The Ten Commandments are under attack, and not only by religious skeptics like Ted Turner who at the National Press Association in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1988, said the following: “We’re living with outmoded rules. The rules we’re living under [are] the Ten Commandments, and I bet nobody here even pays much attention to ’em, because they are too old. When Moses went up on the mountain, there were no nuclear weapons, there was no poverty. Nobody around likes to be commanded.’” There is no neutrality. The rejection of one set of commands only mean that those who reject God’s law will implement their own. Turner came up with his own set of ten commandments to be used to command the rest of us. There is no neutrality. The rejection of God’s law enables tyrants—religious and civil—to propose and enforce their own laws.
Has Turner read the Ten Commandments lately? Does he really want us to believe that laws against theft, murder, and lying are “outmoded rules”? I wonder how he would respond if some of his employees stole from him or killed one of his children? If people don’t like to be commanded under the “outmoded rules” called the “Ten Commandments,” then they won’t want to be commanded under anyone’s proposed substitutes. Turner has suggested replacing the Ten Commandments with “Ten Voluntary Initiatives,” some of which include helping the downtrodden, to love and respect planet Earth, to limit families to two children or no more than one’s nation suggests, and to support the United Nations. What happens when someone else comes along and advocates another set of laws?
By This Standard
God's Law is Christianity's tool of dominion. This is where any discussion of God's law ultimately arrives: the issue of dominion. Ask yourself: Who is to rule on earth, Christ or Satan? Whose followers have the ethically acceptable tool of dominion, Christ's or Satan's? What is this tool of dominion, the Biblically revealed law of God, or the law of self-proclaimed autonomous man? Whose word is sovereign, God's or man's?Buy Now
We can’t live without rules and a moral code. Even humanists like Turner acknowledge this. Anyway, there was poverty in Moses’ day, and the law that came from God to Moses on Mount Sinai set forth detailed solutions on how to deal with poverty. The Bible also has a lot to say about helping the downtrodden, especially widows and orphans (Deut. 14:29; James 1:27)
Morality is not based on the wishes of the few or the pressures of the mighty. Morality can only be secured when we turn to a law that rests outside the partisan interests of fallen men and women. Morality must an objective reference point that applies to all equally, to civil officials as well as citizens. Should we appeal to the latest polling statistics to determine right from wrong? Is the Supreme Court the final appeal? In 1986, the Supreme Court ruled, in a 5-4 decision, that states could outlaw the practice of sodomy. In 2003, the court reversed itself in a 6-3 decision wiping out all anti-sodomy laws.
What happened in a period of less than twenty years that a prohibition became a fundamental right? Which decision from the Court is right and why? Why should we listen to Ted Turner and not someone like Adolf Hitler? Harold O. J. Brown asks it this way:
If there are no laws made in heaven, by what standards should human society organize itself? We do need laws by which to organize and structure our lives,
but if God has not given them, where shall they come from? There is only one answer: We must make them ourselves. Of course, if we make our own laws they will have no more authority or force than what we ourselves possess and can assert by means of the power at our disposal. In other words, law comes to represent not the will of the Creator but the will of the strongest creatures. This became the widespread view, sometimes unexpressed but frequently explicit, of most Western societies in the first part of the twentieth century.
America’s great legal statesman, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., thought no differently in this respect from the real dictator, Adolf Hitler. Both of them believed that laws simply represent the will of the dominant majority. Holmes was a courteous, urbane, sophisticated gentleman, but his idea of law would have offered no opposition to the enactments of Hitler, who for a time reflected the will of Germany’s dominant majority.
The late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg declared that the court’s most recent rulings were based on international law. But this only pushes the reference point for law back a step. What is the foundation for morality among foreign courts? Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in his dissent in the Lawrence v. Texas (2003) homosexual case that the court should not “impose foreign moods, fads, or fashions on Americans.”
Here’s a sample of how secularists use the ten commandments for their benefit:
- The First Commandment states that there is only one God, and only He can save us. The State believes it is god and only it can save us.
- The Second Commandment forbids idolatry. The State has become an idol and is worshipped as a god when the Bible declares that it is a “minister [servant] of God to [us] for good” (Rom. 13:4). The State continues to grow with the promise of political salvation.
