Law: the Ten Commandments 2

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1. Introduction

In study: 'Law: the Ten Commandments 1' we address how the Law is upheld throughout Scripture, and that it is a Law of love that resides in the heart of the believer. 

In this study of the Ten Commandments we address the Law in relationship to salvation. This is a question of eternal importance and thus it deserves our closest, in-depth, study.  

Throughout this study ‘Law’ refers to the Ten Commandments.

2. The Law and sin - understanding our need

It is critical to first understand the relationship between the Law and sin - without this understanding we could not be aware of our true situation, and of our consequent need of Christ.

2.1 Sin is Law-breaking (lawlessness)

In the study: ‘Sin’, we see the definition of sin - such is its importance that we need to be reminded here:

1Jn 3:4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law

We see in study: ‘Law: the Ten Commandments 1’,3  that the Law (the Ten Commandments) is righteousness, and is therefore the only measure of sin. Sin, consequently, is unrighteousness. 

It follows that if sin is lawlessness, to be saved we must be restored to lawfulness - mankind must again be in harmony with God's righteous universe.

2.2 The Law - its existence

Some maintain that the Law was abolished at the Cross, and also that the Law did not exist before the Ten Commandments were given to Moses at Sinai.  However, Scripture flatly contradicts these views:

Ro 4:15  … where no law is, there is no transgression. 

Ro 5:13  (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 

These Scriptures testify that if the Law does not exist, then sin does not exist (if this were indeed the case there would be no need of saving Grace).

Plainly, if Eve, followed by Adam, sinned, there had to be Law (otherwise they could not have sinned).  Equally plainly, sin continues to this day.  Again plainly, because for sin to exist there must be Law, the Law has been in existence since Eden, and it exists today.

Scripture confirms that Abraham (long before Sinai) kept the Law and God's commandments:

Ge 26:5  Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.

As we have seen, where there is no Law, there is no sin.  Also, we have seen that sin is lawlessness (see section 2.1) - thus righteousness must be the opposite, i.e. lawfulness.

Consequently, sin and righteousness are both equally dependent upon Law for their existence.

Without the Law there would be a vacuum, with nothing to define and guide existence - therefore Law has always existed. 

2.3 Offend in one point, guilty of all

It is important to understand that we cannot regard ourselves as righteous if we keep most of the Law:

Jas 2:10  For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all

This principle is true even in the law of the land - for instance, theft is ‘breaking the law’. If we break only one of the Ten Commandments we break the whole law (even if we keep the other nine).

2.4 Conclusion

Sin is defined in Scripture as law-breaking, for which the penalty is death (Ro 6:23).  All of us have sinned (Ro 3:23) - thus we are all condemned to death, and in need of salvation. 

The whole human race from Adam has fallen short of the righteousness of the Law, and thus is in need of salvation.

3. Not saved by the Law

We see in study: ‘Law: the Ten Commandments 1’,3  that the Law is pure and righteous. It therefore, by its very nature, condemns all that is sin.  

Furthermore, we see in study: ‘Righteousness restored’,2 that what we may suppose is righteousness on our part is as filthy rags in the sight of heaven.  

Thus trying to be saved by keeping the Law is futile because we cannot achieve its standard, which is the very Righteousness of God.

Scripture is very plain: we are not saved (justified) by keeping the Law:

Ro 3:20  Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight…

Ro 3:28  Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. 

Ga 2:16  … by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. 

Ga 3:11  But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith

NB. These scriptures do not say the Law is abolished (as many teach) - they do say the Law cannot save.

The righteous law, by its nature, condemns to death the unrighteous sinner - it is impossible that law-keeping can save anyone whose nature is naturally unrighteousness (i.e. all mankind).  

It is critically important to understand this - if we do not understand it, our salvation is at risk.  Thus we need to understand fully the role of Law in salvation.

4. The role of the Law in salvation

Even though the Law can save no-one, it has a very important part to play in salvation.

Ro 3:20  … for by the law is the knowledge of sin. 

Rom 7:7  What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. 

Gal 3:24  Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 

Rom 3:31  Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law. 

This text categorically contradicts the teaching that the Cross abolishes the Law, replacing it with Faith.  Rather it makes clear that Faith clarifies the understanding of the role of the Law in salvation, i.e. it points to Christ and our need of His saving Grace.  

By faith we establish the Law in our hearts (see study ‘Law: the Ten Commandments 1’,7.1).

Everyone has sinned (Ro 3:23) and is in need of salvation; our need is made known to us by the Law.  When we compare our character with the Ten Commandments, we see our need of salvation in Christ.  

