Christians have an interesting relationship with The 10 Commandments.
Those that tend to lean closer to a legalistic view can see The 10 Commandments as a divine scoring system. Those that lean closer to a “lawless” (antinomian) view, see The 10 Commandments as an arcane. obsolete moral code meant for a different time and a different people.
But what did Jesus have to say?
Matthew 5:17 “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.
Both the legalist and the lawless are at odds with Jesus here. The legalist ignores Jesus fulfillment of the law, while the lawless dislikes Jesus’ refusal to “abolish” the law in its entirety. One group sees The 10 Commandments as a checklist to earn salvation, while the other sees The 10 Commandments as utterly useless altogether.
The 10 Commandments are categorically not a means of salvation. You cannot commandment-keep your way into the Kingdom of God. Here, the legalist is wrong. The 10 Commandments are however a powerful tool in the sanctifying toolbox. Here, the lawless is wrong.
Legalist’ have a cheap view of righteousness (They think they can earn it).
The lawless have a cheap view of grace (They think grace does not transform our moral character).
If both of these ditches sitting on opposing sides of the road of biblical truth are in error in their own unique way, then what are Christians to do with The 10 Commandments? The 10 Commandments provide 3 things for us as Christians living today.
Picture: The 10 Commandments Cast a Vision for Human Flourishing
Both Non-Christians and Christians want to live in a world where The 10 Commandments are kept. You do not have to be a follower of Jesus to believe that it is wrong for a cold-blooded killer to slay 17 people in a public school. You do not have to be a follower of Jesus to desire for your spouse to be faithful to you. Deep down, we know (and suppress) God’s moral law and we see the advantages of it. Seeing The 10 Commandments as a list of behavioral restrictions is missing the point. God is casting a vision for human flourishing in The 10 Commandments. In many respects, God is sketching an eschatological vision of life for humanity in the New Heaven and New Earth that we long for. The true glories of that better world to come lies in the reality that there will be no murder, no adultery, no abandoned elderly parents, no theft and no idolatry there. All of the rogue sin-cells in us that cause us to rebel against God’s best will have been removed. In that coming age, humanity will finally flourish under the gracious rule of Our Good King.
Mirror: The 10 Commandments Reveal our Sin and Show Our Need for Christ
If you feel morally superior when you read The 10 Commandments then you are doing it wrong. The 10 Commandments (along with the rest of the law) were designed to show us just how short we truly fall. In this way, The 10 Commandments serve Christians as a reminder our great need for grace. In fact, Jesus Himself alludes to this feature of the law in The Sermon on the Mount, where He seems to intensify the demands of the law (you have heard it said of old…but I say to you…) in order to expose our need for His righteousness. Feel like you have never broken the 6th commandment? (Thou shall not kill)? Jesus says if you have hated your brother in your heart you have. Jesus, in effect, is making the demands so heavy that they can only crush you, for you could never lift them. And in this “crushing” work, the poor in spirit embrace their need for grace and place their faith in the finished work of Jesus. Read The 10 Commandments Christians’ and then flee to Christ and find new mercies waiting.
Guide: The 10 Commandments Provide a Guide to Christ-likeness
The Christian is called to follow Jesus. But what does this mean? Well, quite a lot actually. It means we must pattern our hearts and actions after His. Follow His example, as imperfectly as we may, of His obedience to the Father and His will. Think about this for a moment: if we are to be like Jesus we must endeavor to pattern our lives after His, and Jesus was, fundamentally a commandment-keeper. But seeing The 10 Commandments as a list of burdens, even if they do produce Christ-likeness in us, is an insufficient view of The 10 Commandments and misses a greater reality. The 10 Commandments are calls to joy through obedience and this is the very nature of what it means to truly be “like Jesus”, who “for the joy set before Him” suffered and died in our place.
In The 10 Commandments, I see a call to true life and true flourishing. I see a call to a better way, a way that we will forever embrace in the New Heaven and Earth that we anxiously await. So put away the moral-scorecard view of the 10 Commandments because we all get an F apart from Jesus. And put away the “since grace abounds sin should too” view that denies God’s best. Look at The 10 Commandments and see a picture of what is to come, a reminder of what we desperately need and a signpost of obedience that will lead us safely home.