Are Christians obliged to keep any part of the Old Testament Law (The Law of Moses), including in particular the “Ten Commandments”?.
The simple answer is no.
The OT Laws were part of the Old (Sinai) Covenant and Christians are under the New Covenant.
Moreover the Sinai Covenant given only for the Jews. It was never given for Gentiles.
We can see this clearly in Dt. 5:1-9
1 And Moses summoned all Israel, and said to them, "Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I speak in your hearing this day, and you shall learn them and be careful to do them.
2 The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb.
3 Not with our fathers did the Lord make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive this day.
4 The Lord spoke with you face to face at the mountain, out of the midst of the fire,
5 while I stood between the Lord and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the LORD; for you were afraid because of the fire, and you did not go up into the mountain. He said:
6 "'I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
7 "'You shall have no other gods before me………
22 "These words the Lord spoke to all your assembly at the mountain out of the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice; and he added no more. And he wrote them upon two tables of stone, and gave them to me…….
27 Go near, and hear all that the Lord our God will say; and speak to us all that the Lord our God will speak to you; and we will hear and do it.'
This very clearly shows that the Ten Commandments were given the Israelites at Horeb (Sinai) as part of the Covenant Law.
The Covenant was made between God and the Israelites with Moses as Covenant Mediator.
Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called the uncircumcision by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands-- remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. (Eph 2:12)
Gentiles were strangers to the covenant.
Paul says to the Galatian Gentiles who were Judaising
Tell me, you who desire to be under law, do you not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, the son of the free woman through promise. Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written, "Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and shout, you who are not in travail; for the children of the desolate one are many more than the children of her that is married." Now we, brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now. But what does the scripture say? "Cast out the slave and her son; for the son of the slave shall not inherit with the son of the free woman." So, brethren, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman. (Gal 4:21-31)
He is clear. To go back to Judaism (accepting the Law) is to put yourself back into slavery.
He goes on to warn them:.
You are separated from Christ, you who are trying to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. (Gal 5:4)
The Jews recognise 613 laws within the Law of Moses. For Jews the Law was indivisible.
whoever keeps the whole law, but falls short in one particular, has become guilty in respect to all of it. (Jas 2:10).
“Cursed be everyone who does not persevere in doing all the things written in the book of the law.” (Gal 3:10)
The Law was a mixture of moral, ceremonial and regulatory precepts. For example in Leviticus 19 we have the following (among others)
You shall not steal. You shall not lie or speak falsely to one another. You shall not swear falsely by my name, thus profaning the name of your God. I am the Lord (vs 11-12)
Keep my statutes: do not breed any of your domestic animals with others of a different species; do not sow a field of yours with two different kinds of seed; and do not put on a garment woven with two different kinds of thread (vs 19)
Do not eat meat with the blood still in it. Do not practice divination or soothsaying. Do not clip your hair at the temples, nor trim the edges of your beard (vs 26-27)
Do we observe them all today? The answer is clearly no. But equally we do regard some as binding on us.
These latter are what we consider as moral laws. They bare binding on us because they are binding on all people for all times not because they are in the Ten Commandments
But note that moral laws they are not confined to the Ten Commandments. For example fornication is not one of the Ten Commandments but is clearly condemned in the New Testament (1Cor 6:9)
The Old Testament written law has been replaced by the New Testament law written not in ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets that are hearts of flesh. (2 Cor 3:3).
Firstly let us look at the case for the abolition of the OT Law starting with St. Paul’s letter to the Romans.
Are you unaware, brothers (for I am speaking to people who know the law [i.e. Jews]), that the law has jurisdiction over one as long as one lives? Thus a married woman is bound by law to her living husband; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law in respect to her husband. Consequently, while her husband is alive she will be called an adulteress if she consorts with another man. But if her husband dies she is free from that law, and she is not an adulteress if she consorts with another man.
In the same way, my brothers, you also were put to death to the law through the body of Christ, so that you might belong to another, to the one who was raised from the dead in order that we might bear fruit for God. For when we were in the flesh, our sinful passions, awakened by the law, worked in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, dead to what held us captive, so that we may serve in the newness of the spirit and not under the obsolete letter. (Rom 7:1-6)
We [Jews] are put to death to the Law
We [Jews] are released from the Law
Note particularly that this is particularly relevant because God considered himself “married” to Israel. When Jesus died the Covenant ended and Jesus was free to take a new bride – the Church.
Paul himself declares he is no longer under the Law.
To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews; to those under the law I became as one under the law--though not being myself under the law--that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law [Gentiles] I became as one outside the law--not being without law toward God but under the law of Christ--that I might win those outside the law. (1Cor 9:20-21)
He also makes here a clear distinction between those under the Law (the Jews) and those not under the Law (the Gentiles)
Before faith came, we [Jews] were held in custody under law, confined for the faith that was to be revealed. Consequently, the law was our disciplinarian for Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a disciplinarian. (Gal 3:23-25).
We (Jews) are not under the Law
Paul describes the Jews and Gentiles as separated but then he says:
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, (Eph 2:13-15)
The Law has been abolished.
Col 2 says much the same:
And you, who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, having cancelled the bond which stood against us with its legal demands; this he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Col 2:14)
Does this include the Ten Commandments? Yes, because the Law in indivisible.
For whoever keeps the whole law, but falls short in one particular, has become guilty in respect to all of it. For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not kill.” Even if you do not commit adultery but kill, you have become a transgressor of the law. (Jas 2:10-11)
Moreover there are specific texts that show this:
Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, was so glorious that the Israelites could not look intently at the face of Moses because of its glory that was going to fade, how much more will the ministry of the Spirit be glorious? (2 Cor 3:7-8)
What was carved in letters on stone and therefore described as “the ministry of death”. Answer – the Ten Commandments
The Book of Hebrews makes this replacement of the Old Covenant by the New very clear.
On the one hand, a former commandment is annulled because of its weakness and uselessness, for the law brought nothing to perfection; on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. (Heb 7:18-19)
When there is a change of priesthood, there is necessarily a change of law as well. (Heb 7:12)
For if that first covenant had been faultless, no place would have been sought for a second one. But he finds fault with them and says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will conclude a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. (Heb 8:7-8)
When he speaks of a “new” covenant, he declares the first one obsolete. And what has become obsolete and has grown old is close to disappearing (Heb 8:13).
He takes away the first to establish the second (Heb 10:9)
We are now living under the New Law of the New Covenant. This New Law is written on our hearts. Hebrews 8:8-10 quotes Jeremiah 31:31-33:
Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will conclude a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers the day I took them by the hand to lead them forth from the land of Egypt; for they did not stand by my covenant and I ignored them, says the Lord.
But this is the covenant I will establish with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds and I will write them upon their hearts. I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Taken from Heb)
So what is this New Law? It is the Commandments of Jesus:
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (Jn 14:15)
If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. (Jn 15:10)