The Ten Commandments in the Age of Grace -- By: J. Vernon McGee

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 115:460 (Oct 1958)
Article: The Ten Commandments in the Age of Grace
Author: J. Vernon McGee


The Ten Commandments in the Age of Grace

J. Vernon McGee

[J. Vernon McGee is Pastor of the Church of the Open Door, Los Angeles, California, and Visiting Lecturer in Bible Exposition at Dallas Theological Seminary.]

All too often we find that the Ten Conunandments have been robbed of their majesty, application, design and dignity. In a pointed effort to avoid any such error we shall look at the matter of why the commandments were given.

On Blackwell’s Island (now known as Welfare Island) in New York City where prisoners were once confined, there was a graveyard for the bodies of criminals, and had you chanced to walk through that cemetery you would have come upon a rather unusual epitaph on a tombstone. The lines of the epitaph read as follows:

Here lie the fragments of John Smith
Who contradicted his Maker,
Played football with the Ten Connnandments,
And departed this life at the age of thirty-five.
His mother and wife weep for him.
Nobody else does.
May he rest in peace.

Now no one can “play football” with the Ten Commandments and escape the judgment of God. Often the charge is made against those who preach the grace of God that they do not have a proper appreciation of the law, and in this we refer to the Ten Commandments especially. Also, it is charged that they despise and reject the law and go so far as to teach that since man cannot be saved by it he can violate and break it with impunity.

On the contrary, every preacher of the grace of God, who has a true perspective of the nature of salvation

by faith,recognizes the lofty character and majesty of the law. Such a man maintains a proper respect and reverence for it and with the Psalmist can sing from a full heart: “Oh, how I love thy law; it is my meditation all the day.”

In getting down to the center of the meaning, it might be well to approach the question of “Why the Ten Commandments were given” by asking, “What is the law?” or, to be more specific, “What are the Ten Commandments?”

One of the oldest definitions given is that the law is a transcript of the mind of God. May we mark that to be a very defective definition? Perhaps a clearer statement of fact would be that the law is the expression of the mind of God relative to what man ought to be, but nothing else. It is His will for man and expresses, in part, both the nature and character of God. In no sense does the law yield mercy, grace, love or help. Nevertheless, it is the norm for human conduct. God states this fact very specifically in Micah 6:8: ...

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