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Builders of Faith Explorer I:  Exploring Bible Truth

Lesson 9—Revisiting the Ten Commandments

 

 

1.  Weren’t the Ten Commandments given only to the nation of Israel?

 

“And Moses called all Israel, and said to them:  ‘Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your hearing today, that you may learn them and be careful to observe them.  The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb.’”  Deuteronomy 5:1-2.

 

Answer:  God made a covenant with Israel at Mt. Sinai (also called Horeb) because He was making a nation out of Israel since they had just obtained their freedom from slavery in Egypt.  But notice that the principles of all of the Ten Commandments were known to God’s people long before Mt. Sinai, according to the book of Genesis.  Study the chart below:

 

First Commandment Genesis 35:1-4 (compare Joshua 24:2)
Second Commandment Genesis 31:19-35; 35:1-4
Third Commandment Genesis 12:3 (compare Hebrews 12:14-17)
Fourth Commandment Genesis 2:1-3; Exodus 16:4-30
Fifth Commandment Genesis 9:20-27
Sixth Commandment Genesis 4:8-11, 23-24; 9:5-6
Seventh Commandment Genesis 20:5-9; 34:1-2, 31; 38:24; 39:7-9
Eighth Commandment Genesis 27:35-36; 30:33; 31:19, 30, 32, 39; 44:8
Ninth Commandment Genesis 27:12, 17-24
Tenth Commandment Genesis 3:6 (must be broken before 8th one can be broken)

 

This information makes clear that, although the Ten Commandments were not in written form until Mt. Sinai, God’s people understood all of them.

 

 

2.  Doesn’t Ephesians 2:15 teach that the Ten Commandments were nailed to the cross and are thus not applicable to Christians?

 

“[Jesus]…abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two [Jews and Gentiles], thus making peace.”  Ephesians 2:15.

 

Answer:

 

A.  Note that the context of the entire passage (verses 11-22) is about creating one new people by reconciling Jews and Gentiles in Jesus into one body-temple, the Christian Church (verses 19-22).  In order to do this, Jesus “…, who has made both one, …has broken down the middle wall of separation,” (verse 14), which is defined in verse 15 as “the law of commandments contained in ordinances….”  Reference to “the middle wall of separation” is to the wall in the Court of the Gentiles, beyond which Gentiles could not go in Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem.  In other words, the Jews had used “the law of commandments contained in ordinances” to separate themselves from Gentiles and to erect an unbiblical barrier to God for Gentiles.  God had never intended for the Jews to do this, so the Jews were misusing whatever the “law” is referring to.

 

B.  The truth was that the earthly Temple had only offered limited access to God through its sacrifices and priests.  It was only by abolishing the significance of the Temple in Jerusalem and offering Himself as the Door to God that Jesus could offer anyone unlimited access to the Father.  Therefore, we conclude that the law which Jesus nailed to the cross must have been the ceremonial, or sanctuary, law.  And this has nothing to do with the Ten Commandments.

 

 

3.  But doesn’t Colossians 2:14 teach that Jesus nailed the Ten Commandments to the cross?

 

“In Him [Jesus] you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.  And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us.  And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.  Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them triumphing over them in it.”  Colossians 2:11-15.

 

Answer:  The immediate context just before the phrase “having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us” is how God forgives us.  So whatever the Greek word translated “handwriting” means, it cannot refer to any part of God’s law because abolishing a law that someone has violated is never the means to forgiving that person.  In fact, the Greek word for “handwriting” occurs only here in the New Testament, but it was often used in Jewish literature of that day to describe either a certificate of sin-indebtedness (an IOU) or a record book of sins.  But removing the evidence against someone is not the means of forgiving them anymore than abolishing the law.  Therefore, what Jesus nailed to the cross here must be our IOU for the debt of perfect righteousness, which because the law points out sin, we owe God.  He could do this since Jesus paid our debt, as we saw in Lesson #6.  And in doing so, Jesus triumphed over Satan and his demons.

 

 

4.  I have heard that the Ten Commandments were nailed to the cross as a unit, but that those individual commandments which are repeated in the New Testament are valid for Christians.  Does the Bible teach this understanding?

