When discussing theology, I've come to realize that not only is personal study of doctrine a necessary component to faith, but it is something that shouldn't be kept to oneself. I want to share my journey, both past and ongoing, into the realm of theology. Through this, I hope that you will gain insight into the Christian faith as a whole. Before reading anything else, I suggest you read the introduction and definitions (found in the pages tabs above) so you may better understand where I am coming from in everything I write. Because many of my posts are on heresies, there is also a page above with a family tree of heresies and links to all the posts I have so far on the topic.

01 September, 2013

Adult Confirmation: Ten Commandments--First Table

Tonight we had a brief review of Law and Gospel, an overview of the Ten Commandments, and talked a little more in-depth about the first table of the Law (see below for a definition of that).  Here are my notes.

Law and Gospel (review)

See my notes from last week's class for more on Law and Gospel.

Briefly, the Law condemns, and the Gospel brings salvation.

There are three uses of the Law:

  1. Curb (for all people)
  2. Mirror (the primary purpose of the Law, for all people)
  3. Guide or Rule (exclusive to Christians)
The Holy Ghost drives us in different directions based on Law and Gospel, but always towards the same place.
Forgiveness of sins is meaningless without a knowledge of sin.

Ten Commandments Overview

There are two tables to the Ten Commandments:

The First Table is God's table, or how we relate to God, and is the first three commandments.
The Second Table is our neighbor's table, or how we interact with our neighbor, and is the last seven commandments.

Note: Lutherans and Catholics number our commandments a little differently than protestantism.  This is because when God gave the commandments, He didn't number them, just said there were 10, and as Pastor pointed out last week, there really should be 9 or 11 "logically", so we make them work as 10 as best we can.  Protestantism separates our first commandment into two, and combines our ninth and tenth into one.  I'll say what each commandment is when I talk about it to hopefully help avoid confusion.  I don't know if there is a right or wrong way to number then, this is just how we do it.

The First Table drives us vertically in faith towards God; the Second Table drives us horizontally in love towards our neighbor.

If you were to boil down the Ten Commandments even further from the two tables, they can be summarized in one word: love.

Love is a very deadly word.  Love ensures that we know we have never fulfilled the Law.  Remember, the Law always accuses.

The Ten Commandments are institutions that establish order in this world.  The commandments protect what God institutes.  The commandments are less of a "leash" (to yank us back when we sin), and more of a fence (to protect God's institutions).  In each commandment, God gives us these gifts:
  • God Himself (in the first commandment, "Thou shalt have no other gods," God take everything else away from us and gives us the gift of Himself)
  • His Name (in the second commandment, "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain," God gives us the gifts of prayer, worship, and right doctrine)
  • Holiness (in the third commandment, "Thou shalt sanctify the holy-day," God gives us the gift of His Word and the Church)
  • Authority (in the fourth commandment, "Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother [that it may be well with thee and thou mayest live long upon the earth]," God gives us the gift of family and the state)
  • Life (in the fifth commandment, "Thou shalt not murder," God gives us the gift of life)
  • Marriage (in the sixth commandment, "Thou shalt not commit adultery," God gives us the gifts of marriage and sex)
  • Property (in the seventh commandment, "Thou shalt not steal," God gives us the gifts of money, labor, and possessions)
  • Honor (in the eighth commandment, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor," God gives us the gifts of reputation and our good name)
  • Contentment (in the ninth and tenth commandments, "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house," and "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his cattle, nor anything that is his," God gives us the gift of contentment)

First Table

Below are specific notes on each commandment from the first table.  The questions are diagnostic questions to help self-examine when reflecting on the commandments.

First Commandment: There is no fear left.  God, who can destroy our body and soul, won't because He destroyed his Son instead of us.
  • Primary: Of what am I afraid?  What do I fear?
  • Secondary: In what do I trust?  What do I love?
Second Commandment: God is trusting us to rightly use His name, not to hide it away.  Jews, for fear of misusing God's name, wouldn't use it, however, we are sinning when we don't use His name rightly--which also means when we don't use it at all.  When praying, you ask (because that is who He is) and give thanks (for what He gives).
  • Primary: How are my prayers?
Third Commandment: The way something is made holy is by having God's name put on it.  Holy means to be set apart.  Holiness isn't a form of morality.
  • Primary: What is my attitude towards worship?

The Importance of Doctrine

The second and third commandments in particular warn against false doctrine.  Dr. Luther said that all false doctrines strike at Christ.  We misuse the name of God when we teach something false in His name.  We do not worship God when we teach false doctrine in our churches or use it in worship.  That is why right doctrine is so important.  The one of the most loving things we can do for our neighbor is insist on sound doctrine.  Other forms of prevalent false worship today are:
  • Unionism: joining in worship with other denominations who teach incorrect doctrine
  • Syncretism: worshiping with those of other religions, giving the impression that "all paths lead to God"
That is why, as Lutherans, we practice closed communion, because we cannot partake of a table where false doctrine is the confession.  We also do not allow those we know do not confess as we do to commune with us.  This is a loving, not mean, thing.  It protects the Pastor (who is accountable for those he communes), the congregation (who then would partake in a unified confession of false doctrine), and you (who may potentially eat the Body and drink the Blood to your damnation, as 1 Corthinians 15 says).

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