Follow along with me on a bit of logic, if you will. The apostle John wrote that "God is love" (1 John 4:8).
Jesus Himself said that the greatest of all laws is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind," and to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:37, 38).
When we say that God is love and that His law is based on love, we mean that all relationships between intelligent beings, including our relationship with Him and His relationship with us, should be based on love.
God's Ten Commandments define what these loving relationships should be like for us humans as we relate to Him and each other. But what about God? He's a partner in our loving relationship with Him, so it seems only logical that His relationship with us should also be defined by certain laws. What laws of love does God keep? What are His Ten Commandments?
Our Ten Commandments
Well, you may say, God should keep our Ten Commandments just like we do. That seems logical at first glance, but let's review the Ten Commandments God gave us on Mount Sinai and see which ones He needs to keep.
The first commandment says, "You shall have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:3). This means that we humans should not put anything ahead of our relationship with God. But since God Himself is the only God, it would be impossible for Him to put any other God above Himself. Thus, this commandment is for us humans to keep, not God.
In the second commandment God tells us that we should not make images of wood and stone and worship them (verses 4-6). For the same reason that the first commandment does not apply to God, and the second one doesn't either.
The third commandment says, "You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God" (verse 7), or, as the New King James Version says, "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain." This means that we should not use God's name lightly, such as to express frustration or anger. It seems rather odd to think that God would need to be careful how He spoke of Himself. This also is a law for us humans to follow, not a law for God.
The fourth commandment says, "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy" (verse 8). The Sabbath originated at Creation, and it's one of the Ten Commandments that God does keep. The Bible says, "By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on the rested from all the work of creating that he had done" (Genesis 2:2, 3; emphasis added). And the Sabbath commandment says, "For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day" (Exodus 20:11; emphasis added). God kept the first Sabbath holy by resting from His work of creating, and I believe it's reasonable to say that anytime we humans rest on the seventh day, God joins us in that rest. Thus, I propose that the Sabbath commandment is one commandment that God does keep.
The fifth commandment says, "Honor your father and your mother" (verse 12). God has always existed. He has no father or mother. So this commandment cannot apply to Him.
The sixth commandment says, "You shall not murder" (verse 13). God forbids us to take the life of another human, but God is the Creator of everything, and He has a right to take our lives when He sees best. Thus, the sixth commandment does not apply to Him.
The seventh commandment says, "You shall not commit adultery" (verse 14). God is neither male nor female. While it's true that we always refer to God as "He" and "Him," most Bible students agree that this is better than referring to Him with the gender neutral word "It." He cannot commit adultery. The Bible says that God the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary with her Son Jesus (Luke 1:35), but He did not commit adultery in doing so. The seventh command is for humans to obey, not God.
The eighth commandment says, "You shall not steal" (Exodus 20:15). The Bible says that God is the Owner of everything. "For every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills," wrote the psalmist. "If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it" (Psalm 50:10, 12). Since everything in the world belongs to God in the first place, He does not steal when He takes something from us. This commandment also does not apply to Him.
The ninth commandment says, "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor" (Exodus 20:16). Christians generally understand this to mean that we should not lie. I propose that this is another of our Ten Commandments that God does keep. Paul said that God "does not lie" (Titus 1:2). We can count on God to be perfectly honest with us.
The tenth commandment says, "You shall not covet" (verse 17). To covet means to yearn to possess something that belongs to another person. Just as God cannot steal, since everything belongs to Him in the first place, He also cannot covet, so this law does not apply to Him. God gave the Ten Commandments to instruct us humans how to relate to Him and to one another. With the exception of two of them, they do not apply to God.
God's Ten Commandments
But does this mean that God has no laws by which He governs Himself in His relationship with us? Not at all. I propose that God keeps far more than ten commandments. Every promise in the Bible is a commandment that God keeps in His relationship with us.
You can make up your own list. Here are my ten:
Commandment 1: I will always love you.
Through the prophet Jeremiah, God said, "I have loved you with an everlasting love" (31:3). Jesus told a story about a sheep that wandered from the flock and got lost. But the shepherd went in search of it until he found it (Luke 15:3-7). Similarly, even when we sin against Him, God continues loving us and searching for us.
Commandment 2: I will always be with you.
God promises, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5; Deuteronomy 31:6). And Jesus assured His disciples shortly before He left this earth that "surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:20). However discouraging our circumstances may appear to us, we can be sure that God is with us.
Commandment 3: I will never force you to believe in Me or obey Me.
Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). Writing in Revelation, John said, "The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let him who hears say, 'Come!' Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life" (22:17). God invites us to come to Him, but He will not make us come.
Commandment 4: I will convict you of the wrong things you do.
We can be sure that no one is more anxious for us to enjoy a happy life than God. Unfortunately, we all do things and think in ways that destroy our happiness. We call these actions and attitudes "sin." God promises to make us aware of these things so that we can change the way we live and be happier. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit will "convict the world of guilt in regard to sin" (John 16:8).
Commandment 5: I will always forgive you.
When we repent of our sins and confess them, we can be absolutely certain that God will forgive us. John the apostle wrote, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). We need not hang on to the guilt for our sins one minute beyond the time we ask God to forgive us.
Commandment 6: I will dwell in you.
Before He left this earth, Jesus said, "Remain in me, and I will remain in you" (John 15:4). We need God dwelling in us, because it is only by His power in us that we are able to live His life and to obey His commandments.
Commandment 7: I will give you wisdom to understand My Word.
In one of His final prayers, Jesus said, "Your word is truth" (John 17:17). He also told His disciples that when the Holy Spirit came, He would guide them into all truth (John 16:13). Thus, when you study the Bible with a sincere desire to learn God's truth, He will guide you to understand it.
Commandment 8: I will not keep a record of your sins.
While God does keep a record of our sins (Revelation 20:11—13), He promises to blot out those that we confess to Him. "I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions," Isaiah wrote, "and like a cloud, your sins" (Isaiah 44:22, NKJV). Others may accuse us. Satan may cause us to feel unworthy of God's favor because of our sins. But we need not fear that God will bring up any of our confessed sins in the judgment.
Commandment 9: I will prepare a better place for you to live than your broken planet.
Every time a friend or loved one dies, we long for a better world. Shortly before He returned to heaven, Jesus told His disciples that there were many rooms in His Father's house, and He was going there to prepare a place for them (John 14:2). And Peter said that "in keeping with [God's] promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness" (2 Peter 3:13). In this new world "there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (Revelation 21:4).
Commandment 10: I will come again.
Jesus also promised His disciples that "if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am" (John 14:3). One of the most frequent promises in the New Testament is that of Jesus' second coming. I propose that this is one of God's commandments that He is most anxious to keep.
That's my list of "God's Ten Commandments." And since every one of God's promises in the Bible is a commandment that He pledges to keep in His relationship with us, I suggest you try creating your own list of "God's Ten Commandments."
This article originally appeared in Signs of the Times magazine, September 2011.