Christian Rules, Laws
laws and commandments within Christianity
and how they actually affect Christians.
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recommended that readers should first gain a quick
overview of Christianity by accessing the Lead Article for this section
of the website, “Christianity
explained”, before reading any further.
This particular article firstly explains the
context of rules, laws and commandments within Christianity. It then
describes how Christians principally know right from wrong. Lastly, it presents Christian
views on the
cost of disobedience or wrongdoing, i.e. committing ‘sin’.
2. UNDERSTANDING THE CONTEXT
It is necessary, before going on, to highlight
important issues. Rules, laws and commandments of Christianity need
understood in that context. Within Christianity, there are two
major factors relating to how
God deals with us in
regard to our wrongdoings (sin). Firstly there are the ‘rules,
laws and commandments’ that were laid down for
our guidance; for an understanding of what God expects of us. The
factor is ‘grace’,
a term that encapsulates
unconditional love for all humankind and his forgiving nature. Grace is explained in
the article, “Justified
and saved by grace”.
2.1 Grace and forgiveness
Christians believe that God
Incarnate (Jesus), by his grace, paid the price for our sins through
his death on the
cross. That is, God’s grace offsets the cost of our sins. We
Christians need only believe this and our sins are
forgiven; we have eternal life! In exchange, God only wants us to form an ongoing loving relationship with him.
2.2 Obeying the rules
article does explain, however, that even though Jesus has paid for
whatever sins we Christians commit in life we cannot just ignore
our ‘obligations under the law’. Just as importantly, we also need to understand that
within Christianity is not
to be just followed blindly with a view to being saved (gain
after physical death).
2.3 The big picture
Summarising then, faith in Jesus as our Lord and Saviour
essentially comes first, in relation to
being saved. But importance is applied to the law within
none-the-less. It is also worth making clear here that our Lord wants, more
than anything else, for each of us to
have a deep personal relationship with him; to walk closely with him.
Clearly, if we do this, then the risk of sin within our lives is
ESTABLISHING THE LAW
For most Christians, knowing right from
wrong is not
as simple as accepting
every rule or command within the entire Bible. Whilst standards
provided by Jesus throughout the Gospels of the New Testament are all
accepted as guidance to be followed, many laws contained within the Old
Testament, e.g. what we may or may not eat, are not seen as important.
(Of course all Old Testament laws still have significance to
Jews, and are a significant part of their covenant with God.)
3.1 The Ten Commandments
Although, not all laws within the (pre-Jesus) Old Testament apply to Christians, some definitely do. Most Christian theologians see the Ten
Commandments as the core of acceptable Old Testament law, i.e. moral
that certainly have ‘relevance’ to all Christians. They are summarised
1. You shall have
no other gods before
Christians can, for a start, look to the Ten Commandments as the basis of ‘right
and wrong’, just as Jews do. (Islam has its
own laws which also encompass the basis of the Ten
shall not make for
yourself an idol in the
form of anything in heaven
shall not misuse
the name of the Lord your
Remember the Sabbath day
by keeping it holy.
your father and
shall not murder.
shall not commit
You shall not steal.
You shall not give false
shall not covert your
3.2 Jesus' special Two Commandments
But when Jesus was asked, in an attempted act of entrapment, which commandment did he consider the most important, he
more by offering his own two commandments of love, “Love the Lord your God
with all your heart and with all your soul and with
all your mind.” Then continuing, Jesus added, “Love
your neighbour as yourself” [Matthew 22:24-37].
inferred, if we love God and all humankind we would not commit
any breaches of the Ten Commandments.
‘summarise’ those old laws in the way he did,
Christians are led to look deeper into their
behaviour rather than just applying the Ten Commandments to their lives.
Even the first of the Ten Commandments, “no gods before me” and the second, “not make for yourself
an idol” are superseded by Jesus’ first commandment. To Christian
thought, anything that becomes
more important to us than God (examples are a real lust for power,
material things, together with bad habits/ addictions and any other
genuine obsession) is a
false god or idol. No, if we love God with with all our heart, soul and mind, we cannot allow ourselves to love those things more than him!
regard to Jesus’ second commandment, we should refrain from any wrongdoing
at all that arises from ignoring the application of neighbourly ‘love’.
