THOU SHALT NOT STEAL

PMW 2017-071 by Chris Hume (originally posted at Reformed Hope)

[Gentry note: Postmillennialism expects the conversion of the vast majority of men and nations before Christ returns. Conversion by God’s free grace necessarily leads to a desire to obey and serve God. Serving God involves obedience to his law which is a transcript of his holy character. God is holy, just and good, therefore “the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” (Rom. 7:12). Therefore, his law is to be promoted to men and nations (Rom. 3:19, 31), not as a means of justification, but as an instrument of sanctification. Chris Hume’s article is helpful for our better understanding the significance of God’s commandment against theft.]

The Ten Commandments and the Moral Law of God

Whenever we begin to discuss the commandments of God, we would do well to ask ourselves the following question: Who is required to obey said laws? The Westminster Confession states: “The moral law doth forever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof.” This is certainly true. Romans 2:12-16 reminds us that God has revealed himself sufficiently to all men and there is no one who has an excuse for disobeying God’s Law. Therefore, every single person is required to obey God’s Law. In other words, God’s Law is not simply for Christians. In fact, the Apostle Paul points out that the Law is specifically for the ungodly (1 Timothy 1:8-11).

The Gospel does not lessen man’s responsibility to obey God’s Law. Jesus did not come to free men from their duty and obligation to obey God’s Law. He came to die for sinners that their sins might be forgiven and then that they might be given new power to obey God’s Law. As it relates to the Eighth Commandment, Jesus did not come to allow men to steal from their neighbors. He did not come to promote and propagate theft and injustice in the world. He came to establish righteousness and justice. Romans 1:5 makes it clear that one of the great ends of the Gospel is to bring about “the obedience of the faith…among all nations.” The New Hampshire Confession of Faith (the confession of the church I am currently a member of) reiterates this important point:

“We believe that the Law of God is the eternal and unchangeable rule of his moral government; that it is holy, just, and good; and that the inability which the Scriptures ascribe to fallen men to fulfill its precepts arises entirely from their love of sin; to deliver them from which, and to restore them through a Mediator to unfeigned obedience to the holy Law, is one great end of the Gospel, and of the means of grace connected with the establishment of the visible Church.”

The Gospel is not opposed to the Law of God. Rather, it brings about obedience to God’s Law. As we consider the Eighth Commandment, we must keep this in mind.

God's Law Made Easy NEW


God’s Law Made Easy (by Ken Gentry)

Summary for the case for the continuing relevance of God’s Law.

See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


The Eighth Commandment Applied to the Individual

The Eighth Commandment is: “Thou shalt not steal.” As the Westminster Divines noted in the Larger Catechism, this law, and all others in the Decalogue, has two aspects: the positive (duties required) and negative (sins forbidden). The sins forbidden in this commandment include basic theft (Exodus 20:15), man-stealing (Exodus 21:16), using false weights and measures (Deuteronomy 25:13-15), and removing landmarks (Deuteronomy 19:14). All of these sins (and there are others) are explanations of what it means to “not steal.” The general command is given in the phrase, “Thou shalt not steal,” but the command is elucidated and expounded throughout all of Scripture (included the case laws).

With this commandment concerning theft, God is declaring that the individual has a right to his property. Man is to have dominion over his property. When someone steals from another, the thief is robbing the victim of his ability to take dominion over the earth. Individuals are called to work to support their families, care for the needy, and support the work of the Gospel. When someone robs someone, they are neglecting their responsibility and taking from one who has fulfilled his responsibility. The Parable of the Ten Minas in Luke 19 illustrates the just penalty for theft as it relates to one’s failure to be a good steward and take dominion (more on this below).

In addition to the sins forbidden, the Larger Catechism also notes the “duties required” in this law. We are to further “the wealth and outward estate of others, as well as our own.” One example of this (which may help us to see how God’s Law clearly runs through all of Scripture) is found in the command to give and lend freely. The Westminster Divines correctly noted that the Eighth Commandment includes the requirement to give freely, noting that we are required to “give and lend freely according to our abilities and necessities of others.” They cite Leviticus 25:35 as a proof-text. Leviticus 25:35 reads: “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you.”


Covenantal Theonomy
(by Ken Gentry)
A defense of theonomic ethics against a leading Reformed critic. Engages many of the leading objections to theonomy.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


This sounds very familiar to a passage in the New Testament. 1 John 3:17 says, “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” We see here a great example of how the New Testament in no way introduces a new law or abolishes an old one. Rather the New Testament affirms the Law of God. It also expands it in that it grants the ability to obey and widens the scope of obedience. The Parable of the Good Samaritan is another great example. All the principles in the New Testament are latent in the Old—Jesus came to live them out and enable his followers to do the same!

People steal because they are lazy. That might sound simplistic, but, generally speaking, it is true. Thieves are unwilling to work to earn their own bread. Instead, they take from another man’s labor. In fact, the Westminster Divines saw idleness and laziness as a sin forbidden by the Eighth Commandment. Given the fact that it is our duty to further our estate and the estate of others so that God’s rule may be extended throughout the earth, being lazy is a direct violation of this law. Proverbs 28:19 (which is incidentally cited in the Larger Catechism) says: “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty.”

The Case Laws are Applications of the Moral Law of God

As I have mentioned, the moral law against theft is explained and applied throughout Scripture. The case laws are excellent expositions on the Law of God, showing us what the commandments mean. After giving the Ten Commandments, God further applied the Moral Law with various case laws, showing how the Moral Law ought to be applied to society. . . .

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