Last week Shawn and I had lunch with one of my former seminary professors, Dr. Craig Glickman. We have been friends since I first met him in 1980.
In the course of the conversation, Craig said that studies show that most pastors and most Christians cannot name the Ten Commandments in order. He figured out a way that he would never forget them.
I am sharing with you his memory device, a brilliant one.
Can you remember 2, 3, and 5? That should be easy since those are the first three prime numbers.
Two. The Ten Commandments start out with two nos. We are not to have any other gods other than the one true God and we are not to have any idols.
Three. The next three all deal with honor. Honor the name of the Lord your God. (That is, do not take His name in vain.) Remember, that is, honor, the Sabbath day and keep it holy. And honor your father and mother. (That is the first of the Ten which deals with interpersonal relationships.)
(Some might remember that as three nos and two honors, since the third commandment refers to not taking that Lord’s name in vain, which is the same as honoring the name of the Lord.)
Five. The final five deal with sinful actions to avoid, starting with the worst. That is, these five are in descending order in terms of how physical they are. Therefore, the order is do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, and do not covet.
Why memorize the Ten Commandments? Aren’t we free from the Law of Moses? While it is true that we are no longer under the Law, it is also true that nine of the Ten Commandments are repeated in the New Testament. That is, nine of the ten are part of what is called the royal law, the law of Christ, and the law of liberty. The only one not given in the New Testament is the fourth command, honor the Sabbath day and keep it holy. We are not under that command.
But we are to have no other gods. We are to avoid idols. We are to honor the name of the Lord God and to honor our mothers and fathers. We are to avoid murder, adultery, theft, lying, and coveting.
While we are not to focus on the commands, it is vital that we know what God commands us to do and what He commands us not to do. If a believer does not know that adultery is wrong—and sadly, many young people grow up thinking that any and all sexual practices between consenting adults are comparable to playing tennis and are morally neutral—then he may ruin marriages and incur temporal judgment without even realizing that what he is doing is wrong.
Of course, the way in which we keep these, and all other commands, is by falling more and more in love with the Lord Jesus Christ. We know from Romans 7 that a fixation on the commandments results in more sin, not less. So, while it is helpful to know what the commands are, we must avoid thinking we can keep the commands by strength of our wills or by focusing on them. We keep the commands by having our minds renewed as we hear the Word of God taught (2 Cor 3:18; Rom 12:2). We fall more in love with Christ the more God’s Word is implanted in us.