Ten Commandments: Lesson 2, One God Only

From my new book, The Way of the Lord: A Study of the Ten Commandments. Click here to buy the book and Bible study so you can use it devotionally or work through it with a small group of Christian brothers and sisters… or to even give away to someone who desires to learn more about the way of the Lord.


There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body or parts, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the maker and preserver of all things, both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there are three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. (The Articles of Religion of the United Methodist Church)

That for the sake of my very salvation I avoid and flee all idolatry, witchcraft, superstition, and prayer to saints or to other creatures. Further, that I rightly come to know the only true God, trust in Him alone, submit to Him with all humility and patience, expect all good from Him only, and love, fear, and honour Him with all my heart. In short, that I forsake all creatures rather than do the least thing against His will. (The Heidelberg Catechism)

The first commandment embraces faith, hope, and charity. When we say ‘God’ we confess a constant, unchangeable being, always the same, faithful and just, without any evil. It follows that we must necessarily accept his words and have complete faith in him and acknowledge his authority. He is almighty, merciful, and infinitely beneficent… Who could not place all hope in him? Who could not love him when contemplating the treasure of goodness and love he has poured out on us? Hence the formula God employs in the Scripture at the beginning and end of his commandments: ‘I am the LORD.’ (The Catechism of the Catholic Church)

Introduction

God begins his commands to Israel with a reminder of who he is and what he has done for them. He is not just a god who exists. He is the covenant God of Israel. He is the one who created them, called them as his people through Abraham, and promised them he would be their God and they would be his people. This covenant relationship is the defining mark of who Israel was as God’s people and it continues today for those who are in Christ Jesus. God has once again rescued us, this time from sin, death, and despair. Our covenant God has given us the supreme gift of his Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. When we trust in Christ alone, we enter a covenant in which God says he will never leave us nor forsake us but instead, will be with us forever.

God’s covenant people have been rescued, redeemed, and reconciled by God’s grace. God continues his work of reshaping us in his image as we obey the commands he has provided for our good. Thus, we must not divide our loyalty, for there is only one God worthy to be believed in, worshipped, and obeyed. This lesson will help us better understand what that means and its ramifications for our lives.


Bible Study (Each chapter in the book is followed by an in-depth Bible study)

The Ten Commandments: Introduction

The Shape of Love

Love is love. This unhelpful tautology has seemingly won the day with Christians and non-Christians alike. It works well as a slogan but offers little substance for how God calls us to live a life of love. Instead, the Bible teaches us there is a shape to love. The love God calls us to looks like something. It has content to it. It is first and foremost received from God, then directed back to God, and then, lived out toward neighbor. It’s sacrificial, others-centered, joyful, and obedient. This life of love is the Way of the Lord, and the reason for the title of this study.

The Ten Commandments are an expression of the love Jesus commands in his summary of the Law. The great commandment is to love God with our whole being and the second commandment is like it, to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. But even that word from our Lord Jesus is general, and even vague. Yet he could speak in such a way because he knew he was summarizing something more detailed and specific, something his first-century audience would have understood.

In speaking of the two great commandments, Jesus was really summarizing the moral Law of God, the Ten Commandments. The first table of the law, for example, which contains the first four commandments, focuses primarily, though not exclusively, on our love for God. The second table addresses the nature of neighbor-love, which as we learn throughout Scripture, is also an expression of our love for God.

In other words, the way of loving God and neighbor looks like something specific. The commandments are not platitudes. They are concretely helpful. And the rest of Scripture is a commentary on what this love for God and neighbor looks like. The prophets, Jesus, and the apostles all shed light on the height, width, and depth of what it means to love God and others in the way God has prescribed in the Ten Commandments.

More Than Meets the Eye

By the time of the first century, many in the Jewish religious community had reduced the Ten Commandments to external rules and regulations that could be manipulated. But Jesus came along and reminded them that obedience to the Law had always involved the motives of one’s heart. It was not merely about behaving in the right way. It had always been about doing the right things, in the right way, for the right reason, with the right attitude.

