From the January/February 2019 issue of Discern Magazine

Did Jesus’ Commandments Replace the 10 Commandments?

Some believe that Jesus replaced the 10 Commandments with “new” commandments. Did Jesus teach obedience to the 10 Commandments or did He abolish them?

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Many Protestants believe that Jesus came to earth and replaced the 10 Commandments with new commandments—Jesus’ commandments.

This view is often supported by statements Jesus made in the Gospel of John. Three times He referred to the necessity of keeping “My commandments” (John 14:15, 21; 15:10). Those statements are then connected with Jesus’ words in John 13:34: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (emphasis added throughout).

Many believe that Jesus came to free us from the restrictive commandments of the Old Covenant by replacing them with the simple commandment to love.

Andy Stanley, pastor of the North Point Community Church outside Atlanta, Georgia, recently expressed this view in a Sept. 18, 2018, commentary for Relevant Magazine:

“Jesus issued his new commandment as a replacement for everything in the existing list. Including the big ten. Just as his new covenant replaced the old covenant, Jesus’ new commandment replaced all the old commandments. Participants in the new covenant (that’s Christians) are not required to obey any of the commandments found in the first part of their Bibles. Participants in the new covenant are expected to obey the single command Jesus issued as part of his new covenant: as I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

But were the “big 10” really superseded and replaced by a new commandment of love? Let’s consider three points to help us understand what the truth really is.

  1.  The commandment to love was not new.

The idea that Jesus replaced the old commandments with a new commandment is based on a major misunderstanding of the Bible. It’s the idea that the Old Testament depicts a harsh, restrictive God (usually considered the Father), while the New Testament reveals the gentle, kind Jesus Christ, who replaced the Father’s old law with the new command to love. One problem with that view is that it ignores the fact that love was not new.

All the way back in Leviticus 19:18, God gave Old Testament Israel direct instruction on how to live: “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.”

God, speaking through Moses, commanded the Israelites to show love to each other. Many other Old Testament scriptures talk about love—both God’s love and the necessity for people to love Him and others (Deuteronomy 5:10; 6:5; 7:8-9; 10:19; 11:13).

The point is that love was not a new concept revealed by Jesus.

  1. The 10 Commandments are all about love.

The 10 Commandments, at their heart and core, are all about love.

The 10 Commandments, at their heart and core, are all about love.In Matthew 22 we read about a lawyer who asked Jesus, “Which is the greatest commandment in the law?”—trying to tempt Jesus into declaring one commandment more important than the others. Jesus saw right through this. He showed that what was most important was the intent of the commandments—not one individual command. Jesus answered, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment” (verses 37-38).

Jesus was simply quoting what had already been revealed hundreds of years earlier through Moses: The overall intent of the 10 Commandments is to teach us how to show love.

The first and great commandment is to love God with all our being—which is what the first four commandments teach us. We love Him by putting Him above everything else (First Commandment), by not making or worshipping idols (Second Commandment), by showing proper reverence toward His name (Third Commandment) and by worshipping Him on His holy Sabbath day (Fourth Commandment).

Jesus then went on to say, “And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (verse 39). Jesus was quoting from Leviticus 19:18 to give the basic intent of the last six commandments: to show love to other people. If you read through the last six commandments, you will discover they are all intended to teach us how to show love to other people.

The commandments define love! Years later, the apostle Paul wrote, “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10).

  1. Jesus’ new commandment was the “how to” factor.

Now let’s take a closer look at Jesus’ statement in John 13:34 about “a new commandment.” What was new?

A closer look at the verse makes it clear: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

Love wasn’t new—but Jesus’ example of love in action was!

Jesus Christ came to earth to do many things, and one of those things was to give a living, breathing example of what perfect love looked like. Throughout His life, He showed what it means to perfectly love God and to perfectly love other people. The Gospel accounts of His life give us many examples of His perfect love, which culminated in His sacrificial death for us (John 3:16; 15:13; Mark 10:45).

If you want to learn how to keep the 10 Commandments—which essentially means you want to learn how to love God and your fellow man—there’s no better place to look than the life of Jesus Christ.

To learn more about the intent and purpose of the 10 Commandments, consider downloading our free booklet God’s 10 Commandments: Still Relevant Today and check out our article “Jesus and the Law.”



A Closer Look at John 15:10

Those who believe Jesus’ commandments replaced the 10 Commandments sometimes cite John 15:10: “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.”

Jesus didn’t come to do away with or replace the commandments (in fact, He said that very directly in Matthew 5:17). He came to show us how to keep them. In John 15:10.

He is very clear that He kept all of His Father’s commandments. This statement alone proves that they are for Christians.

A Christian is one who follows Christ. Christians are called to be disciples (or pupils) of the Master Teacher, Jesus Christ. Jesus made this clear in Matthew 16:24—“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me”—and John 10:27—“My sheep hear My voice, … and they follow Me.” His apostles later reinforced this truth (1 Corinthians 11:1; 1 Peter 2:21).

Since Jesus was clear that He obeyed His Father’s commandments, then in order to truly follow Him, we must obey the Father’s commandments as well.

About the Author

Erik Jones

Erik Jones

Erik Jones is a full-time writer and editor at the Life, Hope & Truth offices in McKinney, Texas.

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