Ten Commandments

I saw expressed once again an idea which I simply find hard to believe any Christian would argue for: “Hang a copy of the Ten Commandments in every classroom in the school to be read by a volunteer every morning before classes, followed by one minute of silent prayer. The good will take effect and our schools will be protected and be a safe place for learning again.”

Say, what?

What exactly did Paul mean, then, when he wrote Romans 8:2: “For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.”

Or did he have something else in mind in Galatians 3:10-13:

All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.” The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, “The man who does these things will live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”

Since when have more laws solved anything? The message of the gospel is salvation by grace, not by works. The nature of our life in Christ is grace, not works. Or do we just not think that Paul was being practical when he wrote:

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing — if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard? Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Galatians 3:1-6).

I fear that we are losing sight of what we’re all about: we are called to proclaim Christ and him crucified. Jesus died for our sins; he paid it all. There is nothing we contribute to our salvation. And making people obey laws, however well intentioned, will not solve the fundamental problem with the human heart. Trying to make sinners behave is like giving morpheme to a person with appendicitis. Sure, it gets rid of the pain, but it doesn’t cure the underlying problem and the appendix will still rupture and kill the patient. Make a sinner behave, and you’ll be more comfortable, but nothing has been altered except some symptoms. We are not here to treat symptoms. We are called upon to cure the disease, which is our sinful hearts. And the only cure available is the sacrifice of Jesus. We do not contribute a bit to that. Salvation and the Christian life are by grace, through faith (cf. Ephesians 2:8-10). Christians are not called upon to be drug pushers; we are called to be surgeons.

And besides, when it comes to our living the law, Jesus is quite explicit, and Paul echoes it, that the law is summed up in only two commandments: Loving God, and loving people (Matthew 22:36-40; cf. Galatians 5:14 and Romans 13:8-10). Posting laws will not change a thing; that’s why Jesus had to come and die, because the law doesn’t solve a thing. As an example, consider: how many people really pay much attention to those laws posted along the side of all the roads and freeways in the country, you know, the speed limit?

As Christians, we offer hope and help to those who are burdened with sin, who are suffering the consequences of their poor choices. We wish to show them the way to life, not beat them over the head; instead we must trust that God will transform people if we can only introduce him to them. Don’t we know from our own personal experiences that when the living God takes up residence in a heart, that he cannot help but have a rather significant impact on how life is lived?

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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