THE PURPOSES OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
Davis W. Huckabee
It is at this point that people most often go astray in their view
of the Decalog, for they most often impute to the Decalog a purpose and
ministry that the Word of God does not. Thus, by beginning in the wrong
direction, they cannot help but become further and further from the truth.
They are like the traveler that, after riding at high speed for some time,
was apprized of the fact that he was on the wrong road and going in the
opposite direction to what he intended. But he attempted to excuse himself
by say, "Perhaps so, but I’m making excellent time!" as if that would in
any way correct his error.
The purposes of the Decalog do not involve some attempt on God’s
part to correct failure in the creature, as if God had lost control and
had to bring in some stopgap matter to restore order. Such would be an
indictment of the immutability of God, and would contradict the eternal
nature of the Decalog that has already been established.
"The real source of moral law was the moral nature of God. And
inasmuch as the original, typical man was created in the Divine image,
the law was also a summary of the constituent principles of the unfallen
nature of man. Moral law, therefore, was not made, neither arbitrarily
nor for definite ends, but was simply revealed. It embodied in code
what from eternity had been embosomed in God. The revelation and codification
may have been for beneficent ends, but the law itself was as eternal as
God, and must remain, regardless of ends, as immutable as his immutable
nature."—E. G. Robinson, Christian Theology, p. 190.
Paul says to Timothy, "We know that the law is good, if a man use it
lawfully," I Tim. 1:8, by which we learn that there is both a lawful and
an unlawful used that can be made of the Decalog. And that there are many
that do not understand the law is evidenced by the preceding verse: "Desiring
to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof
they affirm." The tragedy of such a situation is, that though the supposed
teacher of the Law may think lightly of his position and obligation, and
may not be concerned about how scriptural his instruction is, his position
in the kingdom of heaven will be greatly affected by it, as Jesus said.
"Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall
teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but
whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the
kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall
exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case
enter into the kingdom of heaven," Matt. 5:19-20. The self-assured and
self-attained righteousness of the religious leaders was not sufficient
to get them into the kingdom of heaven, for the Lord only grants entrance
to those clothed in the imputed righteousness of Christ. But even where
men are truly trusting in Christ’s righteousness for their salvation, their
position in the kingdom will be affected greatly by their practice and
teaching of the Decalog. It is natural for men—even saved men—to break
these commandments, and it is equally natural, through the pride of the
human heart, for a man to try to justify his actions. But in so doing,
he teaches others, perhaps less grounded in the truth, to do likewise.
In man’s fallen condition, it is easy for him to obscure the natural law
in his heart and to pursue his lust for the things of the world. Nor is
even the saved man exempt from this.
"At first the commandments were written in the heart of man by
God’s own hand, but as the first tables of stone fell and were broken,
so was it with man’s heart. By his fall his heart was broken and scattered
amongst earthly perishing things that was before whole and entire to his
Maker. And so the characters of that law written in it were so shivered
and scattered that they could not be perfectly and distinctly read in it.
Therefore it pleased God to renew that law after this manner by a most
solemn delivery with audible voice, and then by writing it on tables of
stone. And this is not all, but this same law he doth write anew in the
hearts of his children."—Robert Leighton, Exposition of the Ten Commandments,
quoted in W. G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, Vol. III, p. 346.
Because of man’s fallen and perverted nature, he always tends to pervert
the Decalog and to impute to it a purpose never intended by the Most High.
It is needful, therefore, to consider this matter negatively at first,
THE DECALOG WAS NOT GIVEN TO JUSTIFY
In taking this ground, we are fully aware that we immediately alienate
a large majority of professing Christendom, for this is a flesh-crucifying
doctrine, and one that is contrary to the fundamental beliefs of the majority
of the religious world. In the great popularity of all humanistic plans
of salvation and pride exalting views of man and man’s ability, we see
but another evidence of the depraved and fallen condition of man’s heart.
Let men talk all they please about man’s "natural ability," his "nobility,"
his "indomitable spirit," and the "spark of divinity in every man." But
in so doing they only manifest their own Luciferian pride and ambition,
for Lucifer desired to exalt his throne above the stars of God, and to
be like the Most High, Isa. 14:13-14.
Every assumption of the natural man that he is able to fulfill the
demands of the Decalog and to attain to acceptance in God’s sight thereby
is an outright denial that he even needs a Saviour. It is a claim that
he is able to save himself if only given the time and opportunity. But
this is not the purpose of the Decalog.
"That the law, the just and holy, and perfect law of God, was not
given by him with the expectation that any of the human race would be justified
by it, but that on the contrary, it was given that by it the opposition
of the mind of man to God’s will and his enmity to him might be more fully
proven in order to the condemnation of man, is clearly taught by the apostle
Paul—Rom. 7:5, etc. In this passage we see also that the law condemns men
for desiring any thing contrary to it."—Alexander Carson, The Doctrine
of the Atonement, p. 52.
