"Are The Ten Commandments Obsolete?"
A very common belief among many modern Christians is that the Old Testament represented the failure of the Law and is therefore "bad" while the New Testament teaches grace and is therefore good – that the God of the Old Testament was harsh and cruel, but Jesus came to pacify His father’s anger and change the rules so as to make life easier to live. After all, the Old Testament has those impossible to keep Ten Commandments, but Christ only commanded us to "love".
But is all of this true? Did Christ come to "do away" with the Law of God? Were the Ten Commandments "nailed to the cross?" Is the Old bad and the New good? A close examination of Scriptures may surprise you.
As we begin our study, it might surprise you to learn that there is very little "new" in the New Testament. What I mean is that almost every concept found in the New Testament was first introduced in the Old Testament. A good study Bible with marginal notes will show which Old Testament scripture is being quoted in the New Testament. Rather than the New Testament writers rejecting or condemning the Old Testament scriptures, they often quoted from them, praised them and encouraged their students to read and study them. Let’s examine this point a bit further.
What "Scriptures" are mentioned in the New Testament?
The apostle Paul, in writing to the young minister Timothy reminded him, "that from a child you have known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Timothy 3:15-17). Was Paul speaking of the New Testament? Of course not, it hadn’t been written when Timothy was a child. He told him that the "scriptures", the Old Testament, were able to make one wise unto salvation. Hard to believe? Let’s hear from Jesus Himself:
Let’s hear more from Paul and the other apostles on the authority and validity of the "Old Testament" scriptures:
"But we're a New Covenant church" you might say. Well even the "New Covenant" was first introduced in the Old Testament; can you believe it? Look at Jeremiah 31:31-33, "Behold, the days come, says the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, says the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, says the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people"
And look, the New Covenant would still contain God’s Law, only this time, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the Law would be written in our hearts. In other words, the law would be a part of us. That’s what God wanted all along: "O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!" (Deut. 5:29). You see, the problem was not with God or His Law, the problem with the Old Covenant was with the people: "For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he says, Behold, the days come, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah" (Hebrews 8:7-8). There is much more that can be said on the covenants, but that will have to wait to be covered in a future article.
Did Jesus Change Things?
"But", you ask, "didn’t Jesus come to do away with the Law?" Well, did He? Let's see: "Do not think that I have come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I have not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, until heaven and earth pass, neither one jot nor one tittle shall pass from the law, until all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. " (Matthew 5:17-19). Clearly, Jesus said He did not come to destroy the Law. Read the rest of Matthew 5 and you will find that, rather than do away with the Law, He expanded upon it, made it more spiritual.
People say that instead of having us keep the Law, Christ gave us "the Golden Rule" about doing unto others as we would have them do unto us, right? Well if you read where this is given in Scripture, you may be surprised where Jesus says this idea comes from: "Therefore all things whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets" (Matt. 7:12). Can we begin to see that the Law, rather than being a harsh set of "do's" and "dont's", is based upon the simple concept of Love. Let's look at another example of this concept.
It has been said that Jesus brought two "new" laws – to love God and love our neighbor. Would you be surprised to learn that Jesus was merely quoting from the Old Testament Law? "And you shall love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might" (Deut. 6:5) and "You shall not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but you shall love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the LORD" (Lev. 19:18).
Let’s look at that scripture in its full context: "Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matthew 22:35-40).
Notice first that the lawyer asked him which was the greatest commandment in the law. "The law", as was commonly known to the Jews of that time, consisted of the first 5 books; Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. This is still how the Jews refer to these books, also know as the Torah. He wasn’t asking Jesus to make up a new law, nor did Jesus answer by saying that the greatest commandment isn’t in the law, but here’s a new one.
More importantly, notice that these two "laws of love" are the very foundation of the Law and the Prophets – in other words, the Old Testament. The purpose of God’s Law, the Ten Commandments being an outline or framework, is to teach us how to love with a Godly Love. The first four of the Ten Commandments teach us how to love God, the last six teach us how to love our neighbor. Paul understood this when he said, "Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loves another has fulfilled the law. For this, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, You shall not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, You shall love thy neighbor as thyself. Love works no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law" (Romans 13:8-10).
Did Jesus change things? Hardly! Before His human birth, Jesus, then known as the Word or the Logos, was the very member of the God Family who gave the Ten Commandments to mankind through Moses! Why would He change the very Laws He gave? For proof the Jesus was the God of the Old Testament, be sure to read our article entitled Who is the God of the Old Testament?.
God's Law is Love
God’s Law is for our own good, much like the rules and regulations that your parents might have set down when you were young. Nobody likes those laws or rules when they are a child growing up. But once we've grown up, we realize that our parents established those laws because they knew better than we did and they did it for our own good, because they loved us. God has done the same, only on a much grander scale. Far from being harsh and cruel, God is Love, "He that loves not knows not God; for God is love" (1 John 4:8). He is the perfect parent and His laws are all meant for our own good, not His. Jesus kept His Father’s commandments and taught us to do the same. Look at these New Testament scriptures:
Jesus did not come to change things but rather to expand upon the Law, to make it spiritual, not to do away with it. Read Matthew 5:17:48 for more on this point. He also came to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. This is the "good news" that He brought – that men could repent, that is, change what they were doing and believe in the good news that God would come to earth to rule righteously. He came to fulfill all of the prophecies made about Him in the Old Testament, prophecies involving His first coming as Savior and Redeemer and His second coming as King of Kings and Lord of Lords – the soon coming Kingdom of God.
