Christians Are Not Under The 10 Commandments
Because they are part of the Old Covenant which has been replaced by the New Covenant of Jesus, Christians are not bound by the 10 Commandments.
After rescuing the Hebrews from Egyptian slavery, God established a covenant with them that included hundreds of laws and stipulations for living as His chosen people. The centerpiece of this Old Covenant was the 10 Commandments. It is important, though, for Christians to understand that the New Covenant of Jesus has completely replaced the Old Covenant, including the 10 Commandments. Before we break down where scripture teaches this, I should point out that 9 of the 10 original commandments are repeated in some form in the New Testament. So, we are still prohibited from killing, lying, committing adultery, etc. The only one of the original 10 not repeated is “remember the sabbath and keep it holy”.
If God were going to replace one covenant with another (a major shift in how He deals with His people), He would have provided, as promised to the prophet Amos, some notice of the change in advance.
For the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets. Amos 3: 7 [ESV]
And God did reveal, in very plain language through one of His prophets, that the Old Covenant would be replaced with a new one.
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Jeremiah 31: 31 – 33 [ESV]
And when Jesus was preaching and teaching on the earth, He did not say that the Old Covenant would last forever, only that it wouldn’t pass away until everything was accomplished.
“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. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” Matthew 5: 17 – 18 [ESV]
And this is exactly what later New Testament writers tell us happened.
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Colossians 2: 13 – 17 [ESV]
The “legal demands” that were set aside by being nailed to the cross were all the rules and regulations contained in the Old Covenant. Notice Paul specifically mentions examples of the Old Covenant which are not repeated or updated in the New Covenant: dietary regulations (let no one pass judgment on questions of food or drink), the ceremonial portions of the Old Law (with regard to a festival or a new moon) and the one commandment of the ten which is not covered in the New Testament (the keeping of the Sabbath).
It would probably also be helpful at this point to mention that many of those who mistakenly believe that the 10 Commandments are still in force, end up compounding this with a second mistake. Some have convinced themselves that the fourth commandment would require us to worship on Saturday (the Jewish Sabbath) instead of Sunday (as the churches in the New Testament began to do). But the fourth commandment does not say anything about when you worship. The commandment just reads to remember the day of rest and keep it holy. In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses tells the people that they are to “keep it holy” by resting and not doing any work (the word sabbath means “rest” not “Saturday worship”). Too many today assume that “keep it holy” means to worship on that day. But the Bible plainly states that this is not the case.
Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work Deuteronomy 5: 12 – 14a [ESV]
The Sabbath was established by God between Himself and His people Israel as a reminder that He had called them out of slavery. Therefore, the commandment only applies to those who were part of physical Israel, those who were biological descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Today’s Christians were not rescued from Egypt and, therefore, this commandment of rest to remember their rescue would not apply. This is the reason that the fourth commandment is not repeated for Christians (who instead are told to remember how Christ rescued them from their sins through the taking of communion).
There are more New Testament verses teaching us that the New Covenant of Jesus has replaced (not just added to) the Old Covenant of Moses.
But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second… In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. Hebrews 8: 6 – 7, 13 [ESV]
Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. Hebrews 9: 15 [ESV]
Even though we aren’t bound by the regulations recorded by Moses in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, we need to remember that the Bible tells us that ALL scripture is useful for us. The scriptures specifically covering the Old Covenant still help us see today how holy God is and how serious sin is.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness II Timothy 3: 16 [ESV]
The wisdom literature of Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, though, was not cancelled and nailed to the cross of Christ. In fact, the Psalms still provide us clear guidance today on worship and how we are to process our emotions and struggles in healthy ways. And Proverbs has much to teach us about human nature, relationships, money management, addictions and sexual indiscretions.
The books of the prophets were not canceled by being nailed to the cross. They not only stand as strong reminders of God’s faithfulness but still have valid prophecies about the second coming of Christ, the day of judgement and the new heaven and new earth which are yet to come.
We need our entire Bible, the Old and New Testaments. But, as Christians, we are no longer bound by the laws and regulations God gave the Hebrew people through Moses. That Old Covenant – including the 10 Commandments – has been replaced by the New Covenant in the blood of Jesus Christ.
Andy’s book, Clear Vision: How The Bible Teaches Us To View The World, can be purchased here.