The Ten Commandments or Decalogue are part of a larger collection of laws included in an agreement between God and the Nation of Israel. The agreement was a covenant (sometimes called a “testament”).
Such an agreement is comparable to a marriage agreement or covenant, in which both parties promise fidelity in a legally binding relationship. As a marriage is adulterated by unfaithfulness between husband and wife, a covenant between God and humans is tainted by spiritual adultery. The covenant that included the additional 600 or so laws was mediated by Moses. Thus it came to be called the Mosaic Law covenant. Does this covenant or do these laws apply today to Christians?
A Blessing and a Curse – For Whom?
The Mosaic Law Covenant or Old Covenant did not include all peoples. It was limited to Israel. The covenant itself and each of its individual laws, including the Ten Commandments, were perfect. But the other party – the to-be Nation of Israel – was not made up of perfect individuals. This caused the Law to be both a blessing and curse. A curse? How so?
The Bible at Galatians 3:10 reads,
“All those who depend on works of law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not remain in all the things written in the scroll of the Law by doing them.”
If the Jews had kept the Mosaic Law perfectly, they would still be alive today! They would have earned everlasting life by their obedience (see Leviticus 18:5 and Romans 10:5). But no matter how hard they might try, imperfection would prevent them from succeeding. For instance, Exodus 20:17 speaks of the tenth of the Ten Commandments on covetousness. What human has ever succeeded in avoiding every smidgen of covetousness?
Something New is Needed
The Mosaic Law Covenant provided many regulations concerning animal sacrifices the nation, individuals, and even the priests needed to offer for forgiveness of sin. Clearly the Israelites were doomed to fail. In this, the Law covenant should have taught the Jews a priceless lesson. They needed a new covenant plus they needed a Messiah.
As to the new covenant, the Jewish prophet Jeremiah gives a glimpse of what to expect when he writes at Jeremiah 31:31-34,
“Look! The days are coming,” declares Jehovah, “when I will make with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah a new covenant. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their forefathers on the day I took hold of their hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, ‘my covenant that they broke, although I was their true master,’ declares Jehovah.”
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares Jehovah. “I will put my law within them, and in their heart I will write it. And I will become their God, and they will become my people.”
“And they will no longer teach each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know Jehovah!’ for they will all know me, from the least to the greatest of them,” declares Jehovah. “For I will forgive their error, and I will no longer remember their sin.”
Ten Commandments: Out with the Old, In with the New
As to the Messiah, Galatians 3:24, 25 informs us, “Consequently the Law has become our tutor [or, guardian] leading to Christ, that we might be declared righteous due to faith. But now that the faith has arrived, we are no longer under a tutor.”
Paul informs Christians at Galatians 3:11-14,
“It is evident that by law no one is declared righteous with God, because “the righteous one will live by reason of faith.” Now the Law is not based on faith. Rather, “anyone who does these things will live by means of them.” Christ purchased us, releasing us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse instead of us, because it is written: “Accursed is every man hung upon a stake.” This was so that the blessing of Abraham would come to the nations by means of Christ Jesus, so that we might receive the promised spirit through our faith.”
Yes, Christians need Christ, and not the Mosaic Law including its 10 Commandments, to attain to salvation. Christ re-affirmed many of the principles found in these commandments, and we do our best to abide by them. But we realize Christ was the end of the Law and to try to gain God’s approval merely by being kind to our neighbors and following the Ten Commandments, will not enable us to reach our goal of everlasting life!
Note: You might also enjoy Tongues: God’s New Congregation, His New Nation