Christ and the Commandments

Romans 3:19-26

July 31, 2021 | Brian Bill

Do you ever get distracted and end up not paying attention?  I can’t imagine that ever happening during a sermon.  A couple weeks ago I was in the drive-through at Taco Bell and placed my order.  As I pulled up to the window, I handed the bubbly worker my debit card.  With a smile, she rang me up, handed me my card back…and I proceeded to drive away. 

Just before pulling onto 38th Street, I realized I didn’t wait for my food.  I sheepishly looked in my rearview mirror, put my trusty Cobalt in reverse, and went back to the window. 

As I pulled up, I could see all the employees laughing hysterically.  With her hand over her mouth because she was guffawing, the young woman handed me my food.  I asked her if they were all laughing at my expense.  With her eyes filling with tears, she said, “Yes, that was really funny.” 

I was reminded of Proverbs 17:22 which says, “A happy heart is good medicine.”  I’m glad I could do my part in spreading happiness and good health in our world.

As we wrap up our series on the 10 Commandments, it’s my hope none of us get distracted and lose focus because God has a good meal for us today.

Let’s review the summary statements we’ve been using.

  1. One God
  2. No idols
  3. Revere His Name
  4. Remember to Rest
  5. Honor Parents
  6. No murder
  7. No adultery
  8. No stealing
  9. No lying
  10. No coveting

Here’s how we summarized the tenth commandment last weekend: The key to not coveting what others have is to be content with what you already have.  Our focus today is on how Christ considered the commandments.  Here’s our main idea: Because Jesus fulfilled the commandments, we must put our faith in Him and follow His commands.

I see six ways Jesus interacted with the commandments.

1. Jesus completely fulfilled all the commandments. 

Matthew 5:17: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”  The word “abolish” can be translated as “dissolve or destroy.”  Instead of abolishing the commandments, Jesus “fulfilled” them, which means, “to accomplish.” Galatians 4:4 says Jesus was “born under the law” and Matthew 3:15 declares He “fulfilled all righteousness.”  1 Peter 2:22 goes a step further and says, “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth.”

Philip Ryken adds, “We are not capable of keeping even a single commandment with perfect integrity.  But Jesus kept them all, down to the last detail, and He did it on our behalf.  If we are joined to Him by faith, then God regards us as if we had kept the whole law perfectly.  For Christ was crucified ‘in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fulfilled in us.’ (Romans 8:4a).”

2. Jesus deepened the commandments by applying them to the heart. 

In Matthew 5:21-22, Jesus shocked self-righteous people who believed they were living moral lives: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment…”  

Drop down to verses 27-28: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Because Jesus fulfilled the commandments, we must put our faith in Him and follow His commands.

3. Jesus distilled all the commands into two. 

One day an expert in God’s laws, came up to Jesus, and tried to trick Him by asking this question in Matthew 22:36: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  Listen to His stunning answer in verses 37-40: “And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.’”  We’ve pointed out the first four commandments represent love for God, while the final six call us to love our neighbors.  

Galatians 5:14 says, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”  Chris Bruno writes, “Everything else that God asks of His people is impossible if they do not love God with everything and love their neighbors as themselves.”

4. Jesus paid the penalty we deserve for breaking the commands. 

One of the purposes of God’s Commands is to show how short we fall of His holy standards.  We miss the mark of His perfection.  If you claim to keep all the commandments, then you’re breaking the 9th Commandment about lying!  

In John 19:30, Jesus shouted: “It is finished.”  He didn’t say, “I’m finished” in a defeatist sort of way because His death was not an accident.  It’s not as if a great injustice was done.  In fact, by His death, justice was fully satisfied so we can be declared righteous. 

We learn from the other gospels this shout was trumpeted in a loud voice.  It wasn’t a whimper but the cry of a conqueror.  It was a roar of victory, a thunderous declaration of triumph.  

