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Insight #142 — Battle Over Ten Commandments

November 15, 2005.

The battle over the display of the Ten Commandments has gone all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. What place do Christians have in this battle? Does God tell Christians to spend their time and energy defending the display of the Ten Commandments in public places? Is this a Christian issue?

It is commonly believed that the Ten Commandments are the foundation of the U.S. legal system. Absolutely false. For starters, consider these four obvious ones. First Command: “Have no other gods.” Second Command: “not bow down” to “any graven image.” U.S. law is the opposite of both. U.S. law upholds freedom of religion. Fourth Command: “The seventh day [Saturday] is the Sabbath of the Lord your God: in it you shall not do any work.” No U.S. laws here, thank God. Skip to the Tenth: “You shall not covet.” There are no U.S. laws that fine or jail people for coveting. How could there be? Coveting is in the heart.

A related belief is that the Ten Commandments are the foundation of our so-called Judeo-Christian culture. The fact is that the Ten Commandments are a Jewish, not a Christian, document. The preamble states, “I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out of the land of Egypt” (Ex. 20:2). That is clearly a document for Israel, later called Jews.

What is the Christian view of the Ten Commandments? In 2 Cor. 3:7, God is obviously speaking of the Ten when He refers to that which was “engraved in stones” at the time of Moses. These Ten Commandments are called “the ministration of death, written and engraved in stones… the ministration of condemnation… that which is done away” (3:7-11). In contrast, we now have “the new testament… the ministration of the spirit… the ministration of righteousness… that which remains” (3:6-11).

Many believe that the Ten Commandments are the greatest of all laws. Jesus disagreed. When asked what was the greatest commandment, He did not mention any of the ten (Matt. 22:34-40). He singled out love of God (Deut. 6:5) and love of neighbor (Lev. 19:18) as the basis of “all the law and the prophets.”

God predicted a new covenant. We have a new covenant. Let us not get caught up in the religious world’s frenzy over defending the stone tablets of the old covenant. Jesus nailed the old ordinances to the cross (Col. 2:14).

“The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). Let the world, secular and religious, fight it’s own battles over public display of the “ministration of death and condemnation.” We have a new covenant of grace and life that was predicted by the prophets of old. Praise God, Jesus fulfilled those predictions.