The Ten Commandments – Intro Part 2

Title: The Ten Commandments - Intro Part 2

Bible Book: Exodus 20 : 18-22

Author: Paul E. Brown

Subject: The Ten Commandments



Recently I preached part one of “Introducing the Ten Commandments,” and today I want to take up where I left off--so this message is part two.

In that earlier message I dealt with the producing of the Ten Commandments, their permanency, and their purpose as it relates to society as a whole. Now, today, I want to speak of the purpose of the Ten Commandments as they apply individually. In addition to their serving as moral standards for our nation, what is the purpose of the Ten Commandments as they apply to you and me personally?

First, I want to emphasize

I. What Is Not Their Purpose

The Ten Commandments never were a means of being saved and going to heaven. In the last part of Galatians 2:16 the apostle Paul wrote, “ the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” He went on to say, in verse 21, “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”

Someone says, “But weren’t people at one time saved by keeping the Ten Commandments?” The answer to that is a resounding no. People in Moses’ day--and before his time--were saved by God’s grace through faith in Christ. They didn’t know all the details, but God revealed to them the essentials of the gospel.

Immediately after Adam and Eve had sinned there in the Garden of Eden, God gave to them the gospel in embryo. God said to Satan, in Genesis 3:15: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed [that is, I will put a break, a separation, between thy seed, Satan--meaning, all of those evil powers and influences that emanate from you--and the woman’s seed--that is, the human race]; it [this enmity] shall bruise thy head [meaning, this enmity will destroy you, Satan, it will crush you], and thou shalt bruise his [now this enmity is spoken of as a male person] heel [that is, he whom God shall send will suffer in defeating you, Satan--this is a reference to Christ‘s suffering and dying in our stead, to pay the penalty for our sins].”

With the passing of time, God revealed more and more about the Redeemer who was to come. In Isaiah 7:14 God spoke to King Ahaz words which applied not only to the king’s immediate situation, but also contained a prophetic reference to the birth of Jesus. In that verse we read: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

The picture gets even clearer in Isaiah 53:5-6: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Listen to what the Bible says about Abraham, who lived hundred of years before Moses. and was called “the friend of God.” In John 8:56 Jesus said to the first century Jews: “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.” In Galatians 3:6-9, 11 we read: “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham....But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, the just shall live by faith.”

People in Old Testament days were saved by grace through faith in the eternal Christ, who was yet to come, but his coming was as certain as if it had already occurred. In our day people are saved by grace through faith in the eternal Christ whose death on the cross is an already accomplished historical fact.

Now, having said that, let’s consider

II. What Is The Purpose Of The 10 Commandments

That purpose is three-fold:

A. The Ten Commandments Reveal Sin and Lostness.

As we look at God’s standards set forth in those laws, we see how miserably far short we fall. Someone has said, “The best way to show up a crooked stick is to lay a straight one beside it.“ The Ten Commandments are God’s straight stick laid beside the crooked stick of our lives. Paul wrote, in Romans 3:19-20: “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”

Paul continued with that theme in Romans 7:9: “For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” Paul was saying, in effect: “Once I was not conscious of my sinfulness. I thought I was spiritually alive. But when I gazed into God’s law, an awareness of sin flooded my soul, and I realized that I was spiritually dead, and lost.”

The same thing happens whenever any of us look honestly and thoughtfully at the Ten Commandments: we realize with crushing force the truth of Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God“--and we find ourselves crying out as did the prophet Isaiah: “Woe is me! I am undone!”

B. The Ten Commandments Point us to Christ – the Savior

But, thankfully, the Ten Commandments also have a second purpose--a wonderful purpose. Not only do they show us our lost condition, they also point us to Christ, the Savior.

Paul cried out, in Romans 7:24, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Then look at his triumphant answer in verse 25: “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord....!” God’s law, the heart of which is the Ten Commandments, not only shows us that we need help beyond ourselves, it then directs us to that help. Having looked at the Ten Commandments and seen our failures, we then look at the New Testament record of Jesus and realize that he obeyed those commandments perfectly, and we realize that he undoubtedly was, and is, God’s promised Redeemer.

Galatians 3:24 says, “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.“

The Greek word that Paul uses here for “schoolmaster”--paidagogos--is very significant. It refers to a custodian. In the first century Roman empire a family would sometimes have a servant whose job it was to be the custodian of the child in the family between ages six and sixteen. Probably those duties included leading the child safely through the streets of the city to the school, where the child would then be turned over to the teacher. Paul says that the law is our “schoolmaster.“ It leads us to the sinless Son of God, who died for our sins on Calvary’s cross in order that all who repent of their sins and by faith receive him as Lord and Savior can be delivered from sin’s eternal condemnation, can be forgiven and cleansed, and made new.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

Paul said, in Galatians 3:25, “But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” Once we are converted, we are then under a higher authority than the law--and that authority is Christ. Paul says in Galatians 3:26, “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.”

