I know that it can be overwhelming trying to look at the Ten Commandments as terms of our covenant with God and the Law as the details of those terms. I’ve talked with plenty people who have asked, “Why do we even care about the Old Testament? Didn’t Jesus change all that? Aren’t we in a New Covenant now?” My answer is simple: “Yes and No.” You see, Jesus did begin a New Covenant, but he did not throw out everything from the Old. Look at this passage as an example.
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-20 NIV)
These were Jesus’ own words. The initiator of the New Covenant made it clear that the Law and the Prophets would not pass away “until everything is accomplished.” Some things, we know, are already accomplished. Jesus died, was buried, arose, and ascended into heaven. The animal sacrifices are no longer necessary because Jesus is the final sacrifice: the purse spotless lamb. We don’t stone people to death because he who is without sin must cast the first stone. Yet all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. We also remember, though, that the woman caught in adultery was still told, “Go and sin no more.”
Right and wrong still exist. The Terms of the Covenant still apply. We may be able to eat more variety of food today because of changes in God’s instructions, but murder is still wrong. Adultery still hurts people. Stealing is still sin. There is a way to live where we are walking together with God and there are still many ways that we walk away from God. The Law, then and now, shows us the difference. When we find ourselves doing what God’s Law says not to do, our response is supposed to be simple: Have the humility to turn around (repent) and obey.
So, how about you? Do you see how the Old Covenant, the Law, and the Prophets fits together with the New? Do you see what it looks like to walk together with God?