Friday, August 7, 2009

Do we need to keep the Ten Commandments in the New Testament?

How about keeping the Ten Commandments?

By Abraham Israel 

How does the New Testament teaching and especially that of the Lord Jesus changes the way we keep the Ten Commandments?

Nobody can keep the Ten Commandments perfectly all the time (James 2:10). It was given for us to realise that we cannot keep it on our own (Gal 3:24). Our inadequency and inability to keep it will push us towards Christ, after which all the law which has been fullfilled through Christ’s life will get applied by the Holy Spirit automatically in us (Matt 5:17). The Holy Spirit himself will apply the law of God in and through us which the Apostle Paul called as “the newness ofthe Spirit “ (Rom 7:6) in contrast to the Old Testament way of obedience based on strict adherence to the rules of the law which he called as the “Oldness of the letter” (v 6)(Rom 8:4). The Holy Spirit who resides in us will live the God-life through us and will keep the law for the glory of God (2 Cor 6:16; 1 John 4:4). As a result of it, we do not have to worry about keeping the law as in the Old Testament to receive God’s blessings (Rom 8:2; Gal 5:18; Deut 28:1-2). All we need to do in the New Testament is to continue in the faith that God has already given to us and keep continuing in it for more of God’s blessings (Rom 12:3; Heb 10:35-36, 38-39). In the Old Testament times when people sinned, they received spiritual, soulish and physical death. But because Jesus Christ has fullfilled all the requirement of the law on our behalf, we as believers of the New Covenant have been freed from the law of sin which when broken leads to death. The Old Testament Law which includes five book of Moses [i.e. Pentateuch] and the Prophets (Matt 22:40; Luke 24:27), is called as “the law of sin and death” (Rom 8:2) because according to the law a man who breaks the commandments [i.e. even one] must face death as a penalty unless or otherwise a sacrifice according to the law is offered (Ezek 18:20; Heb 9:7). In the New Testament Jesus Christ our Lord offered Himself as the one sinless perfect sacrifice for all our past, present and future sins, as a result of it God has received and embraced us all [i.e. sinners by our very nature] without any precondition on our part and we can approach Him now as His very dear adopted children in His family (Heb 10:11-14; John1: 12; Eph 1:5).

The New Testament enlarges the Old Testament teachings and points to the fullfillment of it in Christ Jesus. In the New Testament there are no hard and fast rule to keep. But as we choose to obey Jesus daily and follow Him based on His teachings, the Holy Spirit of God will guide us step by step 24 hrs a day / 7 days a week / 365 days a year in our earthly walk. We follow Jesus in the New Testament not out of fear to avoid punishment, but as a gratitude for what He has already done for each one of us on the Cross of Calvary (John 15:13-15). Our union with Jesus based on what He has already achieved for us on the Cross gives us eternal security (John 10:27-29; John 19:30; Heb 5:9).

The parable of the Prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) has been given to us to point out the difference between Union of God's family and Fellowship within God's family. The prodigal never stopped being his father’s son (Union). When he repented of his sins, he was immediately restored to his former position of fellowship with the father through his confession of sins (Fellowship) (1 John 1:3-4, 9).

The Bible speaks about salvation in all the three tense forms.

1) The Bible says “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; [it is] the gift of God” (Eph 2:8). This is a past tense salvation achieved by Jesus for us which Apostle Paul described saying, “even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Eph 2:5). In other words Jesus has positioned us in right eternal relationship and union with God when we first believed Him by accepting ourselves as sinners before God who are in need of the Saviour Jesus to be saved (Matt 9:12-13; Luke 18:13-14; Rom 5:1; John 14:17, 23; 1 Cor 6:17). This position of union with God in our spirit-man qualifies us to enter heaven. No works are ever needed to be added to the work of God which is believing in Jesus whom God sent to give us everlasting life (John 6:29, 40). Once Jesus gives us everlasting life no one can take us away or snatch us out of the hand of Jesus or God’s hand (John 10:27-29). The sheep followers of Jesus are the believer’s like us who have believed and received His teachings and miraculous works as coming from God the Father of all (John 10:25-26)This positional past tense salvation is what we can call as union-salvation (John 14:20-23; 20:21-23).

