From the Beginning

A STORY OF "TIME" by Trevor Topsfield

The 10 Commandments

The Old Testament is sometimes referred as the “Law”.

To say it is the “Old” indicates in itself there must be a later or “Newer” one.

The “Old” is as good as the “New”, it just became outdated. It taught all God was prepared to do for mankind before he actually did it, so it promised salvation through the death of Jesus Christ (or the Messiah) on the Cross before it happened.

After the advent of Jesus the “New” simply links all that the “Old” taught, to the reality of God’s fulfilled promise.

It has always been a policy of God’s that we should become a subject of his realm and to live with him forever, so when we became sinful because of Adam and Eve’s fall from grace, a way of salvation was required

For salvation to become a meaningful necessity for everyone, God demonstrated there was a need for us all to get involved. So that everyone can appreciate the problems involved he set up a system of rules and called it “The Law”.

The “Law” is a legal system which binds both God and man to various legal certainties; this guarantees God is legally bound to carry out his side of the bargain if we live within the goal posts set out by the “Law”.

Therefore there has to be clearly defined boundaries so there is no ambiguity and everyone can be certain whether the things we do are legal or illegal.

The 10 Commandments among other laws and statutes set the standard that God uses to judge whether we are “law abiding” citizens and if this is the case we are accepted into his kingdom. If not; then God is legally bound to incarcerate us so he can maintain law and order.

Of course the standard set by God for his Kingdom is perfection, anything less than that and it would not last forever.

As easy as it might seem, the Law was more difficult to keep than it appears. One of the problems associated with it is found in James 2:10 “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”(NIV)  This makes it extremely difficult to live out a whole life time and keeping a perfect record throughout it.

Paul thought he was staying within the law and therefore had the righteousness to be a citizen of the kingdom of God, then one day it all changed.

Exactly what the incident was that occurred on that fatal day Paul does not say, but he became aware that he desired something that for some reason was out of his reach. Then the 9th commandment was brought to his attention and he remembered “Do not covet” (NIV) (Romans 7:7). By breaking this law he realized he had never been a citizen in God’s kingdom as he had not attained the standard required.

Paul thought he was alive, but the 9th commandment made him realize he had committed a sin therefore he was a sinner, and with the wages of sinfulness being death, the life he thought he had, died. (Romans 7:9)

While the Commandments set the standard required if we are to live in the Kingdom of God, they are not the way in. In fact they make sure we are aware this standard required is beyond us. So there must another way, which is faith in Jesus Christ.

Of course if anyone could keep the law, then Jesus Christ would not have had to come and die on the Cross for our benefit.

“So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.”(NIV) (Galatians 3:25)

The “10 Commandments” are found in the Old Testament (Exodus 20) and The Old Testament is the basis for Judaism, but what about those who do not know about them?

According to Romans 2:14; “Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves.”(NIV)

So which is better? To realize ourselves to be sinful through the law, or to realize we are sinful through our own conscience?

Of course the end result is the same, so it makes no difference.

So much for our dealings with the justice of God whether we are Jew or Gentile.

However, the story does not end yet, because there is the love of God and he presents a completely different story.

For the Jews “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming- not the realities themselves.” (Hebrews 10:1) (NIV)

So far we have only dealt with the negatives that exist between ourselves and God which the law makes clear, but there are the good things; the positives aspects clearly stated in the law.

This side of the story is told over the whole of The Old Testament, when all of it was freely available for every generation. Hebrews Chapter 11 tells of some of The Old Testament characters who took advantage of these positives.

“By faith Abel offered a better sacrifice than Cain did.” (Hebrews 11:4) (NIV) Abel realized that he would not be able to satisfy the justice of God as it would take the sacrifice of another to do that. On the other hand Cain brought along the fruits of his own labor, but that was not good enough to please God.

Then there is the story of Enoch to illustrate life after death.  “By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away” (Hebrews 11:5) (NIV).

Enoch set the pattern of things to come. “Enoch walked with God then he was no more, because God took him away.” (Genesis 5:24) (NIV) So if anyone walks with God they do not experience death, they are just taken away. This is The Old Testament saying exactly the same as Paul saying in 2 Corinthians 5:8 “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord”.  (NIV) This is in contrast to being at home in the body and away from the Lord as found in the two previous verses.

In the same way Abraham lived in tents like a stranger in a foreign land, even though he was in the Promised Land, because he looked forward to a city built by God. (Hebrews 11:9-11)

Snippets here others there, here a snippet there a snippet, until there is a complete picture of how The  Old Testament saints understood how God functioned through the various people who applied faith in all he did and was prepared to do for them.

So there are two sides to the “Law”.

One – “The Law” is designed to condemn us: “As it is written; “There is no one righteous; not even one”. (Romans 3:10) (NIV)

Two – The “Law” is only a shadow of the good things that are coming – not the realities themselves. (NIV) (Hebrews 10:1) Jesus Christ and all that he achieved on the Cross are the realities of the good things that have now come.

The question could easily be asked at this point. Why do so many religions have laws of their own that in many cases are very similar to The 10 Commandments?

Judaism as outlined in The Old testament and Christianity as outlined in The New are not religions, they consist of believers who have received salvation and have a relationship with God.

Of course it can be argued with plenty of evidence supporting both are very religious, but in these cases they are an incorrect assumption of what The Bible actually teaches.

However, much of the teachings by people such as Isaiah, Hosea, Ezekiel, Paul and of course Jesus himself is focused on Judaism and Christianity not simply becoming another religion.

The big difference between having a relationship with God and belonging to a religious organization is the “The Law” as set out in The Bible is designed to demonstrate our sinfulness and therefore lead us to have faith in Jesus Christ.

But religions generally speaking, are designed to impress God so there will be a place for them in Heaven without the Salvation faith in Jesus brings. They have to achieve the righteousness that will satisfy God and the10 Commandments indicate the standard that is required, this standard is obvious to all.


Trevor Topsfield


Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.



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