5 God’s commandments

280 What is the function of God’s commandments?


God has given commandments to mankind. In them He proclaims His will for the benefit of mankind. The commandments bring to expression how human beings should structure their relationship with God. In addition, the commandments are the foundation for positive relationships between human beings.

281 With what attitude should human beings obey the commandments of God?


Those who recognise God in faith as the Almighty, Omniscient, and Loving One will inquire into His will, and will endeavour to align their thoughts and actions with the will of God, that is, in accordance with His commandments.

In the knowledge that God gave the commandments out of love for mankind, the commandments are not fulfilled out of fear of punishment, but out of love for God.

282 What is the greatest commandment?


When asked which was the “greatest commandment in the law”, Jesus responded with two quotations from the Mosaic Law: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22: 36-40). The commandment to love God and one’s neighbour is also known as the “dual commandment of love”.


Love for one’s neighbour: see also Question 155→

283 What is the basis of man’s love for God?


Man’s love for God is based on God’s love for mankind. Man seeks to reciprocate this love: “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4: 19).

284 What does the commandment to love God demand, and what does this require?


Love for God is to characterise a person’s being and define his conduct.

The commandment to love God applies to the person as a whole and requires his full effort: “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12: 30). This signifies undivided devotion to God.

285 What is the commandment to love one’s neighbour?


“You shall love your neighbour as yourself ” (Mark 12: 31; cf. Leviticus 19: 18).

286 What does the commandment to love one’s neighbour demand?


The commandment requires human beings to treat all other human beings with love. It sets clear limits to egoism.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan (cf. Luke 10: 25-37), Jesus illustrated that loving one’s neighbour involves being merciful and acting accordingly.

Just how seriously Jesus meant these words can be inferred from His exhortation to even love one’s enemies.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5: 43-45

287 Who is this “neighbour”?


On the one hand, the example of the Good Samaritan demonstrates that this neighbour is anyone who is in need. On the other hand, the neighbour can also be the one who helps. Our neighbour can be anyone with whom we come into contact.

288 Did Jesus say anything else about the commandment to love one’s neighbour?


In addition to the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus summarised the following principles on neighbourly love in the socalled “golden rule”.

The term “golden rule” was coined in Europe in the seventeenth century in reference to the statement contained in Matthew 7: 12. Today the “golden rule” is a widely held principle in interpersonal relationships even outside of Christianity.

289 What does the “golden rule” state?


The “golden rule” is understood as a reference to the words of the Lord in the Sermon on the Mount: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7: 12).

290 How is the love for one’s neighbour to be revealed in the congregation?


That which Jesus taught His Apostles also applies to the congregation: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you [...] By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13: 34-35). This instruction to His disciples thus even transcends the “golden rule”.

The commandment to love one’s neighbour, to support one’s fellow human being and help in situations of need, should be especially evident in the congregation: “Let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6: 10). All who belong to the congregation have a duty to treat one another with sincere compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

291 What does this “love for one another” produce in the congregation?


“Love for one another” enables us to accept our brother and sister as they are (cf. Romans 15: 7), and protects against irreconcilability, prejudices, and contempt. It is a power that strengthens the cohesion in the congregation, awakens empathy and understanding for one another, and promotes willingness to help one another.

From the “high song of love”: “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  1 Corinthians 13: 4-7

292 What is the text of the Ten Commandments?


The First Commandment: “I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods before Me.”

The Second Commandment: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.”

The Third Commandment: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”

The Fourth Commandment: “Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.”

The Fifth Commandment: “You shall not murder.”

The Sixth Commandment: “You shall not commit adultery.”

The Seventh Commandment: “You shall not steal.”

The Eighth Commandment: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.”

The Ninth Commandment: “You shall not covet your neighbour’s house.”


The Tenth Commandment: “You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbour’s.”

The designation “Ten Commandments” or “Decalogue” is derived from the biblical formulation “ten words” (deka logoi) in Exodus 34: 28 and Deuteronomy 10: 4. The Bible firmly establishes the count of the commandments at ten, but does not number them. This has led to differing ways of counting them. The counting method in use in the New Apostolic Church dates back to a tradition from the fourth century AD.

293 To whom were the Ten Commandments given?


God gave the Ten Commandments to the people of Israel through Moses on Mount Sinai (cf. Exodus 19: 20). They were written upon stone tablets.

294 What significance did the Ten Commandments hold for the people of Israel?


The Ten Commandments regulated the conduct of the Israelites toward God as well as one another. The proclamation of the Ten Commandments was part of the covenant which God made with the people of Israel. The observance of the commandments was compulsory and was blessed by God. Even the children among the people of Israel already learned the commandments by heart.


To this day, the Ten Commandments have retained their great significance within Judaism.

“So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone.”    Deuteronomy 4: 13

295 Did Jesus and His Apostles comment on the Ten Commandments?


Yes. Jesus reinforced the Ten Commandments. He even sharpened some of the commandments by giving them a deeper meaning and expanding their original scope.