2) The Bible also speaks about a progressive salvation of believers in their earthly existence of day to day life. Paul refers to this progressive present tense salvation in 1 Cor 1:18 saying, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Only to the believers the apostolic gospel message of Paul and his fellow bondservants of Christ became as an “aroma of life leading to [God’s] life” on earth which is salvation in the present tense for a believer (2 Cor 2:14-16). The same concept is spoken in Rom 10:10 where he is exhorting the believers to confess through the mouth all the promises that are theirs in Jesus Christ, which brings deliverance to the believer in his day to day life (2 Cor 1:20). Whoever believes in His name and claims all the promises of God as his, will never be put to shame. Speaking the promises of God through a believer’s mouth is equal to calling on the name of the Lord believing on what He has done for them (Rom 10:11-13). When a believer does these things believing the permanency of the Lord’s salvation achieved for them, God faithfully acts on behalf of their faith to rescue them from the present evil of Satan and his cohorts (Gal 1:3-4; Rom 10:8). This progressive present tense salvation is what can be called as fellowship-salvation (Rom 10:13; 1 John 1:3, 7, 9; Matt 6:9, 14-15). To the level of our fellowship with God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, to that level we will be positioned presently in the salvation blessings of God on earth (Eph 1:3-4; Heb 6:9; 1 Peter 3:8-12).

If we abide in Jesus and fellowship constantly with Him through allowing the words of Jesus to penetrate our mind, emotions and will in us and keep our sole focus on Him, we will bear much fruit and we will glorify God the Father on earth. With out the presence of Jesus’ working in us and our constant fellowship with Him, we cannot be able to do anything of eternal value or truly glorify the Father God on earth as Jesus did. If we are not attached to Jesus closely in our daily fellowship with Him, we will bear no fruit and when the angels gather our works done on earth in the presence of Jesus during the Bema-seat Judgment for believers on the day of the marriage of the lamb (Rev 19:7-8), all the futile works will be burned but the believer Himself will be saved because of what Jesus has achieved for Him on the Cross of Calvary (John 15:1-8)We see in John 15:6 where Jesus has said, “If anyone does not abide in Me, he [Note: a singular person] is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they [i.e. God’s servants the angels] gather them [Note: the same believers collection of fruitless works is described in a pluralistic language] and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” We see in this preceding verse when Jesus says “If anyone” he is speaking about a single individual believer. As a whole Jesus is conveying the message of fruitless life of believer on earth. Here Jesus is saying that a believer when not in constant connection with Himself will become dry and weary to the extent of being completely cast out from the tree. The works such fruitless believers produce can only be gathered to be burned in fire, where it will not with stand the heat of God’s purification but gets burned completely. This does not mean that the believer himself will be thrown in to fire. As Apostle Paul himself says “If anyone’s work [fruitless doings on earth] is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire [of Jesus’ Bema-seat believers Judgment (2 Cor 5:10-11)].” (1 Cor 3:15). “we [the believers] shall be saved by His life [and not by our works (Eph 2:8-9)]” (Rom 5:10). But we will be rewarded accoding to our works (Rev 22:12).

If we do not keep His commandments, we will be chastised by God and if we still continue to rebel we may even face physical death as a chastisement from God our Father like it happened for the Corinthian believers who ate and drank the Lord's Supper in a unworthy manner, but that does not mean that we lose heaven (1 Cor 11:29-32; Heb 12:6-11). A believer’s entry rights in to heaven is based on what Jesus has done for each one who has believed in Him for salvation of their sin-sick, wicked and fallen souls (Jer 17:9; Luke 23:40-43; 18:13-14)This is the reason when Jesus saw the great faith of a Gentile centurion He said to the religious Jews who did not have true faith in God or believe that Jesus was sent by God, “11 And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt 8:11-12). In other words Jesus was saying to the unbelieving Jews, ‘See those whom you judge based on their behaviour as dogs, outcasts, harlots, tax collectors and sinners by your religious self-righteous mindset will be justified by their faith and will be in God’s kingdom of heaven before you, but you who have rejected my perfect righteousness will end up in your imperfect filty rags of your own religious self-righteous rejected works and will end up as sinners in hades waiting for the White Throne Judgment in which you will be condemned to eternity in Hell without justification’ (Matt 21:31-32). From the above exposition of the word, we come to understand that God sees the motives of our heart to weigh and reward our every action.

"God is more concerned about our belief, thoughts and inward attitudes than just our outward behavior and actions (1 Sam 16:7; Prov 20:9)."

The Bible says Amaziah the king of the southern kingdom of Judah “did what was right in the sight of the LORD, but not with a loyal heart.” (2 Chron 25:2). This above verse shows that we can even do all the right things in the sight of the Lord without right motives in our heart. Our motivation towards life, work and right behaviour should be based on our gratitude and thankfulness to God for all the things He has already done for us.

