I have a feeling that no one will be happy with this chapter, but the only thing I can do is to be honest about what I believe, and about what I find in God‘s word. Whoever wishes to lambaste this lamb after reading this chapter is welcome to do it. I only ask that they do it with scripture, and not with personal interpretation or opinion not based on scripture. Our objective should always be to clarify the truth and glorify God.
The question here has to do with whether it is a requirement to obey the Ten Commandments, and the Law of Moses in general.
What are the Ten Commandments, after all? They are the first ten laws of which the Law of Moses is comprised. The Law of Moses is made up of more than 600 laws, but the first ten were written on stone tablets by the hand of God, and handed to Moses by God for delivery to the children of Israel. That means that these first ten are more holy and more significant, is that not so? And men of great wisdom have determined that the Ten Commandments constitute the Moral Law, while the rest of the Law of Moses constitutes Ceremonial Law, of less weight by comparison, thus supporting the mandate that Christians continue to obey the Moral Law.
I dispute these findings. I propose that the Ten Commandments are not of greater weight than the rest of the Law of Moses, even though God wrote them with his own hand. And I find that the distinction between the Moral Law and the Ceremonial Law is erroneous and misinformed.
In the letter that bears his name, James explained in the second chapter that every part of the Law of Moses is of equal weight. In verses 10 and 11 he writes:
“For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder. Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.”
So we can see from this statement that to James the failiure to keep any part of the law meant a violation of the whole law.
In addition, the distinction between Moral Law and Ceremonial Law is clearly erroneous, as the Ten Commandments contain the mandate to observe the Sabbath Day, which is a ceremonial issue, while many of the laws contained in the Law of Moses that appear after the Ten Commandments are clearly laws respecting moral issues, and not ceremonial in nature. Of the many examples that could be offered to illustrate this fact, take this one from the seventh chapter of the book of Deuteronomy:
“7 When the Lord your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you, 2 and when the Lord your God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them. 3 Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son. 4 For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so the anger of the Lord will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly. 5 But thus you shall deal with them: you shall destroy their altars, and break down their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images, and burn their carved images with fire.
6 “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth.”
That passage from Deuteronomy appears before the tablets of the law are given to Moses, but that it is also considered to be part of the Law of Moses is established by the fact that it is restated in the 12th chapter of Deuteronomy, after the tablets were given to Moses:
“12 “These are the statutes and judgments which you shall be careful to observe in the land which the Lord God of your fathers is giving you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth. 2 You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations which you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. 3 And you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and burn their wooden images with fire; you shall cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place. 4 You shall not worship the Lord your God with such things.”
That appears to be a good example, doesn’t it? But if that is too lengthy or complicated, there are many other good examples in the Law of Moses, following the Ten Commandments, which show that many of them have to do with moral issues. Here is another one, from the 13th chapter of Deuteronomy:
“13 If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’—which you have not known—‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him. 5 But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall put away the evil from your midst.”
What a great example that was. I believe we have put to rest the argument, and have demonstrated that there is no distinction between a supposed Ceremonial Law as standing separately from a Moral Law or the Ten Commandments. You only have to peruse the Law of Moses to realize that, although many of the laws are ceremonial in nature, there are a plethora of moral laws following the Ten Commandments. But still we shall consider this further before the close of this chapter.
It might be a good idea here to consider why God gave the Law to the people of Israel. I will include a lengthy passage here on this topic, as it is necessary to consider God’s point of view on the Law and its purpose, in order to grasp what He expects from us today. One of the places where He speaks of this begins in the 10th chapter of the book of Deuteronomy, where this is recorded:
“12 “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good? 14 Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the Lord your God, also the earth with all that is in it. 15 The Lord delighted only in your fathers, to love them; and He chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as it is this day. 16 Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer. 17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. 18 He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. 19 Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. 20 You shall fear the Lord your God; you shall serve Him, and to Him you shall hold fast, and take oaths in His name. 21 He is your praise, and He is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things which your eyes have seen. 22 Your fathers went down to Egypt with seventy persons, and now the Lord your God has made you as the stars of heaven in multitude.”
