Perhaps one of the greatest points of confusion for Christians concerns their proper relationship to God’s law. Many Christians, having read verses like Romans 10:4 (“Christ is the end of the law”), have concluded that the Ten Commandments have no authoritative role in their lives. But such a conclusion misses both the proper place of God’s moral law and a chief means by which God teaches His people how to live.
God’s moral law (distinguished from the ceremonial and civil laws) has an enduring role in the lives of God’s people. We know this for several reasons.
- The Ten Commandments embody that law God has written on the conscience of humanity (Romans 2:14-15). The moral law was upheld in the garden long before it was codified in the Ten Commandments.
- The Ten Commandments embody an eternal standard. Who can argue against the fact that while the dietary regulations of the civil law and the sacrifices of the ceremonial law have passed away, the Ten Commandments remain and will be upheld in the age to come? The Ten Commandments were treated uniquely by the people. The tablets themselves were stored in the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies reflecting their honored status.
- The Ten Commandments are reiterated in the New Testament. Jesus and the Apostles, at various times, uphold the Ten Commandments both by example and in proclamation. At no point is a single Commandment overturned or revealed as “fulfilled” in the New Testament.
- The Ten Commandments reflect the character of God. To read the moral law of God is to learn about the character of God. He is revealed as holy and pure. It makes sense for the ceremonial laws to no longer be in force because of their typological nature. That is, they are laws that were fulfilled in the person and work of Christ. Likewise the ceremonial laws which governed Israel in the Land were temporary administrations in a particular era of redemptive history. But God’s moral law is fundamentally different in that it directly reflects the character of God.
Certainly Christians must avoid legalism. We must never believe that we can be justified before God by obeying the law (Romans 3:20). But we err if we believe that the Ten Commandments have passed away into irrelevance or serve merely as helpful tips for living. God’s moral law still stands as His unbending standard for all humanity. But if that were the end of the story we would have no hope for who has kept that standard? Of course there is One who has kept the standard of God’s holy demands. He is our Deliverer who not only obeyed in our place fulfilling all righteousness, but also died in our place accomplishing the salvation of all those who believe.