The Apostles’ Creed has long stood as a summary of Christian belief, highlighting some essential truths that all Christians should know and ponder. Throughout the history of the church, the Ten Commandments had a similar function, serving as a summary of Christian behavior. Catechisms in various denominational traditions have walked through the Ten Commandments, exploring how they do not simply give statements about what not to do but have accompanying positive exhortations that reflect conditions of the heart. Thus, it seems fitting after having explored the Apostles’ Creed this summer at Faith Church, for the blog to examine the Ten Commandments. To prepare for reflections on each commandment in the coming weeks, I wanted to remind us of why these commandments remain relevant for Christians. I have invited Bob Van Baren, an elder at Faith Church’s Dyer Campus who has served in various ministry capacities over the years, to share some of his reflections on the modern relevance of the Ten Commandments and how we should view and use them in our lives in this guest post.
Do the Ten Commandments still matter in the 21st century? Sometimes Christians do not know what to do with the Old Testament in general, and I hope this series begins to answer some of your questions about the Ten Commandments and their place in our lives as followers of Jesus. As I reflected on them, I came up with five truths that point to why they should still matter to us. This list of five is not an exhaustive list, because books could be written about this topic, but it is meant to give you some core thoughts on the importance of the Ten Commandments and their relevance today.
First, the Ten Commandments reveal the character of the Triune God. All the commandments reflect the character of the Trinity. I think we can best understand this as we look at the life of Jesus, who was fully God and fully man. I appreciate what David Prince says in his blog, “Apart from Jesus we cannot have a right understanding of the law of God or its summary in the Ten Commandments. The ethics of the commandments reflect the character of God. This triune God reveals himself most decisively in His son, Jesus Christ. The moral vision of the Ten Commandments plays a central role in both Old and New Testament ethics.” When you read and reflect on the Ten Commandments, do it with Jesus in mind because the Law reflects Jesus and how He perfectly lived it. When you do this, you will also be reminded of how we fall short in obeying these commands and our need for the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
Second, the Ten Commandments help our established relationship with God, but it does not establish our relationship with Him. That was a mouth full, and you should read that sentence again because it is an especially important theological point. When the Ten Commandments were given to the people of Israel, they were already in a covenantal relationship with God. They were not given the Law as a requirement to be in relationship with God, but to teach His people how they should live in relation to God. That is what the first four commandments are all about. A man and woman get married because of love, not because of the rules of marriage, but it is the love they have for each other that motivates them to follow the boundaries of marriage. It is the same with our relationship with God. The Commandments show us what hurts God and what pleases Him in our relationship with Him.
Third, the Ten Commandments teach us how to live in community with other people. I often hear that we need to just love people, but how do we love people? Six of the Commandments are solely focused on how to treat all people. How do we love our parents? Honor them! Can we love our neighbors if we murder them, have an affair with their spouse, steal from them, and spread lies about them? Loving others is about caring for them as God would. We see this lived out in the gospels through the way Jesus treated people as he perfectly obeyed the commandments. In fact, Jesus was so passionate about how we treat people that he expanded on these commands during the Sermon on the Mount. He said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment” (Matthew 5:21-22) and “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27). Loving our neighbor includes not only our actions, but also how we treat them in our thoughts!
Fourth, the Ten Commandments show us that God knows what is best for our life. People often look at God’s commands as a burden and that God is somehow the fun killer. One of Satan’s strategies is to try to convince you that God’s commands are unfair, misleading, outdated, and to persuade you that you know better than God on what is best. Satan wants you to focus on when God says “No” to distract from the many times He says “Yes.” Look at Genesis 3:1-5 and you can see Satan’s strategy towards humans relating to God’s commands (and Adam and Eve only had one command to follow).
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You[a] shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
I believe Satan uses the same tactics today regarding the Ten Commandments. Our response to the Ten Commandments matters because it shows whether or not we trust God. Do you believe God knows what is best for you? In that moment in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve responded “No” to that question. We all know how that ended for them and us. Is it much different than now? Let us use the seventh Commandment as an example. It states, “You shall not commit adultery.” Many know of countless lives, in the church and out of the church, that have been ruined by the disobedience of this command. It is a sin that has impacted generations of people. I have not met one whose life has been made better by breaking this command.
Fifth, the Ten Commandments were fulfilled by Jesus, not abolished by him. Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17).” For this point, I appreciate the explanation from Ligonier Ministries that says, “Jesus is saying that He achieves the purpose of the Law and the Prophets in the inauguration of the kingdom in His life and ministry and in its consummation at His return. The Law is valid under the new covenant when used ‘lawfully’ (1 Timothy 1:8), but it cannot be followed rightly apart from Christ.” The Ten Commandments have even more meaning and are used properly when we look at them through the lenses of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Life Destroyed or Life Abundant? I hope these five points give you a fresh perspective of the Ten Commandments and give you a better understanding of their modern relevance as we go through each one individually during this blog series. While you reflect on these Commandments, remember what it says in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Satan wants the Ten Commandments to become irrelevant because he wants the worst for you. As mentioned above, he uses the same strategy today as he used in the Garden of Eden — to try to convince you that God’s commands are a burden and that only we can know what is best for our lives. Do not believe this lie, because our God wants us to have life to the fullest. Do you believe that? If so, then the Ten Commandments are still relevant in our life today.
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