Of course, a standard like that immediately leads one to self-discovery, or at least it ought to. When you come to understand, for example, that “not murdering” another person is more than not taking the life of another person, but includes not hating them or being unrighteously angry toward them, you begin to realize how far you fall short.

Furthermore, when you consider that each commandment carries with it a positive side, such as desiring that same person’s best interest and doing what you can to help them, then a legalistic framework really begins to crumble. Such a realization ought to cause us to run to the grace of God found in the work of Christ, for he was the only one who faithfully lived out a perfect life of righteousness. His sacrificial love on the Cross paid for our inability to live a life of perfect obedience to God’s Law.

Morality Revealed by God

What we learn as we study the Ten Commandments is that morality is fundamentally theological. That does not mean irreligious people cannot live moral lives, but it does mean when they do so, they are borrowing from a theistic framework. For their worldview cannot justify their way of living. There are secular forms of ethics. But those systems are usually forms of utilitarianism. They base their view of what is right and wrong on whether something works (whatever “works” means) for the common good (whatever “common good” means).

A secular ethic is not grounded in that which is immutable, transcendent, and objective. It is not a revealed ethic. It is dependent on king or crowd. What is considered normal, or even good, is determined, so to speak, in the voting booth of public agreement and alignment. Absent from such a worldview and ethic is an objective standard, revealed by an immutable and transcendent Creator, who not only created the universe, but also each and every person, in God’s own image.

Christians believe that having such an ethical standard is good, not only for individuals, but for families, communities, workplaces, societies, and ultimately, the world. A commitment to such an ethic does not mean every moral decision is clearly understood or that every command is easily interpreted and applied in every situation. But it does mean we have a firm foundation from which to start as we seek to faithfully live in this world.

Real Freedom

Contrary to popular notions, freedom does not mean being untethered to any moral restrictions in one’s life. Nor is desiring to obey God a form of legalism. Instead, we should understand that obedience to God is true love. And this kind of love produces real freedom, which is the ability to live the life for which we were created.

That is not a life of legalism or bondage. The Law of God provides freedom to become all that God created and redeemed us to be, as well as delivering us from a path of self-destruction and potentially hurting others along the way. We don’t live this way in order to earn points with God, but such a life is evidence that God is doing a great work in us. God is molding and shaping us into something we cannot possibly imagine – his grand masterpiece – the very likeness of his Son. How could such knowledge lead us to anything but joyful and grateful obedience?

The Heart

The heart is the heart of the matter. God gave us his moral law to reveal to us his character and will for our lives. God’s Law does provide structure and rails to keep us safe. God revealed this way of life for us because he has our best interest at heart. He really does want what is best for us and thus has revealed the way for us to live.

But more than that, in and through Christ, God has recreated us once again in his image. His very Spirit indwells us. God not only wants us to live this way because it is best for us. God wants our hearts. He wants us to desire to live this way because we love him, want to please and glorify him, and because we love others. He wants us to love what he loves.

It is God’s sanctifying process for helping us become like him… in what we desire, the way think, how we speak, and in the manner in which we conduct ourselves in this world. And not only is this what is best for us here and now, but God is also training us for eternity. Thanks be to God.

A Word About Each Lesson

It will not take you long to see that some of the study questions have many Bible verses to look up. You might even say an obnoxious amount of Bible verses. And that’s true. But they are there for a few important reasons.

First, they are included to show you how widely the Bible speaks on the particular commandment of each lesson. These Ten Commandments are not isolated only to Exodus and Deuteronomy. They are repeated, interpreted, and applied throughout the rest of Scripture.

Second, the verses are there to reveal that God’s commands are not to be understood and applied in a simplistic fashion. The Ten Commandments are not only prohibitions. That is, they are not only forbidding us to behave in certain ways, but they also point us to the birthplace of those behaviors. Our desire for sin festers in the human heart and sometimes finds its ways into our thought-life, as well as the words we speak and the actions we take.

