I Don’t Keep Any Of The Ten Commandments
William J. Stewart | Odessa, Ontario, Canada
When speaking with folks about the distinction between the Old and New Testaments, I will, to make a vivid point, often declare, “I don’t keep any of the Ten Commandments.” You ought to see the look such a statement elicits on the face of some people. Now, what do |I mean by that statement? I acknowledge the God of heaven and worship Him alone. I do not serve false gods. I do not misuse the name of God. I worship on the day which God has prescribed. I render the appropriate respect to my parents. I do not murder. I do not commit fornication. I do not steal. I do not lie. I do not covet other people’s goods. And yet, I earnestly say, “I don’t keep any of the Ten Commandments.”
The Ten Commandments (and indeed, the whole Law of Moses) were not given for me to keep, but for the people of Israel (Deuteronomy 4:44-45; 5:1-3). As we consider the testimony of Scripture, it ought to become evident that we are not under the Law of Christ, not the Law of Moses. Consider:
Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.
Many will use this text to affirm that the Law would never cease, but the careful Bible student will realize that Jesus is saying just the opposite. In verse 17, the Lord states unequivocally that He came to fulfill the Law. In the next verse, He plainly indicates what would take place once it was fulfilled – it would pass away.
A parent may tell a child not to get off a chair until his “time out” is over. A union leader may tell management that the workers will not return until all their demands are met. There are countless statements where a given result will occur once a condition has been met. Shall we leave the child on the chair even after the “time out” is completed? Shall the workers forsake their jobs even after their demands have been satisfied? Of course not. Neither should we affirm the perpetuation of the Law, for the Lord has fulfilled it.
ACTS 15:1, 5
Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved. … It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.
These two statements were made by some first century Jewish Christians with regard to the Gentile converts to Christ. They, like some today, were proponents of the Law, and sought to bind it upon believers. Notice what the apostles had to say of them and their position:
- Peter asked, “…why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither you nor your fathers were able to bear?” (15:10)
- James, considering the coming of the Gentiles to Christ, in view of prophecy, stated, “…we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God…” (15:19)
- The apostles distinguished themselves from the Law proponents, declaring, “…we gave no such commandment…” (15:24)
- The apostles, inspired of God, wrote to the Gentiles, saying, “…it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.” (15:28-29)
Those who affirm that we are still subject to the Law of Moses today set themselves against the apostles of Christ and the Holy Spirit himself.
But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
Paul revealed the purpose of the Law of Moses. It guarded the hearts of the Jews until faith came. Not personal faith, for personal faith has existed since creation began. The faith spoke of is the law of faith, which would be revealed in Christ. But notice, when the faith came (ie. the New Testament Law, the Gospel), then “…we are no longer under a tutor.” The purpose of the law had been served. Now, we are God’s people, not by the Law of Moses, but “…through faith in Christ Jesus.” (NOTE, it was only the Jews who had been kept under guard by the law, the Gentiles were never under the law)
For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says, ‘Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah – not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the days when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.’ In that He says, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
Two covenants are under consideration here, the first being established through Moses, the second, through the Christ. In bringing forth a new covenant, what did God plan for the former? Was it to remain, and be kept in conjunction with the second? The Hebrew writer uses words such as “obsolete,” “growing old,” and “ready to vanish away” to describe the Law of Moses. We are not subject to the covenant established by God with Israel at Mount Sinai. We are subject to the law established with the entire world through the Christ at Calvary.
Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Indeed, I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
Those who contend that we are still subject to Moses’ law today fail to be consistent with their own claim. Paul indicated that if one presumes to keep part of the law, they are indebted to keep the whole law (v 3). Do those who claim to keep the law today continue in the sacrifices prescribed? Do they observe the feasts in the way they are commanded? Do they hold to the penalties instructed for crimes and offences under Moses’ law? Some who claim we should keep Moses’ Law even fail to keep the Sabbath day as instructed in the Law. Their claim fails support through their actions.
In Galatians 5, Paul wrote to Gentile Christians whom Judaizing teachers pressured to receive circumcision in obedience to the Law of Moses (the same issue which existed in Acts 15), Paul’s message was clear – don’t do it! You have been made free in Christ, why would you turn to a law of bondage (cf. Galatians 2:4)? To seek to be justified by Moses’ law is to separate oneself from Christ.
…having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.
What was the handwriting of requirements that was against and contrary to us? It is the law of Moses. Recall Peter’s statement in Acts 15 – the law was a yoke “…which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear.” It was “taken out of the way … nailed to the cross.” The Law of Moses had “become obsolete” and was “ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8). That being the case, Paul urged the disciples not to allow people to judge them in matters related to the Law – food, drink, festivals, new moons, sabbaths. The disciples of Christ are not subject to these laws or any laws from Moses. He identifies the Law as a shadow – the reality, the true, is found in Christ and His law, the gospel.
Well, hang on. I said earlier that I acknowledge the one true God, worship Him alone, I don’t misuse His name and I worship on the day He prescribed. I have respect for my parents, I do not murder, commit fornication, steal, lie or covet my neighbour’s goods. By definition, am I not keeping the Ten Commandments? Nope, not a one. All of the commandments (except the Sabbath law) are repeated in the New Testament (Matthew 4:10; 1 Corinthians 10:14; 1 Timothy 6:1; Colossians 3:20; Romans 13:9; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Ephesians 4:28; Colossians 3:9; Hebrews 13:5). The Sabbath is not repeated, for the prescribed day of worship in the New Testament is the first day of the week (Matthew 28:1-2; John 20:19; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2).
Friend, we are not subject to Moses’ law. It was not and is not our law, not even the Ten Commandments. We are subject to Christ, to the message of the gospel as revealed through the New Testament.