What did the early Christian church teach about the ten commandments? Did early Christians believe that the ten commandments were done away?
This article will go over quotes from Jesus, writings from Paul, writings from others in the New Testament, and writers of the second century to show what the early Christian church thought about the ten commandments. (The word's of Jesus will be in red, while those of Paul will be in green. NKJV unless otherwise specified).
Jesus and the Ten Commandments
Some said Jesus did away with the ten commandments. They say that by leading a sinless life, He fulfilled them for us. Although it is true that Jesus lead a sinless life (Hebrews 4:15), does that mean He wanted us to continue in sin?
What did Jesus teach about each of the ten commandments?
Jesus' teachings are quoted in this section as often as they are quoted in the New Testament. Before you read them, ask yourself, if Jesus was doing away with the ten commandments, why would He have spent so much time teaching people to keep them and allowed so much space in the New Testament to be devoted to them?
Commandment 1 "You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve" (Matthew 4:10). "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and the great commandment" (Matthew 22:37). "And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment" (Mark 12:30). "You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve" (Luke 4:8).
Commandment 2 "You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve" (Matthew 4:10). "You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve" (Luke 4:8). "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24). "But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam...to eat things sacrificed to idols" (Revelation 2:14). "Nevertheless, I have a few things against you, because you allow...My servants to...eat things sacrificed to idols" (Revelation 2:20).
Commandment 3 "Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men" (Matthew 12:31). "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts,...blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man" (Matthew 15:19-20).
Commandment 4 "What man is there among you who has one sheep, and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath" (Matthew 12:11-12). "And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath" (Matthew 24:20); there would be no reason to pray this if the Sabbath was not going to be in existence. "And He said to them, 'The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath'" (Mark 2:27); this verse tells all who will see which day is the Lord's Day. "And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue" (Mark 6:2). "And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read" (Luke 4:16). "Then He went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and was teaching them on the Sabbaths" (Luke 4:31). "The Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath...Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy?" (Luke 6:5,9). "But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath...The Lord then answered him and said, 'Hypocrite...So ought not this woman...be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?'" (Luke (13:14-16). "'Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?'...And they could not answer Him regarding these things" (Luke 14:3,6). "are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath?" (John 7:23).
Commandment 5 "For God commanded saying, 'Honor your father and your mother' and 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death'" (Matthew 15:4). "Honor your father and your mother" (Matthew 19:19). "Honor your father and your mother" (Mark 7:10). "Honor your father and your mother" (Mark 10:19). "You know the commandments:...Honor your father and your mother" (Luke 18:20).
Commandment 6 "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder', and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment. But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment" (Matthew 5:21-22). "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders...These are the things which defile a man" (Matthew 15:19-20). "You shall not murder" (Matthew 19:18). "...murders...All these evil things come from within and defile a man" (Mark 7:21,23). "Do not murder" (Mark 10:19). "You know the commandments:...Do not murder" (Luke 18:20).
Commandment 7 "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery'. But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:27-28). "But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery" (Matthew 5:32). "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts...adulteries, fornications...These are the things which defile a man" (Matthew 15:19-20). "And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery, and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery" (Matthew 19:9). "You shall not commit adultery" (Matthew 19:18). "...adulteries, fornications...All these evil things come from within and defile a man" (Mark 7:21,23). "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery" (Mark 10:11-12). "Do not commit adultery" (Mark 10:19). "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery" (Luke 16:18). "You know the commandments: Do not commit adultery" (Luke 18:20). "'Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery'...And Jesus said to her...'sin no more'" (John 8:4,11). "Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation" (Revelation 2:22).
Commandment 8 "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts...thefts...These are the things which defile a man" (Matthew 15:19-20). "You shall not steal" (Matthew 19:18). "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer', but you have made it a den of thieves" (Matthew 21:13). "...thefts...All these evil things come from within and defile a man" (Mark 7:22-23). "Do not steal" (Mark 10:19). "You know the commandments:... Do not steal" (Luke 18:20).
Commandment 9 "Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord. But I say to you, do not swear at all" (Matthew 5:33-34). "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts...false witness...These are the things which defile a man" (Matthew 15:19-20). "You shall not bear false witness" (Matthew 19:18). "Do not bear false witness" (Mark 10:19). "You know the commandments:...Do not bear false witness" (Luke 18:20). "And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars" (Revelation 2:2).
