The Ten Commandments
FOR WHOM AND WHY?
by Ed Stevens
"And (God) declared unto you (Israel) His covenant which He commanded you (Israel) to perform, even ten commandments; and He wrote them upon two tables of stone", Deut. 4:13.
Here we have a plain declaration in God's word as to whom the ten commandments were delivered and just who were commanded to observe them. It was the nation Israel. God made a "covenant" with Israel in pet scribing these ten commandments called "the tables of the covenant" (I Kings 8:21; Heb. 9:4). With no other people on the face of the earth was this covenant made. The Gentiles "have not the law" we read in Horn. 2:14.
Seventh Day Adventists teach that to Israel were given two distinctly different sets of laws. They contend that the ten commandment in stone were put inside the Ark to show that they were "universal and everlasting in their jurisdiction and authority" and that the laws written by Moses lasted only till Christ's death on the cross. The Scriptures make no such distinction but make all these laws to be one unit, called "the law", "the law of the Lord", etc. That the ten commandments, too, were written in "the book of the law" which was put "at the side of the ark" is proved by reading Exodus 24:4,7; Deut.5:1-21; 30:10; 31:9-11,24-26.
Just why did God have the two tables of stone put inside the ark ? Since "every whit" in the tabernacle and the temple "uttereth His glory" (Psalm 29:9, margin) it typically manifested the glory and grace of God in having His Son perfectly keep His law that He might be "the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth" in Him, for, "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 10:4; 3:23).
For about 1500 years Israel labored under the law with the words ringing in their ears, "Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them" (Deut. 27:26; Gal. 3:10). See also James 2:10 Notice, law keeping demanded absolute perfection for righteousness. No one but Christ ever attained such perfection. Israel, however, found mercy in being able to offer animal sacrifices when the law was broken—"It is the blood that maketh atonement (covering) for the soul" (Lev. 17:11).
Are The Ten Commandments Abolished?
"For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before, for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh to God. By so much was Jesus made the surety of a better testament", or "covenant", R.V. (Heb. 7:18, 19, 22).
Now read II Cor. 3:7-14 where two "ministrations", the law and the gospel of God's grace (unmerited favor) are contrasted as to glory and permanence, the associated glory of Moses' face being mentioned only typically:—"But if the ministration of death written and engraven on stones (the ten commandments, certainly) was glorious ... how shall not the ministration of the Spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory .. . For if that which is done away (the law) was glorious much more that which remaineth (the gospel) is glorious ... the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that (the law) which is abolished", i.e., to Christ in whom is obtained by faith "the righteousness of God without the law" (Rom. 3:21,22; 9:31-33; 10:1-4).
All who look to their own law-keeping behavior to be righteous before God are, like Israel, unbelievers having a "veil upon their hearts". "When they shall turn to the Lord" believing that He is "the end of the law for righteousness", through whom is obtained as "a free gift" the very "righteousness of God without the law", then and only then will they be saved (II Cor. 3:14-16; 5:21).
These references destroy the entire foundation of the sabbatarians and condemn all preaching of faith plus commandment keeping for salvation.
Yes, the Lord did say He came not to destroy the law but to fulfill it and that "one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled" (Matt. 5:17, 18). God's holy justice demanded perfect fulfillment of His law and in His marvelous grace had His Son fulfill it vicariously for all men. Therefore the law could be "done away". This is aptly illustrated in men removing the wooden form of a concrete structure after it has served its purpose.
The apostle Paul wrote in Col. 2:14 that Christ "blotted out the handwriting of ordinances (God's handwriting on stones) that was against us, which was contrary to us and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross". It was customary in Israel for a creditor to nail a bill to the doorpost when the debt had been paid. Hence the expression, "nailing it to His cross". Christ had paid the debt of the broken law for all mankind. Those who say the ceremonial law only was blotted out forget that this part of the law was not "against" the Israelites but was provided to protect them from immediate judgment for breaking the ten commandment law.
For about thirty years after the cross, during the Acts period, "many thousands of Jews which believed" were "all zealous of the law" (Acts 21: 20). God did not release any Israelites from observing the ceremonial law until He had Paul reveal such release in his prison epistles written after the Acts period. This explains the observance of the Sabbath, baptisms, feast days, sacrifices, vows, etc., as recorded in The Acts of the Apostles, which book has been wrongly understood by the vast majority in Christendom to be a guide book for all Christian faith and practice. Please read Heb. 9:9, 10; Ephes. 2:14-19; 4:1-6; Col. 2:14-19.
Commandments For Christians Today
God raised up a law-giver for the present dispensation of the Church which is Christ's Body in the person of Paul, the apostle and "teacher of the Gentiles" and revealer of Church truth (I Tim. 2:7; Rom. 11:13; 15:16; Ephes. 3: 1-9). This apostle wrote in I Cor. 14:37, "If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord". Believers heed these commands not for salvation but because of salvation. They are for Christians only, being the "good works" that accompany living faith (Eph.2:10; Phil.2:12,13). "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified (declared to be -not become - righteous) and not by faith only" (James 2:24).
Are the ten commandments passed on to us in Paul's epistles? By searching we shall find them reiterated in over 120 commands and exhortations, but the fourth commandment concerning Sabbath keeping is definitely left out. Why is this so?
