The Ten Commandments of Grace
There it is! The great Ten-Commandment law is the one that was broken, and it demands death for the transgressor. In desperation the sinner searches for a way to be justified in the sight of that broken law. How can the sentence of death be turned aside? Can man atone for his sins by obeying the commandments of God for the rest of his life? Listen; there is a reason why works will not justify a soul. If a man is found guilty of stealing and is sentenced to ten years in jail, he may indeed justify himself by works.
By serving the time of his sentence, the man may satisfy the claims of the law. He is considered perfectly justified and innocent because he has worked out his deliverance by fulfilling the sentence. In the same manner, a murderer may be justified by works if he serves the fifty years of his sentence. But suppose the sentence is death instead of fifty years? Can the prisoner then justify himself by works? Even if he should work for one hundred years at hard labor, the law would still demanddeath.
This is why works can never save the sinner. The penalty for sin is not ten years in prison or fifty years at hard labor. The sentence is death, and the law cannot be satisfied except by the shedding of blood. That unchangeable law with its unrelenting death sentence could no more be removed than the throne of God could be toppled. The guilt of the past cannot be erased by resolutions of good behavior in the future. The sinner finally is forced to confess that he owes something that he cannot pay. The law demands death and he cannot satisfy it without forfeiting his own life for eternity.
The Law Still Binding Now we are brought to the question that has created confusion for multitudes of Christians: If the works of the law cannot save a person, is it therefore necessary to keep the law? Apparently this was a burning issue in the early church, because Paul asked the same question in Romans How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? How interesting it is that Christians in this age of relativism can invent their own definitions that condone lawbreaking.
The Bible says sin is violating the Ten Commandments—the law which has been described as irrelevant and old-fashioned by many modern theologians. Every one of those great moral precepts is just as timely and needful today as they were when God wrote them on the imperishable tables of stone. And nothing has ever happened to make them less binding than they were when God gave them.
In fact, we are going to discover that Jesus came to magnify the law and to open up its spiritual application, making it more comprehensive than the legalistic Pharisees ever imagined. Even though it points out sin, it has no power to save from sin. There is no justifying, cleansing grace in it.
All the works of all the laws would not be sufficient to save a single soul. For the simple reason that we are saved by grace through faith, as a free gift. Do not stumble over this crucial point. We cannot earn forgiveness by working hard to obey. No sinner can gain favor and acceptance with God because he keeps the law. The law was not made for the purpose of saving or justifying. It was made to show us our need of cleansing and to point us to the great source of cleansing, Jesus Christ, our Lord.
The Bible speaks of the law as a mirror to show us what kind of persons we really are. It is obvious to all that a mirror cannot remove a spot from the face. Looking into the mirror all day, and even rubbing it over the face, will not provide any cleansing. Its work is to reveal the spot and to point the dirty one to the sink for actual cleansing. The law, in like manner, can only condemn the sinner by giving him knowledge of his condition and then pointing him to the cross for true cleansing.
Countless sincere Christians have accepted the idea that the Old Testament encompasses the dispensation of works and that the New Testament provides for a dispensation of grace. Under this garbled plan people were saved by works in the Old Testament and by grace in the New Testament. This is simply not true. The Bible holds forth only one beautiful, perfect plan for anybody to be saved, and that is by grace through faith.
Does God's Grace Blot Out the Law?
Heaven will not be divided between those who got there by works and those who got there by faith. Every single soul among the redeemed will be a sinner saved by grace. Those who entered into salvation in the Old Testament were those who trusted the merits of the blood of Jesus Christ, and they demonstrated their faith by bringing a lamb and slaying it.
They looked forward in faith to the atoning death of Jesus.
We look back in faith to the same death and are saved in exactly the same way. Be very certain that the entire redeemed host throughout eternity will be singing the same song of deliverance, exalting the Lamb slain from the foundations of the world. It is certainly true that Jesus laid down two great laws of love as a summary of all the law, but did He give the idea that these were new in point of time? The fact is that He was quoting directly from the Old Testament when He gave those newcommandments.
But they were not intended by Jesus to take the place of the Ten Commandments. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Christ was saying that love is the fulfilling of the law just as Paul repeated it later in Romans If one loves Christ supremely with heart, soul, and mind, he will obey the first four commandments that have to do with our duty to God.
If one loves his neighbor as himself, he will obey the last six commandments that relate to our duty to our fellow men.
He will not be able to steal from his neighbor, lie about him, etc. Love will lead to obeying or fulfilling all the law. The Bible certainly does say that we are not under the law, but does that imply that we are free from the obligation to obey it? The text is found in Romans , What then? God forbid. Paul gives his own explanation of his statement. If being under grace does not exempt us from keeping the law, then what does Paul mean by saying that Christians are not under the law? He gives that answer in Romans This is why Christians are not under it.