Commandment 10 "Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on" (Matthew 6:25). "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts...These are the things which defile a man" (Matthew 15:19-20). "...covetousness...All these evil things come from within and defile a man" (Mark 7:22-23).
So it is clear that Jesus taught everyone of the ten commandments. Remember, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8).
Jesus Also Taught
"And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one jot or tittle of the law to fail" (Luke 16:17); in the next verse He then discussed the seventh commandment.
Interestingly, although Jesus said, "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law" (Matthew 5:17), that is what many have concluded.
When He also said, "I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled" (vs.17-18), some have concluded that "fulfill" means that Jesus came to destroy the law (interestingly, Jesus fulfilled baptism by being baptized, not eliminating baptism 3:13-16). In many of the verses following (5:19-37, several of which are quoted above) Jesus proves that He did indeed come to "magnify the law and make it honorable".
How? "Jesus said to him, 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and the great commandment. And the second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and Prophets" (Matthew 22:37-40);
In other words the law of God is involved in showing love to God and your neighbor! Perhaps that is why Jesus said, "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15) as well as "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love" (John 15:10). "He who does not love Me does not keep My words" (John 14:24). For further proof, Jesus said of the future, "And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold" (Matthew 24:12). Breaking the law (lawlessness) is linked to lack of love. Jesus magnified the law by explaining its direct link to love; in particular (as quoted above after each respective commandment) He expanded the peoples' understanding of the first, fourth, sixth, and seventh commandments! This was even prophesied! "He will exalt the law and make it honorable" (Is 42:21).
Notice also that Jesus and the Bible teach that breaking the commandments is evil, and that the law of God including His commandments, is truth:
And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God (John 3:19-21).
Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness,
And Your law is truth (Psalm 119:142).
You are near, O LORD, And all Your commandments are truth (Psalm 119:151).
Does the Bible show that true Christian's keep God's commandments?
"And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Revelation 12:17).
"If you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words? (John 5:46-47).
Not every one that says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven" (Matthew 7:21).
"The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire" (Matthew 13:41). "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin" (John 8:34).
Jesus condemned the Pharisees because they did not keep the commandments,
"Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?...And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:3,9).
"He answered and said to them, 'Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, hypocrites, as it is written, This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me, And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men...All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition'" (Mark 7:6-9) (you can click here to see how the Pharisees tried to violate all ten of the commandments).
"But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:17).
"Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, 'Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?' So Jesus said to him..."You know the commandments" (Mark 10:17,19) and then He listed half of the ten commandments (also in Luke 18:19-20).
"In the beginning was the Word...All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made" (John 1:1,3); would not "all things" include the commandments? The last words of Jesus in the Book of Matthew were,
"All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:18-20).
Should you be keeping His commands? Jesus answer remains, "But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord' and do not do the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46) and "My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it" (Luke 8:21). "If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them" (John 13:17).
Paul and the Ten Commandments After the Crucifixion
Some try to ignore Jesus' teachings on the ten commandments by saying they were done away at the crucifixion. Some try to teach that the ten commandments were "nailed to the cross". Is that what the Bible teaches? There is only one only scripture that uses the "nailed it to the cross" expression (AV/NKJ), it is Col 2:13-14, in which Paul states, "And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross". Were the ten commandments the "requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us"? Let us examine the scriptures to see.
Commandment 1: Paul said, "God, who made the world and everything in it...they should seek the Lord" (Acts 17:24,27). Paul also said, "I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law" (Acts 24:14). "And what agreement has the temple of God have with idols?" (II Corinthians 6:16). "you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God" (I The 1:9). "Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God" (2 The 2:3-4).
Commandment 2: "we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols" (Acts 15:20). "Now while Paul waited for them in Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols...Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said...'God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshipped with men's hands, as though He needed anything'" (Acts 17:16,22,24-25). "Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man--and birds and four footed animals and creeping things" (Romans 1:22-23). "But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is...an idolater" (I Corinthians 5:11). "Neither... idolators...will inherit the kingdom of God" (I Corinthians 6:9-10). "And do not become idolaters as were some of them...Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry" (I Corinthians 10:7,14). "And what agreement has the temple of God have with idols?" (II Corinthians 6:16). "Now the works of the flesh are evident...idolatry" (Gal 5:19,20). "For this you know that no...idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God" (Ephesians 5:5). "Therefore put to death...covetousness, which is idolatry" (Col 3:5). "you turned to God from idols" (I The 1:9).
