Many professing believers in Christ believe that the Ten Commandments were abolished by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. Some believe that Christ came to do away with those difficult commandments. Some others believe that He reinstituted only some of them. Some others assume that He replaced the Ten Commandments with a new commandment. Although these people may be sincere, they are deceived by the “god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4; Rev. 12:9), who has used his false ministers to brainwash them with false doctrine (2 Cor. 11:13-15).
Instead of allowing the Bible to interpret itself, most people read into Scripture whatever meaning they already have been handed and assume is correct. They neither study Scripture to grow more in the Lord nor search the Scriptures to find out whether what they hear from any minister is true or not (The Berean Christians in Acts 17:11 searched the Scriptures to find out whether what they heard was true or not). Such people skim over what Christ said: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17). This is the same Lord who said: “The Lord is well pleased for His righteousness’ sake; He will exalt the law and make it honorable” (Isa. 42:21).
How about you? Will you allow the Bible to interpret itself? Will you approach God’s Word with an open, teachable mind and allow God to speak to you through His Word? If you do so, you have already started in the correct direction. You have set yourself apart from those of whom Jesus said, “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men … All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition” (Mark 7:6-9).
God founded His Church on the teachings of His apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone (Eph. 2:19-20). Those of the true Church have always continued to keep the apostles’ teachings (Acts 2:42).
So, did Jesus Christ teach the Ten Commandments? Did He command His apostles to do the same? Are all the Ten Commandments taught and enforced in the New Testament? Did Paul the apostle teach them to the Gentiles? What about the book of James?
The First Great Commandment
The first four of the Ten Commandments instruct man how to love God: “You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image – any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Ex. 20:3-8). Jesus summarized these four saying, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment” (Matt. 22:37-38).
When Satan tempted Jesus when He fasted in the wilderness, Jesus quoted the FIRST COMMANDMENT: “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve’” (Matt. 4:10; Luke 4:8).
Jesus referred to the SECOND COMMANDMENT in John 4:24 when He taught that men cannot use any idol, be it any physical object, image, or aid, to worship a spiritual God – “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Paul the apostle also taught the SECOND COMMANDMENT – “And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play”” (1 Cor. 10:7). Carnal-minded Israelites did not have the patience to worship an unseen God, so they made a physical ‘god’ to satisfy their carnal, physical lusts. God knew this would happen. Throughout the history of mankind, to an extent, man has rejected his Creator in order to worship something He created (Rom. 1:18-25).
In Matthew 15, Jesus taught against breaking several of God’s Ten Commandments: “…For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders [SIXTH COMMANDMENT], adulteries [SEVENTH COMMANDMENT],fornications, thefts [EIGHTH COMMANDMENT], false witness [NINTH COMMANDMENT], blasphemies [THIRD COMMANDMENT]” (Matt. 15:18-19). The Greek word used for ‘blasphemies’ is blasphemiai, which means “reviling,” “evil speaking,” or “vilification against God.” In short, it means taking God’s name in vain.
Paul also commanded believers not to do such things: “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth” (Col. 3:8).
The observance of the FOURTH COMMANDMENT – observing the Sabbath is also seen in the New Testament. The actual Sabbath command was to remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, and do no work on the Sabbath day (Ex. 20:8-11). The fourth commandment is unique among the Ten Commandments in containing both ceremonial and moral elements. It establishes a key element in a religious calendar (applicable to the Jews), assigning one day in seven as holy. But it is also moral, instructing people to be imitators of God in His rest from the work of creation, and to use His gift of time for sacred purposes (applicable to every human being).
It is interesting to note that on certain occasions, Jesus violated the first-century Jewish ceremonial customs regarding the Sabbath (Matt. 12:10-13; Luke 13:10-17). He defended His disciples when they violated the Sabbath customs (Matt. 12:1-8), even though Old Testament law prescribed the death penalty for those who worked on that sacred day (Ex. 31:14-15; 35:2). Paul the apostle also did not stress that Christians need to maintain Jewish customs related to the calendar (Rom. 14:5; Col. 2:16). At the same time, Jesus never said to forget the Sabbath completely. He observed the Sabbath (Luke 4:16). Jesus was careful to keep the moral aspects of the FOURTH COMMANDMENT, stating that “it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” (Matt. 12:12). Beyond the ceremonial aspect, He focused on the moral aspect (the sacred use of time). The first Christians came from among the Jews who continued to observe the Sabbath (Acts 13:14; 17:1-2; 18:1-4).
