Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE TENTH COMMANDMENT”

Exodus 20.17; Romans 7.7

The final of the Ten Commandments is found in Exodus 20.17. Please turn to that verse in your Bible and stand for the reading of God’s Word: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.”

Arthur W. Pink writes (emphasis in the original),

“This Commandment differs from all the others in that while they prohibit the overt act, this condemns the very desire to act. The word ‘covet’ means desire, and the Commandment forbids us to covet any thing that is our neighbour’s. Clear proof is this that these Commandments are not of human origin. The tenth Commandment has never been placed on any human statute book! It would be useless to do so, for men could not enforce it. More than any other, perhaps, does this Commandment reveal to us what we are, the hidden depths of evil within. It is natural to desire things, even though they belong to others. True; and that only shows the fallen and depraved state of our nature. The last Commandment is especially designed to show men their sinfulness and their need of a Saviour . . . There is only one exception, and that is stated in 1 Cor. 12:31: ‘Covet earnestly the best gifts.’”[1]

 

Before I read the last of my introductory remarks from the Keil and Delitzsch COMMENTARY ON THE OLD TESTAMENT, I need to remind you who come from a Roman Catholic background of the fraud and deception perpetrated by that idolatrous system for centuries. If you have experience in the catechism instruction you received in preparation for your first communion in the Catholic Church you well remember the ten commandments, but they were not all the commandments found in the Bible. Roman Catholics are not taught the second commandment found in Exodus 20.4-6:

4     Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:

5     Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

6     And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

Instead, the second commandment is omitted from the catechisms taught to Catholic children and the tenth commandment is erroneously split into two commands, Exodus 20.17.[2] It is insisted the existence of the word covet twice in the verse means that two commands be understood, thereby leaving the gullible child with what he thinks are ten commands memorized during catechism instruction.

Nonsense, and the Roman Catholic Church knows it, relying on the ignorance of Catholic people who for centuries were forbidden to read the Word of God. That said, I read the comment of two credible Hebrew scholars, C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch:

The last or tenth commandment is directed against desiring (coveting), as the root from which every sin against a neighbour springs, whether it be in word or deed. The dmh, epiqumein (LXX), coveting, proceeds from the heart (Prov. 6:25), and brings forth sin, which “is finished” in the act (Jas. 1:14, 15). The repetition of the words, “Thou shalt not covet,” does not prove that there are two different commandments, any more than the substitution of hwatt in Deut. 5:18 for the second dmht. dmh and hwath are synonyms,— only difference between them being, that “the former denotes the desire as founded upon the perception of beauty, and therefore excited from without, the latter, desire originating at the very outset in the person himself, and arising from his own want or inclination” (Schultz). The repetition merely serves to strengthen and give the great emphasis to that which constitutes the very kernel of the command, and is just as much in harmony with the simple and appropriate language of the law, as the employment of a synonym in the place of the repetition of the same word is with the rhetorical character of Deuteronomy. Moreover, the objects of desire do not point to two different commandments. This is evident at once from the transposition of the house and wife in Deuteronomy. tyb (the house) is not merely the dwelling, but the entire household (as in Gen. 15:2, Job 8:15), either including the wife, or exclusive of her. In the text before us she is included; in Deuteronomy she is not, but is placed first as the crown of the man, and a possession more costly than pearls (Prov. 12:4; 31:10). In this case, the idea of the “house” is restricted to the other property belonging to the domestic economy, which is classified in Deuteronomy as fields, servants, cattle, and whatever else a man may have; whereas in Exodus the “house” is divided into wife, servants, cattle, and the rest of the possessions.[3]

 

Please read this tenth commandment with me one more time: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.” Now, turn to Romans 7.7, where the Apostle Paul makes direct reference to this tenth command: “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” The word lust and the word covet translate the same Greek word, epiqumia, which refers to desiring, to longing for something or someone, to lusting.[4]

Three observations about the Law in general and this commandment specifically using Paul’s comment in Romans 7.7 to guide our consideration:

First, GOD’S LAW GENERALLY, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS SPECIFICALLY, AND THIS TENTH COMMAND POINTEDLY, IS MOST EXCELLENT.

Notice two comments of this man who lived under the Law, strived without success to obey the Law, and finally found obedience to the Law only through the obedience of Jesus Christ to the Law and by means of Paul’s faith in Jesus Christ:

First, Paul declares, “the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good,” Romans 7.12. The Law in general is holy, just, and good, as is each individual commandment. Laws are as the law makers are. God, the great lawgiver, is holy, just, and good, therefore His law must needs be the same. The matter of the Law is holy: it commands holiness, encourages holiness; it is holy, for it is agreeable to the holy will of God, the Originator of holiness. It is just, for it is compatible and consistent with the rules of equity and right reason: the ways of the Lord are right. It is good in its design; it was given for the good of mankind, for the conservation of peace and order in the world. The intention of the Law was to improve and reform mankind. Wherever there is true grace there is agreement that the Law is holy, just, and good.

