One of the most well-known stories in the entire Bible centers around Moses receiving the Ten Commandments. It’s one of those elements of Scripture that nearly everyone knows about… even if they haven’t read the Bible. Some Christians post these commandments on the walls of their homes, and they serve as a basic moral law for many. But where did the Ten Commandments come from exactly? What was their purpose? And most importantly, what do they have to do with Jesus?
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- The Law of Moses (including the Ten Commandments) was never God’s perfect will for His people. It served as a “babysitter” until the law could be written on our hearts. (Galatians 3:24)
This may come as a surprise to many, but the truth is that Jesus spent much of His ministry teaching the crowds that obedience to the basic laws wasn’t enough for salvation. It’s not enough not to murder anyone or commit adultery… our hearts and minds need to be free of murderous or adulterous thoughts. Obedience isn’t outward, it’s inward. Written rules make it easy to outwardly obey without having an obedient heart. It also gives us the bare minimum to follow instead of allowing us to grow in obedience.
And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws upon their heart, and on their mind I will write them.” – Hebrews 10:15-16
- The Ten Commandments demonstrate God’s willingness to meet us where we are at.
Once again we see that the Ten Commandments were the basics. God gave them rules like don’t steal, lie, or kill each other… even though His perfect will was for them to not even think about these things.
What we have to remember is that we have the Holy Spirit living within us. The Israelites did not. It’s easy to look back at their history and wonder why on earth they kept sinning and falling away from God, but can you imagine trying to serve God without the Holy Spirit? God met His people where they were at and gave them rules they could understand and simply follow.
- We are no longer LEGALLY required to obey the written Law, but we are called to obey the law written on our hearts.
There is a lot of debate amongst scholars over whether or not the Ten Commandments are part of the Law of Moses. It’s important because some argue that we are still required to obey the Ten Commandments even though the Bible clearly teaches that we are no longer obligated to obey the Law of Moses.
In the end, however, I’m not sure it matters. If we are following the laws written by God on our hearts, we will naturally be honoring the Ten Commandments. And not only that, but we will be honoring them from our hearts the way Jesus taught. So in other words, the law written on our hearts goes far beyond the basic rules of the Ten Commandments.
- Jesus simplified the Law into one commandment.
This brings me to my final point. Jesus summed up the entire Law when speaking to the Pharisees.
One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:35-40 (NIV)
Later on in His ministry, Jesus gave the disciples a new commandment, one that took love even further than the original Law of Moses. While they were once asked to love their neighbors as they loved themselves, Jesus challenged them to love the way He loved them. This radical type of love is unconditional and forgiving in every way possible. And it is only possible when God’s love is flowing through us through the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Ten Commandments were a shadow of things to come. They showed us our need for a Savior. After all, mankind couldn’t even keep rules as simple as “don’t kill each other” or “don’t steal from one another.” But the truth is that they are not God’s perfect standard.
It’s not about rules or religion. It’s about living by the Spirit and obeying the law that is written on our hearts… not out of obligation, but because we have a heart that longs to love and serve our Father.
In loving God with all our hearts and loving one another the way Jesus loves us, we are fulfilling the whole law. And the world will know we belong to Him.
But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:23-26
The Ten Commandments demonstrate God’s ultimate plan to bring His light and love to mankind through Jesus Christ.
This post is part of a larger series called “Let There Be Light.” Join me as we journey through the Old Testament leading up to the arrival of Jesus, the Light of the World!
*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.