Commandment 3: "they are all under sin...Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness" (Romans 3:9,14). "Let all...evil speaking be put away from you" (Ephesians 4:31). "But now you yourselves are to put off all these:...blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth" (Col 3:8). "they may learn not to blaspheme" (I Timothy 1:20). But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be...blasphemers" (II Timothy 3:1,2).
Commandment 4: "Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures...And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks" (Acts 17:2;18:4 see also 13:14,27,42,44). "let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give to him who has need" (Ephesians 4:28) and "For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: 'If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat'" (II Thes 3:10); (recall that the requirement to work is also part of the Sabbath command, thus even that portion of the commandment is repeated in the New Testament.) "And to whom did He swear they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey?" (Hebrews 3:18). "For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: 'And God rested on the seventh day from all His works'" (Hebrews 4:4). "There remains therefore a rest (literally sabbatismos, 'Sabbath rest') for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His" (Hebrews 4:9-10).
Commandment 5: "being filled with all unrighteousness...disobediant to parents" (Romans 1:29,30). "Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 'Honor your father and mother', which is the first commandment with promise: that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth" (Ephesians 6:1-3). "the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience" (Col 3:6). "Children obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord" (Col 3:20). "But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be...disobediant to parents" (II Timothy 3:1,2).
Commandment 6: "being filled with all unrighteousness...murder" (Romans 1:29). "You shall not murder" (Romans 13:9). "Now the works of the flesh are evident...murders" (Gal 5:19,21). "the lawless and insubordinate...murders...manslayers" (I Timothy 1:9).
Commandment 7: "being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality" (Romans 1:29). "So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress" (Romans 7:3). "You shall not commit adultery" (Romans 13:9). "But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral" (I Corinthians 5:11). "Neither... adulterers, nor homosexuals...will inherit the kingdom of God" (I Corinthians 6:9-10)."Nor let us commit sexual immorality as some of them did" (I Corinthians 10:8). "Now the works of the flesh are evident...adultery, fornication" (Gal 5:19). "For this you know that no fornicator...has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God" (Ephesians 5:5). "the lawless and insubordinate...fornicators...sodomites" (I Timothy 1:9,10). "fornicators and adulterers God will judge" (Hebrews 13:4).
Commandment 8: "You shall not steal" (Romans 13:9). "nor thieves...will inherit the kingdom of God" (I Corinthians 6:10). "I have been...in perils of robbers" (II Corinthians 11:25-26). "Let him who stole, steal no longer" (Ephesians 4:28).
Commandment 9: "You shall not bear false witness" (Romans 13:9). "Therefore, putting away lying" (Ephesians 4:25). "Do not lie to one another" (Col 3:9). "the lawless and insubordinate...liars...perjurers" (I Timothy 1:9,10). "Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy" (I Timothy 4:1-2). "But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be...slanderers" (II Timothy 3:1,3). "God, who cannot lie" (Ti 1:2). "it is impossible for God to lie" (Hebrews 6:18).
Commandment 10: "being filled with all unrighteousness...covetousness" (Romans 1:29)."You shall not covet" (Romans 7:7). "You shall not covet" (Romans 13:9). "But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is...covetous" (I Corinthians 5:11). "nor covetous...will inherit the kingdom of God" (I Corinthians 6:10). "we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted" (I Corinthians 10:6). "you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh" (Gal 5:16). "For this you know that no fornicator...nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God" (Ephesians 5:5). "Therefore put to death...covetousness, which is idolatry" (Col 3:5). "For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness" (I The 2:5). "Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have" (Hebrews 13:5).
"Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city" (Revelation 22:14). Since "those who do His commandments...have the right to enter...the city" (Revelation 22:14), the ten commandments could not be "contrary to us". So then, if the ten commandments were not "nailed to the cross", what was? What does the Bible say? "having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross" (Col 2:14).
It was the handwriting of requirements.
