There is a constant call for the restoration of the ten commandments that we find in Exodus 20, and no wonder! Our world is unraveling at the seams because we have lost our moral compass long ago. The ten commandments were moral rules to live by so that the Israelites could please God as best as fallen human beings could.
The purpose of the law, it seems, was to bring them to the understanding that man cannot earn favour with God who held the blessing that they so desperately needed, in His hand. It did not take very long for them to realize that obedience to the law was impossible because their hearts were far from God. They did not love Him, so obedience to the law depended purely on the power of their will. God, in His grace, and knowing their weaknesses gave them a system of sacrifices that they could bring to redeem themselves.
But the law wasn’t perfect, and it wasn’t meant to be permanent, as Paul wrote to the Galatian church:
Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. Galatians 3:24-25
The era of working hard to fulfill the conditions of the law was coming to an end. Every burnt offering made under the law was a prophetic finger pointing to a final sacrifice that God would made Himself; this time to remove sin, instead of covering it. The burden of the law was about to be lifted from the shoulders of men and women who struggled under its weight.
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
Spiritually dead man doesn’t want to do the will of God, neither can he please Him by his works. The very reason why the law failed was the sinful nature of man. But the law wasn’t God’s final plan!
For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh… Romans 8:4
Jesus became our Sacrificial Lamb, received the death penalty for our sin, and so fulfilled the law on our behalf. God simply could not watch us sinners struggle under the weight of sin, while trying to work for our salvation.
The law was an external burden laid upon man, but it could not produce the righteousness that God required. The sin-problem could only be fixed at its very root – the heart of man. And it was not something that could be adjusted, or repaired – it had to be replaced with a new one with a new life altogether.
With Jesus’ death on the cross the penalty for our sins was paid and we were set free of the burden of keeping the law.
For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” Galatians 2:19-2
For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. Hebrews 8:12-13
Jesus also gave a new commandment to live by:
And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” So he answered and said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ “Luke 10:25-27
You cannot break any of the ten commandments if you live by Jesus’ two commandments. Paul, a Pharisee educated in the law, describes it up this way:
Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. Romans 13:8
He who loves another has fulfilled the law! This new commandment is more powerful than the ten of the Old Testament for it is powered by love! Paul speaks about this:
For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. Romans 13:9-10
The essence of the new creation man is the love of God that moves him, not the yearnings of the flesh.
That brings us to works. Too many believers have not yet entered the rest that Jesus offers. It is a rest of works, of trying to be good. Works are of the flesh, but love is of faith.
- We don’t keep the Sabbath because Jesus became our rest.
- We don’t fight for the ten commandments to be displayed in our schools and court houses, because the new commandment is bigger, better, and more powerful than the ten.
- Wouldn’t it be great if we have the two commandments of Jesus on display everywhere?
The urge to earn our benefits is deeply ingrained in our un-renewed minds. It still lives in those who believe a special person should pray for them, someone who has more favour with God than themselves. It withholds blessing from those who feel they are not good enough to receive from the Lord themselves.
The concept of gaining favour by works erodes faith, leaving man to his own devices to overcome an enemy that is much stronger than himself. So many Christians live below God’s best because of this.
Not only does working for our place in God rob us from the good things in Him, it is dangerous to our salvation which is based on faith in God’s grace alone. Paul issued a stern warning in this regard:
I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” Galatians 2:21
When works play an important role in our relationship with God, anxiety is the result because there will always be the feeling that we fall short. How do you please God by works? Who is perfect enough to impress Him? No, God responds to faith:
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Hebrews 11:6
Jesus invites us into His rest. Through all the hostility that He endured on earth, He never feared because He believed in the Father’s love for Him. That is the rest that God wants for us too.
If only we preached the new commandment as vigorously as we did the ten! If only we taught others to love, instead of burning the candle at both ends in their desire to please Him. How different would the world be if we truly mastered the love-walk, while resting in Him who conquered it all!
For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Hebrews 4:10
We now work because we love, not to earn it. Faith is active, and always produces good fruit. We are reminded that faith without works is dead, because faith working through love will always find a way to reach out, to give, and to cover where it encounters need.
Love is the very power of God. Jesus never put the power of God on display; love was always seen in everything that He did. He healed the sick, cast out demons, multiplied fish and bread, and raised the dead because He loved. He impressed the world with love, not power.
Love is a compelling force that revolutionizes our lives to experience the abundant life that Jesus came to give us. But, at the same time, it is also our greatest challenge. It can be hard to love the unlovely when it is not reciprocated, or when its benefits take long to materialize.
The most important thing to remember is that love is not a feeling but a command. And sometimes it takes an act of faith to bring it to fulfillment. This is God’s way to grow us into maturity.
Our greatest challenge is to embrace the new commandment, and let go of the old. And remember, God’s love is unconditional.
God bless you!