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The Ten Commandments

A chapter from Temples and Tithes


Once you say the Sabbath is not binding on Christians you run into the problem of the Ten Commandments. The Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments so if we can break that commandment - what about the rest? Surely we still have to "obey the Ten Commandments"?

The chapter entitled "Be Ye Holy…" deals with this at considerable length and I will not repeat those arguments here. We are no longer "under a law code" of any sort. But we should be righteous and holy and live lives of good deeds done in the power of the Holy Spirit. We live as people "led by the Spirit" who have new natures. The law is now written on our hearts not on tablets of stone as the Ten Commandments were. We fulfil the Law by living a life of love in the Spirit.

Love Is The Fulfillment Of The Law

Jesus

Jesus sees the whole law and all the prophets summed up in the commands to love God and neighbor. They are the "meta-commandments" under which all the other commandments are subsumed. If these two things are done then everything else is included.

(Matthew 22:36-40 NASB) "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" {37} And He said to him, "'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' {38} "This is the great and foremost commandment. {39} "The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' {40} "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."

Paul

Paul directly deals with the Ten Commandments problem in Romans 13. He has just spent chapters 3-8 explaining that we are no longer under the Law and chapters 9-11 explaining the place of Israel and the Jews now that Christ, not the Law, is the only means of salvation. Now Paul fires some very big guns and speaks directly about the moral law of the OT saying it is all subsumed under the command to love one's neighbor.

(Romans 13:8-10 NASB) Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. {9} For this, "YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET," and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." {10} Love does no wrong to a neighbor; love therefore is the fulfillment of the law.

Notice how Paul explicitly mentions four of the Ten Commandments (relating to adultery, murder, stealing and coveting) and then adds "and if there is any other commandment" to cover the rest and to be all inclusive. Paul is not just attacking the "ceremonial law" here. He is going right to the core of the OT Law and the moral law as expressed in the Ten Commandments. It is all summed up under the command to love our neighbor as ourselves which is the distinctly Christian commandment. Paul is NOT saying we can all run out and commit adultery. What he is saying is that we are not living up to a law code in a book any more but rather living a life of love in the Spirit and if we do live a life of love in the Spirit then we definitely won't commit adultery.

James

(James 2:8 NASB) If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law, according to the Scripture, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF," you are doing well

Even the very Jewish James, who Luther said wrote a "right strawy epistle" , does not advocate a return to the Ten Commandments. For him the Royal Law is to love your neighbor as yourself and if you do this alone "you are doing well".

Love Does Not Give Us A License To Sin Or To Be Carnal

Paul was under no illusions about how the flesh could try to take advantage of the tremendous freedom we have in Christ. Like many people who hear about grace he trembled a bit when faced with human nature under grace. It could go so wrong. Surely we need a few more rules. However Paul does not add "a few more rules". Rather to keep the flesh from rising up in carnality and division the Galatians were to do two simple things - love one another and walk in the Spirit. Life under the Holy Spirit cannot be carnal and a life of love simply cannot be divisive and hateful. These two provisions would keep them safe as they pursued true Christian liberty without the Ten Commandments.

(Galatians 5:13-16 NASB) For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. {14} For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." {15} But if you bite and devour one another, take care lest you be consumed by one another. {16} But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.

The Goal of Christian Instruction Is Love From A Pure Heart (in Contrast To Law-Keeping)

Paul was instructing his disciple Timothy on what to aim for as a pastor and leader. He did not say "be sure to keep them in line" or "Be strict and make sure they keep the Ten Commandments" or "accountability, its all a matter of accountability". Paul's goal was loving people who were Christlike in understanding, nature and actions (See Ephesians 4:11 and following). Paul summed up the aim of all Christian ministry as "the goal of our instruction is love". That is beautiful!

(1 Timothy 1:5 NASB) But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

The Ten Commandments Are For Sinners To Convict Them Of Sin

Shall we just rip the Old Testament out of our Bibles and throw it in the rubbish bin? By no means! It is full of inspiration and truth and revelation. Our faith is unthinkable without it. After Paul talks to Timothy about the goal of Christian ministry he goes on to discuss the proper use of the law - to convict sinners of sin and reveal the righteousness of God.

(1 Timothy 1:5-11 NASB) But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. {6} For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, {7} wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions. {8} But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, {9} realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous man, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers {10} and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, {11} according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.

The Law does not help righteous people become loving and thus fulfill the goal of the Christian life. The law is thus not for the righteous. The Law ill however help sinners to realize they are sinning and that they need to repent. In his book "Hell's Best Kept Secret" the New Zealand evangelist Ray Comfort shows how the Ten Commandments can be effectively used to convict unbelievers of the fact that they actually are "sinners in need of a Savior". There is an urgent need for this today when so many think they are "OK" and a very limited sense of sin pervades our culture.

(Romans 3:20 NASB) because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

People need to know about their sin and the Ten Commandments will help them do that especially when explained with Jesus interpretations of adultery of the heart and anger being murder. Soon anyone stands convicted. Paul calls the Law a wonderful tutor that leads us to Christ but which we no longer need once we have found Christ.

(Galatians 3:22-26 NASB) But the Scripture has shut up all men under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. {23} But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. {24} Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith. {25} But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. {26} For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

Conclusion

Christians live by the two commandments not the Ten Commandments. The Sabbath is no longer binding and the other commandments are subsumed under the commands to love God and neighbor. We live a life of loving one another while walking in the ethical control of the Holy Spirit. The Ten Commandments are still very useful in evangelism for convicting sinners of their sinfulness and their need for a Savior. However they cannot produce love in the heart which is the goal of the Christian life.


This article may be freely reproduced for non-profit ministry purposes but may not be sold in any way. For permission to use articles in your ministry, e-mail the editor, John Edmiston at johned@aibi.ph.