If You Love Me Love My Commandments
How the Law and the Christian Can Be Friends
One of the things that we will notice as we go through the Ten Commandments is that the expectation of the writers of the Catechism is that as we as Christians look at and read the Law of God we will have an experiential and an experimental knowledge of effectual calling, justification, sanctification, and the other benefits of redemption. The reason for this is because as those united to Christ by faith our relationship to the statutes of the Lord has changed. No longer is the reading of “Thou Shalt Not Steal” a burden in which we have no power, nor desire, to fulfill. As new creatures in Christ we see the law as a blessed reminder of the wisdom of God. And not only that but we sweetly comply with it as a son to a Father. That does not mean however we in some way no longer transgress or break the law. We most certainly remain sinners until the day of our glorification. Yet even in that case the curse and condemnation of the commandments has ceased to tear at our conscience. Rather than feeling the law’s demand we bear disappointment at our having turned away from the Father’s love.
As believers we also know that even when we fall short we have an advocate with our God, Jesus Christ the Righteous and then, because of that, we bear fruits worthy of repentance as a sign of true faith. All of this is not a move towards licentiousness, but instead an impetus to obedience to the Commandments. Just because we have grace as a gift, and sufficient grace at that, does not mean we have carte blanche to do what we want. No, our spirits as much as our status has been transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit. Our hearts call is to be made more and more like our Savior and to be seen doing and performing His works in the day of the Lord’s coming. Here is why when Jehovah reintroduces the Law at Sinai He begins in the way that he does, which brings us to the Catechism questions for today:
Q. 43. What is the preface to the Ten Commandments?
A. The preface to the ten commandments is in these words, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house or bondage.
Q. 44. What does the preface to the Ten Commandments teach us?
A. The preface to the ten commandments teaches us, that because God is the Lord, and our God, and Redeemer, therefore we are bound to keep all his commandments.
Notice again the opening clause: I am the Lord thy God. Read it again. Think about it. Just as He is about to give a list of rules and regulations El-Shaddai makes it clear that He is their God. But it is not in a harsh or denigratory way. Saying I am is a testimony to the love He has for His people. Whenever we hear those words together it is a reminder of the assurance of the covenant promise. Recall that when we first are told of that name it is at the Burning Bush. That place is when and where God testifies to Moses that He has heard the cries of Israel and is coming to save them, and as the rest of the preface notes, brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. It’s worthwhile for us to keep that statement near and dear to our heart. For the Lord has not given the law to believers just to place them back under a covenant of works. We are not trading one form of the curse for another. The giving of the law here is an act of the covenant of grace. Moses is an administrator of God’s mercy, not His judgment.
A spur to holiness is not a bad thing in the Christian life.
As we spend the next several weeks going through each of the Commandments we need to read them with care, with hope, and with a desire to follow them, not out of fear or a flesh-righteous longing to appease God. The second Catechism question helps us to understand this even more. We follow the law because Christ is our Redeemer. That goes back to the point I made above about the change in our relationship to the law that happens in salvation. We go from being enemies to being friends. Again, the transformation does not imply perfection. The Christian will struggle with this newfound call. We are humans after all, but our weakness is no excuse for sinfulness.
We see passages like Romans 6:21-22 as Paul describes this work:
What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.
The Law brings death to those who savor death. It is not the means to redemption, nor can it be. If we are under it as a covenant of works then its fruit will be putrid and stinketh the nostrils of the Lord. However, as new creatures in Christ we have been set free from it in this way, and are now as slaves of God able and willing to abide by it in love. If you are either ignorant or unfeeling about what the Lord thinks about whether or not you should or shouldn’t do something then there is a big problem. Apathy is as bad, if not in some cases worse than plain old open rebellion. Primarily because people who are apathetic don’t realize, or don’t care, that they are themselves acting as god. If it bothers you when someone outright acts like you are invisible while you are trying to get their attention imagine what God thinks of such a person who is making major (or even minor) life decisions without consulting His word?
Love for the law of God is a sign of faith. As Christ says in John 14:21, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”
Is this true of you? May it be so. For the same God who gave you life out of nothing has granted you in His mercy a way to a flourishing and blessed life. Walk in it and have peace.
Here is something else to read on the subject:
Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church