Must I keep the Ten Commandments today?

The people of Israel, in their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, came at length to Sinai. There the people encamped round about the sacred mount as Moses went up unto God. The Lord spake to Moses and said: . . . Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; You have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if you will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then you shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:" (Exodus 19:3-5)

The law or covenant was written on tables of stone by the finger of God Himself (Exodus 31:18). When Moses came down from the mount, and witnessed the intervening idolatry of the people in designing the golden calf, he threw down the tablets and broke them (Exodus 32:19). God called him again into the mount and rewrote them (Exodus 34:1). It appears from Exodus 34:27, that Moses made copies of the tables for the people. The copy which God made was placed in the ark of the covenant (Deuteronomy 10:5), and was not available to the people.

The ten commandments are the very essence of the old/first covenant:

  1. Exodus 34:27-28: "Then the Lord said to Moses, "Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel." So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did not eat bread or drink water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments."
  2. Deuteronomy 4:13: "So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone.
  3. Deuteronomy 9:9: "When I went up to the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant which the Lord had made with you, then I remained on the mountain forty days and nights; I neither ate bread nor drank water.
  4. Deuteronomy 5:2-3: "The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. The Lord did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, with all those of us alive here today."
  5. 1 Kings 8:9,21: V9 There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets of stone which Moses put there at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the sons of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt." ... V21 "And there I have set a place for the ark, in which is the covenant of the Lord, which He made with our fathers when He brought them from the land of Egypt."
  6. 2 Chronicles 6:11: "And there I have set the ark, in which is the covenant of the Lord, which He made with the sons of Israel."
  7. Hebrews 9:1,4 "Now even the first covenant had ... the tables of the covenant"

10 Commandments (old covenant) abolished

Let it be remembered that the law of Moses was the constitution of ancient Israel and ended at the cross (Colossians 2:14). It was a covenant solely between God and Israel (Deuteronomy 5:2). It was to last until Christ came (Galatians 3:16-24). The ten commandments were a vital part of the entire law of Moses (Romans 7:7). Hebrews 8:13 clearly teaches us that the old covenant (the 10 commandments) are all abolished. However, for those under the new covenant we are to hear Jesus and not Moses:

"Wherefore, my brethren, you also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that you should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God" (Romans 7:4).

We are, therefore, not under the law issuing from Sinai. Instead, we are answerable to God under the "new and living way" (Hebrews 10:20) which became operative on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ. Nine of the ten commandments of the decalogue are now a part of the new covenant. Not that these commands were "carried over" or "retained"; but rather they have been restated in the new covenant and even modified somewhat by our Lord. Nine of these ten precepts have always been right, by their very nature, and they always will be right. They were right before Moses ever presented them to the people on tables of stone. They are moral laws that are inherently correct. Since these nine laws did not originate with the Law of Moses, they also did not end with it. Let us notice the ten commandments separately and their application to the new covenant.

1. "Thou shalt have no other gods before me."

This first commandment forbids idolatry. It affirms the existence of but one true God, thus denying polytheism and atheism. Faith in one God has always been right. Thus when Paul and Barnabas were hailed as Roman gods by the citizens of Lystra, the preachers cried out, ". . . We also are men of like passions with you., and preach unto you that you should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:" (Acts 14:15).

2. "Thou shall not make unto thee a graven image

" is the second commandment of the decalogue. The 1959 National Catholic Almanac, in listing the ten commandments, leaves out the second and makes two commandments of the last in order to total ten. Their reason is obvious: their practice of worshipping images is clearly prohibited; and thus, they audaciously change God's Holy Word to accommodate their practice. Again, the second commandment has .. always been right. The New Covenant says: "God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwells not in temples made with hands;..... For as much then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device: (Acts 17:24,29).

3. The third commandment "Thou shalt not take the name of Jehovah thy God in vain"

forbids false swearing, blasphemy or any irreverent use of the names of God. In the New Testament we read: "Let no corrupt communications proceed out of your mouth . . . " (Eph. 4:29). In James 3:9, speaking in reference to the tongue, the writer says: "Therewith bless we God, - - - ". It is just as wrong to use the Lord's name in a flippant manner today as it was then.

4. The fourth commandment, -"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy"

enjoined upon the Israelites the observance of seventh-day worship. They were required to keep it as a memorial of their deliverance from Egypt (Exodus 31:12-17). Inasmuch as we are not Israelites (descendants of Jacob), and we were never in Egyptian bondage, it is not now, nor was it ever applicable to us as Gentiles. Moreover, it was not included in the New Covenant and was, in fact, terminated at the cross of Calvary (Colossians 2:14). The last time the Sabbath is mentioned in the New Testament is in Colossians 2:16. There Paul issues a warning against those who would seek to bind it. The only commandment peculiar to the Israelite order was the law of the Sabbath. Christians meet for worship today, not on the Jewish Sabbath, but the Lord's day, the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; I Cor. 16:1,2; Rev. 1:10).

5. The fifth commandment is: "Honor thy father and thy mother."

This forbids disrespect and disobedience to parents. The new covenant states similarly: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honor thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise." (Ephesians 6:1,2).

6. The sixth commandment, "Thou shalt not kill,"

forbids murder, the unlawful taking of life. The Old Testament distinguished between justifiable homicide and murder, or killing out of anger for retaliation. Before the law was given to Moses, it is written: "Who ever sheds man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed. . . " (Genesis 9:6). During the lifetime of the law many incidents might be cited where killing was used as a punishment (Numbers 15:32). In the New Testament John, the apostle, wrote: "Whoso hateth his brother is a murderer: and you know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him" (John 3:15).

7. The seventh commandment, "Thou shall not commit adultery"

is an attack against all sexual uncleanness and illicit relationships. It was designed to protect the home and marriage. The Lord taught that wedlock could only be broken by death or fornication (Matthew 19:9; Romans 7:2). Adultery has always been a sin against God (Genesis 39:9). In the New Testament, Paul states simply: "Flee fornication . . . he that committeth fornication sinneth against his owil body" (I Corinthians 6:18). Jesus went one step further in stating: "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matthew 5:27,28).

8. The eighth commandment "Thou shard not steal"

was designed to make clear one's inherent rights with property. To steal is to disregard these rights. Again the New Testament speaks: "Let him that stole steal no more; but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to given to him that needeth" (Ephesians 4:28). Not only is stealing prohibited; positive action is to take its place. We are to work with our hands that which is good.

9. The ninth commandment "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor"

condemns not only lying but gossiping, whispering, talebearing, slander and perjury (as in a court of law). In Revelation 21:8 John writes: 11..... all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death." Paul wrote of the "whisperers, and backbiters" as facing the judgement of God and being worthy of death"

10. The tenth commandment "Thou shalt not covet"

is obviously a warning against covetousness. It is, to put it simply, to want that for which one is not willing to pay, or for that for which there is no lawful exchange. To "covet" is, therefore, to long for something we cannot get in a legal or proper manner. The New Testament warns time and again about this . insidious sin. In Ephesians 5:5, the writer says: "For this you know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God."

Therefore from what we have studied concerning the Ten Commandments, we can see that nine of those ten are still laws that we live by. All, except the fourth "Remember the Sabbath day", . have been right from the beginning and always will be. They have been restated in the New Covenant and given even a more extended meaning.

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