Think about this: if Jesus had been opposed to the way His Father had done things, then how can you reconcile the following Scriptures?
You see, there has always been a unity and a consistency in the God Family. The Father and the Son are united in thought and in deed. They do not change: "For I am the LORD, I change not;" (Malachi 3:6). "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever" (Hebrews 13:8). They do not try one set of laws, and then throw them out and try a new bunch. God’s Plan for man was perfect from the beginning. As we saw, the problem was with men; they were not able to keep God’s Law alone, without God’s Holy Spirit.
God’s Law of Love (outlined by the Ten Commandments) is eternal and will be written in the hearts of men in the future New Covenant. We will explore the Covenants in a future article, but for right now, check out our chart: The Ten Commandments Throughout God's Word. This chart (by no means exhaustive) gives examples of each of the Ten Commandments and general commandment keeping, in four different time periods of eras. You’ll see at least one example of either the keeping of the commandment or the negative results of not keeping it. These represent only a first pass at finding examples of each commandment in these four eras, so keep checking for additions.
The eras are significant since many teach that the commandments were a part of the "Old Covenant" and therefore, were done away with. This chart shows that they were in effect before being formally given at Sinai, were kept by Jesus, by Paul, the Apostles and the early New Testament Church, and will still be kept in the future Millennial Kingdom.
December 29, 2013
|Exodus 20||Before Sinai||Christ / Teachings||Paul / Apostles||In Prophecy / Future|
|1st Commandment: Ex 20:2-3 "I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me."||Gen 3:5; 26:5; 35:1-4||Matt 6:24; Luke 4:8||Rom 6:13-16||Micah 4:1-5|
|2nd Commandment: Exodus 20:4-5 "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;"||Gen 9:6; 31:19, 32; 35:2; Gen 35:1-4||Matt 6:21-24||Acts 17:29; Acts 19:26; Rom 1:21-23; Col 3:5 (NRSV)||Micah 5:10-15; Rev 21:8; Rev 9:20|
|3rd Commandment: Ex 20:7 "Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain."||Gen 9:5-6; 31:49; Lev 18:3, 21, 27||Matt 5:33-37||Col 3:8||Mal 1:11, 12; Jer 5:7-9|
|4th Commandment: Ex 20:8 "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy."||Gen 2:2-3; 7:4; 26:5; Ex 16:4-7, 27-29||Luke 4:16||Acts 18:4, 21; 17:2||Zech 14:16-18|
|5th Commandment: Ex 20:12 "Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee."||Gen 3:11; 26:35; Gen 9:21-26||Matt 15:4-6; Luke 18:20; Matt 19:19; Mark 7:9-13||Rom 1:30; Col 3:20||Is 3:4-12|
|6th Commandment: Ex 20:13 "Thou shalt not kill."||Gen 4:11; 9:5-6; 26:5; 27:41; 31:23, 29; 34:25; 37:18; 42:22; 49:6||Matt 5:21-22; Matt 5:38-39; Matt 5:43-44; Matt 19:18||Rom 1:29||Is 11:9; Rev 21:8|
|7th Commandment: Ex 20:14 "Thou shalt not commit adultery."||Gen 2:24; Gen 6:2; 12:15-20; 20:6-7; 26:10; 31:50; 34:2; 35:22; 38:18; 39:7-8; 49:4||Matt 5:27-28||I Cor 6:18; I Cor 6:9||Rev 14:8; Jer 5:7-9|
|8th Commandment: Ex 20:15 "Thou shalt not steal."||Gen 3:6; 9:3-6; 26:5; 27:10, 23, 36; 29:27; 30:33, 42; 31:19, 27, 32, 41; 34:27; 38:26||Matt 15:19; Matt 19:18; Matt 21:13; Matt 22:17-21; John 12:6||I Cor 6:10; Eph 4:28||Mal 3:8-10|
|9th Commandment: Ex 20:16 "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor."||Gen 3:4; 26:5; 27:19,21; 29:25; 31:7, 41; 34:13; 37:33; 39:14||Matt 19:18; Matt 26:59||Acts 6:13; Rom 1:29; I Tim 1:10||Rev 19:20; Rev 21:8|
|10th Commandment: Ex 20:17 "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's. "||Gen 3:6; 26:5; 27:10; 30:27; 31:23||Matt 5:28; Matt 6:19-21, 31-32||Rom 1:29; II Cor 6:9-10||Micah 2:1-2|
|General Law||Gen 2:16-17; Gen 26:5; Ex 13:9; Ex 15:26; Ex 16:4; Ex 16:28-29||Matt 5:17-20; Matt 22:36-40||Rom 2:13-15; Rom 2:20-23; Rom 3:31; Rom 7:7-12; James 2:8-12; I John 5:2-3; Rev 12:17; 14:12; 22:14||Hebrews 8:9-13; Micah 4:1-5|