There are varied opinions regarding the law of God that are circulated among Christians today. Some say that the Ten Commandments have been done away with, while others maintain that they are still in effect. This study is designed to examine what the Bible says concerning this issue.
Let’s consider the giving of the Ten Commandments at Sinai. “And God spake all these words.” (Exodus 20:1) God did not entrust the giving of the Ten Commandments to any man, but spoke them Himself. “For who is there of all flesh, that hath heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived?” (Deuteronomy 5:26) It was an awesome thing for humans to hear the voice of the living God.
What does God say concerning those things that have come out of His mouth? “My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.” (Psalm 89:34) God says that He will not change anything that has gone out of His lips. More specifically God says that He will not alter the Ten Commandments. “The works of his hands are verity and judgment; all his commandments are sure. They stand fast for ever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness.” (Psalm 111:7, 8)
“I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.”(Ecclesiastes 3:14) Whatever God does, it will last forever. Man is not permitted to add anything to it or take anything away from it. “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”(Revelation 22:18, 19) “What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.” (Deuteronomy 12:32) It is a very serious thing to attempt to alter those things which God Himself has spoken.
Did the Lord change His mind after He spoke the Ten Commandments at Sinai? “For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” (Malachi 3:6) God does not change. Man may go to great lengths to prove that God has changed His mind concerning the moral law which He spoke at Sinai, yet the Scriptures say that God does not change.
Did Christ Change the Law?
As we have seen, God the Father did not change His law which He spoke at Sinai, but did Christ change the law? Prophesying of Christ’s mission on earth, Isaiah wrote the following:“The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable.” (Isaiah 42:21) Christ’s mission did not include changing the law of God for it is written that He will “magnify the law and make it honourable.”
Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-19)
According to Jesus the law of God is to stand until “heaven and earth pass.” Obviously this has not occurred yet, so naturally the law has not been done away with. Jesus went on to say that it was a dangerous thing to teach men to “break one of these least commandments.” It is very plain that the law, which Jesus was referring to, is the Ten Commandment law for the rest of the chapter deals with Jesus expounding on certain points within this law.
The testimony of Jesus agrees with that of Solomon. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14)
Not only does God require us to keep His commandments, He also makes it clear that if we want to enter the kingdom of heaven we must “do his commandments.” “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” (Revelation 22:14)
God will have a group of people in the last days who will keep His commandments. “And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (Revelation 12:17) “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” (Revelation 14:12)
“The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid.” (Zephaniah 3:13) Speaking of God’s remnant people John wrote, “And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.”(Revelation 14:5)
As we can clearly see, God will have a group of people in the last days who will keep His law. What is the biblical term for those who break the law? “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” (1 John 3:4) Consequently, one who transgresses the law of God is called a sinner.
What does the Bible say will happen at the time of the second coming, to those who transgress His law? “Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.” (Isaiah 13:9) That is a very solemn warning. It is no wonder the Lord says, “prepare to meet thy God.” (Amos 4:12)
Certainly there are some who will quickly protest, claiming, “We cannot keep the law of God, we can never stop sinning.” It is true that we cannot keep the law of God in our own strength. “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” (Romans 8:7) Yet the Lord has told us that we must keep the commandments to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Surely there must be some remedy for sin.
“Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.” (Romans 3:24, 25) Praise God that He has made a way of escape! God, through His infinite wisdom, has designed a way in which we can be forgiven of our past sins. That is wonderful! Notice that the verse said that we can have “remission of sins that are past.” Nowhere in the Bible is there any indication that we can be forgiven of sins that are yet future. In fact the Lord has made it clear that once we are forgiven we are expected not to continue in that sin.“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Romans 6:1, 2)
Suppose a known thief comes to your church seeking membership, claiming that he wants to give his life to the Lord and asking for prayer that he might give up his habit of stealing. Suppose the pastor tells this man, “My friend, you have it all wrong; don’t you know that we can never stop sinning? Just accept Jesus as your Saviour and everything will be okay.” Certainly any conscientious individual would immediately see that the pastor’s reply is wrong. Yet many pastors make similar statements without raising the slightest suspicion in the listeners. If it is true that we cannot stop sinning, then where do we draw the line? Is it only that we cannot stop sinning when it comes to seemingly small sins such as lying and coveting, or would we say that we cannot stop sinning when it comes to such sins as adultery? One may say that these sins cannot be avoided. Why stop there?
