KJV - 15 Thou shalt not steal.
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The laws that God gave to Israel in the Ten Commandments were not foreign to the nature of man in general. As Paul noted in Romans 2:14-15, "When Gentiles who do not have the Law do by nature what the Law requires, they are a law unto themselves, even though they have not the Law. They show that what the Law requires is written on their hearts." The Ten Commandments were merely a formal codification of standards that all humans (not just the nation of Israel) have always known intuitively, as testified to by their conscience. Yet, despite this innate knowledge, no one (whether Jew or Gentile) has been capable of perfect obedience to it (which has not been God's fault, but their own). But that still does not negate the reason for the existence of the formal, objective standard, or the right of a holy God to set it, just as the fact that people will inevitably break human laws does not negate the reason for having them, or mean that it would be preferable for every individual to "play by their own rules". The Ten Commandments assured that Israel knew what God required of them -- not just intuitively, but publicly and unmistakably, removing any claim of ignorance as an excuse for disobedience. And the awareness of people that they were (and still are) incapable of perfectly satisfying God's requirements should be the greatest incentive possible for them to be thankful for, and avail themselves of, the grace, mercy, and love that He has shown in making salvation possible through faith in Christ.
As I see it, it prepares the path to Jesus and the cross so we understand that we can not save ourselves by our works but by his grace and love. There is no greater sacrifice than a father giving his life for his children.
Before I go any further, must make clear the fact that there is no saving power in the Ten Commandments (TC). There is no justifying or cleansing grace in the law. All the works of all the law would not be sufficient to save a single person – because we are all saved by grace through faith, as a free gift from God (Eph 2:8, 9; Rom 3:20). It is impossible to earn forgiveness by obeying the TC. No sinner can gain favor and acceptance with God because he keeps the law. The law was not made for the purpose of saving or justifying. It was made to show us our need of cleansing and to point us to Jesus. The TC is a mirror showing us what kind of persons we are (James 1:23, 24, 25). A mirror cannot take away the dirt – it just tells us that we need a bath. Similarly, the TC can only condemn us by giving the knowledge of our sinful condition and then pointing to the cross for cleansing (Gal 2:16). Do I have other gods? I must give them up and ask God for forgiveness. I worship idols? I must stop and ask God for forgiveness. I take God’s name in vain? I must stop misusing His name and pray God for forgiveness - and that goes for all the rest of the TC. Some have argued that since we are not under the law but under grace, and since no one can keep 100% of the TC, 100% of the time, then we shouldn’t even bother trying to keep the TC. The Bible certainly does say that we are not under the law, but it doesn’t imply that we are free from obeying it. Apostle Paul in Romans 6:14, 15 makes a very clear statement: “Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!” In the strongest possible terms Paul states that being under grace does not give a license to break the law or releases us from keeping the TC. Law and grace do not work in competition with each other but in partnership. The law points out sin, and grace saves from sin. The law is the will of God, and grace is the power to do the will of God. We do not obey the law in order to be saved but because we are saved (1 John 2:4; Rev 14:12). But it is even possible to keep the law? Jesus came to condemn sin by His perfect life in the flesh in order that “the righteousness of the law” might be fulfilled in us (Rom 8:3, 4). This means that Christ who won His perfect victory is making the same victory available to all of us. Having defeated the devil, showing that in the flesh the law can be obeyed (Heb 4:15), Christ now offers to come into our hearts and share the victory with us. Only by His strength the requirements of the law be fulfilled by anyone (Phil 4:13).
God's divine word is the instruction manual for all of us. It helps to build us up, gives us information on how we should live our lives. The Ten Commandments, the beatitudes, and so many other parts of the scriptures are all part of the promises that God has for us. He can do so much more than we can ever imagine, all we have to do is believe and trust. We are all sinners and He knows that, however He still loves us and He wants us to follow His guidance.
When God created human beings he intended we would live with him in a state of perfection for all eternity in the paradise he had created. But our first ancestors rebelled against God’s only prohibition and ate the forbidden fruit. Sin entered the world and became our human nature. God allowed this nature to prevail to show the world how depraved the sin in us could become until the evil and wickedness was complete. Then God wiped out our human race and started over with Noah, a righteous man, and his family. But the sinful nature continued to control our ancestors. As Psalm 14: 3 says, “All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. But God did not give up on us. He chose Abraham to establish a nation and people for himself who could be his witness and show the world the nature and character of God. Then God gave Israel his Ten Commandments to reveal his perfect will for them, and for all human beings. But again, our sinful nature prevented us from obeying these commands. But giving these commands still established God’s will (his goals) for human life. When standards are given we have something to strive for. Every business has a business plan and vision statement to guide the management and staff to achieve their goals. Often these goals are not met for various reasons, but they keep making plans and goals to drive and motivate the people. People make New Year’s resolutions and often fail to keep them, but they keep making them in a desire to seek personal improvement. When we don’t make plans and goals are lives simply drift from one experience to the next without any sense of purpose or feeling of fulfilment. But the Ten Commandments were only part of God’s plan. When Jesus came to earth as both God and man, he lived the perfect life, communicated God’s perfect will in much greater detail and gave us a vision for transforming our lives and the world we live in. Jesus birth, life, ministry, suffering, death and resurrection delivered the human race from the control of our human nature, the fear of physical and eternal death, and the power of evil forces in the world. Every person who accepts Jesus as their personal saviour is born again. We are crucified with Christ and resurrected to a new eternal life. When the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in each new believer, we have the wisdom and power to live a holy and godly life. We are able to fulfil God’s perfect will for us and complete all the good works he has prepared in advance for us to do. Our part is to surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and walk with his Holy Spirit. The Ten Commandments are still God’s perfect will for us and the Holy Spirit’s job is to help us apply them to our daily lives for God’s honour and glory. We still stumble and fall into sin, but God’s will is that we confess and repent so he can forgive, cleanse and set our feet upon his path once again. God’s highest purpose is to transform the character of each Christian into an image of his Son, Jesus Christ. This is the most important quality of life we take into eternity in the new heaven and earth that Jesus will create when he returns.
