Are the Ten Commandments Relevant to Us?

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Then God spoke all these words.

Exodus 20:1

Yesterday I began reflecting on Exodus 20:1-17, the Ten Commandments that constitute the core of Israel’s covenant obligation. Today I continue to focus on this passage, and will stick with it for quite a few days. Few biblical texts are more important, not only for our understanding of God and his purposes, but also for learning how we should live. I want to reflect on each of the ten “words” and consider briefly how they might impact our lives today. Of course, I can barely scratch the surface, so I hope my reflections will encourage you to consider in greater depth how you can honor God in your daily living.

Before I examine the individual commandments, however, I need to make a couple of prefatory comments. One has to do with the relevance of the Ten Commandments. I’m not thinking primarily of whether or not the Decalogue matters for civic law. Nor am I going to deal with the legal question of whether the Ten Commandments should appear on government property. Rather, I want to address the question of whether these commandments are relevant to Christians.

We Christians are people of the new covenant. We are bound to God, not through the law, but through the death and resurrection of Christ. Jesus, who perfectly fulfilled the law, invites us into a relationship with the Triune God based on faith—our trust in God—rather than works of the law. Thus we Christians are not bound to obey the Jewish law in its entirety.

Nevertheless, the theological and moral aspects of the law are still there to teach us, to guide us, and to lead us to Christ. Though we should never think that by keeping the Ten Commandments we can make ourselves right with God, we should also never think that it’s now fine to practice idolatry and adultery, or to dishonor our parents or bear false witness.

As we read and reflect upon the Ten Commandments in light of Christ, God will help us know him better and know how to live better. His authoritative guidance for Israel remains valid for us, and not just valid, but helpful, and not just helpful, but extraordinarily relevant to the challenges and opportunities of our lives.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: In what ways have the Ten Commandments impacted your life? Do you ever think about these “words” as you make difficult moral decisions? Why or why not?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, though I am not camping in the wilderness by Mt. Sinai, and though my life is in many ways vastly different from the Israelites who first heard your “ten words,” nevertheless, these words have power to teach and to guide me today. So I thank you for this extraordinary revelation of how I am to live.

Keep me, Lord, from a legalism that falsely assumes I can win your favor through keeping the law. Similarly, keep me from thinking that because I am forgiven through Christ, I really don’t have to worry about what’s right or wrong. Help me to have a right understanding of how your law should guide my life. May I receive this guidance with gratitude and a desire to obey. Amen.