Why is the Decalogue A Part of the AME Liturgy?

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This is neither a rhetorical, cynical or facetious question. I'm simply curious why such central attention is given to the Decalogue. Contemporary theology makes the case that we live in the dispensation of Grace not the Law. If we accept that theological premise does it not make sense to be a "New Testament" Church? In a few AME churches which I have visited the full Decalogue has been deleted from the Order of Worship and replaced with the Summary of the Decalogue. However, most AME Sunday School opening's actually sing a chant [Lord, have mercy upon us and incline our hearts to do thy will.........Nearer My God To Thee.....]after the conclusion of each Commandment. While I'm not oppossed to Old Testament teachings, particular since my favorite non-Jesus character is Elijah, this homage to the Ten Commandments just seems a bit odd.

-- Anonymous, September 19, 2000


After you have been santified ( saved, converted, born again), you promise to walk in the path of righteousness, follow the way God would want you to walk. This is discribed in the Ten Commandments. Santification is one thing, discipleship is another. Remember when we are born again this is the start of a new life .. and your new life's walk is only determined by the LAW. So the Law is not applicable for you salvation, but rather your way of life until Jesus comes again

-- Anonymous, September 20, 2000

I am usually so busy that I do not get a chance to profer more than an occasional opinion in this bustling discussion area but Brother Bill;'s question made me pause and think again (this is not the first time this crossed my mind) the reason the Decalogue is so prominent.....then I had a minor (or major) Epiphany. The conclusion is what necessitates the beginning in the Decalogue. We take the time to outline the law as it stood before Jesus, what elements of behavior and treatment for our fellow man and ourselves but then...and here is where it gets important...it says hear what Christ Our Savior says...It then brings in Jesus codification of the law into his principles of living. It shows Jesus erasing what had stood before in ten chiseled laws into an over-riding principle of love both for God and your fellow man. To me it serves as a regular reminder, in a nutshell history lesson, of where Jesus brought us from and what he expects of us. As such, I have no problem and in fact, appreciate, the prominent insertion of the Decalogue into our order of service.

-- Anonymous, September 20, 2000

Rev. Pillay's response raises some interesting theological questions. If there are some seminary-trained folk out there, perhaps they can clarify a bit, but I'd like to wade in the waters for a few minutes.

After you have been sanctified ( saved, converted, born again), you promise to walk in the path of righteousness, follow the way God would want you to walk. This is discribed in the Ten Commandments. While I personally agree with Rev. Fisher's view that the presence of the decalogue in our service serves as an effective touchstone, I have always found it curious that we stop at "the ten." In fact, Mitzvot (the complete law) is more like 612-613 commandments, which we find described in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. Now I know our services would be interminable if we went through all 612, but isn't that the fullness of the law? Think of how much healthier we would be today if we would keep kosher for example - avoiding shellfish, not eating cheeseburgers, avoiding the "king's dainties", etc. The law served more than a spiritual purpose - it helped in life in the here and now.

Sanctification is one thing, discipleship is another. Here I agree, but the Decalogue is not necessarily the tool set for discipleship. For that, I look to the Sermon on the Mount, especially Matthew 6. In Chapter 5, we see a progression that leads to salvation in the beatitudes, and in Chapter 6 we see how we as Christians ought to approach faith differently from religion. Jesus lifts the bar from the mundane, the routine, and the perfunctory to personal challenge (carried out privately, not for show) and commitment. If we were to embrace these tools as described by Jesus - giving, praying, fasting, would not our churches and our neighborhoods be sweeter?

Remember when we are born again this is the start of a new life .. and your new life's walk is only determined by the LAW. Hmmm. I am reminded of Romans 8:1 "There is now therefore no condemnation for those who walk in the spirit, and not after the flesh." This is the conclusion of an argument where Paul pretty much explores the same question: If I believe in Christ, and accept his propitiation on a personal level, why do I still sometimes do the things that I used to do that I really don't want to do? Yes, the law bounds our behavior, revealing to us what God expects, and where we fall short, but the burden of the law is also guilt - we'll never get it right, without the quickening presence of God's Holy Spirit in our lives. I think this is part of the reason that the Decalogue is retained in our liturgy, to help us understand where we ought to be, and to remind us that even though we may go to church, and can lip-synch the whole service, unless there is a heart change, there is no change.

So the Law is not applicable for your salvation, but rather your way of life until Jesus comes again The Law reveals a standard of perfection and practiced holiness. Jesus is the only one I know who fulfilled this practice to perfection. I agree that it is a way of life that we should espouse, adhere to, and reflect in our daily behavior. But remember also the lessons from the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus took the Law beyond practice to the heart and the imagination - "I say to you, whosoever looketh on a woman ..." It's the heart that must change.

In my bible studies I teach that the outward conformity can come from both the faithful and the religious. There are those who practice the Law, keep it "faithfully", but the hearts (and therefore demeanor, personalities, and sometimes expressions) are far from God. Perhaps you have seen some of these in your church journeys. They come to church every sunday, but when you are preaching to them they look almost angrily at you, or stone-faced. They smile and shake your hand after service, then burn up the phone wires talking about you all week long, until they are back next Snday, looking "holy" again. These I call religious. In Jesus' time they were called Pharisees.

Then there are those whose hearts are yielded (the faithful). They too, have the conformity to the law, but it is because they have confessed their sins before God, and they have truly repented of their prior ways, and in their desire to please God they will joyfully carry out the Law with a glad heart. Externally, both may follow the Law, in that they may not have stuck a knife in someone, or taken their paycheck, or lied openly, or met their spouse at the Motel 6. But one group is, in Jesus's words "whited sepulchres", while the other is like the publican - "have mercy on me, a sinner." The Bible reminds us that "man looks on the outer appearance, but Got examines the heart."

As a result of that heart change, I believe that as we walk with the Lord, and grow closer to Him, we do indeed become more conformed to the Law - at least the Decalogue :-).

Unfortunately, I still like a Big Mac at least once a month. ;-)

-- Anonymous, September 20, 2000

And I'll be so thankful when I can find a WYSIWYG editor that will interface with this board. :-) Apologies for the rampant bold above.

-- Anonymous, September 20, 2000

I find that the decalogue, the ten commandments, to be a foundation for a moral code that we "saved, sanctified and filled with Holy Ghost" people to follow. It gives some shape to what God expects in our treatment of Him and our fellows. But it is only a foundation. For even Christ's summery of the law pales to His new commandment to "love one another as I have loved you". Jesus fulfilled the law and then demanded more. But for new Christians, or folk who need structure (one of the purposes for Allen keeping us Methodist), the decalogue serves to create a framework.

Bro Payne, I believe the entire law would be overwhelming, as it was unkeepable by those who is was originally written for. It will take the focus off of growing in dependence on the Spirit of God and focus it on works.

But we cannot throw away the entire law...since heaven and earth will pass away before one jot or tittle will pass away. So the ten commandments serve to create a framework for the foundation, without pulling our attention away from the Spirit's inner workings.

Also, I pose a question: Does rest of the law give specifics of the ten? I am not quite sure.

-- Anonymous, September 22, 2000

A careful study of the Ten Commandments will reveal that they can be summarized into: Love the one true God and Love your neighbor. For everything that is forbidden or commanded is something that one who loves God first, then his neighbor, will desire and strive to do. The prupose of the commandments is to show us how bad we need the Christ. Blessings

-- Anonymous, September 23, 2000

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