Third, the variety of Scripture is there to remind you that there are positive, godly ways to live out the commands. The Ten Commandments are not merely a list of things not to do. They also guide us in a God-honoring, life-affirming, Christlike way of living in this world.

The Last Reason for All the Scripture

And that brings us to the last reason for all the verses, which is also why we have the Law in the first place. The first time I read the Sermon on the Mount, with a level of maturity and understanding, I immediately understood how far short I fell of living according to this standard that Jesus had set before me. And frankly, I was distraught. What hope did I have of faithfully and consistently living in this way, even if I tried my best every single day? And who among us does that?

But that was also a key moment in my life for understanding grace. It’s the point of the Law, at least a part of the point. We cannot perfectly live this prescribed way of the Lord. Yet it is still the standard. So, what do we do? We turn to Christ, who did perfectly live it out. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Savior of the world, Lord of all creation, and Light of life did perfectly fulfill all righteousness in his life, death, and resurrection.

His sacrificial and substitutionary life, death, and resurrection is what we trust in. We trust in him, not only to forgive us for our sins, but to impute his righteousness to our account. We died with Christ in his death and were raised to new life with Christ in his resurrection. And now, not only are we forgiven; not only are we new creatures in Christ; but the very Spirit who raised our Lord Jesus from the dead lives in each person who trusts in him. Therefore, Christ can live his life in and through ours.

And When We Stumble

We are not called to live the way of the Lord in our own strength. But Christ guides and empowers us through his gracious Spirit. The reason God has revealed this way to us is for us to become like Christ. It’s the path by which we are progressively molded and shaped into his likeness by the Spirit of love.

We will stumble along the way. But even the grief and conviction we experience when we fail is the gift of a loving Father disciplining those he loves. His discipline is gracious correction to get us moving along the right path once again.

My Advice for Each Lesson

Thus, my advice is to answer each question however you see fit. You can write down your reflections for each verse of Scripture. Or, you can read all the verses and write down your summary statement of what they all mean. Or, you can read half of them, a third of them, or even a fourth of them. It’s up to you. My goal is not to provide you with a legalistic framework in a study which hopes to show you why legalism is neither godly nor livable.

But I would be remiss if I didn’t at least encourage you to go the extra mile and try to read as many verses as you can in each lesson, and to think deeply about this way of the Lord prescribed for us. If you think about the character of God and the ways he has worked throughout redemptive history, then you recognize that even though we may not understand all the things God has included in his Word, we should realize that there are no “throw away” verses. They are all there for a reason, especially when they relate to who he his is, his way of salvation, and his path to holiness.

My Prayer

Ultimately, we are here to glorify God. We want to please our loving God so that when others see our good works, they will give praise to our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). My prayer is that this study will enlighten, encourage, and equip you to know God’s will, the way of the Lord, and that by it, God’s Spirit will carry on to completion the great work he has already begun in you until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).


You can order the study, The Way of the Lord: A Study of the Ten Commandments, by clicking here.

A New Way of Seeing: Viewing Life with an Eternal Perspective

New book and study guide…


We need God’s grace to change our hearts. We need a new way of seeing – a different perspective. God’s eternal perspective. This new way of seeing comes only when we have a new heart, and we receive a new heart only when we trust in Christ alone as our Savior and Lord… only when he comes to dwell in us, by his Spirit. We need his Word to direct us and his grace to enable us to see in this new way, which, in turn, helps us cultivate the character of Christ in our lives.

Each lesson in this study contains a reading and an in-depth Bible study at the end which will help you reflect more deeply on God’s eternal perspective on some of the most important issues of life.

This study is ideal for small groups, larger Bible studies, or for personal study and reflection.