 

Answer:  Obviously, it does not teach that view because we have shown from the last two questions that the Ten Commandments were never nailed to the cross.  Therefore, this Moral Law of God must continue to be valid for those who accept Jesus as having paid their spiritual debt.  In any case, each of the Ten Commandments is indeed mentioned or alluded to in the New Testament, as shown by the following chart:

 

First Commandment Matthew 4:10; Acts 14:11-15; I Corinthians 8:4-6
Second Commandment Acts 17:29; I Corinthians 10:14; I John 5:21
Third Commandment I Timothy 6:1; James 5:12
Fourth Commandment Acts 16:13; 17:2; Hebrews 4:9-10
Fifth Commandment Matthew 19:19; Ephesians 6:2-3
Sixth Commandment Romans 13:9; James 2:11
Seventh Commandment Matthew 19:18; Romans 13:9; James 2:11
Eighth Commandment Matthew 19:18; Romans 13:9
Ninth Commandment Matthew 19:18; Romans 13:9
Tenth Commandment Romans 7:7; 13:9

 

 

5.  I’ve always been taught that Christians are “under grace”, not “under the law.”  Doesn’t that mean we don’t have to keep the Ten Commandment Law anymore?

 

A.  Romans 6:14, 16, 17-18, 22:  “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace….  Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey….  But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.  And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness….  But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.”

 

Answer:  Saved Christians are indeed under grace and not under the law.  But it doesn’t mean that we don’t have to obey the Ten Commandments.  Paul teaches in Romans 6 that when we were under the law, we were slaves to sin.  But now we are under grace, which makes us slaves to God and righteousness.  Thus, being under the law means to be using the law as a means to your salvation—but since the law points out sin, it condemns you.  Being under grace means allowing Jesus to save you by His life and death—a fact that produces righteous fruit, which is defined by the Ten Commandments.

 

B.  Galatians 5:4-5, 18:  “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.  For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith….  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”

 

Answer:  Plainly, being “led by the Spirit” is the opposite of being “under the law.”  Again, the context of verse 4 makes it clear that being “under the law” is attempting to be “justified by law.”  But if you rely on grace, you will “through the Spirit” exhibit the fruit of the Spirit (see verses 22-23).

 

 

6.  But doesn’t Romans 7:6 tell us that we Christians “have been delivered from the law…so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter”?  What does that mean?

 

“For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives.  But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband….  Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law…that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead….  For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet.’….  Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.”  Romans 7:2, 4, 7, 12.

 

Answer:  Paul moves from the slavery metaphor in Romans 6 (see Question #5) to the marriage metaphor in Romans 7.  Obviously, then, when people are under the law they are slaves to sin and are married to sin.  Notice that it was the believer, not the law, who died in chapter 7.  The believer died to the law that bound him in marriage to sin, so that he may lawfully marry Jesus.  Being married to sin meant that a person served “in the oldness of the letter” of the law, which meant the law was a drudgery.  But since Paul makes it quite plain that the Ten Commandment Law “is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good”, believers’ marriage to Jesus makes the Law a delight rather than drudgery.  Thus, the Ten Commandments are still valid as telling us what sin is and what our behavior should be.

 

 

7.  II Corinthians 3 seems to associate the Ten Commandments with the old covenant.  Since Christians are under the new covenant, haven’t the Ten Commandments been abolished?

 

“…clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written…not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, the heart…ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit, for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life….  Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away.  But their minds were blinded.  For until this day the same veil remains unlifted…because the veil is taken away in Christ….  But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ…should shine on them.”  II Corinthians 3:3-4:3-4.

 

Answer:  There is no doubt that the “tablets of stone” or “the letter” is implicitly associated with the old covenant, and the “tablets of flesh” or “the Spirit” is associated with the new covenant.  Then Paul uses the true story that Moses’ time spent with God on Mt. Sinai had given him God’s glorious light reflecting on his face, and he had to cover it with a veil.  Paul then figuratively applies the Israelites’ experience as having been blinded ever since to the gospel.  In other words, the apostle is stating that the old covenant is the Jewish misunderstanding of the one true covenant which God had intended for Israel all along—that the Ten Commandments would lead them to recognize their need for a Savior.  But since it did not do that, it killed them spiritually instead because of their insistence upon seeing only the letter of the Law and keeping it in an external way.  The new covenant experience allows God’s true people to have the Holy Spirit write the same Ten Commandments on their hearts—because they accept Jesus as their Savior, the Law is internalized as a response of love to His gracious salvation.  It’s the same Ten Commandments, but the issue is where they are written, that is, how and why one chooses to obey them.  Therefore, this Bible chapter actually uplifts the Ten Commandments for God’s people.

