Author: Ron Graham
What did the New Covenant Replace?
—Were the ten commandments retained?
The ten commandments, written on stone tablets, were part of the law given to Moses. It is commonly believed that these ten commandments were also incorporated, word for word, into new covenant of Christ. However this is contradicted by the New Testament scriptures.
The Ten Commandments Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5.
1 — I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods
2 — You shall not make or worship an idol
3 — You shall not take in vain the name of the Lord your God
4 — Observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy
5 — Honour your father and your mother
6 — You shall not murder
7 — You shall not commit adultery
8 — You shall not steal
9 — You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour
10 — You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife or possessions
Note:— Arrangement of the Ten Commandments. There are differences in the manner of numbering the ten commandments. The scripture says there were ten commandments on the tablets of stone. However in quoting them, it joins them all together and does not insert numbers to separate the commandments. There is guesswork in summarising the commandments as I have done, and there is room for some difference.
1 “The Ministry of Death”
Paul contrasted the ministry of Christ and his apostles with the ministry of Moses. Paul acknowledges the glory of the old covenant represented by the shining face of Moses when he came down from Mount Sinai. But he says the new covenant is “much more glorious” (2Corinthians 3:7-11).
There in 2Corinthians chapter 3, Paul also states that the old covenant was “ministry of death” and he specifically refers to what was “written and carved on stones” namely the ten commandments (2Corinthians 3:7).
If Paul considered the law of Moses, including the ten commandments, to be a ministry of death, how could he believe that any part of that old law was made part of the new? The new covenant replaced that old law; it did not include it.
2 Nailed to the Cross
Paul says of the old covenant that Christ “has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14). If Christ took it away, we must not put it back in.
Now it may be that some commandments in the old covenant are like some commandments in the new. But we keep such commandments because they are in the law of Christ, his new covenant, not because they are in the law of Moses, the old covenant.
Some people will say, “If Christ has taken away the ten commandments, then we can steal, murder, commit adultery, worship false gods, and so forth!” This is unreasonable, and here's why....
Christ commands us not to do those things. He prohibits them in his new covenant. We don't need Moses and the ten commandments to guide us because we have Christ’s new covenant to guide us in those things.
There is, however, one commandment that you cannot find in the new covenant, and that is the fourth of the ten commandments, “Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy” Jesus nailed it to his cross with all the old covenant, and he made no commandment for Christians to keep the Sabbath.
When the law of Moses was still in force, Jesus taught people to obey it. Yet even then he said very little about the sabbath (Luke 18:18-23) When the law of Moses was nailed to the cross and no longer in force, Jesus omitted the Sabbath from his new covenant.
3 Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
Paul says, “Try hard to present yourself approved to God, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2Timothy 2:15). Dividing the ten commandments from the rest of the law of Moses is a wrong division.
Some people distinguish the ten commandments as “the law of God” and the rest of the old covenant as “the law of Moses”. However the law of Moses is called “the law of the Lord” so there is no such distinction (Nehemiah 8:8,14, Luke 2:22-23).
The right division of the word is to recognise two covenants —the old that came through Moses, and the new that came through Christ. The ten commandments belong to the old. They are not part of the new. To make them a part of the new is to wrongly divide the word of truth.