Must We Keep the Commandments?

Randall Ricker

Are we required to keep the Ten Commandments? The Ten Commandments are listed in two places in the Old Testament of the Bible: Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21. Most people would agree that we should not have any other gods before the true God. Many, but not all, would say that we should not bow down to an image. Most would say we should not take the name of God in vain. Some would say we should keep one day of the week holy, but there would be disagreement on which day and how holy to keep it. Almost everyone would honor their father and their mother. Most would not murder, and most would say we should not commit adultery, steal, lie, or covet. The criminal laws of several countries are based to some extent on the Ten Commandments. Yet there is disagreement on whether or not we are required to keep these laws.

Many believe that the New Testament does not require us to keep the Ten Commandments, so we will limit our proof to New Testament scriptures.


Read Matthew 4:4. “Every word” of God includes the Ten Commandments, and we are to live by every word. Read Matthew 19:16-17 where Jesus Christ tells us to keep the commandments. In verses 18 and 19 He names some of the commandments to make it obvious which commandments He is discussing. John 14:15 is a straight-forward statement that needs no elaboration.


Read I John 2:3-4. These are strong words about anyone who does not keep God’s commandments. I John 3:22 states that keeping God’s commandments is one of the conditions for answered prayer.

I John 3:4 is the Bible definition of sin. In the King James Version it reads, “Sin is the transgression of the law,” meaning that breaking the Ten Commandments is sin.


Some have said that the Apostle Paul taught that the law has been nullified and that Colossians 2:14 means that the law has been nailed to the cross. In the New King James Version of the Bible, a column reference translates “the handwriting of requirements” as “the certificate of debt with its requirements.” This is the debt or penalty for our sins. Christ nailed the penalty for our sins to the cross; He did not nail the law to the cross. In Romans 6:1 Paul asks whether we should continue in sin. He answers his own question in verse 2 by saying, “Certainly not!” Remember, we have just defined sin as the transgression of the law.


Matthew chapter 5 begins the Sermon on the Mount. Christ starts with the Beatitudes, and then in verse 17 He says that He did not come to destroy the law but to fulfill. Read verses 18 and 19. We are not only to avoid breaking the commandments, but we are to do and teach them. Christ gave the spiritual intent of the law in verses 21 and 22 and verses 27 and 28. He taught that besides keeping the commandment against murder in the letter of the law, we must not be angry without cause or look down on people. Besides not physically committing adultery, we must not even lust after a person. This would also be breaking the commandment. Christ did not do away with the Ten Commandments; rather, He “raised the bar” by explaining that we must not only keep them in the letter but also in the intent.


Read Hebrews 8:8-10 about the new covenant. God was “finding fault with them,” meaning the Israelites. There was nothing wrong with the law; the Israelites failed to obey the law. These verses in Hebrews are quoted from the Old Testament in Jeremiah 31. The laws in verse 10 are the Ten Commandments on which the old covenant was based, and the new covenant is based on these same laws. These laws are to be written on our minds, which means we are to learn them. The laws are to be written on our hearts, which means we should want to obey them.

We have studied numerous scriptures that prove we must keep the Ten Commandments, but that does not mean we earn our salvation. Christ paid the penalty for our sins, as we’ll discuss that in another study.