Over 3,400 years ago, a momentous event took place in the history of the people of God. Through mighty miracles displayed in dramatic fashion, the most powerful nation in the world, Egypt, after being broken and shamefully humiliated, let God’s people go so that they could worship at the mountain of the Lord and learn to fear their God.
On the top of the mountain, God codified the Ten Commandments with His own finger on two tablets of stone. He reminded His people of the covenant made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and He told His people what He expected from them. The way in which they lived their lives would indicate whether they really were His people or not. Their allegiance and obedience to His laws would signify that they were His, and they would find favor in His sight and be blessed.
But they were warned if they were disobedient, He would consider them rebellious and would disregard them as His own. Instead of blessings and life, they would incur curses and death.
Fast forward to the world now
Today, most of mankind has decided to reject God’s commandments. Most of mainstream Christianity claims that the law was only for the Jews, and these Christians believe that they are free from keeping the law. They are quick to cite Romans 8:2 Romans 8:2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.
American King James Version×(“free from the law of sin and death”), Romans 7:6 Romans 7:6But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.
American King James Version×(“delivered from the law”) or Romans 10:4 Romans 10:4For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes.
American King James Version×(“Christ is the end of the law”). They wrongly substitute a watered down idea of grace for any attempt at works, and many use the motto “Once saved, always saved.”
Salvation is a free gift by God’s grace, so we can’t begin to earn salvation. But God will not give grace to someone who is not repenting of his sins and is not submitting to God and His laws. People who are trying to obey God’s laws often give in to temptations and sin, but if they are truly sorry, God will forgive them again and again. God knows our hearts. If we are not accepting the rule of God’s laws over our lives and trying to obey, God will not continue to forgive.
For a long time, there has been a lot of confusion over the Ten Commandments and whether or not they have been abolished by God.
There are two questions that need to be answered by the Bible in order to understand the remedy to the confusion. First, does the New Covenant abolish the commandments? Second, what exactly are the Ten Commandments?
Does the New Covenant abolish the commandments?
In the Bible study aid The Ten Commandments, produced by the United Church of God, this controversy is discussed. One passage reads, “The Bible tells us that Christ came as the Mediator of a new covenant (Hebrews 8:6 Hebrews 8:6But now has he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.
American King James Version×). The popular belief that the New Covenant abolishes God’s law reflects a misunderstanding of both covenants. God tells us that He altered the original covenant and made ‘a better covenant, which was established on better promises’ (Hebrews 8:6 Hebrews 8:6But now has he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.
American King James Version×). But it was not established on different laws. The law stayed the same” .
In Hebrews 8:8 Hebrews 8:8For finding fault with them, he said, Behold, the days come, said the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:
American King James Version×, God tells us that the fault was not with the law, but rather with the people (“For finding fault with them...” emphasis added throughout). In verse 9, we read, “because they did not continue in My covenant...I disregarded them, says the Lord.” God did exactly what He said He was going to do if they didn’t obey: He was going to disregard them as His own. In Hebrews 8:6 Hebrews 8:6But now has he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.
American King James Version×, it tells us that Christ is the Mediator for the New Covenant. Let’s observe Christ and see what He was proposing for a better covenant. Let’s see if He was planning on abolishing the commandments.
Christ’s explicit instructions
In Luke 18:18-20 Luke 18:18-20  And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
 And Jesus said to him, Why call you me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.
 You know the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and your mother.
American King James Version×, we read of a ruler who approaches Christ and asks Him what he must do to obtain eternal life. The Greek for “eternal” in this verse is aionios. This same Greek word is used in John 3:16 John 3:16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
American King James Version×where it reads, “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” The word “everlasting” is referring to inhabiting the eternal Kingdom of God. This man is asking Jesus Christ how he can obtain aionios, or eternal life in the Kingdom of God.
In Luke 18:20 Luke 18:20You know the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and your mother.
American King James Version×we see the response of Christ, the Mediator of the New Covenant: “You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’” Clearly, Christ is telling him that if he wants to enter into the Kingdom of God, he must obey the commandments. Jesus Christ here lists five of the Ten Commandments as an illustration of the relevance of all the commandments, which are seen in the way He lived His life.
In 1 John 2:3-6 1 John 2:3-6  And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.
 He that said, I know him, and keeps not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
 But whoever keeps his word, in him truly is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.
 He that said he stays in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.
American King James Version×, the apostle John gives us a crystal clear rendering of whether or not the commandments have been done away with. In 1 John 2:3-4 1 John 2:3-4  And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.  He that said, I know him, and keeps not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
American King James Version×we read, “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”
If we don’t keep His commandments, a relationship with Jesus Christ will not, and cannot, exist. In 1 John 2:5-6 1 John 2:5-6  But whoever keeps his word, in him truly is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.
 He that said he stays in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.
American King James Version×we read, “By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” We know how Jesus Christ walked because of what He told that ruler about how to enter into the Kingdom.
Christ isn’t going to tell someone to go one way while He decides to go a different way. Christ said that there is only one way, and if anyone else tries to enter any another way, he will be considered a robber or a thief (John 10:1-4 John 10:1-4  Truly, truly, I say to you, He that enters not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
 But he that enters in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
 To him the porter opens; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out.
 And when he puts forth his own sheep, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
American King James Version×). He came to set the example for us to follow, as John clearly points out.
A parable provides additional support
In Luke 13:23 Luke 13:23Then said one to him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said to them,
American King James Version×, Christ was asked how many would be saved. He told them a parable to answer the question, explaining, “When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from’” (Luke 13:25 Luke 13:25When once the master of the house is risen up, and has shut to the door, and you begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us; and he shall answer and say to you, I know you not from where you are:
American King James Version×). Christ is telling them that a relationship does not exist between those who are knocking and the Master of the house.
