As we look at the Ten Commandments, we must also consider the New Covenant. God knew that man had weaknesses that would prevent him from being completely faithful to the Ten Commandments in spite of his desire to do so. So, God established a New Covenant that would allow a violation of a commandment to be forgiven and grace restored. Today with man’s laws, forgiveness is less and less available thus some come to see a violation of a man’s laws to be a ‘death sentence’ to one’s future on earth. God’s love for us did not desire such a termination. God wants us to recognize our failures, repent, and have life restored.
God requires all men to obey His revealed will. God in part reveals His will through the laws of nature written upon man’s conscience. How many times have we done something wrong, knowing it was wrong, and did it anyway? It was our conscience trying to warn us. Since man has fallen and is in a sinful state, he cannot always know clearly God’s will. Therefore, God has revealed His specific will in His Word. This is why we must be exposed to His Word frequently in an effort to avoid the pitfalls Satan will arrange.
The moral law is summarized by the Ten Commandments that God delivered to Moses and wrote with His own hand. God also writes His law upon our hearts by His Holy Spirit. He gives us a new nature, one that desires to obey His law. He empowers us with His Spirit to be able to obey. Under the New Covenant belivers willingly and gladly seek to obey His law through the power of His spirit. This is not a human effort by a sometimes-reluctant person only trying to obey for fear of punishment or some misguided effort to bring about our own justification.
Jesus elevates the standard of how we are to live, pushing the precepts into our hearts. (Matthew 5-7). What is harder, to not commit a physical act of adultery or to have no lustful thoughts? To not murder or not get angry? On our own we can never obey this high standard, but God graciously gives us a new nature…one that desires to obey His precepts…as well as empowers us with the Holy Spirit to work in this higher way. Jesus came to fulfill the law. He affirms the moral law of God as useful and necessary.
Christ gave us a new commandment in John 13:34 and John 15:12: We are to love one another as He loved us. This can at times be very difficult to obey; in fact, it is impossible to obey on our own strength. God, through His Son, laid down His life for us while we were still sinners and His enemies. We can obey this higher commandment because we have the Holy Spirit living in us and we have a new nature of obedience. Jesus taught that we will keep His commandments if we love Him. His standard for our moral behavior not only encompasses all the moral law of the Ten Commandments but expands on it. Jesus summarizes the law in Matthew 22:37-40: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it…”You shall love your neighbor as yourself”. The law enables men to see themselves as sinners who live in constant violation of God’s righteous standard, and therefore, reveals to mankind the need for a savior. The law is the blueprint by which we grow in Christian maturity. God’s moral law also serves as a blueprint for society at large. Obedience produces blessings in all areas of life.
I am a ‘student’ of warfare as I do much study into the history of man’s inhumanity to man. While my focus is primarily on aerial warfare, I do also follow the history of land battles. I never cease to be amazed and dismayed at how cruel man can be to fellow man. To see bodies stacked as cord wood or to see men worked until they are just one step above being living skeletons, is such a grieving sight to see. I think of just how wonderful and beautiful this world God gave us could be if only we followed His Ten Commandments and laws…yet we have those who do all they can to trash both. Greed and power seem to be the primary motivation and that motivation comes directly from Satan.
The law is to be upheld in civil society as a restraint against evil action so that men can live together in peace. Civil rulers are to punish evil doers, those who act contrary to God’s moral law. Nowadays it is difficult to distinguish between the civil authorities and the evil doers they are charged to punish. We are to overcome evil with good…evil in the heart of man by good conduct and evil in society by good leaders. That is becoming more and more difficult as some of our leaders are part of the problem rather than being part of the solution.
The law was not given to men that they might be justified by keeping it, but rather they could see their sinful and condemned state and, hence, become aware of the need to be converted to Christ in faith. No man can be justified in the sight of God by obedience to the law, for all fall short and are not capable of obedience. No person can fulfill the righteous requirements of the law; hence, all stand condemned before God. Christ perfectly fulfilled the law and took away its curse, and in so doing He imparts to us through faith His fulfillment of the law. His righteousness and obedience are imputed to us. We are under grace and not under the law. We are not to reject God’s law (Word) for it reveals how we are to live according to God’s righteous standard and not in accordance with sin. We are transformed by renewing our mind using God’s Word as the standard. We are not regenerated to be idle, but rather to seek what is good and useful. We were created in Christ for good works. Good works please God.
God does give a reward for good works; however, we should not ascribe merit to man for obtaining it by his own efforts, but to the Lord who gives it out of His own goodness and generosity, for He Himself has enabled man to be in a position to obey and work. Obedience brings blessings. Disobedience brings the curse. The ‘curse’ is the fruit of man’s disobedience. God’s Law-Word is perfect and brings life to those who obey it; but our nature is so weak and imperfect, even after being reborn, that we can never perfectly fulfill the works of the law. We all sin, even the regenerate. However, with a new nature, our new desire is for obedience and any sin on our part drives us to Christ for repentance and forgiveness. As we grow in Christ, we become more aware of how we are to live and increasingly able to obey. Through Christ, God accepts our imperfect obedience as if it were perfect, for when He looks at us He sees Christ and His fulfillment of obedience to the law. We must remember that God’s law is for all mankind.
God has given man His commandments for our good. They are not to restrict man, but to liberate man…to bring life, blessing, and well-being. Our Founding Fathers understood this. A negative statement of the law ensures liberty for all man…man living in a free society with liberty and responsibility to all fellow citizens. The laws of God, since stated negatively, deal with specific evils and thus limit the government to only punishing those who commit the specific evils. The power of the state is limited. In considering an opposing approach to law, let us consider the Roman approach. This approach was based on the positive concept of the law…the health of the people is the highest law. With this view, the law becomes unlimited because all aspects of life can come under the well-being of man and society. For the good of man and society at large, the government says it needs to control and regulate every area of life of all people, not just evil doers. The result is the loss of liberty. While the laws of God are largely negative, all the Commandments have positive corollaries. There are positive requirements, principles, and rights implied within the negative statements.
Next week we will start to look at the Ten Commandments and see how they played a primary role in developing our Constitution and the foundation for our laws. In the foundation of our nation, God played a major role at the design of our Founding Fathers. Today there are those who would like to weaken or destroy that foundation. This is where God’s churches can play an important role in education of our citizens and especially our youth. If we lose our youth, we lose the future of our nation.
“Not one injustice, not one humiliation, not one act of pain or torture will ever be forgotten. He will bring affliction to those who afflict, and rest and relief to those who are afflicted.” Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians