10 Commandments & Jesus
This is written against the teaching of some who teach, roughly, 'the ten commandments aren't nowt special, and all old testament law, them included, have been superceded by the precepts of Christ.' The aim is to show that such a position is against the testimony of Scripture.
Please don't think we ain't grace alone, faith alone freaks! We hate superficial legalism more than the next man, but the above position helps no one. I'd probably get cast as an anti-nomian by many of my brethren as no doubt I enjoy a cider and a roll up more than many.
Click here1 for a very very brief summary for those short of time.
within salvation history
This was integral to the very purpose for which God had told Moses, Pharaoh and the people that he was bringing them out:
...when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain...
You and all the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, 'The LORD, the God of the Hebrews has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.'
The law was given to the physically redeemed people of God, who've had the Passover Lamb die for them, and thus been set free from the slavery, now to live as unto God, owned by him. The first issuance of the law occurred in Exodus 20, prior to the desert sacrifice of Exodus 24, after which the elders saw God.
the words of the covenant
They played an essential part within the [old] covenant of God, indeed the 'ten words'2 or decalogue/ten commandments were later described alone as being the 'words of the covenant':
And [God] wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Words.
And he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Words...
preceding shock & awe
Moses went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people; and they washed their garments. And he said to the people, 'Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman.'
On the morning of the third day there were thunders and ligthings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled... Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the LORD had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly.
Those incredibly unusual circumstances preceded a very particular event. It was not Moses being told comments about gathering sticks on a sabbath, or the low down on going to the toilet outside the camp. The event it preceded was the visitation of God, and his direct verbal issuing of the ten words for the first time ever to all the Israelites he had redeemed.
God never spoke any other part of the law to them. It was the first and last time God spoke to the entire assembly of Israel - they would never again hear from God's own voice (at their own request)
These words the LORD spoke to all your assembly at the mountain out of the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice; and he added no more. And he wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me. And as soon as you heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, you came near to me, all the heads of your tribes, and your elders. And you said, 'Behold, the LORD our God has shown us his glory and greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire. This day we have seen God speak with man and man still live. Now therefore why should we die? For this great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the LORD our God any more, we shall die. For who is there of all flesh, that has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of fire as we have, and has still lived?'
I think we can safely say that the Ten Commandments thus made a unique impression on them. If one asked an Israelite later in Canaan, whose father had been there at Mount Sinai, "Was there any part of the law that your father taught you as especially relevant?" it seems highly likely that the answer would be immediate and clear. "The decalogue, no question. My father remembered all his life the very voice of God, I also heard it and was terrified, and though I was but a boy at the time, I remember it like yesterday. It is not once in a lifetime such an occurence happens, we could not forget it, though we failed to keep it."
If you disagree, please show me the texts that show that other aspects of the law made as big an indentation on their psyche - you see nothing less than abject terror and awe that they were still alive in those verses. It seems entirely reasonable to suppose they remembered what was thundered to them - as if through a billion watt sound system (they all physically trembled) - a little more clearly than other aspects of the law.
Also worthy of note is that it was Jesus Christ that Moses spoke with up there. God with a form - he saw his back. The words of the commandments were those of Jesus Christ himself, but speaking (as in Revelation) with his voice unrestrained like the sound of many many waters. Later he would speak on another mountain to disciples of a new covenant.
Not content with Moses having written them down (Exodus 24:4), he himself decides to write them on something more enduring than papyrus. Exodus 34:28, Deuteronomy 5:22 and 10:4 demonstrate conclusively that only the Ten Commandments were written on both the first and second set of stone tablets
And he wrote on the tablets, in the same writing as before, the Ten Words that the LORD had spoken to you on the mountain out of the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly.
Deuteronomy 10:4 cf Exodus 34:1
It is not said that any other of the laws were written on stone; let alone stone hewn by God himself (at least the first set were made by God and then broken by man, who would have to then make his own set).
The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.
They were uniquely to be stored inside the ark in the holy of Holies. The whole Book of the Law was to be placed beside the ark (Deuteronomy 31:24-26), but only the 'two tablets of the testimony' were place inside the ark (31:18, 32:15 & further correlation3). Exodus 25:22 (and many others) refer to the 'ark of testimony', in which dwelt God's law, above which dwelt God on the mercy seat where blood would be sprinkled. It was principally breaches of the 10 commandments which brought the need for forgiveness. Thus you can see fundamental to the ark's purpose was as safety deposit box in the very presence of God of the agreement between him and his people, and that agreement was perceived as the ten commandments. The distinction is massive.
And you shall put into the ark the testimony that I shall give you...
And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God...
