The Ten Commandments have a bad reputation. They've been used to try to impose our beliefs on others--specifically the unchurched and those from other religions. They've also been used as a guilt-laden way to try earning the forgiveness of our sins (called "salvation"). We look at them and snarl, "They're just a bunch of laws. I don't like laws!" Or we say, "They're so restricting, telling me 'don't do this or that'!" Despite our tendency to look at the Ten Commandments negatively, they are actually a great blessing given to us by God Himself. To understand this, I think it is important to briefly look back at the circumstances surrounding their origin. Israel, God's chosen nation, had been in slavery in Egypt for 440 years before we are told that "God heard their cry" and set events in motion to save them from Pharaoh (the ruler of Egypt). The people of Israel were free! They were now able to worship their God as his people. But that wasn't what happened. The people of Israel started to live in ways that caused them great pain and danger--drawing them further away from God and instead enslaving them to sin. Knowing that they needed to be shown the way to live free--how to live in the very ways of God--He gave them Ten Commandments as the guideposts to free living.
Just because the Ten Commandments were given to Israel under the Old Covenant does not negate their importance for us today. Jesus said in Matthew 5:17 that he had come to fulfill the law, not abolish it. Then, in Mark 12:30-31, Jesus summed up the Ten Commandments in two broad commandments which, if followed, would lead to the natural fulfillment of all Ten Commandments.
Of course, the really great thing is this: these commandments are not a set of guidelines that must be followed in order to gain salvation. You see, John 3:16 tells us that God loves us so much that he sent his son, Jesus (who is also God Himself--I know, the Trinity is confusing), to pay the price for our sins (i.e., misdeeds, mis-thoughts, rejection of God, etc.). All we have to do is accept the free gift offered us by believing in the supernatural work of Jesus and submitting to him and we are saved! So, the Ten Commandments do not earn us our freedom, but are used to show us how to live out the freedom those who are true Christians have already received!
Furthermore, these commands from God do not take away our freedom, despite telling us not to do certain things. This is because they protect us, our relationship with God, and the rights and freedoms of those around us. For a community to live free, they have to watch out for each other! We can understand the protection aspect like this: a good father will create rules and boundaries around his children in order to keep them safe so they do not get killed or find irreparable harm. A father who lets his children do whatever they want is not giving them freedom, but condemning them to a poor existence. Likewise, our Heavenly Father (God) has given us boundaries to keep us safe from the harm that can come from certain things, and also to prevent us from slipping back into slavery to that which we have been delivered from--sin and eternal death.
Abundant Springs is in the midst of a series on the Ten Commandments and I invite you to follow along--either in person, or by listening online here. We'd love to hear your thoughts and comments on this post, so leave them below or on our Facebook page.
--Pastor Stephen Valcourt