Must Christians obey the Ten Commandments?
Are the Ten Commandments a “minimum standard” for Christian behaviour?
The Ten Commandments were part of the Law of Moses, which incorporated 613 commandments in total. The New Testament says that no-one will be justified by observing the Law [Galatians 2:16].
... a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.×
Even the apostle Paul said that he could not keep the Ten Commandments. He failed at number ten [Romans 7:7-8].
“What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘Do not covet.’ But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead.”×
To fail at even one point in the Law is to fail at all the Law [James 2:10].
“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”×
Christians are not under the Law of Moses [Romans 6:14].
“For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.”×
The Law of Moses has been nailed to the cross [Colossians 2:13-14].
“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross.”×
Christians live under a higher law – the command to love one another [John 13:34-35, Romans 13:10, James 2:8]. When Jesus says: "If you love Me, keep My commandments [John 14:15], He is not talking about the commandments in the Law of Moses. These were injunctions on the people of Israel – never on gentiles.
Christians live under a higher law – the command to love one another
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”
Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.×
“If you love Me, keep My commands.”×
Non-Jews, like me, and probably you too, were “without God and without hope in the world” [Ephesians 2:12] until we came directly into the new covenant with God through faith in Jesus Christ.
... remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.×
Jesus’ commandments are to do with the state of our hearts, to do with love, forbearance, grace, mercy, compassion.
The over-arching command to love one another is one that we must recognise as being impossible to obey in our own strength. However, the Christian life is one in which we are being changed little by little into the image of Jesus Christ. It is a journey. The power of God is available to enable us. We must co-operate with the Holy Spirit in the process.
The Christian life of faith is about relationship with Jesus Christ, not about rules and not about ritualistic observances. The imperative is to abide in Jesus [John 15:4-5].
“Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.”×
Why did God give the Law?
To show that His standard is not just high, it’s perfection.
To show that nobody measures up.
To show our need of a Saviour.
To point to that Saviour.
And, praise God, that Saviour, Jesus the Christ, has done for us what we could never do for ourselves. Those who trust in Him will not be condemned (Rom 8:1)
The New Covenant
A huge change took place when Jesus was crucified. To unbelievers it seems like a minor event, but in the Spirit things changed. A new covenant was instituted by God – sealed through Jesus’ blood. His resurrection proved that those who believe in Him will live forever.
The New Covenant STARTS at the END of the Gospels. Read your Bible with that in mind. There are conditions before the cross of Christ, and a whole new order after.×
The need for a Saviour
This may help you when you read the Gospels. Jesus said: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” (Mt 15:24). Jesus was a Jew, speaking to Jews who were under the Law of Moses. To obey all the Law, which they had to do, is very very hard. Jesus made it harder. To be angry, for example, is as bad as murder (Mt 5:21-22).
You won’t make it on your own. Jews need a Saviour. We need a Saviour. At the cross Jesus paid our debt. We are saved by faith in Him.×
Look to Jesus
Don’t Think About Your Breathing! Did that help you? You weren’t aware of breathing. Now you are. The Law is like that. It makes sin obvious. But it doesn’t get rid of sin.
As a pastor, I’ve preached holy living. Maybe too much. I wanted people to know: God loves repentant sinners, but hates sin.
The solution to sin is to get our eyes off ourselves. Look to Jesus. Get lost in His love. Then He cleans us up, bit by bit. Because we can’t. You’re not that good.×