Why Grace-Oriented People Still Need God’s Law or Bring Back the Ten Commandments!

If you know me, you know me as a champion of the grace of God. I have dedicated my ministry to preaching and teaching the truths of God’s amazing grace. Along with that, I’ve dedicated my life to destroying legalism. I hate it, in Christian love.

You also know I haven’t blogged for a while, so this is something important to me. Thanks for reading.

Today’s post is prompted by a conversation with my wife. In her business ethics class at a Christian university, she asked her students how many of them would hire someone they knew was cheating on their spouse. Most students said they would. Then she asked how many would go into a business partnership with someone cheating on their spouse. Most opted out, but still quite a few said they would. When Margi pointed out that a man who would cheat on his most important relationship would find it easier to cheat on you, few were swayed. The class discussion moved on to plagiarism. Most were in favor of forgiving the plagiarist and letting him/her write a substitute paper. When it came to Bible majors or seminary students, most were still tolerant, though a reluctant few brought down the hammer of justice.

Bottom line: grace has been morphed into an ultra-tolerant, indiscriminate leniency. I have written on that before (Why Grace Isn’t Leniency) so I won’t cover that old ground again.

What I want to say today is simple: our culture is dissolving before our very eyes because we have removed GOD’S LAW FROM THE CHURCH. Yep, this is me, a Champion of Grace, pleading for grace-oriented Christians to restore the law of God to its rightful place in the grace-oriented church of Jesus Christ today. Yes, it’s the age of grace. Yes, Christ brings grace. Yes, we are saved by grace and live by grace.

But does that mean we throw out the Law? Does that mean the Ten Commandments no longer have a place in our lives?

No and no. Here’s why:

1. Under grace, the goal of the Christian life is conformity to Jesus Christ.

God is committed to reproducing the integrity and love of Christ in his people. This happens by God’s power; it is not something we work up for ourselves. Only Jesus can live the WJJD lifestyle and he will do it again through his people. If you have been born again, Christ lives in you. He constantly exerts an inward force to make you more and more like himself. And he doesn’t come with an off-switch. Grace is the power of God, by the agency of the Holy Spirit, reproducing the character and love of Christ inside of Christians.

You can’t read the epistles of Paul without bumping into this truth (I use Paul because few would argue against the assertion that he is the apostle of grace). For example:

  • “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. (Galatians 2:20, NKJV).
  • But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14, NKJV).
  • For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:29, NKJV).

2. Under grace, Jesus Christ was a Ten Commandments kind of person.

He did not come to destroy the Law and Prophets, but to fulfill them (Matt 5:17). You can’t understand the life of Christ without accepting his dedication to fulfill every “jot and tittle” of God’s law. His character reflected the character of God’s law, his knowledge reflected the wisdom of God’s law, his actions reflected obedience to God’s law, his preaching reflected the supremacy of God’s law. Nothing Jesus said or did contradicted even a syllable of God’s law. There are two important reasons for this…

3. The Laws of God reflect the heart of God. 

God’s laws are God’s laws because God’s heart is God’s heart. The commandments of Scripture are not random, disconnected requirements — they are expressions of the deepest truths woven into the universe and our psyches by the God who made us. Because God’s laws reflect God’s heart, they share a quality that is absolutely essential for our happiness and joy…

4. The Laws of God describe a life of LOVE.

Don’t forget how Jesus summarized God’s laws: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him,” ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ “This is the first and great commandment. “And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40, NKJV).

Translation: TO CAST ASIDE GOD’S LAW IS TO CAST ASIDE THE ONLY SURE GUIDE TO LOVE WE HAVE. We are fallen, depraved people. We have no clue about what true love is. Until God explains that love means honest scales at the butcher shop (Lev 19:26), not sleeping with another man’s wife  or another woman’s husband (Ex 20:14), and not committing incest (Lev 18:6). Love means kindness to widows and orphans and maintaining your own integrity. Love means true worship, true speaking, true care for others. All of these things and more are in GOD’S LAW — covering every aspect of life. God’s law is a book of love, the New Testament even says so:

  • Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2, NKJV).
  • Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. 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 neighbor as yourself.” (Romans 13:8, 9, NKJV).
  • So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. (James 2:12, NKJV).