Lord of All: Introduction

I thought I would share the chapters of my new book, Lord of All, with you. Each chapter (or, lesson) also has in-depth Bible study questions at the end. You can buy the book/study guide by clicking here. I hope you’ll check it out.

Also, you can click here to listen to an interview I did with TM Moore and Rusty Rabon at The Fellowship of Ailbe.

Here’s the Introduction…


The Center of Christianity

Christianity is a revealed religion, centered on the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. Thus, theologians call the Christian faith, “Christocentric,” or a Christ-centered faith. If you remove the real, historical, and supernatural Jesus from the equation, all you are left with is generic monotheism or perhaps an ethical system with a few moral platitudes sprinkled about. Thomas Jefferson tried this by literally cutting out all allusions to the supernatural in the New Testament. Removed were references to the miracles of Jesus Christ, including his deity, atoning death, and resurrection.

However, that form of “Christianity” is not really Christianity at all. It is not the faith once delivered to the saints, the faith that has been passed down from one generation to the next for two thousand years (Jude 3). That is not the faith and worldview that reconciles sinners to God and transforms individuals, families, communities, and even nations, for such a faith does not have the power to do so.

And yet, every Advent and Christmas season, every Lenten and Easter season, there will inevitably be magazines in the checkout lines at grocery stores or documentaries on cable channels that will have a “hot new take” on who the real Jesus Christ was. But it’s never a new take. It’s almost always a variant of an old heresy paraded out for a new generation. It’s presented as cutting-edge research, the kind your pastor and church don’t want you to learn about, but nothing new is ever said. It’s all there in the history books, along with the plentiful amount of evidence for why none of these “hot new takes” on Jesus holds water.

Purpose of This Study

I wrote this Bible study for a few reasons. First, there is no more important topic for a Christian than the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. As I’ve already said, he stands at the center of our faith. While we are a trinitarian faith, worshiping the Persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as one God, the story of redemption stands or falls on Jesus. There is no Christianity without him. Long after we have moved on from our present cultural moment with all its attending ethical debates, our dependence on Jesus Christ and his redemptive work on our behalf will remain central and of primary importance.

My second reason for writing this is to build up and strengthen the faith of Christians. Some friendly advocates, as well as critics of Christianity, have said that the church today is three thousand miles wide and two inches deep. And while I would be the first one to say a person does not need a PhD in theology or biblical studies to be a Christian or to go to heaven, thriving in the abundant life Christ desires for us does mean knowing him. And knowing him means vastly more than “just having a relationship” with him. That’s because it’s hard to have a meaningful relationship with a person you don’t know anything about.

Jesus said eternal life was to know God and his Son, Jesus Christ (John 17:3). This is intimate, relational, and experiential knowledge to be sure. But that knowledge presupposes a growing and deepening understanding of our Lord – who he is, what he taught, why he came, and what it means to love, trust, become like, and follow him daily. Whether through personal reading or with a small group of Christian friends, I pray this study will help you learn who the true Jesus of Holy Scripture is. More than that, I hope it will lead you to want to get to know him better, relationally and experientially, as well as what it means to follow him practically.

My third reason for writing this is for evangelistic purposes. I suspect most who read this material and discuss it with others will already be Christians. And as I’ve said, I hope it strengthens your faith. But I also hope it equips you and gives you confidence to speak to others about this Lord and Savior you love, trust, and follow. When someone asks a Christian about who Jesus is and why they should consider placing their faith in him, we ought to be prepared to give them a good reason for doing so (1 Peter 3:15). In fact, we are commanded to. We must do better than replying, “it works for me.”

If Jesus really is who he claimed to be and truly did what Christians believe he did, then only Jesus can meet the deepest desires and needs of a person, whether those needs are temporal or eternal, or both. Whether you use this Bible study to strengthen your own faith, or to share with another person, I pray God will use it in your life to reveal the beauty and glory of Jesus Christ, which leads me to my last reason for writing this study.

