The Ten Commandments or the Law of God Series
As we continue our study of the Ten Commandments, I thought the above quote appropriate in that it represents a large portion of the US population. Although some 68% identify as “Christian”1 if anyone really digs into those numbers, we know that they many are nominal believers at best. Far too many “Christians” today see the Ten Commandments as a burden, not as a help and path to joy.
Today I will look at two things when considering the Ten commandments from two different sources:
Man’s Duty and Practice of Duty from A.W. Pink’s The Ten Commandments which is a follow-on from our devotional on the 30th of Oct.
There are two things which are indispensable to the Christian’s life: first, a clear knowledge of duty, and second, a conscientious practice of duty corresponding to his knowledge. As we can have no well-grounded hope of eternal salvation without obedience, so we can have no sure rule of obedience without knowledge. Although there may be knowledge without practice, yet there cannot possibly be practice of God’s will without knowledge. And therefore that we might be informed what we ought to do and what to avoid, it has pleased the Ruler and Judge of all the earth to prescribe for us laws for the regulating of our actions. When we had miserably defaced the Law of nature originally written in our hearts, so that many of its commandments were no longer legible, it seemed good to the Lord to transcribe that Law into the Scriptures, and in the Ten Commandments we have a summary of the same.
The second thing is the different classes of “Laws” from Hodges’ Systematic Theology: Different Kinds of Laws.
In looking into the Bible as containing a revelation of the will of God, the first thing which arrests attention is the great diversity of precepts therein contained. This difference concerns the nature of the precepts, and the ground on which they rest, or the reason why they are obligatory.
1. There are laws which are founded on the nature of God. To this class belong the command to love God supremely, to be just, merciful, and kind. Love must everywhere and always be obligatory. Pride, envy, and malice must everywhere and always be evil. Such laws bind all rational creatures, angels as well as men. The criterion of these laws is that they are absolutely immutable and indispensable. Any change in them would imply, not merely a change in the relations of men, but in the very nature of God.
2. A second class of laws includes those which are founded on the permanent relations of men in their present state of existence. Such are the moral, as opposed to mere statute laws, concerning property, marriage, and the duties of parents and children, or superiors and inferiors. Such laws concern men only in their present state of being. They are, however, permanent so long as the relations which they contemplate continue. Some of these laws bind men as men; others husbands as husbands, wives as wives, and parents and children as such, and consequently they bind all men who sustain these several relations. They are founded on the nature of things, as it is called; that is, upon the institution which God has seen fit to ordain. This constitution might have been different, and then these laws would have had no place. The right of property need not have existed. God might have made all things as common as sun-light or air. Men might have been as angels, neither marrying nor giving in marriage. Under such a constitution there would be no room for a multitude of laws which are now of universal and necessary obligation.
3. A third class of laws have their foundation in certain temporary relations of men, or conditions of society, and are enforced by the authority of God. To this class belong many of the judicial or civil laws of the ancient theocracy; laws regulating the distribution of property, the duties of husbands and wives, the punishment of crimes, etc. These laws were the application of general principles of justice and right to the peculiar circumstances of the Hebrew people. Such enactments bind only those who are in the circumstances contemplated, and cease to be obligatory when those circumstances change. It is always and everywhere right that crime should be punished, but the kind or degree of punishment may vary with the varying condition of society. It is always right that the poor should be supported, but one mode of discharging that duty may be proper in one age and country, and another preferable in other times and places. All those laws, therefore, in the Old Testament, which had their foundation in the peculiar circumstances of the Hebrews, ceased to be binding when the old dispensation passed away.
It is often difficult to determine to which of the last two classes certain laws of the Old Testament belong; and therefore, to decide whether they are still obligatory or not. Deplorable evils have flowed from mistakes as to this point. The theories of the union of Church and State, of the right of the magistrate to interfere authoritatively in matters of religion, and of the duty of persecution, so far as Scriptural authority is concerned, rest on the transfer of laws founded on the temporary relations of the Hebrews to the altered relations of Christians. Because the Hebrew kings were the guardians of both tables of the Law, and were required to suppress idolatry and all false religion, it was inferred that such is still the duty of the Christian magistrate. Because Samuel hewed Agag to pieces, it was inferred to be right to deal in like manner with heretics. No one can read the history of the Church without being impressed with the dreadful evils which have flowed from this mistake. On the other hand, there are some of the judicial laws of the Old Testament which were really founded on the permanent relations of men, and therefore, were intended to be of perpetual obligation, which many have repudiated as peculiar to the old dispensation. Such are some of the laws relating to marriage, and to the infliction of capital punishment for the crime of murder. lf it be asked, How are we to determine whether any judicial law of the Old Testament is still in force? the answer is first, When the continued authority of such law is recognized in the New Testament. That for Christians is decisive. And secondly, If the reason or ground for a given law is permanent, the law itself is permanent.
4. The fourth class of laws are those called positive, which derive all their authority from the explicit command of God. Such are external rites and ceremonies, as circumcision, sacrifices, and the distinction between clean and unclean meats, and between months, days, and years. The criterion of such laws is that they would not be binding unless positively enacted; and that they bind those cnly to whom they are given, and only so long as they continue in force by the appointment of God. Such laws may have answered important ends, and valid reasons doubtless existed why they were imposed; still they are specifically different from those commands which are in their own nature morally obligatory. The obligation to obey such laws does not arise from their fitness for the end for which they have been given, but solely from the divine command
Keach’s Baptist Catechism of 1677 – Modern
Thomas Watson’s classic The Ten Commandments
Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Chapter XIX, The Law
The Ten Commandments, by A. W. Pink
Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 5, The Ten Commandments