Monday, June 21, 2021

The Decalogue contrasted with The Law of Christ

 The Decalogue contrasted with the Law of Christ, examined in Ten Points.

The Decalogue is tied to the Mosaic Covenant.

In four places in Scripture (listed below), the Decalogue is described as the Mosaic Covenant. While it is not the sum total of everything given to ethnic Israel (see Ex 34:32), the Decalogue is certainly the Tablets of Testimony of that covenant (Ex 25:16; 31:18, 32:15, 34:29).

Exodus 34:28 (HCSB) Moses was there with the LORD 40 days and 40 nights; he did not eat bread or drink water. He wrote the Ten Commandments, the words of the covenant, on the tablets.

Deuteronomy 4:12-13 (HCSB) Then the LORD spoke to you from the fire. You kept hearing the sound of the words, but didn’t see a form; there was only a voice. He declared His covenant to you. He commanded you to follow the Ten Commandments, which He wrote on two stone tablets.

1 Kings 8:20-21 (HCSB) The LORD has fulfilled what He promised. I have taken the place of my father David, and I sit on the throne of Israel, as the LORD promised. I have built the temple for the name of Yahweh, the God of Israel. I have provided a place there for the ark, where the LORD’s covenant is that He made with our ancestors when He brought them out of the land of Egypt.

2 Chronicles 6:10-11 (HCSB) So Yahweh has fulfilled what He promised. I have taken the place of my father David and I sit on the throne of Israel, as Yahweh promised. I have built the temple for the name of Yahweh, the God of Israel. I have put the ark there, where Yahweh’s covenant is that He made with the Israelites.

There are two versions of the Decalogue, and they differ in ways not explained by textual variances. Which version is authoritative? Secondly, the Decalogue, being carved in stone tablets and called "the Ten Words" would not fit on stone tablets if all the words found in the Exodus 20 or Deuteronomy 5 versions were counted as these ten words. If you see the Decalogue as God's "Moral Law" how do you derive what that "moral law" is? Which version of the 4th word is authoritative?

Consider Exodus 20:5-6 (ESV) You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. Is this part of the "moral law" - being smack in the middle of both versions of the Decalogue? How do we conclude what words spoken by Moses were carved in stone? If the Decalogue is the eternal, unchanging moral law of God, why did YHWH repeal the vengeance found in Ex 20:5 in Deuteronomy 24:16? Fathers are not to be put to death for their children or children for their fathers; each person will be put to death for his own sin.


The Law of Moses was given to National Israel, alone.

Deuteronomy 5:1-5 (HCSB) Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, “Israel, listen to the statutes and ordinances I am proclaiming as you hear them today. Learn and follow them carefully. The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. He did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with all of us who are alive here today. The LORD spoke to you face to face from the fire on the mountain. At that time I was standing between the LORD and you to report the word of the LORD to you, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.

Deuteronomy 5:12-15 (HCSB) Be careful to remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy as the LORD your God has commanded you. You are to labor six days and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. You must not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, your ox or donkey, any of your livestock, or the foreigner who lives within your gates, so that your male and female slaves may rest as you do. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out of there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. That is why the LORD your God has commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

This reissuing of the covenant and law provided the historical context ethnic Israel needed to ground them in their identity with YHWH. They, not others, were His covenant people. This version of the 4th word aligns with the introduction, clearly showing this law was given, as part and parcel of the covenant, to only those who were on Mt Horeb when YHWH gave the law and covenant to the infant nation of Israel. Moses makes it very clear that this law was not given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but to them who were on the mountain on that day.   

Nehemiah 9:13-14 (HCSB) You came down on Mount Sinai, and spoke to them from heaven. You gave them impartial ordinances, reliable instructions, and good statutes and commands. You revealed Your holy Sabbath to them, and gave them commands, statutes, and instruction through Your servant Moses.

John 7:19 (HCSB) Didn’t Moses give you the law?

John 8:17 (HCSB) Even in your law it is written that the witness of two men is valid.

Romans 9:4 (HCSB) They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the temple service, and the promises.

In both Old and New Covenant passages, the law of Moses is described as being given to ethnic Israel; not to the world and not to the saints.


The Law of Moses is a unit, not divisible into different categories.

Galatians 3:10 (HCSB) For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, because it is written: Everyone who does not continue doing everything written in the book of the law is cursed.

Galatians 5:3 (HCSB) Again I testify to every man who gets himself circumcised that he is obligated to keep the entire law.

