The 10 Commandments Do Not Apply to Christians!

* Addendum: Towards the bottom of the post I write… “This is why focusing on Christ and staying away from language that would place the onus back onto ourselves is so important. One drop of poison (the law) in a glass of pure fresh water will taint the whole glass. Jesus Christ and His forgiveness is enough. It is enough.  He always has been and He always will be.” 

By this I do not mean that the law should not be preached ‘at all’ , but rather that it should not be preached after the gospel has been proclaimed to add something to the gospel, or to enhance the gospel, or to make us better Christians.

Since we constantly stray, we constantly need to be brought back inside the gate. This is done with the law (to kill us off…again) and the gospel (to raise us…again).

 

They apply to God’s creatures…not His children.

Now hold on a minute.  Don’t break out the tar and feathers just yet.

The 10 Commandments are God’s law. “Christ is the end of the law that every one who has faith may be justified.” (Romans 10:4)  God’s law was intended as a corale for us, that He might rein in evil for us and enable us to live together reasonably well. And also as an instrument of death, that it crush us and kill us who would establish a righteousness based on our own performance, instead of His perfect righteousness.

When a creature of God becomes a child of God through the gift of faith, he is no longer under the dominion of the law (that which we do), but rather he is now under the dominion of Jesus Christ. The new man or woman is now a slave of Christ. The Holy Spirit acts in and through the new person according to His will. This will not be obvious to any of us, neither the Christian, nor the observer. This new life is lived by faith, not by sight. ‘Sight’ is under the realm evidence, or our action…faith is in the realm of trust…in the Lord. We don’t need to do, say, or feel anything at all…to trust that we are saved. This is the faith that is given to us in our baptisms, in the sacrament of the altar, in the preaching of the gospel. This faith is not given to us in the law.

St. Paul tells us in 2nd Corinthians that the 10 Commandments (on tablets of stone) is the ministry of death for all those that would use it towards their righteousness. He is speaking to us, not just to the Jews of his time.  Law is law, is law, is law. Anything that we should, ought, or must be doing to fullfill the demand that our existence places upon us…is law.  God will have none of it towards righteousness.

If all that is true, then what do we do? Nothing. God has already given to us the righteousness that we need (His righteousness). He frees us from the condemnation of the law and gives us a new life in Himself. Does He then give us permission to trash His law? By no means! The law is still there, in effect until the new creation is ushered in by Christ Himself.

Confusing? It can be.  There is a dual nature of the Christian. There is the new man or woman and then there is the old Adam or Eve. Inasmuch as we still inhabit this sinful world and our sinful bodies, we are subject to the demands of God’s law. There is no escaping it, and it will have it’s way with us unto the grave. While we are subject to it, it brings no authentic life, only temporary fixes, and then death. The realm of the old Adam revolves around the self justification project.

If we want life, real authentic life, that is governed not by a task master (the law), but rather by completeness, wholeness, purity and love…then we must look only to the gospel. This is where our focus ought be. The prescribtions of law meant to make us better Christians, can only make us worse for they shift the light away from Jesus and place it upon ourselves.

This is why focusing on Christ and staying away from language that would place the onus back onto ourselves is so important. One drop of poison (the law) in a glass of pure fresh water will taint the whole glass.

Jesus Christ and His forgiveness is enough. It is enough.  He always has been and He always will be.

OK…now roll out the boiling vat of tar. Easy on the feathers…I’m ticklish!

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16 Responses

  1. Confusing? Yes. But then I believe it was C.S. Lewis who wrote that if theology wasn’t complicated, we’d complain that it was too simple.

    (A definition of what you mean by “apply” would, I think, be helpful, as would chapter/verse references when you cite a specific passage. The 2 Corinthians reference is 3:7.)

    Let’s see if I get this right. We are simultaneously saints and sinners. Insofar as we are saints, the 10 commandments do not apply to us. Insofar as we are sinners, they do. So, they don’t apply to the “Christian”, but they do apply to me and you because we are not made perfect yet. Or, to rephrase, they don’t apply to the Christian because he is justified by the death of Christ, but they do apply to the Christian because he is still simultaneously a sinner. No?

    Don’t think I quite agree with the above argument, but I’ll wait for you to comment until I dig into it deeper. I just want to make sure I am following you (I think at least some of the argument previously was based on differing definitions/understandings, rather than actual disagreements—something very common in theological discussions).

    As for the tar, I’ll hold off because you’re expecting it too much. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. 🙂

  2. Nemo,

    I love the C.S. Lewis quote!

    “… but they do apply to me and you because we are not made perfect yet. Or, to rephrase, they don’t apply to the Christian because he is justified by the death of Christ, but they do apply to the Christian because he is still simultaneously a sinner. No?”

    No. Almost though.

    Just the last line…”but they do apply to the Christian because he is simultaneously a sinner…”

    The Christian (the new man) is not a sinner. The sinner was killed off in your baptism (Romans 6) and the new man was raised. He nows lives by faith and is no longer under the dominion of the law.

