I began this study as an adjunct to my interest in the Psalms but my studies served to highlight my inability to keep even one of the commandments let alone ten. I’m confronted with my own guilt and helplessness in the face of God’s justice and yet these same studies reveal the unimaginable extent of His grace and the miracle that is the Gospel.
‘The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.
The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous.
They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb.’ (Psalm 19:7-10)
I’m sure that while most people regard the law as necessary, I’m altogether less convinced that many would regard it as perfect, refreshing and the source of great joy.
God’s law isn’t just a list of rules but rather a blueprint for how to live our lives with God front and centre in everything we do and think and feel. Jesus summed up the entire law when He said, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets’. (Matthew 22:37-40)
God’s law performs a number of functions:
• It defines sin
Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” (Romans 7:7)
• It renders us without excuse because it makes us aware of our sin
‘Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.’ (Romans 3:19)
• It brings charges against us
‘Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.’ (Romans 3:20)
• It finds us guilty
‘For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ (Romans 3:22-23)
• It condemns us
For the wages of sin is death… (Romans 6:23a)
We may seek to justify our sin or at least diminish it by claiming that we’re not guilty of infringing every single one of the commandments but there are two problems with this position.
1. Christ taught the full extent of the commandments when He explained it in terms of sins such as murder and adultery leaving us no chance to plead ‘Not guilty’.
2. If we break one part of the law we’re guilty of breaking all of it.
‘Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For He who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.’ (James 2:10)
So here we are, wretched and helpless in the face of our circumstances; charged, tried, found guilty and condemned to death. And now comes the miracle…
‘For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God [that is, His remarkable, overwhelming gift of grace to believers] is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ (Romans 6:23 Amplified version)
‘But God clearly shows and proves His own love for us, by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Therefore, since we have now been justified [declared free of the guilt of sin] by His blood, [how much more certain is it that] we will be saved from the wrath of God through Him.’ (Romans 5:8-9 Amplified version)
God’s law is still very much in force for each one of us. Jesus said, ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.’ (Matthew 5:17-18)
‘But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.’ (Luke 16:17)
And the Apostle Paul underscored the importance of the law when he wrote, ‘What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!’ (Romans 6:15)
There’s a well-known adage that ‘Ignorance of the law is no excuse!’ This is true for the Ten Commandments so we need to study and apply them to every aspect of our lives. In turn, this affects how we praise God.
‘I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws.’ (Psalm 119:7)
It’s simply not possible, this side of eternity, for any one of us to keep God’s law but we have a Saviour who intercedes for us and the Holy Spirit who works to transform our hearts.
‘Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.’ (Ephesians 3:20-21)