James 2:10 (HCSB) For whoever keeps the entire law, yet fails in one point, is guilty of breaking it all.

The law is consistently spoken of as a unit - keeping one point obligates one to keep every point; failing on one point is being guilty of the whole law. Every law given by God is moral, for He is pure morality. The covenant context reveals how and to whom His specific laws are to be kept. Those in Adam are bound to God's Universal Law (called the law of nature or law of conscience by some); those who were in the Mosaic community were bound to the Mosaic Law; those who are in Christ are bound by the Law of Christ. All of these laws have points in common for they all come from God.


Why the Law of Moses was given.

Romans 5:20 (HCSB) The law came along to multiply the trespass.

Galatians 3:19 (HCSB) Why then was the law given? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise was made would come.

Galatians 3:22-23 (HCSB) But the Scripture has imprisoned everything under sin’s power, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Before this faith came, we were confined under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith was revealed.

Romans 7:7 (HCSB) What should we say then? Is the law sin? Absolutely not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin if it were not for the law. For example, I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, Do not covet.

Many claim the law was given to restrain sin - I find that taught nowhere in Scripture. It provides the basis for punishing law-breakers, For the law produces wrath. And where there is no law, there is no transgression. Romans 4:15 (HCSB)


The Law of Moses was for a time.

Matthew 11:13 (HCSB) For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John;

Luke 16:16 (HCSB) The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then, the good news of the kingdom of God has been proclaimed,

When John came, as the herald of the promised Seed, the Law's prophetic purpose ended.

Romans 7:1 (HCSB) Since I am speaking to those who understand law, brothers, are you unaware that the law has authority over someone as long as he lives?

Romans 7:4 (HCSB) Therefore, my brothers, you also were put to death in relation to the law through the crucified body of the Messiah, so that you may belong to anotherto Him who was raised from the dead—that we may bear fruit for God.

Romans 7:6 (HCSB) But now we have been released from the law, since we have died to what held us, so that we may serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old letter of the law.

Galatians 2:19 (HCSB) For through the law I have died to the law, so that I might live for God.

The Jews who were dead to Christ and alive to the law were under that law. Those Jews who were made alive in Christ were put to death in relation to the Law. They serve in the new and better way of the Spirit of God, not in the old letter that brought death. Paul goes so far (in Gal 2) as to say that in order to live for God one must die to the law. This lines up with what he wrote in Romans 7 - and it aligns with other Scripture that says if you live by the law you must do all of it and will be cursed when he does not. Far better to die to the law and be alive in Christ!

Galatians 3:19 (HCSB) Why then was the law given? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise was made would come.

When the promised Seed came, the law as regulation ended - along with its covenant.

Galatians 3:22-26 (HCSB) But the Scripture has imprisoned everything under sin’s power, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Before this faith came, we were confined under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith was revealed. The law, then, was our guardian until Christ, so that we could be justified by faith. But since that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

The law was the guardian (not tutor as some translations say - this is a modern definition which was not in use when Paul wrote this passage) for national Israel. The law kept, guarded Israel until the promised Seed came. Since Christ came, the law ceased in that function as well. No longer prophetic, no longer regulation, no longer guardian. Something new has come!


The Law of Moses was abolished.

Romans 10:4 (HCSB) For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. The law was ended, set aside as law, for all who believe in Christ.

Ephesians 2:15 (HCSB) He made of no effect the law consisting of commands and expressed in regulations, so that He might create in Himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace.  

2 Corinthians 3:11 (HCSB) For if what was fading away was glorious, what endures will be even more glorious.

Here we see the Mosaic Law, inclusive of the commandments written on stone, was abolished, annulled, ended, set aside, fading away (Strong's G2673 - destroy, abolish). This is not the same word found in Matthew 5:17, which is G2647; they are similar. The law was abolished, destroyed as law (Eph 2, 2 Cor 3) but not destroyed as revelation.

Jesus fulfilled the law, which all throughout Matthew does not mean "confirmed" or "kept" but means filled up, complete; brought to its intended end. The word "fulfilled" (pleroo) is used 16 times in this gospel; by far the preponderance of the appearances of pleroo are 'eschatological.' By this is it meant not that they have reference to the Second Coming, but that from the Old Covenant perspective they represent a future work of God tied to a particular age (i.e. the New Covenant). The fulfillment has to do with how the Old Covenant prophetic word is taken up in the person and work of Christ. One example is: When [Joseph] arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, 'Out of Egypt I called My Son.' It is with this fulfillment in particular that we catch a glimpse of Matthew's vision with regard to the profound nature of Christ's fulfillment of prophecy. Throughout this gospel, "fulfillment" is part and parcel of the shadow/fulfillment process found throughout the redemptive story; it is not testimony of Jesus keeping the law.

