There is an erroneous teaching that preaching the Ten Commandments can produce holiness in people. Look at how the apostle Paul describes the Ten Commandments in 2 Corinthians 3:7–9: “But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious . . . how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory.”
No one can argue that Paul was talking here only about ceremonial laws (like the killing of sacrificial animals) and not the Ten Commandments, because only the Ten Commandments were “written and engraved on stones”—written by the finger of God Himself. And Paul calls them the “ministry of death” and “ministry of condemnation.”
Now, please understand that the Ten Commandments are glorious and the problem has never been the Ten Commandments or God’s perfect law. The problem has always been imperfect man’s inability to keep God’s perfect law. In fact, the law is so perfect in its standard and so unbending in its holy requirements that Galatians 3:11 states that no man can be justified by the law in the sight of God. Based on the terms of the Mosaic covenant, if you kept God’s law, you were blessed. But if you didn’t, you were cursed and condemned with a death sentence hanging over your head.
Paul contrasts the Ten Commandments with the new covenant of grace by describing the latter as the “ministry of the Spirit” and “ministry of righteousness.” See the clear distinction that God makes in His Word—the Ten Commandments minister death and condemnation, whereas the gospel of grace ministers the spirit of liberty and the gift of God’s righteousness.
The book of Hebrews explains this beautifully:
The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship. If they could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped, for the worshipers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt would have disappeared. But instead, those sacrifices actually reminded them of their sins year after year. For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
—Hebrews 10:1–4 NLT
What could not be accomplished by the blood of bulls and goats was accomplished PERFECTLY by the blood of Jesus Christ. In Christ we have been purified once for ALL time. The curse, guilt, condemnation, and punishment for all sins have been fully met at the cross. In Christ we are no longer under the ministry of condemnation, but are under the glorious ministry of righteousness.
The book of Hebrews continues to explain, “He cancels the first covenant in order to put the second into effect. For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time” (Heb. 10:9–10 NLT).
When you realize you are justified by faith (by believing in Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross) and not by your works, something liberating happens. You become free from the ministry of condemnation and the death it ministers—guilt, insecurity, dread, anxieties, and all sorts of debilitating fears. Knowing and believing that God no longer condemns you allows you to come freely before your Father in heaven, bring every weakness, failure, and concern on your heart to Him, and receive His grace to help you overcome your weaknesses. You will not be constantly fearful that your failures will cause Him to punish you or withhold His blessings and protection from you, because you know that Jesus bore the punishment meant for you upon Himself at the cross. It is a revelation of His grace that draws us into an intimate relationship with the Lord that is the true basis of holy living.
Adapted from Grace Revolution, chapter 9, Experience Freedom from Fear.