3) Then finally the Bible speaks about a future salvation of all believers from all the ills and curses of the earth during the rapture. All the believers of all ages from the time of Jesus’ resurrection to that time of rapture will be given a brand new blessed body of rapturous glory like Jesus, so that they will start to live under the light of new Jerusalem in the new earth with their celestial body from that time onwards (1 Cor 15:35-44, 48-49; 1 John 3:2; John 14:2-4; Rev 21:1-8). After the rapture of all believers, there is going to come a unprecedented Great Tribulation of the end time which Paul called as “the wrath to come” (1 Thess 1:10; Luke 17:26-30; Matt 24:20-22)Paul has also said in the Book of Romans, “ 9 Much more then [when? Before God’s end time Tribulation wrath upon the whole earth], having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath [of end time Great Tribulation (Matt 24:21; Rev 3:10) and the White Throne judgment of all unbelievers (Rev 20:11-15)] through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” (Rom 5:9-10). In both the above verses Paul has clearly spoken about a future salvation which the believer’s of all ages are entitled to because of what Jesus has done for them on the Cross. This future salvation of all believers can be called as rapture-salvation. This salvation includes the resurrection of all believers in a brand new glorious spiritual body [i.e. spiritual body does not mean it is only a spirit body having no flesh and bones, but a spirit directed body like as we now have a soul directed fleshly body (1 Cor 15:44; Luke 24:39)], rescue from God’s Tribulation wrath coming upon the whole earth especially for the generation which is alive at that time of rapture (1 Thess 4:16-18; Rev 3:10; 2Thess 1:6-10), reward of inheriting the New Jerusalem, new heaven and the new earth and staying there as the eternal resting place from which we will rule the earth for a thousand years (John 14:2-3; Rev 3:10-13; 21:1-8; 20:4; 19:7-9, 14-15; 3:21)

From all the things we have discussed in this article, it becomes very clear to us that we cannot keep the Ten commandments and also we are not told to do so. Only religious legalistic christians like the foolish Galatians after they have started their spiritual life by professing faith in Christ will try to keep the law of Ten Commandments and will finally lose their joy of living the God-life on earth and also they will also lose the eternal reward which is reserved for them in heaven. I believe because of God’s mercy and grace, they themselves will be saved. Even though they are saved, they will live a fruitless and powerless life because of their legalism (Gal 3:1-5). The lesson that we can learn from this is, after you are saved by faith don’t try to perfect yourself by your own works based on keeping the Ten Commandments or any other work based behaviour. Instead know that the Ten Commandments are already being fullfilled through your life when you walk in faith based on what Jesus has achieved for you. The Holy Spirit himself is personally applying the Ten Commandments of God through His outworking by living inside of you. The Holy Spirit works inside-out by living inside you, you are asked only to co-operate by taking conscious choice in asking for His strength and believing in it through His promises (Phil 2:12-13; 4:13)

A good hypothetical example for the outworking of the Spirit is a electronic watch. Until the battery of the size of a button is inserted, the watch is just a plastic shell of no use. Once we choose to put the battery in, the hand of the clock and the digital display starts to work without any effort on our part further. This is the same in the spiritual realm also, once we choose to ask the help of the Spirit of God, He starts to fullfill the will of God's commandments in and through us. From that point of time, we start to move in the natural realm powerfully in a greater degree of God's might by faith overcoming all weaknesses, obstacles and depravity of all kinds, yet not by our effort or power but by the empowerment and outworking of the Spirit (Zech 4:6). This outworking of God’s law of Ten Commandments is what Paul phrased as “the fruit of the Spirit” in Gal 5:22-23. The fruit of the Spirit is of a higher order than of the Ten Commandments given by Moses. It fullfills the demand of the sermon on the mount which Jesus set as a standard of righteous living for all believer in Matt Chapter 5. Love towards God and man fullfills all the Law and Prophets (Matt 22:36-40; Rom 13:8-10). So saints keep loving and enjoy the journey on earth with God! 

Remember, we do not and cannot keep the Ten Commandments without breaking it again and again. But by our faith in the completed and finished work of Christ’s righteousness on our behalf, God the Holy Spirit keeps not only the Ten Commandments in us but commandments of higher order set by Jesus especially in Matt 5 and in all other Gospels where Jesus demanded such righteousness from all believers. Praise the Lord! 


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