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Are Christians Still Under the Ten Commandments? Part 1

by Chris St James

Hebrews 8:13
By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.

Jeremiah 31
31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD:

There is quite a bit of confusion and misunderstanding among followers of Christ concerning the Ten Commandments; the Law of Moses and the Law of Christ.

Those who say that we are still under the law of Moses ask; “if you don’t believe that we are under the ten commandments, then do you must think its okay to murder and steal”!

Those who say we are no longer under the ten commandments may say something like; “we are no longer under the ten commandments but, nine of the ten (excepting the Sabbath) still apply to us today”.

Ten commandment adherents point to the number of times the Sabbath is mentioned in the New Testament and "new covenant adherents" may quote Colossians 2; that the Law was nailed to the cross. The question then is this; what does the Bible say about the Law of Moses and the law Christians are to live under?

Were the Ten Commandments the First Law of God?

The ten commandments were given to the Israelites on Mount Horeb:

Deuteronomy 5

1 And Moses called all Israel, and said unto them, Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and keep, and do them. 2 The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. 3 The LORD made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day.

4 The LORD talked with you face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire, 5 (I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to shew you the word of the LORD: for ye were afraid by reason of the fire, and went not up into the mount;) saying, 6 I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

7 Thou shalt have none other gods before me. 8 Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth: 9 Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me,

10 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments. 11 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. 12 Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee.

13 Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work: 14 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou.

15 And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.
16 Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

17 Thou shalt not kill.

18 Neither shalt thou commit adultery.

19 Neither shalt thou steal.

20 Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbour.

21 Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour's wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour's house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour's.

22 These words the LORD spake unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice: and he added no more. And he wrote them in two tables of stone, and delivered them unto me.

Note that in verses 1 and 2 that it is Israel with which God makes this covenant. Notice in verse 3 that this covenant was different than any covenant made with their fathers.

Note further that the ten commandments were included in this covenant and that it appears from this passage that the Sabbath observance is tied to an event that applies solely to the Israelites (verses 14 & 15)

The answer to the question posed in this section is that the law of Moses, was different than covenants made with others before them. Now, we know that there was sin prior to the giving of the law, --before that law given here to the Israelites.

For instance the sin of Cain;,the sin of Adam and Eve, so that those violations of God’s law occurred outside of the ten commandment covenant. Thus, we can see that there was sin and even judgment because of sin (the flood) that occurred prior to the Law of Moses being given.

Hence, we know that the essential principles of God’s law and sin have been there from the beginning.

Were the Ten Commandments the Only Law of God AFTER the Law Was Given to Moses?

We have seen that the Law of Moses was contained in a covenant between the Israelites and God. Some may appreciate that but believe that Christians were somehow added to that covenant at a later time. However, I think a case can be made that even after the Law was given to Moses, that God judged men of that time by His Law— but not by the law of Moses.

At that time, foreigners could become acolytes and subject themselves to the Law of Moses by essentially becoming Israelites and living as the Israelites did. The question is, were there Gentiles obedient to God’s law during the time of the Old Testament who were not under the Law of Moses?

Clearly if anyone pleased God during that time who was not an Israelite nor an acolyte, there was another law of God operating even then.

The Apostle Paul wrote: Romans 2

14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law,

15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.)

During the "Law of Moses period", Jonah was sent by God to warn the Babylonians at Nineveh about God’s coming judgment: Jonah 1 2 Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.

This is just one of a multitude of examples one could use to illustrate Paul’s statement in Romans 2. In fact, it should be clear that Paul’s statement above (a law unto themselves) could only refer to the Old Testament.

The Babylonians were sinning against God, but they were Not a party to the covenant given to Moses between God and the Israelites.

Certainly, no one will disagree with the idea that they were not able to recieve the promises God made to the Israelites if they were to obey God—and yet they are sinning against God here.

Jonah 3

4 And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. 5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.

6 For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.

7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water:

8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.

9 Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?

10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.

It’s clear here that for a time the Ninevites repented of their sins and evil ways. However, they did not become Jews or Israelites. They did not become God’s chosen people. They did not become Jewish acolytes. They were gentiles who found a way to believe in God and to believe the truth and repent—but they did not become part of the covenant of Moses.

Contracts and Covenants

I think it important here to look at the terms covenant and one of its cousins, the contract.

covenant \Cov"e*nant\ (k?v"?-nant), A mutual agreement of two or more persons or parties, or one of the stipulations in such an agreement.

Then Jonathan and David made a covenant. --1 Sam. xviiii. 3. The promises of God as revealed in the Scriptures, conditioned on certain terms on the part of man, as obedience, repentance, faith, etc.

I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. --Gen. xvii. 7.

contract: a binding written or oral agreement between two or more parties which requires specific performance from each of the parties

Please pay special attention to the fact that with covenants and contracts,

1) the parties to the contract or covenant is spelled out in advance,

2) that participation in them is voluntary at the outset

3) there is something that must be done or is expected to be done by all parties to the agreement

If you’ve ever signed a lease for an apartment, you know that the lease spells out who the parties to the agreement are, the terms of the agreement and what the responsibilities of each party are. What happens if you’ve signed a lease, and completed the terms of the lease successfully?

You may be given the opportunity to sign a new one for a new term. The new lease may have many terms in common, it may cover the same apartment. It may involve the same parties. In many ways it may be identical.

However, it is a new lease and the landlord cannot hold you responsible for any terms under the old lease and you cannot claim any benefits that were under the old but not in the new lease.

