Christians and The Ten Commandments
By Pastor Tony Butler
Let me state clearly and dogmatically that I am not opposed to people teaching the Ten Commandments, such as parents teaching their children the Ten Commandments, or having the Ten Commandments placed in the home, schools, or courts. However, I do oppose erroneous applications of the Ten Commandments in the Lives of New Covenant believers. We need to make sure that we in no way ever teach anyone the Ten Commandments as a basis of right relationship with God.
An overwhelming number of professing Christians believe Christians are to keep the Ten Commandments. This very fact reveals how few Christians rightly divide the Word of God and how many preachers/priests are disseminating the practice from the pulpit to the pew. One can’t separate the Ten Commandments from the other 613 laws given to Israel. They are all inter-connected.
It’s almost funny, if it weren’t so sad, how the Law is used in the church as a basis of righteousness, a teaching so far removed from the Gospel of Grace as taught by the NT epistles. Many preachers and teachers apply the Sabbath of the Ten Commandments on people as a rule God has put on the Gentiles. They teach that Sunday is our Sabbath and command a cessation of work, leisure activities, and other legalistic applications. When anyone broke the Sabbath laws God gave to Israel they were to be killed. When was the last time you saw someone killed for breaking the Sabbath? On top of that they take other laws given to Israel alone such as tithing, and accuse NT believers of robbing God if they don’t tithe. It is vitally important to understand the vast difference between the Law and the Gospel of Grace. The two can never mix. To do so is to utterly destroy grace. Keeping the Law is an all or nothing prospect. A person is cursed of God if he doesn’t keep all the Law perfectly. (Gal. 3:10)
The New Covenant clearly declares the proper use of the Ten Commandment/Law and the improper use of the Ten Commandments. (Rom. 7:12-13 - I Tim. 1:8-9) The Ten Commandments can never establish a proper relationship between man and God. It can only reveal the Holy nature of God and kill the man. (II Cor. 3;3-8)
As believers under the New Covenant of grace we have been brought into a right relationship to God solely based on trusting/believing what Jesus did for us on the cross. (JN. 1:7 – Rom. 4:1-15 - Eph. 2:8-9) We need to take a serious look at the Ten Commandments and see what the Bible has to say about Israel, who lived under the Old Covenant, versus what the Bible has to say to believers under the New Covenant.
The Ten Commandments under the Old Covenant
When they were introduced
The Ten Commandments were introduced to Israel by God shortly after they were delivered from Egyptian bondage. According to the Biblical time line, this would be about 2500 years after Adam and Eve were created by God. This means that no one on the planet had ever heard the Ten Commandments before the time of Moses.
When we read the first five books of the Bible, we need to realize that they were all written by Moses. The creation accounts, Noah and the flood, and the life of Abraham were all written by Moses on Mt. Sinai. Before this the only thing that existed was oral tradition passed down from generation to generation.
Prior to Moses no one kept the Sabbath, tithed as a matter of command, or followed any established written law handed down from God. They did follow traditions handed down from God to Abraham such as circumcision. They did know God’s name. But there was no literature the children of Israel possessed that was ever passed down to them by God.
Why and to whom they were introduced
The Ten Commandments and all the Levitical civil and ceremonial laws were introduced by God to Israel as a contract in order to redeem them as His people. God promised that He would make them His people if they would keep His commandments. This contract the people decided to enter. The contract was sealed by blood between the people of Israel and God. (Ex. 24:1-8 – Ex. 34:27 – Heb. 9:19-20) The law was given to no other nation or people other than Israel. God nowhere indicts any Gentile nation of breaking His Law. It was a contract between God and Israel and none else. It could no more be applied to any other nation than a contract between you and a car salesman could be applied to your next door neighbor. (II Sam. 7:23-24 – I Chron. 17:21-22 – Neh. 10:29)
1. God never brought me or my ancestors out of Egypt! Ex 20:2 "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery."
2. The Lord has not given me the promised land of Canaan! Ex 20:12 "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you"
3. Since the Sabbath is a sign between God and fleshly Israel, there is nothing requiring non-Jews to keep it! (Ex. 31:13,17; Ezek. 20:12, 20)
4. If it was intended for all mankind, then why specifically say "strangers within your gates". Obviously the Gentiles (strangers) were never required at any point in earth history to keep the Sabbath! The Bible and all known history prove this true!
Gentiles were never given the law
Rom 2:14 - “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:”
The Sabbath Was never put on the Gentiles By The Jerusalem Council
Act 15:5-10, 19-20 – “But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Act 15:10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?…James (Acts 15:19) Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.”
The Law was Given To Israel Alone
Deu 4:7 – “For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for?Deu 4:8 And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?”
Exo 31:16 – “Therefore the sons of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant.”
Neh 8:1 – “And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel”
Neh 8:14 – “And they found written in the law which the LORD had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month:”
The Ten Commandments Under The New Covenant
Christians are under a New Covenant that is better than the Old Covenant of the law which is inferior and is vanishing away
Heb 8:6-7 – “But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.”
Heb 8:8 - “For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:”
Heb 8:9-13 – “Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people. And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.
