Sometimes, I am asked about our relationship with the Old Testament.
I have found that people are really asking about our relationship
to the Mosaic Law which is recorded in the Old Testament of which
the Ten Commandments are a small part.
We must remember that the Old Testament is more than the Mosaic
Law and the Ten Commandments. The Old Testament begins by recording
creation, the entrance of sin into the world, the fall of man, and
the first prophesy of Christ in the first three chapters of the
Old Testament. Genesis alone covers a couple of thousand years constituting
nearly half of the history recorded in the Old Testament.
God gave the Mosaic Law (including the Ten Commandments) to the
Jews. And the Gentiles continued to live under the previous law
which, for convenience sake, we call the universal moral law. Therefore,
it is important to understand that the Mosaic Law was applicable
to a minority of people (i.e., the Jews) for a period of around
twenty-five hundred years.
Sometimes I am asked, "Should Christians keep the Mosaic Law
(including Ten Commandments) today?"
James says that one must keep the whole law or else he is guilty
of all (Jas. 2:10). Therefore, we must conclude that someone who
keeps one point of the Mosaic Law must keep the whole law. But the
fact is, no one is keeping the whole law today. No one is offering
the animal sacrifices in Jerusalem as prescribed in the law.
Paul makes it clear that no one can be saved by keeping the Mosaic
Law saying: "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says
to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped,
and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the
deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by
the law is the knowledge of sin" (Rom. 3:19-20).
Since we cannot be saved by the law, what good is it? Paul answered
this question saying to the Romans: "For whatever things were
written before were written for our learning, that we through the
patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope" (Rom.
And to the Galatians Paul explained: "What purpose then does
the law serve? It was added because of the transgressions, till
the seed should come to whom the promise was made . . ." (Gal.
3:19). Paul continues to explain that the law was a tutor and that
once Christ had come, the Jews were no longer under the tutor (i.e.,
the law). Paul said: "Therefore the law was our tutor to bring
us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith
has come, we are no longer under a tutor" (Gal. 3:24-25).
So where does that leave the Ten Commandments? The basic precepts
of the Ten Commandments are reiterated in the New Testament with
exception to the Sabbath. Christians met to partake of the Lord's
Supper on Sunday (i.e., the first day of the week; Acts 20:7) -
not on Saturday (i.e., the Sabbath).
So what has God done throughout history? He has changed the law
twice. The first time He changed it, He gave the Mosaic law to the
Jews. Then, after Christ ascended into heaven, He changed it once
again. Paul explains that the law was changed by necessity since
the priesthood was changed. Paul said: "For the priesthood
being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law"
(Heb. 7:12). This law under which we live today is called the law
of Christ (Gal. 6:2), the law of the Spirit (Rom. 8:2), and the
law of liberty (Jas. 2:12).
We should be filled with joy and thanksgiving toward God. We are
not kept in bondage by a law of sin and death but have been freed
from sin to live under the law of life (cf. Rom. 8:2). Therefore
Paul says: "For by grace you have been saved through faith,
and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works,
lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in
Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that
we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:8-10).