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Can the Ten Commandments be Obolished?


Some of you finding this Website are Roman Catholic or belong to
one of the many Protestant faiths. Some of you will be attending
a "Theological School" of one sort or another. Some of you will
be "teachers" in Theological Schools. And some of you you have
been taught or do teach (if you are a theology teacher), that
GRACE "does away with" the Law.

Not all Roman Catholic or Protestant denomination teach the Law
is abolished. I have found over the last 47 years of my life,
that such a teaching is found only in a relatively small section
of Christianity - the "fundamental" section of mainly North
America. I encountered this "strange" and "off the wall" teaching
when I came to Canada as a young man of 18, some 47 years ago
Yes, I call this teaching "off the wall" or "out in left field"
or "from Planet Pluto" because it really is a crazy, silly, and
strange idea, that Christians can practice and live a life-style,
that believes the Ten Commandments have been ABOLISHED since
Jesus died on the cross. Common sense and just human logic, would
tell you that for Christians to live a life where they can break
the Ten Commandments at will, as if not there, as if God has
somehow blotted them out of the New Testament, is such a far out
idea that it would simply make a mockery of calling yourself a
Christian of child of God.

If you are one of those persons that hold the teaching as grace
abolishing the law, then I give you the CHALLENGE to read and
study the following articles; not from my pen, but from different
Protestant teachers. You may also do yourself a huge favor
(especially if attending Theological School) by using, with your
studies, such Bible Commentaries as "Barnes' Notes on the New

I put forth the CHALLENGE! Are YOU strong enough to take the
challenge and read the following studies. If you are, then you
will be strong enough to also study from this Website "Saved by
Grace" and the APPENDIX to Saved by Grace, which is also taken
from various Protestant studies and commentaries. 

Keith Hunt (March 2008)

The Ten Commandments

Ex 20:1-17

(1) I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of
the land ofslavery. You shall have no othergods before me.

(2) You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of
anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters
below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the
LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the
sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those
who hate me, but showing love to thousands who love me and keep
my commandments.

(3) You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the
LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

(4) Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you
shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a
Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work,
neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or
maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.
For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea,
and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day.
Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

(5) Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long
in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

(6) You shall not murder.

(7) You shall not commit adultery.

(8) You shall not steal.

(9) You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

(10) You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not
covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his
ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.


"You are not under law, but under grace" (Ro..6:14)
"Thls is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are
not burden some..." (1 Jn.5:3) "Sin is lawlessness." (1 Jn.3:4)
Christians are under a new covenant, the covenant of grace, not
the old covenant. How, then, ought we to relate to the Dealogue?

The Ten Commandments

Are They Still Valid?


     ARE THE TEN COMMANDMENTS still valid for us today? Are they
valid only for Christians, or for all people? Or are they perhaps
only for Jews and pagans, but not for Christians? And is it
merely piety or the inertia of conservatism that keeps them in
the doctrinal strong-room of the Church? Are they still with us
simply because no one has dared to question the ancient moral
habits of the Church? Wouldn't a business, eager to rationalize
for the sake of success, have cleared them out long ago and
relegated them to a museum of the Ancient Near East?

     Some prominent speakers in the Church have come to just this
conclusion and caught the headlines with it. One, a German church
president, stated that it was impossible to prescribe a catalogue
of eternal norms of conduct: rather, the Christian was to decide
in the given situation what love would command him or her to do.
Therefore, when it came to personal ethics, the Decalogue was out
of the question. On another occasion this same man said it was
equally impossible in a pluralistic society to accept the Ten
Commandments as the basis for social morality and the law of the
state - something most countries took for granted until very

     Another Protestant ethicist brought his sociological
thinking to bear on the Decalogue. Calling the Ten Commandments
"those ancient norms" and "a nomad law," he relativized them
historically and sociologically. The civilized world of the
industrial age was too far removed from the world of the Ten
Commandments: they could hardly help us, let alone be
authoritative. They were, rather, a hindrance to modern life.

     According to at least two theologians, then, the Decalogue
belongs neither to the pulpit nor to the town hall. Where then
does it belong? Merely to the history of Israel? How shall we
answer these  two suggestions? Should we agree with one or the
other, and if not, why not? Why does the Church continue to
preach the Ten Commandments?