Plus, this verb is in the perfect tense, meaning it has been completed in the past with results continuing into the present.  It literally reads, “It was finished and as a result it is forever done.  Nothing more is needed.”  

Some of you are trying to clean yourself up to make yourself more presentable to God.

Since Jesus paid it all, there is nothing more to be done.  Salvation is not a DIY project or even a 50-50 arrangement, where you do your part and Jesus does His.  Jesus has done it all!   There’s nothing more to do.  Some of you are trying to clean yourself up to make yourself more presentable to God.  The bad news is you can’t make enough changes to meet God’s requirements.  Isaiah 64:6: “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags.”  The good news is you don’t have to because Jesus did it all for you.

5. Jesus expects His followers to live out His commands. 

Listen to what Jesus said in John 14:15: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”  In John 15:12, He specifies what this command looks like: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” He repeats this call to love in John 15:17: “These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”

Speaking of the commandments, Kevin DeYoung writes: “Do they serve to show us our sin and lead us to the cross?  Absolutely.  But the commandments also show the way to live…the law is not only our duty but also our delight.”

Once you are saved, you have the power of the Holy Spirit to live out His commands.  In Jeremiah 31:33, God says: “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.  And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

Because Jesus fulfilled the commandments, we must put our faith in Him and follow His commands.

6. Jesus used the commandments evangelistically. 

The best way to convince someone of their need for the Savior is to help them see their utter sinfulness.  The commandments are not the means of salvation; instead, they show us our need for salvation.  

Let’s look at how Jesus used the 10 Commandments in Mark 10:17-22: “And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ 18 And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good?  No one is good except God alone. 19 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.’  20 And he said to him, ‘Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.’ 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”

This seeker of truth seemed to have everything he needed.  As a ruler, he was like a celebrity in his society, he was well respected and had a lot of money.  But he was not satisfied with his legalistic, performance oriented, graceless religion.  

The fact he ran up to Jesus shows he was earnest because it was uncommon for someone with such prestige and power to run.  By kneeling in the dirt in his designer clothes before the peasant preacher, he demonstrated sincere humility.  All his life he had been taught he had to do good things to be saved, but something was bothering him deep inside.

He started out by calling Jesus “good.”  Maybe he hoped for a reciprocal greeting or perhaps he was using flattery to impress Him.  It would be like saying, “Jesus you’re a good guy.”  Jesus stopped him and said, “Why do you call me good when only God is intrinsically good?”   

Instead of answering his inquiry, Jesus made the man realize the essence of goodness is God alone.  1 Chronicles 16:34 puts it succinctly: “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!”  

I’m reminded of the statement of faith which is shouted out on a regular basis at Celebrate Recovery on Friday nights:

Leader:  God is good…

People:  ALL THE TIME!

Leader:  And all the time…

People:  GOD IS GREAT!

Until he saw Jesus as God incarnate who demanded his complete allegiance, and until he recognized his own sinfulness, he could not find the eternal life he was searching for. 

Jesus was also pointing out this guy was not good.  Only God is.  His concept of “good” was inadequate and in error.  It confused his perception of Jesus, and it clouded his understanding of himself.  Until he saw Jesus as God incarnate who demanded his complete allegiance, and until he recognized his own sinfulness, he could not find the eternal life he was searching for.  In short, he thought too little of Jesus and too much of himself.  He overestimated his own goodness and grossly underestimated the greatness of Jesus.  

It is a common belief a person must perform to earn eternal life.  This man was used to working hard, so he naturally asked in verse 17, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  The tense of the original language indicates he expected Jesus to assign him a good deed which he was prepared to perform on the spot.  

As Jesus lists the commandments, the man mentally checks them off and then declares in verse 20: “And he said to Him, ‘Teacher [notice he’s dropped the adjective “good”], all these I have kept from my youth.’”  Unbelievably, he declares he’s kept all of them, without fail.  The word “kept” means, “to continue to keep a law from being broken.”  When Jewish men used the phrase, “from my youth,” they were referring to the time they “came of age” at their bar mitzvah, which literally means, “son of the Law.”

