Part 1: Introduction
by Matthew Damonze
My First Bible
I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a cold winters day in Cape Town. The skies were grey. The rain was pouring. I was a little kid seated in the back of the car waiting for my mom to get back from the mall. When my mom eventually climbed into the car, she looked at me and gave me my first Bible. We had a Bible in the house but this one was special. It was mine.
It was a blue hardcover Bible. I remember it well as there were many colorful pictures that caught my eye. This was a typical children’s Bible filled with illustrations and short stories. As many of you know, Children’s Bibles tend to summarize major events in the Biblical storyline to make it shorter and simpler for children to understand. There are many notable events within the story of scripture and one such momentous event is the giving of the law in Exodus 20. Many of us know these laws under the heading “the 10 commandments”. It is quite astounding for us to consider that these commandments are given to us by God himself. God is instructing his people about the way in which they ought to live. That’s a big deal, right?
The church has historically treated it as such. The 10 commandments (along with the apostle’s creed and the Lord’s prayer) have been at the center of the church’s teaching when it comes to the fundamentals of the Christian faith. New believers and children were catechized using the 10 commandments. The 10 commandments are fundamental to Christian ethics, and they deserve our utmost attention.
We must be careful that our zeal to revere Gods law does not lead us into grave error. There are two fatal flaws that ought to be avoided when it comes to the 10 commandments. These two fatal flaws are concisely summarized by John Newton.
The first fatal flaw is to seek salvation by obedience to the law. The law was never given for us to obey them in order to earn the rights and privileges of heaven. John Newton says this: “The very attempt (at earning salvation) is a daring impeachment of the wisdom and goodness of God; for if righteousness could come by the law, then Christ has died in vain (Gal 2:21, 3:21). Such a hope is not only groundless but sinful; and, when persisted in under the light of the gospel, is no less than a willful rejection of the grace of God.”
The second fatal flaw is acting as if we are not obligated to obey the law at all. John Newton says “such an assertion is not only wicked, but absurd and impossible in the highest degree… no true believer can deliberately admit a thought or a wish of being released from his obligation of obedience to God, in whole or in part…”
The law as a rule of life
John Newton looked at the law as many of our protestant forbears did. They saw the law as a “rule of life” which informed the believer of the will of God and our duty toward him. The law served as guide to order and direct our lives (Westminster confession of faith 19.6) I want to give you one reason why we should study and obey the 10 commandments as a “rule of life”. Here it is: The law is good. That’s it. That’s the reason. Psalm 1:1-2
"Blessed is the man
Kevin De young comments on this passage saying "we can understand delighting in God’s love or his grace or his promises but in his law? Who loves commandments? Well, the psalmist does. He understands that God lays down his law for our good, not for our groaning." The apostle Paul goes on to say that the law is good, righteous and holy (Rom 7:12).
If you are still doubtful about the goodness of God law, consider the following question: How good would life be if everyone kept the commandments? There would be no need for burglar bars and an alarm system. There would be no need for self-defense training and pepper spray. There would be no courts and no prisons. Surely, if we would all obey the law, justice would roll down like the waters and righteous like an ever-flowing stream (Amos 5:4).