As a Christian, am I supposed to obey the Ten Commandments and all the other laws in the Old Testament? Just some of them? Or can I pretty much ignore them? Many Christians that I know would say yes to the first question. Until you looked at the materials tag on their clothing, then they would change their answer to the second choice. Few would likely admit to ignoring the Old Testament law altogether. Yet in reality, I think most of us really do in practice. We do generally follow some subset of the Old Testament law. But I suspect that is more coincidence than design. Most likely what we are really doing is following the moral standards of the culture we grew up in. And for me, they were somewhat similar to the moral teachings of the Old Testament.
But regardless of how we actually respond to the initial questions; how should we respond? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say #3, I can pretty much ignore them. After all, Paul told me that I am no longer under the law, but am under grace; and he belabored the point quite extensively in Galatians.
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Fulfilling the Law
But, you might ask, what about Jesus’ statement, in Matthew 5:17-19, that he came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it? This is oftentimes used to argue that we should still be living in accordance with the Old Testament law. A law code that included the Ten Commandments. But is that really what he meant by this statement?
Look at the rest of Matthew 5 and see what Jesus says. Six times you see him saying something to the effect of “You have heard that it was said … But I say to you …”. Some of these were concerned with traditions. But many of them were dealing with OT laws. And that includes two of the Ten Commandments. Jesus is not countermanding any of these laws, But he does give fresh meaning to them. And he does it as one who has a higher authority than the Law, as one who is not bound by it.
Let’s look at another of Jesus’ teachings concerning the OT Law. In Mark 7:14-19 Jesus shares what makes a man unclean. Notice that it does not include the food he might eat. The conclusion made by the author of Mark is that Jesus has declared all foods as being clean. And one does not have to read much of the OT Law to know that this statement is in serious conflict with the dietary portions of that law. If Jesus was demanding adherence to the OT Law, surely he would have not told us we could eat what we wanted.
The Intent of the Law
How could Jesus be both fulfilling the Law, and negating part of it? Unless fulfilling the Law meant something other than advocating that we should still be living under that Law. Maybe, just maybe, Jesus meant that what the Law was intended to do, he himself actually accomplished. Jesus was the fulfillment of the Law.
So just what is the intent, or purpose, of the Law? Paul has a very interesting discourse concerning the purpose of the Law in Galatians 3:19-25. In this passage, he says that the Law was given because of our sinfulness. And that it was in effect until Christ had come (3:19). In verses 21-22 he says that the Law was put in charge to lead us to Christ so that we might be justified by faith. And now that faith has come, we are no longer under the Law.
So if the purpose of the Law is to bring sinful man to faith in Christ. And its purpose has been fulfilled when one comes to faith. Then has Christ not fulfilled the Law for me? Indeed, the Law is still about, it is not abolished. But it is no longer applicable to me. It has accomplished its purpose and is no longer in charge.
A significant requirement of the OT Law was concerned with animal sacrifice. And a significant amount of that dealt with sin and its forgiveness. When I would break the requirements of the law, sacrifice was required to bring me back into right standing with God.
The first 18 verses of Hebrew 10 discusses these OT sacrifices. And it compares them to the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Of most significance is that the blood of bulls and goats was unable to really deal with the sin in our lives. That resulted in the requirement that they be offered repeatedly. And this is unlike the sacrifice of Jesus. It was made once and was able to permanently deal with sin. And now, with my sin dealt with by the blood of Christ, there is no longer any need for sacrifice.
Here again, we see a fulfillment of the Law. The OT sacrificial system was simply pointing ahead to the more perfect sacrifice of Jesus. And once that had been made, the OT sin sacrifices, an integral part of the Law, no longer had any value.
The Jerusalem Council
One of the early conflicts in the new church dealt with the question of applying the Law to Gentile believers. Just exactly what was required for a Gentile to be in a relationship with God? Was faith alone sufficient? Or was adherence to at least some part of the OT regulations still required, in particular circumcision? Circumcision actually predates the Law and is not actually a part of it. Nevertheless, the issue is still a valid one for this discussion. Should I be concerned with the requirements of the OT? Or not?
Acts 15 finds the early church wrestling with this problem. And the result of this council is the recognition that circumcision, and the OT Law, are not applicable to Gentile believers, which includes me. The council recommended a handful of suggestions to keep them from being offensive to Jewish believers. But there was no requirement imposed on the Gentiles to follow the law. Either to come to faith or to live as believers.
So What About It?
All this is not to say that I am free to do whatever I want as a believer. I don’t believe that at all. But as a disciple of Jesus, it should be sufficient for me to follow his teachings. And they are, interestingly enough, summed up in a pair of passages from the OT:
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”Matthew 22:34-40 NIV
Rather than get hung up with a bunch of rules to live by, simply seek to love God with all I am. And look out for the best interests of those around me.
For what it’s worth, I have no argument with any of the Ten Commandments. Although I must admit to struggling with some of the rest of the Law. In my life, I generally do fairly well with keeping this set of commandments. Even though it is not done intentionally as a way to be acceptable to God. But I find it disturbing that so many people get bent out of shape over having the Ten Commandments removed from courthouses and schools. And most of those folks probably couldn’t even tell you what all 10 even are. Let’s focus on loving God, and our neighbors. And not try to enforce, or advocate, a code of conduct that we ourselves don’t follow for the most part.
The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.