    But that S.O.B. old Adam, still needs to toe the line!

    I see your point about expectations. Now I’m even more nervous! 😀

  3. Somehow I knew you were going to object to that last sentence. Ok, I hope this makes sense, and doesn’t take us too far off topic. I happen to believe that all doctrine interacts with all other doctrine, and nothing is in isolation. So, bear with me.

    The danger I see here is the shades of a somewhat Gnostic thinking. Now, if I may climb up on a soapbox for a minute (as a reaction to the accusations of Pelagianism that have been thrown around), similarity to a heresy is not inherently a killing point to a doctrine. After all, the heresies are branches off of orthodox Christianity, so naturally what is truth and what is heresy are going to resemble each other somewhat. The error of the heretics (generally speaking) is that they take a truth to a level that begins to conflict with other truth, and then proceed to ignore the conflicting truth. There are elements of truth in Pelagianism, but Pelagianism is not true. There are elements of truth in Gnosticism, but Gnosticism is not true. The same goes for Mormonism, or Islam.

    Ok, end the soapbox. When I say that there are shades of Gnosticism in the above explanation, what I am referencing is the emphasis on the dualism. True, I am both redeemed, yet I continue to sin. No question there. However, I am not two persons, but one. As that one person, I can only serve one master.

    The danger I see in your explanation is a complacency with sin, an emphasis on the dualism to the point that you can say both that as a saint you are mastered by Christ, but as a sinner you are mastered by sin. I don’t this that this is what is meant by the “saint and sinner” doctrine. Paul writes: “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus….For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.” (Romans 6:11-14) We are not under the law, thank God. But at the same time, sin shall not be our master.

    The cross is great, the cross is good, the cross is central and absolutely necessary. Thank God for the cross. But… (yes, I am adding a but to the cross, keep reading before you react, I am not going to say what you think I am) …but the cross is not the end. Christ rose again. Christ died, our sins are paid for, and divine wrath is directed away from us. “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death,” sins are paid for. End of story? By no means. We were “buried with him in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Romans 6:4)

    Keep preaching Christ, Steve. But be sure to preach Christ both crucified and risen.

    Now, what are the implications of the resurrection…?

  4. Correction: there should be an ellipsis between “buried with him” and “in order that” in the above quote from Romans. It should read “buried with him … in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Romans 6:4)

  5. Nemo,

    Great comments! Great points to ponder!

    But I haven’t got a clue as to what any of it means.
    (many here, would attest to that statement )
    Just kidding…I think I do have a clue.Opinions shall differ.

    I think the dualism is a real dualism. I believe that both persons do exist in their fulness. Fully saint and fully sinner.

    I actually see this view taking on sin in the most serious way possible.

    We are in bodage to sin. Our sin is so great that it controls our will. It’s not just that we sin, it’s that we will to sin. We like it. “Men loved the darkness.” We don’t want to be set free. “I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him….”

    I think that to believe that we do carry within us that spark, or will to do good, is to have a the lesser view of sin. “If I really try, I can.” Or, “if I have help from my Lord, I can.” This reduces God to a cosmic butler, there to get everything ready for me that I might ultimately act.

    With this view, we speak more often of sins, than of sin. Sins are something that I can work on if I just gin up and get serious.

    But sin is somethong altogether different. There is nothing in us, nothing at all that is remotely equipped to take on this adversary. For this adversary is the very fiber of our being.

    We need a Savior.

    Now that we have been saved…what now? Well, what do you want to do? Of course there are implications in our lives from our resurrection from the dead along with Christ!

    The Holy Spirit will sanctify us and keep us in the true faith. We are free to live our lives knowing (trusting, faithing) that this is true.

    He will use us for His purposes and we won’t be able to distinguish His good works from our own sin with any degree of accuracy. To think that it is possible to do so would be a form of Gnosticism (I believe).

    I like your admonition to preach both the cross and the resurrection. That is the law and the gospel! I am a true believer in that, Nemo, but only because my Lord has made me one.

  6. Perhaps one aspect of what Steve is getting at is that the law is intended for use in this world and not for preparation for the next world. When this is understood then a positive use of the law can emerge: it is given for the sake of civil righteousness. The proper use of the law for the sake of the world should be the constant concern of the Christian citizen. Just a thought.

  7. Pastor Mark Anderson,

    What you say makes a great deal of sense.

    But it seems as though the lines are easily blurred and what often ought be concern for the neighbor turns into a project for the self.

    It seems to me that the task of the preacher in keeping these ideas seperated is not an easy one.

    I know I get a bit of tightness in the throat whenever I hear a list of the things I ought be doing for my neighbor.

    Rather than make me better, it just seems to make me worse.

    Thanks Pastor.

