I have been hearing some controversial teaching lately about whether the 10 commandments are still applicable for today or not. As one who is called as a teacher in the body of Christ, I would like to try to bring a balanced word about the subject. My answer is, yes. Let me explain why I say that.
There are basically three different types of law referenced in the old testament:
- The ceremonial laws (having to do with the temple worship, sacrifices, rituals, etc.)
- The judicial or national laws that the Jewish people were governed by.
- The moral laws.
Christ has fulfilled the ceremonial laws, which are the laws that required the priests to offer animal sacrifices for their own sins and the sins of the people, go through all types of ritual cleansings, etc., which were all a type and a shadow pointing us to the time when Christ would come and be the one final sacrifice for our sins. Clearly the scriptures tell us that we are no longer required to practice the ceremonial laws (see Hebrews 10:14, Romans 10:4).
As far as the judicial or national laws go, our national (or federal and state laws and the laws of most societies) are based off of much of the old testament law; Thou shall not kill (murder), steal, bear false witness (perjury), etc. all stem from the laws that were given by God to the Jewish people, but we are not a theocracy (a nation ruled by God, through the priests) as the Jewish nation was.
In Matthew 5:17-20, Jesus said: 17 Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (NIV). Jesus then proceeds to give the proper interpretation of the moral laws of the old testament versus the teachings of the Pharisees and teachers of the law. So clearly, I believe Jesus was establishing that these moral laws are forever. In fact, all of the moral laws such as Thou shall not kill, steal, commit adultery, lie, covet, etc., have been repeated in the New Testament (see Galatians 5:19-22, Ephesians 4:25, 5:3-6, 6:1-3). God is a holy God who still wants His people to live holy lives, He has not changed in His nature (see 1st Peter 1:16).
There was nothing wrong with the law, in fact, the Apostle Paul said in Romans 7:12 “Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.” The problem he explains in chapter 7 is that the law incites our rebellious nature to want to sin and he talks about the battle that goes on between our flesh (our sin nature) and our spirit (where the Holy Spirit resides when we are born again), but in chapter 8 of Romans, he gives the answer to this problem. Romans 8:3-4 states: “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (NKJV). So the problem was not with the law, but with the fact that we had a sinful nature and lacked the power within ourselves to keep the law perfectly. Therefore Jesus took our condemnation and fulfilled the righteous requirements of the law and did away with the old testament system (the old covenant) that brought condemnation on us (because it was fulfilled by Christ) and established the new covenant (Ephesians 2:15, Colossians 2:14, Heb. 7:18-19).
The new covenant meant that Jesus paid the price for our sins, but He also gave us His Holy Spirit that gives us the power and the desire to obey Him. (Phil. 2:13). The Lord gave us imputed righteousness (meaning we have the righteousness of Christ credited to our account, (see Romans 4:22-25), but He also gave us the power of the Holy Spirit that enables us to live a holy life. The Lord knows we will not be perfect, because we still have a sinful nature, but the more we learn to abide in Him, the more we will see the fruit of the Holy Spirit being produced in our lives. It is not hard to obey the moral laws or principles of God when you love Him and are abiding in Him (John 15). We do not obey the Lord in order to earn our salvation, but because we have been saved and have a new nature that gives us the desire and the ability to obey Him, but also grace and mercy for our failures.
In the Old Testament times, the laws were written on tablets of stone, but today, they are written on the tablet of our heart. Jesus said: Whoever loves me will obey me and keep my commandments (Hebrews 10:16-17, John 14:15, 23-24).
Again, Jesus said, “All the law and the prophets are summed up in these two things: love the Lord, you God, with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength (the first three of the 10 commandments), and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22:40). So every law that the Lord gave us under the old covenant was designed to teach us how to do those two things. Can you see the Father’s heart (the Spirit) behind the law in wanting to protect us, teaching us how to love Him, how to protect our marriages, have good relationships between parents and children, love our neighbors, etc., but we lacked the power until Jesus came and made that final sacrifice. Oh how He loves you and me! I John 5:3 says: For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. It’s not a burden to obey God when you love Him, but we don’t accomplish it by striving in our own power. It comes as we focus on the finished work of the cross, the free gift of righteousness, God’s nature and love for us, etc. (II Corinthians 3:4-6). Obedience is born out of a love relationship with God and the empowerment that comes from abiding in Him. God bless you all.