Last June the Supreme Court ruled that the state of Texas could continue to display the Ten Commandments on the capital grounds in Austin. In a separate ruling the court ordered that two other displays be removed from courthouses in Kentucky because they were intended to emphasize religion. The justices determined that the Texas display did not violate the Constitution’s establishment clause, even though it was adorned with Jewish and Christian symbols, because it was part of a larger group of exhibits that depicted the state’s legal history. Interestingly, the display was originally part of a public relations campaign for Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 Hollywood epic about the Exodus starring Charlton Heston as Moses.
If we believe God’s Word, then we must conclude that the key to moral transformation in society does not lie in merely posting the Ten Commandments in courthouses and school rooms, but in the proclamation of the gospel. Today’s passage underscores this by emphasizing that hearing the law is not enough. True righteousness is reflected in obedience that comes from the heart.
When the Day of Judgment comes, those who knew God’s law will not find that they have any advantage over those who did not. Likewise, those who never received the law will not be exempt from God’s judgment because of their ignorance but will realize that God’s moral law was stamped on their conscience all along. Those who know the law and those who do not will both find that they come short of God’s standard. God will judge everyone by their actions and the actions of all will condemn them, unless they have experienced the transforming grace and forgiveness that comes through faith in Jesus Christ. Mere knowledge of God’s commandments cannot compel us to do what sin has robbed us of the power to do. They can show us how far we have fallen, and prepare us to see our need for Jesus Christ.