What the Bible says about
Great Commandment, First
(From Forerunner Commentary)
Ephesians 6:2 states that the fifth commandment is the first commandment with promise. The second commandment contains a very general promise loosely tied to keeping all the commandments. The promise in the fifth commandment is not general but specifically tied to meeting a specific responsibility—honoring parents.
Notice that the commandment does not say, "Obey your father and your mother." This is because honoring not only includes obedience but also goes beyond it. Honoring suggests adding to, glorifying, embellishing, and decorating its object. Obedience can be given in a resentful manner, but honoring requires admiration, respect, even reverence. This quality must be within one's heart, and it is acquired and built upon through thoughtful consideration, even meditation, on the sacrifices and gifts that the parents give to the child.
Honoring is something that usually does not happen in the child until adulthood, when the child has his own experiences as a parent to draw upon to appreciate his parent's loving labors. This fact shows us that it is not too late to grow in honoring our parents, and that God is aware, noticing and rewarding with the blessing of long life. Obedience to parents as a child gets one started in the right direction and produces its own rewards.
Yet, the honoring of parents greatly increases the appreciation for them. The real rewards lie in the practice of honoring itself, rewards that affect our place in the Kingdom of God because we have transferred giving honor to our physical parents to giving spiritual and moral honor to God, our spiritual Parent.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 declares this commandment's seriousness to us:
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. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Notice that child-training is directly linked with the first and great commandment. The fifth commandment is aimed directly at parental responsibility. If children grow up not honoring God, the blame largely falls on the parents' shoulders. God intends this vital child-training responsibility to lead children to honoring Him.
That is its goal. It requires consistent and devoted attention. It cannot be accomplished by absent parents. If the parents do not know God, or if their knowledge of Him is shallow, and they are not practicing what they do know, what will they pass on to their children? Worldliness. Both parents must be dedicated and deeply involved in honoring God in their own lives, if their children are going to be prepared to perform the much more rewarding practice of honoring God.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Commandment
David says that sacrifice is a prayer. It also works the other way around: Prayer is a sacrifice. Why? Because it is a gift of devotion, praise, and thanksgiving that aids in changing a person's nature from his self-centeredness.
Why is prayer a sacrifice? First, it consumes time. We dislike giving time up unless our heart is consumed by what we want to do, and human nature does not want to do spiritual things. Second, prayer requires giving—the giving of one's mind over to thinking about the qualities of God. How else can we thank Him? We give ourselves to the activity of praise—praise for things that He has done. We do that because we have thought about them and because we acknowledge His presence, His activity, in our or somebody else's life.
Prayer is most effective when we act as a mediator, interceding on behalf of others, meaning that we have given our time to thinking about them and their needs. We give our time to go to God and ask for His intervention so to help them change. God acts on our behalf because we sacrificed and begins to change us away from our egocentricity, our self-centeredness. God is training our minds to think about others rather than the self.
In Psalm 40:6-8, the psalmist says that God did not want burnt offerings. Those who were converted under the Old Covenant understood this fact. Paul quotes this passage in the book of Hebrews. In fact, he quotes Jesus Christ as saying it before He ever came to the earth: "Sacrifice and offering You did not want, You did not desire; otherwise, I would have given it to You. But a body you have prepared for me" (Hebrews 10:5).
One can easily make a ritual out of going to services, tithing, getting rid of the leaven, fasting on the Day of Atonement, or even going to the Feast of Tabernacles if our reasons for doing so are perfunctory, we do not understand, or we disagree with the object lesson that God intends we learn from doing them.
When that lawyer asked Jesus in Matthew 22, which is the great commandment of the law, Jesus said, "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind; and the second is like it." He quoted Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.
What Jesus described is the meaning of a whole burnt offering. The burnt offering of Leviticus 1:1-13 is the offering of an animal, but it pictures the offering of a life lived completely consumed in obedience to living God's way. Nothing will prepare us for the Kingdom of God to be both kings and priests like following, with all of our being, Leviticus 1:1-13 and what that burnt offering means. Jesus did. He lived as a whole burnt offering to God.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing to Be a Priest
The whole law encompasses the entire will of God. To break any part of it is to infringe on that will and therefore become guilty of sin, to become a sinner in principle against each individual law and the intent of the whole law. Even under human justice systems, a person becomes a criminal by breaking just one law.
God's law goes beyond physical infractions of rules. For instance, when He directs us to love our neighbors, He does not ask us to like the way they are. He expects us to give them forbearance, patience, and help when needed. Passing by a beaten man lying in a ditch on the road to Jericho may not be legally wrong, but it is unloving (Luke 10:25-37). Thus, a person doing so is guilty of far greater spiritual sin. He does not love his neighbor as himself.
In Matthew 22:37-39, Christ tells us how we can fulfill His royal law—by keeping the two great commandments:
“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 neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.
If we want to be part of God's glorious Kingdom, we must face our guilt and overcome our sins.
Martin G. Collins
What Must We Do When We Recognize Our Guilt?
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