If, as many claim, the Ten Commandments have been abolished, today we would have no schoolmaster to point us to Christ, and consequently none could be saved.

Thus the Law is vital to salvation, but it is not the means of achieving it - again, it is critically important to understand this: salvation is by faith in Christ alone

5. The requirement of the Law superseded in Christ

Rom 8:2  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 

The Law, by its nature, requires the death of the sinner.  However, the Spirit of Life in Christ supersedes that requirement.  

The Spirit that gives life is the Spirit that took Christ to the cross, i.e. the Spirit of love that could not set aside the Law of love (see study: ‘Law, the Ten Commandments 1’, 5) even to save fallen mankind.

6. Keeping the Law

Christ did not change or abolish the Law (see study: ‘Law: the Ten Commandments 1’, 6) - thus we are bound to acknowledge the Law as our guide and rule of life.

Jn 14:15  If ye love me, keep my commandments.

Jn 15:10  If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. 

1Jn 5:3  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. 

2Jn 1:6  And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it. 

Mat 19:17 … if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. 

Rev 22:14  Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. 

Ec 12:13  Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man

Re 12:17  And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. 

Re 14:12  Here is the patience of the saints [Strong’s G40, pure, blameless] : here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. 

Note. In the Bible a ‘saint’ is one who is regarded as blameless by faith in God’s promise of redemption.  The term thus applies to all the redeemed.

1Jn 2:4  He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 

In study: ‘Law: the Ten Commandments 1’,3 we see that the Law is truth.  Truth cannot be abolished. Thus those who teach that the Ten Commandments are abolished do not have or teach the truth.

Again, a critical understanding: we keep the Law, not in order to be saved, but because we are saved, and wish to serve Christ and obey Him.  

Keeping the Law is a declaration of love for God, and also love for our fellow mankind.

7. Letter and Spirit

2Co 3:6  Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. 

The Apostle Paul is teaching those (Jews) who had attempted salvation by law-keeping (both Ceremonial and Moral) that salvation is by the spirit of the Law, rather than the letter.

In study: ‘Law: the Ten Commandments 1’, 5, we see that the character of the Law is love, and in section 5 of this study we see that the Spirit of the Law is manifested in Christ (who is love).  

Thus, in Christ, the Spirit of the Law is love.  Christ taught the practice of the Spirit of the Law:

Mt 22:36-40  Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 

37  Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 

38  This is the first and great commandment. 

39  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 

40  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. 

(Also Lk 10:25-28)

Here Christ defines the Spirit of the Law - it is the practice of love, leading to eternal life. He also confirms that the Law, as taught by the prophets, is love. As such the Law could not be abolished.

Many teach that Christ’s two commandments (the Spirit of the Law) supersede the Ten Commandments.  However, Paul teaches otherwise:

Rom 13:9  For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 

Here Paul teaches (after the Cross) that the second of Christ’s two Commandments (love to mankind) is a summary of the second half of the Ten Commandments.  

Thus we may conclude safely that Christ’s first Commandment (love to God) is a summary of the first half of the Ten Commandments.  The Ten Commandments, therefore, are still in force today.

Furthermore, Christ gave His two commandments before the Cross, when all agree that the Moral Law (the Ten Commandments) was still extant.  

Thus Christ’s two commandments did not supersede the Moral Law - rather they emphasized its deeper meaning.

The Spirit of the Law is wholly manifested in Christ - it drove Him to the Cross.  

In fact, Christ is the Spirit of the Law - it is His very nature of infinite love.

8. Finally, the Law lasts for ever

 Ps 111:7-9  The works of his hands are verity and judgment; all his commandments are sure. 

8  They stand fast for ever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness. 

9  He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name. 

We have seen that the Law reveals God’s character (see study: ‘Law: the Ten Commandments 1’, 4).  God is eternal, therefore His Law is eternal. 

We have also seen that God’s saving Covenant is everlasting (see study: ‘The Covenant of Grace’, 4.2), and that the Law and the Covenant are one and the same (see study: ‘The Covenant of Grace’, 4.1) - confirming again that the Law is everlasting 

When sin is finally finished, the Law will be embedded in the hearts of all the redeemed, that they may live for ever in God’s unfallen Creation.

9. Summary

The Law, by its nature, requires the death of the sinner, which necessitated the Cross.  Nevertheless the principle of the Law is love, both for God, and for fellow mankind - the Spirit of the Law is manifested in Christ

The Law points us to salvation in Christ - it teaches us our true condition, and thus of our need of Saving Grace.

Finally, it cannot be overstated that we keep the Law because we are saved, not in order to be saved.

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