Next, Paul declares, “the law is spiritual,” Romans 7.14. Not only in regard to the effect of the Law, as it is a means of making us spiritual, but in regard to the extent of the Law. It reaches our spirits, it lays a restraint upon, and gives a direction to, the inward part of man, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart, Hebrews 4.12. The Law forbids spiritual wickedness, heart-murder, and heart-adultery. It commands spiritual service, requires the heart, obliges us to worship God in the spirit. It is a spiritual Law, for it is given by God, who is a Spirit and the Father of spirits. It is given to man, whose most important part is spiritual; the soul is the best part of man, and the leading part of man, and therefore the Law to a man must needs be a law to the man’s soul. In this way, the Law of God is above all other laws, that it is a spiritual law. Other laws may forbid plotting and scheming to commit wrong deeds, but they cannot really address the matter unless there has been some overt act; but the Law of God takes notice of the iniquity regarded in the heart, even if it proceeds no further than the heart. We know this: Wherever there is true grace there is an experimental knowledge of the spirituality of the Law of God.

Next, BE IT THE LAW OF GOD GENERALLY, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS SPECIFICALLY, OR THE TENTH COMMANDMENT POINTEDLY, THERE IS GREAT ADVANTAGE FROM THE LAW.

Paul observes two advantages from the Law:

First, the Law is discovering. Paul writes in Romans 7.7, “I had not known sin, but by the law.” As a straight edge discovers a crooked surface, as the mirror shows us our natural face with all its defects and irregularities, so there is no way of coming to that knowledge of sin which is necessary for repentance, and consequently to peace and pardon, but by comparing our hearts and lives with the Law. Particularly, Paul came to the knowledge of the sinfulness of lust by the law of the tenth commandment. By lust, he means sin dwelling in us, sin in its first motions and workings, the corrupt principle. This he came to know when the Law said, “Thou shalt not covet.” The Law spoke another language than the scribes and Pharisees made it to speak in; it spoke in the spiritual sense and meaning of it. By this, Paul knew that lust was sin and a very sinful sin, that those actions and desires of his heart towards sin, which were never expressed as actual outward conduct, were still sinful, exceedingly sinful. Paul had a very quick and piercing judgment, all the advantages and improvements of education, and yet he never attained the right knowledge of indwelling sin until the Spirit by the Law made it known to him. There is nothing about which the natural man is more blind than about original corruption, concerning which the understanding is altogether in the dark until the Spirit by the Law reveals it, and makes it known. Thus, the Law is a schoolmaster, to bring us to Christ, Galatians 3.24. The Law opens and searches the wound, and so prepares it for healing. Thus, sin by the commandment does appear sin, Romans 7.13: “sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.” Sin appears in its true nature, appears to be what it actually is, and you cannot call it by a worse name than its own name. Therefore, by the commandment sin becomes exceedingly sinful; that is, it appears to be so. Sinners never discover the desperate venom or malignity there is in sin, until we come to compare it with the Law, and the spiritual nature of the Law, and then we see it to be an evil and a bitter thing.

Next, the Law is humbling. Paul provides a portion of his experience leading to his conversion in Romans 7.9, “For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” Saul of Tarsus once thought himself in a very good light. He saw himself as truly alive, very secure and confident of his goodness and obedience to the Law. So he was once, in times past, when he was a Pharisee. It was very common for such men as Saul of Tarsus to have a very high self-esteem. He was just like the others, the reason being that he was then without the Law. Though brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, a doctor of the Law, though himself a great student of the Law, a strict observer of it, and a zealous stickler for it, he was yet without the Law. He had the letter of the Law, but he had not the spiritual meaning of it. He possessed the shell, but not the kernel. He had the Law in his hand and in his head, but he had it not in his heart. He had the notion of it, but not the power of it. There are a great many who are spiritually dead in sin, yet they are alive in their own opinion of themselves, and it is their inward ignorance of the Law that is the cause of the mistake. However, when the commandment came, came in the power of it (not to his eyes only, but to his heart), sin revived, as the dust in a room suddenly appears when the drapes are opened and the bright sunlight enters the room. It was there all along, though no one could see it. Paul then saw in sin what he had never seen before. He then saw sin in its causes, the bitter root, the corrupt bias, the tendency to backslide. He saw sin in its nature, deforming, defiling, breaking a righteous law, offending God’s Majesty, profaning His glory. He saw sin in its consequences, sin with death following close behind, sin and the curse that comes with it. Paul tells his readers, “Sin revived, and I died.” He lost that good opinion which he had had of himself, and came to a different opinion of himself. “Sin revived, and I died.” That is, the Spirit through the instrumentality of the commandment convinced him that he was in a state of sin, and in a state of death because of sin. Oh, how humbling is this excellent use of the Law. It is a lamp and a light. It converts the soul, opens the eyes, prepares the way of the Lord in the desert, rends the rocks, levels the mountains, and makes ready a people prepared for the Lord.

Finally, BE IT THE LAW OF GOD GENERALLY, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS SPECIFICALLY, OR THE TENTH COMMANDMENT POINTEDLY, THERE IS STILL TERRIBLE MISUSE OF THE LAW.