     I shall try to answer these questions with three points: The
Ten Commandments 1) obligate the people of God to whom they are
given; 2) recommend themselves to every person as an appropriate
definition of the good; 3) are the framework of Christian ethics:
they need to be filled by love, by the guidance of God's Spirit.


     While studying the Bible, it is of primary importance to
notice the circumstances and context of the text. For example,
consider this introduction to the Ten Commandments:

"Hear now, O Israel, the decrees and laws I am about to teach
you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take
possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, is
giving you. Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract
from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give
you" (Dt.4:1-2).

     To whom is this appeal of Moses directed? To "Israel," and
more exactly to a certain generation in the history of the people
of Israel - those who came out of Egypt. The Exodus is the
original historical setting of the Ten Commandments.
     But is that single generation the only one to whom the
Decalogue is addressed? Already at Mt.Sinai, questions about the
general and timeless applicability of these words were raised -
the first precedent for similar questions today:

"In the future, when your son asks you, 'What is the meaning of
the stipulations, decrees and laws the LORD our God has commanded
you?" (Dt.6:20; cf. Ex.20:2; Dt.4:34).

"The Lord OUR God" - that the Lord of the Decalogue is our God is
accepted. But as to the commandments, we hear the little note of
disassociation, "God has commanded you." But this second
generation was already being told that the commandments were
binding on all generations of Israel, every living generation,
because they all belong together as a "corporate personality."
     Therefore, the answer must clearly be, "No, the Decalogue is
not just addressed to a single generation.." Israel is a special
case. They are the people of the covenant with God, and the Ten
Commandments are the basic law and constitution of that covenant.

     In his teaching on the "Decalogue" Luther stressed the
importance of discerning to whom a biblical text is addressed,
and especially "whether it means you." Concerning the Ten
Commandments, he said (in his sermon of Aug.27, 1525,
"Instruction on how Christians are to apply Moses"), "From the
text we clearly have that the Ten Commandments (as such) do not
concern us. Because God has not brought us from Egypt, but only
the Jews." Consequently, the law of Moses does not bind the
Gentiles - it has no authority for non-Jews.
     How then does the Decalogue get into Luther's small and
large catechism, and so into the confessional writings of the
Lutheran Church? And why would Luther himself have interpreted
the Decalogue, through preaching and print, more than a dozen
times during his lifetime? How then does the Decalogue get into
the Christian Church and pulpit?

     First, although Christians do not belong to Israel in a
biological sense, yet from the perspective of the history of
salvation Christians are included in the "new covenant," are
members of the one people of God:

"He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might
come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we
might receive the promise ofthe Spint" (Gal 3:14).

"...some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a
wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now
share in the nourishing sap from the olive root" (Ro.11:17).

     If this is true, we should ask not whether the Ten
Commandments are valid for us today, but rather bow could the
Church ever legitimately drop, them?

     Second, it is by the authority of Christ that the Ten
Commandments are valid for all who follow Him. Moses is an
authority for Christians insofar as Jesus took up his teaching.
Jesus took the Ten Commandments unconditionally. In His meeting
with the rich young ruler (Mt.19:18), He quoted them as basic
instruction for the way to eternal life. He submitted to the
Decalogue when He contrasted God's commandments to the traditions
of the elders (Mt.15:2). Part of His Sermon on the Mount is based
on commandments from the Decalogue; His own new teaching is an
intensification of the Decalogue, not, as is often said, an
antithesis to it. (The wording of the Sermon on the Mount "you
have heard that it was said ... But I tell you ..." is
antithetical, but there is radicalization of the commandments,
not antithesis, in the content of what Jesus says.
     Jesus warned His listeners not to form a misconception of
what He intended, a misconception which could easily come up
where no distinction is made between God's commandments and human
moral traditions. "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" (Mt.5:17).

     In His actions, too, Jesus is true to the commandments. His
actions on the Sabbath are no exception. If there is to be no
contradiction between Jesus' words and actions, His deeds on the
Sabbath have to be understood not as the abolition, but as the
fulfillment of the Sabbath commandment. For Jesus said:

"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. Anyone
who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches
others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of
heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be
called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless
your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the
teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of
heaven" (Mt.5:18-20).

     This righteousness that exceeds that of the Pharisees is the
righteousness given to us free from God. Jesus makes this clear
when He rebukes the scribes and Pharisees for teaching harsh laws
but never living up to them (Mt.23:1-4). This righteousness,
though freely given by God must be realized in the sentiments of
our hearts as well as in our actual deeds - keeping the
commandments and doing what the Spirit teaches us which by far
surpasses the law. For those, then, who according to the "great
commission" have been taught to obey everything He commanded His
apostles, the Ten Commandments remain in force "until heaven and
earth disappear."