Although God’s statement in that passage is quite self-explanatory, let me emphasize that it is God’s express wish to promote righteousness and justice among all peoples, which He makes known in the passage. That was his objective from the beginning of creation, and it remains his objective today.
He continues his presentation on the topic in the next chapter, which really takes up the entire 11th chapter of Deuteronomy. Rather than inserting here that entire chapter, I will ask you to read it now, and I will refer to it.
In verse 1, God says, “Therefore you shall love the Lord your God, and keep His charge, His statutes, His judgments, and His commandments always.” Taking this in context, it becomes clear that God intends to destroy the inhabitants of the land of Canaan due to the evil that has become their way of life as a result of worshipping other gods. And He urges Israel to always obey his righteous laws, and to teach them to their children, so that they will live long in the land and be blessed, which it is his desire to do. Beginning in verse 26, He reveals to Israel the consequences of obedience and disobedience:
“Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse: 27 the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you today; 28 and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you today, to go after other gods which you have not known.”
So we see that although He wishes to bless them, He can only do so while they remain in faithful obedience to his righteous laws.
We hear a lot about the phrase “Chosen People,” especially, it seems, from the kind of person who rejects the idea that the people of Israel are a chosen people by God. The concept is mentioned by God Himself in the 10th chapter of Deuteronomy, where He states, “15 The Lord delighted only in your fathers, to love them; and He chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as it is this day.”
However, the “chosen people” concept is misinterpreted by many, either intentionally or otherwise. God did favor Abraham for his faith and loyalty, so in that sense he was chosen, for a given purpose, to enjoy the privilege of being a forefather of the Messiah who God promised would come, to whom God alluded as far back as when Adam was cast out of Eden.
But God also chose the people of Israel to bring an understanding of righteous law to the world. Not because they are inherently better than anyone else. They were chosen to carry a burden. He says to them in verse 16, “Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer.” He calls for them to be obedient.
They were chosen to serve as an example. God told them at Sinai what would happen to them if they followed the law, and what would happen if they disobeyed the law. And it happened. It is God’s way of showing the world that, if He did not exempt his own people from punishment for disobedience, neither would He exempt the rest. But the law was never meant to be the ultimate measure of righteousness. It was meant to reveal in time that men are unable to be righteous apart from a close relationship with God, so close that God becomes part of us. And that the Messiah is indispensable to man’s salvation.
And finally Messiah came, as it was prophesied that he would, to die for the sins of the world. But why was it necessary for Jesus to die for the sins of the world, if they had been given the righteous Law by which men could live and be blessed?
For one thing, After Adam failed to obey God in Eden, he lost the perfection with which he had been created, and became mortal, passing that mortality on to the rest of humanity who must then die. So Jesus was sent to correct that situation.
But all of us also became sinners, not only because we were born in imperfection, but because each of us along the way chooses to commit acts that God has categorized as sinful. As the scriptures say in Proverbs 14:12, “There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” Still, the law was given so that men could be righteous who lived by it, is that not so?
Although the law was given to guide men to righteousness, men are unable to become righteous through obedience to the law. As it says in the third chapter of Paul’s letter to the Galatians:
“21 Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. 22 But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.”
In fact, since Jesus Christ was sent to be the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, we are not under law who exercise faith in and follow Jesus Christ in obedience. Paul puts it this way in the same chapter of Galatians:
“23 But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.”
Nevertheless, there are Christians who believe that they are still under the law. That is unfortunate, as what Paul says of them there is this:
“10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” 11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” 12 Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.”
Paul says that if you remain under the law, you are under a curse, by your own choosing, as “no one is justified by the law in the sight of God.”
Another passage appears in the 13th chapter of the book of Acts, written by Luke, in which he relates some of the teaching of Paul, while Paul was traveling with Barnabas and some other disciples. One day Paul was asked to speak in a synagogue of the Jews in Pisidian Antioch. After teaching about Jesus Christ, Paul then said:
“38 Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. 39 Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.”
Once again we find a record of Paul’s doctrine, which he received from Jesus Christ, that by the law no one is justified.