Christ continues in Luke 13:26 Luke 13:26Then shall you begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in your presence, and you have taught in our streets.
American King James Version×, “then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’” They are then going to try to convince the Master of the house that He should know who they are. They are mistakenly thinking that preaching about, worship of, and service to Jesus Christ is sufficient when they are of little value if there is not first submission and obedience.
What Christ is telling us is that there’s something missing: there’s something that they’re not doing; there’s a reason why He doesn’t know who they are. It doesn’t say that they acted upon what they heard by obeying.
And finally, in Luke 13:27 Luke 13:27But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not from where you are; depart from me, all you workers of iniquity.
American King James Version×: “But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.” The Greek word for “iniquity” used here is adikia. This same Greek word is used in 1 John 5:17 1 John 5:17All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not to death.
American King James Version×: “All unrighteousness [adikia] is sin…” And sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4 1 John 3:4Whoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
American King James Version×).
What Jesus Christ is saying is that He will refuse to acknowledge lawbreakers—and by refusing to do what we know we should do, we are in fact breaking the law. If we deliberately continue to break the law, we will not be able to have a relationship with Him, which means we will not be able to enter into the Kingdom. This is very serious.
The Ten Commandments remain the standard
In Galatians 5:19-21 Galatians 5:19-21  Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, jealousies, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
 Contentions, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
American King James Version×, we are given a list of the workings of the flesh, and those who practice such things will not enter into the Kingdom of God. Every single item on that list is directly related to the breaking of the Ten Commandments. Paul is telling us that there is still a penalty for breaking the law that will bring cursings and death.
The Ten Commandments teach us what should be our greatest priority in life because they show us how to love God and how to love people, which are the two Great Commandments. They are a key to a relationship with our Creator, and they provide a foundation for success. They teach us, among other things, that life is a precious gift, and to protect the marital relationship, and to practice truth as a way of life. The Ten Commandments teach us God’s way of life and must obviously be kept in order to inherit eternal life.
What exactly are the Ten Commandments?
We know what the commandments do, what their intent is, the meaning of them, and the necessity of keeping them, because we have the clear command from Christ and the apostles to obey them. But what are they?
Let’s have God tell us from the Bible, His word, which is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16 2 Timothy 3:16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
American King James Version×).
Psalms 145:17 Psalms 145:17The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.
American King James Version×(KJV) says that God is holy; Romans 7:12 Romans 7:12Why the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
American King James Version×says that the law is holy. 1 John 4:8 1 John 4:8He that loves not knows not God; for God is love.
American King James Version×says that God is love; Romans 13:10 Romans 13:10Love works no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
American King James Version×says love is the fulfillment of the law. Matthew 5:48 Matthew 5:48Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
American King James Version×says that God is perfect; Psalms 19:7 Psalms 19:7The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
American King James Version×says the law is perfect. John 4:24 John 4:24God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
American King James Version×says that God is spirit; Romans 7:14 Romans 7:14For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
American King James Version×says the law is spiritual. Psalms 145:17 Psalms 145:17The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.
American King James Version×says that God is righteous; Psalms 119:172 Psalms 119:172My tongue shall speak of your word: for all your commandments are righteousness.
American King James Version×says God’s commandments are righteousness. Deuteronomy 32:4 Deuteronomy 32:4He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.
American King James Version×says that God is truth; Psalms 119:142 Psalms 119:142Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and your law is the truth.
American King James Version×says the law is truth. Psalms 25:8 Psalms 25:8Good and upright is the LORD: therefore will he teach sinners in the way.
American King James Version×says God is good; Romans 7:12 Romans 7:12Why the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
American King James Version×says the law is good. Genesis 21:33 Genesis 21:33And Abraham planted a grove in Beersheba, and called there on the name of the LORD, the everlasting God.
American King James Version×says that God is everlasting; Psalms 111:7-8 Psalms 111:7-8  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.
American King James Version×says that the law is everlasting. Deuteronomy 32:4 Deuteronomy 32:4He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.
American King James Version×says that God is just; Romans 7:12 Romans 7:12Why the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
American King James Version×it says the law is just. 1 John 1:5 1 John 1:5This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
American King James Version×says that God is light; Proverbs 6:23 Proverbs 6:23For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:
American King James Version×says that the law is light.
Whoever attacks God’s law is attacking God’s person and His character, since the law clearly is His character. Everywhere God goes, His law goes. What are the Ten Commandments? They are God’s very character and His nature. God does not change; He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8 Hebrews 13:8Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.
American King James Version×).
Conclusions to make for our lives
God is telling us that if we want to be in His family and in His Kingdom, we have to become like Him. His law describes Him. He wants His values to be our values; He wants us to take on His character. When people look at us, they should be able to see the reflection of Christ.
Those Christians who turn aside from keeping the commandments are essentially saying, “We don’t want to be like God, but we want to be in His Kingdom and His family.” The Bible gives very strict warnings about this kind of misguided and wrong thinking. You cannot have the Kingdom of God without His commandments.
The commandments have not been abolished nor done away with; they are living spiritual laws. The apostles clearly taught this, and Jesus Christ’s authority confirmed it. The word of God has made this issue incontrovertible and unmistakably clear.
Let’s heed God’s commandments; let’s do His will. Let’s follow the example of Jesus Christ, and let’s keep God’s holy commandments, for they will bring blessings and life to all who keep them.