoption of Canaanite religious altars and worship practices (12:1–3), Israel must follow God’s priestly system and establish a central, unified sanctuary in the land to protect her worship of the one true God (12:4–32).

The third commandment (Deut. 5:11) presses the importance of God’s name, calling on Israel to be serious in her relationship with him. This is covered in Deut. 13:1–14:21. For example, this section condemns false prophets (13:1–18), which are a test of the Israel’s commitment to God alone. It also reminds her to keep his dietary laws in demonstrating her distinctive commitment to him even in the mundane things of life (14:1–21).

The fourth commandment (Deut. 5:12–15) requires observing the sabbath in demonstrating thanks to God for his deliverance (Deut. 5:15) and for his good gift of creation (Exo. 20:11). It is applied in Deut. 14:22–16:17. For example, this section calls for thanking God by faithfully tithing to him (14:22–29) and keeping sabbath years (15:1–18) and the special national feasts of celebration (16:1–17).

The fifth commandment (Deut. 5:16) highlights the proper exercise of human authority, requiring that it conform to God’s will. It is covered in Deut. 16:18–18:22. For example, this section highlights various levels of authority beyond its starting point in parental authority. It discusses judges (17:2–7), kings (17:14–20), priests/Levites (18:1–8), and prophets (18:9–22).

The sixth commandment (Deut. 5:17) calls for the respect of life, especially underscoring the dignity of human life. It is treated in Deut. 19:1–22:4. For example, while defending human life and condemning murder, this material distinguishes accidental deaths, explains legal protections for those who have killed someone (19:1–10), and encourages proper judicial proceedings (19:11–13). It also sets apart just war as an example of when life may be taken with immunity (20:1–20) and demands execution for capital felons (21:22–23).


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The seventh commandment (Deut. 5:18) warns against sexual sins and immoral intermixing of things which should not be mixed together. It covers 22:5–23:14. This commandment is the most difficult to discern in its section. But given the relative clarity of the ten commandments outline in the remainder of the Deut. 6:4–26:15, it would seem to be required. For example, various types of sexual sins include transvestism (22:5), sexual charges against a wife (22:13–20), adultery and fornication (22:22–24), rape (22:25–29), and incest (22:30), each of which threatens the unity of the family and the community. This law is illustratively reinforced by discouraging the mixing of seeds, animals, and clothing fibers (22:9–11)

The eighth commandment (Deut. 5:19) explains why stealing is immoral. It is covered in Deut. 23:15–24:7. This section enforces ownership rights and encourages respecting others. For example, it covers the problem of escaped foreign slaves (23:15–16) and implies that offspring forced into prostitution steals their self-respect (23:17–18). It continues by prohibiting charging interest on poor loans which robs the poor of their ability to escape debt (23:19–20), and robbing God by refusing to pay vows (23:21–23).

The ninth commandment (Deut. 5:20) requires honesty in one’s witness, promoting confidence in the truth. This is briefly covered in Deut. 24:8–16. For example, this section demonstrates the danger of dishonesty in Miriam’s false charge against Moses (24:8–9), warns about a lack of trust in handling pledges (24:10–13), condemns disrespectfully failing to promptly pay workers (24:14–15), and prohibits criminal witness against innocent family members of criminals (24:16).

The tenth commandment (Deut. 5:21) rebukes covetousness, which is a desire for something that belongs to another. Moses applies this matter to situations denying a person’s rights and privileges regarding his own property and life. This material is found in Deut. 24:17–26:15. For example, this section warns that coveting perverts justice for the weakest members by taking all they have as a loan pledge (24:17–18) or denying them access to the overage from one’s crops (24:19–20).

Conclusion

Though most evangelicals demur from even considering the application of God’s law today, the postmillennial hope expects its influence. The apostle to the Gentiles even declares against objectors: “Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law” (Rom. 3:31).

In fact, Paul noted the law’s intrinsic goodness and practical relevance for restraining sin and protecting righteousness, even including its judicial sanctions: “we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted” (1 Tim. 1:8–10).

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