The Ten Commandments search out the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Each commandment speaks to a whole category of sins, and a proper understanding of the law will lead you to say, “I am a sinner who needs a Savior.”
A proper understanding of the Ten Commandments will lead you to faith in Jesus Christ. If you look at yourself honestly in the light of these commandments, it will not be long before you conclude that you are a long way from the life that God has called you to lead, and that you need a Savior.
The law will lead you to Christ by showing you that you need both His forgiveness for breaking His law in the past, and His strength to fulfill the law in the future.
The Ten Commandments are a mentor to lead you to faith in Christ. A mentor is someone who can show you where you need to go and walk with you till you get there. Properly understood, that’s what the commandments will do.
A Proper Understanding
I say ‘properly understood’ because it is possible to look at the Ten Commandments at a surface level and to conclude that we are doing rather well.
A brilliant and successful lawyer asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Our Lord responded,
You know the commandments. Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not defraud, honor your father and mother” (Mark 10:19).
The lawyer then said to Jesus, “Teacher, all these I have kept since my youth” (Mark 10:20).
I suspect that the lawyer really believed this. The man had lived a good moral life. He hadn’t murdered anyone. He had been faithful to his wife. He was committed to speaking the truth. He never raided a bank. He was a good upright citizen who flossed his teeth and paid his taxes.
The lawyer wanted to be sure of heaven and, assuming that he had fulfilled the commandments, he wondered if there was anything else he had to do. But the lawyer’s problem was that he did not understand the law!
A Matter of the Heart
Jesus made it clear in the Sermon on the Mount the scope of the commandments go beyond our actions and search out the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. Each commandment identifies a particular sin, but behind that sin lie many others.
Take the sixth commandment for example: You shall not murder. (Exodus 20:13). Picture a train moving along a track on which there are many stations. Murder is the station at the end of a line called ‘Conflict.’ Most people will never go near that station, but all of us have travelled somewhere on this line.