JESUS CHRIST said: "... If you will enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matt. 19:17). So there would be no question about which law He was referring to, Jesus proceeded to enumerate five of the Ten Commandments (verses 18, 19).
Among Jesus' final words in the New Testament (recorded in the last chapter of the book of Revelation), He said: "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life..." (Rev. 22:14).
Jesus' words are plain enough, but somewhere along the line most professing Christians have missed the point. To many, the very mention of the Ten Commandments conjures up something harsh and repressive. Perhaps it is best summarized by the lyrics from one well-known hymn: "Free from the law, oh, happy condition .... " A common teaching of today is that Christ died to "free us" from the law given by the harsh God of the Old Testament. Some even refer to it as "bondage" — a sort of moral straitjacket with which an unyielding God seeks to restrain mortals from everything that makes life enjoyable.
But is this true? Is God's law a burden? Is it against your best interests? Is the law bad, wrong, evil? Was the law given to oppress and enslave? Is it wrong to keep the law today?
God's Word long ago predicted that men would call those things which are evil good and that which is good evil. "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness.... they have cast away the law of the Lord of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel" (Isa. 5:20, 24).
True to form, men today have things exactly backwards. They claim the law is a burden, a curse, and should not be kept today. But Paul was inspired to write: "Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and GOOD" (Rom. 7:12). What law? The law that says "Thou shalt not covet" (verse 7). And it is this law that Paul calls "spiritual" (verse 14) — and spiritual things are eternal!
Now, according to the Bible, what is it that places people in "bondage"? There are a number of clear and unmistakable scriptures that reveal the answer — and • again the truth is the exact opposite of what most people have assumed.
In II Peter chapter 2 an amazing prophecy is found concerning what would be taught in the world today. Peter wrote that false teachers would arise, propounding "freedom from the law." In the context notice that these men are those who "cannot cease from sin" (verse 14). (I John 3:4 gives the definition of sin: "the transgression of the law.") They have transgressed God's laws and have "forsaken the right way" of life that God reveals (verse 15). Further, they have turned from "the holy commandment delivered unto them" (verse 21).
In verse 19 Peter writes: "While they promise them liberty [freedom from the supposed bondage of God's law], they themselves are the servants [slaves] of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in BONDAGE."
Did you notice who are the ones in bondage? Those who have rejected the law and have become the "servants of corruption." These men promise freedom, but in reality they have rejected true freedom — they become slaves to, they are overcome by, their own sins!
The Apostle Paul wrote: "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin [remember the definition of sin? — I John 3:4] unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?" (Rom. 6:16.) If you serve sin, you become a slave to sin!
Far from being bondage, James calls God's spiritual law "the PERFECT law of LIBERTY" (James 1:25).
David wrote: "So shall I keep thy law continually for ever and ever. And I will walk AT LIBERTY: for I seek thy precepts" (Ps. 119:44, 45).
Clearly, it is sin — breaking God's perfect law of liberty — that enslaves and oppresses.
Rejection of God's spiritual law is the sum total of what is wrong in the world today. The misery, suffering, heartache and wretchedness that you see around you is the direct result of sin — the result of man seeking his own way — the way that seems right, yet ends in death (Prov. 16:25). The entire world is mired in oppressive bondage because it has rejected those spiritual laws that were given for man's good!
What did Jesus Christ teach on this subject? What is the "bondage" that Christ came to free us from? Does Jesus' teaching agree with the scriptures that we have already read?
Turn to John the eighth chapter. In verses 31 and 32 Jesus said: "IF ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you FREE."
Free? Free from what? This is the same question the people asked Jesus. "They answered him, We ... were never in BONDAGE to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?" (Verse 33.)
Notice the reply in the next verse. "Jesus answered them... Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin."
Of course! Isn't that exactly what Peter and Paul said? The "bondage" Jesus came to free us from was sin — the misery and servitude that results from the transgression of God's law.
Jesus said that if we would continue in His word we would become free. Now exactly what is Jesus' word or teaching that will make us free?
In John 15:10 Christ said that He kept the commandments. In the same verse He instructs His true followers — those who call themselves "Christians" — to do the same. Why? Certainly not because the law is oppressive or burdensome in any way. Jesus said in verse 11: "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full."
Christ said: "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets...." Instead of abolishing God's law because it was "bondage," He came to magnify the law in its spiritual intent (Isa. 42:21; Matt. 5:17-28). He lived a life free from sin as an example for us — "that ye should follow his steps" (I Peter 2:21, 22).
Does it make any sense that Christ would abolish a perfect, eternal spiritual law that was given for man's good and joy? Jesus knew that obedience to the Ten Commandments was the way to freedom from sin — the way that leads to a truly abundant life, happiness and blessings.
That law is merely love, and love is an outgoing concern, not an incoming lust. It's the way of love. It's the way that love should be expressed — love toward God and love toward neighbor.
