The Ten Commandments have much to teach us about our great and glorious God. They reflect the perfections of God and His heart for His people. They are the foundation of God’s moral law. They show His children how to walk in all His ways.
The Ten Commandments have been part of the religious education of Western countries for hundreds of years and have often been part of the public-school curriculum. It is only recently that they have been considered outdated.
However, we are in great need of moral absolutes in the 21st century. The Ten Commandments stand as God’s great moral absolutes for a confused and troubled world. The Ten Commandments are as relevant today as they were when God gave them to Moses on Mount Sinai.
But the Ten Commandments are pertinent not only for our moral instruction. They can also be used to bring about conversion. For it is in God’s perfect law that we see our depravity. Understanding the requirements of God’s law serves as a mirror to show us our total inability to meet those standards.
A drowning man must first see that he is drowning before he can appreciate a life preserver. John Piper, former pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church of Minneapolis, Minnesota, has said that you must see your plight before you can recognize the rescue. The Ten Commandments show us our plight. Faith in Jesus’ atoning death on the
cross is our rescue.
In days gone by, children learned the commandments before they learned John 3:16, because only then did John 3:16 have real meaning for them. Likewise, John Eliot’s first translation work among the Indians was not of John 3:16 but of the Ten Commandments, and he preached his first sermon on them. Did John Eliot think the Indians would be saved by the Ten Commandments? Of course not, but the commandments would show them why they needed to be saved—they were lawbreakers, and they needed a law keeper to be their substitute.1
So, rather than being a study in legalism, the study of the Ten Commandments refreshingly frees one from legalism. It shows us that we can never gain heaven through works of righteousness, and it points us to grace—the grace of God to undeserving, inadequate, depraved sinners! There is no greater news than this—and there is no greater freedom from legalism than the perfect righteousness of Jesus freely given to those who trust in Him.
1 Ernest C. Reisinger. Whatever Happened to the Ten Commandments? (Edinburgh, Scotland: Banner of Truth Trust, 1999), 5.