The Decalogue as a Unit (All Ten Commandments)


Further thoughts from continued study in the 1689 Confession series, regarding the Law of God as a unit – we cannot separate one from the rest and say that only nine are still in effect.  It is a package set, not individual parts that we can “pick and choose” from.

In response to those who try to claim that Jesus’ summary statement regarding the two “greatest commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40)  is NOT actually a summary of the Ten Commandments (but really something else unrelated to the Decalogue): further New Testament scripture does provide that direct connection, with Paul’s words in Romans 13:8-10, where he first mentions several of the Commandments from the second table (the 7th, the 6th, the 8th, and the 10th) to show what he has in mind, adding “and any other commandment,” are “summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

The claim that all of the commandments are repeated in the New Testament “except the fourth” also does not hold up to sound hermeneutics.  As noted in this lesson from the 1689 Confession exposition series:

No, the fourth commandment is not omitted in the New Testament.  There are some who would say that the ten commandments are all reiterated in the New Testament, except the fourth   one.   You can only say that if you believe that the first four books of the New Testament are not the New Testament.  You can only say that if you make Matthew, Mark, Luke and John something other than applicable to Christians today.  That is impossible to do hermeneutically, because the disciples were being trained by Jesus to be WHAT? To be authoritative teachers in the New Testament church.  He was laying the foundation of the New Testament church.  And so the question is, why would Jesus have spent SO MUCH TIME, talking about the Sabbath day and its Pharasaical abuses, merely to say, a few months later, ‘well, guys, all that teaching I gave you was really for nought, because it’s over and done with now, there’s no such thing as the fourth commandment.’ That doesn’t make sense.

It’s like what J.C. Ryle says, it’s sort of like a person who cleans off the roof of their house, takes all that time and energy to make sure that he has a pristine roof–only to burn his house down the next day.  Why would he do that?  The Sabbath day IS very clearly reiterated, and taught very extensively and perhaps even more so than the others in the New Testament.

The J.C. Ryle reference comes from this J.C. Ryle article, Sabbath: A Day to Keep, a helpful resource that points to many scriptural reasons for the continuing 4th commandment, including observations from the book of Ezekiel, what I had noted from my own reading through that prophet:

I turn to the writings of the Old Testament Prophets. I find them repeatedly speaking of the breach of the Sabbath, side by side with the most heinous transgressions of the moral law (Ezek. 20:13, 16, 24; 22:8, 26). I find them speaking of it as one of the great sins which brought judgments on Israel and carried the Jews into captivity (Neh. 13:18; Jer. 17:19-27). It seems clear to me that the Sabbath, in their judgment, is something far higher than the washings and cleansings of the ceremonial law.  I am utterly unable to believe, when I read their language, that the Fourth Commandment was one of the things one day to pass away.

The contrast between someone cleaning their roof and destroying their house:

I turn to the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ when He was upon earth. I cannot discover that our Savior ever let fall a word in discredit of any one of the Ten Commandments. On the contrary, I find Him declaring at the outset of His ministry, “that He came not to destroy the law but to fulfil,” and the context of the passage where He uses these words, satisfies me that He was not speaking of the ceremonial law, but the moral (Matt. 5:17). I find Him speaking of the Ten Commandments as a recognized standard of moral right and wrong: “Thou knowest the Commandments” (Mark 10:19).  I find Him speaking eleven times on the subject of the Sabbath, but it is always to correct the superstitious additions which the Pharisees had made to the Law of Moses about observing it, and never to deny the holiness of the day.He no more abolishes the Sabbath, than a man destroys a house when he cleans off the moss or weeds from its roof.

Much more could be said, and has been said by others, but the above observations and references are for today’s consideration.

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  1. paulinescardmania
    May 3, 2016 at 5:35 am

    So where does that leave new Testament believers now Lynda ?

    • May 3, 2016 at 6:27 am

      With the abiding, unchanging moral law of God: the third use of the law. From the 1689 Baptist Confession, Chapter 19, paragraph 6: “Although true believers are not under the law as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified or condemned, yet it is of great use to them as well as to others, in that as a rule of life, informing them of the will of God and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly; discovering also the sinful pollutions of their natures, hearts, and lives, so as examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against, sin; together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ and the perfection of his obedience; it is likewise of use to the regenerate to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin; and the threatenings of it serve to show what even their sins deserve, and what afflictions in this life they may expect for them, although freed from the curse and unallayed rigour thereof. The promises of it likewise show them God’s approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof, though not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works; so as man’s doing good and refraining from evil, because the law encourages to the one and deters from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law and not under grace.”

    • May 3, 2016 at 8:07 am

      Well said by Charles Spurgeon on this topic: Very great mistakes have been made about the law. Not long ago there were those about us who affirmed that the law is utterly abrogated and abolished, and they openly taught that believers were not bound to make the moral law the rule of their lives. What would have been sin in other men they counted not to be sin in themselves. From such Antinomianism as that may God deliver us. We are not under the law as the method of salvation, but we delight to see the law in the hand of Christ, and desire to obey the Lord in all things. Others have been met with who have taught that Jesus mitigated and softened down the law, and they have in effect said that the perfect law of God was too hard for imperfect beings, and therefore God has given us a milder and easier rule. These tread dangerously upon the verge of terrible error, although we believe that they are little aware of it. Alas, we have met with authors who have gone much further than this, and have railed at the law. Oh, the hard words that I have sometimes read against the holy law of God! How very unlike those which the apostle used when he said, “The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” How different from the reverent spirit which made him say— “I delight in the law of God after the inward man.” You know how David loved the law of God, and sang its praises all through the longest of the Psalms. The heart of every real Christian is most reverent towards the law of the Lord. It is perfect, no, it is perfection itself. We believe that we shall never have reached perfection till we are perfectly conformed to it.

  2. May 3, 2016 at 7:54 am

    Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging.

  3. Neil Schoch
    May 4, 2016 at 5:19 pm

    I will continue to do what the disciples of Jesus did, and that is to meet on the first day of the week (Sunday – resurrection morning)) to remember and worship the Lord. Acts 2:7. The early Church was repeatedly warned against any submission to submitting themselves to any legalistic observance of Sabbath days. Colossians 2:16 and Galatians 4:9-11 etc.

    • May 5, 2016 at 6:53 am

      Hi Neil,

      That really wasn’t the specific topic I was addressing in this post (those verses you mentioned). However, the context of each of those scriptures (Colossians 2:16 and Galatians 4:9-11) about observing Sabbath days, was specifically in reference to the ceremonial Jewish observances, their “feasts, new moons, and Sabbaths.” (Reference 1 Chron. 23:31, 2 Chron. 31:3, and Nehemiah 10:33 as a few examples of the usage of this phrase/description – the context is the Jewish ceremonial law.) That is a different topic from this post about God’s moral law.

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