In a previous post I made the argument that the Ten Commandments did not begin at Mt. Sinai. Today I want to go on to demonstrate that neither did they end at Mt. Calvary. Just as the Ten Commandments were not the revelation of a new standard of righteousness so they have never been replaced by any newer standard.
I realize that some challenge this point by asserting that Jesus as Jesus is a greater law-giver than Moses so the commandments that He has given are higher than those given by Moses. While it is certainly true that Jesus is greater than Moses in every way (Hebrews 3:1-6), we must be careful not to make that point in any way that would suggest that someone other than the triune God is the source of the Ten Commandments. The Lord who spoke the Sermon on the Mount is the same Lord who gave us the Ten Commandments through Moses. “No prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation [including Moses]. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21)
Certainly the revelation given to us in the Bible is progressive. Genesis 3:15 announces good news of salvation through a Savior as does John 3:16, and it is obvious that the latter is stated more clearly than the former. But they both declare the same message. In a similar way, though we have much clearer revelation in the New Testament concerning the breadth and spirituality of the Ten Commandments, we do not find them set aside or replaced by a higher law.
On the contrary, Jesus specifically asserted that He did not come to destroy or set aside the law. In the very sermon where He elucidates the comprehensiveness of the Ten Commandments, He said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 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. 19 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, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-20, 17).
Further, New Testament writers regularly appeal to the language of the Ten Commandments when explaining what God requires for holiness. Sometimes the sins forbidden in the Ten Commandments are partially listed (Mark 7:20-22; Romans 1:29-31). At other times, the commandments themselves are partially listed (Matthew 19:18; Romans 13:9).
Beyond this, each of the Ten Commandments is found in the New Testament.
• 1st Commandment (no other gods)
—John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.”
—Paul made this point in his sermon on Mars Hill when he preached “the unknown God” to the Athenians (Acts 17:22-31).
• 2nd Commandment (no graven images; idols)
—1 John 5:21, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”
—1 Corinthians 10:14, “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.”
• 3rd Commandment (do not take the name of the Lord in vain)
—Matthew 6:9, The first petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Hallowed be your name.”
• 4th Commandment (Sabbath, about working and resting)
—Colossians 3:23, Paul tells us that we are to work “heartily, as to the Lord”
—Hebrews 4:9, “there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.”
—Mark 2:27, The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”
• 5th Commandment (honor father and mother)
—Ephesians 6:1-2, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother….”
• 6th Commandment (murder)
—Matthew 5:21, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder…But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment….”
• 7th Commandment (adultery)
—Matthew 5:27-30,“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
• 8th Commandment (You shall not steal)
—Ephesians 4:28, “Let the thief no longer steal, but let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands…”
• 9th Commandment (You shall not bear false witness)
—Ephesians 4:25, “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor….”
• 10th Commandment (no coveting)
—Colossians 3:5, Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
The standard of righteousness in the New Testament is the same as it is in the Old Testament. The Ten Commandments summarize what that eternal, unchanging standard is. Those commandments reveal to us God’s will. They show us how we are supposed to live as men and women made in the image of God. We who live in the light of the full revelation of God in Jesus Christ have a higher obligation to pursue holiness that is revealed in that standard than those who lived under the Old Covenant did because we have more light than they did. But the standard remains the same. The God who told His Old Covenant people to “Be holy for I am holy” says nothing less or nothing different to those of us living on this side of the revelation of Jesus Christ. And that holiness is summarized in the Ten Commandments.
I realize that there are peculiar challenges in how we are to apply the 4th commandment regarding work and sabbath rest. But those challenges are no grounds for dismissing it or for rejecting the Ten Commandments as an abiding summary of God’s righteous requirements of His image-bearers. That, however, is a discussion that must await another day.