Then I turned and came down from the mountain and put the tablets in the ark that I had made. And there they are, as the LORD commanded me...
He took the testimony and put it into the ark, and put the poles on the ark and set the mercy seat above on the ark.
Exodus 25:16, 31:18, Deuteronomy 10:5, Exodus 40:20
You just can't escape the fact that the 10 C's were uniquely delineated - the moral law, the heart of the covenant. The case against those who claim no distinction between any part of the law is incredibly strong entirely because God himself demarcated the ten words so unusually. There is no other aspect of the law like it.
The distinction between commandments & statutes maybe clear in the text also (if you've written a concise summary of this or know one - let me know!), but have not verified in detail, however, for those interested it may be worth pursuing.
- What would the Israelite of the time have understood by these verses to be happening in the new covenant, after those days?
- What would he have understood by 'my law' in Jeremiah? Would the idea of having law written by God on them bring back any memories within their theological framework?
- How do the quotes complement each other (which also talk of the new covenant)? What common threads are there?
- What aspects here would this covenant have appeared 'new'/different, or 'better' as the writer to the Hebrews said (Hebrews 8:6)? What shortfalls of the old does it seem to be targeting?
Some very familiar key Old Testament quotes, and then some questions...
[when u've broken covenant, endured the curses, been exiled, God will bring u back, but not just that:>>]
And The LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.
But 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 give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them.
Deuteronomy 30:6, Jeremiah 31:33, Ezekiel 11:19
Try and work it out b4 having a look at what I may think...
The location of the law/circumcision is the new aspect: no longer on tablets of stone, but written into our hearts - the implanted word. No longer condemning from outside, that we cannot keep but only break, and if we break one we break all on that stony tablet. God has marvellously promised a way of altering our very beings so that the law becomes at last internal, from within, something that flows out of us. Paul himself picks up on this idea when he comments on the Corinthians:
You show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
2 Corinthians 3:3
Consider how Paul there picks up on both the Jeremiah/Moses connection (law written by God) and combines that neatly with Ezekiels stone/flesh heart to indicate that all were intending a similar thing. The Ten Words of the Covenant were to be written in changed hearts that would begin to keep it. I could quote him in Romans also, where he talks about those who are circumcised inwardly. This is the focus, not any change in key law (cos the old school law/ten words, gets referenced several times there), but before anyone screams, let's hear Christ on this...
And he said to them, 'Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?' (Thus he declared all foods clean.)
God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.
Mark 7:18-19, Acts 10:28
For Jesus personally this new covenant heart perspective was his experience:
Behold, I have come; in the volume of the book it is written of me: I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.
Jesus saw some matters of the law as far more important than others:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel.
The weightier were so much heavier than the lighter matters of the law it was as if one were a camel and the other a gnat - really there is no comparison. One is *HEAAVY*, one is really very very light. If he saw a distinction and we do not, it is us that are in error and not him.
Again, when asked, "Which is the greatest commandment?", or some question like it, without exception he responded with two commands:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.
It is sad that people cite quotations like this and say, "See how the God of the New Testament is so different from the God of the Old - he is all about love, instead of anger and hate." They do not know that both commands are OT verses: Deuteronomy 6:5 & Leviticus 19:18. When the law is summarised by these two verses from a lawyer, he tells him he is correct (Luke 10:27). These seem to have been an understood summary of the Ten Commandments, where in essence the first four concern the love of God. For instance when the rich young man of Mark 10 asks what he must do to inherit eternal life, basically he directs him to the second group of the ten words (perhaps to draw attention to his failure to observe the first group, or the 'covet' one).
You just can't escape this one — watch the salvation history similarities… Jesus calls his disciples to him (his to-be-redeemed new people, of the new wine). Then "he went up on the mountain", and began to open his mouth and teach his disciples. And what does he teach them:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil 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. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.
Consider then what commandments Christ teaches them, what Law, does it not bear a striking similarity to a sermon taking them through the true intended meaning of some of the Ten Words? What Law, what commandments would the hearer have thought he was forbidding 'the relaxing of, and teaching others to do the same'?
Some people say what he taught were new commandments, but he categorically said he only gave them one new commandment.4 Further, the kind of ways he applied truth was not an entirely new development, but already there hidden in the OT:
You shall not hate your brother in your heart...
I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?
If you meet your enemy's ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him.
Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.
1 Samuel 16:7
Surely you desire truth in the inner parts...
Though these things were there in the OT, with all the judicial applications of the law/10C's in the theocratic environment and co-existing with ceremonial shadow wrappings, it was inevitable that man would move away from the heart and get buried in the outward. So the New was certainly in the Old concealed, and here in the sermon from the mount you have at last the old in the new fully revealed with an incendiary clarity, from that orginal firestarter.