(Remember, the word ‘love’ in the Bible
– in relation to our fellow humans –
may be interpreted as ‘to
deeply care about’ rather
as we apply the word today, i.e. a deeper or more significant emotion
reserved for those who are very close to us personally.)
Jesus himself gave us some examples of how his second commandment (‘love your neighbour’) superseded some of the Old Testament’s Ten Commandments. With regard to Commandment six, Jesus explained in Matthew 5:21-23 – within his famous “Sermon on the Mount” – that even anger towards a brother (i.e. violent thoughts) can constitute a breach of this
As to Commandment seven, Jesus singled that out in his sermon (Matthew 5:27-30), “But
I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already
committed adultery with her in his heart”.
We, as husbands, have betrayed our wives’
love in effect by thinking in this manner. Of course this is just as
applicable for a wife who lusts after any man other than her husband.
Commandment eight, as yet another example, is also superseded by Jesus’ second commandment.
not only wrong to just plain steal, it is also wrong to
misrepresent or grossly overprice goods or services for sale, or to
perform any kind of ‘shonky’ dealings with others. With thought it can be
seen that even bludging at work (a poor work ethic) is really
performing little of value in
return for one’s
salary or wage. Such behaviour towards those we ‘love’ is not appropriate Christian behaviour.
There are further examples, that spring to mind, of breaking that second commandment. It not right to to stand back idly in
the innocent in our society, or in foreign lands, are unjustly harmed. Also,
we really have
to think about the
impact that our decisions, actions and attitudes have on other people?
We always need to think how would we like to be impacted in that way by
someone else? And this sort of potential wrongdoing is not even covered by one of the original Ten Commandments.
And so we can go on. When we think
about it, there are
many good examples of everyday actions, considered acceptable by many people in
society, that clearly defy Jesus’ two commandments of
love. Although they seem to be simple, those two commandments indeed deliver a profoundly new way of looking at God’s
expectations of us. Of course the New Testament provides many such
profound messages. It has taken a couple of thousand years of
theological study to accurately unravel the deep messages contained
within what often appear to be simple statements. Jesus’ parables, within the Gospels, in particular almost always carry embedded messages of truth.
3.3 Jesus, our guide for life
It is clear to most of us Christians that Jesus was the
human face of God – he was indeed alive, as a fellow human being,
amongst us 2,000 years ago. The reasons for this opinion are explained in “Christianity
explained” and those articles that support it, particularly “Jesus as ‘God the Son’” and “The Holy Trinity”.
Christian beliefs are probably better supported by ancient
documentation, including from secular (non religious) sources, than any
And Jesus’ actions during his life on Earth are to be closely studied by
Christians for guidance. Indeed, we have only to read of those actions in
the New Testament (the Jesus bits) of the Bible to know exactly how we
should lead our own lives. He gave examples of how we should structure
life: what should be important to us; our relationships with God
and our fellow humans.
Essentially, he didn’t
lay down more laws for us to dogmatically follow. No ... he largely led
by example, showing us how it should be done: to place others before
ourselves, to not judge others, be ready to forgive those who do wrong
towards us etc. In the main, he again provided
us with powerful guidance on how to live a life based on the
principle of love.
But, he did make some points of order very clear! Mistreating children for
example was absolutely ruled out.
death, the apostle Paul also provided us with much clarity on Jesus’
legacy of example. In his epistles (letters) to early Christians, Paul
highlighted that although Jesus did not give us a mile long
list of laws, that did not mean we could do ‘our own thing’
as it were. No, we are to live life with due reverence to God’s love
for us; to follow Jesus’ example and the principles demonstrated there; to ever increase the depth of our relationship with God.
