Recently I have been preaching a series through the 10 Commandments and I have found it interesting all of the questions about the relevance of the 10 Commandments to our society and to the church in general. Most of the questions begin with something like “Since we live under grace” or “Since we have a new covenant” or “We are led by the Spirit now”. Almost always they are questioning how the 10 Commandments apply, if they are even useful and why are we talking about them today. The entire premise of the series has been that we are set free to live free and you can be set free but still live a life in bondage. Through Christ we have our salvation, but our daily walk is critical to the life of freedom He desires for us to have.
Often Jesus is the person people most often use to try negate the 10 Commandments. Not only was Jesus clear that He did not come to abolish the law, but He came complete it. He also took several of the 10 Commandments and raised them to an even higher level of application. For example, He would take murder and compare it to anger and name calling. He would take adultery and broaden it to mean the intent of your heart. So Jesus not only acknowledged the law, but He raised the bar as to what it meant to live the free life.
There are scholars who can offer great theological insight on the need for the law. But after studying and preparing the last few months on the subject, here are a few practical reasons why I think they are still relevant.
They are still wise advice
Many laws around the world are based on the 10 Commandments. Even if we take the portion about God out and we start with commandment 4, the advice of the next seven is great wisdom: rest, honor your parents, don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie about your neighbors, and do not covet. No matter what you believe about God, these are still wise things to do. They not only protect us, but they protect others. Every society can benefit from putting these into practice and the truth is that most successful societies have.
<We want others to live by them
We may want to challenge how they apply to our life, but we certainly want others to live by them. We want our marriages to be respected by others. We do not want to be stolen from. We do not want people to lie about us. If we want others to respect these commandments, then should they not also apply to us? We feel like it is our right to not be stolen from. But it is also our responsibility not to steal from others. As Thomas Jefferson said, we are in trouble when we think more of our rights than we do our responsibilities. Expecting them of others while not applying them to ourselves is not only self righteous but dangerous.
They are a measuring stick
One of the most common things I am told is that we are now lead by the Holy Spirit and the law is not our guide. On the surface, that seems like a very super-spiritual thing to say. But my question always is, “How do you know someone is being led by the Spirit?”. You would be surprised at the things people will blame on the Holy Spirit? For example, I have had someone tell me that the Spirit had led them into an adulterous relationship. How do I know whether they are being led by the Spirit? I have been given some guidelines or a measuring stick that let’s us see whether what we are saying is the Spirit matches the character and desires of God: His law. If we do not have some guidelines, we truly can use the Spirit as an excuse to do whatever we choose (and we often do).
Obedience is not legalism and living a life that exemplifies the character of God is not being legalistic. John would write that people will know that we love God by how we keep His commandments. Not only that, but keeping these commandments help us to achieve the abundant life that Christ died to give us.
Are there other reasons? Of course there are. These are just a few that I think may help all of us understand the need for and a way we can apply the 10 Commandments. They are still useful for us today. Don’t ignore them. Allow them to help you live the life God intended for you to live.