In the fifth chapter of Galatians, Paul says about those who remain under law that they are under a yoke of slavery. “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage,” he tells the Galatians who had been listening to certain agitators who had been trying to convince them to become circumcised in the flesh according to the law. He goes on to tell them:
“2 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. 3 And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. 4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. 5 For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.”
What a strong, definitive statement: “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law.” And yet, certain Christians continue to insist that they are under the Law of Moses. How could this be?
Some point to the following statement of Jesus Christ, recorded in the fifth chapter of the gospel of Matthew, in order to support that we are under law:
“17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”
They claim that Paul’s teaching contradicts that of Jesus, even though Paul was chosen by Jesus to be his apostle, and even though Peter correctly states in 2 Peter 3 that Paul’s teaching is as valid as the rest of scripture. I suppose that they make this mistake because they have not considered the following:
Jesus said that all needed to be fulfilled. What needed to be fulfilled?
The scriptures said that Messiah came to be sacrificed for the sins of the world. His sacrifice ended the need for any further sacrifices that were offered under the Law of Moses.
Jesus was the Lamb of God whose sacrificial death was the only sacrifice that effectively allowed remission of sins. Upon his death, sacrifices carried out in the temple became obsolete. As a matter of fact, as soon as Jesus died, the curtain before the Most Holy Place of the Temple suddenly was torn in two.
His death resulted in the fulfillment of the prophecies that foretold the coming of the Messiah to die for the sins of the world. And it fulfilled the requirement of God that a perfect sacrifice be made for the sins of the world.
No further sacrifice is required than to love God above all and to love your neighbor as yourself. This is, according to Christ, the fulfillment of the Law. The same is supported by Paul and others who recorded the scriptures of God.
The Law of Moses required sacrifices and punishments, and permitted revenge and divorce for a variety of reasons, all of which became obsolete. The sacrifices became obsolete since Christ became the ultimate sacrifice. The punishments, revenge, and divorce for any reason, as well as other issues, became obsolete based on Christ’s teachings, which coincided with his statement that the righteousness of those hoping to enter God’s kingdom had to exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.
Paul says of the Law of Moses in the eighth chapter of his letter to the Hebrews, “In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”
The Law was a tutor leading to Christ, Paul said, which taught that righteousness could not come through the Law, highlighting the need for Messiah.
This is spelled out in the scriptures. It is not a rejection of the Law, but to show that the Law fulfilled its purpose and became obsolete once Christ fulfilled his purpose in coming to die for the sins of the world.
Nevertheless, some will point to the Law of Moses itself, and the Prophets who obeyed the law, to justify demanding that we observe the law, who are not under the law. There is no sense in doing so. Now that we are under grace, we are no longer under the Law of Moses.
Some will also accuse those of being immoral who teach that we are no longer bound by the Law of Moses. That they could do so, ignoring the word of God on this issue, is ironic. While Paul correctly taught that we are not under the obsolete law, he did teach that we are bound to act morally. Note what he taught about this in the fifth chapter of Galatians:
“13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
That does not sound to me as though he were in disagreement with Jesus Christ whose words in this respect are recorded in the 22nd chapter of the gospel of Matthew:
“37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
How then are we to remain moral, continuing to love our neighbors as ourselves, if we do not adhere to the Law of Moses? Paul also answers this for us in the fifth chapter of Galatians, where he says:
“16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”
He goes on to list the works of the flesh, contrasting them with the fruit of the Spirit, which is “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control,” and adding, “Against such there is no law.” He concludes the chapter by urging:
“24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
Although it is an awfully sore point with many, here we will consider the observance of the Sabbath, which some insist must continue to take place on Saturday, or from sundown on Friday till sundown on Saturday, rather than on Sunday. Observance of the Sabbath is, as you know, included among the Ten Commandments.
Those who insist that we are under the obligation to continue to observe the Sabbath day, according to the Law of Moses, have ignored all of the scriptures from Paul that we have already considered. Some of them will point to the 66th chapter of Isaiah as support for the theory that we must still observe the seventh-day Sabbath. There the Lord says:
“22 “For as the new heavens and the new earth
Which I will make shall remain before Me,” says the Lord,
“So shall your descendants and your name remain.
