God’s Commands – Required or Obsolete?
Posted on March 12, 2014
I recently recorded a grace vs. law series on my podcast (click here) and I wanted to add to that content on the blog. I want to focus on one aspect of the grace vs. law debate today regarding the commandments of God. Typically there are two perspectives on the commandments when we are framing them within grace vs. law.
The first perspective is regardless of a new covenant we are still required to keep the commandments of God and if you say the commandments are no longer requirements you are a heretic! The second perspective states that because we are under a new covenant the commands of God are no longer required and if you say they are you are a legalist! Those rules of engagement for this topic are friendly, right?!
Here’s some food for thought. First, we must rightly understand the purpose of the commandments. God did not give them because He is a drill sergeant and just loves to bark orders and make people do what He says without any understanding of the why behind the commands. God is not militant.
And for those who might say, “He is the captain of the Lord of hosts!” Yes this is true. But I don’t know if we will ever understand that in the context in which it was written. He is not and will never be an American military officer, and it is easy to place our military knowledge behind a word that was written well before the founding of the USA.
The purpose of the commandments is to outline what the most life-giving, joyful, fulfilling way of life a human being could ever experience! Hating people, jealousy, murder, stealing, talking bad about others, and the like not only harm those in the cross-hairs but also those pulling the trigger. It is a miserable lot to live out these traits and God knew that and therefore spelled it out clearly.
However, without grace, these commandments are heavy-handed and impossible! Therefore, we must realize that every commandment of God is full of His grace (read: unearned power to joyfully live out His ways) to walk it out. When God says, ‘do not murder,’ it is because in Christ, He destroyed murder (sin) in the work of the cross. Now His commandments activate our identity in Christ! Now the commands of God are good news! The commandments (and our obedience to those commandments) no longer determine our acceptance from God, as Jesus fully redeemed our acceptance, reconciliation, and union with the God-head single-handedly.
However, those commandments do outline our identity in Christ. Now, they reveal what is possible because of what Jesus has already accomplished. Now, I’m able to live freely from my union with Jesus in a way that demonstrates the nature and character of God as I am a new creation in Christ. The commandments merely remind me of who I am, which results in a life lived in abundance and joy that looks like Jesus!
So it is not an either/or issue when talking about the commands of God. However, there is an order that helps the commands of God flow effortlessly (read: free from self effort) out of our lives when we understand what grace is and has already done in our hearts and minds. This too is good news!