Keep the law. tēreō (5083): from teros (a watch; perhaps akin to <G2334> (theoreo)); to guard (from loss or injury, properly by keeping the eye upon.


Fulfill the law. plēroō (4137): from <G4134> (pleres); to make replete, i.e. (literal) to cram (a net), level up (a hollow). As one author put it: “That which was empty, sketchy, has become filled up, filled out, and thereby glorified.”


The New Covenant laws

We in the New Covenant are not without law; but we are not within the Law of Moses. New Covenant passages describe this new law as the Spirit's law of life, the law of Christ, the perfect Law of Liberty, and the Royal law. This law is based on the two great commandments, to love God and neighbor - not as taught by the Mosaic Law but as taught and modeled by the Lord Jesus, in light of the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 8:1-2 (HCSB) Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

Galatians 6:2 (HCSB) Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

1 Corinthians 9:21 (HCSB) To those who are without that law, like one without the law—not being without God’s law but within Christ’s law—to win those without the law.

James 1:25 (HCSB) But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but one who does good worksthis person will be blessed in what he does.

James 2:8 (HCSB) Indeed, if you keep the royal law prescribed in the Scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well.

This phrase, love your neighbor as yourself, is the second great command, taken from Lev 19:18. It is the other side of the coin which also conveys the greatest command: You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might, cited from Deuteronomy 6:5. On these two commands, neither taken from the Decalogue, hang the Law and the prophets – all the scripture then in hands of man. This shows us that while the Law of Moses is not our master, certain truths that apply to all of God’s people are found in His books. Jesus draws out two and declares them to be supreme to the Old Covenant, the essence of the New Covenant – love for God and one another; love as defined and portrayed in the Bible, not as our culture as deceitfully defined it these past few centuries.

Contrasting Old and New Covenant laws

As Moses went up into a mountain to get the old Law, so Christ went up into a mountain to give the new Law (Mat 5-7; cf. 2 Cor 3).

John 1:17 (HCSB) for the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. Just as there is a distinct contrast between law and gospel, here John reveals a distinct contrast between law and grace & truth. The covenant given through Moses was a law-based covenant, with all the criminal sanctions for violations. The covenant made with the blood of Christ is a grace-based covenant, with forgiveness for sin and no legal code hanging over the heads of those within it.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus contrasted the ethics of His kingdom with that of the kingdom of Israel, quoting two of the Ten Words exactly, showing how the law of His kingdom is a higher standard not found in the Mosaic Law. "Do not murder" does not teach "love others as I have loved you;" "Do not commit adultery" does not teach "love your wife as Christ loved the church." "Love your neighbor and hate your enemy" was not part of the Decalogue, but it was the way ethnic Israel lived - as they applied the Levitical law (cities of refuge, etc.).

The parable of the Good Samaritan shows that the Jews had the wrong idea of who their neighbors were - they thought only fellow Jews were their neighbors. That parable also showed how they hated their enemies, as the Pharisee crossed to the other side of the street to avoid the unclean person in the ditch. If the injured man had been a Jew, the Pharisee would have helped him; he wasn't a Jew, so he was a "dog" - an outsider and enemy of Israel. Jesus said, "Love your enemies, pray for them;" He was teaching that in His kingdom, everyone you come in contact with is your neighbor and we are to do good to all, especially those in the household of faith.  Different mindset than in the Mosaic community; one based on love rather than a legal code.

Christ teaches those things which Moses did not. How could the Decalogue be our law if Jesus gave us a higher, better law?

Acts 15:5 (HCSB) But some of the believers from the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to command them to keep the law of Moses! Acts 15:10 (HCSB) Now then, why are you testing God by putting a yoke on the disciples’ necks that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? The light yoke of Christ is light because Christ is the "lead ox" but also because there's a different load being pulled. Not the tablets of stone but the law of Christ. Telling saints they must keep the law of Moses is testing God! This passage is not restricted to justification as the controversy was about justification and how Gentile Christians were to live. The charge from the Pharisees, the discussion, and the letter all reflect this larger scope.

2 Corinthians 5:14 (HCSB) For Christ’s love compels us. Law keeping is not what gives us love nor the ability to obey; the love of Christ does this.