If it is true that the compulsive liar cannot give up lying, then it must also be true that the murderer cannot give up murdering and the thief cannot give up stealing. If this were the case then this world would be filled with nothing but the vilest of criminals. It is very obvious that the assertion “we cannot stop sinning” is completely contrary to common sense, but is it contrary to the Bible?
“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) Praise God! He has promised us that there is no temptation that will ever come upon us from which we cannot escape. God always provides a way out of sin. Thank God that Satan cannot force us to sin.
What shall I do when I am tempted?
“And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.”
“And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.” (Psalm 50:15) If we will call upon the Lord when we are being tempted, He will give us the victory over every temptation. “For in that he [Christ] himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour [Greek: bohqhsai “to run to the cry of those in danger.” Thayer’s Greek Lexicon] them that are tempted.” (Hebrews 2:18) If we do not call upon the Lord when we are tempted, He will not help us and we will be left to our own strength. When we call upon the Lord at the time of our temptation it does not have to be in an audible voice, but cry unto Him in your thoughts. Silent prayers are heard by Him who “searcheth the hearts.”
Some say that it is a grievous burden to keep God’s commandments. We are assured that His commandments are not grievous. “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” (1 John 5:3)
Answering Some Objections
“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.” (Colossians 2:14) Some claim that the above verse proves that the law has been nailed to the cross. Is this really what Paul was saying? Paul said this concerning the law: “Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” (Romans 7:12) This agrees with the testimony of David. “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” (Psalm 19:7)
So what was Paul talking about when he said “the handwriting of ordinances” was nailed to the cross? “And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.” (Exodus 12:14) The Jewish Passover, the sacrificial system, and the priesthood, which were a shadow of things to come, were called ordinances. This is what Paul was referring to which was done away with. God’s moral law, known as the Ten Commandments, was not“the handwriting of ordinances that was against us.”
“For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.” (Hebrews 7:12) “For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof.” (Hebrews 7:18) Paul is referring to a law that is weak and unprofitable. He said that since the priesthood has changed there must also be a change of the law. It is obvious that the law Paul was referring to was not the Ten Commandments, for they had nothing to do with laws concerning priests. Moreover, the Ten Commandment law is not weak and unprofitable, but “holy, and just, and good.” The law that was changed due to the changing of the priesthood is the ordinances concerning the sacrificial system, the priests, and the sanctuary service, for they were unprofitable.
“Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions,… Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” (Galatians 3:19-25) The law of God speaks only to them who have broken that law. “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” (Romans 3:19) Once we have come to Christ and have been justified (literally made innocent), the law has nothing to say to us for we stand before God as if we had not sinned. Hence we are no longer in need of a schoolmaster. The moment we again break that law, the law is there to testify that we are a sinner. Hence we again need that schoolmaster to bring us back to Christ. If there were no law to tell us that we have sinned, we would continue in a deplorable condition.
“What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.”(Romans 7:7) Thank God for His law, for without it we would be liars, thieves, murderers, and such like.
“My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (1 John 2:1) God wants us to cease from sin, which is transgression of the law. If the law has been done away with, I confess to you that it is not possible for anyone to sin, for how can one break a law that does not exist? If the law was done away with, it is perfectly just and right to murder, steal, commit adultery, etc. It is clear that God’s moral law is still in effect, and those who violate God’s law are sinners.
“Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.” (1 Corinthians 7:19)