Recently I was asked by my son, “Do the Ten Commandments still apply?”; he said that he’d been in a discussion where some say “yes”, while others said “no”. I thought I would carry my explanation over to here on my blog, rather than trying to do it by Facebook messenger to him.
Do the 10 Commandments still apply for us the believer today? It’s a good question and I believe the Apostle Paul covers it very well, which is why I wonder how this question keeps popping up. I’m going to try to simplify my answer, but I know some will still have trouble with my reply, so remember this is a somewhat simplified answer, but here goes.
First, we must understand the purpose of the two covenants of God, no, not the old covenant & the new covenant; rather the covenant of Abraham & the covenant of Moses, where both are eternal covenants, therefore each still points to a specific purpose or why they were needed. (Gal.4:22-24)
The covenant of Abraham was without law, while the covenant of Moses was with law. Both had promises attached to them, but only one was actually the covenant of promise (causing someone to have right standing with God), while the other was based on one’s ability to be righteous through its laws. (Deu.6:25)
In the very beginning there was no law, there was only God and he didn’t need laws on how to be right with himself. Paul explains that in the 2nd covenant, the law was added because of sin. (Sin was a wedge between God and man.) (Gal.3:19) (Isa.59:2)
However, Paul also explains that God cannot change the conditions of the 1st covenant or he would be an unfair God, making changes mid-stream. So why two covenants? (Gal.3:17-18)
When Adam & Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, something spiritual happen to them; they died spiritually, (meaning: they lost the presence of God within themselves.) This is the main reason that man is at odds with God, technically he is cut off from God’s intimate presence. (Eph.2:1)
God can easily forgive man’s transgressions, in fact there was already a kind of forgiveness in the law), but the return of his presence within man isn’t so easily fixed. This is the main purpose of Christ’s suffering; his death burial & resurrection, to fix what man can’t fix. (Somethings can only be repaired by God himself.)
The law was added to the 2nd covenant for this very purpose, to point to man’s inability to repair his spiritual condition. This covenant was never designed to reconcile man to God, rather it was supposed to show man’s helplessness to gain the presence of God through his own efforts and make himself righteous. (Gal.3:11,19)
Now here is where it gets a little complicated, because the 1st and 2nd covenant are both unattainable. They can only be attained by a work of God. Therefore, the first covenant is a promise; the promise actually goes to the seed of Abraham, (Paul explains, seed singular or the coming Christ). Therefore, Christ is the only beneficiary or receiver of the larger portion of this covenant and its promises. (Gal.3:16)
The ram that God provided for the substitution of Isaac, is a picture of God providing Jesus on the cross. Once Jesus died and was raised from the dead, then there was access to the 1st covenant, but not until then.
Only as believers in Christ, do we obtain the promises of God in the 1st covenant that is without law. There are two choices; choose Christ and enter into the 1st covenant or choose the 2nd covenant where you try to keep various laws to prove your own righteousness.
The 2nd covenant is actually only attainable if you can be perfectly sinless, therefore Jesus is the only person who could satisfy its requirements. Through a sinless life and by taking on the wrath of God for sin (on the cross), Jesus fulfills every sacrifice and offering within this covenant, where he is declared totally righteous; and he then becomes the only beneficiary of the promises within the 2nd covenant. (Gal.3:14)
Once the 2nd covenant is satisfied (fulfilled), then Jesus is revealed as the seed of Abraham, who can now lay claim to being the heir of the 1st covenant. (Where we become joint heirs with him.) (Gal.3:29)
Again, if you really understand the two covenants and how they actually reveal Jesus, then the answer to the 10 commandments is easily answered.
Are the Ten Commandments for today? Yes, because the covenant that contains them is an eternal covenant and the law still points to the unbeliever’s need of Jesus. Are they for the believers in Christ? No, because they are not a part of the 1st covenant, where we are in Christ.
Are we lawless? No, we are under the law of love or the law of the Spirit. Love in action does not commit adultery, fornication, steal and so on; therefore, love fulfills the law, without actually being under the law.
Paul says that the commandments are not for a righteousness person, but for the unrighteous. No law can force a person to do right, if that person just doesn’t want to obey; however, laws help the righteous to know how to deal with those who breaks the law. So, the commandments can be modified and used by the righteous to deal with law breakers. (1Tim.1:8-9)
The law can be used to see if a person’s life actually does reflect love for God and for people; where Paul says, the law is good, if used correctly. But, the law is not for the purpose of making one righteous before God. Paul declares we are not under the law, that would include the Ten Commandments and not just the ceremonial law; but the whole Law and its penalties. (Rom.6:12 & Rom.8:2)
Are the commandments evil, Paul say (to paraphrase him), “Absolutely not, for I would not know what sin is without knowing the commandments; but, once the knowledge of sin was revealed, then came the curse for breaking them.” (Rom.7:7)
You can’t separate the blessings of the commandments from its curse. This is why we needed Jesus to redeem us from the whole law and its curse. Therefore, to go back to them is to be caught back up in its curse. The blessings were only attainable for being sinless (or by fulfilling the law), which was only accomplished by Jesus.
Again, both covenants are eternal (Gen.17:7 & Heb.13:20); therefore, the 10 commandments are still intact (Jesus didn’t destroy them), and they still point to a righteousness that cannot be attained, because to break even the smallest of the laws, you have broken the whole law and you forfeit your righteousness. (Jam.2:10)
To accept Jesus, means acknowledging we can’t repair the problem ourselves. Therefore, we must allow Jesus to repair it for us, because he is the only person who could pass the tests of the 2nd covenant. As we release Jesus to be the fixer of the problem, he then leads us to the 1st covenant where we become a joint-heir with him and he returns the presence of God that was lost through Adams &Eve. (Gal.3:14)
Also, should you find yourself in a sin, the 2nd covenant will condemn you, because Jesus is no longer working to satisfy this covenant. But, if you are in Christ; then you are in the 1st covenant, where Christ’s finished work will work its benefits in you as you repent from the sin. (1John1:9)
Don’t go back to the Ten Commandments (the law), that is to ignore everything Jesus did and now you’re on your own to create your own righteousness, where you are doomed to fail. Instead, rest in the first covenant, where Christ has redeemed us and has made us joint-heirs with himself.