From verse 19 in chapter three Paul writes about the relevance of the law. He does so without the technical words that have been developed to this day. So, like many people in the past, these words could mean many things and be taken in another direction that was never intended.
The Ten Commandments were given because of the many sins humanity was committing. Sin is a lack of goodness. We still have goodness; we just no longer have the fullness of goodness as God created us to be. God did not create us with this lack of goodness. We did it to ourselves by the sins of Adam and Eve and we ourselves continue this by our sins. All goodness comes from God. Therefore, humanity cannot make up for the lack of goodness in original sin, only God can. Original sin is an expression of that lack of goodness that we inherited from our first parents. We have a tendency towards sin. The soul now has ignorance which puts an imbalance to the three powers of the soul: the intellect, passions and the will. So God gave us the Ten Commandments to live by so that we would no longer hurt each other and ourselves by our lack of goodness. The obedience does not make up for the lack of goodness. It is there to preserve us from making things worse. What good is God’s mercy if we continue to offend each other and don’t even care? The lack of goodness would still persist.
Yet there would come a time when Jesus would come down to us and show us a way far superior to the Ten Commandments. It is the way of faith. The way of faith is concerned with not offending God by breaking the Ten Commandments, but even more so, how to please Him. Fear of offending makes a person shrink back from a relationship with the other, whereas pursuing the good for the other seeks a relationship with the other. This is what our faith should do. It is also what love should do. Fear of the Lord is the first stage of wisdom (Prov 9:10). It keeps us in right relationship with God’s mercy by obeying the Ten Commandments. But as we experience (which is knowledge) such goodness, we should have more confidence (which is faith) in goodness. This allows us to pursue the good that is lacking. It can only happen when we rely on our faith in God.
The Ten Commandments become the stepping stone to faith. How can a person say they have faith in God while they actively offend Him? To a person who has faith, they are no longer worried about offending God because they have come to know Him and are experienced at avoiding such things. The worry no longer consumes their minds so that they can focus on the goodness God desires. An athlete becomes good at what they do not by focusing on what hinders them, but by focusing on the good habits and filling their minds with good coaching and techniques.
At the end of this chapter, I must mention the promise of Abraham that is extended to all those who believe in Jesus (29). That is why the priest prays at the Mass when he does the Eucharistic Prayer I when he says, “Abraham, our father in faith.” When you reflect on the interaction Abraham was open to with God, you can see such great desire to please God. It was a sign of faith He had in God. A desire not to offend God is noble. Still greater is the one who desires to please Him.