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An Introduction to the Ten Commandments

The Law of God has fallen into disrepute.  Not only is there no appreciation for the moral law in the world but, also in the church, there is more and more a de-emphasis of the Decalogue.  Often a few words of summary are sufficient and the details of the Law of God are given no attention.  In many circles the Law of God is no longer “strictly preached” as God would have it!

There has always been opposition to the Law of God.  This need not surprise us.  The “flesh” militates against the spirit and would like nothing better than a complete abolition of the Law.  By nature we do not cherish gazing into the mirror of the Law of God!  We hate to have our sinful nature called to our attention.  We dislike the reading and preaching of the law stepping on our toes.  There is sometimes even a tendency to minimize the law of God in the very pious way of antinomianism.  We say to ourselves, “We are justified in the blood of Christ.  He has fulfilled the law for us.  We need not bother ourselves any longer with the commandments of God or at least we should not be so worried about keeping them!”  All this is very wrong.  It is a reprehensible attitude over against the Giver of the Law.  The Law of God is to be taken very serious.  It is a matter of our daily devotion.  It is the controlling principle of a sanctified life.

A proper understanding of the Law of God illustrates this.  Often the objection is heard, “But the Law belongs to the old dispensation.  It was for Israel!  We live in the liberty of our Lord Who fulfilled the Law!”  True enough.  But does that cancel out the Law of God?  Does that mean that it is of no use to us?  Must we discard it?  Definitely not!  Most emphatically our Lord taught us different.  He is the fulfillment of the whole of the old dispensation.  He is the end of the types and shadows for they all pointed in one way or another to Him.  So Israel was placed under the “schoolmaster” of the law.  It led them to Christ!  He is the end of the law as well.  He has fulfilled it.  This simply means that we are justified in Him.  As Paul tells us in Romans 8, “…For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh (i.e. we in our flesh could never keep it), God sending His Son…condemned in the flesh:” But Christ makes it plain to us, that though He made full the demand of the law for us, it is not for us abolished!  He said, “I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.”  We stand in that liberty of the fulfilled law.

But that is not license!  This does not mean that we may willingly disregard the Law of God.  Not at all.  It has simply placed the law out of the camp of bondage and into the camp of thankfulness.  That is why you find a discussion and exposition of the Law of God in the 3rd part of the Heidelberg Catechism.  Being justified in Jesus Christ, we have been raised unto spiritual life.  We now desire to live unto God!  Our only concern in life is His glory.  And, the standard of such a sanctified living is the Law of God!  It is the only rule of faith and life.  The Law of God is the rule for the new man in Christ who desires to love God with all his heart, mind, soul and strength.

But you say, “That is a positive desire; who needs the thou-shalt-nots?”  We do!  For that new beginning of the resurrection life, which we have in Christ, is but a small beginning.  It is a principle beginning.  It is a principle beginning which must work itself out in the body of this flesh.  And the flesh strives against the spirit.  Although we are dead to sin, sin is not dead in us.  As we struggle against the ever present flesh, we are thankful for the constant reminding, admonition and the encouragement of God’s Law.  We love to hear it as we gather in that oasis of congregational worship to gather strength and to be encouraged in the battle of faith for the week that lies ahead.  The words of Psalter 322 express it well:

“How shall the young direct their way?

What light shall be their perfect guide?

Thy word, O Lord, will safely lead,

If in its wisdom they confide.

Upon thy precepts and thy ways

My heart will meditate with awe;

Thy word shall be my chief delight,

And I will not forget thy Law.”