The scriptural proof that man cannot be justified by the keeping of
the Law is great, as we see from the following few of many such proofs.
"And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which
ye could not be justified by the law of Moses," Acts 13:39. "Therefore
by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight:
for by the law is the knowledge of sin," Rom. 3:20. "Therefore we conclude
that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law," Rom. 3:28.
"For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but
not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and
it was counted unto him for righteousness," Rom. 4:2-3. "Knowing that a
man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus
Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified
by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works
of the law shall no flesh be justified," Gal. 2:16. "I do not frustrate
the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is
dead in vain," Gal. 2:21. "For as many as are of the works of the law are
under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth
not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.
But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident:
for, The just shall live by faith," Gal. 3:10-11. "Christ is become of
no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen
from grace," Gal. 5:4. "For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing
in of a better hope did; by the which we draw night unto God," Heb. 7:19.
"For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he
is guilty of all," James 2:10.
Here are ten passages, all of which speak in no uncertain terms in
denying that there can ever be justification by the deeds of the law. Thereby
they cut the ground of hope from under the feet of all that hope for some
sort of self-salvation that will not require the crucifixion of the flesh
and carnal pride of the natural man. This hope of being justified by the
keeping of the law is simply the old "way of Cain" come to town again.
For Cain’s hopes were all in the works of his own hands, the fruits of
the earth, a thank offering for God’s bounty but a steadfast refusal to
acknowledge his need of an atoning sacrifice. This is exactly the same
fatal mistake that legalists today make. In effect, they say, "Thank you
God, for your bounty. I’m sure that you meant well in sending your only
begotten Son to die for me, but it was really unnecessary, for I shall
simply grasp my own spiritual bootstraps and lift myself up to heaven by
my good works. And thereby I won’t be indebted to you or to any one else,
but can rejoice and boast in my own spiritual strength and accomplishments."
This self-righteous attitude that is held by such a large part of
the religious world is one of the most presumptuous and insulting attitudes
that a mortal can have. It treads under foot the Son of God, and accounts
His precious atoning blood as of lesser worth than the corrupt works of
fallen and depraved humanity. God’s view of such presumption is expressed
in Heb. 10:29-31, and shows that, far from the Old Testament Dispensation
being the more severe, transgressions under the New Testament dispensation
are much more severe because greater privileges are given, and consequently
greater responsibility is entailed.
"The apostle’s inspired logic here is the very reverse of that
which obtains in the corrupt theology of present-day Christendom. The popular
idea in these degenerate times is that, under the Gospel regime (or ‘dispensation
of grace’) God has acted, is acting, and will act much more mildly with
transgressors, than He did under the Mosaic economy. The very opposite
is the truth. No judgment from Heaven one-half as severe as that which
overtook Jerusalem in A. D. 70, is recorded in Scripture from Exodus 19
to Malachi 4! Nor is there anything in God's dealings with Israel during
O. T. times which can begin to compare with the awful severity of His ‘wrath’
as depicted in the book of Revelation! Every despiser of the Lordship of
Christ shall yet discover that a far hotter place has been reserved for
him in Hell, than what will be the portion of lawless rebels who lived
under the old covenant."—A. W. Pink, Exposition of Hebrews, Vol. II, pp.
The Scriptures that we have cited above speak for themselves in denying
any justifying efficacy to the deeds of the law, and that individual that
seeks to be justified by the law flies in the face of the Lord Himself
in his presumptuous attempt. Look at what Gal. 3:10 says, and it will be
evident that no human could possibly keep the Law so as to be justified
by it. For when it says, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all
things which are written in the book of the law to do them," it manifestly
puts all under the curse of the broken Law. For "continueth" requires an
endless obedience to the Law, and one transgression puts one under the
curse. The phrase "in all things" requires a perfect obedience, and only
one slip is necessary to be guilty of the broken Law. "To do them" then
requires the actual keeping of the Law in the spirit as well as in the
letter. So it is not enough to have good intentions, or to try with all
one’s strength to keep it, or to have outwardly kept the Law if the spirit
of the Law is missing. How presumptuous it is for a frail, fallible, fallen
sinful creature to think that he could be justified—pronounced righteous—by
a Law that he cannot perfectly, perpetually keep?
If the Decalog is not given in order for man to be justified thereby,
it is needful to inquire what its purpose is. Therefore, we note by way
of positive consideration that—
THE DECALOG CONDEMNS ALL SIN
Paul asks and answers the question, "Wherefore then serveth the law?
It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom
the promise was made," Gal. 3:19. And again he says, "Now we know that
what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law:
that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before
God," Rom. 3:19. "Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there
is no transgression," Rom. 4:15. "For until the law sin was in the world:
but sin is not imputed when there is no law," Rom. 5:13. "Moreover the
law entered that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace
did much more abound," Rom. 5:20.
The purpose of the Law, according to these verses, is to manifest
to man how far short he has fallen when compared with the Divine standard
of conduct, to give manifestation of man’s transgression of God’s will,
to make it appear in all of its awfulness, and to condemn sin. "Sin is
the transgression of the law," I John 3:4f, though man may be ignorant
of the Law.
