Sometime ago, I was talking to a friend, and we got on the
subject of the importance of going to church and becoming a Christian. The person
responded by telling me that he lives by the Ten Commandments. Actually, I have
had that same experience another time or two. That is, when I try to talk to
the person about the need to accept Christ as his or her Savior, the person
responds by trying to tell me how good a person he is.
Personally, I think it’s commendable that a person tries to
live by the Ten Commandments. I strive to do so myself. And I would rather live
in a neighborhood and a world where people strive to tell the truth and to do no
murder and to not steal, etc. than to live among murderers and liars or the
likes of Ariel Castro—you know the sick mind that subjected three young ladies
to a decade of rape, physical abuse, and bondage.
But the truth is that none of us will ever be deemed
righteous based on the things we do. God’s standards are way too high for us to
reach the mark. The Bible says that, “By the deeds of the law there shall no
flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans
3:20). You see, the purpose of the Law, which includes the Ten Commandments, was
not given to make us right with God but to help us know when we have sinned
We refer to the Law as the first five books of the Bible—Genesis,
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. And according to the
aforementioned verse, no one can obey all the commandments in these books to
the point of being declared just—or righteous—before the Lord.
The good news is that “now apart from the
law the righteousness of God has been made known….This righteousness is given
through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Romans 3:21-22, NIV). In
other words, we are not declared righteousness by way of personal obedience to
the Law; rather, we are made righteous by placing our faith in Christ who died
on the cross for our sins. Our having been made righteous through faith in
Christ does not give us a license to live disobedient lives, but we can never attain
righteousness based on our personal performance.