Now, of course, for the Christian it has changed, we are no longer related to the law in the same way, through the Spirit of God and his Word it enters our hearts. Thus we are "not without law to God, but under the law to Christ."5
Though, at the last supper, Jesus adds the new commandment, it hardly seems as if at any point in his ministry he relaxed any one of the ten commandments from its true application, but instead drove it further and deeper into the heart of it, whilst destroying the pharisaical detritus that surrounded some of them (blaspheming & lying [Mathew 5, Mark 3], honouring parents [Matthew 15, Mark 7], sabbath [Mark 2], adultery...). When he did change what are acknowledged lighter matters of the law it is unmissably clear: the end of the temple, the change of food laws etc.
These just show a few commandments applied to Christians, and how Christians/saints are characterised by keeping commandments.
James 2:8-12 is of interest. Law of liberty also referenced in James 1:25, reminds one of where the spirit is there is freedom.
Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but keeping the commandments of God.
1 Corinthians 7:19
Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.
Here is the call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 'Honour your father and mother' (this is the first commandment with a promise), 'that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.'
Paul quotes and applies 5th commandment to children in a Christian church. That is part of his 'youthwork' methodology (having told them all the good things God has done for them in chapters 1 to 3).
Many people have trouble getting their heads round this one. Well, let's try and help:
If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
Man, that's legalistic! Who said that? Old Testament, right?! Ha ha! But this is in the following context of the Spirit's enabling:
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you... [could have run on to verse 24]
You see the things are not incompatible in Jesus' eyes. It is as the Spirit shows us the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, the crucified servant King of glory, that we see ourselves and realise how awesome God's love for us is, and thus our hearts are altered forever. That inner new covenant change, part of which is writing the law within our hearts, has then begun...
- The ten commandments and all other laws are one and the same. A mass without distinction. There is no case for a distinct 'moral law'.
- All law has been fulfilled in the cross and the ten commandments now have as much impact on the Christian as does the literal need to have a one year old lamb sacrificed. The New has come, the old has all gone.
I hope to have demonstrated that those who say any of the following are not in alignment with the clear reading of scripture:
Let's begin at the beginning...
So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.
One day (the seventh, or Saturday at the time) was separated from the other six as a creation ordinance - it was 'sanctified' - set apart. Adam and his early descendants would have been well aware of this as surely it is via them that Moses' creation account came?
Then the LORD said to Moses, 'I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. 5 On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.'
Exodus 16:4-5 (cf. 20-30) - remember this is pre-10C's
New Testament occurences of 'first day of the week'
Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.
Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons.
Mark 16:9 (contested passage)
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, 'Peace be with you.'
John 20:19, 1st appearance of Christ after resurrection
Eight days later [Jewish equivalent of 'a week later'], his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, 'Peace be with you.'
This is almost certainly the 2nd appearance of Christ after resurrection. Is John making it look like a pattern? What is Jesus saying by choosing to only appear on the first day of the week?
Pentecost is when the Spirit was sent, and many see this as falling on a Sunday according to Leviticus 23 - including some within the Jewish tradition to this day, hence another very significant demarcation of this day.
On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.
On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.
1 Corinthians 16:2
The 'Saturday' Sabbath simply does not get these kind of references at all, i.e. as a day on which Christians met together or Christ appeared.
[Warning! Non-bible argument!] Early church history has it documented the first day was the day when God's people met.
Why the apparent change of day?
By the time John wrote Revelation it was perhaps called the Lord's day (cf. Revelation 1:10), why? Because he owned it! On this day he rose from the dead his victory proved, and we could know with certainty that we were set free from death and could share his future, his raised body 'the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep'.
Now to a supplementary biblical reason as to why Christ thus changed the day: it had happened once before in biblical history…
The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, 'This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year.'
Exodus 12:1-2, 'The Passover' chapter
Take a little time to ask yourself (and answer) the question, 'Why did God choose to rearrange the people of God's calendar at this time?'
Hopefully you found that fruitful, and now as we parallel it to the New Testament, all of a sudden it makes absolutely perfect sense to shift the actual day of the week not just the first month, in the light of what happened on this incredible day in 33AD (or so).
Put simply: God changed the day to mark a far greater salvation event when the true Passover Lamb was sacrificed, and accepted by God. This event set the people of God free not simply from physical bondage but from everlasting hell, and spiritual slavery. It is entirely appropriate that being a greater day, it is receives a more radical marker - 52 times a year we remember this change!
We are a resurrected people, and the day we meet is not the day he lay in the grave, but the day he rose triumphant as Judge of all the Earth.
