We were stopped at a traffic light while driving through Colorado Springs, Colorado. The bumper sticker on the back of the car in front of us asked a simple question. “What would happen if everyone told the truth?” With a laugh, I repeated the question, “What would happen if everyone told the truth?” I turned to my wife and said, “The whole political establishment in Washington, D.C. would collapse instantly!” Our nation and the nations of the world need a huge infusion of basic biblical morality. The standards of this morality come to us in God’s moral law.
But even in Christian circles, we fail to have a proper perspective on the Ten Commandments. The law smacks of legalism. And the Bible tells us that we are not under law but under grace (Romans 6:14). In this article and those that follow, it is my plan to review the Ten Commandments and offer some needed perspective.
Let’s begin with the preface to the Ten Commandments. “Then God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery’” (Exodus 20:1-2). It is clear that God gives the Ten Commandments to the people He redeems. The answer to question 44 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism affirms that this is the case. “The preface to the ten commandments teacheth us, that because God is the Lord, and our God, and Redeemer, therefore we are bound to keep all his commandments.” Because the Lord God redeems us, we ought to keep His commandments.
This answers the criticism raised by way of Romans 6:14. Paul does not contradict the words of Moses in Exodus 20:1-2. There is not a bifurcation between the Old Testament and the New Testament in the assessments of the moral law. There is harmony. Romans 6:14 means that we are not under the law as a means of gaining right-standing with God. Salvation is not by works. Salvation is by grace. Paul actually has a high view of the law. “The Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” (Romans 7:12).
But what of the motive to follow God’s moral law. The motive is love. “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:2-3). The apostle John defines love in terms of the law. We express love for God and for those around us by means of the law. Jesus tells us essentially the same thing. “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). In other words, God is gracious to us in giving us the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments provide you and me the means for showing love to God and toward others.
Think of it in terms of athletics. Football has a rule book and officials. You play the game on a properly marked field with prescribed measurements and goal posts of exact dimensions. To play the game, you must wear prescribed equipment in a given position with explicit duties. You follow all the rules and procedures in order to participate in the game. Without these rules and procedures, there is no game.
The same is true with the Christian life. God’s Ten Commandments amount to the rules of the game. When you follow them from the heart, you reach the goal. You express love.