That does not mean, however, that the law no longer has any relevance for our lives--but it does mean that we are no longer under the condemnation of the law--meaning, the condemnation which the law brought to light.

The late Dr. Harry Ironside preached on a street corner one day, and afterwards one of his listeners came up to him and said, “...I believe that if a man lives up to the Sermon on the Mount and keeps the Ten Commandments, God does not require any more of him.” Dr. Ironside asked, “My friend, have you lived up to the Sermon on the Mount and have you kept the Ten Commandments?” The man said, “Oh, perhaps not perfectly; but I am doing the best I can.” Harry Ironside replied by quoting James 2:10: “Whosoever shall keep the whole law and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” Then he quoted Galatians 3:10: For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” Dr. Ironside said to the man, “...and because you have not continued you are under the curse.”

If a person could be saved by keeping the law--which, of course, he can’t--he would have to keep all the law all the time--so that if he stumbled even at one point he would still be under its curse--meaning, he would still under sin’s condemnation. If you were hanging from a cliff by a chain of ten links and you broke any one of those links, you would fall to your death, regardless of how strong the other nine links were.

No person in all of history, except Jesus, has ever kept the whole law of God--that’s why we all need a Savior, and that’s why Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for our sins--the Lamb of God without spot or blemish. In Galatians 3:13 Paul wrote: “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree.”

Here’s the way Romans 8:2 expresses it: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”

The song-writer said it like this:

Free from the law, O happy condition!

Jesus hath bled, and there is remission.

Cursed by the law and bruised by the fall,

Christ hath redeemed us once for all.

A friend of mine has been dealing with a severe illness, and recently had surgery. Prior to the surgery, though, he had an MRI. He was in Sunday School following his operation, and the subject of the law came up. My friend said the law reminded him of his MRI. He said, “The MRI that I had showed me my problem but didn’t cure it. The law identifies our sin but doesn’t remedy it.”

Dr. J. Vernon McGee used the illustration of a mirror and the washbasin beneath it. He said, “You don’t wash yourself with the mirror, it merely shows you the dirt. You wash yourself in the washbasin. The law shows the dirt. Christ is the one who washes and cleanses.”

Romans 10:4 says, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth.”

C. The Ten Commandments Serve as Moral Guidelines

But there is still a third purpose for the Ten Commandments: God intends that they serve as moral guidelines for the Christian in his daily living.

Not only does Christ save us when we trust him, he also keeps us--and he helps us along life‘s way, as we deal with temptation and face the various battles and challenges of life. When we stumble and err, we have this wonderful promise in 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We get up, then, dust ourselves off, and go at it again--but this time a little wiser, and a little sturdier, and more determined than ever not to disappoint our Savior.

But throughout that process of spiritual growth and development, we need goals. We need standards to strive for. Of course, the believer’s ultimate goal is to be more like Jesus--but that involves obeying him--and to obey him we need to know what he expects of us--and that‘s where the Ten Commandments come in again. Romans 3:31 says, “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid; yea, we establish the law.” That is, once we’re saved the law takes on special significance for us. Now that we know Christ, we have a deeper desire than ever to live by the Ten Commandments, and we now have available to us God‘s power to energize us in that effort.

A Boston business man, well known for his ruthlessness, once said to Mark Twain, “Before I die, I mean to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I intend to climb Mount Sinai and, at the top, I intend to read the Ten Commandments aloud.” Mark Twain replied, “I have a better idea. You could remain in Boston and keep them.”

We’ll never be perfect, or come anywhere close, but we can become stronger day by day as we fellowship with the Lord and grow spiritually.

Jesus said, in Matthew 5:17-18: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Jesus went on then to give an even deeper meaning to the laws of God than people had previously understood. Jesus explained that not only is God concerned about our outward actions, but also about the desires and intents of our hearts.

He said that God’s law would continue in effect until its every purpose was fulfilled--and of course that includes the purpose of giving moral guidance to the believer. Therefore, so long as this world stands and there is a believer anywhere on the earth, the Ten Commandments will remain in effect. Jesus said, in John 14:15, “If ye love me, keep my commandments”--and the Ten Commandments are his commandments. God the Father originally spoke them and wrote them, but Jesus said, in John 10:30, “I and my Father are one.”


So, let me conclude by summarizing: The Ten Commandments reveal to us our sin--but they also point us to Christ, who can cleanse us and give us newness of life. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Then, once we’re converted, as we look to Christ for daily strength he will enable us to live nobly as we hold the Ten Commandments ever before us as standards toward which to strive. We’ll never keep them perfectly, or come anywhere near it--but by God’s grace we can live clean, Christ-honoring lives, so as to experience God’s blessing and to be convincing witnesses to others.

I challenge you to trust Christ as your Savior if you’ve never done so, and then to take a public stand for him. Romans 10:11 says, “...Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” If you’re already a Christian, ask God to forgive your waywardness and help you make a new start in living for him. 


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