Are We Under the Ten Commandments?
1. What law did Moses deliver to the people?
WHAT LAWS does Jehovah God want us to obey? Must we keep what the Bible calls “the law of Moses” or, sometimes, “the Law”? (1 Kings 2:3; Titus 3:9) This is also called “the law of Jehovah,” because he is the One who gave it. (1 Chronicles 16:40) Moses merely delivered the Law to the people.
2. Of what is this law made up?
2 The law of Moses consists of more than 600 individual laws, or commandments, including the 10 main ones. As Moses said: “He [Jehovah] commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone.” (Deuteronomy 4:13; Exodus 31:18, King James Version) But to whom did Jehovah give the Law, including the Ten Commandments? Did he give it to all humankind? What was the purpose of the Law?
TO ISRAEL FOR A SPECIAL PURPOSE
3. How do we know that the Law was given only to Israel?
3 The Law was not given to all humankind. Jehovah made a covenant, or an agreement, with the descendants of Jacob, who became the nation of Israel. Jehovah gave his laws to this nation only. The Bible makes this clear at Deuteronomy 5:1-3 and Psalm 147:19, 20.
4. Why was the Law given to the nation of Israel?
4 The apostle Paul asked the question: “Why, then, the Law?” Yes, for what purpose did Jehovah give his law to Israel? Paul answered: “To make transgressions manifest, until the seed should arrive to whom the promise had been made . . . Consequently the Law has become our tutor [or, teacher] leading to Christ.” (Galatians 3:19-24) The special purpose of the Law was to protect and guide the nation of Israel so that they might be ready to accept Christ when he arrived. The many sacrifices required by the Law reminded the Israelites that they were sinners who needed a Savior.—Hebrews 10:1-4.
“CHRIST IS THE END OF THE LAW”
5. When Christ came and died for us, what happened to the Law?
5 Jesus Christ, of course, was that promised Savior, even as the angel proclaimed at his birth. (Luke 2:8-14) So when Christ came and gave his perfect life as a sacrifice, what happened to the Law? It was removed. “We are no longer under a tutor,” Paul explained. (Galatians 3:25) The removal of the Law was a relief to the Israelites. It had shown them up as sinners, for all of them fell short of keeping that Law perfectly. “Christ by purchase released us from the curse of the Law,” Paul said. (Galatians 3:10-14) So the Bible also says: “Christ is the end of the Law.”—Romans 10:4; 6:14.
6. (a) What was the effect upon Israelites and non-Israelites when the Law ended, and why? (b) What action did Jehovah take toward the Law?
6 The Law actually served as a barrier or “wall” between the Israelites and other peoples who were not under it. By the sacrifice of his life, however, Christ “abolished . . . the Law of commandments consisting in decrees, that he might create the two peoples [Israelite and non-Israelite] in union with himself into one new man.” (Ephesians 2:11-18) Concerning the action that Jehovah God himself took toward the law of Moses, we read: “He kindly forgave us all our trespasses and blotted out the handwritten document against us, which consisted of decrees [including the Ten Commandments] and which was in opposition to us [because of condemning the Israelites as sinners]; and He has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the torture stake.” (Colossians 2:13, 14) So, with the perfect sacrifice of Christ, the Law was brought to an end.
7, 8. What proves that the Law was not divided into two parts?
7 Some persons, however, say that the Law is divided into two parts: The Ten Commandments, and the rest of the laws. The rest of the laws, they say, are what ended, but the Ten Commandments remain. Yet this is not true. In his Sermon on the Mount Jesus quoted from the Ten Commandments as well as other parts of the Law and made no distinction between them. Jesus thus showed that the law of Moses was not divided into two parts.—Matthew 5:21-42.
8 Notice, too, what the apostle Paul was inspired by God to write: “Now we have been discharged from the Law.” Was it only the laws other than the Ten Commandments that the Jews were discharged from? No, for Paul goes on to say: “Really I would not have come to know sin if it had not been for the Law; and, for example, I would not have known covetousness if the Law had not said: ‘You must not covet.’” (Romans 7:6, 7; Exodus 20:17) Since “You must not covet” is the last one of the Ten Commandments, it follows that the Israelites were discharged from the Ten Commandments also.
9. What shows that the weekly Sabbath law was also done away with?
9 Does this mean that the law to keep a weekly Sabbath, which is the fourth of the Ten Commandments, was also removed? Yes, it does. What the Bible says at Galatians 4:8-11 and Colossians 2:16, 17 shows that Christians are not under God’s law given to the Israelites, with its requirement to keep the weekly Sabbath and to observe other special days in the year. That keeping a weekly Sabbath is not a Christian requirement can also be seen from Romans 14:5.
