Following Jesus Together - September 7, 2022
Reflection for this Week:
“Just as the character of God is the foundation of physical laws, so his character is the foundation of moral law. The one true God defines in his own being what is holy, good, just, merciful, and right. Behind the laws that God gives to the human race stands the character of the triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
~Jerram Barrs, Delighting in the Law of the Lord
Who are the Ten Commandments Good For? Part 1
Perhaps you’ve heard or said something like this, “Our country would be better off if we had the Ten Commandments and Prayer allowed in schools again.” Do you think so?
In our country, would there be less divorce? More respect for authority? Would there be less abuse of power? Less sex outside of marriage, and therefore less children born into single parent homes? Would violent crime go down? Would racism die? Would generous care for the poor go up?
Alternatively, in the aftermath of the undoing of Roe V. Wade, there’s been some anxiety that Christians will start legislating more of their morality. Some of our neighbors fear that Christians want to return America to something that resembles the Handmaid’s Tale. In other words, they do not want to see Biblical morality legislated, much less see those laws hanging in our courthouses.
So who is God’s moral law for? Christians? The world? If so, how?
Before starting an answer, remember last week’s sermon. At minimum, obedience to Gods’ moral law in the Ten Commandments is designed to get the attention of our neighbors. Israel’s obedience was for their good. (Obey and you will live!) AND Israel’s obedience would also be for the good of their unbelieving neighbors, in that the incomparable justice in God’s laws would get their attention. Israel could be a light to the nations! (Isaiah 42:6, 49:6)…if they obey.
Notice a key distinction. Israel alone, was in a covenant relationship with the Lord. Part of God’s gracious gift to them was God speaking to them! So they had a greater obligation to obey. That’s what Psalm 147:19-20 sings:
He sends out his word, and melts them; he makes his wind blow and the waters flow. He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and rules to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any other nation; they do not know his rules. Praise the LORD!
So, in a general way, God’s moral law is great for everyone. It’s a gift to know what we are here for and how God is taming the chaos of our selfish hearts. But we who know the LORD, who know Jesus, have a greater obligation to keep and care about God’s law, because our unbelieving neighbors do not know the LORD or His laws!
Let’s add another way the moral law is good for every human being, in every tribe, tongue and nation. This comes from the wisdom of the Westminster Larger Catechism. I plan to use the Larger Catechism in our studies of the Ten Commandments.
People in the 17th century were asking the same questions we are:
94. Is there any use of the moral law to mankind since the fall?
Although no person, since the fall, can attain to righteousness and life by the moral law, yet there is great use of it, in a way common to all people, and also as it particularly applies either to the unregenerate or the regenerate.
95. What is the use of the moral law to all people?
The moral law is of use to all people
- to inform them of the holy nature and the will of God and of their duty, binding them to walk accordingly;
- and to convince them of their inability to keep it and of the sinful pollution of their nature, hearts, and lives.
This can humble them in the sense of their sin and misery and thus help them to a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ and of the perfection of his obedience.
Did you hear the answer? The moral law is good for all people, regenerate or unregenerate. The unregenerate are those NOT in a new covenant relationship with Jesus. The regenerate would be all who believe the gospel of Jesus: Christians. Jesus-followers have been made new creations through faith in Jesus, having been regenerated by the Holy Spirit. (Ezekiel 36:26-28).
Take some time to meditate on what you have in common with your unbelieving family members, co-workers and neighbors. Together, we all benefit from seeing God’s nature and will in His commandments! Because everyone needs the gospel of grace!
Here’s one example of how to do this:
In discussions over human sexuality, ask questions like, “Why do you think the God of the Bible honors sex and marriage more than our culture does? What is that commandment showing you about God’s character?
It turns out that sex and marriage is to be a reflection of the Lord’s unfailing, never ending commitment to His people. He is faithful, therefore be faithful.
Then add Jesus’ words to the conversation – “Whoever looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery in his heart.”
Jesus just turned up the flames of our guilt and shame, by showing the kind of person the law is forming. But that means every person should find themselves convinced of this, “I can’t love one human with that level of intense internal passionate commitment!
God’s moral law demonstrates that every human heart is polluted by sin.
But it is from that place of sin and misery, produced by Gods’ moral law, we then can again see Jesus with clearer eyes. He is the perfect bridegroom, who loves His bride, the church. He loves us without a wandering adulterous heart. AND, on the cross we see Jesus experience the pain of a marriage covenant falling apart. For there, as He is forsaken by the Father, He feels the pain of an eternal lover turning His back on him.
As Tim Keller eloquently put it, Jesus went through a cosmic divorce on the cross for His beloved unfaithful bride, the church, who broke His heart with their rule-breaking. He did that to forgive His bride and betroth Himself to her forever.
See it? God’s commandments show every human being His character and our duty. We see that most clearly in the person of Jesus, who loved us faithfully, even to death on a cross. That news is good for everyone!
For as we see the law by Christ fulfilled, and we hear His pardoning voice, we are changed from a slave into a beloved child, and our duty into choice.*
* William Cowper’s hymn, “Love Constraining to Obedience”
Sunday School – 9:00am – Learning to Pray with Ruling Elder John Van Voorhis. The apostle Paul helpfully declares in Romans 8:26 that Christians do not know how we ought to pray. It’s not just you. So come and grow in art and skill of talking with our Heavenly Father in Prayer!
Worship 10:15am – Deuteronomy 4:32-40, 5:1-6 - “Grace, Therefore Obey” – We are working through some questions and misconceptions about the relationship Christians have with God’s Old Testament law. One of the distortions Christians can give the Old Testament is to say something like this,
“In the Old Testament God was all about the law. But now in the New Testament, because of Jesus, God is all about grace.”
Our passage on Sunday pushes back against that caricature. There are 163 words in Moses sermon in Deut. 4:32-40. Guess how many of those words are about law and what God’s people must do.
26. That’s about 16%.
109 of the words are used to describe Israel’s experience with the grace of the LORD. 26 are used explain the theological and covenantal reasons God saved them by grace. 84% of the speech is good news and an explanation of why God cares. And then, briefly, we have the, “Therefore obey.” (Daniel Block, NIV Application Commentary: Deuteronomy)
Perhaps we need to hear more of the story of God’s grace before we are told to obey.
Come and see Jesus with us!
See you Sunday! Grace and peace,