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CHRISTIANITY
EXPLAINED
SIMPLY

      section contents

(Supporting article)

Christian Rules, Laws
and Commandments

Rules, laws and commandments within Christianity
and how they actually affect Christians.

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

-----------------------------

1.    INTRODUCTION

It is recommended that readers should first gain a quick overview of Christianity by accessing the Lead Article for this section of the website, “Christianity explained simply”, before reading any further.

This particular article firstly explains the basis of Christian rules, laws and commandments. In other words, it presents how Christians principally know right from wrong. It then briefly presents various Christian views on the cost of disobedience or wrongdoing, i.e. committing sin.

It is necessary, before going on, to highlight some important issues. Rules, laws and commandments within Christianity need to be understood within that context. Within Christianity, there are two major factors relating to how God deals with us in regard to our wrongdoings (sin). The first is the rules, laws and commandments’ that are laid down for our guidance; for an understanding of what God expects of us. The second is grace’, a term that encapsulates Gods unconditional love for all humankind and his forgiving nature. Grace is explained in the article, Justified and saved by grace.

Grace, in effect, offsets the costs of sin. Above all else, Christians believe that God Incarnate (Jesus) has, by his grace, paid for the sins of his faithful through his death on the cross.

This 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 the law within Christianity is not to be followed blindly with a view to being saved (gain eternal life after physical death), i.e. there is no guarantee, within Christianity, that by solely living a so-called good life one is guaranteed a place in Heaven. Now God may have a different plan for people who lead good sin free lives of course, but such a reward for just being good is not mentioned in the Bible. Please see the article, Heaven and Hell for more on this.

Summarising then, faith in Jesus as our Lord and Saviour essentially comes first, in relation to being saved, but importance is applied to law within Christianity none-the-less. It is also worth saying 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 greatly reduced.

2.    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 rules 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.)

Most Christian theologians see the Ten Commandments as the core of acceptable Old Testament law, i.e. moral laws that certainly have relevance to all Christians. They are summarised below:

1.    You shall have no other gods before me.
2.   
You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven
       or on earth.
3.   
You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
4.    Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
5.   
Honour your father and mother.
6.   
You shall not murder.
7.   
You shall not commit adultery.
8.    You shall not steal.
9.    You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour.
10.  
You shall not covert your neighbours house...wife...etc.

Jesus summed up the Ten Commandments, and provided much more, in his own two commandments of love,Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” Then continuing, Jesus added, “Love your neighbour as yourself” [Luke 10:27].

As he inferred, if we love God and all humankind we would not commit any breaches of the Ten Commandments.

Beginner Christians can then look to the Ten Commandments as the basis of right and wrong, i.e. moral law, just as Jews do. (Islam has its own laws which also encompass the basis of the Ten Commandments.)

But because Jesus did summarise the laws in the way he did, Christians are led to look deeper into their essence from the viewpoint of love. (Remember, the word love in the Bible – in relation to our fellow humansmay be interpreted as to deeply care about rather than as we apply the word today, i.e. a deeper or more significant emotion reserved for those who are very close to us personally.)

Anyway, from this viewpoint, when applying Jesus declarations to the Old Testament commandments, we need to identify their true spirit or relevance to us as Christians. Even careful analysis of the very first commandment, no gods before me or the second, “not make for yourself an idol is required. To Christian thought, anything that becomes more important to us than God (examples are a real lust for power, wealth or material things, together with bad habits/ addictions and any other genuine obsession) are false gods or idols.

Number six is important in that it should be expanded in an understanding that we neither harm, or knowingly allow harm to, other human beings. Jesus explained in Matthew 5:21-23, within the famous Sermon on the Mount, that even anger towards a brother can constitute a breach of this commandment. As another example, do we stand back idly in silence while the innocent in our society, or in foreign lands, are unjustly harmed? Also, we really have to think about what impact our decisions, actions and attitudes have on others.

As to number seven, Jesus also singled that out in his sermon (Matthew 5:27-30), But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfuly has already committed adultry 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.

Number eight, as another example, opens a plethora of issues for Christians. It is 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 theft, i.e. performing little of value in return for ones salary or wage.

And so we can go on. When we think about it, there are many good examples of everyday actions, considered acceptable in society, that clearly defy Jesus two commandments of love.

3.    THE COST OF SIN TO CHRISTIANS

The details so far in this article, by and large, are accepted by major Christian denominations. All Christian denominations also expect that each of us must make a real attempt to repent from our sinful ways, 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. This price relates to both our life after death and our current human day-to-day lives.

3.1    Effect of sin on life after death

Some denominations believe that sin, particularly serious sin, can completely break the relationship between God and sinner, preventing them from gaining a place in Heaven after death (damnation). As an example, Catholics in the West, who make up a major proportion of the worldwide Christian Church, believe that serious sin, termed mortal sin, terminates a believers relationship with God (damnation again) unless they are absolved from that sin. So Catholics require continued absolution of their sins, via detailed confession to a priest, to ensure they will gain that place in Heaven after death

Protestants who similarly make up another large proportion of the Church, on the other hand, largely believe that they will be saved regardless of their subsequent sins, after having initially committed themselves to faith in Jesus as their saviour. They essentially believe that once a person has been saved through the grace of God, after accepting Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, they are guaranteed a place in Heaven. Even so, general absolutions from sin, to all in attendance, are provided within most Protestant church services. Most Protestants believe that the only way to damnation for a believer is for he or she to totally reject their faith. Many Protestant theologians consider however that those of us who do make it to Heaven, may not enjoy equal conditions or rewards there. Which makes sense I guess. 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).

3.2    Effect of sin on our day-to-day lives

The simple truth is that sin does weaken our relationship with God and 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 low 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 life.

Obediance to 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. More of this line of thought is presented in the Lead Article of the website’s section, “How to really believe 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 Christians, i.e. all monotheist religions. The first supporting article in that section, “God within the Church” is of course Christian by nature, as is third supporting article, “The Born Again Movement”. The final article in the section, “How to deal with doubts” is again largely relevant to all monotheist religions.

 



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