Growing up I thought that they were the measuring stick of how “Christian” I was being. I’m sure others share this view.
After all, they are a list of rules. Do this. Don’t do that. It’s reasonable to assume that if you follow the 10 commandments adequately, you’ll live a life that pleases God.
But there’s a problem. How many chances do we get if we mess up on just one of them? I’ve never murdered anyone or committed adultery, but I’ve pretty much broken all the other commandments.
If I’m 2 for 10, where does that leave me?
Can I still be considered good? or even Christian at all?
Or am I missing the point completely?
In Romans 7, the Apostle Paul explains how the commandments work. He says:
I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.
Paul is saying that the Old Testament commandments are meant to expose the sin in our lives. That’s what he means when he says that “the commandment came” and “sin came alive.” The commandments don’t make us sin, the show us how far off from God we truly are. They show us that we can never live up to God’s standard of perfection. They show us that we’re fooling ourselves if we think that 2 out of 10 is anything more than failing completely.
So maybe my title is misleading. There’s nothing wrong with the 10 commandments. Paul goes on to say:
So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
It’s not the commandment that isn’t good enough. It’s us! We’re not good enough. And the commandments help us to see that.
Because we’re not good enough, the commandments do us no good when it comes to our salvation. If we could keep them perfectly we could be saved by our works. But if we were that good, we wouldn’t need the commandments at all.
We need something more than rules, no matter how good those rules are. We need a Savior:
Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.