"The published Law reveals the presence and nature of Sin. Rom.
7:7-14. Without the Law, sin may lie dormant in the soul, unrecognized
by conscience, Rom. 7:7-10, and yet be none the less destructive or punishable,
Rom. 5:13, 14. The Law reveals the presence of sin, and by dragging it
into the light of consciousness discloses its exceeding sinfulness, Rom.
7:13."—E. G. Robinson, Christian Theology, p. 194.
If all that transgress the Law are under its curse, then not only may
a man not be justified by the law, but he is constantly condemned by it
because of the numerous infractions of its holy requirements. The broken
Law cannot give life. It can only condemn the one that broke it. Indeed,
it is a standing condemnation of its breaker though he may not know or
acknowledge that he is under its condemnation.
"How, then, can any man look for life by the keeping of a law that
he hath broken. Instead of saving him, it will condemn him as a transgressor.
The law, instead of contributing to save sinners, stands in the way of
their salvation. If they are saved, it must be either at the expense of
law, which would be unjust, or by providing some other way of satisfying
the claims of law, for which the law does not itself provide."—Alexander
Carson, The Doctrine of the Atonement, p. 45.
"God did give the law, that sin might abound, (Rom. 5:20,) not that
it should take away sin in any, but to discover the sin which is already
begotten, or that may hereafter be begotten by lust and Satan. I say, this
is one proper work of the law, to make manifest sin. It is sent to find
fault with the sinner, and it doth also watch that it may do so, and it
doth take all advantages for the accomplishing of its work in them that
give ear thereto, or do not give ear, if it have the rule over them."—John
Bunyan, Works of, Vol. I, p. 194.
As Gal. 3:19 says, the Decalog was added because of transgression, and
its ministry is primarily concerned with transgressions, and not with the
attainment of life, as Paul elsewhere says. "But we know that the law is
good, if a man use it lawfully; Knowing this, that the law is not made
for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly
and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers
of mother, for manslayers, for whoremongers, for them that defile themselves
with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if
there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine," I Tim. 1:8-10.
The Law is necessary for these things to be imputed as wrong, for without
the Decalog, these could not be charged against men, for "sin is not imputed
when there is no law," Rom. 5:13.
But as soon as Law entered the universe, whether written on fleshly
tables of the heart, tables of stone or tablets of paper, it immediately
condemned every transgression of its precepts, and placed the transgressors
under the curse of the broken law. The boastful mouth of proud-hearted
man is stopped, and all the human race is manifested to be guilty before
the God of heaven. And not only guilty, but under His just wrath, vessels
fit only for the burning. But, at the same time it reveals them to be candidates
for the wonderful grace of God to save them from all their sins if they
but recognize the Divine diagnosis of their deadly disease, and receive
the healing that is provided by the Great Physician.
The purpose of the Law is not to give life, nor is it to comfort
men in their sins. Conversely, the purpose of the Law is to turn man away
from his self-sufficiency and self-reliance and unto Christ, for in no
other way can a man be saved. It is a true statement that someone has made
that it is much harder to get people lost than to get them saved. That
is to say, man being the rebellious and wicked and proud creature that
he is, only Divine grace can bring him to admit and confess his sinful
and lost condition. But once having honestly admitted this, he is generally
easily led to accept the Lord’s atoning remedy for his condition.
"I say, therefore, if thou wouldest known the authority and power
of the gospel, labour first to know the power and authority of the law.
For I am verily persuaded, that the want [lack—DWH] of this one thing,
namely, the knowledge of the law, is one cause why so many are ignorant
of the other. That man that doth not know the law doth not know in deed
and in truth that he is a sinner; and that man that doth not know he is
a sinner, doth not know savingly that there is a Saviour."—John Bunyan,
Works of, p. 182.
This getting the individual to recognize and confess his sinful and
lost estate is the primary purpose of the Decalog. And this it does by
erecting the perfect standard of the Law before the sinner’s eyes and revealing
how far short of it he has fallen. And so, putting him to death in his
own eyes. For sin must be made to appear sin, "working death in me by that
which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful,"
Rom. 7:13. By the Decalog, sin is made to revive in the recognition of
the sinner, and he sees himself as a sinner, lost and doomed under the
curse of the broken Law. And he is finally brought to recognize that his
only hope is in Christ, Who only has kept the law perfectly, and Whose
righteousness will be imputed to those that trust Him for salvation. Thus
is fulfilled one of the paradoxes of the spiritual world: To live, one
It is native to corrupt and fallen humanity to trust in self, to
overrate man’s supposed good works, and to underrate his evil works, and
to seek for justification by these human works. Only when the Decalog has
wrought its condemnatory work is man turned from this vain and foolish
hope to trust alone in Christ. Many persons, rejecting the testimony of
the Law, perish in their self-sufficiency and self-righteousness.
