“Yielding ALL obedience & submission to Him with the WHOLE man” – Fail!

In our Lord’s Day worship service, we read a summary of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20) and the Great Commandment (Mt. 22).  I then highlight one of the commandments in a brief homily, to show us our sin and drive us to Christ – to prepare us for the confession of sin and assurance of the Gospel.  As we do so, the sovereign Spirit, I’m sure, also instructs us in the third use of the Law.  In fact, the pattern of the Christian faith is well reflected in the structure of the Heidelberg Catechism – guilt (Law as mirror), grace (Gospel!), and gratitude (with the Law of God as the guide and the Gospel as the compelling power of new obedience).  And the pattern of our Christian lives conforms to that, as we are called to repent in light of our guilt, believe the Gospel of God’s grace to us in Christ, and to gratefully live in accord with that repentant faith.

So the Law exposes and mortifies our sin.  The Gospel unites us to Christ, who died for our sins and rose from the dead.  And so we rise with Him, to walk in newness of life.  The God-given repentant-faith which turns from sin and receives His grace in Christ then works through love.  Repent, believe, and love accordingly – over and over again, ad infinitum, till Christ joins us to the spirits of righteous men made perfect at death, and finally raises our bodies from the grave, that we would be fully conformed to Him the Last Day.  And so Christian worship is derived from this three-fold structure of the Christian faith (guilt-grace-gratitude), which in turn shapes this three-fold pattern of our Christian lives in this world (repent-believe-love accordingly).  All by the power of God’s Spirit working through His Word of Law and Gospel.

Recently, I’ve started to use the Westminster Larger Catechism’s exposition of the Ten Commandments as the basis for the homily before our corporate confession of sin.  I plan to spend four Sundays on each commandment.  And beginning with this post, I plan to share these homilies in my upcoming blogs, starting now:

If ever you think you’re doing pretty well in the Christian life.  If you’re not feeling much like a sinner, but pretty darn holy.  It’s time to sit yourself down and carefully read the Westminster Larger Catechism on the Ten Commandments.  It’s a thorough, biblical exposition of each commandment – what duties each one requires, and what sins each one forbids.  In fact, it’s so thorough, that we will only be able to sample it.  But as we do, it will be more than sufficient to show us our sin and drive us to our Savior.

So let’s hear what duties the Scripture teaches us regarding the First Commandment, “You shall have no other gods before Me”:

Westminster Larger Catechism 104:  “The duties required in the first commandment are, the knowing and acknowledging of God to be the only true God, and our God; and to worship and glorify him accordingly, [and here’s how!] by thinking, meditating, remembering, highly esteeming, honoring, adoring, choosing, loving, desiring, fearing of him; believing him; trusting, hoping, delighting, rejoicing in him; being zealous for him; calling upon him, giving all praise and thanks, and yielding all obedience and submission to him with the whole man; being careful in all things to please him, and sorrowful when in anything he is offended; and walking humbly with him.”

And you are to do these things every moment of every day.  You are to seek His glory, to meditate on Him, to be zealous for Him – with every ounce of your being, all the time.  You are to love the Lord your God in this way – with ALL your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Because God deserves such total love!  Has God been first in your thoughts since you first woke up this morning?  Has God been your “all in all” – even since you arrived for worship this morning?  Even right now?  Have you yielded all obedience and submission to Him with your whole person – even for one moment in your life?

Jesus alone fulfilled every phrase in this glorious exposition of the First Commandment.  And He did so for you.  And He died for your miserable failure to keep God first in your heart for even one moment – never mind every moment of every day.  And that’s what makes the First Commandment SWEET to us – even after it SLAYS us.  We see it fulfilled in Christ – for us.  And we see Jesus die the death we deserve, for our sinful rebellion against the one true God.  And we know the Spirit is working even now to conform us to this commandment.  And one Day, one fine Day, we will rise in the perfect righteousness of our Redeemer.  We will finally love and glorify our God and Redeemer as we ought, with every fiber of our being, in perfect holiness, forever.  In the meantime, let us repent.  Let us receive His Word of forgiveness.  And let us be renewed in our love for the one true God, who has given His Son for us – even while we were still God-hating sinners.

Published by pastor tony phelps

Pastor of Christ Our Hope PCA in Wakefield, RI

2 replies on ““Yielding ALL obedience & submission to Him with the WHOLE man” – Fail!”

  1. It seems to me this understanding of Law is very close to the Lutheran view. The Law simply cannot be fulfilled by anyone apart from Christ. We are wholly incapable of living up to its fullest demands. Thus, the Law itself slays us. However, Christ fulfilled it in our stead and so we as Christians understand that the Law can no longer be the triumph of death over us.

    To compare: http://jwwartick.com/2013/05/06/law-gospel-lutheran/.


  2. Thanks, JW, I take that as a compliment. And amen to your comments and thanks for your link. Confessional, historic Reformed theology affirms with confessional Lutherans the so-called three uses of the Law (and I appreciate the Lutheran shorthand for them – Law as curb, Law as mirror, Law as guide). I think SOME Reformed folks today forget Romans 7, and the principle that the Law ALWAYS accuses, it ALWAYS exposes sin – even as it curbs & guides. Our historic Reformed confessions & catechisms, however, do not forget this reality.

    For example, after giving this detailed exposition of the Ten Commandments, the Westminster Larger Catechism reminds the reader:

    Q. 149. Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?
    A. No man is able, either of himself, or by any grace received in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God; but doth daily break them in thought, word, and deed.

    Q. 152. What doth every sin deserve at the hands of God?
    A. Every sin, even the least, being against the sovereignty, goodness, and holiness of God, and against his righteous law, deserveth his wrath and curse, both in this life, and that which is to come; and cannot be expiated but by the blood of Christ.

    The Heidelberg Catechism likewise follows its exposition of the Ten Commandments with this:

    115. Why then does God so strictly enjoin the Ten Commandments upon us, since in this life no one can keep them?
    First, that as long as we live we may learn more and more to know our sinful nature, and so the more earnestly seek forgiveness of sins and righteousness in Christ; second, that without ceasing we diligently ask God for the grace of the Holy Spirit, that we be renewed more and more after the image of God, until we attain the goal of perfection after this life.


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