For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:6
If you wish to be fully equipped for a discussion on this subject you will find it profitable to form a view on the following:
The Sabbath day and rest as described in Hebrews 4:1-10 - many say this means God works every day so we can too. I'm not quite sure the writer had it in mind to remove the creation 'sanctification' of the seventh day, but form your own mind.
You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.
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.
One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord...
Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother?
Romans 14:5-6 & 10
The texts referring to the 'Sabbath' (as opposed to first day of the week) evangelism are all in Acts: 13:14, 44, 16:13, 17:2 & 18:4. They are all concerned with evangelism and exhibit a practical wisdom in meeting the need to take the message to the 'Jew first' - do it when they are all gathered together. Does this necessarily mean that Christians were to meet on and honour the original Jewish Sabbath? Jesus' appearances to my mind have the heaviest weight and last say on the matter: "No." Should that fail to convince you you must consider that we have no record in the New Testament of post-resurrection Christians meeting on the 'Sabbath'.
There is clarity from the texts (in combination with the above Ten Commandments biblical theology) to argue for the idea that ONE day in seven should be special.
Whether you choose Sunday or Saturday doesn't bother me too much, but to knock the idea out all together is clearly error (though I don't believe I should judge you for it - or in fact almost anything!!). That's the nub of what I seek to show on this one, and that the New Testament seems to give substantial, reasonable and not unprecedented pointers to the fact that there was a shift from the seventh day of the week to the first.
As to what might ideally be done on such a special day... boy, a whole nother subject, and go analyse the texts would be my question, but don't just buy into traditions... At a guess: rest, meeting with God's people, preaching salvation to the lost, and helping them... There are a reasonable variety of takes on sabbath activity in the bible... and even the Pharisees misunderstood it, Jesus healing people was 'work', but on that greatest of sabbath days, the Jubilee, that Sabbath of sabbaths, there was a whole heap of work as it was the day the slaves had to be set free and land returned to the families that owned it... sacrifices etc etc.
Forgive me for any muddle, it was done in a rush in response to a need! I have probably forgot relevant stuff, like what we call it, I'd be inclined to leave Sabbath behind as the NT does, and use 'Lord's Day', or first day of the week, deliberately recalling to mind God's creative work of Dark breaking by Light bringing. And sing praises to God for that great work above all!!!
- Romans 6:14 we are not under the law but we are under grace
- Galatians 2:19 in Christ we are also dead to the law (to its condemning power - v20 crucified with Christ, i am dead to its penalty on me, cos i died already in union with my substitute)
- Romans 8:2 in Christ I am free from the law (again its condeming power, see context)
verses that people use to say law has NO application to us any longer
- restrains wickedness, and perfects righteousness, encourages justice, (the guard, has a holding effect, righteousness uplifts a nation, enlivens conscience of ordinary man, find it harder to do wrong, more encouraged to do right (from selfish motives admittedly, but all positive in terms of experience of ordinary Joe's)
- convinces of sin and misery and directs people to Jesus Christ as sole hope - it awakens the conscience, the gravity of the moral situation, reveals the predicament of man as an offender b4 the bar of God - for non believer, just use of the law (which is good if one uses it so, to bring conviction of guilt)
- points out the way of godliness & righteousness... - shows God's character and desires, but now in positive not negative
Some quality, quality talks, though I think I'd disagree with some of their application. Listen and digest if u have the time.
- The Law in the Life of Christ - Malcolm Watts
- The Law and the Unbelieving Sinner - John Thackway
- The Law and the Christian - John Thackway
1: ^ 4 da man with no time - they were special cos:
i. 1st & last spoken words all Israel heard direct from God (preceded & surrounding by fairly serious fireworks etc)
ii. written both times by 'finger of God'
iii. recorded on stone (1st lot made by God himself, second by Moses)
iv. stored in the Ark in Holy of Holies directly under mercy seat
v. 'the words of the covenant' = 'the Ten Words' (Ex 34:28)
DIFFERENT to all other laws in OT!!! ;)
"You just can't escape the fact that the 10 C's were uniquely delineated - the moral law, the heart of the covenant. The case against those who claim no distinction between any part of the law is incredibly strong entirely because God himself demarcated the ten words so unusually. There is no other aspect of the law like it."
2: ^ As it reads in the Hebrew.
3: ^ 1 Kings 8:9,21; 2 Chronicles 5:10 & Hebrews 9:4
4: ^ John 13:34, 15:12
5: ^ 1 Corinthians 9:21
Links in footnotes were correct at time of writing. If you find dead ones, please let me know. In a number of cases I have saved a copy of the linked page/file, and can make this available on request.