"All true believers in Christ first believed in themselves, and
their ability to do the will of God. Thus the covenant of works conceived
in them, and they despised grace in their eyes. Thousands die under the
vain delusion that God will accept the much good they have done and forgive
the little evil. But having transgressed in any point, all other efforts
at morality are ‘dead works,’ because condemnation is passed. Then no amount
of service whatever will bring deliverance, no more than keeping the law
in a jail or penitentiary will deliver from the condemnation already passed.
Here is the end of the law. And to show the condemned that his works are
out of the question, and he must look to another to do that for him which
he cannot do for himself, is the purpose of the law. And it should be preached
until every mouth is stopped, and all the world become guilty before God."—J.
B. Moody, The Exceeding Riches of the Manifold Grace of God, p. 114.
Paul draws a contrast between the Old Covenant—the Decalog—and the New
Covenant—the Gospel—and in the course of his exposition refers to the Decalog
as "the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones," II Cor.
3:7, showing again the condemnatory character of the Decalog. The Decalog,
so far from giving life to men, actually condemns them, and manifests their
spiritually dead condition. In God’s eyes they are "dead in trespasses
and sins," Eph. 2:1, and how then can any spiritually dead person do any
spiritual works that God would accept?
If we should stop in our study upon the purpose of the Decalog at
this point, we would leave man in a fearfully hopeless condition—condemned
and slain by the Law of God. But happily there is another, more cheerful
aspect to the purpose of the Decalog. We note therefore that—
THE DECALOG POINTS MEN TO CHRIST
Paul gives the scriptural proof of this in Gal. 3:24 when he says,
"Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we
might be justified by faith." The English word "schoolmaster" used here
and in V25 does not fully express the meaning of the word in the Greek
text. Nor does "instructors" in I Cor. 4:15, the only places where this
Greek word (paidagogos) appears in the New Testament. J. H. Thayer gives
"Among the Greeks and Romans the name was applied to trustworthy
slaves who were charged with the duty of supervising the life and morals
of boys belonging to the better class. The boys were not allowed so much
as to step out of the house without them before arriving at the age of
manhood …The name carries with it an idea of severity (as of a stern censor
and enforcer of morals) in I Cor. 4:15, where the father is distinguished
from the tutor as one whose discipline is usually milder, and in Gal. 3:24
sq. where the Mosaic law is likened to a tutor because it arouses consciousness
of sin, and is called paidagogos eis Christon, i. e. preparing the soul
for Christ, because those who have learned by experience with the law that
they are not and cannot be commended to God by their works, welcome the
more eagerly the hope of salvation offered them through the death and resurrection
of Christ, the Son of God."—Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament,
The Decalog was not intended to justify man, for man being a rebellious
and sinful creature, the Law must of necessity condemn his lawlessness.
But in so doing, the Decalog manifests man’s need of a Substitute that
has kept the Law in a perfect manner, and whose righteousness can be imputed
to the sinner. The Law therefore not only restrains the wickedness of man
by its severity, but makes him desirous of the imputed righteousness of
Christ. The end purpose of the Decalog is expressed as being "that we might
be justified by faith," i. e., that one might by faith receive the perfect
righteousness of Christ. How then could justification be by the keeping
of the law?
Once this justification by faith is brought about "we are no longer
under a schoolmaster," Gal. 3:25, and the threats of the law have no more
application to us. When the son attained to legal adulthood he was no longer
under the care and supervision of the pedagogue, but he did what was right
out of love and respect for his father. So the true believer no longer
endeavors to keep the Law out of fear of its curse, for he knows that he
is no longer under the curse. But he endeavors henceforth to keep it out
of love to his heavenly Father whose will it is that His children live
Paul is inspired to teach the same truth allegorically by using Sarah
and Hagar as representatives of the two covenants, and their two sons as
representatives of those that are under the two covenants, Gal. 4:21-31.
Sarah was the older, and the legitimate wife of Abraham, while Hagar was
only a slave. So likewise, the Covenant of Grace is the older, dating from
eternity past, while the Law covenant was "added because of transgressions,
till the seed should come to whom the promise was made," Gal. 3:19. As
Hagar was never more than a bondmaid to Sarah, so the old covenant—the
Law—was never intended to do more than to serve grace.
"Notice another distinction and difference. As Hagar was handmaid,
or bondmaid to Sarah, so law is handmaid or bondmaid to Grace, in that
it SERVES Grace, but it cannot SAVE. I write it big: LAW SAVES NOT, BUT
SERVES…So Grace requires that Law shall first do its work in preparing
the soul with a feeling sense of sin and a need of salvation. So Grace
has need of Law as Sarah had of Hagar. When Law does its duty, then, and
not till then can Grace come with its all-sufficient means, plus Divine
power to save."—J. B. Moody, The Exceeding Riches of the Manifold Grace
of God, p. 140.