Despite the Law being holy, just, and good, notice what a sinner’s corrupt nature does with the Law:

First, there is Romans 7.8: “But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence.” Thus, rather than respond properly to Law, sin always reacts improperly. This word concupiscence is the same Greek word epiqumia, meaning lustful desire. Therefore, covet, lust, desire, concupiscence are all the same Greek word. This means that although he had been one of the best unregenerate men that ever was; as touching the righteousness of the law, blameless, he was as covetous, lustful, and desirous of heart as any other sinner. His wicked nature reacted to what the Law had forbidden and created in him a strong desire for the forbidden, which is true of every sinner. It was sin, indwelling sin, that worked in his corrupt nature and it took occasion by the commandment. The corrupt nature would not have swelled and raged so much if it had not been for the restraints and restrictions of the Law. It is a part of every sinner’s corrupt nature to lean towards what is forbidden. Ever since Adam ate forbidden fruit, we have all been fond of forbidden paths. A child will sin on his own, but will especially desire what is forbidden when his parent lays down the law, “No.” Without the Law sin was dead, as a snake in cold weather that becomes active in the warm sun, and when the Law comes man’s sin is aroused.

Second, sin deceives men. Romans 7.11: “For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.” Remember what the serpent said to Eve, in Genesis 3.4, “Ye shall not surely die”? In similar fashion, sin does always lie and promise what it cannot deliver. Sin convinces the sinner in his deceitful heart, “It will be okay. It will feel all right.” However, the result is always disaster. Sin deceived Paul, as it deceives everyone else, and slew him as it slays everyone else.

Then, in Romans 7.13, Paul explains that sin worked death in him by that which is good. That which works to produce concupiscence, lust, desire, coveting, works death, since sin brings forth death. Nothing so good but a corrupt and vicious nature will figure out a way to pervert it, and transform it into an opportunity to commit sin. There is no flower so sweet but sin will still be able to draw poison of some kind out of it. This is how sin appears to be sinful, by what it produces, by its fruit. The very worst thing that sin does, and in doing this it is most sinful, is the perverting of the good, holy, and just Law, and taking occasion from it to be so much the more malignant. Thus the commandment, which was ordained to life, Romans 7.10, which was given to be a guide to help us, was through the corruption of our sinful natures made to demand our death as punishment for violations of the Law. Consider the large rock. Some use it as a strong foundation, while others fall onto it and are broken. Consider the bright sun. It makes the garden of beautiful flowers more fragrant, while at the same time accelerating the rotting and smell of the dung heap. It softens the wax while hardening the clay. So too, the Law, provided to be a schoolmaster to guide the guilty to Christ, is also a letter of indictment against those who are also guilty but who are excited by thrill of doing that which is forbidden.

It is quite obvious from our consideration of this tenth commandment that sinful man is completely incapable of obeying God’s Law. It is our sinful nature, you see, that is always disobedient internally even when there is external compliance to the Law. Have you never murdered anyone or committed adultery? Have you never stolen or lied? Have you never placed your own immediate desires above consideration for God’s will? Even the most perfect among us has nevertheless been guilty of coveting. Coveting is desiring what you do not have, being dissatisfied with your present situation, condition, and possessions. It is a never-ending quest for more, for different, and for something else. I think it was John D. Rockefeller, the wealthiest man who has ever lived, who was once asked, “How much money do you want?” He said, “Just a little more.”

What is the punishment for violation of God’s Law, either breaking all of the Law or being guilty of transgressing any part of the Law? James 2.10 declares, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” The penalty is death. Romans 6.23: “The wages of sin is death.” This is why Jesus came. The virgin born Son of God died a sinner’s death, was buried, and rose from the dead in victory over sin, death, Hell, and the grave. He is the Savior from the penalty of sin, from the power of sin, and from the presence of sin.

You cannot obey the Law. Once you have disobeyed and are guilty before God, you cannot deliver yourself from the consequences of your disobedience. You face the death penalty for sinning against God and breaking His holy Law. All that remains is the execution of the punishment that awaits you. The good news, however, is that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life, died a substitutionary death, and rose again in victory having satisfied God’s righteous demands that sin be punished. Sin was punished when Jesus suffered the cruel crucifixion on the cross; at least the sins of those who come to Jesus by faith were punished.

Here is your predicament, my sinful friend. You stand before God dead in trespasses and sins, guilty in His sight of violating His holy and just Law. You fully deserve the punishment that awaits you, and no amount of denying it will help you. To be saved from your sins you must not enter a plea of not guilty, but a plea of guilty. And then you must come to Christ, where you will benefit from God’s mercy and grace in providing for you a salvation you do not deserve. That is also the gospel, the good news that Jesus saves those who are lost, that Jesus forgives those who are guilty, that Jesus gives life to those who are dead, and that Jesus gives His righteousness to those who are sinful.

Come to Jesus today, my friend.

Come to Jesus now.



[1] Arthur W. Pink, Gleanings In Exodus, (Chicago: Moody Press), page 164.

[2] Dave Hunt, A Woman Rides The Beast, (Bend, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1994), page 184.

[3] C.F. Keil & F. Delitzsch, COMMENTARY ON THE OLD TESTAMENT, Vol I, (Peabody, MA: reprinted by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1996), page 402.

[4] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 364.



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