The young man was convinced he had kept all of God’s standards for goodness. He was able to say he had not committed adultery or murder.  In addition, he had never stolen or lied, and he had always honored his father and mother.  While he may have kept the letter of the law of these five commands, Jesus showed him the true state of his depravity.

Today, many believe God will add up their good deeds and their misdeeds; and if the good outweighs the bad, then they’re good to go.  This “moral” man may have kept some of the commandments most of the time, but it was impossible to keep all of them, all the time.  It’s as if Jesus is saying, “That’s really good you’ve kept these important commands, but you’re still missing out on how to have eternal life.  There’s no way you can be good enough to get to heaven.  Let me show you what I mean.  Sell everything you have and give it to the poor.”

This man had broken the first and second commandments by making money his master.  Shekels were his savior and gold his god.  The man thought he kept commandments five through nine, but when Jesus applied the tenth commandment to his heart, he balked and walked.  As we learned last week, the sin of coveting is subtle and difficult to detect, and yet it can cause a person to break all the other commandments.  His possessions were his god and he thought he was good enough not to even need God.

One commentator writes: “Before you can talk about the gospel…people must understand they are not good…the purpose of the law is to kill, to crush, to show how perfectly good God is and how utterly evil man is…people don’t believe that.  So, they go to Hell believing they’re good.”

Don’t miss what we read in Mark 10:21: “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him…”  The word for “look” has the idea of “fixing the eyes upon, to stare at.”  It wasn’t a glance; He gazed into his eyes and into his soul.  The word for “love” here means, “strong affection.”  This man loved his money more than anything else and yet Jesus still lavished him with love.  

Jesus didn’t love the man because he was good, or because he kept all the religious requirements.  It was just the opposite.  He was a command-breaker but didn’t know it.  Likewise, Jesus sees our sins piling up before Him.  And yet, He looks at us with love and says, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

Jesus looks, He loves, and He tells us what we lack.  He is both tender and tough, filled with grace and truth.  The word “lack” means, “to fall short, to be late, to be behind.”  

This doesn’t mean each of us have to sell everything we have in order to be a disciple.  Jesus addressed a very specific idol this guy had, and in so doing, exposed his heart.  He personalized the message for him.  

When Jesus says, “Come, follow me,” He wants faithful followers, not fickle fans.  This could be translated like this: “Here, come here, come, and go where I go!”  We must come to Him and commit to Him, going where He goes and doing what He wants us to do.  Jesus is Savior and He is Lord!  

What one thing is keeping you from fully following Christ?  What’s holding you back from complete surrender?  Is it money?  A possession?  An activity?  A relationship?  Is it your time?  Could it be a bad habit you secretly enjoy?  Is it your own sense of goodness?  Just as Jesus pinpointed the root problem for this man, He looks at you with love and says, “This one thing you lack.  Let it go, come and follow me.”  

Most people today think they’re intrinsically good, or at least better than others.  But here’s the problem.  If you don’t admit you’re a sinner, you’ll never see your need for the Savior.  And if you break just one commandment just one time, James 2:10 says: “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.”

This man turned down the gift of eternal life because of his coveting heart.  His hands were so clenched around his money, he couldn’t imagine devoting his life to Jesus as His Master.  He may have possessed many possessions, but it was his possessions which were possessing him.  Mark 10:22 vividly describes an individual who was more in love with himself than with God and others: “Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”  

The word translated “sorrowful” gives the picture of storm clouds gathering.  It’s translated as, “overcast, gloomy, somber, confounded, and bewildered.” The man, who had run up to Jesus, and boldly proclaimed he had kept all the commands, now shuffles away while a horrible hurricane ravages his soul.