How very easy it is for men to get the Decalog out of its ordained place
and work, and try to give it a ministry never intended by the Lord. Abraham
grew tired of waiting for the Lord to fulfill His promise to give him a
son of Sarah, and resorted to a humanly devised expediency, and Ishmael
was born of Hagar. Too often men turn aside from the principles of grace,
and instead of leaving Law as the handmaiden to grace, they make Law to
become the mistress, and Ishmaels are born, which ever after trouble the
legitimate sons of grace. Paul makes the practical application when he
says in V28-31, "Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.
But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born
after the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what saith the scripture?
Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall
not be heir with the son of the free-woman. So then, brethren, we are not
children of the bondwoman, but of the free."
Legalistic preaching will often make numerous disciples to the preacher
and swell the church rolls. But it matters not how promising such converts
are, they will ultimately be cast out with their mother, the old covenant
of the works. For the Law was never intended to produce sons, but to only
be hand-maiden to grace, whose sons will be born in due time, as Jesus
promised in John 6:37. The Law covenant and all its sons will ultimately
be cast out as Hagar and Ishmael were, but we must remember that there
were two expulsions of Hagar, and these both find spiritual fulfillment.
We cannot do better than to again quote the words of J. B. Moody who has
made an extensive study of this matter and expresses it well.
"Notice again, that While Hagar SERVED, All Went Well. But when
she conceived, and strove to be the mistress of Sarah, then she was driven
out into the wilderness with her son to perish…The only way for Hagar to
survive, was to form the right relation to Sarah—that of servant to mistress.
‘Return to thy MISTRESS and SUBMIT thyself UNDER her hand.’—Gen. 16:9.
When the means of Grace are over, then Hagar and her numerous progeny are
to be driven out forever. ‘They shall not be heirs with the children of
the free-woman.’ But this last expulsion will be at the ‘weaning time,’
when the innumerable children of grace shall be called from the four winds
of heaven to inherit the promised inheritance, viz. The ‘WORLD.’ Then the
others will be driven out forever. But the first expulsion must occur when
law conceives in the sinner, and tries to bring forth of itself in him;
then let the works covenant be cast out, until he is justified by grace
through faith. Then, and not till then, let works come back and submit
to the reign of grace."—The Exceeding Riches of the Manifold Grace of God,
pp. 144, 145.
The Decalog therefore must always be kept in its right place, as servant
to grace, to point men to Christ and salvation through faith in Him. Any
purpose of the Law that is contrary to this is a perversion of its true
purpose, and will lead to confusion in all associated truths. But we go
further, and notice another purpose of the Decalog, which is that—
THE DECALOG IS A STANDARD OF CONDUCT
As we have already stated, a large majority of the religious world
thinks that the Decalog is a means of salvation, and so they endeavor to
keep it that they might earn eternal life thereby. These people are hard
to convince otherwise, and even when one is convinced of the folly of this
view, he sometimes takes an equally erroneous view. Some people, conceding
that there can be no salvation through the keeping of the Law, then cast
off the Law wholly. In taking too narrow a view of the Law, they assume
that since the Law cannot save, it has no purpose at all, and so cast off
the Decalog and become what is well called Antinomians. This word means
literally "against law," and refers to practical outlawry. But this is
folly second only to the other view, for grace does not license a person
to commit sin, but it triumphs over sin, Rom. 5:20-21.
"Law regulates the outer conduct, while Grace takes cognizance
of the ‘thoughts and intents of the heart.’ God forgive, and forbid the
thought that we can sin because we are not under law, but under Grace.
Grace does not excuse sin, but provides the remedy. The adulterous look,
and the murderous hate, need forgiveness. The law does not provide forgiveness
except through the added types pointing to the Better Covenant."—J. B.
Moody, The Exceeding Riches of the Manifold Grace of God, pp. 136-137.
Paul shows that no man who has truly experienced the saving grace of
the Lord can adopt antinomian principles, when he says, "What shall we
say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid.
How shall we, that are dead to sin, continue any longer therein?" Rom.
6:1-2. But this brings up a very important question. If we, who are saved
by the grace of God are no longer to continue in sin, how shall we know
what is sin, and therefore to be rejected, except we have the Decalog as
a standard of conduct?