They are not breaking it—not guilty and condemned by it. Therefore, they are not under it, but are under the power of grace instead. Later in his argument, Paul points out that the power of grace is greater than the power of sin. Suppose a murderer has been sentenced to death in the electric chair. Waiting for the execution the man would truly be under the law in every sense of the word—under the guilt, under the condemnation, under the sentence of death, etc. In the light of extenuating circumstances the governor exercises his prerogative and sends a full pardon to the prisoner.
Now he is no longer under the law but under grace. The law no longer condemns him.
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He is considered totally justified as far as the charges of the law are concerned. He is free to walk out of the prison and no policeman can lay hands upon him. But now that he is under grace and no longer under the law, can we say that he is free to break the law? Indeed not! In fact, that pardoned man will be doubly obligated to obey the law because he has found grace from the governor. In gratitude and love he will be very careful to honor the law of that state which granted him grace. Is that what the Bible says about pardoned sinners?
Here is the most explicit answer to the entire problem. His answer is that the law is established and reinforced in the life of a grace-saved Christian. The truth of this is so simple and obvious that it should require no repetition, but the devious reasoning of those who try to avoid obedience makes it necessary to press this point a bit further. Have you ever been stopped by a policeman for exceeding the speed limit? It is an embarrassing experience, especially if you know you are guilty.
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But suppose you really were hurrying to meet a valid emergency, and you pour out your convincing explanation to the police-man as he writes your ticket. Slowly he folds the ticket and tears it up. On the contrary, it adds compelling urgency to your decision not to disobey the law again. Why, then, should any true Christian try to rationalize his way out of obeying the law of God?
Obedience—The Test of Love Someone may bring up the objection that after the law has accomplished its purpose of pointing the sinner to Christ for cleansing, it will no longer be needed in the experience of the believer. Is that true? No, indeed. The Christian will always need the watchdog of the law to reveal any deviation from the true path and to point him back to the cleansing cross of Jesus.
There will never be a time when that mirror of correction will not be needed in the progressive growth experience of the Christian. Law and grace do not work in competition with each other but in perfect cooperation. The law points out sin, and grace saves from sin. The law is the will of God, and grace is the power to do the will of God.
We do not obey the law in order to be saved but because we are saved. A beautiful text which combines the two in their true relationship is Revelation This is why they are so necessary in the experience of a true believer. Had there been no flowers, no acts of devotion, no gifts of love, most men would still be searching for a companion. Words and profession are not enough. The true evidence is obedience.
If love makes no demands beyond a smile or wave, then it is welcome; but if the lifestyle must be disturbed, the majority will reject it. Unfortunately, most people today are not looking for truth. They are looking for a smooth, easy, comfortable religion that will allow them to live the way they please and still give assurance of salvation. There is indeed no true religion that can do that for them. One of the strongest texts in the Bible on this subject is found in 1 John Then He described many who would seek entrance to the kingdom claiming to be workers of miracles in the name of Christ.
You see, to know Christ is to love Him, and to love Him is to obey Him. The valid assumption of the Bible writers is very clear and simple: If one is not obeying Christ, he does not love Christ. Is It Possible to Obey the Law? Countless Christians have been taught that since the law is spiritual and we are carnal, no human being will ever be able in this life to meet the requirements of the perfect law. Is this true? Has it been given by God as a great idealistic, impossible goal toward which converted souls should struggle but never expect to attain? Is there some hidden reservation or secret meaning in the many commands to obey the ten great rules God wrote on stone?
Did God mean what He said and say what He meant? Many believe that only Christ could have obeyed that law and only because He had special powers that have not been made available to us. Certainly it is true that Jesus is the only One who lived without committing a single act of disobedience. What is that righteousness? This can only mean that Christ won His perfect victory in order to make the same victory available to us.
Having conquered the devil, showing that in the flesh the law can be obeyed, Christ now offers to come into our hearts and share the victory with us. Only by His strength and indwelling power can the requirements of the law be fulfilled by anyone. Not one soul can ever keep one of those Ten Commandments in human power alone, but all of them may be kept through the enabling strength of Jesus. I was reading through Ephesians last night, and in chapters , I began to notice that Paul restated several of the Ten Commandments.
Sometimes the restatement was explicit, such as when Paul explicitly quotes the command to honor your parents Eph Other times, the restatement was implicit. Paul did not quote the Decalogue but cited the same moral principle behind it. This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart Eph For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater , has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God Eph Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need Eph But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints Eph , emphasis added.