“If the Ten Commandments were a ‘ministration of death,’ as the New Testament affirms (see 2 Cor. 3:7), why are so many people clamoring for these commandments to be posted in public places all over the country?”
There are several issues in connection with this question that require some attention.
- The Ten Commandments were given by God to the Israelite people following their exodus from Egyptian bondage. These laws embodied both religious and moral obligations. There was nothing intrinsically evil about the Decalogue. It’s weakness lay in the fact that it possessed no permanent remedy for those who broke the commandments, hence, who were deserving of death. The Mosaic regime had only the “blood of bulls and goats,” which, in an ultimate sense, could never take away sins (Heb. 10:1,4).
- These commandments really were merely the core of the larger body of legal regulations of the entire Mosaic system. They were never intended to be the Law as a whole. To separate the “moral” law from the “ceremonial” law, as modern Sabbatarians have attempted to do, is both arbitrary and artificial. Why is it that Seventh-day Adventists contend that only the Ten Commandments remain an obligation today, and yet oppose the consumption of pork — which has nothing to do with the Decalogue?
- The death penalty was attached to each of the Ten Commandments (see Num. 15:32ff). If the Commandments are binding yet, where are the penalties, e.g., death for breaking the Sabbath?
- The Scriptures clearly teach that the Law of Moses, including the Ten Commandments, was abrogated by the death of Christ (Rom. 7:4,6-7; Eph. 2:15; 2 Cor. 3:3ff). The most cursory examination of the books of Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews reveals the preparatory, thus temporal, nature of the covenant that came through Moses (cf. Gal. 3:24-25).
- The fact that today’s world is not bound by the Ten Commandments does not imply that man is free to practice idolatry, steal, murder, etc. The law of Christ (cf. Isa. 2:3; Jer. 31:33; 1 Cor. 9:21; Gal. 6:2; 2 Pet. 2:21) has both religious and moral restrictions that circumscribe human conduct.
Does anyone who migrates from England to New York imagine that he is free to commit murder simply because he has become a citizen of the United States, and thus is subject no longer to the “crown”? One law may supercede another, or, in principle, overlap many of the same functions.
Having made these points, we must observe this. Those who wish to see the Ten Commandments posted on courthouses or in other public places, etc., do so because they are alarmed at the accelerating rate of crime and immorality in the nation. They believe that the visible presence of these laws will serve as a reminder of the obligation every person has to the Creator. It reflects a sincere effort to restore some sense of moral sanity to the nation.
Most people have little concept of the differences between the Old Testament religious scheme, and that which is obligatory today — namely the reign of Christ through New Testament law. But the Christian should know better. And he has more valuable things to do with his time and resources than to get on a “band-wagon” to have the Ten Commandments posted publicly — as well-motivated as the underlying goal may be.