One of the great tragedies of our day is a church without a conscience, a church more concerned with political correctness than biblical correctness. Instead of the church being the conscience of our culture, the church begins to reflect the less than civilized contours of our culture. In part, this stems from a low view of moral law, God’s moral law as summarized in the Ten Commandments.
Over the past decades, some churches and denominations have used Romans 6:14 to teach a false dichotomy between law and grace. “You are not under law but under grace.” They take Romans 6:14 out of context. Paul is not setting aside the moral law as a guide for righteous living. Paul is charging us not to depend upon the works of the law to gain right standing before God. We must not become Pharisees. We must also not become antinomian; we must not set aside the law. In speaking about justification, right standing with God, Paul asks, “Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law” (Romans 3:31). When the church fails to place a high priority upon the moral law, individual Christians do the same. Society suffers.
We see an example of this in an interesting book review by Paul Rahe, chair of the history department at the University of Tulsa, in the April 11, 1996 issue of the Wall Street Journal, page A18. The book reviewed is by Harvard professor Michael Sandel and called Democracy’s Discontent: America in Search of a Public Philosophy. “In the first part of his book, he [Sandel] documents a systematic attempt on the part of our courts and legislatures to banish moral concerns from the public arena, to render the state resolutely neutral with regard to all questions concerning the manner in which we conduct our lives, and to substitute procedure for public deliberation.”
The church is not only in similar danger, she has too often led the way into the amoral jungles of the public square. We can see evidence of this in our own circles when we contemplate part of our Covenant of Church Membership. “In case you need correction in doctrine or life do you promise to respect the authority and discipline of the church?” Do you? When push comes to shove, in too many cases, church members tell elders to get out of their lives. “It’s none of your business,” they say. Too bad. Christian character and Christian conduct do go together. We see this most clearly when we look at the Ten Commandments. We dare not not look at them and live by them.
Here is another quotable quote from the aforementioned review. “Not long ago, Mr. Sandel reminds us, a man could hire and fire at will, but he could only divorce for cause.” Today, the divorce rate within the church is little different than that found in the world. Do we take the Seventh Commandment, “You shall not commit adultery,” seriously? Do we sanctify marriage the way we should within the Reformed Presbyterian Church? Christian marriages should portray to a hurting world the love Christ has for His church. A better understanding of God’s law in this area would pay huge dividends within the church and within the world.
Learn and Live is the banner over this column. Learn and Live can be the banner over our lives as we learn more about God’s law and live by it. Next time we’ll see how the living by the Ten Commandments really is a life of love.