The Law

As Moses leads the Israelites, who were freed from being slaves in Egypt, make their way through the wilderness on this journey, God parts the Red Sea…the people are freed… the people complain a lot… and this is where we pick up the story.

Exodus 20 is where God calls Moses to leave the people in the wilderness under the leadership of others to go up on the mountain (Mt. Sinai) to receive the Law – the 10 commandments and some other laws as well that the Jewish people were to observe.  But mostly, it was the 10 commandments.  When you see the word “law” in the bible, it is mostly referring to the 10 commandments.

The question for us today is, “what is the purpose of the law?”

There is a world-wide thought that is –

  • “I need to be good…”

  • “I need to behave for God to accept me…”

  • “I need to earn God’s love…”

  • “I need to follow more rules to get closer to God…”

Various religions say it differently, but most say something like this:

God is good…people are bad…so we have to get gooder if we want God to help us and bless us…after all, God only helps the good people – right?  And if we get good enough, then we hope to gain God’s favor and when we die, we will get to go to heaven – by being good.

When you talk to people about heaven, most will say something like, “I’m working on it… I hope I’m good enough to go to heaven when I die…”

A lot of people think that even to go to church, they have to get gooder.  I’ve invited a lot of people over the years to church, and many have said, you guessed it – when I get good enough, I’ll be there.  I guess a whole lot of people didn’t get good enough – at least not yet!

Even Christians who have fallen off the “wagon” will often say they need to get better before they can expect God to bless them or restore them.

  • So, when we come to the 10 commandments, what do we think their purpose was?

  • Are they the measuring stick for God to decide whether you are in or out?

  • How many do you have to keep?

  • How often do you have to keep them?

  • Do you have to keep all of them?

  • What if you break even one?

The 10 commandments are a confirmation of your relationship with God; not a condition for your relationship says Andy Stanley.

In other words, most of us have gotten the cart before the horse.  We think that we must try to keep the 10C to get acceptance by God (relationship), rather than understanding that we keep the 10 commandments because we want to so we don’t violate our relationship with God.

You see, a relationship with God is based on love for God and trust in God.  To trust means you think God is competent… you believe in Him… you have confidence in Him.

Think of your marriage.  You keep your wedding vows (sort of like the law) as a sign of your love.  You keep the vows because you want to – because you don’t want to let your spouse down.  You keep the vows because you love the other person.  You see, you are already in relationship.  You already love the other person.  Keeping the vows is simply at that point something in your heart – it is the way you express love and trust to your spouse.

To fully understand the 10 commandments, you have to see them in light of the NT.  Jesus says that all of the commandments of the law are summed up in two: Love God…love your neighbor.

Paul goes onto say in many places, but especially in Romans, what the real purpose of the law i

You may want to stop and read:  Romans 3:20-22

So, what is the purpose of the law?  He tells us that no one is declared righteous (or accepted or approved) by God by keeping the law.

And we already established that none of us has kept all of the law.  People back then didn’t, people today don’t, and we don’t either.  What a relief to know that our salvation isn’t dependent upon that!

So what is the purpose of the law – to become conscious of sin.  In other words, the law has been given to show us that we can’t keep the law.

That seems strange.  Think about it.  If you could keep the law, if you could be that good, would you need God?  Would Jesus have needed to die?

The answer is no!  This is why he goes onto say that it is the law that shows us our sinful condition.  This is our diagnosis – that we have an addiction to sin that we can’t in our own power do anything about.

This is the first thing that is established in AA meetings – that you can’t overcome your addiction on your own.  You need outside help.  You need the help of God and you need the accountability of the group.

And when you talk to an alcoholic years later, they will tell you this was both their greatest battle and their greatest platform for victory.  For years, they thought they could beat alcohol on their own, but always failed.  And when they finally accepted they had a condition that was bigger than they were,  they gave up and accepted the treatment of trusting God and others.  This would lead them to victory.

The same is true for us.  When we finally admit we can’t keep the 10C on our own – no matter how hard we try – this is the first step to recovery.

This is what leads us to the truth that we need the forgiveness and power of Christ in our lives if we are going to live in victory.

You see, the 10 commandments aren’t given as rules we must keep.  God established a relationship with his people first.  He called out to them… He rescued them… He said “I want to be your God…” He established relationship first.

The rules came later.  The 10 commandments serve as boundaries to our relationship with God.

You see, relationships can get messy.  They are based on love and trust.  But we all know we do some dumb things and some emotional things based on “love.”  This is why they say “love is blind.”

So, relationships need some guidelines or boundaries.  They actually authenticate the relationship.  They actually allow trust to operate at a high level.

On the other hand, rules without a relationship only equals rebellion.  It is like, “if you don’t care about me, if you don’t show me love, then you can’t tell me what to do.”

God would like all us to stop trying to prove that we are good enough to earn His favor on our own.  He already knows we are not!

Here is the good news He is sending to you today – this is where His story intersects your journey.

Some people are compelled to try to keep the 10 commandments to try to please God, but they don’t have a relationship with Him.

But if you have or will accept what Jesus Christ has done for you, then you have a relationship with Him.  And when you do, you can begin to bask in His love and peace, feeling secure, rather than feeling insecure, obsessed and anxious about “I wonder if God has accepted me?”

As God reaches out to you and you begin to love and trust Him, you will naturally want to keep His commandments, not because you have to, but because you want to because you love Him.  And they will serve as a constant reminder to you that you aren’t trying to do this alone, but rather you are depending upon Him!

Questions to reflect upon…

  • How do you see God?

  • As a strict task-master who demands you keep His rules in order to avoid punishment?

  • Or as graceful who understands your weaknesses and flaws?

  • In your everyday life, do you tend to relate to others through keeping rules or through care, empathy and love?

  • What might this tell you about how you see and relate to God?

Bob Mlynek