There seems to be some confusion among American Christians about whether or not we’re still under the Old Covenant or the Ten Commandments. [We’re not].
See, the Ten Commandments were a sign from God of the Covenant He made between Moses and his people.
“Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel. Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.” (Exodus 34:27-28)
So, these Ten Commandments were a sign of this Covenant God made with Moses and with Israel – not with the entire world.
Here’s something else we know about that Old Covenant – It’s obsolete.
Why do I say the Old Covenant is “obsolete”?
Because in Hebrews 8:13 we read:
“By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.”
Wait, wait, wait a minute. That can’t be right. Didn’t Jesus promise that heaven and earth would pass away before the Law and the Prophets did?
Well, sorta. But let’s take a look to be sure:
Jesus said: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” ( Matthew 5:17-18)
So, yes, Jesus does say that “until heaven and earth disappear” the Law will stand. But, please notice two other things:
First: There are two qualifiers here. One is that the Law will not disappear “until Heaven and Earth disappear”, and the second qualifier is that the Law will not disappear “until everything is accomplished.”
Second: That Jesus starts this whole conversation by telling us that his entire purpose and mission is to do this one thing: “I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them [the Law and the Prophets].”
Are you following this? See, first Jesus assures us that His mission is to fulfill or to accomplish the Law, and then He tells us that the Law will not disappear “until everything is accomplished.”
So, I have to ask you, was everything accomplished? Did Jesus fulfill the Law and the Prophets as he told us he had come to do?
I’ll let Jesus tell you:
“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:30)
BTW: The Greek word Jesus used here for “finished” is literally the same word Jesus used earlier: “accomplished”.
So here, on the cross, Jesus declares that He has accomplished His mission to “fulfill the Law”, just as He set out to do.
If that’s not enough, let’s look at what Jesus prayed to the Father before the cross where he confirmed:
“I have glorified You on earth by accomplishing the work You gave Me to do” [John 17:4]
What was that work that the Father gave Jesus to do? Well, according to Jesus, one of those things was to fulfill the Law and the Prophets.
So, now that Jesus has accomplished this, the Law has now disappeared.
The Apostle Paul put it this way:
“For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace.” (Eph. 2:15)
Elsewhere Paul also affirms for us that “Christ is the end of the law.” (Rom. 10:4).
Paul also explains for us the differences between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant – not once but twice, in no uncertain terms.
The first time, in 2 Corinthians, Paul contrasts the Old and the New Covenant saying:
“Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, [that’s the Old Covenant] came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, [the Old was “fading”] will not the ministry of the Spirit [that’s the New Covenant] be even more glorious?”
“If the ministry that condemns men [the Old] is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! [that’s the New] For what was glorious [the Old] has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was fading away [the Old] came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts! [the New] – (2 Corinthians 3:7-11)
So, Paul tells us the following about the Old Covenant:
- It brought death
- Its glory was fading
- It condemns men
- It was glorious (past tense)
- It now has no glory
- It is fading away
The New Covenant, in contrast :
- Is More glorious than the Old Covenant
- Brings righteousness
- Has a glory that is surpassing
- Is everlasting
As if that were not enough, Paul does it again in Galatians:
“The women (Hagar and Sarah) represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.” (Galatians 4:24-26)
“But what does Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.” Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.” (Gal.4: 30-31)
Here Paul says this about the Old Covenant:
The Old Covenant:
- Is from Mount Sinai (where the 10 Commandments were given)
- Bears children who are slaves
- Corresponds to the earthly Jerusalem
- Is in slavery with her children
- Should be cast out of our presence
- Will not share in the inheritance of Christ
- Is not our Mother
And Paul says this the New Covenant:
- Bears children who are free
- Is of the heavenly New Jerusalem, not the physical city
- Is our true Mother
- Shares in the inheritance of Christ
And…just in case you think these are isolated statements, Paul also says:
“We are not under the law” (Rom. 6:14; Gal. 5:18).
“We are dead to the law” (Rom. 7:4).
“We are delivered from the law” (Rom. 7:6).
Therefore, those who are in Christ are not under the Ten Commandments but under the “Law of Christ” as Paul says:
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
So, to recap: Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets. The Law is now obsolete, vanishing and has faded away.
We are now under the Law of Christ – which is the law of love for God and one another.
“I give you a new command. Love one another. You must love one another, just as I have loved you. If you love one another, everyone will know you are my disciples.” – Jesus (John 13:34-35)
Christians are not held to any standard in the Old Covenant, and certainly not to the Ten Commandments.
So, what is our ethical standard now? It’s Christ. Not the Law. Not the Ten Commandments. Christ.
Therefore, can we please stop telling people that God’s standard for morality is the Ten Commandments? Can we please stop telling people that God sees them as liars, adulterers, blasphemers, etc.? Can we please stop holding people to a standard of the Law of Moses that has been fulfilled and is now obsolete for the last 2,000 years?
Can we instead become Ambassadors of Christ [not of Moses] and start preaching the Good News of Christ’s Kingdom that “God was, in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, and not counting their sins against them.”? [2 Cor. 5:19]
This is the ministry we have been given. The Law brings death. The Spirit brings life.
Keith Giles was formerly a licensed and ordained minister who walked away from organized church 11 years ago, to start a home fellowship that gave away 100% of the offering to the poor in the community. Today, He and his wife live in Meridian, Idaho, awaiting their next adventure.
His new book “Jesus Unbound: Liberating the Word of God from the Bible”, is available now on Amazon and features a Foreword by author Brian Zahnd.
He is also the author of the Amazon best-seller, “Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb” with a Foreword by Greg Boyd.
Keith also co-hosts the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast on iTunes and Podbean.
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