I’ve always heard it said from the pulpit that Christ began a new covenant with humanity through his death and resurrection. Many people throw out a good portion of the Old Testament and say it no longer applies because of our new covenant with Christ. I recently got to thinking, so do the Ten Commandments still apply under this new covenant we are in? I posed this question on my Facebook page and said this is a topic I’ve actually never sat down and thought about. I had great input and dug into the topic myself and said I would post my findings. So here we go…
Do the Ten Commandments still apply to modern day Christianity? Yes… and No. How’s that for definitive? Let me explain:
Prior to Jesus coming to earth, salvation was earned by faith like Abram in Genesis 15:6, or birthright but was established through a series of rituals and laws such as burnt sacrifices, circumcision, etc. like Abraham sacrificing Isaac in Genesis 22. The Ten Commandments were directly issued from God to Moses on Mt. Sanai as the law for his people to follow. Salvation was predicated on fulfilling the law, anyone disobeying the law was to be put to death concurrent to the laws of the time period. Many will use verses such as Col. 2:14 “having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.” and say this references Christ nailing the commandments to the cross.
Jesus says in Matthew 5:17 ““Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them”. The law that Christ came to fulfill was the Abrahamic covenant requiring burnt offering sacrifices to cover sin. Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice, the son of God and his blood covers all sins. Also by being put to death he fulfills the penalty of breaking the law for mankind referenced in Col 2:14. Prior to Jesus, if the commands were broken you were put to death. He was put to death for us and his grace and mercy gives us an opportunity of redemption through accepting him as savior.
In this aspect I say they no longer apply: Following the laws and rituals were the way to gain salvation. That’s no longer the case. As Jesus states in John 11:25 “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.” Our salvation is based purely off of our belief in Christ and accepting the sacrifice he made for us. However I may add that by following Christ and accepting him as Lord of our lives, following the commandments should be a byproduct of that. As a believer I strive to make my life more and more like Christ’s and I think we can all agree that Jesus lived according to these commands. He didn’t kill anyone or steal.. etc. Commandments necessary for salvation? No. Commandments lived out by Jesus, fulfilled through his death, taught by Paul? Yes.
As shown in Psalms 111:7-9 we are told that God’s Ten Commandments will stand fast for ever and ever. “The works of his hands are verity and judgment; all his commandments are sure. They stand fast for ever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness. He sent redemption to his people: he has commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name.” Through the sacrifice of Christ and his fulfilling the law for us, the commands of God live on. Simply following these commands are not a means of salvation for us but they are still in effect for modern day Christianity.
Many people say we should look at the teachings of Paul to see his view on the law. Paul warned, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col 2:8); Jesus kept the ten commandments! He also warns that “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work” (II The 2:7). Lawlessness is breaking the law. Why would Paul warn about lawlessness if he felt all the law was done away?
It is also worth noting that each of the commandments were individually taught throughout the NT.
Command 1 – 1 John 2:15
Command 2- 1 Peter 4:3
Command 3- James 3:10
Command 4 – Luk 23:54,56
Command 5 – 2 Peter 2:14
Command 6 – 1 Peter 4:15
Command 7 – James 2:11
Command 8 – 1 Peter 4 :15
Command 9 – Acts 5:3-4
Command 10 – 2 Peter 2:3
Each of these have many more references but I just showed one each to show that they are clearly still taught in the NT. Those that want to throw out the Ten Commandments because they are in the OT, go ahead. They’re still very apparent and applicable in the NT.
To summarize: We don’t need to simply follow a set of laws or check lists to be saved. Our salvation is based on a relationship with Jesus Christ and by following him, we are following the law. His grace and mercy are there for us when we make mistakes or sin against him. The commands of God live on forever but our pursuit should be a life with Jesus as our savior. If we follow the words of Jesus in Matthew 22:36-40, our lives will lineup with the commandments, and teachings of Jesus. Even those that claim to be atheists or agnostic can agree on a moral level that these commands should be followed by all.