By Margie Littell
An Adventist asked me a good question recently: “Do you think God has to keep the Ten Commandments?” (We had been discussing, not surprisingly, the fourth commandment.)
I answered, “No, I don’t think an all-wise, all-knowing, all-powerful God needs rules of behaviors. Do you? On the other hand, weak-minded people do need rules!”
There is inbred within us a sense of what is right and what is wrong. We call it our conscience; the Bible calls it the “knowledge of good and evil”.
Think about it: does having the rules prevent bad behaviors? Of course not! Rather, it is the FEAR of punishment which prevents most people from breaking these rules.
No wonder the Ten Commandments are called “The ministry of DEATH written on stone” (see 2 Corinthians 3). They carry the curse of death for anyone who breaks them!
What if God removed all the rules and all the punishments contained in all the laws of all the nations? Would people go out of control?
That is, they might become out of control UNLESS He gives them new heart sand new spirits which had no desire to do those bad behaviors any more.
Guess what! God can and does make people new all the time!
Jesus called this becoming new being “born again” when He talked to Nicodemus, the teacher and protector of the law. In fact, Jesus explained this new birth by saying, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’” (Jn. 3:5–7).
Never underestimate the power of a MIGHTY God!
2 Corinthians 5:17 puts it this way, “When anyone lives in Christ, the new creation has come. The old is gone! The new is here!”
The old covenant’s commandments allowed people to try to scrub off their dirt (SIN). It provided ceremonial cleansing through the sacrifices of animals and through ritual washings, but those old covenant commandments couldn’t take away people’s sin.
In fact, Paul explains the purpose of the law like this in 1 Timothy 1:8–11: “We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.”
After we are re-born and made alive by the resurrection power of the risen Jesus, however, the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit takes us out of our dirt (sin). Again, Paul explains this miracle clearly in Titus 2:11–14: “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”
So, can we mix the new covenant in Jesus’ blood and the commandments of the old covenant? Can we believe in Jesus and keep the law “just in case” it pleases God to see us trying?
Galatians 5 is the powerful answer to this question, but verse 4 sums up its essence: “Some of you are trying to be made right with God by obeying the law. You have been separated from Christ. You have fallen away from God’s grace.” And in verses 25–26 Paul says, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.”
If a born-again believer in Jesus can fall away from grace by trying to please God by keeping the commandments, certainly the answer to the Adventist’s initial question is clear: God does not “keep” the Ten Commandments!
I ask you again: can we mix believing in Christ and law-keeping?
I would not advise it. †