Which requirements were wiped out? It appears that two things were wiped out. One would be the requirements of the Levitical priesthood (Hebrews 9:1,6-10). And why? "For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins...By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus once for all" (Hebrews 10:4,10). The other (which is related) would be the death penalty, as "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). It is of interest to note that the expression "the handwriting of requirements" is a Greek legal term that signifies the penalty which a lawbreaker had to pay--through Jesus the penalty was wiped out ("the handwriting of requirements"), not the law! "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them" (Hebrews 10:16).
Some will argue that you still cannot keep the ten commandments (for "all have sinned"), even if they are all mentioned as being in effect after the crucifixion.
Does this mean one should not try?
Paul's Other Writings
Paul wrote "For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins" (Hebrews 10:26). He also warned that those who break various of the ten commandments will not inherit the kingdom of God (Ephesians 5:4-5) and then said, "Let no man deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them" (Ephesians 5:6-7).
Some have been confused about Paul's writings, but as Peter warned, "Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the scriptures" (II Pet 3:15-16). Perhaps the most confusing to some is, "For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle the wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity" (Ephesians 2:14-16). It is clear that Paul could not be talking about the ten commandments as he mentions parts of at least eight of them as still being in existence in the same book (see above, the other two are alluded to as well, Ephesians 5:31--anger, which is like murder according to Jesus; plus the comment about being a prisoner of the Lord also would show the first commandment, Ephesians 4:1). It needs to be remembered is that the wall of separation that was broken down the middle, was the large veil in the temple that split when Jesus died (Matthew 27:50:51). Thus it was the ordinances of the Levitical priesthood which were abolished. This is what Paul also wrote elsewhere (Hebrews 9:1,6-10).
The entire book of Galations is confusing to many. Suffice it to say that at least four of the commandments are mentioned in that book, and for violating some of them Paul wrote, "those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God" (Gal 5:21). Paul is telling people that they cannot earn their salvation through works (Gal 5:4-5) which of course is true. He never tells anyone to violate any commandment (not in Galations nor any other book) and reminds people that they will reap what they sow (Gal 6:7). Actually, he commended Christians who obey (Phil 2:12).
Paul himself said, after his conversion to the leaders of the Jews, "Men and brethren, though I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans" (Acts 28:17). If Paul had intentionally violated any of the ten commandments (or advocated this of others) he could not have said this. Paul also said, "Therefore I urge you, imitate me" (I Corinthians 4:16) and "Imitate me, just as I imitate Christ" (I Corinthians 11:1); Jesus, as we saw earlier, both kept and taught observance of the ten commandments.
Paul wrote, "for by the law is the knowledge of sin...I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, 'You shall not covet'...Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good" (Romans 3:20;7:7,12).
Paul taught each of the ten commandments after the crucifixion (please see the commandments quoted after the crucifixion).
Regarding faith and the law, Paul specifically wrote, "Do we make the void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary we establish the law" (Romans 3:31). Even after his conversion Paul state that he was, "concerning righteousness which is in the law, blameless" (Phi 3:6).
Paul warned, "Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ" (Col 2:8); Jesus kept the ten commandments! He also warns that "For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work" (II The 2:7). Lawlessness is breaking the law.
Why would Paul warn about lawlessness if he felt all the law was done away?
Other New Testaments Writers
Did the other New Testament writers teach the ten commandments were to be followed after the crucifixion. In this section, the portions of the New Testament that Paul did not write, but which discuss the ten commandments individually will after the crucifixion will be quoted.
Commandment 1 "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (I John 2:15); which is another way of saying, put nothing in the world before God. "If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God" (Revelation 14:9). "Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image" (Revelation 20:4). "But the...unbelieving...shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8).
Commandment 2 "we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols" (Acts 15: 20); "abominable idolatries" (I Pet 4:3). "Little children, keep yourselves from idols" (I John 5:21). "But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam...to eat things sacrificed to idols" (Revelation 2:14). "Nevertheless, I have a few things against you, because you allow...My servants to...eat things sacrificed to idols" (Revelation 2:20). "But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk" (Revelation 9:20). "But ...idolaters...shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8). "But outside are...idolaters" (Revelation 22:15).