5. Jesus lived a life of love because he obeyed God’s laws. 

He was a Ten Commandments kind of person. The Ten Commandments, along with all of God’s laws, are like an FBI profile of Jesus. That’s how he lived. That’s what he was like.

If you want an emotionally healthy life, if you want great relationships, if you want good boundaries in your life, you will keep the Ten Commandments. God’s laws describe the LIFE OF YOUR DREAMS. God is not interested in constricting your life; he wants to set you in a realm of true freedom and perfect liberty. His laws describe the heart of Christ… which leads us back to #1…

6. Under grace, God is reproducing the life of Christ inside you — and he lived a life in perfect harmony with God’s laws.

If Jesus lived a Ten Commandments lifestyle, and if God is reproducing the life of Christ in us by his Spirit, then God is reproducing a Ten Commandments (Law Affirming) life in all his children today.

We desperately need to know the whole Bible, including the Old Testament, including the LAW, if we are to ever have a clue what Christ is trying to reproduce in us. We need the Law as our map, our guide, the lamp to our feet. We need to know where God is taking us so we don’t fight him. We need to know what God has said so we exercise faith in accordance with his Words. To throw away the Law is to throw away THE ENDGAME AND OBJECTIVE OF GOD’S GRACE AS IT FUNCTIONS IN OUR LIVES. Says who? Says Paul himself:

  • that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:4, NKJV).
He is saying that what God has been trying to create in your life since the beginning is what the Law has always taught.

What does this mean? It does NOT mean that we live UNDER the law. We don’t. “UNDER” is the wrong preposition. It does mean that the law is fulfilled IN US through Christ. As we abide in Christ, as we turn to him in dependency and faith, we will put into practice the laws of God day by day… which will produce a life of love… which will produce the life of our dreams… which is what the age of grace is all about.

It is not legalism, because it is not our power. It is not legalism because it is not external, it is Christ, by his Spirit, from the inside out. It is not legalism because it is not UNTO justification, but FROM justification, unto sanctification. It is not legalism, because it is not a demand on us, it is a demand on God. It is not legalism because it is a gift put into us through Christ himself at salvation and every day thereafter.

Jesus, Paul, James, Moses, and all the writers of Scripture were ANTI-LEGALISM but PRO-LAW. LEGALISM is humans by human effort seeking to merit the approval of God. But GRACE is God, by God’s effort, doing in and through us what we could never do for ourselves: making us like Christ.

We Christians made a big fuss about how the government has censored the Ten Commandments from our classrooms and the public arena. But haven’t we beaten them to the punch? Haven’t we so misconstrued Scripture that we’ve censored the Ten Commandments FROM THE CHURCH? We need — our young people especially — a return to the Law of God as a guide into a life of grace.

Have we as Christians become so tolerant in our attempts to be PC that we are hard to recognize as Christians?  Do we live as if there are no rules, no laws, no absolutes?  Have we morphed grace into bland leniency? Have we adopted antinomianism? The general rudeness in society, the lack of moral values, the embrace of any prodigal while still in the far country, the mushiness of our faith, and the miniscule difference between our lives and the lives of unbelievers, can all be traced to a departure from the whole counsel of God, including the Law of the Lord, which is perfect.

God bless Tim Tebow, Kirk Cameron, and those in the public eye willing to stand up for Jesus, for the Bible, for truth . . . For the law of the universe which happens to be the law of God recorded in Scripture.

Bring back the Ten Commandments, not as a way of salvation, but as a way of self-respecting love for God and others.

How do we reconcile grace and works? Simple: being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; (Philippians 1:6, NKJV). God’s work — not ours alone– will create a life of love, a reproduction of the life of Christ in our lives. A life of God’s good, holy, and pure law which is, by definition, a life of love, which is by definition, the life you’ve always dreamed of.

Grace and law have kissed each other in Jesus Christ. May they kiss each other in your life too.

Let’s preach GRACE as the only means of fulfilling the law through the power of Christ in us.

Let’s preach LAW as guardian and guide of a life dedicated to God and his heart of love.

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9 thoughts on “Why Grace-Oriented People Still Need God’s Law or Bring Back the Ten Commandments!

