Although the Magisterial Reformers had slightly different emphases in their understanding of the place of the moral law in the Christian life, all of them agreed that God’s law is the place to find guidance for what pleases the Lord. The Ten Commandments, in particular, were used to help believers understand what kind of life God expects of His people. In keeping with this Reformation understanding of the law of God, we will now spend a few days looking more closely at the Ten Commandments and their role in Christian piety and practice. Dr. R.C. Sproul will guide our study through his series God’s Law and the Christian.
As we have seen, despite the fact that sinners take the law of God and use it to increase their own transgression, Scripture has an overwhelmingly positive view of the Lord’s commandments. Paul says the law is “holy and righteous and good” (Rom. 7:12). James calls God’s royal law the “law of liberty” (James 2:12).
Psalm 119 highly commends God’s law. In today’s passage, for example, the psalmist expresses his love for the law, proclaiming the sweetness of its precepts (vv. 97, 103). His example shows us that authentic faith bears fruit in a deep love for God’s revelation. Men and women who love God love the statutes He has given us.
Today’s passage also alludes to the comprehensive nature of the law of God. For instance, the psalmist proclaims that knowing the law gives him more understanding than his teachers and the aged who possess a worldly kind of wisdom (vv. 99–100). They show him every false way, enabling him to hate all that God opposes (v. 104).
When Reformers such as John Calvin looked to God’s law for guidance, they focused on the Ten Commandments, which are the heart of God’s law. They also understood the commandments in an elliptical fashion, recognizing that each commandment says more than a mere surface-level reading would suggest. For example, if a commandment prohibits something, it also enjoins us to do the opposite, and if it enjoins us to do one thing, it also prohibits the opposite. This understanding of the nature of the commandments comes from a deep reflection on God’s Word, for Scripture itself tells us that the Ten Commandments are comprehensive in scope. Jesus’ application of the commandments in the Sermon on the Mount, for instance, shows us how thorough God’s law really is (Matt. 5:21–48). We must know something of the law’s thoroughness to keep it rightly.