And behold one came and said to him: Good master, what good shall I do that I may have life everlasting? Who said to him: Why askest thou me concerning good? One is good, God. But if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He said to him: Which? And Jesus said: Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness. Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. The young man saith to him: All these have I kept from my youth, what is yet wanting to me? Jesus saith to him: If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. And when the young man had heard this word, he went away sad: for he had great possessions. (Matthew 19:16-22 DRB)
I often chat with people from various denominations and from independent meetings who tell me that we (that is, Christians) are free from the Law and need not pay too much attention to it in forming our Christian character and walking in the faith of Jesus. And to back their perspective they will cite passages from Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians but rarely do they cite or quote from the gospels and almost never from the passage quoted above (Matthew 19:16-22). And I wonder why so much emphasis is given to saint Paul’s letters and so little to the teaching of Christ contained in the gospels.
I know that some believe in dispensations and regard the gospels as ‘old covenant teaching’ because Christ had not yet been crucified, risen from the grave, or sent the Holy Spirit when he taught in the streets of Jerusalem and in the areas around the sea of Galilee so they reason that the new covenant did not come into force fully until the Holy Spirit descended on the day of Pentecost. These ones will depend on the ‘new covenant’ and a new dispensation of grace for their understanding of the holy scriptures while rejecting any view that does not take into account the dispensations that form the framework for their theology but I also know that those from the older Magisterial Protestant denominations do not take this kind of dispensational stand and most do not make a sharp distinction between the canonical gospels and the letters of saint Paul. For them the law and the morals implied therein are still important. So what I am wondering is how do Magisterial Protestants see the ten commandments in their moral theology? Is a Christian free from the Law as a source for moral guidance and a norm for right behaviour?
I have another related question. The Lord Jesus Christ said to the wealthy young man “sell all that you have and come follow me”. Many today have adopted the beliefs and ideals of our western Capitalist economics and our secular democratic political philosophy and this is as true of professing Christians as it is of those who do not profess Christian faith. Some call themselves ‘conservatives’ and others ‘progressives’ and their respective political philosophies seem to dominate their thinking more so than does the teaching of Christ in the gospels. I wonder, what framework do Magisterial Protestants have to enable them to overcome this kind of compromise with worldly values? Catholics can turn to the “Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church” for help with these matters.