The Sinless Thief
By David B. Smith
I came home from work the other day and found that someone had tossed a brick through my living room window. They had also removed a laptop, iPod, camera, two guitars, keyboard, and $50 in Thai currency from my domestic kingdom. (Why they wanted a stack of baht I have no idea — good luck spending that at Taco Bell.) Needless to say, I wish the thief had been more aware of — and more obedient to — the Ten Commandments! I only hope that my vocabulary, as I surveyed the bare spots in my ransacked home and verbalized my frustration, measured up to God’s eternal law.
Even without formal religious instruction, most of us have an inner sense of right and wrong. If sin is “the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4), the violation of some divine standard, then what is that standard? Centuries before the Children of Israel hiked through the Red Sea, the Bible says that Lucifer sinned in heaven; Cain sinned against his brother. So there plainly was some heavenly Rulebook or set of guidelines even before an invisible God spoke the Ten Commandments from the top of Mt. Sinai.
But what is the purpose of the Decalogue? Is it still in force two thousand years after Calvary? Even as politicians and pastors encourage judges to post the Ten Commandments on their courtroom walls, churches are divided on the continuing role of the fifteen verses where Exodus 20 spells out God’s great do’s and don’t’s.
Christians do generally agree that despite the “Thou shalt not’s,” the Ten Commandments are a positive expression of God’s eternal character. He is good; the law is good. Both are perfect and fair. Both are reasonable. Believers of all denominations consider the Ten Commandments to be a wise foundation for holy living; pastors encourage their flocks to keep the commandments and live simple, obedient lives. Jesus said to His disciples: If you love Me, keep My commandments (John 14:15). Paul, the most zealous proclaimer of the gospel of grace, quickly adds in Romans 7:12: So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous, and good.
If we truly embrace the spirit behind the Commandments, we grow to understand that they are a Law of liberty, given to us by a heavenly Father who truly cares about our safety and the security of the guitars and laptops in our living rooms! A mature disciple of Jesus who loyally keeps his Savior’s commandments lives a cheerful, positive life — free from the worries about his lies coming unraveled, his thefts discovered, his selfishness and hateful moments exposed. Psalm 119:45: I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out Your precepts.
But if the Law of God is an eternal expression of His will and character, if it is the foundation of His secure government, did it come to an end at Calvary? Virtually all Christians acknowledge that the civil and ceremonial laws surrounding the Exodus 20 commands did culminate at the Cross; the torn veil in the temple gives a divine sign that the sacrificial system had been fulfilled by Jesus’ great Calvary gift. But the Ten Commandments were spoken by God’s own audible voice; only the Ten Commandments were written in stone. Are they different?
The great catechisms of the Christian Church have always considered the Ten Commandments to be a unique and lasting expression of God’s will for us. John Calvin called them “as unchangeable, as the justice of God, which it embraced, is constant and uniform.” John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, concurred: “This is a law which can never be broken, which stands fast as the faithful witness in heaven.” Here in the Internet age, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association website adds its affirmation: “The world has changed greatly since God gave the Ten Commandments to His people almost 3,500 years ago, but if anything, that makes them even more important to us today, not less so.” Then Pastor Graham adds: “Times change, but God doesn’t change.”
There are many positive things the Law can do. Obviously, it shows us God’s character. It is a blueprint for moral and mature living. Like a bathroom mirror, it points out our sins and shortcomings — leading us to repentance and conversion. Obedience provides us with the opportunity to bring glory to God by our noble and unselfish acts of service (Matthew 5:16), making Christianity look like a dynamic and valid lifestyle.
The one thing that commandment-keeping can never do is to save us! It has many positive functions, but heavenly merit or salvation credit is not one of those things. Paul writes in Galatians 3:24 that the Law is like a schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ; it shows us the stark reality of how we fall short, and that we need the mercies of a loving heavenly Father. To make the point absolutely clear, Paul asserts just one page earlier: Know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ (2:16). As we stand before the great judgment bar of God, and see that the eternal Ten Commandments are the basis for that judgment (James 2:12), it is wonderful news that the spotless character of Jesus has been credited to our account!
David B. Smith writes from California. (19 of 28) His web page is Copyright © 2014. Click here for content usage information. Biblebay