Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5
How do we understand God’s Law or his commandments? Over the past few months we have taken time to review the first three of the Ten Commandments which focus on our relationship with God. Before we move on to a review of the second table of the law that guides our relationships with our neighbors, we will look at God’s Commandments in general and what they mean for us.
In our minds the Ten Commandments sound like commands, “You shall...” or “You shall not…” but according to the rules of grammar they are not commands in the Hebrew or in English. In English if we were to give a proper command we would say “Have no other Gods” or “Do not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” These, properly speaking, would be commands. While it is important to understand the Ten Commandments in light of what God directs us to do they are not specifically written as commands so much as they are just statements about how His people act. We could almost picture it as though God is defining who we are. My children have no other gods or My children don’t take the name of the Lord their God in vain.
This does not mean that we are to assume that we can fulfill them. Just because God describes His children in such ways, does not mean that we have the ability to carry out His description of us. We even end up making false gods when we think that we can live up to these requirements. Anyone who tries to take comfort in his supposed fulfillment of the Law is simply calling God a liar. God said, “there is no one who does good, no not one” (Ps 53:1).
So what then is the purpose of the commandments? They are to show us our sin, tell us how we are to be, and what we are to do and not to do. They must show us our sin first, before we know we need a Savior. Without the knowledge of the written Law, we simply do not perceive our need for a Savior. But through God’s revealed law…we must come to the conclusion that we cannot fulfill them and are therefore guilty before God.
When God gave the Ten Commandment to the Israelites, He prefaced it with this; “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” He prefaces His law to us in the same manner, “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of your bondage of slavery to sin.” Because of Jesus’ perfect fulfillment of God’s law in our place, we have been freed from our servitude or slavery to the law. Because of Jesus’ holy death, we have been freed from the punishment which our sins deserve. Only because of Christ is there a new relationship with God’s commandments. It is not a relationship of fear but a joyful expression of being His people.
Only in Jesus can we have a proper understanding of God’s description of His children according to the Ten Commandments. In Christ, God sees us as though we have walked according to all His commandments, not because we tried really hard or put forth our best effort, but because Jesus did it for us and therefore God regards us as though we have actually kept them perfectly.
Dear heavenly Father, give us a proper respect and understanding for your law, helping us to acknowledge that only Jesus has fulfilled them and in that knowledge finding the strength to do Your will. Amen.