In these bulletin articles, we’ve been going through a list of questions and answers contained in the Westminster Larger Catechism, published in the 17th Century. We’ve been looking at how to understand God’s law as summarised in the ten commandments. We saw that the commandments prohibit and promote behaviour and that they are all connected to one another. But what else should you consider when you read them?
When you study the ten commandments you must understand that what God forbids is at no time to be done.
When it comes to ethical behaviour, people often propose difficult situations to prove that sometimes it is permissible to break God’s laws. They believe that under certain situations, God’s law should be broken to achieve certain outcomes. Often the situations involve lying or murdering in order to save life. In other words, the ends justify the means.
But the Bible never takes such a view of God’s law. For example, in his letter to the Roman church, Paul says that our sin demonstrates God’s truthfulness, but that is no reason to engage in deception: ‘Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” Why not say– as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say– “Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is deserved’ (Romans 3:7-8).
Similarly, later in Romans, Paul says God’s grace marvelously abounds where sin abounds. Therefore, some might claim we should sin so that God is all the more gracious. But Paul won’t have it: ‘What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?’ (Romans 6:1-2)
Job also asks whether we should speak deceitfully for God’s sake: ‘Will you speak wickedly on God’s behalf? Will you speak deceitfully for him? Will you show him partiality? Will you argue the case for God?’ (Job 13:7-8). Clearly, the answer is ‘No!’
Thus, if we shouldn’t sin in order to show God’s truthfulness and his grace, there is no good reason to ever sin. Preservation of human life included.
When it comes to the crunch, a Christian should choose to be holy and keep God’s law regardless of the consequences. And we have countless examples of people doing just that in Scripture. The author of Hebrews holds up Moses as one example: ‘By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time’ (Hebrews 11:24-25).
And of course, the supreme example is our Lord Jesus. He was tempted by Satan repeatedly, yet Jesus did not think that anything Satan had to offer him justified sinning. And in the Garden of Gethsemane we see the battle of Christ’s will and the Father’s will. In the end, Jesus chose to do what God wanted even though it would cost him much suffering, and even death itself.
So do you view God’s law as binding on you at all times? Or is there something you value more than keeping God’s commandments?