Thursday, August 3, 2006

The Decalogue: Whole Duty of Man

“Let us hear the conclusion of the matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” (Eccl.12:13)

In an article written by David Sapsted in the London Telegraph, dated 7/31/06 and under the title, “Teachers to stop teaching right from wrong,” you will read these lines: “Instead of a requirement to teach right from wrong, schools will only have to ensure that children between the ages of 11 and 14 have secure value beliefs and are committed to human rights.” Nothing is said about just where these “value beliefs” will come from, presumably so that they can change as social mores do. What they are looking for, so it seems, is “young people who should become responsible citizens who make a positive contribution to society.” In other words, if your lying, cheating, adultery, and godlessness in general does not hinder you from fulfilling your duties on the city counsel, you will not be faulted. If our duty to society was all we were going to have to account for, it might not be too absurd to reason this way. But that is not the case.

Every man and woman on the face of the earth has one supreme duty: to fear God and keep His commandments. This is true no matter what our race, gender, religion, or creed of life may be. Whether we ever acknowledge it or not, the obligation is still there. As a non-believer, we may look on them as obsolete, and as a professing believer, we may afford them mere lip service, but the fact remains, God has laid down ten basic precepts that He expects man to adhere to.

“But,” it has been argued, “We are not “under law, but under grace”; Paul says so in Romans 6:14.” This is true, but he hardly takes a breath before adding, “What then? shall we sin because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid” (v. 17); and he assures us in 7:14, “…with the mind I myself serve the law of God…” The “Law of God,” sometimes called “The Decalogue,” are those Ten Commandments written by His own finger on tables of stone (Exo.31:18) and kept safe within the Ark of the Covenant in the Tabernacle (2 Chron.5:10).These do not change under any circumstances. The ceremonial laws and ordinances, that part of the Law laid down by Moses to the children of Israel, may have been rendered non-binding by the death of Christ on the Cross (Col.2:14), but the Law of God, as given in those ten perpetually binding commandments are “a reflection of the character of God and a revelation of His moral order…binding upon all rational creatures,” says A.W. Pink in his little booklet, The Law and the Saint. This is the law written in the hearts of both Jew (Heb.10:16) and Gentile (Rom.2:14-15).

As further evidence of their perpetuity, we will see as we consider each one individually that they are repeated (except for one) in the New Testament—even elaborated upon. Indeed, our Lord made it clear that He did not come to destroy the law, but rather, to fulfill it (Matt.5:17). He was, and still remains, the only perfect Law-keeper. It is for this reason that we, as benefactors of both His perfect life and perfect death, have the assurance that the law has been fulfilled in us (not by us); therefore we can stand before God blameless (Rom.8:3-4). The fact that keeping the law in itself could never save us is proven by the fact that the substitutionary death of a Savior was necessary. “Therefore by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom.3:20). The law is admirably able to provide knowledge of sin, but miserably unable to do anything about it.

So, although the moral law cannot be our Savior, it is still our guide. And, as Puritan writer, Thomas Watson, has said, “They who will not have the law to rule over them, shall never have the gospel to save them.” By this he means that antagonism against God’s moral code is evidence of an absence of the grace of God in the heart. Because of our standing in Christ, the Law of God may not condemn, but it has still has every right to command us.

Proverbs 29:18 says, "[H]e that keepeth the law, happy is he." Commenting on this verse in an article I entitled, “Those Happy Law-keepers,” I said, “When I know that what I'm doing is right, I'm deliciously happy. I am happy now, and I'll be even happier when I stand before the Lord.” First John 5:3 says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” This verse lets us know that God gave us these commandments because He loves us and wants only the best for us. And to those of us who love Him, they are not grievous; they are gratifying. They give me the same assurance that meaningful, enforced rules give to any child: the knowledge that my Father considers me worth the effort.

Today begins a mini-series, if you will, on the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments. I hope I have been able to remind you again of their importance. The educational system of England (and, for all practical purposes, the U.S.) may have decided to abandon the teaching of right from wrong, but God has not abdicated His role. And the fact that there will always be at least one point in which I will offend (James 2:10) does not justify simply throwing in the towel. After all, I will never be perfectly clean, but that doesn’t keep me from taking a bath every day!

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