    – Steve

  8. Ah, we’re back in the pivotal territory of Romans (Chapters 6-8).
    I think so much of this comes back to just how seriously we take Paul’s teaching in Romans 7 regarding our death to the law in Christ (the analogy used here of marriage is very strong).
    Paul clearly speaks here of not only a release from this, but also the new life (the new creation) which allows the existence of a humanity which is indeed free to do other than ‘bear fruit for death’. He shows the new and he shows the old, which is still at work in our members.
    The only true freedom will be in that day of maturity, when the old has totally perished in death, and the new is raised to joy unspeakable.
    That is our hope, our earnest expectation – a humanity, bodily resurrected, that will live well!

  9. Howard,

    The New Day. Our New Hope. Totally devoid of the old Adam. No underlying motives. No self conciousness, just love for one another and our Dear Lord.
    Nothing we will do can delay it’s coming, or hasten it.
    But that Day will surely come. He has promised it.

  10. Nemo,
    So was sin Paul’s master when he could not do the good he would, or did the bad that he would not?
    Or are you one of those who believe that was a temporary affliction cured by Roman’s 8.

  11. May I just ask what “dualism” is supposed to be? Howard mentions “dualism” and Nemo mentions “dualism”. To me it just means “two” of something. Thanks.

  12. May I just ask what “dualism” is supposed to be?

    Brigitte – Jut a quick reply as I’m scooting off on a shoot (a busy weekend), but Dualism is the belief that there are two realms – the physical and the spiritual – and the two are inherently distinct and divided from each other (i.e. the physical is inferior or evil in comparison to the spiritual, as taught by the Greeks and in Gnosticism). The consequence is that nothing within the physical is truly redeemable, and therefore is abandoned (i.e. in death) for the higher realm. Dualism, sadly,can often pop up in Christian spirituality when we travel down the track which tripped up the Colossian church (see Colossians chapter 1&2).

    Hope that helps!

  13. Pastor Mark,

    I think the idea of Christian citizenry helps, could you expound on it a little more?

    Bror,

    So was sin Paul’s master when he could not do the good he would, or did the bad that he would not?

    I’m still working on that one. Paul does say “I am of the flesh, sold under sin”, but also makes it clear that “I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me…Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” And “I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.”

    It appears (and feel free to weigh in on this), that Paul is still fighting with his sin nature, yet his desires are not governed by that sin nature. There is good that he wants to do, but is unable to do on his own. He is at war internally.

    You’re a pastor. How do you balance this with passages such as: Romans 6, 8, & 12; Galatians 5:13-6:10; Ephesians 4:17-5:21; Philippians 3:12-16; Colossians 3:1-17; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8; 2 Thessalonians 3:1315; 1 Timothy 6:11-14; 2 Timothy 2:3-6, 15, 20-22, 3:16 (“training in righteousness”); Titus 3:7-8; and Hebrews 12:12-17? If sin is still our master, wouldn’t these passages be rather superfluous?

    Or are you one of those who believe that was a temporary affliction cured by Roman’s 8.

    I myself am too familiar with Paul’s struggle to believe that. But as you preached yesterday, “So that all of us who have been washed in His blood, and buried with Him in baptism, might also rise in the newness of life. The newness of life we find only in Him, where His Spirit guides our hearts, and teaches us to trust in Him, and love Him. In Him, our hearts also learn to keep His commandments.” I don’t think that the newness is limited to the future life, but also affects the present life. Otherwise, we can easily end up with the material/present = bad and spiritual/future = good dualism.

    Howard,

    Thanks for the explanation on dualism—that is what I was referencing.

  14. To: Nemo

    When I talk with confirmation students about the law I like to use the analogy of the fence. God has placed fences around us for our protection and the protection of our neighbors. Creaturely existence comes with limits. And the law demands that I fulfill my humanity within those limits. And it is precisely in the human will to expand these limits that the damage is done (Genesis 3).

    A positive regard for the purpose of the law for the Christian is reflected well in Luther’s explanations to the commandments in the Small Catechism. Luther not only underscores the prohibition but emphasizes what the law is intended to protect for our good.
    e.g. not only should we not steal, we should help our neighbor care for his property; not only should we not bear false witness against our neighbor, we should speak well of him, and so forth. As a citizen under the law, therefore, my purpose is not only to avoid doing harm to my neighbor or myself, it is to seek to do good for my neighbor and myself.
    The law will not ensure my future in the kingdom – Christ has done that – but living within the restraints and the possibilities that the law allows checks evil and benefits my neighbor and our common life in the world until the kingdom comes.

  15. Hello,

    This blog is interesting. Have you ever believed that according to 2 Cor 5:21, Christians have been made the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ?

    2Co 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

    Do you believe that you have been made the righteousness of God in Christ, as truly as Jesus became sin on the cross?

  16. “Do you believe that you have been made the righteousness of God in Christ, as truly as Jesus became sin on the cross?”

    Yes…I believe that. By faith alone. By nothing that I have done, or will ever do…all a gift of God in Christ Jesus.

    Yes, I believe it.

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