Jesus endured such pain and hostility for us; suffered because of our sins; went to hell in our place. While we have lived as slaves to our desires–our lusts. He has set us free to control those desires–to turn aside from the pull they have on us. If that is so, then how are we to live? And what are we to teach our children about making wise life choices?
Paul answered that question, “For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, …so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness” (Romans 6:19). The British Puritans called this “evangelical obedience.” They grounded this concept in what they called “The Moral Law” which they believed was a permanent binding legal code for all people, during all times, in all cultures, for all nations. The Ten Commandments tell us how to live. Evangelical obedience makes every effort to grab hold of the grace of God in order to keep these commandments, then looks to the perfect obedience of Christ Jesus and his sacrificial death to atone for missing the mark.
And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage,” (Exodus 20:1)
This preface to the Ten Commandments was very important to Thomas Watson and others who wrote the Westminster Confession. The fact that God spoke in the hearing of all the people gathered for this special occasion signified the great importance of these ten rules for life. It was not that only Moses heard God and then wrote it down. Everyone heard him speak each commandment. And it was frightening! God spoke out of the fire on the mountaintop. It was accompanied by thunder and lightning and smoke and the mountain shook. A trumpet sounded louder and louder. Boundaries had been set around the base of the mountain to keep the people back. They had washed their clothes, and had prepared for three days. This was no ordinary meeting! (See Exodus 19). So the Puritans put great stock in these commandments, and so did Jesus when he preached his Sermon On The Mount.
God identified himself as the sovereign one, their personal God, and reminded them of their spectacular deliverance from Egyptian slavery. This identity was not lost on the Westminster pastors. The immutability, self-sufficiency, the eternal nature of God were all brought to mind and contrasted with our being in personal relationship with him. “Your God” who has delivered you from slavery. They were debtors to his grace. And so are we. The New Testament teaches that we are saved from our sin and the punishment it deserves. We are freed from God’s wrath to come, and our faith is looked upon as if we were without sin. Jesus has paid it all. We do not have to live as slaves anymore–bound to keep on repeating our sins over and over again. Instead, we become slaves to doing what is right out of love for what he has done for us. That is evangelical obedience. It leads to more love for our Savior and more praise and thanksgiving.
God spoke, and then he carved each law into stone. The Puritans took this to mean that he meant it to last forever. When the stones were broken, Moses took two more stones up to the mountaintop where God again wrote them into the stones. They were then put in the Ark of the Covenant and placed in the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle. Protected like we would guard our pearls or diamonds. The other laws for worship, diet, community life were spoken by God to Moses alone or to Moses and Aaron, but not in the hearing of the people. Moses wrote them down and Aaron implemented them in the worship and sacrifices for sin.(See Exodus 32 and 34.) But, these Ten had greater significance and so the Puritans, and those who continued in their instruction, set apart this Moral Law as a guide to how to love God and love others no matter what nation you were a part of or what century you lived in.
So we are to diligently teach our children these commandments, and to instruct them in how to love God who has delivered them from being slaves to desires to have, be, or do things that ruin their relationships and bring dishonor to the reputation of God. Evangelical obedience is not disregarding the law or imposing that law on others, but it is a hearty embrace of the justice of God in requiring obedience and his provision for our salvation through Christ Jesus and our sanctification through the Holy Spirit. This best describes the relationship between the law and the gospel. It shows us how we are to live. Our hearts will be strangely warmed.
Children who have faith can live this way too. And so can you.