Do the 10 commandments apply to a believer in Jesus?
God made different covenants (these are like a contract) with different people through the Bible. He made one with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Israel and David and then also one with us as believers in Jesus.
Our main question is about the relevance of the “Old Covenant” to us. Here we are talking about the Covenant that God made with Israel through the prophet Moses at Mt Sinai. It is sometimes called the law of Moses and it includes the 10 Commandments (plus another 603 laws). We read about this covenant in the book of Exodus.
When we talk about the New Covenant we talk about the Covenant made through Jesus when He died on the cross and was resurrected. This is a covenant of faith where, if we confess faith in Him, we are saved from the consequences of our sinfulness. Our salvation is a gift and not earned by obeying any laws. So the question is whether the laws such as the 10 Commandments apply to Christians. The 10 Commandments seem sensible laws and most are repeated in the New Testament.
Now think of two countries having the same law not to drive faster than the speed limit – they are in reality two different laws and probably with different consequences. In the same way, the two covenants may have some of the same laws (for example not to tell lies) but they are different laws as they are under a different covenant and the consequences are radically different. This is similar to how the 10 commandments appear in both the Old Testament and New Testament parts of our Bible.
Compare the covenants
The Old Covenant is about the Law and striving to follow it
- I have to…
- Using your own natural power to be good
The New Covenant under Jesus is about having new Godly desires and being empowered by the Holy Spirit. It is the Law written on our hearts. Jeremiah 31:31-34
- Freedom to obey…
- I want to obey…
- Empowered by the Spirit
The Old Mosaic Covenant required people to do things to be blessed.
- If you listen… – Exodus 23:22
- If you follow… – Leviticus 26:3
- If you obey… – Deuteronomy 28:2
- If you disobey… – Deuteronomy 28:15
The New Covenant under Jesus say it is Done – you are blessed.
- You are forgiven – Colossians 2:13
- You are righteous – 2 Corinthians 5:21
- You are accepted – Romans 15:7
- You are loved – Romans 8:39
Living under the new Covenant
One of the reasons we may fall into sin is that we are driven by the legalism of “I must..” rather than understanding our now changed hearts wanting to obey the Lord from our relationship with Him, combined with reliance on God’s strength and not ours. This strength comes from dwelling in His word (the Bible) and from the Holy Spirit.
And when we fail – we are still children of God – forgiven and cleansed. (Romans 5:1; 1 John 1:9). We are just a work in progress with our old nature still with us while we dwell on this earth.
It is important to highlight that the Old Testament is still relevant to the Christian. Remember that the early New Testament Christians only had the Old Testament: 2 Timothy 3:16
Now consider that 9 of the 10 commandments are repeated in the New Testament but they are actually under a different law which can be summed up in one word – Love. (Heart motivation, Indwelling Spirit led strength and forgiveness through grace)
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
And in regard to the law of “The Sabbath rest”, Jesus is our sabbath rest. Hebrews 4:10
It is about a relationship.