The apostle brings this out in a more forceful manner when he says,
"But now are we delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were
held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness
of the letter," Rom. 7:6. Being saved by grace does not free a person to
commit sin. Conversely it obligates one to an even more dedicated keeping
of the Law, not as a means of life, but as an evidence of love to the Lord,
of which we shall speak more at length shortly. To declare that a Christian
no longer has a standard of conduct, nor is obligated to keep the Decalog
is to manifest that one has no real concept of the purposes of the Law,
and probably does not know the grace of God either. The Decalog has its
purposes, both to the lost and to the saved, and we who are saved by grace
cannot cast off the Law, for it is still a servant to grace, and must be
retained in this character. This is shown in the allegory that Paul draws
from the case of Sarah and Hagar, and their respective sons. Hagar continued
to serve Sarah even after Isaac was born, but as soon as the question of
the inheritance arose, both the bondwoman and her son were cast out, for
those "under the law" cannot inherit the promises that are made to those
"In order to divorce this Covenant more thoroughly from the dispensational
idea, that is, that its history is embraced and confined to the dispensation
from Moses to Christ, and that it was done away by the death of Christ,
at which time, also was originated the New Covenant, let us at this point
show that the Old Covenant was the ‘ministration of death’ from Adam to
Moses, and from Christ till now. Paul wrote since the death of Christ,
and if it was alive when he wrote, it is alive now, and all like Ishmael,
born after the flesh, are under that Covenant, and it reigns over them
until like Isaac they are ‘born after the Spirit,’ or ‘from above.’ Then
they abandon the works Covenant, and ‘lay hold’ (by faith) of the New Covenant,
after which they are no longer under law, but under grace. When this Covenant
conceives in us, and despising grace, tries to bring forth our own righteousness
as the basis of our standing before God, then let it for a time be cast
out, like Hagar was, until we are ‘justified by faith, apart from works,’
then let the Hagar Covenant come back as a ‘hand-maid’ to grace, no longer
a rod over our heads, but a rule under our feet; no longer to save but
to serve. These two Covenants, like Hagar and Sarah, must in this relation
dwell together until the weaning time, or until the children are no longer
sustained by covenant promises through faith, but inherited promises possessed.
Then the bond woman and her children are to be cast out, and not inherit
the promises with the children of the free woman. This makes a history
from the beginning to the end of time. Not only the two women, but the
two boys living together, but in their predestined relations of bondage
and freedom."—J. B. Moody, The Exceeding Riches of the Manifold Grace of
God, pp. 109-110.
The Decalog must continue to serve those "under Grace" throughout the
earthly life and until the promised possession is indeed possessed. It
serves as a standard of conduct, for the Lord never left His children in
the dark as to what their responsibilities are, nor has He left the unsaved
citizens of His world uninformed as to their duties. The Law is a standard
of conduct for both saved and lost. To the lost, it is a standard of conduct
to show them what they must be in order to be saved by their own works,
but what they cannot be except by a graciously imputed righteousness. To
the saved it is a standard of conduct to show them what they are to strive
to attain through the gracious workings of the Spirit. It is the standard
of the ideal life that every born again person ought to desire to fulfill,
and toward which he ought to strive if he would bring glory to his Creator
No standard is meant to give perfection, but rather to show what
perfection is, and to set a goal toward which to strive. Without a standard
for conduct no one could be held accountable for his conduct. Were the
Decalog not a standard of conduct, no one could know what he ought to be,
nor for what he should strive. Therefore, this brings us to consider another
thought. If the Decalog is a standard of conduct for men, then it is the
basis upon which they shall be judged for their failures. Our next thought
THE DECALOG IS A BASIS OF JUDGMENT
This fact is made evident in that the Decalog is commonly called
"law," for there cannot be judgment without law. Law is the very basis
of judgment. "The law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression,"
Rom. 4:15. "Sin is not imputed when there is no law," Rom. 5:13. God has
so ordained it that none will have cause to cry "Injustice" when judged,
for every sin that a man shall be judged for will have resulted from his
breaking of a Divine law. Nor will men be able to plead ignorance. For
however men may attempt to convince themselves that they do not know their
duty, in the Day of Judgment it will be fully manifest that they had sufficient
knowledge of right and wrong, but only overruled their knowledge through
love of sin and self will.
For the Christian, there is clearly foretold that he will be judged
as to his works, of what character they are. This will be a judgment to
determine rewards, not to determine one’s destiny for that is determined
by whether one is in Christ or not at death. "…we shall all stand before
the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord,
every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then
every one of us shall give account of himself to God," Rom. 14:10-12. "For
we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may
receive the things done in his body, according to that he had done, whether
it be good or bad," II Cor. 5:10. But how can anyone be judged unless there
be some standard or basis for judgment? Judgment is simply the measuring
of something or someone against a standard, and therefore, if the Christian
is to be judged for rewards, there must be something to serve as a basis
for judgment. This basis is the Decalog, although it is not exclusively
the Decalog, for other things shall also enter in, but the primary standard
will be this Divinely given code of Law.
For the unsaved person, it is also true that the Decalog will be
the basis, or standard, by which he will be judged, for the Decalog prescribes
what a man ought to be, and his failure to be what he ought to be will
be judged by this standard. This is evident from the record of the judgment
of the Great Day as set forth in Rev. 20:12. "And I saw the dead, small
and great, stand before God; and the books were opened; and another book
was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of
those things which were written in the books, according to their works."
The Book of Life is opened to give evidence that those that appear at this
judgment are unsaved, for they have never been enrolled in this Book that
lists the names of all of God’s elect, which has been completed since the
foundation of the earth, Rev. 13:8. Contrary to popular belief no new name
has been added to this book since the foundation of the world. The other
books will doubtless be, First, the Book of God’s Law, which prescribes
what man’s conduct is to be. Second, the Book of God’s Providence that
will show all God’s marvelous workings for the fulfillment of His will,
and even the development of each person from conception to death, Ps. 139:16,
and how each one responded to opportunities and challenges. Third, the
Book in which God has recorded all of man’s actions, also suggested Ps.
