the ten commandments
Many Christian preachers today confidently announce that new covenant Christians don't have to worry about the Ten Commandments. The idea is that the law of love has replaced them and to embrace God's law in an age of grace is legalism.
God's law is legal but not legalistic. Marriage is legal but not legalistic.
It's true that love is the intent of God's law, because without love the law reduces to slavish ritual.
Here are some road-blocks to the idea the Ten Commandments were dumped under the new covenant:
TEN COMMANDMENTS UNDER THE NEW COVENANT
- Jesus had a positive attitude to the Ten Commandments. (Matthew 5:17-48; 10:17;19:16-19; 21:35-40; Mark 7:6-13; Luke 10:5-28).
- As evidence of heart faithfulness to the 1st tablet of the Ten Commandments (1-4), Jesus and Paul quote the 2nd tablet (5-10). The New Testament often alludes at the 1st tablet's contents without actually quoting them. e.g. the 4th commandment is alluded to in Acts 4:24; 14:15; Revelation 10:6; 14:7.
- Jesus' attempts to clean up the Sabbath from fanatical abuse cost Him His life (John 5: 16-18). Jesus wouldn't define and defend the Sabbath if He intended it be dumped a short time later.
- The gospel commission asks that we proclaim everything Jesus taught while He was on earth. (Matthew 28:18,19; 5:18-19). Everything Jesus taught was firmly in place before His death and sealed into the new covenant by His blood. Because He didn't scrap the Ten Commandments before He died, it logically follows they're part of the new covenant.
- It's true the Ten Commandments are expressed in Jewish terminology, but if that's a reason for dumping them, then we should jettison the Sermon on the Mount, the Great Commission and the phenomenon of the incarnation because they're also expressed in Jewish terminology.
- If we cherry pick some of Paul's writings to make us feel better about abandoning the Ten Commandments we overlook what he says in 1 Corinthians 7:19 where he distinguishes between the temporary and the eternal. He uses ἐντολῶν for 'commandments' meaning the Ten Commandments. (see last section).
- Some Christians dump the Sabbath commandment because the New Testament is silent about it. However, the Sabbath is not mentioned in Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song Of Solomon, it's barely mentioned 900 years after the Exodus, 700 years from Joshua’s time and 150 yrs from Elisha’s time - but we know it was kept in those times. The New Testament is also silent about the old covenant laws of incest, but Paul assumes they're still binding in 1 Corinthians 5. Silence is a weak substitute for God's authoritative voice from Mt Sinai.
- Paul’s anti-law warnings are a bridle on fanatical legal compliance rather than a spur to obey. He tends to urge restraint rather than a direct command because of the rampant legalism in his day. Paul's warnings apply whenever we find ourselves 'married' to law in a works-based effort to bear spiritual fruit.
- Hagar was in the correct place as a servant but in the wrong place in Abraham’s bed. To presume Paul argues for something contrary to Christ’s teachings is high risk, because Paul saw himself as Christ’s agent - not a competing authority (1 Corinthians 3:11; 7:10).
- The New Testament doesn’t legislate afresh God's law - it presumes it. The Ten Commandments aren't re-enacted in the New Testament because it assumes they're an enduring foundation (2 Timothy 3:15).
- Nowhere does the New Testament come up with a new type of religion without law. This is because Christians are grafted into Israel and not a separate plant on its own. Old and New Testaments are man-made divisions.
- It's true that faith and love motivate behavior but they don't provide content. If Spirit-filled Adam and Eve before The Fall needed specific commands, how much more do we?
- As we think long and hard about Jesus’ life and death, our conduct will spontaneously reflect the principles of the Ten Commandments, because Jesus was the law incarnate.
- When we abide in Jesus the legal prohibitions of the Ten Commandments become ten promises of grace.
- It's true under the new covenant the Ten Commandments are written on our hearts - but they're still the Ten Commandments.
- We need the compact guide of the Ten Commandments to steer our conduct because open-ended ideals on their own don't cut it. Most of us are not learned, intellectual or spiritual giants. If we dump the Ten Commandments in favor of vague guidance, we're left wobbly and vulnerable.
LAST WORD ON THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
Revelation is the Bible's last book. It's also a new covenant book because it was written 66 years after the Cross.
It was written by John the beloved disciple (who also wrote John's gospel) and Revelation defends the Ten Commandments. See Revelation 12:17; 14:12; 22:14.
New covenant Christians preparing for Christ’s return are described as ‘commandment keepers’ in Revelation 12:17; 14:12 and 22:14. If the Ten Commandments were scrapped at the cross, these verses make no sense.
How can we be sure the term 'commandments' in Revelation actually means the Ten Commandments?
The Greek word for 'the commandments' (τὰς ἐντολάς) in Revelation 12:17; 14:12; 22:14 is also used in Jesus' discussion with the rich young ruler about the Ten Commandments (Matthew 19:17; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20).
Jesus uses τὰς ἐντολάς in John 14:15, 21; 15:10 and links commandment keeping to loving Him.
John uses τὰς ἐντολάς in 1 John 2:3-4; 3:23-24; 5:2-3; 2 John 1:6 and links commandment keeping to knowing and loving God.
We can safely conclude that under the new covenant the Ten Commandments are plainly in view in Revelation 12:17; 14:12 and 22:14.
We shouldn't be surprised to learn which dark force is against God's law. See Revelation 12:17 - verse 9 defines 'the dragon' as Satan.
If you're still in doubt, love for God should lead us to at least defend, support and uphold the only piece of writing He directly wrote Himself.