The Commandments of God and How to Apply Them to Today

Good Morning,

Next in our walk we will be taking up WLC #99. It’s unique in that it’s one of the few examples of direct commands of particular application to be found within the catechism. Part of the reason for that is the catechism is not in the business of being a church government manual, the way that the Westminster Directory of that name was designed to be. That being said here is the Q/A:

Q. 99: What rules are to be observed for the right understanding of the ten commandments?

A. For the right understanding of the ten commandments, these rules are to be observed: 1. That the law is perfect, and bindeth everyone to full conformity in the whole man unto the righteousness thereof, and unto entire obedience for ever; so as to require the utmost perfection of every duty, and to forbid the least degree of every sin. 2. That it is spiritual, and so reacheth the understanding, will, affections, and all other powers of the soul; as well as words, works, and gestures. 3.  That one and the same thing, in divers respects, is required or forbidden in several commandments. 4. That as, where a duty is commanded, the contrary sin is forbidden; and, where a sin is forbidden, the contrary duty is commanded: so, where a promise is annexed, the contrary threatening is included; and, where a threatening is annexed, the contrary promise is included. 5. That what God forbids, is at no time to be done; what he commands, is always our duty; and yet every particular duty is not to be done at all times. 6. That under one sin or duty, all of the same kind are forbidden or commanded; together with all the causes, means, occasions, and appearances thereof, and provocations thereunto, 7. That what is forbidden or commanded to ourselves, we are bound, according to our places, to endeavor that it may be avoided or performed by others, according to the duty of their places.

The reason why the Divines felt that we needed to hear explicit instructions on the Ten Commandments is that they lived in a time of great need of clarification on this issue. We are in no different place than them. Much of the division found in the Reformed world centers around the question of the law in its role as both an agent of sanctification and its relationship to the Christian life in general. To help provide assistance for all of us we’ll take each of these seven in paragraphs of a bite-size nature.

1)      The Covenant of Works is the ground by which all men are bound to a perfect obedience to the law of God. Every person must keep the commandments, and to break them is sin. That is the very basic situation that we find ourselves in by virtue of our being created in God’s image. We cannot escape our call to be obedient to our nature. The reason why that matters here is that the Larger Catechism has already affirmed for us that the Ten Commandments are a summary of the moral law, which unlike the ceremonial or judicial law, are binding on all men, everywhere, at all times. However, even in the gospel under the Covenant of Grace, Christians are still to be keepers of the law in every respect. We do not do evil that mercy may abound. Our spirits are to be interested in Psalm 119:105 obedience. The difference being the following of the commandments is out of an interest to Christ, not for salvation.

2)      A difference between the Reformed and some other denominations is how we understand the way that we are to keep the law. When we sin, we sin in thought, word, and deed. Our whole person is involved in making the decision to do thing x. Our desire is grounded in what our will and affections want to do, yet because of the fall all of our mind, body, and soul is seeking to break the commands of God, which we do so in full knowledge because this self-same law is written on our hearts.

3)      The Ten Commandments are not to be seen as either arbitrary or independently weighted. Each of the laws given to Moses are intertwined in so far as to break one is to in effect break them all.

4)      God does not need to tell us everything in order that we should know that if the Bible says we are not to kill, we should by reason and common sense understand that the 6th commandment thereby calls us to preserve and keep life sacred. We are not left in an ignorant state as to considering the whole counsel of the word. If men were made to glorify the Lord, and have functioning brain power, “I didn’t think about that” is not an acceptable excuse for disobedience on the day of judgment.

5)      This particular rule can sound confusing, but the Divines are interesting in helping us to understand how best to apply with wisdom the law of God. An example of what is being spoken about here is Rahab with the Israelite spies. The 9th commandment forbids false witness, yet the young lady was commended with deceiving the men of the city of Jericho in order to protect the agents of Joshua. She did not sin in this act.

6)      We cannot be said to keep the law well if, for instance, we engage in behavior that promotes sin, even if we ourselves are not engaging in that sin explicitly. In other words the call of a passage like Ephesians 5:11 which tells us not to participate in the unfruitful works of darkness has in mind that if we are to love the word of God we cannot be hanging out, or involving ourselves in activities that lead to sin.

7)      Here the last rule is really just a repetition of the 5th Commandment. Part of the witness of a godly father or mother, boss or employee, king or citizen, is that by grace, through your resting in the beauty of the law of God others will see the goodness of the Lord and the blessing of His commandments.

In closing, the rules we’ve briefly discussed help us in the overall project of being found in grace by opening our minds to understand that while the law requires much, and is far more involved than sometimes we may think, it is a good and righteous thing for us to remember that as we order our lives and hearts and attune them to Christ we will see the comfort and order of seeing ourselves found righteously guided in holiness, justice, and truth.

Blessings in Christ,

Rev. Benjamin Glaser

Pastor, Bethany ARP Church

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