Should Christians Live by the 10 Commandments?

HomeChristianity and the BibleShould Christians Live by the 10 Commandments?

How do you know what is right or wrong if you completely ignore the Ten Commandments? For what reason don’t you commit adultery? For what reason don’t you covet? For what reason do you not take the Lord’s name in vain?

Anonymous

The Ten Commandments are part of the Mosaic Law, which was given to the Jews, for the Jews. I’ve never been a Jew, so they do not apply to me. They have never applied to anyone but ancient Israelites, period.

When it comes to how God wants us to live, He is not inconsistent. The Mosaic Law is both an expression of His character and a plan that leads to the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Now that Jesus has come, the Holy Spirit – who is God Himself – indwells each believer. Everything that God leads me to do (or doesn’t chastise me for) fits in with His character. There is some overlap between the Mosaic Law and the way He leads a gentile (non-Jew), but the written Law no longer applies. I don’t covet…not because God wrote it down for the Jews a long time ago, because He leads me at every moment to not covet. I don’t cheat on my wife…not because the law forbids it, but because I made a commitment to be faithful to her. Were I tempted to cheat, God would correct me. Even though not committing adultery is written in the Law, my decision to be faithful has nothing to do with the Law. Both the Mosaic Law and the leading of the Holy Spirit are expressions of God’s character, but only one of them applies to me.

There’s a big difference between living according to Judaism and living as a Christian. This contrast is promised in the Old Testament, and found all over the New Testament. Here’s an example:

Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts! (2 Corinthians 3:7-11)

Do you see how Paul describes the Law? It brought death, was engraved on stone, came with glory, was transitory (temporary) and has no glory when compared with the New Covenant. Then see how Paul describes how Christians are to live: the ministry of the Spirit is more glorious, brings righteousness, and lasts (or “remains”). The Law fulfilled its purpose, and it is no longer needed.

Another reason to not live by the Ten Commandments is that they are insufficient. There might be an occasion for me to do something that’s perfectly acceptable under the Law…but if God doesn’t think it’s a good idea for me, it becomes sin for me. In such cases the Law is useless, but being corrected by the Holy Spirit is more than enough. So, I’ll say it again: I don’t follow the Mosaic Law because it never applied to me, and what I have is far, far better than the Law.

As a young child, my moral compass was my family. When I trusted God with my life, the Holy Spirit became my moral compass. He convicts me of sin, leads me into all the righteousness I can stand, and directs me whether I listen to Him or not. Now, many people don’t like that answer. Apparently they think it gives me too much leeway, and that I need some actual rules to live by. I disagree. I find it much easier to flout the rules than to ignore the prompting of God. He is all I need for moral guidance.

Of course, I don’t completely ignore the Law…I use it as a historical reference. It tells me a lot about God. I just don’t use it as a guideline to live by.


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2 responses to “Should Christians Live by the 10 Commandments?”

  1. John says:

    Do you think adding the fruits of the spirit to your point with others would help you explain this?

    • Tony says:

      John:

      Thanks for your input. After reflecting on your advice and the article, I’ve revised the article a bit. I don’t think adding the fruit of the Spirit will necessarily make the point any clearer, but I did note that the article was both a bit short and unclear in a few places. It was written many years ago, so I’ve touched it up. Thanks for writing…let me know if you can think of other ways to improve it. =)

  2. Mike Dalgleish says:

    John,
    Love the article. Refreshing.
    I was thinking the other day, however, about the Council at Jerusalem (Acts 15). It sounds like they’re handing out some rules apparently sanctioned by the Holy Spirit. What’s your take on this? Maybe they were placating the hardline Jews? Maybe this set of requirements was to protect the conscience of the gentiles?
    I’m gonna dig a bit,
    Mike

    • Tony says:

      Mike:

      Thanks for the kind words. You’ve asked a good question. I do agree that the council did what the Holy Spirit intended. This sets the stage for the rest of the gentile world, for all time. Christianity is not a part of Judaism, it’s what Judaism was always intended to become. Their Messiah is our Messiah, but their covenant – the old one – is not like our new one. I do pray that our Jewish neighbors would enter into the New Covenant.

      As for placating the hardline Jews, it seems the opposite is what happened. A hardliner would stick with the notion that gentiles needed to be circumcised, to take part in the Jewish rituals, with no exceptions or excuses. They all knew that failing the Law in one way meant that you had broken the whole thing. Instead, it appears that their decision was conciliatory…that is, that they wanted gentiles to understand a few of the things that Jews would struggle with the most. I see this as a localized piece of advice, of course. Jesus declared all foods clean before He died, so there’s never been a prohibition on meat sacrificed to idols. There is a prohibition on causing your brother to stumble, though…and this appears to head in that direction. Paul later spoke at length about not eating that same kind of meat if it caused problems for others…not to keep your own conscience clean, but to serve your neighbors.

      Of course, avoiding sexual immorality isn’t localized advice!

      I hope that you do some more digging, and come back to let us know what you find. I’m fascinated!

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