Romans 8:1-2 (HCSB) Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

Since Paul declared the law chiseled in letters on stone to be "the ministry of death" how can that law be the law of the New Covenant, wherein all is life? How can the Decalogue be for the saints when the Spirit's law of life in Christ has set us free from it?

How can the Decalogue be part of the Law of Christ when it is starkly contrasted with it in 1 Corinthians 9:19-21? For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. Paul described himself as being without - not having - the Law of Moses; he merely behaved as though he was under that law so his freedom would not distract Jews from his gospel. He made clear his true status in verse 21- not under the Law of Moses but under the law of Christ. How could the Law of Moses (its capstone - the Decalogue) be part of or equal to the law of Christ when Paul sets that against one another in several places?

Galatians 3:2-6 (ESV) Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain — if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith — just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? Having been given life by the Spirit, maturing in Christ is NOT by works of law-keeping!

Hebrews 7:11-13, 18, 19 (HCSB) If then, perfection came through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there for another priest to appear, said to be in the order of Melchizedek and not in the order of Aaron? For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must be a change of law as well. For the One these things are spoken about belonged to a different tribe. ... So the previous command is annulled because it was weak and unprofitable (for the law perfected nothing), but a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. Law is tied to covenant. The Mosaic Law was based on the Mosaic Covenant, administered by the Levitical priesthood. When the New Covenant came, the priesthood changed - and this mandated a change of law as well. The law of the Old Covenant was annulled as law, it was not translated into the New Covenant as law. The Spirit provides a better hope, by which we draw near to God.

Hebrews 10:1 (ESV) For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. The Law of Moses had its purpose in its time. It was unable to save and unable to make perfect anyone as it was mere shadow while the substance is Christ (Col 2:17).

John 15:12 (ESV) This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. John 15:17 (ESV) These things I command you, so that you will love one another. This is the Law of Christ - the rule for Christian living is not the Law of Moses, not the "moral Law of God" as the Decalogue is called by man.

Romans 13:8 (HCSB) Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

Romans 13:10 (HCSB) Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law.

Galatians 5:14 (HCSB) For the entire law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself.

There are some who claim Christians must live under the Decalogue as a rule of life or we will think murder is OK. Christians are indwelt by the Spirit of God and we have been shown that selfish anger at a brother is the same as murder, and we do not un-hinge the Old Testament from our theology. We read about how wicked murder is and see our anger at others is of the same sinful attitude. We read how we are to love one another as Christ loved us and see how great indeed the two Great Commandments are. We are not lawless, we are within the Law of Christ!


Great Commission: Teaching them all I have commanded you. Where did Jesus teach that His disciples are to keep the Decalogue? Jesus told His disciples the greatest commandment was to love God - something not taught in the Decalogue. He also told us the second greatest commandment is to love one another as He loved us - something not taught in the Decalogue.

How can the Decalogue be in the law of Christ when it doesn't command or teach us to LOVE? The Decalogue teaches what sin is.

Paul teaches that the Law is good and that it is the ministry of death. The best way to reconcile his statements is to see that the Law serves as revelation from God, and this is very good; it also serves as regulation for those under the law covenant, and this is very heavy. This is clearly seen in Romans 3:21 But now, apart from the law [as regulation], God’s righteousness has been revealed—attested by the Law and the Prophets [as revelation].

One rule of hermeneutics that is very helpful.

Law exists in Scripture as Regulation and Revelation. John Owen recognized this, saying, "The law is taken two ways: 1. For the whole revelation of the mind and will of God ... and 2. For the covenant rule of perfect obedience."

Law as regulation is given in context of the covenant to which it belongs. Violations of law bring consequences, which are spelled out in that covenant.

There is no exception to this, in that laws with punishments do not spill out of their covenant.

Since all of God's Word is Revelation, it is good for us if applied properly. This goes for law and narrative.

This is why a principle is seen in more than one law in more than one covenant - it's all from God. Don't confuse that with the papist fable of "trans-covenantal law."



Man is naturally wired for works righteousness. Having a codified list of "Do"s and "Dont"s satisfies our natural desire to prove ourselves. This is not how we, who are dead to the law and alive in Christ, are to live - for love does not keep records of wrongs (1 Cor 13:5). The Mosaic Law was not given as a rule for life for those indwelt by the Spirit of God. Christ has taught us and shown us how to love, He has given us His Spirit and His Word so we would not be left to figure it out on our own. And He has given us to one another so we can practice loving one another in spite of our differences and disagreements. May it please the Lord our God to continue to pour out His love and grace on us so we would shine as lights in this wicked world.

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