Summary: The Ten Commandments are relational in nature. We must apply them in the context of relationship and in the context of love, otherwise they become cold and without true meaning.
Ronald Regan once said, “I have wondered at times, what the Ten Commandments would have looked like if Moses had had to run them through the United States Congress.”
Gettysburg Address: 286 words.
Declaration of Independence: 1,300 words.
U.S. Government regulations on cabbage sales: 26, 911 words.
Ten Commandments: 179 words.
Jesus’ summary of the Ten Commandments – 40 words.
Understanding the Ten Commandments certainly is not rocket science. The Ten Commandments are succinct and elegantly simple. They make no illusions, they don’t dance around the issues, they get right to the point and, really, they don’t require a lot of interpretation do they? You shall not steal means, don’t take anything that doesn’t belong to you – even a four year old clearly understands what that means.
I think the difficulty our society has with the Ten Commandments doesn’t fall along the lines of interpretation; The difficulty our society has with the Ten Commandments falls along the lines of application…
A businessman known for his ruthlessness was talking with Mark Twain and announced, “Before I die, I mean to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land; There I will climb Mount Sinai and read the Ten Commandments aloud from the top of the mountain.
“I have a better idea”, replied Mark Twain, “You could stay in Boston and keep them”.
We need to understand that here in chapter 20 of the book of Exodus, that what is being said by God is not in any way new, the truth behind the Ten Commandments is not new, it is only now at this point in Israel’s history that they are being revealed directly from God.
If we go back to the beginning of the Scriptures in Genesis we can ask, “Has it ever be right to lie, or steal, or to give false testimony?” Of course not. Biblically, what we read this morning is nothing new. The Ten Commandments are universal biblical truths that do not have a expiration date nor do they have a date of inception.
For us here this morning, my guess is that we would all agree that the Ten Commandments are a wonderful gift from God and that they are very powerful in their application. I don’t think that any of us here need to be convince of the validity of the Ten Commandments – but we as Americans may carry with us some misconceptions about the Ten Commandments.
Probably the biggest misconception about the Ten Commandments, especially in our society is that they are the pathway to salvation. In other words, if a person keeps the Ten Commandments, then that person will somehow be justified when they stand before God, they will earn entrance into heaven.
If we go out on the street and ask almost anyone on the street, “Do you think you will go to heaven – and what will they most likely say?
“Yes, I think I will go to heaven, because I am a good person”.
If you press them further, and ask why they think they are a good person, they will almost universally refer to the Ten Commandments. They will say something like, “I’m not a murderer. I’m not a thief. I try to be a good person”. Does this sound familiar?
If you have your bibles open to our Scripture this morning, Exodus 20, take a look and see…..where does it say that keeping the Ten Commandments will get you into heaven? Can you find that?
You can stop looking now, because it is not there.
The Ten Commandments are not the pathway to salvation, the Ten Commandments are not what determine the good, the bad and the ugly. Even more, the fact is, only one person in all of history has been able to fully keep the Ten Commandments – Jesus Christ, who is God incarnate. We read in Rom. 3:10-12, As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
Paul tells us in Romans 9:31-32 that, “Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. 32 Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works”.
See, first the Ten Commandments are not the key to salvation, and second, no human being has been able to fully keep them….ever.
What the Ten Commandments do, is they reveal to us how far short we fall; They reveal to us that we are in fact, incapable of living up to God’s standards; They show us our need for salvation by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. We see from the person of Jesus Christ that salvation comes in terms of relationship. Relationship is what will save us, now in our time, and also then, in Moses’ time.