THE COST OF SIN TO CHRISTIANS
The details so far in this article, by and
accepted by the major Christian denominations. All denominations also expect that
each of us
must make a real attempt to repent
from our sinful ways; to change ourselves for the better,
whenever we knowingly backslide into wrongdoing. But, there is some
disagreement throughout the greater Christian Church on the price we
may pay for our wrongdoings.
4.1 Effect of sin
on life after death
is some difference of opinion regarding whether all Christians, due to sins committed, will
automatically gain eternal life in Heaven after physical death, i.e. whether they
will be ‘saved’.
Protestants, who make up a significant proportion of the Church, largely
believe that they
will be saved regardless of their subsequent sins. They
that once a person has been saved through the grace of God, after
accepting Jesus as Lord and Saviour, they are guaranteed a place
in Heaven. Most Protestants
believe that the only way to damnation for a believer is for he or she
mindfully reject their faith. Many
consider however that those of us who do make it to Heaven, may
not enjoy equal conditions or rewards there.
Our closeness to God in Heaven may well bear a resemblance to our
closeness to him in this life. And if we are
close to him in our
relationship, we should
freely follow his will
(including doing what is right and proper).
On the other hand, Catholics in the West, who make up another large
of the worldwide Christian Church, believe that serious sin, which they refer to as ‘mortal
sin’, terminates a believer’s
relationship with God (damnation). Catholic theologians have reached
this conclusion from interpretations of particular verses in the New
Testament of the Bible. The Catholic Church has established a list of
sins which fit this category. However, those Catholics who have
mortal sin can be absolved from
sin by a priest, i.e. the priest interjects on their behalf to
ensure forgiveness. So Catholics require continued ‘absolution’ of those sins which are deemed serious (mortal),
via detailed confession to a priest, to
ensure they will gain that
place in Heaven after death. Sins of an even higher level may possibly lead to excommunication from the Catholic Church itself.
Although it is not my place to judge every verse used by Catholic theologians to support the list of mortal sins, Galations 5:19 is certainly one of the more powerful examples in the New
Testament that influence their thinking. From my point of view as a
Protestant, such people referred to in that verse (written by the
apostle Paul) may well have reduced their relationship with God to a
effect they may have knowingly rejected their faith by living such a
hedonistic, sinful and self centred life as described there. They may well have to seriously repent;
positively alter their lives and genuinely recommence their
personal relationship with God.
Bear in mind though that what I have
written above does not negate the
loving nature of God and the impact that will have on our individual
salvation. God makes the ultimate decisions in this respect. He
loves us despite our weaknesses, which often stem from ingrained
personality traits that can be hard for us to control (speaking from
experience). He lovingly meets us in our day to day struggles.
4.2 Effect of sin
on our day-to-day lives
simple truth is that sin does weaken our relationship with God
indeed threatens our faith, through a distancing of his place within
our day-to-day thinking etc. Lingering feelings of guilt on our part,
after committing sin, also makes us feel less than worthy to
interrelate with God (i.e. we ‘lay
and again distance ourselves from him). The Bible (e.g. psalm 66:17-20,
John 9:31) also makes it clear that God will limit his support to us in this life
when we wilfully and continually commit sin. In essence then, as a
minimum, sin negatively impacts our relationship with God in this
God’s will, which includes
avoiding sin, ultimately leads to the greatest contentment with life.
And of course, the closer we walk with God the more we recognise his
presence in our lives, which equals stronger faith. That is, it all
becomes self proving. Above all else, such a life leads us to fulfill
the Lord's greatest desire for us, i.e. to have a deep one-on-one
personal relationship with him.
this line of thought is presented in the Lead Article of the
website’s section, “Believing in God”. Most of
the advice included in that article and a supporting article, “God within our Lives”
in that section is just as relevant to Jews and Muslims as it is to
religions. The first supporting article in that section, “God within the Church” is of
course Christian by nature, as is the third supporting article, “The Born Again/ Charismatic movement”. The
final article in the section, “How to deal with doubts” is again
largely relevant to all monotheist