Hello Rosary lovers! Today’s question is a common one: ‘Do I have to keep the Ten Commandments?’
Do you know the Ten Commandments?
First up, you need to know the Ten Commandments before you can consider whether you are supposed to keep them or not.
I found this awesome webpage and suggest you check it out. It contains a useful exposition of the Ten Commandments.
These sorts of lists are tremendous preparation for going to Holy Confession, because they include all kinds of sins that exist.
Go through it and examine your conscience prayerfully, then go to Confession and confess your sins.
Are the Ten Commandments for Christians?
There have always been Christians who argue that the Ten Commandments are not for Christians.
They say, ‘The Old Testament has been fulfilled and replaced by the New Testament. The Ten Commandments are the Old Testament. We don’t need to keep them, only the New Testament laws.’
The Catholic position here seems to be: yes the Old Testament is fulfilled, but the moral and spiritual requirements of the Old Testament are still expected of us in the light of Christ.
Paul writes in Romans 7: ‘the law and the commandment is holy, just and good’. He also says, ‘The law is spiritual’.
Paul is talking about the Old Testament law, the Mosaic law. He even quotes the Ten Commandments: ‘God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.’
So yes, the moral requirements of the Mosaic law are for Christians, that is, the Ten Commandments.
The Grace of the Gospel
However. As Catholics and Christians, we must realise that the Ten Commandments are impossible for us to keep without the help of divine assistance, what we call: grace.
And this is why Jesus came. He came to make us good. Jesus came to make us righteous in our lives. He came to transform our hearts so that we would be able to keep the law.
Paul writes in Titus 2 (ESV):
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.”
So this is why God has sent his grace to us in Jesus Christ.
This is what Ezekiel promised (36:27): ‘I will put my Spirit within you and CAUSE you to follow in my commandments.’
John 1:16-17: ‘And of Christ’s fullness we have all received, and grace in place of grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.’
So the old grace was the law given by Moses, the Ten Commandments. But it didn’t give us power to obey God’s law.
The new grace is Christ’s fullness, which enables us to keep the Ten Commandments.
This is God’s work in us, divine grace. This is the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, poured out upon us by Christ in the Gospel.
And the Holy Spirit enables us to live lives of love and charity and justice and goodness and holiness.
‘The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace …’ Galatians 5.
So yes, we do have to keep the Ten Commandments as Christians.
And those who are not Christians are not able to keep the Ten Commandments.
And we can only get to heaven by keeping the Ten Commandments, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
This is God’s work in us, not of ourselves, so that none of us can boast.
‘Without holiness, no-one shall see the Lord’, Hebrews 12:14.
‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’ Matthew 5:8.
Those who are not pure or holy shall not see God.
This is not a mere ‘forensic’ or ‘imputed’ kind of holiness or purity. It’s an actual one, brought about by actual grace in our lives by the power of God and the resurrection power of Christ.
The Ten Commandments are the written standard of purity and thus we are expected to obey them, enabled by the Holy Spirit.
What if I don’t obey the Ten Commandments?
Then you won’t go to heaven, at least not immediately. You may have to spend time in the afterlife being purged from the rest of your sins. We call this state ‘purgatory’.
If you make it to purgatory, you will get to heaven someday.
Some of those who don’t obey God’s laws might even end up in hell, but we hope no-one goes there, and the Church prays no-one will.
Those particularly at risk of hell are those who knew full-well God’s commands and yet freely disobeyed them. Such people are in a state of mortal sin and are in serious danger of cutting themselves off from God forever.
The Ten Commandments show us what sin is
Of course, the Ten Commandments also show us what our sins are. They are helpful at stirring us up to seek God, because they reveal to us that we are sinners.
Coming face to face with the Ten Commandments shows us how VERY FAR everyone of us has fallen from grace and from God. We are FAR from what we ought to be.
Many/most of us have done things we regret, but to see God’s law before us and how poorly we measure up is sobering and should bring us to cry out to God for mercy.
And mercy is what God gives us in Christ.
This is why we need Christ. We are utterly incapable of changing ourselves or making ourselves any better without God’s grace and help.
And so without the Gospel, the Ten Commandments only show us how bad we are. They do little to improve us if we don’t know Christ.
Jesus said: ‘Without me you can do NOTHING.’
With Jesus, however, we can all things, we can even obey the Ten Commandments.
This is what the saints did and this is why they are in heaven.
This same path is offered to us in the Gospel if we wish also to become saints.
How do we receive the Spirit?
We receive the Holy Spirit by believing the Gospel and by getting baptised by the holy Catholic Church in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
We further receive the Holy Spirit by the holy sacrament of Confirmation, when the Holy Spirit is poured out into our lives in fullness.
We further receive the Holy Spirit when we receive the forgiveness of all of our sins in Holy Confession.
And we again receive the Holy Spirit by partaking of Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist.
One particularly wonderful means of receiving the help of the Holy Spirit is by daily reciting the Holy Rosary. We encourage this a lot at Rosary Lovers.
‘The Rosary is a school in which true Christian perfection in learned.’ St Pope John XXIII
The Holy Spirit is available in all his power in the holy Catholic Church. Come and see!
God bless you.
If you have any questions, let me know and I’ll try to get back to you asap.