  1. I know some might ask about the Sabbath commandment not being repeated in the New Testament. Aside from the flawed premise that the NT must repeat an OT command for it to be valid, I would suggest that the Sabbath still applies in this sense: EVERY DAY is the Sabbath for the child of God. We have “entered his rest” (Heb 4:10), having ceased from the labor of salvation. Every day is our Sabbath, every day is our rest and peace in Christ and his finished work. Remember the Sabbath day… never forget that your work is finished because Christ did it all at Calvary.

  2. Amen, amen, amen. Thank you Bill!!! So right on, so balanced, so well put!
    thank you again, I’m sharing this with others.

  3. Hi Bill. Welcome back! It’s been too long.

    OK, so you’ve covered the 10 Commandments. What about the other 600 or so? How about Numbers 5:11 (concerning potentially unfaithful wives?

    How do you distinguish the Law of Liberty, the Law of Christ and love from the OT commandments?
    Thanks.

  4. Bob,
    Great question… Civil law, Ceremonial law, moral law. I like those standard distinctions. The moral law continues. The others have been fulfilled and have been brought to an end. Make sense?

  5. Thought provoking, Bill. I’ll bet that classroom discussion was interesting. These are great questions to ponder, especially considering that it is election year.

  6. Bill…

    The Apostle Paul indicated that the law was not intended the the righteous, but for the lawless (1 Tim 1:9). Thus the Law of Moses condemned law-breakers (Rom 3:19; 4:15; and 5:20).

    When we are born-again, we are no longer condemned by the law, but are set free from the condemnation of the law (Rom 8:1). If however we choose to engage in lawlessness, then we then resurrect the law, and become its transgressors (Gal 2:18). We are no longer free, but instead become the slaves of unrighteousness (Rom 6:16).

    The are no specific mandates or explicit stipulations in the Law of Moses which require that the adherent practice love, joy, peace patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness and self-control (this according to Gal 5:23). These spiritual manifestations are the direct result of the Holy Spirit. These behaviors always result in love for ones neighbor as oneself, thus the law here is never resurrected to condemn us, but is actually “fulfilled.” Because the law does not condemn us, we are free from the law — or to use the Apostle Paul’s words, “where there is no law, there is no violation” (Rom 4:15).

    Paul asked the Galatians the rhetorical question: “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Gal 3:3). If there are some wayward types among us, we must not resurrect the Law of Moses, which is “futile” as a means of spiritual growth (please see 1 Pet 1:18 in conjunction with Rom 10:3). For those who are obvious “transgressors” among us, they first must not be permitted to be teachers or hold key leadership roles in the local church. (The reprimands to the churches in Pergamum and Thyatira were that they had tolerated the teachings of Balaam a la the “Nicolaitans” and Jezebel, which had represented licentious moral and ethical behavior in the local church.) We must exercise careful discretion when addressing those who are wayward among us, but always with love (2 Thess 3:14-16).

    Grace,
    Joseph

    • I love this Joe, and I love your commitment to Scriptures. You always bring thoughtful and good-hearted material to the table, so I appreciate you for that. I do struggle with your premise: “The are no specific mandates or explicit stipulations in the Law of Moses which require that the adherent practice love, joy, peace patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness and self-control (this according to Gal 5:23).”

      Jesus considered the whole law of Moses a mandate for love. You can’t read the Psalms and Proverbs, you can’t read Leviticus, you can’t read Song of Solomon, you can’t read the historical or prophetic books of the OT without finding a clarion call to every quality in that list. Yes, the fruit of the Spirit is the fruit of the Spirit; it always has been… yet…

      “Yet in Your manifold mercies You did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of the cloud did not depart from them by day, To lead them on the road; Nor the pillar of fire by night, To show them light, And the way they should go. You also gave Your good Spirit to instruct them, And did not withhold Your manna from their mouth, And gave them water for their thirst.” (Nehemiah 9:19, 20, NKJV). This is spoken of the Exodus generation. The Holy Spirit instructed them in the way. How? Through the growing body of Scripture.

      You’re not saying that the OT saints did not value love, joy, and peace, etc., are you?

      When Paul wrote the word “Scriptures” in this verse, what “Scriptures” did he have in mind? —> All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17, NKJV).

      Only the OT was in existence along w/a few bits of the NT. His readers would have immediately interpreted this, just as did Jesus, as the Old Testament.

