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The Place and Purpose of the

Ten Commandments


This summer we will use the Decalogue as our preaching schedule, one commandment per week.  It seems important that before embarking on this series we are clear on the place and purpose of the Ten Commandments in the Bible and for the Christian.


Mistaken Thinking on the “10”!

Some might think that the essence of being a Christian is attempting to keep the 10 Commandments to the best of your ability.  This is totally false.  Others might get a little more sophisticated and say something like “The commandments lead you to Christ for justification and then Christ leads you to the commandments for sanctification.”  The first half of this is mostly true, but the second half is totally false.  (Rather, Christ gives you the gift of the Holy Spirit for sanctification; our calling is to live by the Spirit a crucified life – dead to the world, self, Satan and the Law –  and a resurrected life – led, illuminated, taught and empowered, filled by the Spirit.


Biblical Thinking on the “10”!

The Ten Commandments were the central part of the Mosaic Law intended for Israel.  It was given to the Jews, not the Gentiles.  When Paul and the other apostles addressed sermons to gentiles in Acts they do not refer to the Ten Commandments or responsibility to the Mosaic Law but to the ways God has spoken to them in creation and conscience.


The Ten Commandments had a limited shelf life.  They were given at Mt. Sinai to exist until Jesus came.  Paul talks about the fading splendor of the Mosaic covenant (with the 10 C’s at the heart of that covenant) now that the greater glory of Christ has appeared.  Hebrews reminds us that the new covenant makes the old covenant obsolete, for it was already passing away. (Hebrews 8:13).


The purpose of the Law given at Sinai was specific:  to reveal sin in fallen man.  This is the great paradox of the Law:  even as the Law is holy, just and good it functions to identify all that is not:  sin and principle of rebellion toward God resident in the human heart.  In fact, the Law shows that even a privileged people like Israel has the “flesh” principle of rebellion and sin wildly active in their own hearts along with the rest of humanity.


Therefore we can conclude that the Law prepared the way for Christ.  The Law has done all it can when it leads an individual to see what they really are before God and then to cry out in despair, “O wretched man that I am!  Who shall deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24).


This Series on the “10”!

So in this series on the Ten Commandments we will not obscure the gospel by seeking to inherit eternal life by rule keeping or by seeking to live the Christian life by rule keeping.  Rather we will use the Decalogue to take us to Christ and to rely on Him as our confidence and consolation in life.  Jesus not only fulfills the Law, He is also the end (goal) of the law to all who believe. (Romans 10:4).


From the Ten Commandments we can learn lessons about what God is like (good, loving, just), what we are like (sinful and hard-hearted) and what the gospel is like (powerful to rescue a people drowning in rules they cannot keep).  But always our answer to our failure to live by the 10 Commandments is not to try harder or to give up or to resent God, but to embrace the freedom from condemnation and guilt that is found in Jesus and to live in the power and fullness of His Spirit and His love that the 10 Commandments indeed reflect.


I hope that you will worship the LORD with us this summer to hear and receive the gospel in Word and Sacrament.  To God be the glory. 


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