I believe this is the most important purpose. I hope this study will lead to the increased worship of Jesus. Jesus was not merely a man or good teacher. He was, and is, the Holy One of God and is therefore, worthy of our worship. To be sure, we are called to know, love, and follow him here and now. But ultimately, our chief purpose is to worship him, beginning now and lasting for all eternity.

In-Depth Bible Study

I have included an in-depth Bible study at the end of each lesson’s reading. I have provided it for you to investigate for yourself what the Bible has to say about Jesus. The questions provided are there to help you reflect on the most important questions about life and how Jesus Christ is the answer to those questions. In Acts 17, the church at Berea was complimented for examining the Scriptures, to see if what Paul had been teaching about Jesus was true. That’s what I hope you will do with the Bible study portion that follows each reading. Don’t simply take what I have written as true. Instead, dig deeply into the Bible and see what it says for yourself.

A Presupposition

On that note, a working presupposition for this study is that the Bible is the living Word of God, divinely inspired, and therefore authoritative and sufficient for faith and life for those who follow Christ. Because this is the working presupposition of this study, I will not be spending time defending the historical reliability of Scripture and related topics. There are many fine books that go into depth about such things, and I would encourage you to learn more about the trustworthiness of God’s Word by reading them.

Therefore, for those who are not Christians and who may not believe the Bible is authoritative for their lives, I want to say to you, that’s okay. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see you enjoy the abundant and eternal life that is available to you through trusting in Jesus Christ. However, my more modest desire for you is simply to help you understand why Christians believe what they do about Jesus, whether you agree with the Christian view or not. For Christians, I hope this working presupposition will bolster your faith and give you confidence that Jesus really is who he claimed to be, and that he truly accomplished the great work he came to do, as recorded in the pages of Scripture.

May God richly bless you throughout this study. I pray you will encounter our Lord in a wonderful way and that you will join me in declaring that there is no one else like Jesus!

Soli Deo Gloria,
Dale Tedder

Lord of All: Introduction

I thought I would share the chapters of my new book, Lord of All, with you. Each chapter (or, lesson) also has in-depth Bible study questions at the end. You can buy the book/study guide by clicking here. I hope you’ll check it out.

Also, you can click here to listen to an interview I did with TM Moore and Rusty Rabon at The Fellowship of Ailbe.

Here’s the Introduction…


The Center of Christianity

Christianity is a revealed religion, centered on the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. Thus, theologians call the Christian faith, “Christocentric,” or a Christ-centered faith. If you remove the real, historical, and supernatural Jesus from the equation, all you are left with is generic monotheism or perhaps an ethical system with a few moral platitudes sprinkled about. Thomas Jefferson tried this by literally cutting out all allusions to the supernatural in the New Testament. Removed were references to the miracles of Jesus Christ, including his deity, atoning death, and resurrection.

However, that form of “Christianity” is not really Christianity at all. It is not the faith once delivered to the saints, the faith that has been passed down from one generation to the next for two thousand years (Jude 3). That is not the faith and worldview that reconciles sinners to God and transforms individuals, families, communities, and even nations, for such a faith does not have the power to do so.

And yet, every Advent and Christmas season, every Lenten and Easter season, there will inevitably be magazines in the checkout lines at grocery stores or documentaries on cable channels that will have a “hot new take” on who the real Jesus Christ was. But it’s never a new take. It’s almost always a variant of an old heresy paraded out for a new generation. It’s presented as cutting-edge research, the kind your pastor and church don’t want you to learn about, but nothing new is ever said. It’s all there in the history books, along with the plentiful amount of evidence for why none of these “hot new takes” on Jesus holds water.

Purpose of This Study

I wrote this Bible study for a few reasons. First, there is no more important topic for a Christian than the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. As I’ve already said, he stands at the center of our faith. While we are a trinitarian faith, worshiping the Persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as one God, the story of redemption stands or falls on Jesus. There is no Christianity without him. Long after we have moved on from our present cultural moment with all its attending ethical debates, our dependence on Jesus Christ and his redemptive work on our behalf will remain central and of primary importance.

