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My church no longer reads the Ten Commandments in worship. Isn’t hearing the Commandments an important part of our faith formation?

There are good reasons to read the Ten Commandments (or Jesus’ summary of them), especially because our culture tells us that we’re good people who are mostly innocent. We need to be reminded of the truth of our sins, and the Ten Commandments provide a clear perspective on our sin. Some churches that include confession and assurance as part of their weekly liturgy use the Law to remind us of our sin.

Other congregations read the Law after confession and assurance to remind us that living holy lives is how we can express gratitude for the grace that God has given to us. This lines up well with the way the Heidelberg Catechism addresses the Law. In the three-part guilt/grace/gratitude structure of the catechism, we find the Law in the third section. God’s forgiveness is offered through grace, not because of what we have accomplished.

This holy living we are called to is possible only through Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Seeing this image of what this new life in Christ looks like is an important part of our faith walk. However, a weekly reading of the Ten Commandments is not the only way to accomplish this in worship. There are New Testament passages that also paint a picture of what a life with Christ being formed in us (Gal. 4:19) might look like. Using a variety of passages rather than only a reading of the Law can help to cast that vision of new life.

Whether the Commandments should be read every week in worship is more a question of how and why they should be read. Just reading the Commandments every week is not sufficient. A variety of texts from the Old and New Testaments can best provide a full picture of how we can be formed by and incorporated into Christ.

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