Part One of Two Parts:
We have heard a lot in the news over the last several years about the Ten Commandments and whether they should be allowed in state and federal buildings and offices within the United States. Many foreign countries, allies and non-allies alike have watched with interest to see the outcome of this latest episode in America’s religious history.
It has spawned the question in many minds, especially in those of the Christian faith as to the relevance that they play in today’s lifestyles. As Christians we enjoy the mercies of our Mighty God based on His grace bestowed to us. So, with that in mind, why would this summary of the Law, really hold any sway to us?
It is a very good question and one that I believe Christians should take to heart. It helps to study the importance of these commandments in the history of scripture. God did not inspire anything in the Scriptures that were not of importance. Our Bible, is a road map. A road map that lays out the lifestyle of any who would call God, Father and who would follow Him as Lord. It is also a “blueprint” as it were of God’s character and nature; given to man so that we could have an understanding AND renewed relationship with Him as Father.
You can read the giving of the Ten Commandments in Exodus chapter 20 through to chapter 34. If you read this account you will see that God first spoke the commandments to the people, but as the people were fearful of His speaking they asked Moses to receive the commandments. Moses was given the commandments on two tablets of stone, written by the finger of God. Before Moses even made it back down the mountain, the people had already sinned against what God had spoken to them earlier.
In Moses’ wrath, he broke the tablets God had given to him. Moses had to appease God’s wrath and once that happened, the Lord accepted Moses’ appeal and called him back up the mountain of Sinai. This time God told Moses to cut out the stone tablets himself like the ones he broke and then God again would write upon the tablets, the historic Ten Commandments.
For many generations the two tablets of stone were carried in the Ark of the Covenant from place to place until God allowed the children of Israel to build a temple dedicated to Him. So, what exactly were the Ten Commandments to the children of Israel? Along with the other statutes and laws that accompanied the Ten Commandments, it separated the Father’s children from the rest of the world. It was a covenant with His children, that if they would obey and follow His ordinances, He would always go before them, protecting them and preparing the ways before them.
Over the centuries since they were given, man has looked to the Ten Commandments as a guideline for the conscience; a guide to determine his moral uprightness. Within the last couple of centuries it has been the yardstick, so to speak, of separating the heathen from the so-called civilized man. However, they were more of a telling point into the character of man. God knew man could never keep them all, so they were to show man, his utter need for God Almighty.
Have you ever wondered why it is so ingrained into our psyche, why it is so recognizable to almost anyone? Romans 2:11-16, “For there is no partiality with God. For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law; and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; for not the hearers of the Law are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.”
What Paul was telling us in these scriptures is that man is going to be without excuse when we stand before Jesus Christ, because even if we were not given the Law, we have it written upon our hearts and by following or not following that which our conscience dictates, that will determine our judgment. No man will be without excuse. So, what then is the advantage of the Ten Commandments? Paul goes on to say in Romans 3:19-20, “Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.”
Paul is stating that whoever is under the Law, remember, that means the hearers and doers as well as those who obey it in their hearts, will be accountable to God and NO ONE will be justified in His sight because the Law brings us the knowledge of our sinfulness and the knowledge that we could never fulfill the Law to the point of being justified before God. The Law or the Commandments, whether written on stone or written on our hearts could only show us the hopelessness of trying to obey them. The problem is this; if we break even one commandment, then we’ve broken the whole. It was always an either do or die situation and NO ONE is good enough, no one can accomplish that, Romans 3:10-12.
Galatians 3:10 states, “For as many as are of the works of the Law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in ALL things which are written in the book of the Law, to do them.” (emphasis mine).
Okay, we have an understanding of the Ten Commandments and its impact on man. It was given to show us our sin and our inability to reach God by means of our doing good. It shows us that there is no way that we can do everything written in the commandments. So then why all the fuss over the Ten Commandments, especially for Christians today?
Well, first you can view the Ten Commandments as a tool that the Lord uses. The reason He gave it so many centuries ago hasn’t changed. Human nature has not changed since the time of creation. As the Apostle John writes, man still suffers from the “lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life,” 1 John 2:16. Even a “good man” suffers and stumbles in one of these areas. We were born into sin because of Adam. There is no escape from it. The only hope we have is in God’s Son, Jesus Christ.
The Commandments, to those of us who have accepted the sacrifice of Christ, are still a sign from where we came from. They should remind us of the inability we had to have a relationship with the Father outside of His Son. Also, the Commandments are a guide as to what CAN be accomplished through faith in our Christ with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We need to remember, that Jesus did not come to do away with the Commandments, but rather to fulfill them.
Paul states in Galatians 3:24, “Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” The Commandments were our teacher. It showed us our dire need for Christ. Because human nature hasn’t changed, it still needs to teach others that there is no way they can come to the Father, outside of Christ. The tool it was meant to be for us, is meant to serve its purpose for those who still don’t believe, that they truly need salvation. It will remain that tool for that purpose until the last person who’s going to, gives their life to Christ.
“But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, . . .” 1 Timothy 1:8-9.
Jesus Christ Himself stated this in Matthew 5:17-18, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” That fulfillment came to pass in Him, for He was the only One who was ever Good, who was able to fulfill every “jot and tittle.”
Will conclude next time in Part Two.