How the Christian’s Keeping of the Commandments Shows the Gospel Grace


Today in our catechism lesson we’ll be doing something a little different, and you’ll see why in a minute. One of the connections between the Shorter and Larger Catechism is that they both follow a similar pattern of getting to know God, clarifying what God has done for us in redemption, and then helpfully explaining the manner and way of sanctification so that the Believer can place the law in its proper place and duty. If there was any one issue that got the early church excited, and still provides fodder for journal articles, books, and blog posts it is how to deal with the law, especially the moral law, as justified men and women. Are we still to keep it? Do we use it merely as a guide and not as a rule of life? Is the keeping of the law tied into our remaining in the good graces of our Lord or does it really not matter how we observe His commandments?

These and many other questions will hopefully be helpfully answered in the words that follow.

Let’s go ahead and get to the Q/A’s for this morning:

Q. 98: Where is the moral law summarily comprehended?

A. The moral law is summarily comprehended in the ten commandments, which were delivered by the voice of God upon Mount Sinai, and written by him in two tables of stone; and are recorded in the twentieth chapter of Exodus. The four first commandments containing our duty to God, and the other six our duty to man.

Q. 100: What special things are we to consider in the ten commandments?

A. We are to consider, in the ten commandments, the preface, the substance of the commandments themselves, and several reasons annexed to some of them, the more to enforce themselves.

No, we aren’t skipping #99. We’ll take that one up by itself next week. In the meantime as you meditate on what the Divines are saying at the moment you’ll notice that there are a couple of features of the moral law that are worth exploring first. Whenever we talk about God’s law we have to keep in mind that the nature of the law has not changed regardless if we consider it under the covenant of works or the covenant of grace. It’s not the law that changes, it is us. As it is under the covenant of works it is a taskmaster that requires of us complete and full obedience for our obtaining eternal life. As it is under the covenant of grace it is a blessed tutor helping to learn us up in the school of Christ in and through His marvelous love. Rather than having an antagonistic, almost Sisyphus relationship with the commandments, those bought with a price now read and apply the law as we hear David describe in Psalm 119:1-2, “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord! Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart!”. This latter vision, the law as a gift, is where the Catechism would like us to consider it as we walk through the Ten Commandments starting in a few weeks.

But let’s step back a second and talk about the way the law works in our hearts, as those being sanctified, both now and in the future. You’ve probably heard before the idea that the law has three uses: 1) The Law convicts and points us to Christ, 2) The Law is of a civil use, to restrain the wickedness of man’s heart, and 3) The Law is of use to the Believer in showing them how to live in light of God’s gracious gift and grant of new life in His Son. For those who rest in the Redeemer when we read the law it in some way does all the three things mentioned above for us. We are shown where it is we still lack repentance and reminds us where we are to go, in accordance with 1 John 1:8-10. We are also shown the means by which we come to that knowledge, it’s part of the reason why the second catechism question, #100, is so vital to a right understanding of the Ten Commandments today, and why question #98 calls them a summary of the moral law. By its nature there is more to, for example, not murdering than just not unaliving someone. We by reason of its message know that the Sixth Commandment also calls us to care for life, to protect life, and to treasure our own lives in response to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

To elaborate on this a bit think about the job of a preacher for a second. My call is to primarily preach the good news of salvation, offer it to the lost, guard and officiate the sacraments of Christ’s Church, and to shepherd the sheep as needed. If I am not proclaiming the Biblical testimony of how men and women come to the knowledge of the truth then I am in violation of this sixth command. How you ask? Because I have failed to ensure that they understand that there is an answer for the age old question of the Philippian Jailer in Acts 16. I’ve “allowed their soul to die”.

Let’s look at the whole context of the Philippian Jailer to better understand this:

Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.

What we read there is a perfect illustration, not only of how Paul and Silas kept the Sixth Command, but of how the relationship of the law changes with the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in the life of a man born again. He was convicted, sought a balm for that pain, was given a life-saving remedy by physicians of the heart, and showed the fruit of that work by his own keeping of the law in showing hospitality in accordance with the 5th and 8th Commandments. As we walk through the Ten we’ll see more and more how each of the statues illustrate for us the holiness of God and the way Christians are to receive and apply their truths.

Here is another word for this week.

Blessings in Christ,

Rev. Benjamin Glaser

Pastor, Bethany ARP Church

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