Commandment 3 "Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so" (Jas 3:10). "He is the antichrist who denies the Father and the Son" (I John 2:22).
Commandment 4 "That day was the Preparation and the Sabbath drew near...And they rested on the Sabbath in accordance with the commandment" (Luke 23:54,56). "But when they departed from Pegra, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down" (Acts 13:14), they seemed to be following this admonition from John, "He who says he abides in Him ought also to walk just as He walked" (I John 2:6), since Jesus always went to the synagogues on the Sabbath (Luke 4:16).
Commandment 5 "They have a heart trained in covetous practices and are accursed children" (II Pet 2:14). "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God" (I John 3:1).
Commandment 6 "But let none of you suffer as a murderer" (I Pet 4:15). "For He who said, 'Do not commit adultery,' also said, 'Do not murder'. Now if you do no commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law" (Jas 2:11-12). "You lust...You murder" (Jas 4:2)."Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and we know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him" (I John 3:15). "And they did not repent of their murders" (Revelation 9:21). "he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword" (Revelation 13:10). "But ...murderers...shall have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8). "But outside are...murderers" (Revelation 22:15).
Commandment 7 "Do not commit adultery" (Jas 2:11). "You lust...Adulterers and adulteresses!" (Jas 4:2,4). "having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin" (II Pet 2:14). "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes...is not of the Father but is of the world" (I Jon 2:16). "Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation" (Revelation 2:22). "And they did not repent of ...their sexual immoralities" (Revelation 9:21). "But the...sexual immoral...shall have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8). "But outside are...sexually immoral" (Revelation 22:15).
Commandment 8 "But let none of you suffer as...a thief" (I Pet 4:15). John seems to have expanded on the theme of this commandment when he wrote, "whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him" (I John 3:17). "And they did not repent of ...their thefts" (Revelation 9:21).
Commandment 9 "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie...You have not lied to men but to God" (Acts 5:3,4). "They also set up false witnesses" (Acts 6:13). "having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who defile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed" (I Pet 3:16). "By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not stumble" (II Pet 2:3). He who says 'I know Him', and does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (I John 2:4). "I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth" (I Jon 2:21). "And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars" (Revelation 2:22). "But ...liars...shall have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8). "But outside are...whoever loves and practices a lie" (Revelation 22:15).
Commandment 10 "By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not stumble" (II Pet 2:3). "You lust...and covet" (Jas 4:2)."They have a heart trained in covetous practices and are accursed children" (II Pet 2:14). "For all that is in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--is not of the Father but is of the world" (I Jon 2:16).
It is of incidental note, but most of the other New Testament writers wrote after Paul and seem to mention the commandments as a matter of obvious fact. James wrote, "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves" (Jas 1:22); similarly he warned, "But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and destroy" (Jas 4:11-12). James even emphasized that you must keep all of the commandments, "If you really fulfill the royal law according to scripture, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself,' you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, 'Do not commit adultery,' also said, 'Do not murder'. Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law" (Jam 2:8-11). John similarly wrote, "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness" (I John 3:4).
John also wrote, "Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil...In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother" (I John 3:7,8,10). What does the Bible teach is righteousness? "For all Your commandments are righteousness" (Psalm 119:172).
It is of incidental note, that none of the first four commandments are cited verbaTimothy after the crucifixion (by Paul or the other writers), but from the scriptures cited it is obvious that they all are to still be obeyed. The last six are essentially verbaTimothy from the Exodus 20, except the tenth which is a shortened version. Thus, after the crucifixion, the Bible shows that all ten commandments are still to be followed. And it does this several times for each.
While many Protestants and Baptists act like the ten commandments were done away or somehow nailed to the cross, this is a relatively recent understanding and most certainly was not the understanding of real Christians in the second century (the time immediately after the death of the original apostles).
Polycarp was the bishop of Smyrna, and was a disciple of the Apostle John, the last of the original apostles as well as the last of the writers of the New Testament to die.
What did he and other second century Christian leaders teach about the ten commandments?
Polycarp, around 120 A.D., wrote:
But He who raised Him up from the dead will raise up us also, if we do His will, and walk in His commandments, and love what He loved, keeping ourselves from all unrighteousness, covetousness, love of money, evil speaking, falsewitness; "not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing," or blow for blow, or cursing for cursing (Polycarp. Letter to the Philippians, Chapter II. from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1as edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885).
