Living the Rules or How to Fail

Ten Statements & Cross

Ten Statements Lead to the Cross

People view religion as a set of rules designed to keep people from having fun in order to please God, or at least their idea of God. However, the Bible does not teach living by rules. The Bible does give some rules but not as a means of pleasing God in order to get to “heaven”. So, how did nearly everyone miss the boat on this one?

The general perception of the Old Testament is that God demanded that people live by a set of rules to please Him. Those who did not live by the rules were severely punished while those who lived by these rules were “blessed” in the next life, though not so much in this life. How did this perception occur?

The misperception is that God required the Hebrews, who later became the Jews, to live by a set of confusing rules in order to please Him. This became known as the Law of Moses, the Mosaic Law or simply as The Law. When the Jews lived by these rules God blessed them with victory over their enemies. When the Jews violated or forgot these rules then God allowed them to be conquered or subjugated as punishment. This system lasted throughout the Old Testament period.

In the New Testament period Christ came and removed the rules which became known as grace. The lifting of these rules allowed people to be free from guilt, free from the oppression of these rules and free to live at peace with Jesus Who forgives us whenever we sin. Unfortunately, this is NOT what the Bible teaches, this is what religion teaches.  Religions of all sorts seek to have their adherents live by their “special” rules in order to reach the goal of their salvation. Living the rules means you love God enough to sacrifice happiness now for happiness later. So, what does the Bible actually teach?

The Bible teaches that rules are designed to highlight sin and the behaviors that spring from sin. For instance, “Do not kill”, is a rule that in its most rudimentary form warns the reader that committing this action will unalterably change you for the worst. The guilt you incur should you violate this rule confirms that you have been unalterably changed. However, nowhere is there any teaching that keeping any rules or the Mosaic Law will bring salvation, a changed nature.

The Jews were told that if they kept the Mosaic Law then they would be able to remain in Israel protected by God. If they did not keep the Law then they would suffer subjugation and at some point would actually be pushed out of the land. At no point did the Mosaic Law promise salvation. It could not! Salvation is a changed nature (2Co 5:17). Rules are necessary for the unchanged sinful nature. These assist in providing restraint, when empowered by God’s Holy Spirit. Cain is the originator of laws, society and politics when he built the first city for lost people. Laws were necessary to define what behaviors would and would not be tolerated.

Grace is God changing one’s sinful nature into His nature based solely on His good pleasure (Ro 9:15-24). Once one’s nature has been changed, or reborn, then the Law becomes the measure by which the believer is able to understand how much his nature is changing under the tutelage of God (Ga 3:23-25; 4:1-7). Thus, trying to live by the rules without a changed nature only deludes the practitioner into a false sense of righteousness. This was the problem with the Pharisees, Christendom and Gnosticism. Keeping the rules only means you have not harmed others; however, it does not mean that you are righteous. Thus, you have harmed yourself for all eternity. How about the Ten Commandments?

God defined righteous morality through these Ten Statements (Ex 20:7-17). Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5-7) explained the what the Jews, and now the Gentiles, were to learn from these statements. For instance, “Do not kill,” was to teach people that anger is the beginning problem that must be understood in order to prevent one from becoming a murderer (Mt 5:21-22). However, anger is inherent in the “old nature”. Only when one has a “new nature” under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit can one begin to be free from the bondage of anger (Ga 5:22-26).

Thus, the Ten Statements were to drive people to look to God’s Messiah for salvation by first recognizing that they could not make themselves righteous but needed God’s righteousness. This begins with the recognition that repentance is the beginning of God’s salvation (Ps 51: 16-17; Ro 10:9-13). It was failure to keep the rules that drove sincere believers to God for His righteousness that brought a changed life, a life now able, and willing, to live according to God’s ways. Understanding this difference we should realize that the Ten Statements are not a burden but a blessing bringing us to salvation and beyond.

Author: LeeS

Retired naval nurse, Dad, Husband, Christian who seeks to share the Bible with those who want more than the superficial milk given out in the majority of today's churches. God has taught me through hard experiences as well as through book learning (Master's of Ministry, Doctor of Ministry).

One thought on “Living the Rules or How to Fail”

  1. Those who would count themselves righteous by works of the law (“deluded…to a false sense of righteousness”) will, in fact, apart from repentence and faith in Christ, be judged by the law that they presuppose they have kept. (Ro 2:12) This self-proclaimed “goodness,” apart from faith is the reason so many “good people” will be eternally lost, though they may do much good to mankind in their lifetime. How many have said,” I’m a good person, God will accept me” based on their good works alone, all the while rejecting Christ, which is “the law of faith which results in justification apart from the works of the law (Ro 3:27).” This man’s “good works” only serve to add sin upon his sin, for “all our righteous deeds are like polluted garments (Is 64:6) and therefore he cannot hope to be saved by his “good” deeds. Trying to keep up good works apart from Christ, though ever so consistent with the law then, becomes the basis for religion (and the fuel for “religious wars” in the world) and a vain occupation, “…For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes the knowledge of sin (Ro 3:20)” — The law, then, does several things: it convicts those who are under it apart from Christ; it teaches us about the goodness and righteousness of God,who has provided a means of escape from this viscious cycle of self-salvation; and by it, we can see what God’s expectations are for righteous living; ie “to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it; you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments (rules) hang all of the Law and the Prophets (Mt 23:37-40).”