Summary: When we place our faith in Jesus Christ, our relationship to the ten commandments changes.
In 1995 an obscure Alabama circuit judge named Roy Moore became a national symbol of controversy. You see, Judge Moore displays a handmade copy of the ten commandments in his courtroom. That’s provoked the wrath of atheist groups and the ACLU, yet Judge Moore has remained steadfast in his right to post the ten commandments.
Then came the terrible tragedy in at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. This national tragedy led to further discussion about posting the ten commandments, this time not just in courtrooms, but also in public schools. Darrell Scott, who’s daughter Rachel was brutally murdered by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, believes posting the ten commandments in public schools could help curb the violence in our nation’s schools. According to a CNN/USA Today poll in 1999, 74% of Americans agree with Mr. Scott and favor posting the ten commandments in schools.
This has led many Christian organizations to put tremendous effort into posting the ten commandments in public places. For instance, an organization called "Operation Save Our Nation" distributes stone tablets engraved with the ten commandments to lawmakers across the nation. The Family Research Council’s "Hang Ten" campaign is designed to get the ten commandments out any way possible. A rash of ten commandments jewelry, tee shirts, wall plaques, bumper stickers, textbook covers and charm bracelets have also flooded the market. An Associated Press article last year suggested that posting the ten commandments in public places has become the most important social issue to evangelical Christians in America.
But very few Christians have stopped to ask whether this new focus on the ten commandments is really consistent with the Christian message. Certainly the ten commandments are found in the Bible: found twice in fact, once in Exodus chapter 20 and once in Deuteronomy chapter 4. However, the New Testament has a lot to say about the ten commandments that some of these activists haven’t really thought through.
How should Christians relate to the ten commandments?
We’re in the midst of a series through the New Testament book of Romans called GOOD NEWS FOR OUR TIMES. Today we’re going to ask how Christians should relate to the ten commandments, as we look at chapter 7 of Romans. Specifically we’re going to find three realities about how Christians should relate to the ten commandments. We must think through these three realities before we lobby to post the ten commandments anywhere.
1. A New Relationship (Romans 7:1-6)
Now you need to know that beginning in chapter 5 Paul has been personifying certain topics as if they were actual characters. Picture the entire human race and all human history as being like a chess board. Paul has been personifying SIN as if it were a king on the chess board that’s opposing God and enslaving the human race. Sin’s co-conspirator in this strategy has been DEATH, which follows sin wherever it goes. Now this doesn’t mean sin and death are actual people, but this is a literary technique Paul is using to describe human history. Another personified character we were introduced to in chapters 5 and 6 was GRACE, as it opposes the power of SIN and DEATH.
Here we’re introduced to a fourth character on the chess board: the LAW. Now the law here isn’t all laws or American law or even the principle of law, but it’s the Old Testament law of Moses. The law of Moses is the ten commandments, the two stone tablets of law Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai to give to the people of Israel. Now Israel had over three hundred other laws as well, but all these other laws are simply specific applications of the ten commandments. Paul is speaking to people who are familiar with the ten commandments here, and he states a general principle from the law: the law only has authority over someone when that person is alive.
To illustrate this principle, Paul gives us an example from the seventh commandment, God’s commandment against committing adultery. All the marriage and divorce laws in the Old Testament were specific applications of the seventh commandment. The principle here is that marriage is meant to be a lifelong covenant relationship, capable of being severed only in cases of death. Now there was provision in the Old Testament for divorce in certain circumstances, but the general principle is that marriage is for life. So if a married woman marries another man, she’s guilty of breaking the seventh commandment, of committing adultery. But if her husband dies and then she remarries, she’s not guilty of breaking the seventh commandment because death has severed her legal relationship with her husband.
In a similar way, Christians somehow die to the ten commandments when they trust in Jesus. Just as we saw in chapter 6, Christians die to the dominion of sin through the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, we also find here that Christians die to the dominion of the ten commandments through Jesus’ death as well. Only by dying to the dominion of the ten commandments can we now belong to Jesus.