"But the love of money is the root of all evils." Knowing, therefore, that "as we brought nothing into the world, so we can carry nothing out," let us arm ourselves with the armour of righteousness; and let us teach, first of all, ourselves to walk in the commandments of the Lord. Next, [teach] your wives [to walk] in the faith given to them, and in love and purity tenderly loving their own husbands in all truth, and loving all [others] equally in all chastity; and to train up their children in the knowledge and fear of God. Teach the widows to be discreet as respects the faith of the Lord, praying continually for all, being far from all slandering, evil-speaking, false-witnessing, love of money, and every kind of evil (Polycarp. Letter to the Philippians, Chapter IV. from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1as edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885).
Knowing, then, that "God is not mocked," we ought to walk worthy of His commandment and glory ...For it is well that they should be cut off from the lusts that are in the world, since "every lust warreth against the spirit; " and "neither fornicators, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, shall inherit the kingdom of God," nor those who do things inconsistent and unbecoming (Polycarp. Letter to the Philippians, Chapter V. from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1as edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885).
I exhort you, therefore, that ye abstain from covetousness, and that ye be chaste and truthful. "Abstain from every form of evil." For if a man cannot govern himself in such matters, how shall he enjoin them on others ? If a man does not keep himself from covetousness, he shall be defiled by idolatry, and shall be judged as one of the heathen. But who of us are ignorant of the judgment of the Lord ? (Polycarp. Letter to the Philippians, Chapter XI. from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1as edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885).
In the above, Polycarp referred to at least six commandments (numbers 1,3,5,7,9,10). And probably nine (2,6,8), since stealing (and he wrote against the "love of money" which leads to stealing) and murder (plus Polycarp said not to repay "blow for blow") do not reflect love and idolatry is a form of "false-witnessing".
Furthermore, since in Polycarp's area, when reporting his martyrdom, the Smyrnaeans referred to Friday as the "day of preparation" and mentioned "the great Sabbath", it is obvious that the fourth commandment about the Sabbath was also kept.
Melito of Sardis, around 170 A.D., endorsed the commandments as well and specifically referred to breaking the first two as sin:
If, therefore, a man forsake the light, and say that there is another God, it is plain from what he himself says that it is some created thing which he calls God. For, if a man call fire God, it is not God, because it is fire; and, if a man call water God, it is not God, because it is water; and, if he so call this earth on which we tread, or these heavens which are seen by us, or the sun, or the moon, or some one of these stars which run their course without ceasing by Divine command, and do not speed along by their own will, neither are these gods; and, if a man call gold and silver gods, are not these objects things which we use as we please? and, if he so call those pieces of wood which we burn, or those stones which we break, how can these things be gods? For, 1o! they are for the use of man. How can `they' escape the commission of great sin, who in their speech change the great God into those things which, so long as they continue, continue by Divine command? (A Discourse Which Was in the Presence of Antoninus Caesar).
In his Discourse Which Was in the Presence of Antoninus Caesar, Melito also objected to violating the second, seventh, and tenth commandments, specifically idolatry, adultery, and lusting for another's wife.
Melito was claimed to be one who observed the annual Sabbaths (like the first day of unleavened bread), hence would have kept the fourth commandment. In verse 49 of his Homily on the Passover, he refers to parental honor and dishonor (suggestive of endorsing the fifth commandment). In fragment V he complains about the wickedness of murder (commandment 6) and "false witness" (commandment 9).
While that is only eight of the ten commandments, I would suggest that Melito did not approve of taking God's name in vain (third commandment) nor stealing (eighth commandment)--and he may have specifically wrote against those as well, because in many of his writings we only have fragments that remain today.
Even the Roman supporting Irenaeus around 180 wrote that Christ taught and did not do away with the Ten Commandments, but he taught that that is what the heretic Marcion taught:
1. And that the Lord did not abrogate the natural [precepts] of the law, by which man is justified, which also those who were justified by faith, and who pleased God, did observe previous to the giving of the law, but that He extended and fulfilled them, is shown from His words. "For," He remarks, "it has been said to them of old time, Do not commit adultery. But I say unto you, That every one who hath looked upon a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." And again: "It has been said, Thou shalt not kill. But I say unto you, Every one who is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment." And, "It hath been said, Thou shalt not forswear thyself. But I say unto you, Swear not at all; but let your conversation be, Yea, yea, and Nay, nay." And other statements of a like nature. For all these do not contain or imply an opposition to and an overturning of the [precepts] of the past, as Marcion's followers do strenuously maintain; but [they exhibit] a fulfilling and an extension of them (Book IV, Chapter 13, Verse 1).
