The 10 commandments are the most basic and fundamental rule of law for any civilized society. The founding fathers of the United States built the country on the basis of these 10 commandments. The various commandments are found repeatedly throughout the Bible both in the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament.
That being said, they were originally given by Moses shortly after the children of Israel made their exodus from Egyptian captivity to Mount Sinai and were meant to be the foundational laws which governed the children of Israel until the implementation of the Law of Christ.
In Matthew 22, Jesus is approached by a lawyer who had a question.
This was an expert in Jewish Law. He knew the commandments better than anyone. If you were to go back one verse, you would learn that this question was not coming from someone who honestly wanted answers, but from someone who was testing Jesus (Matt. 22.35).
Jesus responded to his question by identifying two Old Testament commandments.
Turning to the Old Testament, you will find these two commandments in Deuteronomy 6.5 and Leviticus 19.18.
Loving God with all your heart, soul, and mind, every part of who you are, is the first and great commandment.
The word “first” comes from a Greek word that does not mean first in the sense of chronology or sequence. It carries the idea of being first in importance. The most important commandment above all other commandments is to love God with every fiber of your being.
Without being solicited, Jesus also mentions the second most important commandment. You and I are to love our fellow man as we love ourselves.
Don't miss what Jesus said next…
Did you catch that? The entire Law of Moses and all the instructions and commands that were implemented by the prophets, including the 10 commandments, are summarized by these two commandments. Love God and love your neighbor.
Later, the apostle Paul made the same point in Romans 13.8-10:
The idea of owing someone does not refer to going in monetary debt. It does not mean that you cannot take out a loan at the bank. It mean that if you owe someone money, make good on the loan. If you agreed to make payments, you are to make those payments.
More specifically, Paul says that you are not to owe anyone such things as respect, honor, and fear. If there is someone who is deserving of your respect, you are to give it to them. If someone is deserving of your honor, you are to honor them. You are never to withhold these things from them. In other words, you are never to owe them.
With those thoughts in mind, Paul makes one exception. “Owe no one anything except to love one another.”
You will never get to the point where you have given someone all the love that they deserve. You are always going to be indebted to love your fellow man. In reference to loving one another, Paul then adds this at the end of the verse: “for he who loves has fulfilled the law.”
If you want to keep all the commandments in the Law of Moses and the prophets, you need to do one thing, and one thing only. You need to love.
Paul then elaborates…
Paul lists a handful of commandments taken from the Ten Commandments. Love is the summation of all the commandments. If you love your neighbor, then you will not bear false witness against him. If you love your neighbor, you will not steal. When you love, you will keep all the commandments.
When you love God, you will naturally do all that He wants you to do. When you love your fellow man, you will naturally act in his best interest. Therefore the summation of the 10 commandments is love.
How long were the Ten Commandments supposed to binding on man? Are they still binding on man?
Let’s go back to when these 10 commandments were put into effect.
The children of Israel were led out of Egyptian captivity by Moses. Three months later, they came to Mount Sinai. While the children of Israel remained at the base of the mountain, Moses and Aaron were called by God to ascend to the top where God would give them the Ten Commandments. You can read about this in Exodus 20.
Here is a list of the 10 commandments.
Now look again at these 10 commandments. Notice that the first four commandments deal with our relationship with God. Notice also that the last six commandments deal with our relationship with one another.
No wonder Jesus said in Matthew 22.40 that loving God and loving your neighbor are the two greatest commandments, and that on those two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
The 10 commandments are based on two commandments. Love God, and love your neighbor.
As you keep reading in Exodus 20, Moses comes back down the mountain and presents these 10 commandments to the children of Israel. These commandments were given to a specific people for a specific period of time.
After the death of Christ, these commandments as part of the Old Covenant were replaced with the New Covenant, the law of Christ. Notice the words of the apostle Paul to the Ephesians.
The covenant relationship and the 10 commandments which governed the children of Israel was what distinguished then from the rest of humanity (gentiles). With Christ having died on the cross, Paul says that this distinction has been removed.
Today anyone can be a child of God regardless of whether they are a Jew or a Gentile. Since the 10 commandments and all other Old Testament laws had been abolished at the death of Christ, now Jews and Gentiles can serve God together as one, “thus making peace.”
Let’s notice a similar statement found in the book of Colossians…
In the book of Ephesians, Paul was addressing Gentiles encouraging them because they were no longer excluded from being the people of God. The Law of Moses (including the Ten Commandments) that distinguished them had been taken out of the way.
In the book of Colossians, Paul was addressing Jews encouraging them that this law which exposed their sin without offering the possibility of redemption has been wiped out by the death of Christ. Now they are under a new system of grace.
Are we bound by the 10 Commandments today?
In light of the scriptures we considered in Ephesians 2.14 and Colossians 2.14, as well as a host of other passages, man today is not bound by the Laws of Moses.
You might find it of great interest that every one of the ten commandments has been repeated within the Law of Christ with the exception of one. The fourth commandment regarding the Sabbath day is the only commandment of the 10 commandments not included in the Law of Christ.
It is still a sin to commit adultery. It is still a sin to steal. It is still a sin to murder. Not because these commands are found in the 10 commandments, but because they are found in the Law of Christ. However, it is no longer a sin to work on Saturday, for this is the one command not carried over into the Law of Christ.
Today we live by the Law of Christ. James refers to the Law of Christ as the law of liberty. Let's conclude by reading the words of James in reference to the Law to which we are bound.