The Ten Commandments: Have They Passed Their Sell-by Date?

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The Ten Commandments

Have They Passed Their Sell-by Date?

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An ancient Middle Eastern king defined them as "perfect" and "enlightening" to guide him as a ruler of his people some 3,000 years ago (King David, as recorded in Psalm 19:7-8).

A 20th-century European dictator called the Ten Commandments "the curse from Mount Sinai" and set out to destroy the very people identified with these laws (Adolf Hitler, quoted in The Ten Commandments, edited by A.L. Robinson, preface by Hermann Rauschning, p. vii).

Two rulers. Two contrasting views.

Written with the finger of God?

What's the truth about the Ten Commandments that the Bible tells us were "written with the finger of God" (Exodus 31:18)? Were they intended for the Israelites only and thus no longer binding on Christians today? Justin Martyr, considered an early church "father," thought so. In a letter to the Jewish community he stated, "For the Law promulgated at Horeb [Mt. Sinai] is now old and belongs to yourselves alone" (Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, editors, Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, p. 100).

From the early history of the Christian Church there was a concerted attempt to reject the Ten Commandments as a fundamental moral code by defining them as Jewish. After the New Testament apostles died, the biblical Sabbath and Holy Days in particular became casualties, being wrongly identified as purely Jewish rather than days to be observed by Christians.

Faith and obedience

Centuries before the Exodus God appeared to Abraham with these words, "I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless" (Genesis 17:1). How was the patriarch to lead a blameless or upright life? God's answer is given in Genesis 26:5 where Abraham is praised for his obedience to God's laws: "Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws."

This scriptural reference makes it clear that the spiritual father of the faithful expressed faith like a Christian must and at the same time guided his life by God's laws. Both were required in walking uprightly before the Creator.

The New Testament speaks the same message in the words of the apostle John. He defines true Christians as "those who keep the commandments of God and [express] the faith of Jesus" (Revelation 14:12). As was true with Abraham, both are required.

Who's the source of moral standards?

A thousand years earlier king David was inspired to write, "The law of the Lord is perfect" (Psalm 19:7). The Creator God is best equipped to tell His creation how to walk uprightly before Him. He has given us laws and statutes that define what is right and what is wrong. "For all Your commandments are righteousness," we are told in Psalm 119:172. It is the Almighty who decides the moral standards we are to live by.

Embracing God's laws doesn't in any way lessen our need for Jesus Christ's atoning sacrifice. Since we all fall short of living by the standards that Jesus taught, forgiveness of our imperfect state is an essential part of living righteously before the Creator.

Are they in force today?

Are the Ten Commandments still in force today? Certainly! It wouldn't make sense had God required people in Old Testament times to live by His laws but then allowed people since New Testament times to disregard them. When it comes to what is morally right and wrong, God doesn't change (Malachi 3:6).

Imagine how much better, happier, just and peaceful the world would be if humanity were to embrace the morality of the Creator as revealed in His Word!

  • Children respecting their parents (Fifth Commandment).
  • No murdering one's fellowman (Sixth Commandment).
  • No illicit affairs with their devastating consequences (Seventh Commandment).
  • No stealing of what belongs to another (Eighth Commandment).
  • No bearing false witness in order to damage reputations (Ninth Commandment).
  • And no coveting of what is someone else's (Tenth Commandment).

What a happy world that would be!

The Ten Commandments haven't passed their sell-by date. They never will because they serve as divine laws applicable at all times and for all occasions.

Why not make God's laws an integral part of your life, for your own well-being as well as your fellowman? Read online or request a printed copy of our in-depth booklet The Ten Commandments, which thoroughly explains each of them. It will show you how to get the best out of keeping each of the commandments "written with the finger of God."