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 are connected to one another, should never be broken, each command includes all the same kinds of sin and that we’re to encourage others to keep them. But what else should you consider when you read them?
When you study the God’s law you must understand that you are to avoid taking part with others in doing what is forbidden. Sometimes it is easier to keep laws on your own than when you’re with others. A person may not gossip and speak maliciously against others generally speaking. But when they’re with someone who starts gossiping, it is all too easy to engage in slander.
Thus it is not surprising that there are many encouragements from our Lord to be careful about the company we keep so that we don’t break his law. God says in Proverbs: ‘He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm’ (Proverbs 13:20). Similarly, Paul warns: ‘Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character”’ (1 Corinthians 15:33).
And Paul gives specific instructions to the church in Ephesus about avoiding evil doers: ‘5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person– such a man is an idolater– has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be partners with them. 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible’ (Ephesians 5:5-13).
The apostle Peter also warns: ‘For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do– living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead’ (1 Peter 4:3-5). So although unbelievers may think it strange that you don’t join in their sin, you mustn’t let peer pressure lead you astray.
Now, none of this is to suggest that you shouldn’t have any relationships with unbelievers. But there will be times when your understanding of the ten commandments means you may have to walk away from a friend who is engaged in sin that is either causing you to sin or tempting you to sin – Joseph fleeing Potiphar’s wife is an example (Genesis 39). And sometimes it may even mean the breaking of a relationship altogether.
So are you careful about the company you keep because of God’s law? Have you trusted in Christ for all the times you have engaged in sin with others?