Sadly, there is much controversy around the Ten Commandments. There are those who insist that the Christian is no longer under these commandments because they were given to Moses under the old covenant and we are no longer under law but grace. Others allow Christians should keep them as long as they are repeated in the New Testament. We wish to show that the Ten Commandments as a whole continue as a rule of life to be obeyed by Christians.
Everything surrounding the giving of the 10 Commandments on Mount Sinai marks them out as very special, and as being far more significant. This separates them from other laws given through Moses.
Sinai was only a formal republication of these laws as the heart of the covenant. They are a revelation of the very nature of God. For example, He is the only true God, so He alone is to be worshipped. Because He does not have a physical form He is not to be worshipped using any physical likeness. The 4th. Commandment is grounded in God’s creation week (Genesis 2:1-3, see also Exodus 16:22-30). Cain was wrong to murder his brother, and so capital punishment was instituted for murder (Genesis 9:6). So these Commandments are for all people, and not for the nation of Israel alone.
3. The Problem of the Old Covenant.
There was nothing wrong with the Ten Commandments, but as written on stone they gave no power to obey. Laws can only condemn because all have sinned (Romans 3:20, 7:7-11). Christ came to deal with the curse the broken law brings upon sinners. So the new covenant promises to put this very same law in the heart as a guarantee of obedience (Jeremiah 31:33, see Ezekiel 36:27). There is the clear contrast between the law written on tablets of stone, or in a book, and on the human heart. But in each case it is God’s law. Hebrews 8:6-12 uses these words of Jeremiah and shows the superiority of the new over the old covenant. In the same way, Romans 8:3ff. shows that the inability of the law to save is because of sin, and so God sent His Son and Spirit. But God’s law does not change, because God Himself does not change.
4. The Ten Commandments are repeated in the New Testament.
(1) Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:17-48) teaches about the standard of righteousness in His kingdom. Will it be different from the Old Testament? No, He came to fulfil them and not to abolish them. The standard must exceed that of scribes and Pharisees. And Jesus goes on to show how, by illustrating from the 6th and 7th. Commandments, and then other laws. Jesus expects His followers to be more strict in obedience, especially by paying attention to their inner life that the Commandments address.
(2) Some of the Ten Commandments are clearly listed for Christians to keep, as in Romans 13:8-10, James 2:8-13. Ephesians 4:25ff. refers by implication to the 9th., 6th., 8th. Commandments. It is possible that 1 Timothy 1:8-11 follows the Ten Commandments.
(3) Some say that the 4th. Commandment is not repeated in the New Testament, yet Jesus spoke about it more than any other! And He never abolished it, as He did the food laws (Mark 2:27-28, 7:19). We shall deal with the 4th. Commandment in more detail in another ‘Answer’.
Objection 1: “New Testament Christians are under grace and not law” (Romans 6:14-15, Galatians 5:18). The objection assumes that not to be under law means that the Christian does not have the law as a standard for living. But in the context of the letter “under law” means to be under its condemning power. The following passages in Romans show that the law does remain for the Christian:
Objection 2: “The Christian life should be guided by love and not law”. The objection assumes that ‘love’ and ‘law’ are against each other. Yet we are commanded to love (for example, John 13:34, 2 John 5-6). The following passages in Galatians show that the law remains for the Christian:
In conclusion, let us not think that giving careful obedience to the Ten Commandments is unworthy of a Christian. Jesus said, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46); and, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). John makes it very clear that one of the essential marks of a true Christian is to keep His commandments (1 John 2:3-6). It is the very way our Saviour Himself walked. His life was totally devoted to doing the “will of God” even when that conflicted with His own will (see Matthew 26:42, John 4:34, 5:30, 6:38, 17:4). May we be given grace to be like Christ!