      In addition, if the OT supremely teaches Jesus Christ, as he himself explicitly affirmed (And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. (Luke 24:27, NKJV)), then what part of Jesus Christ in his person and work runs counter to love, joy, peace, patience, and all the fruit of the Spirit? If we see Christ in the OT, we see all the beauties of God in the OT too.

      Furthermore, while Paul does affirm the law is for transgressors, that doesn’t imply that the law is ONLY for transgressors. In fact, Paul asserts otherwise: 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 neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:9, 10, NKJV).

      Finally, Gal 5:23, which you cite, is not an indictment against the law (“against such there is no law”) but rather an affirmation of the law — saying that the entire OT truth has never stood in the way of a life of love, joy, peace, and all the fruit of the Spirit. It is another way of saying what David said: “I have seen the consummation of all perfection, But Your commandment is exceedingly broad.” (Psalms 119:96, NKJV). Spiritually minded OT saints always came to a deep understanding grace through their contemplation of the OT Law: consider David’s exultation over grace: “and hast yet further made this seem little in thine eyes, My Lord, Yahweh, in that thou hast spoken, even of the house, of thy servant, for a great while to come? This, then is the law of manhood, O My Lord, Yahweh!” (2 Samuel 7:19, Roth). He calls God’s grace “the law of mankind.”

      When we are rightly related to God through faith alone in Christ alone, the law becomes to us a map of the heart of God through Christ. It is and always has been a revelation of a God who doesn’t change. A God whose policies have always been the law of Hesed, the Law of Grace (Prov 31:26, literal translation… the torah of hesed).

      Blessings, Joe. We go way back together, and I am blessed to call you friend. You helped enormously with my first book, and I love that we can disagree respectfully. With your permission, I’d like to put both your letter and my response as a blog, and I’ll give you the last word. Let me know. Take care. Bill

  7. Bill…

    We are not spiritually dead, but spiritually alive. The Law of Moses is for those who were not spiritually alive, but spiritually dead….

    I know this is going to hard to believe, but the Old Testament saints had righteousness, but they were not spiritually alive. (When the Old Testament saint died, they did not go “up” into heaven, but had been confined “down” into a place of rest called Sheol.) They were not yet part of the New Covenant, which “washes away” spiritual death with the eternal life of Jesus Christ. That is, the Holy Spirit baptizes us into the living water of eternal life of Jesus Christ. Thus we are “born again” through water and spirit (John 3:5). After death, we now go to be “with Christ” in heaven.

    Thus the Law of Moses was for those in the Old Covenant, who were spiritually dead, and who had not yet been baptized into Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit (New Covenant). Since they were spiritually dead, all aspects of their life (civil, moral, and religious) had to conform in form and content to purity. The righteous Old Testament saint participated in the Law of Moses, and was reminded year in and year out through the sacrifices, that he was a condemned sinner before God, since the Law was constantly violated. The grace of the sacrifices not only pointed to the Lamb of God, but provided a means of continued fellowship with God. In this respect, the Law of Moses doubled as a system of theocratic government.

    Now that we are spiritually alive, we are no longer under this law (the sphere of spiritual death). When we are spiritually alive, and are under the law of liberty (the sphere of spiritual life). Because we are under the sphere of spiritual life, we are excluded from the law which condemns us. We have freedom, because we are not condemned. For example, Paul in his epistles used the analogy of a slave and son. In the Old Testament, we were slaves to the sphere of spiritual death. In the New Testament, we become sons who are free.

    When born again believers engage in, and/or condone adultery, they become slaves of unrighteousness. They grieve and quench the Holy Spirit. The New Testament describes them as “sleeping”, because in their sleep they resemble those who are spiritually dead. (They are indistinguishable from the unbeliever.) In some cases actually, they may actually be unbelievers, and thus those who had never been born again. These are tares among the wheat, or goats among the sheep—that is, from a distance they appear as part of the whole, but close up, they are very different people.

    Bill, I am not trying to be polemical, but an encouragement to the legacy we had received from Doc Latham. As you recall, he had memorized the Book of Romans in addition to other New Testament epistles. I will never be able to shine a light next to him, but I will never forget the light that he gave to us.

    Grace,
    Joseph

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