     That the apostles repeated the commandments in the letters
of the early Church, and that the Church as a matter of course
continued to single out a Special day of the week, also witness
to the validity of the Decalogue for Christians.


     The third reason for retaining the Decalogue in the teaching
of the Church is that it is the best comprehensive description of
the natural law which binds all people.
     If, as we have seen, the Decalogue is given particularly to
the people of God, what does it say to people in general? We find
an answer in Dt. 4:6:

"Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and
understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these
decrees and say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and
understanding people.'"

     The Decalogue is described as the special property and
privilege of Israel, something it will contribute to the family
of nations. This verse indicates that these commandments will be
considered astonishingly judicious and sensible by every nation;
everyone will reckon them a standard definition of the good.
     Throughout history their value has been rediscovered again
and again. For all people strive for justice, and the Ten
Commandments are an apt definition of it.

     The apostle Paul expressed the same insight and experience:

"Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature
things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even
though they do not have the law, since they show that the
requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their
consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now
accusing, now even defending them" (Ro.2:14-15).

     To every person the consciousness of good and evil is given
so as to make him realize and acknowledge the Ten Commandments as
the definition of the good. Ro.2:14-15 thus is the source of the
acceptance within the Christian tradition of the idea of natural
     The ecology debate, too, leads us to suspect that there must
be certain fundamental rules in our relations with creation. It
is this fundamentally life-preserving quality of the Decalogue
which links it with natural law. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his
Ethics, called the Decalogue the "Law of Life," for "failure to
observe the second table (of the decalogue) destroys life. The
task of protecting life will itself lead to observance of the
second table" ("Ethics," Fontana Books, 1964, p.341). Goodness or
righteousness is what is right and fit for creation; the good is
what will correspond to the laws in creation and so will preserve
and promote life.
     The life-sustaining quality of the natural law expressed in
the Decalogue brings us full circle, for this is exactly what was
said of the Ten Commandments when they were originally revisited:

"Keep them, so that you may live."

     The commandments are God's principles for sustaining His
creation. With these commandments, God articulates the law of
life of His creatures. Because they define what will promote
life, the commandments are an extraordinary blessing for every
living creature. They lay out, as it were, the space in which
human life will blossom. Whatever action is taken beyond these
borders will destroy life.
     Every commandment represents liberation from a dangerous and
destructive temptation: in each instance I learn that I no longer
need to search far and wide for the truth and fulfillment of my
life. The fullness of life will certainly not be found in theft
or with the wife or husband of someone else.

     The Ten Commandments, then, are to ethics what an area code
is to telephoning: They spare us the trouble and anguish of
experimenting endlessly among the whole "keyboard" of human
possibilities, most of which do not promote life and community at

     Sociologists seem to confirm the "wisdom" (Dt.4:6) of this
pre-ordering of morality by God. Individuals would be overwhelmed
by the effort to decide their actions each time from the full
range of what is conceivable or physically possible. The "area
code" defined by the commandments is the place where life will
prosper. Thus he who has received the commandments can be joyful
about them (Ps.119), can sing "He makes me lie down in green
pastures" (Ps.23:2) and can "delight ... in the law of the LORD"

     What, after all, is the aim of those who declare the
Decalogue out of date? Do they wish to give freedom to gossip and
theft? Do they expect by this to serve progress and further life?
Is adultery ever good? For whom? For the deceived party? Of
course, those who consider the Decalogue out of date do not wish
to promote evil. But where the Decalogue is not, there also the
other good things bestowed by God are not. This goes for all
people - not just for Christians or Jews. This is how Luther is
said to have put it: "He who breaks one of the commandments is
like a man who bows too far out of a fourth floor window: he'll
fall down and surely break his neck, be he Turk, Jew, Gentile or


     For all humankind the commandments I are the proper ground
where the house must be built and nowhere else. This the Creator
has decided. And this lot will prove a sound place. There is no
morass beneath it which cannot be fathomed, no shifting sand,
only firm ground and solid rock. A house built on these
foundations will weather the crises of history. From other
foundations one will have to move again and again, for they will
not stand firm indefinitely,
     God's commandments promote life. This is what Deuteronomy
says and experience confirms. However, we must not think of this
truth as an impersonal law which functions independently of God.
Rather, we should understand that it is the Lord who makes you
live. You cannot grasp life with your own hands, it is in the
hands of the living God.