139:16. All of a person’s circumstances, opportunities, conduct and failures
are recorded in God’s book, and in the Day of Judgment these will all be
brought to light and will have a bearing upon the judgment made. Fourth,
there will be the Book recording all human thoughts, desires and attitudes,
as suggested in Ps. 56:8, for these too will bear upon the judgment. And
perhaps there will be even other books that will bear upon the results
of both the judgments of saved and unsaved men. All of these books will
constitute the Library of Heaven.
The Law is not dead, but alive, and it fulfills its purpose, and
will continue to fulfill its purpose even until the day of the Great White
Throne Judgment. Then it shall serve as the standard for the last judgment
of men where it will serve as the standard for all right and wrong. And
every infraction of its laws will be condemned and punished with a befitting
"If it was a sin then, and now, to ‘steal, kill, blaspheme, covet,’
etc., the same as from Moses to Christ, it shows there was, and is a live
law forbidding these very things. For sin is transgression of law, and
is not imputed where there is no law. The whole race of man from beginning
to end will be judged and condemned by law, and there is no escape but
to be born again, and that of the free woman Covenant which is from above,
and which is the mother of all the children of promise."—J. B. Moody, The
Exceeding Riches of the Manifold Grace of God, p. 111.
It is true that some men have a greater knowledge of the Law than others,
and these, therefore, have a greater accountability. As it is written,
"For as many as have sinned without law shall perish without law: and as
many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law," Rom. 2:12.
But it is also true, as we have already had occasion to notice in this
study, that no person is totally destitute of knowledge of the Moral Law,
and consequently all men are accountable to some extent. God deals in perfect
justice, and every man must answer for himself and to the extent of his
knowledge of the will of God. In that day men will not be asked, "Have
you done what you thought was right?" Nor, "Have you followed your conscience?"
for both of these things may be easily perverted. It is the folly of most
people that they believe that they can follow conscience blindly. But conscience
may be trained to justify that which the Law of God condemns, and false
religion often does so.
"The character of Conscience in all religious duties depends upon
Faith. Without faith it has no life; with a false faith it is corrupted,
and therefore a curse; with a true faith it is living and pure. Conscience
in itself is a most potent power, but it is a blind power. It enforces
the conduct dictated by a man’s faith, whatever that may be. But its power
for good or evil comes only with a sense of the authority of God. It will
enforce no duty nor produce remorse for any neglect of duty, in regard
to God, unless faith affirms the act to be sanctioned by the will and authority
of God."—J. B. Walker, The Philosophy of the Plan of Salvation, pp. 253-254.
Much the same thing can be said of man’s mind. If it were not corrupted
and possessed of a natural inclination to evil, a man’s actions might be
judged on the basis of whether he thought them to be good or evil, but
such is not the case. Since the fall of man in the garden, every person
has come into the world with a corrupted reason, and with a mind that is
diametrically opposed to the will of God, Tit. 1:15-16. And therefore what
man thinks, or what his conscience tells him to do is not so important
as what the Law of God prescribes.
Law is the basis of judgment, but not the Law alone, for there are
at least five elements that enter into the judgment of unsaved men: (1)
The demand of the Law. (2) The extent of knowledge of it. (3) The provision
of the Gospel. (4) The deeds of the individual. (5) The motivation of the
deed. The Law’s demands manifests the fact of sin, while the other four
of these have to do with the degree of that sin, but all of them will be
brought to bear at the Day of Judgment. However, it will be the Decalog
that will be the basis of, and standard for, the judgment of ungodly men,
and it will be the Decalog that condemns them to an eternity in hell. The
other four elements will determine only the degree of the punishment in
The foregoing thought deals more with the unbeliever than with the
believer, but there is another purpose of the Decalog which relates more
to the believer, and that is—
THE DECALOG MANIFESTS LOVE
There are a number of Scriptures that set forth this fact in no uncertain
terms, for obedience is the most evident manifestation of love to God,
and by obedience to the Law one shows love to one’s neighbor. Concerning
this, A. W. Pink rightly says—
"The supreme test of love is the desire and effort to please the
one loved, and this measured by conformity to his known wishes. Love to
God is expressed by obedience to His will. Only One has perfectly exemplified
this, and of Him it is written, ‘I will delight to do Thy will, O My God:
yea, Thy law is within My heart,’ (Ps. 40:8). But we ought so to walk even
as He walked (I John 2:6). Simple but searching is that word of His, ‘He
that hath my commandments and keepth them he it is that loveth Me’ (John
14:21). And again it is written, ‘By this we know that we love the children
of God when we love God, and keep His commandments. For this is the love
of God that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous.’