His Apostles ultimately made it clear that breaking even one of the commandments amounted to a violation of the law as a whole: “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2: 10).

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgement.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgement.”  Matthew 5: 21, 22

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  Matthew 5: 27-28

296 To whom do the Ten Commandments apply?


In the Ten Commandments, God is addressing all human beings. The individual bears responsibility to God for his conduct and the way he leads his life.

297 How are God’s commandments to be seen in relationship to the laws of the state?


God’s commandments stand above the laws of the state. The sole deciding factor in deciding whether God’s commandments have been violated is the will of God, and not that of any legislator.

298 What does it mean to violate the commandments of God?


Every violation of God’s commandments is a sin. Sin causes human beings to incur guilt before God. The measure of the guilt arising from this sin can vary. God alone determines the magnitude of guilt. In individual cases it might even be that hardly any guilt is incurred before God as a result of a particular sin.


Relationship between sin and guilt: see Questions 230→ and explanation of Question 230→

299 How can the whole law be fulfilled?


The whole law could be fulfilled by loving God and one’s neighbour in perfect fashion (cf. Romans 13: 8, 10). This was only possible for Jesus Christ.


The law: see Questions 138→271→ et seq.

300 What is the First Commandment?


“I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods before Me.”

301 What does the First Commandment mean?


The First Commandment means that God is Lord over all things. Only He, the Creator of all things, is worthy of worship and veneration. His will is to be obeyed.

302 What is the significance of the First Commandment in the Old Testament?


Polytheism prevailed in the countries surrounding Israel. With the First Commandment God made it clear that He is the only God. Accordingly, only He is to be worshipped, and only He is to be served. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6: 4-5).


Monotheism: see explanation of Question 53→

The term ‘polytheism’ is derived from the Greek words poly and theos, which mean “many” and “god”, respectively. The term is thus used in reference to the worship of several deities. – Even King Solomon, when he was old, turned away from the living God and sacrificed to the idols of the Moabites and Amorites (cf. 1 Kings 11: 7-8).

303 What does the prohibition to worship other gods imply?


Any veneration or worship of anything— other than God, the Creator— that could be regarded by human beings as a deity is sin. This includes the worship of living beings, natural phenomena, objects, and real or fictional spiritual beings.

Accordingly it is a violation of the First Commandment to regard statues, animal figurines, stones, amulets, constellations, mountains, trees and fire, storms, etc., for example as gods. 

The fabrication and worship of the golden calf in the time of the Old Testament also represented a violation of this commandment of God: “So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a moulded calf. Then they said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!’” (cf. Exodus 32: 3-4).

304 How are we to understand the prohibition of producing and worshipping images?


Exodus 20: 4-5 forbids creating images of that which God has created: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image— any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them.”

The prohibition of creating and worshipping images must be seen in the context that there were images and statues that were venerated and worshipped as deities at the time.

305 Are we forbidden to paint pictures or take photographs?


No, we are not forbidden to produce images, sculptures, photographs, or cinematic presentations. Such things should not be venerated or worshipped, however.

306 What is the significance of the First Commandment in the New Testament?


The First Commandment states that there is only one God. This is the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the New Testament, the First Commandment is not only applied to God, the Father, but rather also to Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.


Trinity: see Questions 61→ et seq.

307 What does the First Commandment mean for us today?

The First Commandment calls upon us to honour God out of love. We worship God in adoration, obedience, and the fear of God. The fear of God develops from our love for God. It is not an expression of fear, but of humbleness, love, and trust in God.

It is important to accept God as He has appeared to the world: in Jesus Christ (cf. John 14: 9).

It is a violation of this commandment to make a god, as it were, of power, honour, money, idols, or even one’s own person, to which all other things are subordinate. Likewise, it is a violation of the First Commandment to develop conceptions of God based on our own wishes or views. It is also a violation against this commandment to see gods in statues, trees, natural phenomena, etc. Beyond that, other acts that contradict the First Commandment include Satanism, fortune telling, magic, witchcraft, spiritualism, and necromancy.

The term ‘magic’ is derived from the Greek and translates to mean “sorcery”, or “illusion”. Magic also incorporates the notion that one can influence or control people, animals, and even events and objects by way of specific actions (rituals) and/or words (magical formulas). Magic is often associated with the evil one.
Fortune tellers are people who are convinced that they can see into the future or foretell future events. They make their predictions on the basis of mysterious signs which they interpret accordingly. At the time of the old covenant, fortune telling was common practice in the royal courts, however, it was strictly forbidden to the people of Israel.

Necromancy is a special form of fortune telling: those who practise it try to contact the dead in order to ask them about future events; cf. 1 Samuel 28: 3 et seq.

“Ascribe greatness to our God.”  Deuteronomy 32: 3