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Pointers along the way #117

The ten commandments
- Jacob Ninan

It is sad to see that even in churches there are many people who believe that the way to reach heaven is through keeping the ten commandments. Some say it openly, and others sort of assume at the back of their mind that the standard of behaviour taught through the ten commandments will ensure them a place in heaven. Of course this standard is higher than that of many people in the world today. But that is not the basis on which God decides whether we qualify for heaven.

Behind this assumption is the notion that entry into heaven is based on our behaviour (or performance). The new testament refers to it as salvation by 'works' in contrast to salvation by grace through faith (Ep.2:8,9). The Bible makes it very clear that no one can be saved through works (Ro.3:20). None of us can get into heaven by being good enough because all of us have sinned (Ro.3:23).

On the top of that, Jesus came and made it clear that God's standards are actually much higher than the ten commandments. If we think we haven't killed anyone, Jesus says that even getting angry with someone is serious enough to deserve hell (Mt.5:21,22). If we look down on adulterers Jesus points out that looking at a woman with desire is essentially the same (Mt.5:27,28). If we get the trend and look at each of the rest of the ten commandments we will see that the real standards of God are much higher than the ten commandments. So much for trying to keep the commandments and get to heaven.

So where is the man who thinks he has kept all the commandments? Liar! (1Jn.1:8,10).

God's way of salvation has been designed in such a way that no one will be able to boast before Him (1Co.1:27-29). On the contrary we are accepted when we go to God as sinners deserving no mercy. With no good works or performance record to earn our way, when we go there casting ourselves before His mercy, He receives us warmly! He tells us that our sins have been punished in full, when they were laid on Jesus as He hung on the cross (Ro.5:8). This is grace.

Why is it difficult for us to let go of our sense of righteousness and cling to God's mercy? We think we are not like those people, and we think we deserve some recognition for our faithfulness, self-denial, etc. We can't bear to think that we are considered 'equal' to all those filthy sinners!

Can we imagine how sinful we would appear to a holy God who cannot even bear to look at sin? (Job.15:15). Remember how God turned His face away when Jesus hung on the cross with our sins upon Him? (Mt.27:46). When Jesus died all those sins were paid for, and He rose from the dead without those sins on Him any more. God now looks at us who have been washed through faith in Jesus just as though we had not sinned. This is acceptance, by grace, through faith.

Let us never forget the basis of our acceptance with God and not get confused with keeping commandments or any other good works.