Hebrew scribes have counted the commandments given by God through Moses, and the number they came up with was 613. I am not sure of the accuracy of this number. I actually think the number might be much higher as one adds the inner promptings of the conscience (General revelation), the occasional laws given in scriptural history (Do not eat from the tree), and a host of other OT and NT admonitions (Pray without ceasing). Who knows, maybe there are 10,000 commandments for us to abide? However, since it makes us feel better, for today, we will run with 613.
The commandments of God cover a wide range of topics. These include worship, feasting, fasting, farming, engaging in commerce, clothing, food, private property, social charity, governmental justice, nationalism, just warfare, tattoos, piercings, beards, haircuts, bodily fluids, mold, accidents, right to life, slave relations, family relations, sexual practices, parenting, and inheritance rights. God’s laws govern the totality of man; they reflect his deeds, his words, his thinking, and even his desires.
So what are we to do as we become acquainted with the hundreds, or thousands, or hundreds of thousands of God’s laws? How are we to relate to all the commandments given by God before Sinai, upon Sinai, and ever since?
First, we are to see all of God’s laws as expressions of a love from a Heavenly Father to his earthly children. God knows it is best for us to desire, think, speak, and act like him. He knows how pleasant it is for us to be holy, righteous, just, and good. Therefore, he tells us how we ought to live. God’s laws are good.
Second, we are to see all God’s laws as required duties. When God tells us how to desire, think, speak, and act, our response should be an eager, “Yes, Sir!” God is not giving us preferences or suggestions. He is not leaving us room for selection or negotiation. We are to hear his good laws and do his good laws — all of them, all the time, at the same time, with all our being, without fail. Gods’s laws are our good duties.
Third, we are to see all God’s laws as varied expressions of his two Great Commandments. As God loves himself and his created neighbors, so we are to love God and all our created neighbors. As will be stated below, some laws are permanent and others are temporary, but all are intended to point us to the necessity of loving Gods with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Fourth, we are to see all God’s laws as part of a contract which presents the way we can EARN and MAINTAIN God’s favor. Upon giving his law, God promised relational bliss and peace with him to all who received and heeded his good laws. That’s right, we can EARN, MAINTAIN, and enjoy the presence of God as we perfectly keep all his laws.
Fifth, we are to see all God’s laws as part of a contract which promises spiritual divorce, death, and damnation to all who do not EARN and MAINTAIN God’s favor by keeping all of his laws. This is the other side of God’s contractual promise. He gave his word, and he will not change his mind. Any sins of omission or commission are determined to be met with divine curse. If we perfectly obey, we live. If we imperfectly obey, we die.
Sixth, we are to see all God’s laws as prosecuting attorneys or preachers of death. Since no man has or can perfectly keep all God’s principles all the time, God’s laws promise us the curse we have earned and deserved. God’s laws line up to testify, and they are like a never-ending string of truthful accusers pointing out our devilish rebellion and depravity. And together, like one choir with one voice, they scream, “Guilty, guilty, guilty!”
Seventh, we are to see all God’s laws as servants of God and his Gospel. God’s laws and our lawlessness, rightly understood, forces us to look away from our personal performance for salvation by some other means. Can there be another way to enjoy God apart from our EARNING and MAINTAINING? Is there something other than a contractual way of enjoying God and being enjoyed by him?
Here is the Good News my friends. There are God’s laws and there is God’s Gospel. Jesus Christ came and kept all of the Father’s declarations and desires. He was the perfect worshiper, neighbor, owner, servant, child, husband, warrior, governor, etc … He was the one who honored the Heavenly Father by means of his desires, thoughts, words, and deeds. He kept the contract. He perfectly obeyed, and he EARNED and MAINTAINED God’s communal affection. Without any flaws, Jesus kept all the ceremonial, civil, and moral laws given by his Heavenly Father.
And then, based upon a pre-eternal plan, the divine-swap occurred. All of Jesus’ righteous obedience was given to any who would hear his voice, bow the knee, and trust in his contractual obedience. Those who had faith in Jesus and no faith in themselves, they would be clothed in his righteousness, forever, and ever, and ever. And all of their unrighteousness was placed on the back of the obedient Son of God who became the Lamb of God. He was declared unrighteous, separated, and crucified by his Heavenly Father. He endured the hell we EARNED because he wanted to give us the heaven he EARNED.
But now what? Are we finished with the Law? No way!
Eighth, we are to see most of God’s inscripturated laws as being revoked. As we read Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, most of the commandments given by God have expired. Yes, with the death of Jesus and the end of Israel’s theocratic kingdom, all obligations to keep the laws have gone away. God said so by means of his ripping the veil, changing the Sabbath day, and instructing us by means of his NT apostles. We do not have to keep the civil and ceremonial laws. We are free from hundreds of laws that our forefathers tried to keep, but were completely unsuccessful in doing so. And the good news is, today, we don’t even have to try.
Ninth, we are to see all of God’s inscripturated laws as educational guidelines for good worship. Though we do not have to mind the civil and ceremonial laws, we do keep them in mind. From them we can ascertain wise general principles to guide us in our worship (i.e. General Equity). God’s abrogated laws are still useful as mentors in teaching us how to love God and our neighbors. We get to read, relax, and see how we can apply the “big idea” being presented in God’s Word.
Tenth, we are to walk in the Spirit, live in the Spirit, keep step with the Spirit, and be fruited by Spirit, and thereby enjoy pursuing obedience to God’s moral laws with our hearts, heads, mouths, and bodies. Friends, this is our glorious duty; this is our glorious gift; this is our glorious desire; and this is our glorious end. God started our salvation, and he will end it. God is the Alpha and the Omega. He is the one working and completing in us that which he has begun. Yes, with irresistible grace he fruits us by means of his Holy Spirit, and in doing so he causes us to want to participate with him more and more. He is always the initiator, and we are always the responder. So what do we do with God’s Law? We respond to God’s Law with God’s Gospel with then with Gospel-ambition to worship. We respond to God’s free gift with free gifts of our own. We repent, supplicate, and worship, and we repeat this process every day. And we wait; we wait for paradise. For when we arrive in glory, we will find ourselves to be only lawful. On that glorious day the flesh will be no more, and without even trying, we will only, perfectly, look like our Savior – Jesus Christ. Until then, we practice. Until then, we repent, supplicate, worship, and repeat.