Because the seventh day Sabbath was given to Israel "for a perpetual conversant" for God said, "It is a sign between me and the children of Israel forever". They were to "remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand . . . therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the Sabbath day" (Exodus 31:13, 16, 17; Ezek. 20:12, 20; Deut. 5:15). Israel's Sabbath has temporarily ceased with her being temporarily set aside (Rom. 11:2, 15, 25, 26; Ezek. 44:24; 16:1; Isa. 66:23).
The Bible nowhere teaches or speaks of present day believers as being "spiritual Israel". Rom. 2:28,29 and Gal. 6:16 plainly designate saved Jews. In Gal. 3:29 believers are said to be the seed of Abraham in a spiritual sense, not seed of Israel his grandson.
Paul does not charge believers to keep Israel's Sabbath day in Heb. 4:1-11, where it is not even mentioned. God's three "rests" are presented here: —His creation rest (v.4), His Caanan rest for Israel (v.6), and His promised salvation rest for believers (v.1). "There remaineth therefore a (promised) rest to the people of God. For he that bath entered into His rest (salvation), he also hath ceased from his own works"—for salvation (vs.9,10). Compare Matt. 11:28,29.
To the Bible teaching that the law is "done away" and, that "ye (believers) are not under law but under grace", religious unbelievers and legalists invariably reply, "If I believed that I'd do any thing I want to" (sin freely). Obviously, they have not experienced the truth of II Cor 5,17, "If any man be in Christ he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new". A saved person wants "the fruit of the Spirit" manifested in his life. "Against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts" (Rom. 6:14,15; Ga1.5:18,23,24).
"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death" (Rom. 8:1, 2).
The Law Condemns - Grace Saves
In pressing these legalists as to their way of salvation it all boils down to this: If the law is transgressed (sin being transgression of the law) the sin must be confessed, otherwise, one will be lost. They quote I John 1:9, "If we (saved `children' of God, note) confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins . . . " Salvation, which is "eternal" (Heb.5:9) and can therefore never be lost, is not the subject matter sere, but "fellowship" disrupted through stepping out of "the light" into "darkness", v.6 (when yielding to the flesh). God's children cannot say, "we have no sin", v.8. However, their standing is in the "new man" which "cannot sin, because he is born of God" and "sinneth not" (I John 3:9; 5:18). Praise the God of all grace . . . this is the true grace (unmerited favor) wherein ye stand" (II Pet. 5:10,12). As "Advocate with the Father", Christ is not interceding for continuance of salvation for the believer but for continuance in fellowship. Salvation is never revoked (Rom. 11: 29; 8:30-39; John 13:10; 6:37; 5:24; 10:28; Phil. 1:6; Heb. 10:10, 14, 39: Isa. 45:17).
The truly saved will ever agree with Titus 3:5 - "Not by works of righteousness which we have done but according to His mercy He saved us ... "He that believeth on the Son bath everlasting life . . . " (John 3:36;5:24). Since the legalists believe in "works of righteousness", keeping the law, confessing sins, etc., as necessary to be (finally) saved, in addition to faith in Christ, they are still lost souls (see Gal. 2:16 quoted below). In preaching "another gospel" of grace plus law they are "accursed" (Gal. 1:7-9). "Desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor whereof they affirm" (I Tim. 1:7.)
As further proof of their deceived hearts being turned away from the truth, the above mentioned claim innocence as to their sins of ignorance. But here, too, they are condemned with "all (who) have sinned and come short of the glory of God". "If a soul commit a trespass and sin through ignorance . . and if a soul sin and commit any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the Lord, though he wist it not yet he is guilty and shall bear his iniquity" (Rom. 3:23; Lev. 5:15,17. Clearly, it is hopeless for man to do anything about his sins other than to believe that forgiveness comes through God's Son alone "who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree" (I Pet. 2:24).
Today, thank God, the believer who is "led of the Spirit" knows he is "not under the law but under grace" (Rom. 6:14). He understands Paul's admonition to the Galatians on this point—see Gal. 4:21-31. He knows his life is to show forth "the fruit of the Spirit", and "against such there is no law" (Gal. 5:22, 23).
"By the law is the knowledge of sin" — for the unsaved. Only for a believer is the law "abolished", for he is a "new man" and the law has nothing to say to "the new man which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness" (Rom. 3:20; Eph. 4:24).
God's Word declares, "The just shall live by faith and the law is not of faith". "By works of the law shall no flesh be justified."(Gal. 2:16, 21) "Knowing this that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners ... " (I Tim. 1:9). 'Wherefore, the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ that we might be justified by faith" (Gal. 3:24). Yes, a schoolmaster for all readers and hearers of God's Word, both Jew and Gentile sinners, "For by the law is the knowledge of sin" and "that every mouth may be stopped and all the world become guilty before God". Thus "we establish (confirm) the law" as to its God-given purpose only to convict (Rom. 3:19,20,31). The Bible preaches God's law to all, along with His grace, to lead sinners to Christ the Savior.
"Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this Man (Christ) is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins and by Him all that believe are justified from all things from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses" (Acts 13:38). Believe what? Believe "the gospel . . . wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved ... how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that He was buried and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures and was seen ... " of witnesses (I Cor. 15:1-8). "If righteousness come by the law, then Christ died for naught" (Gal. 2:21).
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