Every day, especially the Lord’s Day, is to be used to undertake the work of God. The key to keeping the Sabbath is not merely rest. It should not be a day of slothful inactivity, but in our rest we should turn our attention to God. The basis for this is God resting on the seventh day after creating the universe in six days (Ex. 20:11). So the Sabbath should be a day of spiritual service and worship of God, to be set apart for the Lord and focus on Him.
The Second Great Commandment
The last six of the Ten Commandments instruct man on how to love his neighbour: “Honor your father and your mother … You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet …” (Ex. 20:12-17). Centuries later, Jesus said that anyone who wants to enter into eternal life must keep these same commandments: “You shall not murder [SIXTH COMMANDMENT], You shall not commit adultery [SEVENTH COMMANDMENT], You shall not steal [EIGHTH COMMANDMENT], You shall not bear false witness [NINTH COMMANDMENT], Honor your father and your mother [FIFTH COMMANDMENT]” (Matt. 19:18-19). Jesus summarized these as “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” the second great commandment (Matt. 22:39).
Paul the apostle taught these same commandments to Gentile Christians in Rome. “For the commandments, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, You shall not covet, and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Rom. 13:9). Paul commanded Christians to obey the Fifth Commandment by honoring their parents (Eph. 6:2). He instructed them to obey the Ninth Commandment: “Therefore, putting away lying, let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor” (Eph. 4:25). He stressed the importance of the Tenth Commandment when he said, “… I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet”” (Rom. 7:7).
The apostle James warned about the danger of breaking the Tenth Commandment when he said, “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (Jas. 1:14-15). He continued, “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (Jas. 4:1-3).
All these verses clearly show that all of the Ten Commandments were taught and stressed throughout the New Testament. This is the reason why the apostle John wrote, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:2-3).
A New Commandment?
Even after examining all these Biblical verses, some will still believe that the Ten Commandments were abolished, and may even claim that they were ‘replaced’ by the ‘new commandment’ Jesus and John had taught. So, what does this ‘new commandment’ imply? Does it supplant the Ten Commandments?
In Matt. 22:39, Jesus said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” In John 13:34-35, He said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” In fact, Jesus gave a new and higher standard – to love others as Jesus loved us. Only those who have God’s Holy Spirit dwelling in them, can love others the way Jesus does. This is because, “… the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His” (Rom. 8:7-9). Again Rom. 8:14 says, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” All these verses describe the attributes of true believers in Jesus.
Jesus commanded His disciples, “Love one another, as I have loved you.” Later in Acts 2, they were baptized in the Holy Spirit, and the New Testament Church was birthed. From that moment onwards, they had the Holy Spirit residing in them. This applies to everyone even now. Only true believers in Christ (born-again children of God) can hope to love others as Christ loved, since God’s Spirit resides in them. The Holy Spirit sets God’s people apart from the world, renewing and transforming their minds into the mind of Christ. The Holy Spirit helps and empowers the Christian mind, and enables it to love others the way God and Jesus does. Without the Holy Spirit, no one can perfectly love as in 1 Cor. 13:4-8, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”
In John’s epistles, he has much to say about the importance of obeying God’s commandments. He says in 1 John 2:3-4, “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” 1 John 5:3 says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” 2 John 5-6 says, “… not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning: that we love one another. This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.”
The Ten Commandments were in force even before Moses, and they have existed right from the time of creation, since they are the moral laws of God. In the New Testament, all the Ten Commandments are reinforced and they have validity even today.
Application for us
The author of Hebrews says, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them” (Heb. 10:16). Rather than abolishing the law, God said He would write His Laws in our hearts and minds. Prov. 3:1-3 says, “My son, do not forget my law, but let your heart keep my commands; For length of days and long life and peace they will add to you. Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart.” Man was hardhearted and rebellious to God’s law: “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). Even when He gave the Law in written form at Mt. Sinai, He knew man’s heart was against Him: “Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!” (Deut. 5:29).
At Mt. Sinai, on the Day of Pentecost, the Law was codified by God onto tablets of stone (Ex. 19-20). In Acts 2, the Spirit of God was sent on Pentecost to write His law in the tablets of our hearts (2 Cor. 3:3; Jer. 31:33). God had to take out our heart of stone which would not accept His Law (Rom. 8:7), and He had to create in us a new heart and give us His Spirit so that we can overcome our evil ways and walk in His ways: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them” (Ezek. 36:26-27). With the new heart that He has created in us and with the Holy Spirit’s help, we can joyfully say “I delight to do Your will, O my God, And Your law is within my heart” (Ps. 40:8).