If you grew up in the Church, you have heard quite a lot about the Ten Commandments. In my experience, and those of many people I know, churches have improperly taught us what their purpose is. I know that sounds intense so let me explain.
In a conversation with my friend about what makes a person a Christian, he said that he believed in Jesus and tried to follow the Ten Commandments. This is what many of us have been told or have intimated based on our lifetime in church. It makes sense. They are called the Ten Commandments which seems to imply we should do them in order to please God. However, we have good evidence to suggest that this isn’t the case.
First, we have the problem of human sin. According to Paul in Romans 3:23, every human being has sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. So, all of us have missed the mark. We are not holy as God is holy. You may think that you can just ask for forgiveness and do better next time. According to James, the head of the Jerusalem Church and brother of Jesus, if you break one of God’s laws, you have actually broken them all. That means that even if we were able to “do better next time,” which we would inevitably not, we would still be guilty before God.
It seems then that we are essentially destined to fail to perpetually keep the Commandments for our whole lives. Why would God give us this set of laws to attain perfection that we are unable to perfectly follow? Because it shows our weakness. It shows us that we cannot be godly, we cannot be right before God on our own merit.
The Ten Commandments were placed before us like a mirror to demonstrate to us the depth of our depravity. After we read the first line with any semblance of objectivity, we realize that we cannot live up to God’s standard for holiness. No amount of pulling ourselves up by our moral bootstraps can enable us to be flawlessly upright enough to earn salvation.
But God hasn’t leave us to nihilistically wallow in our brokenness. Instead, Christ left his seat at God’s right hand and entered into human history. He put himself into a social context where he was stricken with poverty from birth. He lived a life of suffering, pain, and anguish. He lived the only perfect life any human being has ever lived.
He did fulfill the entirety of the law. In Christ, the Creator of the universe offers us forgiveness, purpose, and eternal life in right relation with Him. While we were lost in our sin, Christ died for us. He took God’s wrath due us upon himself and grants us the heavenly reward He earned.
The Commandments (and the rest of the law) don’t function for us like the U.S. Constitution does for the government. While it does lay out for us what a sinless life looks like, our adherence to its statutes is not the point. As Paul wrote in Galatians 3:24, the law is “our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ” (KJV). The Ten Commandments were given to us, ultimately, to point us to our need for a Savior. Thankfully the God we serve is that Savior for us.