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Defending the Ten Commandments

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What do you think of the Ten Commandments? Obviously, you’ve heard of them, for who hasn’t? But my question is (using the words of Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly),

What Say You?

Popular preachers are sending mixed messages. Some loudly proclaim from pulpits, “Society is sinking in sin and must return to God’s law!” Yet many of these same preachers, when pressed about their own personal duty to obey the Big Ten, quickly retort, “We’re not under law, but under grace. The Ten Commandments were written for Jews, not Christians!”

What is the truth?

For starters, let’s go back 3400 years. Israel had just been rescued from Egyptian slavery and was camped at the base of Mount Sinai. Looking up, over a million Israelite eyes beheld “thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud…Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly” (Ex. 19:16, 18).

If we were at the foot of Mount Sinai on that awesome day, we would be shaking in your boots-like everyone else. Why all the fireworks? Why the overwhelming manifestations of divine power? Why thunder, lightning, trumpet, smoke, and earthquake? The reason is simple. The great day had arrived for God Almighty to proclaim the Ten Commandments (read Exodus 20:1-17). Yes, they were Israelites – not Christians – gathered at the foot of Mount Sinai; but consider these solemn facts:

  1. Neither the words “Jew” or “Israelite” are found anywhere in the Ten Commandments.
  2. The second commandment states that obedience to this law applies to “thousands” of generations (Ex. 20:5,6).
  3. The Ten Commandments are unique above every other biblical law, command, demand or ritual because they alone were “written with the finger of God” (Ex. 31:18).
  4. God wrote His Ten Commandments on solid rock (see Ex. 31:18), which means they are permanent and apply to all generations, including ours.

What about the New Testament? Does it present the Big Ten as still being in force today, or not? What saith the Lord? Here’s the answer:

Paul wrote: “I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet'” (Romans 7:7). Paul was quoting the tenth commandment.

Again, Paul wrote: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise: ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth'”(Ephesians 6:1-3). Paul was quoting the fifth commandment.

James wrote: “For He who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty” (James 2:11,12). James was quoting the sixth and seventh commandments.

Jesus Christ Himself taught, “It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail. Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery” (Luke 16:17,18). Jesus was quoting the seventh commandment, and He stated that “it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one title of [this] law to fail.”

If we’re honest, that should settle it. Based on these plain Bible verses, this message is clear: the Ten Commandments still exist, even in New Testament times.

Wait a minute! you may be thinking. What about all the New Testament texts about not being saved by the law? Good question. It’s certainly true that Paul is equally clear that Christians are not “justified by law” (Galatians 5:4), or saved by “the deeds of the law” (Romans 3:28), or “under the law” (Romans 6:14) and that “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4). Indeed, these verses are true too, and I believe them. The question is: how do we fit those pro-law and not-saved-by-the-law texts together?

There is a biblical way. Here it is:

The Ten Commandments were not given by God Almighty to save or justify any sinner, but rather to show sinners their sins and their need of a Savior. The very same verse in the book of Romans that says, “by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight,” also says, “for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20). Do you see it? When we look at the Big Ten we discover our sins and our need for Jesus Christ.

When we “repent” (Luke 13:3) of our sins and have “faith” (Acts 20:21) in Jesus Christ, He will “forgive” (1 John 1:9) us and impart to our hearts “the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Then as repentant, forgiven, born again, grateful new believers saved by grace we should then determine to keep the law we had previously broken because we love Jesus (John 14:15). After all, it was our very sins of breaking the law that caused the death of Jesus in the first place (compare 1 John 3:4 with 1 Cor. 15:3). Should we then chose to continue in them?

Paul’s answer is, “God forbid!” (Romans 6:15)

The book of Revelation predicts that God will have a final apocalyptic people right before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ who, being fully saved by grace, keep the Ten Commandments in the midst of a world gone mad. Notice carefully:

And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ (Revelation 12:17).

Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus… Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle (Revelation 14:12).

On October 13, 2010, over one billion people transfixed to their TV sets watched breathlessly as 33 Chilean miners who had been trapped for 69 days beneath 2,000 feet of rock were finally lifted out of darkness into sunlight and the tearful embraces of family members. Their rescue ended “the longest underground entrapment in human history.”

Dear reader, don’t be trapped by dark ideas about the Ten Commandments. God’s Holy Law still exists, just as He originally wrote it on solid rock nearly 3400 years ago. Jesus Christ is our Light (see John 8:12), and He plainly taught, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15).

Who will defend the Ten Commandments today?

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