Who wants to keep paying for a rusty old car that doesn’t work when they can have a brand new car that is already paid for? Under the Law there were only earthly promises based on obedience. Under the New Covenant we have heavenly promises that come to all believers through the finished work of Jesus on the cross. The old car is rusting away while the new car will last for eternity. I find it amazing how many people love old rusty cars that don’t work.
The Law Is Abolished As a Means To Obtain Righteousness
Romans 10:1-5 - Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end/goal of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, that the man which doeth those things shall live by them.
Grace and Law Don’t Mix
Eph 2:8 – “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Eph 2:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
Rom 4:2-5 – “For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”
Rom 11:5-6 – “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.”
Rom 5:20-21 – “Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.”
The Law is a ministry of death whereas the New Covenant is a ministry of life and righteousness
2 Corinthians 3:7-11, 14 - "If the ministration of death, written and ENGRAVEN IN STONES, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: how shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?
For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect by reason of the glory that excelleth. For if that which IS DONE AWAY was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious . . . Their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in reading of the Old Testament; which vail IS DONE AWAY IN CHRIST."
The Law was Abolished in the flesh of Christ
Eph 2:13-22 – “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing (Katargeo) in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. AND HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.
The Law was a certificate of debt that has been cancelled
Col 2:10-15 – “and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.
When it came to the Law all men under its condemnation were debtors. A man always owed. He could never stop sinning and do enough to get out from under its debt. When Jesus came all the rules and regulations of the law were nailed on the cross with Him whereby God cancelled the contract of the law. Where a contract is cancelled, a man is no longer obliged to keep the contract.
No Christian Is Under The OT law
Rom 6:14-15 – “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!
Gal 5:18 – “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.”
Rom 2:14-15 – “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them,”
Dead to the Law - Free To Re-marry
Rom 7:4-6 – “Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.
Rom 10:4 – “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”
Rom 10:5-8 – “For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness. But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: "DO NOT SAY IN YOUR HEART, 'WHO WILL ASCEND INTO HEAVEN?' (that is, to bring Christ down),or 'WHO WILL DESCEND INTO THE ABYSS?' (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead)."But what does it say? "THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART"--that is, the word of faith which we are preaching,”
Rom 10:9-10 – “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”
The Law Was a Child leader to bring people to Jesus– paidagogos
Gal 3:23-25 – “But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.”
Because the law magnified sin and required perfect obedience, it was used by God to bring men to Jesus. They could get righteousness by Christ instead of trying to get righteousness by law keeping, which was impossible. Unfortunately many people don’t understand this and still try to produce a righteousness of their own through religious zeal. (Read Rom. 10:1-4)
The Law didn’t annul the Abrahamic covenant
Gal 3:17-22 – “What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise. Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made. Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one. Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
The Law given to Moses didn’t annul the covenant made with Abraham. The Law only magnified sin and made it more sinful. Its purpose was never to make a man righteous, but rather to point men to Jesus when He would come to the earth. The Law could only indict and condemn men because the Law was spiritual and perfect coming from a sinless, holy, and just God. The Law can’t forgive sins, impart righteousness, or give anyone life.
True righteousness comes by faith. (Rom. 4) Abraham is the father of all who believe, not the father of all who try to obtain righteousness by their own effort.
The Galatians fell prey to the Law
Galatians 3:1-7 – “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? (2) This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? (3) Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? (4) Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain. (5) He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? (6) Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. (7) Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.
Gal 4:10-11 - “Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.”
There is no shortage of misguided and false teachers that would teach people that righteousness comes through obedience to rules and regulations rather than by faith. All Christians must be careful to not fall prey to legalism, even if it has a form of godliness. Legalism will always deny the true power of God through grace. The Christian life is founded on grace and not legalistic, performance-based rule keeping. Grace produces true holiness and godliness with the proper power of God supplied by which actions are carried out. (Jn. 1:7 –
Tit. 2:11-12 – Phil. 2:12 – Jn. 15:5) Grace is built on a personal relationship with Jesus through faith. Legalism is the attempt to build a relationship with God by pious acts of obedience to rules.
The Commandments of Christ
1 John 2:3-4 -"And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him."
1Jo 3:23-24 – “This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.”
There are around 1500 N.T. commands. Jesus Himself gave hundreds of personal commands to His followers. All the commands of Christ are reduced to two by the Apostle John, who wrote the words of Jesus, “If you love me, keep my commandments”. (Jn.14) The two commands are to believe on Jesus and that we as Christians love one another. Trying to keep hundreds of commands as a means of righteousness is no better than trying to keep the Ten Commandments as a means of righteousness. In the New Covenant, keeping commands flows out of abiding, and a relationship through inward empowerment by the Holy Spirit.
The believer’s righteousness comes through faith in Christ. (Rom. 5:1) Abiding in Christ after salvation and loving one another flows from personal relationship. As Christians our concentration should be on Jesus and allowing His divine life to flow in us, producing the desired fruit of the Spirit. (John 15) Keeping commandments under the New Covenant must never be seen as a duty in order to get God’s approval, but rather as a loving relationship of obedience, because we already have been accepted in the beloved. (Eph. 1:6)
I hope this has helped you to better understand who the recipients of the Ten Commandments were and the proper use and understanding of the Ten Commandments under the New Covenant. If you have questions you can call me or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.