QUESTION: As a Christian, am I supposed to keep the Old Testament law, even just the “moral law” found in the Ten Commandments?
ANSWER: No, the believer in Christ Jesus is never told to keep the Old Testament law.
Those who attempt to keep the law—even just the Ten Commandments—soon learn that they are unable to keep it in all points. I may not commit adultery or murder, but if I covet something or steal something, I have still broken the law and therefore am as guilty as someone who has broken all of the commandments: “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). That is why the Bible tells us in Romans 3:19,20: “We know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” The law reveals the fact that all people are sinners and have come under the curse of sin: “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” (Galatians 3:10).
Seeing how the curse of breaking God’s law is death and eternal separation from Him in the lake of fire, how wonderful to read, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13).
For believers, then, the message is, “The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster” (Galatians 3:24,25). If I, as a believer, go back to the law and put myself under the schoolmaster again, I will find that the law will still bring out the sin that is in me. It occupies me with myself and makes me miserable. Romans 7 gives us the experience of a believer seeking to bring forth fruit for God by keeping the law. It ends with the terrible realization. “Oh wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24).
The Bible teaches us that the believer is no longer under law. He is now under grace. Through the death of Christ he is looked at as having died to the law (Romans 6:14; 7:4). The grace that sets the believer free wins his heart and gives him a motive to serve Christ. He is set free not to do his own will but the will of God. The power to do this is found in the Holy Spirit who indwells every believer (1 Corinthians 6:19). This truth is found in Romans 8:2, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” The Holy Spirit occupies me with Christ through the Word of God. As I yield to His leading and guiding in my life, the very righteousness which the law demanded will be produced in my life by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:4). The person who is finding satisfaction in Christ does not have to be told “Thou shalt not covet.”
So instead of trying to keep the law, the believer needs to get to know the Lord Jesus better by studying and meditating upon His Word. Only then will there be the joy and strength to be obedient to Christ’s Word and His commandments in the New Testament.
—John D. McNeil