One of the greatest questions that faces the Christian church today is the question on the law of God. Is it still binding today? This question cannot be answered by man. It must come from the Holy Bible itself.
There are two covenants. The Bible is very clear on that. "But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second" (Heb. 8:6, 7). Here we clearly see that there were two covenants, a first and a second. The first was faulty, so God provided a second.
The Holy Scriptures have been separated into two divisions, the Old and New Testaments, and most of us ask no questions about this. We just accept them. But the other day a woman made this statement, "When Jesus died He changed everything in the Old Testament." When I heard that I thought, Is the historic record of Genesis 1, the story of Creation, true in the Old Testament but untrue after the death of Jesus? That, of course, is impossible. If Creation's record was true before the cross, it is true after the cross.
We should remember that the greatest part of the Old Testament is historical and prophetic, and prophecy is history in advance. No, the death of Christ did not change everything but fulfilled it. In Matthew 11:13 we read: "For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John," and John directed his hearers to Christ and said, "Behold the Lamb of God" (John 1:29, 36). This prophetic law that Jesus mentions is the sacrificial law, where a lamb was slain by the sinner as a symbol of the Lamb of God who was to take away the sins of the world. And now John said, "It is here. Behold it!" So when Jesus died on the cross the sacrificial law had reached its fulfillment. It was needed no more. Jesus gave us the communion service in its place, which points us back to the cross and also forward to His coming again. We read: "For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come" (1 Cor. 11:26).
What was faulty about that first covenant? We read in Deuteronomy 4:13: "And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone." Therefore there is no doubt that God calls the Ten Commandments His covenant.
Now let us look at the word "covenant." What does it mean? The dictionary tells us that a covenant is an agreement. Here is the Bible definition for a covenant: "Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant" (Mal. 2:141. God calls marriage a covenant. We know that a marriage has three parts: the groom, the bride, and the marriage license, or as we might say, the legal papers, which is the law.
God's first covenant with man is the one which Paul in Hebrews 8 calls faulty. It reads: "And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do" (Ex. 19:8). This is similar to the marriage promise, "I do." Now, did they do it? No! Only a few days later they were worshiping a golden calf (Ex. 32), a symbol of the Egyptian holy cow religion. Thus they broke their promise, or their covenant, with God.
Paul speaks also of "a better covenant, which was established upon better promises" (Heb. 8:6). Not a better law but a better promise. In the eighth verse we read:
"For finding fault with them." Now the "them" is the people, not the Ten Commandments. No fault could be found in the law. The psalmist says: "The works of his hands are verity and judgment; all his commandments are sure. They stand fast forever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness. He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: Holy and reverend is his name" (Ps. 11:7-9). Yes, His commandments stand fast forever and His covenant too. Again we read in Romans 7:12: "Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good." They need no improvement.
But what was God's part in the covenant? We read in Leviticus 26:44: "And yet for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them: for I am the Lord their God." God would not break His covenant or promise. He declares: "I will never break my covenant with you" (Judges 2:1). But will He change it? "My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips" (Ps. 89:34). No, He will not break nor alter. So again we see that God's promise is good, and also His law. There is no need for a change.
Jesus did not die to change God or His law. He died to change what needs to be changed, and that is the sinner, you and me.
God's agreement with the people of Israel as recorded in the Old Testament failed because the people did not keep their ril-omise. "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Tudah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband 'into them, saith the Lord: but this shall he the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall he my people." The new covenant will put the law in the heart not on tables of stone. When did that happen, and who in the New Testament made that better promise? Let us read it in Psalm 40:7, 8: "Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, 0 my God: yea, thy law is within my heart." This text refers to Jesus. He came down from heaven with the law in His heart, not on tables of stone.
In John 1:14 we read: "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." The Word or the law was made flesh and dwelled among us. If you wish to see what a man is like who keeps the commandments, look at Jesus. John tells us that we shall be like Him (1 John 3:2).
Jesus states: "I have kept my Father's commandments," not "What God has said I will do." He says, "I have done it." When He cried out on the cross, "It is finished," He addressed His Father. We are told:
"Before the foundations of the earth were laid, the Father and the Son had united in a covenant to redeem man if he should be overcome by Satan. They had clasped their hands in a solemn pledge that Christ should become the surety for the human race. This pledge Christ has fulfilled. . . . The compact had been fully carried out. Now He declares: Father, it is finished, I have done Thy will. . . . I have completed the work of redemption."—The Desire of Ages, p. 834.
In Isaiah 49:8 we read, "I will . . . give thee for a covenant," and Paul writes: "And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ . . . cannot disannul" (Gal. 3:17). So, the old covenant was faulty because the promise which man made to God was no good. God had to send His only-begotten Son into the world and He became Man. Paul calls Him the second Adam. Jesus took man's place. He met Satan face to face and withstood every temptation and came forth as victor. Our salvation is in Him and we must accept Him as our Redeemer from sin, our righteousness, and keep His commandments.
When the rich young ruler came to Jesus and asked, "What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?" (Matt. 19:16) Jesus was clear in His answer, "Keep the commandments." We cannot keep the commandments without Christ. Jesus said, "I am the vine, ye are the branches: . . . without me ye can do nothing" (John 15:5). But if we abide in Him and He in us, we can do what He tells us. "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name" (John 1:12). Jesus not only provided a pardon for our sins, He also provides the power to keep us from sinning. We read: "Sin is the transgression of the law" (1 John 3:4). Therefore as long as there is sin there must be God's law of ten commandments which can be broken.
If Jesus died on the cross to take away the law of God or change it, then He died to legalize sin. But we know Jesus died to destroy sin, not legalize it. His death was to magnify the law and make it honorable, and that is what He did. Salvation is by Jesus Christ, but the knowledge of sin is by the law. The law tells us when we have done something wrong, and only through Jesus can it be made right. Only He can cleanse us from sin and transgression.
Yes, the Ten Commandments are still binding, and will be throughout all eternity, for they are the law of love. As Jesus put it, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart.... Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Matt. 22:37-39).