I invite you turn in your Bibles to Exodus 20, where we find one of the most famous and influential passages in the whole Bible – the 10 commandments. Today we begin a new series on the 10 commandments that will carry us, Lord willing, all the way through the next 3 months.
When it comes to the beginning the 10 commandments there are a four things I must say:
First: I don’t know of anything more foundational to our society while at the same time more hated in our society. Nothing is more foundational because the 10 commandments (Mosaic Law, Decalogue) give meaning to and shape most of the laws in western civilization. Nothing is more hated in our society because most of the people living in western civilization right now say the 10 commandments are out of date and have no real practical influence any longer. This is not true. Because the law was not done away with when Christ came but fulfilled it is right for us as New Covenant Christians to see the 10 commandments as a manual for Christian living. We’ll see this as we move through them, especially as we interpret the commandments in light of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
Second: Too many people view the 10 commandments as a list of do’s and don’ts. Many view them as God’s way to live a better life. I believe this is every non-Christian’s view of the 10 commandments, but in all honesty it’s also probably what some of you think about them as well. That the commandments are a list of do’s and don’ts, or that the commandments are God’s suggestions on how to live a better life is not the Christian’s view of the law. Listen to how David views the law of God. Psalm 1:1-2, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord and on His law he meditates day and night.” Psalm 119:72, “The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.” Many more verses could be called here to show the same – the law of God is to the Christian a delight, not a killjoy. It is more precious than gold or silver. On this law we’re to meditate day and night. We do not naturally agree with this and because that’s true we are in need of a massive transformation in how we see God’s law. It is God’s fatherly, loving, and wise instruction on how life works best. In short, it is how to be perfect.
Third: Knowing that the 10 commandments is God telling us how to be perfect you should be made aware that this sermon series will be hard and difficult for many of us. After examining each of these commandments one thing will be clear – how far we fall short of keeping them. We’ll see this in every commandment. This was the experience of the apostle Paul as well. In Romans 7:7-12 we read the following, “What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! 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.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” So Paul’s experience with the 10 commandments was one of death. He once was alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came sin came alive and he died. How? The Law exposed sin within him and rather than finding him righteous, the law found him wanting. The same is true with each of us. Every commandment we dive into sin will be exposed, you will be found wanting, and what you see in your own heart may make you angry.
Fourth: A sermon series on the 10 commandments will chase us to the cross and therefore will leave us exactly where we need to be. You may think that exposing sin will be a bad thing for us, but it won’t be. Galatians 3:24 says, “The law of God is our tutor, to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.” Meaning, the very reason God gave us the 10 commandments was to point us to Christ. How does that work? Well upon looking into the law of God we’ll not only see our law-breaking, we’ll see the stunning grace of the One and Only Law-Keeper, Jesus Christ – who obeyed the law perfectly in our behalf and who imputes to us His perfect righteousness upon believing in Him. So it is true that law must come before grace, for law prepares the way for grace. Charles Spurgeon said, “The Law is the needle that prepares the way for the thread of the gospel.” John Wycliffe said, “The highest service to which a man may obtain on earth is to preach the law of God.” Martin Luther said, “The first duty of the gospel preacher is to declare God’s law and to show the nature of sin.” John Wesley said in writing to a young evangelist, “Preach 90% law and 10% grace.” Charles Finney (someone who I disagree with almost on every page and someone who I don’t recommend reading) even agreed and said, “Evermore the law must prepare the way for the gospel. To overlook this in instructing souls is almost certain to result in false hope, the introduction of a false standard of Christian experience, and to fill the Church with false converts.”
So you see, through the preaching of the 10 commandments over these next 3 months, prepare yourself to be chased to the cross. The law will leave you guilty, but it will leave you precisely where you need to be, at the foot of the cross looking up to Christ, the One who perfectly obeyed the law in our behalf.