They Are Not The Ten Suggestions
Written by Pastor Jim Law
Thirty years ago Ted Koppel, the noted journalist, addressed the graduating class of Duke University. In his commencement address, Koppel made this compelling statement:
“We have actually convinced ourselves that slogans will save us. ‘Shoot up if you must; but use a clean needle.’ ‘Enjoy sex whenever with whomever you wish; but wear a condom.’ No. The answer is no. Not no because it isn’t cool or smart or because you might end up in jail or dying in an AIDS ward — but no, because it’s wrong. What Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai were not the Ten Suggestions, they are Commandments. Are, not were… The sheer brilliance of the Ten Commandments is that they codify, in a handful of words, acceptable human behavior. Not just for then or now but for all time.”
Koppel’s words cut like knife in an age which treats the concept of objective truth, “right and wrong,” like a wax nose, where one can custom craft their morality according to what they think is right.
Koppel was correct to affirm that when Moses came down from Mt. Sinai written upon the tablets of stone were not suggestions. They were not helpful hints to tweak your life. No, these words written by the hand of God were loving commandments given to His people to guard them and bless them. Israel was fully warned that to forsake the commandments of God would bring terrible consequences (Deuteronomy 28:47).
Interestingly, the Bible does not teach that obeying the commandments earns salvation or forgiveness (Galatians 2:16). With regard to commandment-keeping, God requires perfect obedience which poses a huge problem for each one of us (Matthew 5:48; James 2:10). We don’t even keep our own resolutions and codes of personal ethics, let alone God’s standards. The truth of the matter is that the Law of God slays us thereby bringing us to Christ who is our redemption and righteousness.
Jesus highlights our dilemma in the Sermon on the Mount when he taught that if we have lust in our hearts we are guilty of adultery, or if we have hate in our hearts we are guilty of murder. This truly expands the idea of sin to include the thoughts, attitudes, and intentions of our hearts.
When this is considered, who can claim perfection? It is for this reason that the Ten Commandments actually serve as a mirror to reveal who we really are, namely, a people who need a Savior. We need one who kept the Law perfectly and paid the penalty for our transgressions. We find such a Savior in Jesus Christ. He was the ultimate Law keeper who came not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it. For those who receive Him by faith, they come to discover a power and a desire to live life for the pleasure of God which brings blessing and honor.
In the New Testament, which is filled with loving commands, the Apostle John writes, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” (I John 5:3)
Please join me over the next few months as we take a look at each of the Ten Commandments. I believe it will be time well spent as we revisit these timeless truths. I would challenge you to memorize them and to think about what they really mean and how they should impact your life. Take a look at Exodus 20:3-17.