The Ten Commandments
In Psalm 19:7-11, David underlines the importance and splendour of God’s law; it is a thing of rare perfection and beauty as it reflects the majesty and beauty of God. The law brings many benefits to those who follow them. At the very heart of the law of God stands the Ten Commandments.
The opening two verses of Exodus 20 set the context for the giving of those Ten Commandments. At the very beginning of the chapter the authority and power of the law is revealed; the Ten Commandments are given directly by God. God spoke. God Himself inscribes the Ten Commandments on two tablets of stone given to Moses. God did not speak through an intermediary. Deuteronomy 5:22. God spoke and then wrote them on two stone tablets. God directly gave the law, thus giving them the authority of God’s sovereignty. They carry the full weight of divine power. Each and every Command bears the mark of divine power. The Commands of God have been given and need full obedience.
Some suggest the commands were only meant for Moses’ day and are not applicable in our modern Western world, but they are permanent, for all mankind. God literally set them in stone. They are fundamental, even today. God did not give us ten suggestions but Ten Commandments. We must not to treat them as optional. Our Creator has enforced them. We ignore them at our peril! They demand full compliance, total obedience. Any failure is a rejection of not just the Law but of God Himself. We cannot have a relationship with God and refuse to obey His commands. We cannot pick and choose between the Commandments, accepting some and rejecting others. The Ten Commandments are a single unit, each as binding as the others. We are bound by them all.
God spoke these Commandments. Why? Did God really expect people to keep these Commandments without transgressing them? God knows, by nature, we are sinful, disobedient; it’s our natural inclination of our hearts. Exodus 20:20 causes men to think and restrain themselves from doing evil in His sight. His purpose is to reveal the holy standard of perfection which God demands from man, which he cannot reach. In Galatians 3 Paul tells us how the law was given to highlight man’s sinfulness; there is no hope of earning Salvation. Paul adds that since the promised Saviour has now come, the law continues to act as a teacher (Galatians 3:24).
God’s purpose in speaking the Ten Commandments is both to encourage men to do right, but more importantly, that they are incapable of meeting the standards and need Jesus Christ. Whenever we come before the Ten Commandments we must be convicted that we have broken every single one in thought, if not in action. For example, the seed of animosity and hatred that leads to murder is in my heart and yours. The Law looms over us as a great obstacle in reaching God. The Law convicts us of our sin. It reveals to us that in God’s sight we are rebellious and we are, therefore, cut off from God – under God’s curse of judgement. But then, at this low point, the gospel comes and points us to Christ and His death on the cross.
Christ offered Himself as the sacrifice for our sin, bearing in His body the wrath of God against us. (Galatians 3:13). His precious blood poured out as the sacrifice for our sin. For my sin He suffered so. Here is the hope of salvation. The Law exposes all of our pretentious belief that we might be good enough. The Law reveals that we are without hope, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The gospel comes. Through His perfect life and sacrificial death, the purity of His life is credited to us. He accepts the responsibility of your sin and mine. We are clothed in His righteousness. He pays the penalty of our breaking the Law. He demolishes the obstacle of the Law, separating us from God. The curtain that separated the Holy of Holies split into two, the very way into the presence of God is now open to all who trust in Christ for forgiveness of sins.
We’ve been saved, freed from the curse of the law. But we’ve not been freed from the law in our daily lives. ‘Do not think that I came to destroy the Law of the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfil’ (Matthew 5:17). Christ did not come to make the Law unnecessary but to change people’s relationship to God.
Before being a Christian, the Law is a great barrier to approaching God. But when someone becomes a Christian, by God’s grace, the same law becomes an internal standard of holiness. The believer delights in endeavouring to keep the Law. The Law becomes a thing of delight to our souls because now our desire is to please God, God who created us but God who is also our Saviour (Jeremiah 31:33). There is a change of relationship; the Law is no longer a threatening force that condemns but an external delight that we might know Him. The keeping of the Law is to our benefit.
The Jewish order of the commandments includes Exodus 20:1-2 as the first commandment, seeing it as integral. Here is the God who, in His loving mercy, brought the Jews out of slavery. He is now instructing them how they should live so that it might go well with them (Deuteronomy 6:1-3). When a person becomes a Christian, the Law becomes a delight and a source of blessing. God has changed us and so it remains important to us to obey the Ten Commandments – not as a means of gaining or strengthening salvation – rather as the duty of love that we delight to do, as the expression of our thanksgiving for His grace.
It’s to our spiritual and physical good that we endeavour to keep the Law. We are greatly blessed in knowing that the Lord is pleased when we keep His Law. He is the God who is faithful. We can no longer be condemned by the Law, it can no longer put us in that place where we are objects of God’s wrath. But the breaking of the Law brings consequences. To be disobedient to God always has consequences. There are always sorrows and sadness when people break God’s Laws. Christians are not immune to that. Our walk with the Lord will be disturbed if we break the Commands. We will not lose our salvation but we can lose the joy of our salvation. If we show a disregard for God, the sacrifice of Christ, as if it has no great value, if we persist in sinful disobedience, we will still break the commands because there is no perfection in our lives. That’s why we continue to rely on God’s atoning sacrifice. But now that we are citizens of God, it’s become our delight to keep it as we are no longer under its terrifying condemnation. The Law is given to us to keep as we desire to please Him and as we delight in knowing His good pleasure in us. The Law will also destroy all hope in men earning their own salvation. We need to rely on the sacrifice of Christ at Calvary.
God has used the Law in your life and mine to point us to the cross. In Christ alone my hope is found. He alone is my Saviour and in Him I have eternal life.