Recently, after our family had completed its daily devotional time together, my oldest son asked me a very insightful question: How do the Ten Commandments apply to us today if they were given so long ago in the Old Testament?
It is a basic theological question that many Christians have asked throughout the history of the church and it is an important query. Many answers have been given to that, not all of them good. Obviously, there are two answers that are dead wrong and lead to two opposite ditches that the follower of Christ must avoid: Antinomianism (the law of God has no place in the life of the believer and he/she is free to live however they please) and legalism (I am saved by how closely I adhere to God’s commands—works righteousness).
One of the best and most helpful answers, in my opinion, that has been given was set forth by the Genevan reformer, John Calvin. In his venerable systematic theology, the Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin set forth three “uses” for the moral law of God. The Lord of history has given His law, Calvin wrote, to serve as:
A mirror. Calvin argued that the law functions to expose our sin and unrighteousness. When a sinner looks into the mirror of God’s law, he sees himself as he really is: depraved, sinful, wretched, undone, lost and in need of cleansing, in need of a savior. This reality causes sinners to despair of their own righteousness and leads them to flee to the Savior, the cross of Christ, for mercy. Wrote Calvin:
“The law is like a mirror. In it we contemplate our weakness, then the iniquity arising from this, and finally the curse coming from both—just as a mirror shows us the spots on our face . . . The apostle’s statement is relevant here: ‘Through the law comes knowledge of sin’ (Rom. 3:20).”