     This means, moreover, that God's commandments must determine
what is beneficial. The opinion that we ought to keep the
Decalogue not as commandments from God but as rules pertaining to
the benefit of man, is already the door to corruption of ethics.

     It is God's authority which says "this is good." Human
insight in the end will come to the same conclusion but often,
before the final result of an action is evident, great damage is
done. We must reject the fashionable demand today for an
experimental ethics which claims the right for everyone to
discover his own ethics by trial and error. Often it is another
who suffers by my deviation from the Decalogue. Consequently, I
may learn nothing, unless the victim of my experiment takes
revenge. In this way I may learn painfully what God's command-
menu sought to teach me without the rod, namely the contents of
the "golden rule:" "In everything, do to others what you would
have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets"
(Mt.7:12). The Decalogue is nothing other than an exposition of
the golden rule. As such, it belongs as much to the town hall as
to the pulpit.

     The Ten Commandments are like the guard-rails of a road
through a swamp or along a precipice. The rail itself is not the
aim of the journey. No one would wish to drive with steering
wheel locked, directed only by the painful scraping of the car
along the rail. What you need instead is inside control - a
steering wheel. The Ten Commandments are standards, but they are
not the aim. They are the framework, but by no means the 
realization of God's plan in the world. God's aim and our calling
and destiny is the perfection of man according to the image of
Christ. The aim is a kingdom of justice in the world where God's
will is done for the benefit of His creation. The Decalogue is
the framework for doing this. But in a given situation, who or
what will tell us what is the right thing to do out of half a
dozen good and permitted possibilities? If the Decalogue
resembles the area code what, as it were, decides the individual
number? Because the Ten Commandments only describe the scene of
life negatively ("Thou shall not"), the picture still needs to be
filled - we must get the particular number elsewhere. Ro.13:10
needs to be understood in this way ("Love is the fulfillment of
the law") as does Ro.8:4, which is a fascinating and very
comprehensive  description of the process of Christian ethics:
Christ came "in order that the righteous requirements of the law
might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful
nature but according to the Spirit."

     Here we go beyond the mere observance of the commandments.
Here, too, it is legitimate to demand a sort of "situation
ethics" because the Decalogue never will tell you positively what
is to be done in a given situation. Indeed, we may constantly
expect - from the Holy Spint - a Chrstian "new morality," not
like the so-called "new morality" of the sixties that maneuvered
itself into an antithesis of law and love, which certainly does
not  represent the spirit and substance or the wording of the New
     The unchristian "new morality's" replacing of the stiff
commandments with a flexible ethics of the situation is a
reaction against much of traditional church morality - a
tradition which reduces the instruction of the living God to the
Ten Commandments and perhaps a few ordinances for masters and
servants, husbands and wives, parents and  children. Does God
still speak and guide today? "No," seems to be the answer of
traditional ethics. Traditional dogmatics rightly rejected Deism,
which patterned God after a watchmaker who has made a clock and
set it in motion, and then has left it to run by itself. But in
ethics, these same theologians who rejected Deism's inactive God
seem to confess a God who, after having pronounced the
commandments, left the scene and is now silent. Hence, there is a
certain historic justification for the rebellion of the new

     In the New Testament, however, the Ten Commandments are not
abolished; they are surpassed, and thus fulfilled. Christians
must reject Joseph Fletcher's and John A.T.Robinson's antithesis
of law and love, and their consequent dismissal of the law. This
is not compatible with Paul's phrase, "love fulfills the law."
     Instead, they read Paul as if he had said, "love bypasses
the law." We must not succumb to a dichotomy of law and love.
     Christian ethics involves not the alternative of law or
freedom, but the synthesis of law and spirit.

     The Spirit and Scripture are consistent because both are the
Word of the same God. It is in the field defined by the Decalogue
and nowhere else that God will continue to instruct, prohibit,
and command in more detail. Because the Ten Commandments are the
appointed place for the dialogue and communication of God and
man, they remain valid for all of us. Law and gospel must go


KLAUS ROCKMUEHL is Professor of Theology and Ethics of Regent
College Vancouver, B.C. Canada.

AMEN and again I say AMEN - Keith Hunt

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