LAWS THAT APPLY TO CHRISTIANS
10. (a) Christians are under what laws? (b) From where were many of these laws taken, and why is it reasonable that they were taken from there?
10 Does this mean that, since Christians are not under the Ten Commandments, they do not need to observe any laws? Not at all. Jesus introduced a “new covenant,” based on the better sacrifice of his own perfect human life. Christians come under this new covenant and are subject to Christian laws. (Hebrews 8:7-13; Luke 22:20) Many of these laws have been taken from the law of Moses. This is not unexpected or unusual. A similar thing often happens when a new government takes over the rule of a country. The constitution under the old government might be canceled and replaced, but the new constitution may keep many of the laws of the old one. In a similar way, the Law covenant came to an end, but many of its basic laws and principles were adopted into Christianity.
11. What laws or teachings given to Christians are very similar to the Ten Commandments?
11 Note how this is the case as you read the Ten Commandments on page 203, and then compare them with the following Christian laws and teachings: “It is Jehovah your God you must worship.” (Matthew 4:10; 1 Corinthians 10:20-22) “Guard yourselves from idols.” (1 John 5:21; 1 Corinthians 10:14) “Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified [not treated in a worthless way].” (Matthew 6:9) “Children, be obedient to your parents.” (Ephesians 6:1, 2) And the Bible makes clear that murder, committing adultery, stealing, lying and coveting are also against the laws for Christians.—Revelation 21:8; 1 John 3:15; Hebrews 13:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7; Ephesians 4:25, 28; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Luke 12:15; Colossians 3:5.
12. How is the principle of the Sabbath law carried over into the Christian arrangement?
12 Although Christians are not commanded to keep a weekly Sabbath, we learn something from that arrangement. The Israelites rested in a literal way, but Christians must rest in a spiritual way. How? Because of faith and obedience true Christians leave off doing selfish works. These selfish works include efforts to establish their own righteousness. (Hebrews 4:10) This spiritual rest is observed not only one day a week but for all seven days. The requirement of the literal Sabbath law to set aside one day for spiritual interests protected the Israelites from selfishly using all their time to seek their own material advantage. Applying this principle every day in a spiritual way is an even more effective guard against materialism.
13. (a) What law are Christians urged to fulfill, and how do they fulfill it? (b) What law did Jesus stress? (c) What law is the basis of the entire law of Moses?
13 So Christians are urged to “fulfill the law of the Christ,” rather than to keep the Ten Commandments. (Galatians 6:2) Jesus gave many commands and instructions, and by our obeying them we are keeping or fulfilling his law. In particular, Jesus stressed the importance of love. (Matthew 22:36-40; John 13:34, 35) Yes, to love others is a Christian law. It is the basis of the entire law of Moses, as the Bible says: “The entire Law stands fulfilled in one saying, namely: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’”—Galatians 5:13, 14; Romans 13:8-10.
14. (a) What good will result by our studying and applying the principles of the law of Moses? (b) What will love move us to do?
14 The law given through Moses, with its Ten Commandments, was a righteous set of laws from God. And even though we are not under that law today, the divine principles behind it are still of great value to us. By studying and applying them we will grow in appreciation for the great Lawgiver Jehovah God. But especially should we study and apply in our lives Christian laws and teachings. Love for Jehovah will move us to obey all that he now requires of us.—1 John 5:3.
[Box on page 203]
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
1. “I am Jehovah your God . . . You must not have any other gods against my face.
2. “You must not make for yourself a carved image or a form like anything that is in the heavens above or that is on the earth underneath or that is in the waters under the earth. You must not bow down to them nor be induced to serve them . . .
3. “You must not take up the name of Jehovah your God in a worthless way . . .
4. “Remembering the sabbath day to hold it sacred, you are to render service and you must do all your work six days. But the seventh day is a sabbath to Jehovah your God. You must not do any work, you nor your son nor your daughter . . .
5. “Honor your father and your mother in order that your days may prove long upon the ground that Jehovah your God is giving you.
6. “You must not murder.
7. “You must not commit adultery.
8. “You must not steal.
9. “You must not testify falsely as a witness against your fellowman.
10. “You must not desire [covet] your fellowman’s house. You must not desire [covet] your fellowman’s wife, nor his slave man nor his slave girl nor his bull nor his ass nor anything that belongs to your fellowman.”—Exodus 20:2-17.
[Pictures on page 204, 205]
The Law served as a wall between the Israelites and other peoples