One pastor adds, “He wanted eternal life but not enough to give up his pride and his possessions.”  While you can’t pay for salvation; it will cost you something to receive it.  This guy only wanted eternal life as an add-on, like a free get-into-heaven app.  Ray Ortlund writes: “Accepting Jesus is not just adding Jesus.  It is also subtracting idols.”

Notice Jesus did not go chasing after this man.  He just let him go.  He didn’t water down the message to make it easier to embrace.  We must come to Christ on His terms, not ours.  I’m reminded of the three sermons we preached from Luke 9:23 in our Discipleship Matters series: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”  Our desire to be saved must lead to denial of self, death to sin, and devotion to the Savior.  As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Salvation is free, but discipleship will cost you your life.”  

He had everything money could buy, and yet he missed out on something far more important.  He saw it, caught a glimpse of it in Jesus and still walked away.  People do this all the time.  They recognize Jesus can satisfy all their needs, and yet they don’t want to fully follow Him by giving up what they are serving.  I can’t think of anything sadder than that.  Are you going to walk away sad or are you going to follow the Savior?  Of all the people who came to the feet of Jesus, this man is the only one who went away worse than he came.  

He was not willing to admit he was a sinner and so he had no need for the Savior.  Jesus preached the Law to him but because he wouldn’t deal with his lawlessness, he missed the good news of the gospel.  The Bible never mentions this man again.  Jesus showed him the way of life, and he left and never came back, as far as we know.  Maybe he didn’t like having his sinful heart exposed.  Maybe he was looking for an easier way.  

What about you?  Many come close to Christ.  Some even try to keep the commandments.  A few might even be respectful of Jesus.  Dear ones, let the commandments clobber you and kill you.  Allow them to cause you to tremble.  Admit your sin and turn from it.  You will be in a spot to know the Savior only when you know you’re a sinner.  Only someone who’s in a mess, knows they need a mediator.

Using the Commandments in Evangelism

Have you ever asked someone whether they’re going to heaven and heard this answer, “I’m a pretty good person” or “I’m trying to live a good life?”  

Ray Comfort suggests the following evangelistic approach.

Would you consider yourself to be a good person?  I’m going to ask you a few questions to see if that’s true.

  • How many lies have you told?  What do you call someone who tells a lie?
  • Have you ever stolen something even if it was small?  What do you call someone who steals?
  • Have you ever used God’s name in vain?  The Bible says God will not hold him guiltless who takes the Lord’s name in vain.
  • Have ever you looked at someone lustfully?  Jesus said if you look upon a person to lust after them then you have committed adultery in your heart.  

I’m not judging you, but you’ve just admitted you are a liar, a thief, a blasphemer, and an adulterer at heart and that’s after looking at just 4 of the 10 commandments.  If God were to judge you based on the 10 commandments, would you be innocent or guilty?

Once the person admits guilt, you can get into the gospel message.

I would be doing you a disservice if you just left this service trying to be good.  Some of you have not yet put your faith in Jesus for forgiveness of sins and eternal life.  Jesus tells you today, “One thing you lack.”

The man was looking for a “do” religion.  Jesus offers a relationship that is based on “done.”  In John 6:28 a question in the plural was posed to Jesus: “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”  They were asking for a list of things to do but Jesus answers in the singular in verse 29: “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”

Because Jesus fulfilled the commandments, we must put our faith in Him and follow His commands.

One Thing You Lack

Jesus is looking at you, He loves you, and He says, “One thing you lack.”  Believe in Jesus and receive Him as your Savior and Lord.

If you have never been born again by receiving Jesus Christ into your life, this is the “one thing you lack.”  If you have never repented of your sins and put your faith in Christ alone, you still lack one thing.

Marshall Segal writes: “Some live for God, die to self, and live forever.  Others live for self, enjoy the world for a while, and die forever.”  

This man had many things but because he lacked the one thing, he missed everything!

This young man was right about eternal life being inherited.  It’s a gift so it can’t be earned.  You get it through a family relationship which comes through the new birth.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?