Last week at Bob Jones University, we finished our semester series on the Ten Commandments entitled, “Oh How I Love Your Law! God’s Laws for True Life.”
Why a series on the Ten Commandments to people with great familiarity with the Bible? Everyone knows about the Ten Commandments, but most people do not really know the commands themselves. Even many born-again believers do not fully understand them or live in ways that adequately reflect them.
But once we understand the Ten, what are we supposed to do with them? How should they shape and impact our lives on the other side of the Cross? What practical value do these ancient Biblical laws have for believers living in a time and place far removed from that of the ancient Israelites?
What is a Bible-believing, church-attending Christian to make of the Ten Commandments? Are they just impossible standards to set aside and live how we please?
Alistair Begg in his helpful work on the Ten Commandments observed that most Christian people have an “uninformed affirmation” of the Ten Commandments.
“They know they should be part of our public life and are offended when they are removed from our schools and public buildings. They also realize they should play a part in our personal lives . . . but they are not quite sure what that ‘part’ looks like. No murder and no adultery seem clear enough. But how and where do the other commands fit?”¹
Here’s three considerations toward answering that question.
The Purpose of the Law
The purpose of the law is ultimately to reveal God to us.
As humans we are very adept at defining God on our own terms and making Him in our own image. But the Law reveals who God truly is, what He truly considers right and wrong, and how we stand before Him. It reveals life as God designed it—the conduct that brings true happiness.
Humanity has set aside these laws and brought about immense global conflict, strife and death. Now we stand condemned by this Law before God—every motive and action exposed, rendered culpable and guilty, and under the just sentence of condemnation. We are desperately helpless and completely hopeless.
But it is this revelation of who God is and how wicked we are that serves as a backdrop for the glorious Gospel of Christ. The Law shows us that humanity does not have the answers. The Law shows us that we are so broken only God can restore us. It shows us that we can never measure up on our own. It’s designed to drive me to Christ.
The Function of the Law
For believers, who have come to recognize their own sin and inadequacy and have cast themselves on Christ and His merits alone, the Law does not simply become irrelevant but actually takes on a very important function. These Ten Commandments, from the beginning, were intended to instill awe and reverence that leads to obedience—and they continue to provide instruction on how to live holy lives.
“And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.” — Exodus 20:20
“Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy.” — Leviticus 19:2
What an incredible idea! The thought that God would dwell with people like us is amazing, and that dwelling comes with a transforming effect. God wants us to learn to be like Him! To live as He lives. To love as He loves.
I understand that I am to love God and be like Him—but I need some help understanding what that looks like on a Monday morning or a Friday afternoon at five. I need some help understanding how to flesh out the Greatest Command in daily life. And that is one of the functions of the Ten Commandments.
Commandments 1–4 teach me what loving God supremely looks like, commandments 5–9 teach me what loving others selflessly looks like and the last commandment teaches me how to find full satisfaction in the Giver of all good gifts.
These Ten, all alone, cannot do this for me—but with the transforming power of Christ, the enabling of the Holy Spirit, and the powerful motivation that comes from gratitude for the Gospel, these commandments become for me guides to better understanding how God would have me to live a holy life of love for Him and for others.
Our Relationship to the Law
The Law is still a very good thing if we use it correctly.
“But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully.” — 1 Timothy 1:8
So how can I use it correctly?
Puritan preacher Thomas Watson said,
“Though a Christian is not under the condemning power of the law, yet he is under its commanding power.”
This means a Christian’s relationship to the Law has changed. It is no longer my judge, and it no longer condemns me (Rom. 8:1). I have been released from its penalty, and it is no longer my executioner (Rom. 3:21-24).
The Law is now my guide! The Law does not save me. Christ does all of that through His Cross and by His Word. But the Law does reveal what a sanctified believer should love and how he should live. And we now have a new power to keep this Law (Phil. 2:13).
So how should we feel about this Law? We should exclaim with the Psalmist, “Oh how I love thy law—it is my meditation all the day” (Ps. 119:97). Each day, we can pray, “Open thou mine eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of thy Law” (Ps. 119:18). And we can make this amazing commitment: “So shall I keep thy law continually for ever and ever” (Ps. 119:44).
And far from feeling under the bondage of the Law, we will be able to exclaim with the Psalmist who really understood God’s heart in giving the Ten: “I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts” (Ps. 119:45).
If you have a heart to go beyond “uninformed affirmation” and dig in deeper to the Ten Commandments, let me encourage you to check out our chapel series as an introduction to what I trust will be for you a lifetime of loving and appreciating God’s revelation of Himself to us in the Ten Commandments!
¹ Allistair Begg, Pathway to Freedom: How God’s Laws Guide Our Lives