Are the 10 Commandments Inferior?

The other day I was listening to a talk radio program where a person being interviewed claimed in a heated exchange that the 10 commandments were inadequate because they did not address slavery, nor did they address child abuse. The implication was that they were defective and should not be heeded.

The speaker had a motive for finding fault with the 10 commandments because he was running a service that facilitated the breaking of the commandment forbidding adultery. His service for a price would facilitate an affair if you happened to be bored in your marriage.

But was his criticism true? The commandments are indeed concise. It is true that the commandments do not specifically address per se the issues of slavery and child abuse, but they are more comprehensive in scope than first meets the eye.

Several of them are cast in a negative form, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor, You shall not covet . . .” But within every explicit prohibition there is an implied positive injunction. For instance, the prohibition against destroying life has as its flip side the virtue of promoting life. This not only has to do with preserving life itself in another person, but enhancing the quality of life. This not only extends to acts but motives. Jesus, in clarifying the commandment, You shall not murder, noted that logically that prohibited the motive that gave rise to the act—that of unrestrained anger without just cause and verbal abuse (Matthew 5:21-24).

So then, the commandments do cover the issue of child abuse. A child is a human being who qualifies for being treated with dignity and respect. When that is done the quality of life of the child is protected. This does not mean that the child has no accountability when disobedient. The child may be chastened by any number of means short of exasperating or injuring him or her (Eph. 6:4). The attitude Jesus, master teacher of the law, manifested towards children was one of kindness and He warned the abusive that they would be held accountable (Matt. 18:2-6).

With regards to slavery, that is a little more complicated to answer though it comes under the umbrella of the same commandment that promotes life. A short answer would be that under the Old Testament slavery existed, but was regulated and not widespread. Certain rights were extended to slaves who often qualified for eventual manumission, but that requires a more thorough treatment beyond the space permitted here. In the New Testament mutual obligations were enjoined upon believing slaves and masters whose legal status had been defined by the Roman Empire. These made the institution more humane and an example that is still applicable to employer and employee relationships today (Ephesians 6:5-9). In no case was slavery looked upon as something desirable and freedom was to be preferred over slavery (I Cor. 7:20-24). The teachings of Scripture undermined the institution of slavery that was often dehumanizing in its practice under Rome and other pagan nations. It is no quirk of history that the movement to abolish slavery in the early 19th century in Britain was led by a Christian named William Wilberforce and those who supported him such as former slave-trader, Pastor John Newton who wrote the song, Amazing Grace.

The lesson is clear. Before we criticize the 10 commandments as not casting a wide enough net to cover the essential ethics of life, we need to take a closer look and we need to ask why we are criticizing them to begin with.

Published in: on May 27, 2010 at 8:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

Is the Holy Spirit just a symbol for God or something more?

Recently a survey by George Barna revealed that 68% of the youngest American Christians believe the Holy Spirit is just “a symbol of God’s power or presence, but is not a living entity.”

I remember that when I was quite young, a neighbor friend about my age telling me he could never believe like we Christians because we believed that the Holy Spirit was God. I denied this was the case, but just to make sure, I asked my Mom. He assured me that this was indeed a belief Christians held and for the time being that was good enough for me.

The belief that the Holy Spirit is just a symbol cannot be derived from the Bible for it teaches that the Holy Spirit is a person. He has intellect (I Corinthians 2:10-11), emotion (Ephesians 4:30), and will (I Corinthians 12:11). This does not conform very well to the idea of the Spirit simply being an abstract representation.

Even more difficult to explain, assuming that the Spirit was merely symbolic, is why the Spirit is honored as an equal partner with God the Father and Jesus Christ. Matthew 28:19 says, for instance,“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

The quotation in Matthew infers that there are three separate coequal persons. Each is regarded as God and as such is eternal (John 6:27; Hebrews 1:8; Acts 5:3-4). This, of course, is speaking of the Trinity. God is one Being, but in the unity of that one Being there are three coequal and coeternal Persons. This means the Holy Spirit is God.

To make the Holy Spirit a symbol is to rob Him of the honor, recognition, and even worship that is due Him. If we fail to realize He is an actual divine Person, we fail to see Him as Someone who seeks to minister through us and to us. We will tend to see ourselves as utilizing the Holy Spirit rather than the Holy Spirit utilizing us. As a Christian when I received the Spirit I was not just getting power from God, but a Person who supplies the power.

Furthermore, if we deny the reality of His personality, we have no right to expect personal fellowship with Him. A person can only have fellowship with another person. The thrilling truth is that it is possible to experience personal fellowship and blessing because of the Holy Spirit. When we are properly related to the Holy Spirit, we are having fellowship with Him. Then we can wish to one another as Paul did to the Corinthians, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion [fellowship] of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14).

If you are an older Christian and you happen across a younger one this week, you might want to ask, “What are your ideas on the Holy Spirit?” You might have a teachable moment of which to take advantage.

Published in: on May 26, 2010 at 6:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

Why We Feel Uncomfortable Around God

To really answer this question I have to get a little theological and use some terms you might not be used to hearing every day. But hang in there. It will be worth the effort to understand.

There is a fundamental difference between God and us. The Bible tells us, He is holy (Isa. 65:5); we are not (Romans 3:23). That creates enormous psychological distance. We are okay as long as God is viewed as impersonal or if He is all loving and approves of all we do. But as soon as we become aware that He requires that we be as perfect as He is, we feel uncomfortable, even fearful or angry at Him. When others require us to be something we are incapable of being, we seek to avoid them and escape from their judging gaze.

We have cause to be uncomfortable because those who are not as perfect as God (and that includes all of us) cannot qualify to live with Him forever. We would ruin heaven for Him. I explained to one person this last weekend that the question is not, “How can a loving God send anyone to hell? The real question is, “How can a holy God allow anyone into His perfect heaven?”

The important thing to note is that the perfection God demanded, He provided. We had minus righteous. Have you ever lied? Have you ever stolen anything? You get the picture. God, however, provided plus righteousness. In fact, it was more than what we needed to qualify for heaven.

Here’s how. When Jesus as a sinless substitute died on the cross He paid sin’s penalty which was death. He made it possible to transfer His perfect righteousness to us in exchange for our sin. He died in our place (Matthew 20:28). He suffered what we justly deserved, thus releasing us. When we trust Jesus as the payment for our sin debt, He becomes our Savior, giving us the free gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23). Romans 4:5 says, “But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.”

If you receive God’s free gift of righteousness by receiving Christ, you have all the righteousness you need to enter heaven. The gift is given freely so that you might respond with heartfelt thanksgiving in grateful service to Him (Ephesians 2:10).

If this makes sense, why don’t you, the best you know how, receive that gift for your own? “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved (Acts 16:31).” And then you should feel relaxed, comfortable, and at ease with God because you would truly be His child and accepted by Him into His forever family (John 1:12-13).

If you have received this gift and are God’s, what are you doing with it to make your life count for Him?

[Verse references not quoted may be looked up in your Bible for verification]

Published in: on May 18, 2010 at 2:30 pm  Leave a Comment