By Keith Sharp
For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled.
“All a man really has to do to be saved is keep the Ten Commandments.” This was the reply a man once made when I inquired, “Do you know what to do to be saved?” His attitude is common. He, as others, makes a distinction between “ceremonial” law of the Old Testament and “moral” law. He contends that the ceremonial portion of the Old Covenant was removed as law, but the moral part, meaning the Ten Commandments, was retained.,In proof of this contention, people cite Matthew 5:18:
Does this verse teach that the Ten Commandments are still our law?
According to the Lord in Matthew 5:18, “one jot or one tittle” would not pass from the law until the designated time. The “jot” was the Hebrew letter “yodh,” comparable to the Greek “iota.” Made like an apostrophe, it was the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet. A “tittle” was the tiny mark on some Hebrew letters which distinguished them from others. It was similar to the dot of an “i” or cross of a “t.” Jesus was not merely speaking of the Ten Commandments. He was speaking of all the law of Moses, down to the smallest letter and tiniest mark. If this means the law is still in effect, we are duty bound to keep all the law, including the smallest details of animal sacrifice, burning of incense, priestly garments, etc. One cannot simply choose the part of the law he wishes to keep and let the other go. If you keep any of the law of Moses, you are obligated to keep it all (Gal. 5:3). If you violate any part of the law, moral or ceremonial, you have violated the entire law (Jas. 2:10). Thus, since the verse proves too much for those who advocate keeping the Ten Commandments as law, it proves nothing for their position.
In reality, the Old Testament, including the Ten Commandments, has been abolished as a law. In Rom. 7:1-7 Paul declares Christians “are become dead” to “the law” which demanded, “Thou shaft not covet.” But this was one of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:17). Thus, the Ten Commandments are a part of the law to which we are dead.
Does this mean we are free to covet? No, for Christ said, “beware of covetousness” (Lk. 12:15). How can this be? The laws of Mexico forbid murder. But I am not under the laws of Mexico. Am I therefore free to murder? No, for the law of the State of Texas, under which I am judged, also forbids murder. The law of Moses forbids covetousness. I am not under the law, but I am not free to covet, for the law of Christ, by which I shall be judged (Jn. 12:48), also forbids covetousness. And so it is for all the ten commandments save the Sabbath law.
But, did Christ not say the law was to continue “Till heaven and earth pass away”? No, he added another stipulation. He also said, “till all be fulfilled.” Suppose a worker on strike were to threaten, “Till heaven and earth pass away, I will not go back to work, till I receive a pay raise.” Would you think the man was vowing never to return to work? No, he simply would be declaring he would never return to the job until a condition was met-a pay raise. Even so, Christ revealed that the law would never pass away until a condition was met-“till all be fulfilled.” If the employee received his wage increase, he would return to work. That is the necessary implication of his statement. If all were fulfilled, the law would pass away. This is the necessary implication of the Master’s statement.
Has all been fulfilled? Yes, this was Jesus’ express purpose toward the law (Matt. 5:17). The law, including the Ten Commandments, having fulfilled its purpose by bringing us to Christ, has been abrogated as a law by His death on the Cross (Gal. 3:19-25; Col. 2:14-17). Do not sacrifice your freedom in Christ by returning to the bondage of the law.
Truth Magazine XXI: 46, pp. 726-727
November 24, 1977