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WHAT ABOUT KEEPING THE TEN COMMANDMENTS?

November 2010

Ten instructions which came from the Lord God were of such special significance that the Bible calls them “the Ten Commandments” (Exodus 34:28). Those who are familiar with the Bible are well aware of what those ten commands stated. Many people have even taken the time to memorize them.

To whom were the Ten Commandments given? The Ten Commandments are recorded in two chapters of the Bible. We first read them in Exodus 20. On that occasion, they were not given in written form, but orally. By Moses? No, by Jehovah. The people to whom the Ten Commandments were addressed were those who were at Mt. Sinai – and they were the ones whom God had just delivered out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage (Exodus 19:1; 20:1,2). Now, who would that be? Answer: the children of Israel. The second biblical record of the Ten Commandments is found in Deuteronomy 5. Again, the context makes it plain that the Ten Commandments were given only to the nation of Israel (Deuteronomy 5:1-3,15).

Of which law were the Ten Commandments a part? Answer: the Law of Moses. By the Jews’ counting, that law included over 600 distinct laws. Instead of the law consisting only of the Ten Commandments, in fact, those were only ten of the instructions contained therein. What did Jesus do with the old law? He abolished it (Ephesians 2:15). He took it out of the way in order to establish His own covenant (Hebrews 10:9). Since we are married to the Christ, it would be a form of spiritual adultery to go back and try to follow the old law at the same time we try to follow His new one (Romans 7:1-4).

So, what do you think, should we encourage people to keep the Ten Commandments today? Today we are under the authority of God’s Son and are supposed to observe all things that He instructs (Matthew 28:18,20). God wants the church to be subject unto the Christ (Ephesians 5:24). Those who have fellowship with the Godhead are those who abide in the teaching of Jesus (2 John 9). Again, when Jesus died, He abolished the old law, including the Ten Commandments.

“But Jesus encouraged people to keep the Ten Commandments.” There are recorded incidents in the life of Jesus that show that He really did teach people to follow them. For instance, He told a rich young ruler, “You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not bear false witness’ . . .” (Mark 10:17). But, remember when Jesus said that. It was during the time that the old law was still in force. During His public ministry, He also told a leper to present an offering based on what Moses commanded (Mark 1:44). Why? Because Moses’ law was still in effect at that time. If you reason that we should tell folks to keep the Ten Commandments because Jesus encouraged such, then should we also exhort people to offer sacrifices which the old law prescribed?! When the Christ died, He took away the old law – all of it.

“But if we say that we are no longer required to keep the Ten Commandments, then that means that it would be okay to murder, to steal, and do all of the other things that the Ten Commandments forbid people to do.” That is a false conclusion. The New Testament condemns stealing (Ephesians 4:28). Stealing is not wrong because the Ten Commandments said so, but because that is what the gospel teaches. Murder is wrong, but not because of the Ten Commandments. Murder is wrong today because the new covenant says so (Galatians 5:21).

What must a person do in order to be in the right relationship with our Creator? The answer that some suggest is that all one must do is keep the Ten Commandments. There are a great number of folks, in fact, who take comfort in the thought that they keep the Ten Commandments (or at least they think they do). Here are a couple of questions for thought. Can one be saved without believing in Jesus as the Son of God? No – belief in the Christ is essential in order to have eternal life (John 3:14-18). But what do the Ten Commandments teach us about the Deity of Jesus? Not one word. What about the forgiveness of sins? What did the Ten Commandments say about salvation or forgiveness? Again, nothing at all. Thus, it is folly to turn to the Ten Commandments in order to find out what to do in order to be saved and to be in the right relationship with God.

Consider one final matter. The fourth of the Ten Commands was the instruction to keep the Sabbath. That meant that the sixth day of the week (Saturday) was a day in which Israelites were not allowed to work (Exodus 20:8-11). Under the new covenant of God’s Son, there is no such restriction on working on Saturday. The Sabbath law is no longer binding.

Roger D. Campbell

TRUTH is published monthly by the Klang church of Christ in order to help educate, edify, encourage, and equip the saints of God.

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