Preparing man for this life, the Lord Himself did speak in His own person to all alike the words of the Decalogue; and therefore, in like manner, do they remain permanently with us, receiving by means of His advent in the flesh, extension and increase, but not abrogation (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book IV, Chapter 16, Verse 4. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).
The term Decalogue refers to the ten commandments. Notice that Irenaeus states that they are to be permanently retained.
Irenaeus, even though he wrote heretical and contradictory things, also wrote the following:
Now, that we may not suffer ought of this kind, we must needs hold the rule of the faith without deviation, and do the commandments of God, believing in God and fearing Him as Lord and loving Him as Father. (Irenaeus, St., Bishop of Lyon. Translated from the Armenian by Armitage Robinson. The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, Chapter 3. Wells, Somerset, Oct. 1879. As published in SOCIETY FOR PROMOTING CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE. NEW YORK: THE MACMILLAN CO, 1920)
Theophilus was a leader of the church in Antioch in the latter part of the second century. The Orthodox Church considers him to have been a successor to the Apostle Peter.
Theophilus, around 180 A.D., wrote:
And on the sixth day God finished His works which He made, and rested on the seventh day from all His works which He made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; because in it He rested from all His works which God began to create...Moreover, [they spoke] concerning the seventh day, which all men acknowledge; but the most know not that what among the Hebrews is called the "Sabbath," is translated into Greek the "Seventh" (ebdomas), a name which is adopted by every nation, although they know not the reason of the appellation...God having thus completed the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and all that are in them, on the sixth day, rested on the seventh day from all His works which He made (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 2, Chapters XI, XII, XIX. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).
Now we also confess that God exists, but that He is one, the creator, and maker, and fashioner of this universe; and we know that all things are arranged by His providence, but by Him alone. And we have learned a holy law; but we have as lawgiver Him who is really God, who teaches us to act righteously, and to be pious, and to do good. And concerning piety He says, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I am the LORD thy God." And of doing good He said: "Honour thy father and thy mother; that it may be well with thee, and that thy days may be long in the land which I the LORD God give thee." Again, concerning righteousness: "Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, nor his land, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his beast of burden, nor any of his cattle, nor anything that is thy neighbour's...Of this divine law, then, Moses, who also was God's servant, was made the minister both to all the world, and chiefly to the Hebrews...Of this great and wonderful law, which tends to all righteousness, the ten heads are such as we have already rehearsed (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book III, Chapter IX. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).
Thus, it is clear that Polycarp and others endorsed all ten of the commandments in the second century.
In the early third century, Clement of Alexandria listed most of the ten commandments (note, he left out two commandments-- 3. cursing and 9. false witness):
The first commandment of the Decalogue shows that there is one only Sovereign God...
The second word intimated that men ought not to take and confer the august power of God (which is the name, for this alone were many even yet capable of learning), and transfer His title to things created and vain, which human artificers have made...
And the fourth word is that which intimitates that the world was created by God, and that He gave us the seventh day as a rest, on account of the trouble that there is in life. For God is incapable of weariness, and suffering, and want. But we who bear flesh need rest. The seventh day, therefore, is proclaimed a rest...
Now the fifth in order is the command on the honour of father and mother...
Then follows the command about murder...
This is followed by the command respecting adultery...
And after this is the command respecting theft...
And the tenth is the command respecting all lusts (Clement of Alexandria. Stromata, Book VI, Chapter 16).
It should be noted that Clement did not mention coveting your neighbor's wife within the tenth or did he give any indication that that could be a separate commandment from other lusts. Hence Clement endorsed the same order of the ten commandments that the Church of God still endorses--this is different from the order of the Roman Church which came up with its order in the fifth century (more information on that is in the article Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Church of God?) as well as a different order that the Lutherans accept (see The Similarities and Dissimilarities between Martin Luther and Herbert Armstrong).