(I John 5:2-3). The ‘waning’ of love, then, means departing from, failing
to keep, God’s commandments!"—Gleanings in Exodus, p. 156.
For the true believer the keeping of the Decalog manifests his love
to his Lord, for Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commandments," John
14:15. And again, "Ye are my friends, if you do whatsoever I command you,"
John 15:14. It is a common practice in this degenerate age for men to sin
"O How I love Jesus" while yet refusing to obey even the least of His commandments,
but this is nothing less than hypocrisy. True love is not selfish, but
is selfless, and delights to please the object of its affection even when
self-will must be denied. Therefore, when we see someone that professes
to love the Lord, but who will not obey Him, we must simply remember that,
"By their fruits ye shall know them," Matt. 7:20.
The Christian knows, or should know, that he is not under law, but
under grace. Through the atonement of Christ, he is no longer under the
condemnation of the broken Law, but this does not license him to sin as
he pleases. "For ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then?
Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid,"
Rom. 6:14-15. Not only is he freed from the condemnation of the Law, but
he has become dead to it that he might live unto Christ. The apostle illustrates
this truth by likening it to the case of a woman that, so long as her husband
lives, is bound by the law to him, but when her husband dies, she is freed
from that law, and may marry another. His application of this is, "Wherefore,
my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ;
that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the
dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. For when we were in the
flesh, the motions of sins which were by the law, did work in our members
to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we are delivered from the law,
that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of
spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter," Rom. 7:4-6. The whole point
of this discourse is that when a person accepts Christ’s atoning death,
he immediately ceases to seek justification by the Law, and to all intents
becomes dead to it. His obedience of the Law is henceforth no more of that
compelled nature wherein he sought justification by it, but he becomes
united to Christ in love, and this is the motivation for his keeping the
Law. This new motivation causes him to serve in newness of spirit, and
not just in the oldness of the letter of the Law.
For the Christian, because of this new motivation, his service to
the Lord is acceptable and pleasing in the Lord’s sight. The commandment
is still the same, but the new motivation back of keeping it makes it new
in practice. John refers to this when he says, "Brethren, I write no new
commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning.
The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning.
Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and
in you: because the darkness is past and the true light now shineth," I
John 2:7-8. This is a paradoxical saying, but refers to loving one’s brother
as the Lord commanded, as the context reveals.
The Decalog may be summed up in two requirements, to love God supremely,
and to love one’s neighbor as one’s self, and the fulfilling of the Law
is the manifestation of this love. Scripture says, "Owe no man any thing,
but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the
law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou
shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet;
and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this
saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Love worketh no
ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law," Rom.
13:8-10. "For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou
shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," Gal. 5:14. "If ye fulfill the royal
law according to the Scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,
ye do well," James 2:8.
The Decalog is a standard of conduct to reveal to man what God requires
of him, and when a renewed man endeavors to fulfill this code of laws,
he manifests his love for the Lord of it. However, it will be a lifelong
struggle for the Christian to fulfill the requirements of the Decalog,
for while the commandments are not grievous, I John 5:3, yet they are contrary
to the carnal mind, which is a natural rebel against the Decalog. "The
carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of
God, neither indeed can be," Rom. 8:7. And therefore a terrible civil war
is produced between the two natures in the Christian, which will continue
until the death angel sunders soul and body, Rom. 7:22-25.
A terrible civil war? Truly so! Yet may we remember that the endeavor
to honor and keep this Law of God manifests love to God and love to man.
"By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and
keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments:
and his commandments are not grievous," I John 5:2-3. "And this is his
commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ,
and love one another, as he gave us commandment," I John 3:23.
But not only does the keeping of the Decalog fulfill the Royal Law
by loving one’s neighbor, and manifests one’s love to God, but it is also
a manifestation that one has been born of God and dwells in Him. "He that
keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we
know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us," I John
3:24. "Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every
one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God," I John 4:7. This last
verse is another of several proofs that the new birth is the origin and
cause of all Christian graces. For "love," like "believeth" in I John 5:1,
is a present participle, while "born" in both places is perfect passive
(past tense with consequences that go on to the present). Faith and love
are the effects of which the new birth is the cause. Proper understanding
of this causes us to shout "All glory to God!"
The purposes of the Decalog are manifold, which only goes further
to reveal that man could never be justified by the keeping of the Law.
However, the Law is good if it is used for its intended purposes, but justification
of sinners by their deeds is not one of its intended purposes, and it manifests
a decided antagonism against the whole grace system to think so. Almost
all "Religion" is manmade, and all such will do its utmost to glorify human
effort, even at the cost of robbing God of His glory, and so, it has always
taught salvation by the deeds of the Law, to a greater or lesser extent.
But Scripture is very clear that on the basis of the grace system, "it
is of faith, that it might be by grace," Rom. 4:16. Hence, "Where is boasting
then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? Nay: but by the law of faith."
Rom. 3:27. "Not of works, lest any man should boast," Eph. 2:9.
OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS