As we study the Law of God at our church, it is becoming increasingly evident to me just how horrible the church, in general, in America today, has been in teaching the nature, scope, and purpose of God’s Law. I have addressed some of these false views of the Law elsewhere. It is a grave misunderstanding to not understand that each of the 10 Commandments are a summary of a moral principle of which the rest of Scripture expounds upon AND that each of the 10 Commandments are spiritual in nature; addressing the inner-man just as much as the outer-man. The idea that Jesus added a spiritual nature to the Law in the New Testament is false and dangerous. The development of those two points can be read in fuller detail here. With that post as the background, this post explores two serious consequences to such faulty views. This is an excerpt of a Shorter Catechism lesson I taught on the 7th Commandment.
1. A shallow and superficial view of the Law severely diminishes the understanding of your sinfulness. Think about it. If these 10 commandments are considered only at face-value and not as summaries of moral principles with the rest of Scripture giving context and explaining their true meaning and full scope, then a person could read a commandment, like the 7th Commandment, and think, “well heck, i have never committed adultery. I have never slept with a married person who wasn’t my spouse. So hey, I’m good with that commandment.” I know many men, even outright pagans, who have gone their whole life and have never slept with another man’s wife. Same with the 6th Commandment. How many of you have ever unjustly taken the life of another person? How many of you have murdered anyone? There are millions upon millions of people, most of whom are not Christians, who will go their entire lives without ever having murdered anyone. So, can they check that commandment off as well? Do they have something to boast about before God? Do you see now why someone with such a shallow understanding of the moral Law of God could think more highly of himself than he ought?
Such a person would sound like the rich young ruler who came to Jesus and asked,
“Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” “If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?”
Here’s a guy, like so many in our churches today, who doesn’t get the truth that these commandments are summaries of moral principles that cover a whole slew of issues beyond just the mere wording of the commandment itself.
Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
Notice Jesus started with the second table; which the man said he had kept. Now, this wasn’t true. Jesus could have expounded upon the second table and exposed this man’s tragic spiritual blindness to the second table’s demands. But Jesus, brilliantly I might add, cuts straight to the heart and challenges him with a first table issue. “Sell what you have and follow me.” And the man wouldn’t do it. Why? Because he had “great possessions.” Where in the world, though, do the Ten Commandments as expressed on the Tablets of Stone command anyone to sell their stuff and follow God? Nowhere. Did Jesus add to the Law, then? No. Because there is, in those Ten Commandments, the moral principle that Jesus is bringing to the forefront. Jesus exposed the man’s idolatrous attachment to his possessions and thereby demonstrated just one of many violations of God’s moral Law and standard of perfection.
Such a shallow, narrow, superficial understanding of God’s moral Law will have you thinking more highly of yourself than you ought. You will not come to appreciate just how depraved you are. And as a result, you will not see salvation as something desperately needed and urgent.
2. There is a second serious consequence to such a superficial understanding of God’s moral Law. It will severely diminish and undervalue your understanding of the righteousness of Christ. You will not come to appreciate the depths of Christ’s righteousness and perfect obedience in ALL things. Think about this: when Jesus was wrongly accused and charged and beaten to death, having his flesh torn from his side, a crown of thorns jammed into his skull, and then nailed to a cross; not only did Jesus not do anything that could be considered “revenge”, acting out of accord with God’s Law, but in all that, Jesus never once even had the thought of any unjust action. Not even the THOUGHT!
Consider the 7th Commandment as well. Scripture doesn’t get into all this, but I seriously doubt that Jesus did not attract many women. He became very popular. Thousands were following him around. Before the masses turned on him, many were enthralled with him, seeing him as one who spoke with great authority. Many women are always looking for the perfect man….well….here you go. He exists. His name is Jesus. Yet, in all of that, not only did Jesus remain sexually pure, He never once even had the THOUGHT of doing any differently. Externally and internally, Christ kept the Law perfectly – in all of its exhaustive details.
Do you not see how deep this goes? Do you not see the lengths to which Christ went to obey His Father? Jesus became obedient, even to the point of death!
A shallow, superficial, distorted view of God’s Law is going to skew the understanding of your sinfulness and make light of Jesus’ righteousness. It makes me think of John the Baptist who said, “I must decrease, and He must increase.” Limiting and narrowing the scope of God’s Law makes you increase, and Jesus decrease. Don’t be that haughty, foolish person.