Why would I, a Christian preacher, take the time to expound on the Ten Commandments, when we live in a new dispensation, the New Testament ? This is a valid and fair question that more than one have raised since I started this series. The following is an example of this kind of query, from a forum I frequently post on, (Free Republic).
… nowhere under the New Covenant of grace are we told our ministry is the condemnation and death of the law. That is the work of the world, the flesh, and the devil who do a very good job – they don’t need our help. Satan for instance is called the Accuser of the Brethren and the condemnation of the law is his weapon…We are to minister forgiveness by Christ and the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness which is ours freely by faith (not works).
Why if we are no longer under law but under Grace, should anyone be interested in the Ten Commandments? Am I merely preaching ‘condemnation and death’ by doing so? I think this is an excellent question which deserves an answer .
First of all we must ask, did Jesus and the Apostles ever preach any of the Ten Commandments? Did they ever employ any of the laws of God in order to bring people under conviction of sin? Or was their preaching entirely centered around grace and forgiveness?
Mark’s gospel is a good place to start, for here Jesus is approached by one who just came out and asked him how to be saved,
And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. ( Mark 10:17-20)
Jesus immediately referred the young man to the Law, specially, the second table of the Law. Why? Why not preach Grace and the cross and substitution right there on the spot?
I believe Jesus answered the young man the way he did, because our Savior knows what the Law is for.
“The Law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul…” ( Psalm 19:7)
Even though the man sensed his need for salvation, and asked none less than Jesus, how to be saved, Jesus first wanted to show him the depths of his own sin, and alienation from God. The Law of God is indispensable for that task.
Jesus did not preach grace and love to Him, He pointed the young man to the Law of God.
But the young man had a very high sense of his own righteousness,
And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. ( Mark 10:21)
What Jesus did next is much misunderstood, but very instructive.
Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.( Mark 10: 22)
Jesus was not telling the young man how to be saved, when He challenged him to sell all he had, and to give to the poor and to follow him. That is not the plan of salvation at all.
What Jesus was doing was testing the young man’s claim to have kept all of the Law from his youth, by challenging him on the First Commandment! It was if He was saying, “You have perfectly kept all of the commandments of God? Prove it right now, by selling everything and come and follow me…” .
The Law is important to puncture inflated ideas about our own supposed ‘goodness’, and to show us that ‘There is none good but God’. In that way it literally becomes “Our school master to bring us to Christ”.
When the Apostle Paul had a chance to come out of his cell and to preach to Felix,
He didn’t take the opportunity to preach Grace exclusively, Felix was a hardened sinner who needed to be broken before he could ever consider the grace of God,
And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee. ( Acts 24:24-25)
Again, when the Apostle Paul was given the opportunity to preach on Mars Hill, He preached the Creation, the First and Second Commandment, and the Judgment to come.
All of the Apostles preached the Law of God, condemning adultery, murder, blasphemy, indeed the whole spectrum of the ten commandments save one. (We do not see them preaching Sabbath observance).
So too have the Evangelical preachers of the Past,
Martin Luther – “The first duty of the gospel preacher is to declare God’s law and show the nature of sin, because it will act as a schoolmaster and bring him to everlasting life which is in Jesus Christ.”
John Wesley – “Before I preach love, mercy and grace, I must preach sin, law and judgment.”
Wesley advised a friend, “Preach 90 percent law and 10 percent grace.”
Charles Spurgeon – “They will never accept grace until they tremble before a just and holy law.”
John Wycliffe – “The highest service to which a man may attain on earth is to preach the law of God.”
D.L. Moody – “God, being a perfect God, had to give a perfect law, and the law was given not to save men, but to measure them.”
Neither Jesus, nor the Apostles nor the Evangelical preachers I have named, ever advocated preaching Law without Grace, nor would I. But they all strongly advocated the fervant preaching of the Law, and what they called the “threatenings ” of the Word of God, to prepare the way for the Gospel.