In the third century, even the Roman theologian Hippolytus understood, not only that the commandments needed to be kept, but that baptism alone was not enough as he wrote:
Ye obtained my baptism, but ye observed not my commandments...For not every, one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall be saved, but he that doeth my will. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment (Hippolytus. On the End of the World, Chapter XLVIII. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 5. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1886. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).
The so-called Apostolic Constituitions, written in Syria around 250 A.D. states:
XXXVI. Have before thine eyes the fear of God, and always remember the ten commandments of God,--to love the one and only Lord God with all thy strength; to give no heed to idols, or any other beings, as being lifeless gods, or irrational beings or daemons. Consider the manifold workmanship of God, which received its beginning through Christ. Thou shalt observe the Sabbath, on account of Him who ceased from His work of creation, but ceased not from His work of providence: it is a rest for meditation of the law, not for idleness of the hands (Apostolic Constitutions - Didascalia Apostolorum Book II, Section IV).
Certainly leaders who professed Christ taught the observance of the ten commandments during and after the time of Jesus and Paul.
Related articles of interest may be:
Were the Ten Commandments in Effect Before Mount Sinai? Some have said not. This article provides biblical quotes to answer this important question.
Job and the Ten Commandments Was Job written prior to Mount Sinai? Did Job know about the ten commandments? This article provides biblical answers to those questions.
Were the Ten Commandments Nailed to the Cross? Some have said so. This article provides some biblical quotes to answer this important question.
Were the Pharisees Condemned for Keeping the Law? Many believe that, but what does your Bible say? If they were not condemned for that, what were they condemned for?
The Ten Commandments Reflect Love, Breaking them is Evil Some feel that the ten commandments are a burden. Is that what Jesus, Paul, Peter, James, and John taught?
Was the Commandment to Love the Only Command? Some have stated that John's writings teach this, but is that what the Bible really says?
Perhaps it should be added that it was only the disciples of Simon Magus (warned against in Acts 8) and those that tended to follow the heretic Marcion in the second century that did not teach adherence to the ten commandments.
Certain Protestants, certain Baptists, and others who believe that Christians felt that the ten commandments were somehow done away, simply are proven wrong by the fact that faithful Christians as well as most others who professed Christ in the second century did not teach that. Instead, nearly all understood from the Bible and the teachings and the the practices of the apostles that the ten commandments were to be kept by Christians.
I would issue a challenge to all who profess Christ who believe that the ten commandments were done away by the cross, the writings of the Apostle Paul, or something else in the New Testament to ask themselves why that those who truly understood first and second century Greek did not come to the same conclusion?
Since the Church of Jesus was always to endure, how could it have gone for centuries teaching that Christians were supposed to keep the ten commandments to the teaching that seemed not to appear in many quarters until the seventeenth century or later that the ten commandments were done away?
This is totally illogical and should serve as a wake-up call to those who are misinterpreting scripture as well as ignoring the facts of history.
"Now by this we know we know Him if we keep His commandments. He who says 'I know Him', and does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk just as He walked...These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you" (I John 2:3-6,26). Interestingly, Jesus praised those at Ephesians esus for doing this same thing, "And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars" (Revelation 2:22).
Who are true Christians? Let's see what the last book of the Bible says. "And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Revelation 12:17). "Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus" (Revelation 14:12).
Jesus taught all ten of the commandments, Paul taught all ten of them, and they were all in effect after the crucifixion. Paul specifically taught they were not done away (Romans 3:31), and all of them are mentioned by the other New Testament writers. The opinions that state otherwise seem to be later "traditions of men" which Jesus warned against (Matthew 15:6).
Even the leaders of the early Christian church after the death of the apostles taught all the ten commandments. Those who do not believe that they are to be observed today are clearly ignoring the examples in the New Testament and many of the ecclesiastical writers who wrote in the century or two past the writing of the New Testament.
The last chapter of the Bible states, "Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city" (Revelation 22:14). Therefore, it would not appear wise from a biblical standpoint to teach that the ten commandments are not in effect.
"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man's all" (Eccl 12:13).
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Thiel B., Ph.D. The Ten Commandments and the Early Church. www.cogwriter.com (c) 2006/2007/2008/2012 0303