We know, according to Paul, that the law was given to point men to Christ (Galatians 3:24). The law tutored sinners toward the Savior because the law required perfection and none of us are. Only Christ fulfilled every jot and tittle (Matthew 5:17-18), the rest of us, failing at even one point have become accountable for all of it (James 2:10). The law teaches us that we have not obeyed the law and that we must believe in Christ for our righteousness.
What good, then, are the Ten Commandments for us as Christians? Historically, the Church has acknowledged a few different uses, but one of them is to show us the types of lawful behavior that God desires and that God enables believers to perform by His Spirit. God’s character didn’t change after Christ came. And Christ came to redeem and remake us to share more of God’s character.
Christ also summarized the law–epitomized in the Decalogue–in the Great Commandment and the Second like it. Love for God and love for one’s neighbor aren’t a replacement for the Ten, they represent two Tables within the Ten.
Loving God with all we are is a way to say that we will serve no idols, carve no images, not say His name in vain, and that we will take one day out of every seven to honor Him by not going about our business as usual. Loving one’s neighbor fulfills the remaining six which all function in human relationships–parents, spouses, those we’re mad at or lust for, ones we want to hurt or want what they have.
The law in Exodus 20 applies uniquely to Israel as part of the Old Testament, but we are endowed uniquely to understand it in light of Christ’s fulfillment and to obey it in His likeness by His Spirit.
Noah was 600 years old when the rain came down and the floods came up. He spent one of our entire lifetimes just building the ark. That project kept him busy, but life was basically the same for him until the day the Lord shut him in safety. A year later when he disembarked, life was similar and yet it could not be the same as before.
As Christians, we learned one way of living before the way of salvation. Some spent a long time in the world’s workshop, others less. But length of life in sin isn’t an excuse for staying in sin; we are all called to leave the old and live in the new. Naturally this is difficult. We have to relearn how to talk, how to relate, how to work, how to worship. We had ways of going about it before, now we have to get accustomed to going about it like Christ.
Some persons want to get on the ark and get off again with everything the same as before. They want salvation from sin and to keep living in ways that required their salvation. They might as well try to stay dry while giving a bath to a pack of lions.
The church is the people relearning to walk. We don’t always take every step in the right direction, but we keep coming together as fellow-citizens of Christ’s Kingdom to renew our training in faithful obedience. The communion meal is part of the program reminding us to give thanks to God who sent us a Savior from the flood of judgment we deserved.
“When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God” (Genesis 5:1). When Adam sinned, he did not lose this likeness completely, but the image was completely bent. In Jesus, we not only see the image of God fully and perfectly, but through Jesus and the Spirit we are in the process of that image being restored.
We are being transformed into the image from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18). We are being transformed into the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). Our lowly bodies are being transformed to be like his glorious body by the power that enables Him to subject all things to Himself (Philippians 3:21). We are to continue to put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator (Colossians 3:10).
We are His creations and His new creations. The process of salvation and sanctification is a restoration project. He is recreating us to be like He first made man. This work won’t be finished on earth but it has begun here.
Christian, don’t lose heart. Though your outer man is wearing away, your inner nature is being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16). His plan will not change, His providence will not break, His purpose will not reverse, His promises will not disappoint, and His power will not let you stay the same. You are not who you were and you can expect to see more results because He is faithful.
When Paul defended his ministry before King Agrippa in Acts 26, he included the charge that the Lord gave to him. Jesus said to him,
I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ (Acts 26:16–18, ESV)
Jesus commissioned Paul to work for conversions. This converting work still happens today as men become Christians, and in another sense it also still happens within Christians.
When we gather on the Lord’s Day, we say that our eyes have been opened. We acknowledge that we have been converted, that we no longer walk in darkness but in light. We worship the true and living God. We declare that have sinned but that we also have received forgiveness. And we take our place among the holy.
We are still tempted, though, and we still sin. The Lord set us apart, converted us, but He continues to convert us as well, changing our behavior by changing our longings. He is still sanctifying us, still turning our loves away from sin, from unholy and unworthy desires.
A fundamental break was made when he first granted us repentance, but our feet get dirty day by day. We must continue to repent, to turn away from the ways of the world and be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Are you continuing to turn? Do you think about your ongoing conversion? Are you seeking further sanctification by faith in Him? If yes, then confession of sin is a time to look forward to. It continues the purifying process and in doing so declares whose side we’re on.
Last Sunday we entered a study of John 17. The entire chapter is one prayer by Jesus for His disciples the night before His crucifixion. We learn, or at least we have confirmed for us, what sorts of things the Son desires for us as we hear Him ask the Father. He makes a variety of supplications and we will take a few weeks in our confession time to examine if we are wanting what the Son wants.
First let us consider that Jesus prays, “Sanctify them in your truth: your word is truth” (17:17). Two verses later He says, “For their sake I consecrate myself that they also may be sanctified in truth” (verse 19).
We define (or argue about) sanctification better than we desire it. Christ wants us to be sanctified, to be set apart from the world in our desires and loves, but yet not removed out of the world. Sanctification is not an escape, it is a conscious battle to love God and to love our neighbors who don’t deserve it. The moral behavior part of being made more holy grows out of better and stronger love for the right things.
Jesus prays for our sanctification as our priest, as the one who goes to the Father on our behalf. Not only that, He went to the cross on our behalf. He “consecrated” Himself, He dedicated His life and death for the sake of our purification from sin. He cleanses the inside of the cup first.
Christian, are you pursuing purity in your heart for the sake of your pure, unmixed, uncontaminated loves? Are you loving the same direction that Jesus is praying? Are you living in a way that matches the purpose of Christ dying?
[L]iving in believing community is one of the central instruments that a loving God has given to us to prepare us for that great day. Living among fellow sinners, learning how to deal with it properly, is the principal form of industrial grade sandpaper that the Holy Spirit uses on us. But many pietists, including many educational perfectionists, withdraw from that treatment, shrinking from it, and all in the name of maintaining their smooth surfaces. But hiding the rough cut lumber in an unlit shed is not the same thing as sanding.
—Doug Wilson, [Holy Ghost Industrial Grade Sandpaper]