There are not many passages of Scripture as well known as Exodus 20, or as controversial. Over the past couple years, a judge in the state of Alabama has gained quite a bit of notoriety over the fact that he posted the Ten Commandments in his courtroom. Many thought Judge Roy Moore ought to remove the plaque because they pointed to God, you know, separation of church and state and all. Others applauded him as he stood by his beliefs and convictions. The debate over the place of the Ten Commandments in our society is not one that will be settled any time soon. As a follower of Jesus, it is a good thing to encourage people in our culture to acknowledge God and seek to live by His laws. At the same time, we should be careful to make sure our own lives live up to the standards God has set in His Law.
When studying the Ten Commandments and the Law of God, we all get a little uneasy, because God messes with our business. God is telling men and women how they must live their lives if they are going to serve God and be blessed by Him. It has been said that no one breaks the Ten Commandments, the Ten Commandments breaks them. When a person or a culture chooses to ignore the commands of God and the warnings He gives, they will experience the consequences of their choices. Yet, strive as you might, no one completely keeps all of God’s law, or even His top ten. So the question that arises is this; if God gave this Law knowing that we cannot do it, why would He give the law in the first place. While many believe that the Bible is nothing more than a big book of rules to follow, the Laws that God has given have a very important purpose in leading us to the Gospel and Christ.
WHY THE LAW?
1. To demonstrate the Holiness and Righteousness of God. The Law does show the high standard of moral perfection that God demands because He is holy. Reading the Ten Commandments gives a clue to the character of God.
2. The holiness of His people – by keeping the commands of God as a corporate people, the Jews would demonstrate themselves as different and separate from the nations around. Many of the laws were actually given to the Hebrew people for this very reason, to differentiate themselves from the pagan, idol-worshiping people that surrounded them.
3. To protect and provide for His people. Many of the ceremonial laws are given as a way for God to take care of his people. Laws of cleanliness, and some of the dietary laws will protect the people from disease, and provide a healthier way of life in the ancient world.
4. To reveal our guilt and give knowledge of sin (Romans 7:7-9). Now we are getting down to the core reasons. Paul in this passage said that he did not know what coveting was until he read “You shall not covet” in the 10 Commandments. He then realized that he had all kinds of covetous desires. The law demonstrated his own sin.
5. To ruin in us the idea that our goodness and works can save (Romans 3:19-20). The truth of the matter is that most people believe that God grades on the curve, and as long as we are pretty good people, who do more good than bad, we will be alright. Yet, an honest reading of the law will leave us guilty before God and in desperate need of someone to save.
6. To be fulfilled by Jesus in our place (Matthew 5:17). Jesus says here that he came, not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. What we could not do, weak because of sin, Jesus did for us, in our place. He fulfilled the righteous requirements of the law, and then God applies that righteousness to the life of His people. We do not approach God because of our own goodness, but because of Christ’s righteousness.
7. To lead us to Christ (Galatians 3:24). Paul compares the Law to a tutor or teacher, who leads us to Christ.
8. The law written on the heart is a byproduct of the life-change a person encounters as a result of experiencing the Gospel (Hebrews 8:10). The original 10 Commandments were written on stone tablets by God, and given to Moses. Now, when a person receives Jesus, God changes their heart, writing his Law, and giving them a desire to honor God with their lives; something they were unable to do without Christ.
As you can see, the Law is important. We should strive to keep it, but we won’t. But thanks be to God that Jesus has fulfilled all the righteousness required by the Law on our behalf.