- The Third Commandment forbids taking God’s name in vain. Politicians appeal to God all the time and yet violate His commandments in the same breath. President Obama made reference to God — even singing “Amazing Grace” — in his eulogy for Rev. Pinckney and soon after celebrated the Supreme Court’s ruling making same-sex marriage the law of the land. This is taking God’s name in vain.
- The Fourth Commandment sets one day a week aside for rest. The interesting thing about this commandment is that it’s found in Article I, Section 7, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution.
- The Fifth Commandment defines the family. As we’ve seen, the courts have redefined the family, and by redefining the family they can now rewrite all law in terms of that new definition that includes same-sex marriage. In reality, the State has become the parent to millions of people made dependent on civil government for everything: “The paternal state not only feeds its children, but nurtures, educates, comforts, and disciplines them, providing all they need for their security. This appears to be a mildly insulting way to treat adults, but it is really a great crime because it transforms the state from being a gift of God, given to protect us against violence, into an idol. It supplies us with all blessings, and we look to it for all our needs. Once we sink to that level, as [C.S.] Lewis says, there is no point in telling state officials to mind their own business. ‘Our whole lives are their business.’”
- The Sixth Commandment was legislated out of existence decades ago by the sanctioning of perpetual war and the legalization of abortion.
- The Seventh Commandment in its prohibition of adultery is a summary statement about all marital relationships. The law prohibiting adultery rests on the creation mandate of marriage being between a man and a woman (Gen. 1:27-28; 2:20-25). The compliment of man and woman is what’s “suitable,” not a man and man or a man and a woman. Jesus confirmed the creation mandate (Matt. 19:1–6).
- The Eighth Commandment prohibits stealing. Our nation’s outrageous taxing system is based on theft when people are given the right to vote to take money from some people so it can be given to other people.
- The Ninth Commandment prohibits bearing false witness. Politicians bear false witness with almost every word they speak. Consider the following statement from presidential candidate Barack Obama that he gave on April 17, 2008, when he was campaigning for the presidency: “I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. Now, for me as a Christian, it’s also a sacred union God’s in the mix.” Hillary Clinton said something similar. They wholeheartedly support same-sex marriage.
- The Tenth Commandment indicts the modern State and those who support it because it covets everything: power, property, authority, money, prestige, privilege, and our children. Covetousness leads to the rottenness of “envy” (Prov. 14:30).
As we’ll see, some Christians teach that the Ten Commandments have no application under the New Covenant: “Beyond a shadow of a doubt, we are no longer under the 10 (ten) commandments.” Those who “affirm that … the 10 commandments are still the rule of life for the New Testament believer are … Judaizers. The New Covenant is approved and rejoiced by those who trust solely by the blood of Jesus Christ.” Let’s be clear. No one can be saved by the law, for one reason, no one can! Good works balanced against bad works will not save you. The fact is, while we have been saved from “the curse of the law” (Gal. 3:13), we have not been saved from keeping God’s commandments.
Rousas J. Rushdoony offers a helpful correction to those who claim that since Jesus’ death, Christians are not obligated to follow even the Ten Commandments let alone other laws:
The purpose of grace is not to set aside the law but to fulfill the land and to enable man to keep the law. If the law was so serious in the sight of God that it would require the death of Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, to make atonement for man’s sin, it seems strange for God then to proceed to abandon the law!. The goal of the law is not lawlessness, nor the purpose of grace a lawless contempt of the giver of the law.
Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Are we to assume that Jesus did not include the Ten Commandments? Jesus said the following to the rich young ruler when he asked Jesus, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18). Jesus answered that the basic starting point was keeping the Commandments, and then He listed five of them: “‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother’” (Luke 18:20). Did only these five commandments apply? None of these commandments are true commandments without the First Commandment: “You shall have no other gods before Me.” Consider what Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount:
“You have heard it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder and whoever commits murder shall be subject to judgment…. But I tell you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be subject to judgment. You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that everyone who looks upon a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. And if your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away! It is better for you that one part of your body should be destroyed, than that your whole body be thrown into Gehenna” (Matt. 5:21-22, 27-29).
Check out this article that shows Jesus kept all Ten Commandments (here) and condemned the religious leaders because they nullified God’s commandments by their man-made traditions (Mark 7:1-13).
