Q. What is the Law of God Stated in the Ten Commandments?
A. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below – you shall not bow down to them or worship them. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Honor your father and your mother. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony. You shall not covet.
In their book The Day America Told the Truth, James Patterson and Peter Kim lay down the law for postmodern times. They observe that today there is “absolutely no moral consensus at all…Everyone is making up their own personal moral codes – their own Ten Commandments.” Patterson and Kim proceed to list what they call the “ten real commandments,” the rules that according to their surveys people actually live by. These rules include the following:
- I don’t see the point in observing the Sabbath;
- I will steal from those who won’t really miss it;
- I will lie when it suits me, so long as it doesn’t cause any real damage;
- I will chat on my spouse – after all, given the chance, he or she will do the same;
- I will procrastinate at work and do absolutely nothing about one full day in every five.
These new commandments are based on moral relativism, the belief that we are free to make up our own rules, based on our own personal preferences. This law is not something that comes from God, but something we make up with our own minds.
How different then, is what Christians refer to as the Ten Commandments? In their original context, they were given by God to his people after delivering them out of Egypt. By giving heed to them, these Ten Commandments were to mark out their lives as distinct in their conduct from the nations around them. God’s deliverance of Israel was an act of grace and God’s revelation to them of the Ten Commandments was an act of grace (making his will and his ways known). It was grace from the beginning to end.
So, what then is the Christians relationship with the Ten Commandments? In one sense Christians are no longer under the law, but are under grace (Romans 6:14). Those in Christ have been released from the law (Romans 7:6). Christ is the end of the law for righteousness for everyone who believes (Romans 10:4). So we are not to keep the law in order to be made right with God. One is made right with God be faith in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9).
The Ten Commandments, as representative of the moral law of God, endures in a general sense for Christians. The Ten Commandments were central to the ethics of the New Testament. Jesus repeated most of the second part of the law to the rich young man (Mark 10:17-22). The Apostle Paul repeated them too (Romans 13:8-10), and used them as the basis for his moral instruction to Timothy (1 Timothy 1:8-11).
Ultimately though, just as the author of Hebrews affirms, “long ago, at many times and in may ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, who he appointed the heir of all things” (Hebrews 1:1-2). God has spoken to us by his Son, he is the ultimate fulfillment of all the promises of the Old Testament. We are to know the Word made flesh…and be saved (John 1:14). Our response? To live in grateful obedience to the God who has made himself known. To that end, the Ten Commandments help Christians to live in God glorifying obedience to his revealed will (John 14:5).