23 And it shall come to pass
That from one New Moon to another,
And from one Sabbath to another,
All flesh shall come to worship before Me,” says the Lord.”
The Lord revealed this by the hand of his prophet during the period under which the Law of Moses was still in effect. Later, however, He came to reveal, by the hand of the apostle Paul, that the Law of Moses is obsolete, having served its function. When God says that something should take place forever, you can believe that no man will change that. But at the same time, God has the right to reveal what He wishes to reveal, at the time of his choosing. The issue of the law of Moses is one of those things He has chosen to bring to a close, which He always knew that He would.
It is also true that the observance of days is regarded under the new covenant as a shadow of the reality that has come to pass through Jesus Christ, which Paul made clear in the second chapter of his letter to the Colossians, where he said, “16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.”
Once again, recall that the apostle Paul was chosen by Jesus Christ, and that his doctrine came to him not from a personal interpretation of the scriptures but from Jesus Christ. Although some of his teachings require effort and prayer to comprehend, as Peter pointed out, his teachings are just as valid as the rest of the scriptures, according to 2 Peter 3:14-17. Paul is not misleading us when he says that the law is now obsolete. So what does Paul have to say about observance of the law and of the Sabbath, beyond what we have already read above?
In the second chapter of his letter to Galatians, Paul relates how even the apostle Peter struggled with respect to the issue of the observance of the law, and that he had to confront Peter on the issue. In the chapter he writes:
“14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? 15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.”
So once again you see that Paul made clear that we are not under the law. But in case that does not clarify for you the issue of whether we must still observe the Sabbath, examine what Paul wrote in the 13th chapter of his letter to the Romans, where he states it this way:
“8 Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
Do not fail to notice the phrase in verse 9, “…and if there is any other commandment…” Paul refers here not to any supposed Ceremonial Law, but clearly refers directly to the Ten Commandments, of which observance of the Sabbath is one. Yet he is saying that we owe nothing to anyone except “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
But Paul makes the case even more directly in the 14th chapter of Romans, where he says this: “5 One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.” He has not here prohibited the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath, nor has he demanded its observance, but leaves the issue up to the conscience of the individual believer, and adds:
“6 He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. 10 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
11 For it is written:
“As I live, says the Lord,
Every knee shall bow to Me,
And every tongue shall confess to God.”
12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.”
Evidently, this is one of those issues about which followers of Jesus Christ are called to withhold judgment. Some are zealous for God, and believe that the right day on which to worship Him must be the day He set aside as the Sabbath. Others know that such a thing was a shadow of the reality that will be fulfilled in Jesus Christ, in whom we rest from works of the flesh to walk in the Spirit of God. And as Paul there also says, “4 Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.”
But as to the day on which we should worship God, is that day not every day? Or on which day should we rest from worshipping Jehovah? Are we not to worship Him every day and in everything that we do? In chapter 10 of his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul put it this way:
“31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.”
And he also said this about that in the third chapter of his letter to the Colossians: “23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men…” So I propose that whatever we are doing should be done while honoring God, his justice, righteousness, and holiness. The right time to worship God is today and everyday.
And we should not forget before ending this chapter to add these words of Jesus Christ that are recorded in the second chapter of the gospel of Mark: “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”
There is more that we could say, and more that we could read about this topic. I recommend you spend time prayerfully reading the letters of Paul to the Hebrews, Romans, and Galatians, where he discusses these things at length, adding things we have not touched on here. It is God’s word and you can trust it.
In summation what have we to do, in order to be approved by God, other than to be obedient to Him? Referring back to the 10th chapter of Deuteronomy, He there says:
“12 And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?”
The word of God makes it very clear that the law was given for good reason, but that now that we are under grace in Jesus Christ, we are no longer under the obsolete Law of Moses, but instead are under a new covenant. If we are in the Spirit, let us walk in the Spirit. What better advice could anyone give to anyone?