The 10 commandments were the heart of God’s expectations for His people in the Old Testament. There were many other “laws” as well in Exodus and Leviticus, but the 10 on the two stone tablets were the foundation for everything else.
Sometimes Christians wonder and ask if the 10 commandments are still binding on them. Does God expect us as followers of Jesus to obey them today? The short and not so simple answer is yes and no. In the New Testament Jesus has some important things to say about the Old Testament Law and Christians.
In Matthew 5:17 He seems to correct a misunderstanding when He affirms “Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” While Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets in multiple ways, one was in giving the deeper meaning of six laws in the remaining verses of Matthew 5. Two of those laws were the sixth and seventh commandments and Jesus made it clear that the deeper meaning of these commandments were violated long before someone committed the physical acts of murder and adultery.
I am most intrigued by Jesus’ answer to a questioner who asked Him about the greatest commandment in the Law. His answer: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” and He added “This is the first and greatest commandment.” Then He continued, “And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’.” He concluded His response with “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:35-40).
We can’t improve on what Jesus said, but there are a couple of summaries of the 10 commandments that do seem helpful. William Barclay suggests, “The whole of The Ten Commandments are based on two great principles. They are based on reverence, reverence for God, for God’s name, for God’s day, for the parents God has given to us. They are based on respect, respect for a man’s life, and possessions, and personality, and good name, and for oneself.”
J.I. Packer gives a paraphrase of the 10 commandments in what he calls “positive and Christian terms.” “You shall worship your covenant God exclusively and wholeheartedly, according to his own self-revelation, regarding him with consistent reverence and setting aside regular time for rest and worship in his honor; you should respect those who have nurtured you, and labor to sustain the family unit; you must do all you can to safeguard the life, sexual purity, property, reputation, and well-being of all you meet; and knowing that your God watches over you, you are to be content.”
As you reflect on Jesus’ take on the two greatest commandments, Barclay’s idea of reverence and respect, and the excellent paraphrase of Packer, do you think Christians today are called to obey the 10 commandments?
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