Some believe that Christians only need to obey a commandment if Jesus specifically reaffirmed it. If the commandments did stand or fall based on Jesus’ endorsement, would they all stand?
In this column we’ve been exploring Jesus Christ’s teachings on the 10 Commandments. We have asked if Jesus replaced the 10 Commandments with a more simple command to love and if He reaffirmed all 10.
The many scriptures we have examined in these last two articles show the New Testament position on the 10 Commandments: They are still relevant and binding on Christians.
This article will look at the topic from a different perspective. What if we ignored all the scriptures where Jesus (and later, the apostles) reaffirmed the commandments? Instead of resting the case for Christian commandment-keeping on scriptures that in a general sense support the 10 Commandments (such as Matthew 5:17-19; John 14:15; 1 Corinthians 7:19; and 1 John 2:3), can we find New Testament support for each one of the 10 Commandments individually? If we were to accept the premise that a commandment is only applicable to Christians if it’s reaffirmed in the New Testament, would all 10 Commandments stand?
In this issue we’ll examine whether or not the New Testament reaffirms each of the first four of the 10 Commandments.
First Commandment: “You shall have no other gods before Me”
The First Commandment teaches us to put God above all other things and to worship nothing above (or in place of) Him.
Jesus said, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). In essence, this summarized the first four commandments, and especially this first one. One of the major ways we love God with all our being is to put nothing—not false gods, not people, not things—before Him.
When Satan tried to tempt Jesus to worship him (which would have broken the First Commandment), Jesus refused in obedience to this law: “You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve” (Matthew 4:10). And Jesus made other statements that clarified that God should be first in our lives (Matthew 6:24, 33; Luke 14:26).
The First Commandment—to have “no other gods” before the true God—is clearly still to be obeyed by Christians.
Second Commandment: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image”
The Second Commandment teaches us not to worship idols or use any image to represent the true God.
Jesus addressed the intent of this commandment during His conversation with the Samaritan woman in John 4:24: “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Trying to portray and worship the true God though any man-made image always leads to worshipping God in error.
Paul clearly made this point in His address to the Athenians on Mars Hill: “We ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising” (Acts 17:29). God’s power and glory cannot be captured in any image, and any attempt to do so only serves to limit the unlimited God. Paul also wrote that idolaters will not be in the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
The Second Commandment against idolatry is clearly still to be obeyed by Christians.
Third Commandment: “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain”
The Third Commandment teaches us to treat God’s name with honor and reverence, instead of blaspheming and abusing it.
But, contrary to what some believe, Jesus reaffirmed the Sabbath command. Not only was He a faithful Sabbath-keeper Himself (Luke 4:16), but He also declared that the Sabbath was created for man and that He was, in fact, the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:27-28).Jesus had a lot to say about proper speech—which is part of the intent of the Third Commandment. He taught us to respect and praise God’s name (Matthew 6:9), not to vainly repeat prayers (Matthew 6:7) and not to worship God in vain by teaching man-made commandments (Mark 7:7). He warned that being careless with our words can lead to spiritual defilement (Matthew 15:11).
The Third Commandment, designed to govern irreverent speech, is clearly still to be obeyed by Christians.
Fourth Commandment: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy”
It is really the Fourth Commandment that the Christian world has the most issues with. It specifies that the seventh day of the week is to be a day of rest and observance, but the vast majority of the Christian world treats the seventh day (Saturday) just like any other day. In fact, it is this command that motivates many of the arguments against the 10 Commandments.
But, contrary to what some believe, Jesus reaffirmed the Sabbath command. Not only was He a faithful Sabbath-keeper Himself (Luke 4:16), but He also declared that the Sabbath was created for man and that He was, in fact, the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:27-28).
After His ascension, the early Church continued keeping the Sabbath (Acts 13:42, 44). In fact, it was the apostle Paul (the likely author of the book of Hebrews and a man many believe taught against the Sabbath) who said that “there remains therefore a rest [or a keeping of the Sabbath] for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9).
But what about the last six?
We’ve looked at each commandment that falls under what Jesus called the first and great commandment. We’ve discovered that each applies today and helps us love God with all our heart, soul and mind (Matthew 22:37).
But what about the last six? In our next issue, we will explore each of the final six commandments and see what Jesus and other New Testament writers had to say about them.
For more insight into the issue of Jesus and the commandments, read “Jesus and the Law.”