 

 

8.  Doesn’t Galatians 3:23-24 tell us that since we are justified (declared righteous) in Jesus, we no longer need the Ten Commandment Law?

 

“Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.  But after faith came, we are no longer under a tutor.”  Galatians 3:23-24.

 

Answer:  The Greek word for “tutor” here actually refers to a family servant in Roman times who was responsible for taking any children to school each day.  So Paul’s point is that the Law was partly designed to take us to Jesus, where we would be justified by faith in Him.  Once justified, we no longer need the Law to function in that way because we’re already there with Jesus.  But this in no way abolishes the Law as the standard to show us how to live.  As discussed previously, the Law leads us to a Savior because it condemns our violations of it as sin and worthy of death.  By condemning our violations of the Law’s demands, the Ten Commandments are thereby shown to still be valid as showing us the way to live.

 

 

9.  I read somewhere in the New Testament that Mt. Sinai (Ten Commandments) are associated with the old covenant and bondage.  Surely, Christians aren’t in bondage to the Law, are we?

 

“Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law?  For it is written that Abraham had two sons:  the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman.  But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are symbolic.  For these are the two covenants:  the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar—for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children—but the Jerusalem above is free….  Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise….  So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.”  Galatians 4:21-31.

 

Answer:  No, true Christians are not in bondage to the Ten Commandments.  Notice that Paul begins his allegory by referring to those “who desire to be under the law”.  Under Question #5 and #8 above, we discovered that to be under the law is to use your law-keeping as a means to your salvation.  When you do that, you are condemned by the Ten Commandments to be in bondage to it.  In Romans 6 and 7 (see Question #5 and #6 above), the same apostle said that this puts us in slavery to sin and married to sin, respectively.  Here in Galatians 4, he says that his own people (“Jerusalem which now is”) are in this state.  However, when we accept the gospel promise that Jesus saves us, we are both the spiritual children of the promise and of the freewoman.  Once again, this passage says nothing about ignoring the Ten Commandments as the standard of our behavior.

 

 

10.  What does the book of Hebrews say about the Ten Commandments?

 

“Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood…what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron?  For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law….  For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, for the law made nothing perfect….  For the law appoints as high priests men who have weaknesses, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.”  Hebrews 7:11-28.

 

Answer:  In the very clear context of Hebrews 7, it was the Sanctuary/Priesthood law that needed to be changed because the priests were weak and the animal sacrifices were unable to save anyone.  Therefore, Jesus comes along as the perfect Sacrifice for all sins and as the perfect high priest.  It’s quite obvious, then, that the law that was changed or abolished was the Sanctuary/Priesthood law, not the Ten Commandments.  In fact, in this same context, the inspired author twice quotes Jeremiah 31, including the part where God will write His laws in His people’s minds and hearts (see Hebrews 8:8-12 and 10:16-17).  Sanctuary laws, civil laws, and health laws cannot be written in the minds and hearts of anyone; but the Moral Law (Ten Commandments) can be, as we saw in Question #7 above.

 

 

11.  Doesn’t the New Testament replace the keeping of the Ten Commandments with love for God and our fellow men?

 

“Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it:  ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”  Matthew 22:37-40.  “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.  For the commandments, ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’  ‘You shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”  Romans 13:8-10.

 

“If you love Me, keep My commandments.”  John 14:15.  “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.  For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.”  I John 5:2-3.

 

Answer:  First, when Jesus spoke in Matthew 22:37-40, He was quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, so there was nothing new about His command to love—except that it was new to most of His people, who had little love in their hearts.  Moreover, since the command to love is also in the Old Testament, love obviously does not abolish the Law.  Second, the New Testament never teaches that love replaces obedience to the Commandments, but rather that love leads the genuine believer to obey them.

 

 

12.  I have heard somewhere that the New Testament declares that Jesus is the end of the law.  Is that true?

 

“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”  Romans 10:4.

 

Answer:  Although the Greek word for “end” can also mean “goal” in the sense that Christ points toward the goal of righteousness, notice that “to everyone who believes” limits the “end of the law” to those who believe.  But the law primarily leads unbelievers to Christ, not believers.  Therefore, Paul is saying that Jesus is the end of believers’ attempts to use the law as a means to gain righteousness.  So the text says nothing about the Ten Commandments being abolished as the standard of right and wrong for the Christian.

 

 

13.  I believe that Christian freedom is freedom from having to keep the Ten Commandments.  How do you respond to that belief?