My second reason for writing this is to build up and strengthen the faith of Christians. Some friendly advocates, as well as critics of Christianity, have said that the church today is three thousand miles wide and two inches deep. And while I would be the first one to say a person does not need a PhD in theology or biblical studies to be a Christian or to go to heaven, thriving in the abundant life Christ desires for us does mean knowing him. And knowing him means vastly more than “just having a relationship” with him. That’s because it’s hard to have a meaningful relationship with a person you don’t know anything about.

Jesus said eternal life was to know God and his Son, Jesus Christ (John 17:3). This is intimate, relational, and experiential knowledge to be sure. But that knowledge presupposes a growing and deepening understanding of our Lord – who he is, what he taught, why he came, and what it means to love, trust, become like, and follow him daily. Whether through personal reading or with a small group of Christian friends, I pray this study will help you learn who the true Jesus of Holy Scripture is. More than that, I hope it will lead you to want to get to know him better, relationally and experientially, as well as what it means to follow him practically.

My third reason for writing this is for evangelistic purposes. I suspect most who read this material and discuss it with others will already be Christians. And as I’ve said, I hope it strengthens your faith. But I also hope it equips you and gives you confidence to speak to others about this Lord and Savior you love, trust, and follow. When someone asks a Christian about who Jesus is and why they should consider placing their faith in him, we ought to be prepared to give them a good reason for doing so (1 Peter 3:15). In fact, we are commanded to. We must do better than replying, “it works for me.”

If Jesus really is who he claimed to be and truly did what Christians believe he did, then only Jesus can meet the deepest desires and needs of a person, whether those needs are temporal or eternal, or both. Whether you use this Bible study to strengthen your own faith, or to share with another person, I pray God will use it in your life to reveal the beauty and glory of Jesus Christ, which leads me to my last reason for writing this study.

I believe this is the most important purpose. I hope this study will lead to the increased worship of Jesus. Jesus was not merely a man or good teacher. He was, and is, the Holy One of God and is therefore, worthy of our worship. To be sure, we are called to know, love, and follow him here and now. But ultimately, our chief purpose is to worship him, beginning now and lasting for all eternity.

In-Depth Bible Study

I have included an in-depth Bible study at the end of each lesson’s reading. I have provided it for you to investigate for yourself what the Bible has to say about Jesus. The questions provided are there to help you reflect on the most important questions about life and how Jesus Christ is the answer to those questions. In Acts 17, the church at Berea was complimented for examining the Scriptures, to see if what Paul had been teaching about Jesus was true. That’s what I hope you will do with the Bible study portion that follows each reading. Don’t simply take what I have written as true. Instead, dig deeply into the Bible and see what it says for yourself.

A Presupposition

On that note, a working presupposition for this study is that the Bible is the living Word of God, divinely inspired, and therefore authoritative and sufficient for faith and life for those who follow Christ. Because this is the working presupposition of this study, I will not be spending time defending the historical reliability of Scripture and related topics. There are many fine books that go into depth about such things, and I would encourage you to learn more about the trustworthiness of God’s Word by reading them.

Therefore, for those who are not Christians and who may not believe the Bible is authoritative for their lives, I want to say to you, that’s okay. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see you enjoy the abundant and eternal life that is available to you through trusting in Jesus Christ. However, my more modest desire for you is simply to help you understand why Christians believe what they do about Jesus, whether you agree with the Christian view or not. For Christians, I hope this working presupposition will bolster your faith and give you confidence that Jesus really is who he claimed to be, and that he truly accomplished the great work he came to do, as recorded in the pages of Scripture.

May God richly bless you throughout this study. I pray you will encounter our Lord in a wonderful way and that you will join me in declaring that there is no one else like Jesus!

Soli Deo Gloria,
Dale Tedder