No matter how similar the two leases are, they are not the same lease. Many have this confusion about the Law of Moses—on both sides of the argument. Even if the responsibilities of the new lease are quite similar to the old one, neither party can enforce or make any claims under the old--it is no longer in force.

You can’t demand to pay the lower rent of the old lease, nor can your landlord apply requirements that were in the old agreement but not included in the new. Neither party will go to court to sue over provisions of a lease that no longer applies—the judge would throw that party out.

Virtually every time you sign a new lease, it is substantially similar to the old. You cannot take your responsibilities under the old and combine that with the landlord’s responsibilities under the new one or vice-versa as some try to do by combining the Law of Moses and the law of Christ.

On the other hand, the new lease or a new contract may have substantially different parties as part of the agreement and have substantially the same requirements or substantially different requirements.

This is the case with the law of Christ and the law of Moses. The Law of Christ is similar in many respects to the Law of Moses but; the parties to the agreement are different and the terms of performance—what each party to the agreement will do are substantially different .

It is a new agreement and there is no use trying to bring the old one into “court”: because the judge will throw it out.

Fulfilling The Law

As we noted, both parties to an agreement have duties and responsibilities. We know that God has always fulfilled his side, but that under the law of Moses, man never fulfilled his side of the contract/covenant.

If you fail to perform, that is complete your responsibilities under a covenant, there are usually penalties associated with that failure. With an apartment lease, you may be evicted and sued, with another type of contract, there may also be civil penalties and a court judgment.

To avoid penalties and to receive the benefits of a contract/covenant, one must fulfill the terms of the agreement. For the Israelites and for man, the penalty is death and the judgment.

Man found himself subject to the penalties of disobedience to God’s law, and with no way to fulfill our responsibilities. In this circumstance one must 1)find a way to fulfill the contract 2)have the other party or the judge cancel the contract 3)suffer the penalty for failing to perform.

Matthew 5

17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Those who believe we are under the ten commandments cling to the statement “think not that I came to destroy the law” as proof that we are still under the law. Note that verse 18, though which says not one jot or tittle will pass until “all be fulfilled”.That's the term of that particular contract.

What does that mean? How do you fulfill your lease contract? The owner performs his part and you perform your part. At that time, that contract is fulfilled and a new one can be set in place. We noted above 3 things that could happen.

Jesus says in verse 17 above that he did not come to simply cancel the law instead He would fulfill it. Canceling the law would cancel justice since if God could simply set it aside without penalty or repercussions or recognition for those who tried to obey --why make such a big deal about sin in the first place?

Just as Adam sinned and condemned all men to death thereby, Jesus came and lived a perfect life under the Covenant of Moses and thereby fulfilled man’s part of the covenant. Just as man was condemned because of the sinful life of one man, man was restored by the sinless life of one man under the covenant—fulfilling the covenant and paying the penalty of Adam and all subsequent men on the cross.

By living a perfect life under the law, Jesus was justified under the law. By sacrificing Himself on the cross He paid the penalty that we should have paid.


Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;

At that time, God through his Son put a new covenant in place with some similar provisions and requirements but that was entirely new and self sufficient—with better promises and less stringent requirements.

Hebrews 8

6 But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises.

7 For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another.

The Law of Christ

Romans 13

8Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet,"[1] and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself."[2] 10Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Galatians 5

11Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. 12As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!

13You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature[1] ; rather, serve one another in love. 14The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."[2] 15If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

All the Law of Moses can be divided into 1)How to relate to God or, 2) how to relate to your neighbor. As mature, we are not told point by point how to behave in every conceivable situation as the Israelites were.

The Law was a schoolmaster, according to Paul to lead us to Christ and so as Christians we are to apply what we’ve learned about obedience to God and love towards our neighbor as mature followers of God.

The New Testament definitely does give us some specific commands and instructions, but we are to approach them with understanding and maturity—not as children.


Adam sinned, Cain sinned not by violating the ten commandments but by violating God’s law which has always condemned sin; including murder, lying and theft. God judged men for good and evil who were part of the covenant of Moses as well as those outside of the covenant.

The law of Christ is God’s law for man today and is similar to that law that condemned Adam, and Cain and all those who sinned prior to the Law of Moses being given.

It is not the law of Moses lite—it is a law in and of itself—and no one is subject to that covenant of Moses in any respect—not to its requirements nor its promises.

You are not subject to your old lease no matter how similar is to your current one and your new one is not simply your old one minus a few clauses or plus a few.

It stands alone and the law of the Kingdom stands alone. It is so much better than the Law of Moses in every respect. If your new lease required substantially lower rent for a better apartment, it is doubtful that you’d try to cling to the old one, however, people do just that in the case of the law of Moses and the law of Christ.

Hebrews 9

14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death,[3] so that we may serve the living God!

15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance--now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

The Apostle Paul Sums it up:1 Corinthians 9

19Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.
20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.
21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law.
22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.
23I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

1)In verse 20, does Paul say that he is under the Law of Moses, or --not under it?
2)In verse 20, the Jews continue to conduct themselves under the Law of Moses. Are they under that law in reality?
3)According to Paul in verse 21, is he claiming to be free from any law of God, or is he still under God's Law?
4)In verse 21, whose law does Paul claim to be under?
5)If Paul is under Christ's Law as he states in verse 21, can he at the same time be under the law of Moses?
6)In verse 20, Paul is trying to ______ those who believe they are still under the Law of Moses.
7)In verse 20 above, what is the Apostle Paul trying to win them to? If its okay to still be under the Law of Moses, why is he trying to win them?

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