We know them as the Ten Commandments, Decalog, or Law of Moses, those ancient decrees of a covenant that even some Christians consider obsolete (Deuteronomy 4:13. Exodus 20:3-17)(2). However, Jesus did not say that He came to do away with the Ten Commandments or Law but rather to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17-19. Luke 16:16,17). That is, Jesus did give us new commandments; however, He never abolished the old ones (John 13:34,35. Romans 3:30,31. Psalms 119:152). Rather He raised them from a matter of external physical compliance to a matter of internal spiritual compliance that included the thoughts and intents of our spiritual hearts (Matthew 5:27,28). Furthermore, He did what the Law failed to do for mankind – He provided a way back into a personal relationship with God the Father (1) (Galatians 3:10,11. John 14:6. 1 John 2:23).
The reality is the Law showed us that we could never become right with God in our own ability because we could never satisfy the requirement of keeping all its commandments perfectly. (Romans 8:3. Hebrews 10:1. James 2:10,11). That is, even though the Law was perfect, it could never make anyone perfect.
The law of the Lord is perfect and preserves one’s life. The rules set down by the Lord are reliable and impart wisdom to the inexperienced. (Psalm 19:7 NET)
On the one hand a former command is set aside because it is weak and useless, for the law made nothing perfect. On the other hand a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. (Hebrews 7:18–19 NET)
The Law was designed to reveal to us what God already knew, that we are sinners in desperate need of a Savior! Again, the law serves to reveal the sin in our lives to us so that we realize the futility of attempting to escape God’s punishment in our ability.
For no one is declared righteous before him by the works of the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:20 NET)
Consequently, the Law as the method for bringing mankind back into a personal relationship with God the Father was superseded by Jesus (Romans 3:20-26. Romans 10:4. Acts 13:38,39. Galatians 2:16. Ephesians 2:14,15. Hebrews 7:18,19. Hebrews 12:14). He perfectly kept all the Law thus satisfying its requirements for having a right relationship with God the Father (Hebrews 4:15). Then He became our mediator taking upon Himself our punishment for sin, paid our price (i.e., served our sentence of death (1)) for it and then arose from the dead (1) to make a new way of being right with God the Father by Grace (i.e., favor) that receives Mercy (i.e., God’s ability to solve any and all problems) by Faith (1 Timothy 2:5. 1 Corinthians 15:3,4. Ephesians 2:8,9. Philippians 3:8,9).
Perhaps someone thinks that the Ten Commandments are irrelevant because they live moment by moment under the loving guidance of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:18. Romans 13:10). Allow me to explain this verse by introducing the concept that each Commandment contains both an Opportunity and a Consequence. An opportunity for a blessing if the commandment is NOT violated and a consequence of law if it is violated.
For example, consider the speed limit or speed commandment signs on roadways. If you drive following the speed limit, then you are offered the privilege or blessing of using the roadway without consequence. However, if you choose to exceed the posted speed limit, then you will eventually face the consequence of the law in the form of a traffic citation! (Romans 13:1-5. Titus 3:1. 1 Peter 2:13-16. Ecclesiastes 8:11) Therefore, I could say that if I always followed the guidance of the speed limit signs, then I am not under the law (i.e., not under the consequence of violating the speed limit commandment) (3).
Furthermore, I could say from this perspective that the traffic citations really only exist for those that choose to violate the commanded speed limit (1 Timothy 1:9). Nevertheless, if we continue to violate the speed commandment, then harsher and harsher law will be judged right to be enforced upon us up to the point of losing the opportunity to drive. Hopefully, before this happens, the person would change their behavior and stop exceeding the speed commandments. It could then be said that the law (i.e., the consequences of violating the speed limit commandment) acted as our “guardian” to guide us to modifying our behavior such that we always drive within the speed limit commandment and never again experience the need for this law.
Similarly, the Law is a guardian today for those that are NOT Christians in that it clearly establishes the impossible criteria for having a right relationship with God the Father based on perfect performance (Romans 3:10. Isaiah 64:6. Romans 3:23). The law points to salvation by faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord as the only way to have a right relationship with God the Father (Romans 5:8,19. Romans 6:23. Romans 10:9,10,13).