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4 thoughts on “The Ten Commandments & Christianity”
The way certain folks view God’s Law, Torah, the Mosaic Law, or simply the Law; makes me concerned for not just those who are trusting in the teachings of those whom they consider being ‘teachers’ of God’s Word, but more so, my concern is for those who teach in error… And let me just offer my apologies upfront and hopefully, you will understand that I am ordained as a Deacon in the Baptist Church, have been an adult Sunday school teacher, and fill in as Pastor… So, I do understand the challenge that comes with growing in enlightenment that challenges the Theology of our upbringing and those within our Congregation…
With this being said,1st thing 1st, we can ask; “What’s the point of Jesus having to become a perfect sacrifice?”:(Isaiah 53:5-6/NKJV) 5 But He was wounded[k] for our transgressions, He was [l]bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes[m] we are healed. 6 We are all like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, everyone, to his own way; And the Lord [n]has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
What exactly are our “Transgressions”? According to the Bible dictionary: it’s an act that goes against a law, rule, or code of conduct; an offense.
What are iniquities? According to the Bible dictionary: it’s our immoral or grossly unfair behavior, (wickedness.)
Now it was because of man’s transgressions and man’s iniquity against a Holy GOD that The Law was given, as a type of standard by which we can measure the intentions of our hearts and the results of our actions… As we now know these are our transgressions and our iniquities…
Since the fall of mankind in the Garden and man being driven out of the Garden, out of the protection of being under the rule of God…
Now it was because of man’s transgressions and man’s iniquity against a Holy GOD that The Law was given, as a type of standard by which we can measure the intentions of our hearts and the results of our actions…With a standard being firmly in place by the establishment of ‘The Law of God as it was (this act in itself, is what had imprisoned everything that is not in compliance with the standard of The Law)…
This being that all of mankind being in the flesh, and as it was by the establishment of The Law, they are all now outside of ‘The Law of God but due to the penalties thereof, we are now instead under the law of sin and death, as the wages of sin is death and all who are under this law are therefore destined to condemnation… In the book of (Romans 6:19-23) …Paul makes a point to tell us that before Christ we were by default under the law of sin and death and as such, not distinguishing between being Gentile, Jewish, or even Israelites, as they were freed from the obligations of righteousness… Paul is making it clear to all, since the implementation of ‘The Torah as being ‘The Law of God, as taught by Moses, as a by-product of the Torah, then all people will either be under the law of sin and death or if they have surrendered to Christ Jesus then under The Law of God, the Torah, as taught by Moses… There is no third option… Because Jesus is now the Power and the Authority by which the Torah operates and is now the Penalty thereof, which is why we see Paul telling us in Galatians 3:25 That after Faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor, which was Moses…
I could go on and on, however, this is not the place for this… Something to think about: We are told by men that the Torah was nailed to the cross and therefore we are no longer subject to it as Jesus fulfilled the Law. Understand, that Yes, Torah was nailed to the cross and Yes, Jesus fulfilled Torah… But what does this mean? To fulfill the Torah is that He, Jesus, lived flawlessly according to Torah, as a man in the flesh, to be as our example, and He was, therefore, exalted above all, as King of kings, thus giving Him, Jesus, back the authority as the Word… John tells us (John1) That in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was at the beginning with God and the Word was God and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and was He nailed to the cross, only to rise again 3 days later, thus God The Father exalted Him, Jesus, above all… This makes Jesus the authority of the Law as He is the actual Word!!! See my friend the devil is all so cunning and sadly a great many of us have been victimized… But God’s Word tells us, in the end, times His Gospel Truth will be revealed… Brother, I have nothing but love and admiration in my heart for you… Sir, I’ve read some of your teachings and it’s easy to see God’s hand upon you and the gifts He has endowed in you…
If these Truths speak to you as with having Eyes to see by and Ears to hear then please reach out I would love to send you my book that goes in-depth on this… It hasn’t made it back from the publisher just yet, so I can send it via DOCS… May God’s Blessings be with you my Brother in Christ Jesus! Shalom!
Your Brother in Christ, Craig D. Barnfield
Craig, Thanks for responding to my post. I am not certain though I followed all that you had to say. But I do want to comment on a couple of things.
Christ fulfilling the Law was much more than just living in perfect obedience to it. It means that he was the fulfillment of what it pointed to. The Law and the Prophets look quite different when we see them through the lens of Jesus’ fulfillment.
If I understand you correctly, you are claiming that Christians are still under the Law. And I could not disagree more. The Law served a purpose. But that purpose was to bring us to Christ. And when that purpose is accomplished, we are no longer subject to it. The Law is still useful as a guide. But it contained the terms of the Old Covenant, a covenant that has been replaced. And now the “law” if written on our hearts, not on stone, or paper.
When we read Bible we do not see distinctions between diffrent kinds of Laws. But there are few different sets of Law(s) that New Testament talks about. Poul said that Law of God is perfect, and on the other hand he talks about not being under the Law. Is it the same Law he talks about?
If law is foundation, can we build a house without it?
I like how Ray Comfort explains it. (The Way of the Master)
That the OT Law is God given, and perfect, does not mean that I have to be in subjection to it. Once the law has accomplished its purpose, in bring me to Christ, I am free from its dominion and able to serve God under his grace.
James (1:25) does talk about looking steadfastly into the perfect law that gives freedom, but that would seem to be different than the OT law that leads to slavery (Galatians 3:23-25).