 

“Jesus answered them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin….  Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”  John 8:34-36.

 

Answer:  First, please note that there is a complete absence of any discussion in the context of any of God’s laws, including the Ten Commandments.  Second, the point in verse 34 is that whoever “commits” [“continues to practice”] sin is a slave to sin.  In this context, Jesus says that He can make us free from our slavery to sin.  Therefore, Christian freedom frees us from bondage to sin so that we may freely serve (and obey) the God of love!

 

 

Quiz for Lesson 9—Revisiting the Ten Commandments

 

1.  What statements below about the Ten Commandments and Israel are true? (2)

  The Ten Commandments were first formally given to Israel at Mt. Sinai (or Mt. Horeb).

  The Commandments are stated or implied in the book of Genesis before there were Israelites.

  Since the Commandments were first officially given in Exodus, they don’t apply to Christians.

Answer

The Ten Commandments were first formally given to Israel at Mt. Sinai (or Mt. Horeb).
The Commandments are stated or implied in the book of Genesis before there were Israelites.

2.  Which statements below are true of Ephesians 2? (3)

  The “middle wall of separation” was never intended to be built in the Temple by God.

  The Ten Commandments were nailed to the cross.

  The Sanctuary law was nailed to the cross.

  The purpose of Ephesians 2 is to show that God made 1 new people from Jews and Gentiles.

Answer

The “middle wall of separation” was never intended to be built in the Temple by God.
The Sanctuary law was nailed to the cross.
The purpose of Ephesians 2 is to show that God made 1 new people from Jews and Gentiles.

3.  What was nailed to the cross according to Colossians 2? (1)

  Our IOU—what we owed God—was nailed to the cross.

  The record of our sins was nailed to the cross.

  The Ten Commandments were nailed to the cross.

  The Sanctuary law was nailed to the cross.

Answer

Our IOU—what we owed God—was nailed to the cross.

4.  Which statements below are true about the Ten Commandments and the New Testament? (2)

  The Ten Commandments are only valid if they are repeated in the New Testament.

  Only 9 of the Ten Commandments are repeated in the New Testament.

  The Ten Commandments are valid in the New Testament since they didn’t end at the cross.

  In any case, all Ten Commandments are repeated in the New Testament.

Answer

The Ten Commandments are valid in the New Testament since they didn’t end at the cross.
In any case, all Ten Commandments are repeated in the New Testament.

5.  Which statements below are true about being under grace or under the law? (3)

  Being under grace means that you no longer have to keep the Ten Commandments.

  Being under the law means that you are under the condemnation of the Ten Commandments.

  Being “led by the Spirit” is the same as being under grace.

  Being under grace means that you will keep the Ten Commandments.

  Being under the law means that you can be saved by keeping the Ten Commandments.

Answer

Being under the law means that you are under the condemnation of the Ten Commandments.
Being “led by the Spirit” is the same as being under grace.
Being under grace means that you will keep the Ten Commandments.

6.  The new covenant experience means that God will write the Ten Commandments on your heart so that you will keep the Ten Commandments. (1)

  True

  False

Answer

True

7.  What does Galatians 3 tell us about the Ten Commandments? (2)

  We no longer need the Ten Commandments to lead us to Jesus if we are already with Him.

  We no longer need to keep the Ten Commandments since we are not under a tutor.

  The Ten Commandments still show us how to live our Christian lives.

Answer

We no longer need the Ten Commandments to lead us to Jesus if we are already with Him.
The Ten Commandments still show us how to live our Christian lives.

8.  What puts people in bondage to the Ten Commandments? (1)

  People are in bondage when they try to be saved by keeping the Ten Commandments.

  People are in bondage when they think they still have to keep the Ten Commandments.

Answer

People are in bondage when they try to be saved by keeping the Ten Commandments.

9.  What is the relationship between Love and the Ten Commandments? (3)

  Love replaces the Ten Commandments as the law that Christians live by.

  Love is the fulfillment of the Ten Commandments.

  The Ten Commandments show us how to love God and to love our neighbors.

  Love makes a believer want to keep the Ten Commandments.

Answer

Love is the fulfillment of the Ten Commandments.
The Ten Commandments show us how to love God and to love our neighbors.
Love makes a believer want to keep the Ten Commandments.

10.  Christian freedom is freedom from having to keep the Ten Commandments. (1)

  True

  False

Answer

False