However, the Law is no longer a guardian for Christians in the area of having a right relationship with God the Father (Galatians 3:24,25. Romans 7:4-6. Romans 6:14). That is, we do not have to constantly strive to earn our salvation but rather rest in the fact that we are accepted in Jesus thus freeing us to grow in our personal relationship with God (1) our Father (Romans 5:1. Ephesians 1:6. Colossians 2:6-8).
Nevertheless, the Law is still a guardian instructing us how to live a holy life (Psalms 19:7,8. Psalms 93:5. Psalms 119:159,160. Romans 7:7-12. Romans 6:15. James 1:21-25. 1 John 3:4). It clearly delineates the Opportunities we have for complying with the Commandments and the Law or consequences for not. However, I do believe that Christians can and should grow (1) to the point that their personal life with God (Father, Son, and Spirit) is so intimate (1) that the thought of hurting Him by disobedience is unimaginable (Romans 8:1-10. 1 John 1:5-7. Psalms 51:4). In reality, this thought takes us back full circle to the first and greatest commandment (Exodus 20:3. Matthew 22:36-40. Matthew 7:12. Romans 13:8,10). At that point in our spiritual growth the Law is written on the tablets of our spiritual heart (Proverbs 3:1-3. 2 Corinthians 3:3. Hebrews 8:10. Hebrews 10:16).
Lastly, I am NOT describing a doctrinal position emphasizing a system of rules and regulations for achieving salvation or spiritual growth (i.e., legalism) (Colossians 2:20-23. James 1:26,27). Legalists demand strict literal adherence to rules and regulations to the point of missing the point of the rules! That is, the rules are NOT God but rather in place to keep us out of the ditches on either side of the narrow way leading to God (Matthew 7:13,14). Legalists can appear to be righteous and spiritual; however, legalism ultimately fails to accomplish God’s purposes because it is an external performance instead of an internal transformation (Matthew 23:25,26. 1 Timothy 1:5). To avoid the ditch of legalism we must hold fast to the words of the apostle John (John 1:17). That is, the Commandments must be viewed with the understanding of Grace and Truth.
In subsequent articles, we will be doing just that while exploring each of these Commandments and their respective Opportunities and Consequences (i.e., Law) in detail in order to “Remember the Law of God’s Servant Moses” (Malachi 4:1-6. Joshua 22:5).
Furthermore, remembering the following three things a Christian is NOT supposed to do will help keep us from legalism as well:
- NOT make our personal convictions commandments for others (Romans 14:1-13)
- NOT fail to honor the personal convictions of others (Romans 14:14-22)
- NOT sin by doing anything without faith (Romans 14:23)
Click on the links below to access the entire series:
The Ten Commandments Series:
(1) Left-click on the underlined phrase to open another article in a different tab with more explanation.
(2) The inspiration for this Blog: D.L. Moody on the 10 Commandments, ISBN 0-8024-1778-7, Published 1896, 1977
(4) In the Talmud and in accordance with Rabbinical tradition the initial set of Ten Commandments was written and engraved on sapphire stones. It was a particular kind called “Lapis lazuli,” which means, “Bluestone.” Sapphire is formed under great heat and pressure. When God came down on the top of that mountain with lightenings, fire and thunderings, the whole top of it was scorched, burned a deep blue, making a pavement of sapphire, “like the very heavens in its clarity.” God wrote on the bluestones at His feet the Ten Commandments. The Law was written by God on the front and back of these stones (Exodus 31:18. 32:15,16) which were thrown from the Mountain by Moses with the result that they broke to pieces even as the nation of Israel had broken them by their sin in Moses’ absence (Genesis 32:19,20)
Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear like the sky itself. (Exodus 24:9,10 NET)
Whatever became of the tablets smashed by Moses?
According to the Talmud: The broken tablets were placed in the holy Ark along with the second, intact set ; ‘luchot ve’shivrey luchot munachim be’aron” (Talmud Bava Batra 14b). The broken tablets were not buried, which is what we generally do with holy items no longer in use. They were placed in the most sacred place, in the Aaron Hakodesh, the holy Ark. Eventually they sat next to the second tablets, the whole set of the Ten Commandments. Together they remained securely protected as the nation journeyed through the wilderness. (https://www.aish.com/h/9av/oal/The-Broken-Tablets.html)
The second set of Ten Commandments were written by God upon tablets that Moses cut from stone. (Exodus 34:1,4,27,28,29. Deuteronomy 10:1-5 )