Living the Christian life, although supremely joyful, at times is tough, even complicated. And in many ways the complexity is magnified by the availability of information on the internet. That there is more theological information readily available is great, what is not so great is that sometimes it is very hard to tell, especially for those not familiar with online research or newer believers, reliable sources from crackpots. Over the past months I have fielded questions, after someone in the church read “a great article” online about a wide and quite frankly stunning array of topics. I even fielded a question about whether it was biblical to believe that the earth is round after someone read online that the Bible “clearly teaches” that the earth is flat and covered by a dome. While that is a ridiculous premise, some are a little trickier. One question that I get fairly regularly, especially after someone has encountered theonomy for the first time online, is how should Christians think about the Law. Are we still under the ten commandments?
The short answer is no, we are not under the Ten Commandments, because as Christians we are not under the Law. Those who would say that we are under the Ten Commandments tend to divide the Old Testament Law into moral law and ceremonial law (or sometimes into moral, civil and ceremonial law), but this is a false division. The Law of Moses was one indivisible unit; it was the conditions that bound Israel to God in the Siniatic covenant. The New Testament always views the Law as a whole. James 2:10 says “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all” and Galatians 5:3 concurs “I testify to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law.” The logical conclusion we have to make from these and other passages is that if we are to keep the Ten Commandments, then we must keep the whole Law, including the dietary laws and prohibitions against blended fabrics.
But as believers in Christ, we are no longer under the Law. Romans 6:14 explicitly states that we “are not under the Law, but under grace” and Romans 7:6 says “now we have been released from the Law.” So strong is our release from the Law that in Galatians 2:19 Paul says that he has died to the Law. It is clear that as believers we are no longer bound by the Law of Moses including the Ten Commandments.
That does not mean however that we are now released from all standards of behavior, as Paul would say, may it never be. The Ten Commandments were part of the Mosaic or Old covenant, but we are not under the Old Covenant, but the New Covenant. One of the promises of the New covenant is that God will write His Law on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33). This is not the internalizing of the Mosaic Law, but something new and different. The writer of Hebrews makes clear that the Mosaic Law has been replaced. In Hebrews 7:12 he writes “For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well.” This statement is followed by a discussion of Jesus as a priest after the order of Melchizedek, and that his priesthood supersedes the Levitical priesthood. In Hebrews 7:22 the writer says this, “This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.”
So for the New Testament believer there is a New Covenant, a new priest, and a New Law. We are no longer under the Mosaic law, but now we are bound by the Law of Christ. Galatians 6 is key to understanding the Law of Christ. In Galatians 6:2 Paul writes “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” There is clearly a law that we must fulfill and the way we fulfill this Law is by bearing one another’s burdens. The Law of Christ is the sum total of the commands of Jesus and of the inspired New Testament authors. This includes all of the prohibitions, positive commands and also includes the principles of love found in the New Testament and obedience to the Law of Christ is empowered by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The call to bear one another’s burdens in fulfilling the Law of Christ is an echo of all of the one another commands of the new testament, the most common of which is to love one another.
Galatians 6:1 also shows a sharp contrast between the Law of Christ and the Mosaic Law. Under the Law of Christ, we are to restore anyone caught in any transgression in a spirit of gentleness. In contrast under the Law of Moses the transgressor bore his own penalty, which could include death by stoning or banishment. There is no provision for punishment under the Law of Christ, because for those who believe and are members of the New Covenant, Jesus has already paid the penalty for sin. As Paul wrote in Romans 8:1, the is no condemnation for those in Christ.
So we are no longer under the Ten Commandments, but we are still bound to be obedient to the commands of scripture. The Ten Commandments are no longer our rule of conduct, but the Law of Christ is. While we are not bound to the Old Testament Law, its principles that are reflected in the Law of Christ must still be obeyed.