In Sunday School the other day, we discussed the 20th chapter of Exodus, which contains the Ten Commandments. Our teacher asked the question, “Are Christians bound by the Ten Commandments?”
An interesting question—one which could possibly stir up some controversy. Are we required to obey the Ten Commandments?
Those of us who were raised as regular church attendees were taught these commandments from young ages. We were raised to accept them as part of being a Christian—but are they really?
The Biblical answer to the question is that we are not subject to the law, and the commandments are part of the law, so Christians are not subject to them. That may surprise some, even cause some arguments, but that’s what the Bible says.
The Ten Commandments are part of Mosaic Law. This law was part of the Mosaic Covenant, and it governed Israel from Moses’s day until the day of Jesus’s crucifixion. In the moment of His death on the cross, however, the law was superseded by the New Covenant of grace.
Jesus Himself said, “I come to fulfill the law.” At the moment He gave up the ghost on the cross, the veil in the temple was ripped from top to bottom, symbolizing the end of the priesthood and, more generally, the entire covenant of the law. It was replaced by grace.
The law was never sufficient to save anyone. Jesus said “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 3:16, one of the most recognized verses in scripture, reads as follows:
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
It says nothing about doing this or obeying that. It simply says “whosoever believes.” It’s our belief in Jesus, our acceptance of Him as our Savior, that gives us new birth into God’s kingdom and membership in His family.
So, what about the law and the commandments? Are they of no value anymore? Absolutely not. They are of great value—as a mirror for us to see our shortcomings. Our sins. By examining ourselves in the light of the law, we can see what sins we need to confess, and when we do that, 1 John 1:9 says God will be faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness.
How wonderful is that? We’re not required or even expected to live up to every measure of the law. Our responsibility is to confess our sins. God does the rest.
So what does cleanse us of all unrighteousness mean? It’s God’s process of conforming us to the image of His Son, as He promised us in Romans 8:28 & 29.
Jesus knew no sin, and God is conforming you and me to His image. He does this, not by subjecting us to external laws and commandments, but by changing our own inner desires. If I am submitted to Him and regularly confess whatever sins He shows me, then His work in me makes me not want to murder or commit adultery or violate any of the other commandments.
That’s the New Covenant at work. Where the law could not force me to do this or refrain from that, the Holy Spirit, working in me because of my acceptance of Jesus as my Savior, can make me want to do this and not do that. I’m not under the law, but I’m being conformed to the spirit of the law.
What changes can you see in yourself that God has brought about through this cleansing process? How would you like for your salvation to be contingent on living up to each and every one of the Mosaic laws?
If you abide in Me and My word abides in you, then you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.
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If my salvation were dependent upon obeying all the 10 commandments, then I’d be an unsaved wretch. Thanks for such an insightful blog.
You’re welcome, Sharon.