Jesus summarized the law this way: “You shall love the Lord your God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matt. 22:37-40; see also Gal. 5:14). This summary statement by Jesus does not nullify what it summarizes. James writes:
If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF” [Lev. 19:18], you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the Law as violators. For whoever keeps the whole Law, yet stumbles in one point, has become guilty of all. For He who said, “DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY,” also said, “DO NOT MURDER.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do murder, you have become a violator of the Law (James 2:8-11).
Someone posted on Facebook that God’s law found in the Torah was never intended to be legislation because it was not comprehensive but was more like wisdom literature embedded within a suzerain-vassal treaty covenant. Over the centuries and through exile, the scribes and priests transformed the Torah into a legalistic checklist of do’s and don’t’s. That is what Christ taught against.
The Law of the Covenant
If we take a man-centered approach to these laws, we might say that the purpose of this legislation is only to ensure human prosperity. Such an approach to the law of God misses the most basic point. These laws show us God's own genuine personal care for His world, and as such these laws cannot be altered by human whim. If we start with God, we will soon see how these laws also improve human life.Buy Now
First, the religious leaders turned the revealed law into a works-salvation code, a balancing of the good over the bad on the moral scale for salvation. The law was never meant to do this. Second, if the law was temporary, an “intrusion ethic” as described by Meredith Kline in his 1953 article “The Intrusion and the Decalogue” and seemingly embraced in similar fashion by John Walton in his book The Lost World of Genesis, then why do we find the following purpose of the law to the nations?
Hear now, O Israel, the statutes and ordinances I am teaching you to follow, so that you may live and may enter and take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. You must not add to or subtract from what I command you, so that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I am giving you. Your eyes have seen what the LORD did at Baal-peor, for the LORD your God destroyed from among you all who followed Baal of Peor. But you who held fast to the LORD your God are alive to this day, every one of you. See, I have taught you statutes and ordinances just as the LORD my God has commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land that you are about to enter and possess. Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding in the sight of the peoples, who will hear of all these statutes and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” For what nation is great enough to have a god as near to them as the LORD our God is to us whenever we call on Him? And what nation is great enough to have righteous statutes and ordinances like this entire law I set before you today? (Deuteronomy 4:1–7)
Third, wisdom is the application of God’s law, but you need to have an objective law to be wise about. The Apostle Paul displays this wisdom when he applies _“_You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain” (Deut. 25:4) to paying workers, and he does it in two places (Cor. 9:9’ 1 Tim. 5:18). “Luther, in a typically humorous but insightful aside, says that this command can’t be for the oxen because ‘oxen can’t read!’” For a helpful discussion of Paul’s use of this OT regulation, see “Do Not Muzzle the Ox: Does Paul Quote Moses Out of Context?” by Justin Taylor
Fourth, no law system is ever “comprehensive” since there are various ways a specific law can be applied. For example, the Bible requires that a barrier must be put around a roof: “When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, so that you will not bring guilt for bloodshed on your house if anyone falls from it” (Deut. 22:8). Wisdom requires that houses, where people do not congregate, do not need barriers or a railing (most roofs), while a swimming pool or an open pit (Ex. 21:33) would. Circumstances change, but the underlying principles of the law remain authoritative.
Fifth, the book of Hebrews clearly shows that the “restorative laws” (Greg L. Bahnsen’s designation), what we describe as “ceremonial laws,” are no longer an obligation to follow under the New Covenant while they still have a teaching quality about them.
Some preterists are adopting the above “no law” position. They sound like dispensationalists. This doesn’t make them wrong, but preterism is decidedly anti-dispensational, so it’s surprising that they would adopt a position advocated (inconsistently) by dispensationalists.
Harold O. J. Brown, The Sensate Culture: Western Civilization Between Chaos and Transformation (Dallas, TX: Word, 1996), 88.
The material on Ginsburg and Scalia is taken from Gina Holland, “Ginsburg: International Law Shaped Court Rulings,” Associated Press (August 2, 2003).
Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction: Christian Faith and its Confrontation with American Society (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1983), 183-184.
The Institutes of Biblical Law (Nutley, NJ: The Craig Press, 1973), 4.
Westminster Theological Journal, 16:1 (Nov. 1953).