Romans 6:23 tells us that "the wages of sin is death". The ten commandments spell out what sin is. Jesus built on this with his sermon on the mount (Matthew chapter 5) letting us know that we are held not only to a technical interpretation of the law, but that the intention of our heart is what matters. This convicts us further of our sin. Romans 3:23 confirms what you know, "that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Our condition is death as a result. Jesus told his disciples in John 14:6 that "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." A few days later, in the empty tomb, the women who had come to see Jesus' body were instead confronted by two angels who asked "Why have you come to seek the living among the dead? He is not here, he has risen." (Luke 24:5-6) The wages of sin is death, but Jesus is life! He is our only way to it. We all need to be confronted with the reality of our sin. Our condition is death under its curse. The standard to live in God's presence is perfection, the absence of any act in violation of the 10 commandments, by act or omission. We need to know this because the only way we can be made clean is through the "blood of the Lamb," that is Jesus Christ. (John 1:29) None of us would seek salvation if we didn't think we had anything to be saved from. The Ten Commandments are God's blessing to convict us of our need for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
Galatians 3:21-24 says, 21"Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. 22But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. 23Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith." The law simply prepares us for a fuller manifestation of what God began with Abraham—the plan by which a person can become righteous before God because of our faith. This righteousness is not based on our goodness; it is based on God's grace. The purpose of the law is that it helps to prepare for our Savior (Gal 3:21-24): The law serves as a teacher and guide to bring us to Christ. The law was our tutor to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24). The law has never saved anyone, and it never will. God did not give it to redeem us from sin but to show us our need for salvation. That's why the apostle Paul called it "our tutor." For instance, I am going to see the dentist today for a problem tooth. He will be using his mirror to look into my mouth. Fred Brown likened the law (TC) to the small mirror dentists use. With the mirror, they can detect cavities. But they can't drill with it or use it to pull teeth. The mirror reveals the decayed area or other abnormality, but it can't fix the problem. The hymnwriter tells MY story: "By God's Word at last my sin I learned; Then I trembled at the Law I'd spurned Till my guilty soul imploring turned to Calvary."
Why give anyone a set of laws knowing that they either can't or simply won't keep them? God gave the people the law for the same reason any other authority enacts its laws; so that the people subject to the law will be without excuse when they break the law. Other than the fact that the law of God helps in every area of life if they are kept, I can't think of another reason.
The ten commandments were not a bludgeon to remind the Israelites of their failures. The law was given to ancient Israel to describe their freedom under God compared to their slavery under the Egyptians. The 10 commandments are basically God saying, "I'm the Lord your God who brought you out of slavery. This is what your freedom looks like." This is one reason Jesus said the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. The Sabbath was an act of rest & freedom compared to the systems of the surrounding cultures and the slavery they had lived under. This is also the reason the 10 commandments start with "I'm the Lord your God who brought you out of slavery, you shall have no other gods." This was a huge statement of freedom. Instead of having to worship dozens of gods, they only had to worship one. It's impossible to please hundreds of gods. Especially when most of them had conflicting desires & commands. Whenever something goes wrong when living under hundreds of gods, you have to determine which god you need to appease. Did you piss off the sun god, the moon god, the rain god, the god of the rivers, the god of the valleys, the god of the mountains, or maybe a god you don't even know about? The psalmist says he loves the law of the Lord and the the law of the Lord is sweeter than honey. That's because he understood the freedom brought by the law of the Lord. Ancient Israel would be shocked that Christians of today think the law is something God uses to bludgeon his people to keep them in line.
God gave the Ten Commandments to the people because He loved them. Parents give rules to their children because they love them and want the best for them. They know that their kids won't be able to keep the rules, but that doesn't keep the parents from trying. If you think about rules, the best ones are designed so that, when followed, you have the best outcome. Imagine a brain surgeon not following the rules. Yes, innovation can spring from not following the rules, but disaster can result, also. The best rules are given by the Ultimate Rule-maker. He wants the best for us, but we have our own ideas as to what we think is best.
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