The Prophet Isaiah wrote of the commission Jesus Christ would fulfill: "... To preach good tidings to the meek... to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound" (Isa. 61:1; see also Luke 4:18).
Jesus Christ is soon going to return to this earth as King of kings and Lord of lords to release all mankind from the bondage and slavery of sin. How will He begin liberating mankind? By reeducating the world and restoring the knowledge of God's perfect laws! "He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law" (Isa. 42:4).
What will be the result when the law is restored? "To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house" (verse 7). This is figuratively referring to "prisoners" of sin who will be freed. The light of God's truth will shine upon this darkened world, and those who have been spiritually blinded will have the knowledge of God's ways clearly revealed to them (Isa. 60:1-3; 11:8; 42:16).
This present world is in the snare of the devil, taken captive by him to do his will (II Tim. 2:26). At Christ's coming Satan will be bound so that he cannot deceive the nations. The spiritual blindness that covers all nations will then be removed (Isa. 25:7). Spiritual ignorance and superstition will be replaced by the true knowledge of the true God. The Utopian paradise that mankind has always longed for will finally be ushered in when the nations begin obeying God's truth, His laws and His ways that bring prosperity, blessings and peace.
Surprising to many, the God who gave the Ten Commandments to ancient Israel is the same Being who became Jesus Christ of the New Testament. (This important truth is thoroughly explained in our free reprint "Who - What - Was Jesus Christ Before His Human Birth?")
The Israelites who heard the Ten Commandments thundered from Mt. Sinai were being reminded of a great spiritual law that had been in force since creation. (Though there is not room to explain here, this is proved in our free article "Were the Ten Commandments in Force Before Moses?")
But what was Christ's motive in giving this law to Israel? Was it a law that He would later need to come to free us from?
In the fifth chapter of the book of Deuteronomy, the Ten Commandments are listed. In the same chapter, Moses exhorts the people: "You shall walk in all the ways [including the Ten Commandments which he had just recited] which the Lord your God has commanded you...." Why was it so important that they keep God's commands? Was the law given to man by a harsh God of the Old Testament to be a cruel yoke of bondage? Notice: "... That ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess" (verse 33).
In the next chapter we find the same reason repeated: "And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, FOR OUR GOOD ALWAYS, that he might preserve us alive..." (Deut. 6:24).
The law was given for man's good, for his well-being and so that he could live a long and prosperous life. The Bible actually reveals a way of life based upon a spiritual law that is as moving, as active, as real as the law of gravity. When you break that spiritual law it exacts penalties. When the law is obeyed, it is the way that leads to peace, happiness, success — the way that guarantees automatic blessings!
This theme is so important that God repeats it over and over — especially in the book of Deuteronomy (see Deut. 4:1, 40; 6:1-3; 10:12, 13; 32:46, 47). Notice the promise that is attached to the fifth commandment: "Honor thy father and thy mother, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee..." (Deut. 5:16).
Do you desire for yourself the greatest happiness and the most abundant life possible? Certainly, we all do. Solomon wrote, "Righteousness tendeth to life" and "In the way of righteousness is life" (Prov. 11:19; 12:28). What is the "way of righteousness"? In Psalm 119:172 "righteousness" is defined as the keeping of God's commandments.
The way of life revealed in God's Word — summarized by the Ten Commandments — leads to long life, length of days and every good thing that people want (Ps. 34:12-14; Provo 3:1, 2).
The promises and blessings for keeping God's living laws still apply to all nations and individuals who will obey today. They include understanding and wisdom (Ps. 111:10; 19:7-11), mental health and peace of mind (Ps. 119:165), safety and security from enemies (Ex. 23:22; Lev. 25:18, 19; 26:6-8; Deut. 28:7), agricultural prosperity (Deut. 7:11-14; 28:8-12; Lev. 26:3-5; Isa. 1:19), happy family life (Ps. 128), healthy children (Deut. 28:4), freedom from sickness and disease (Ex. 15:26; Deut. 7:11,15), to name just a few.
Aren't these the things that you want? Can you imagine a world where all people enjoyed all these blessings? God wants to pour out His richest blessings — but it is sin — the transgression of God's law — that withholds good things from us! (Jer. 5:25.)
In His Word, God sets before us the way to life, good and blessings — as well as warning us about the way that leads to death, evil and cursings (Deut. 30:15, 19; 11:26-28). The way to life is obeying God's commandments; the way to curses and everything that will harm you is disobedience. You can read about all these curses (as well as the blessings) in Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26.
God wants each person to make the decision that will be to his good and happiness. He says, "Choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live... for he is thy life, and the length of thy days" (Deut.30:19,20).
God commands to choose life — He gave His law so that man would know the way to life — but He allows each individual the freedom to make his own decision. He says to "choose."
You want happiness. You want to be happy above all things. Everyone does. You want to lead a life that is comfortable, pleasing and pleasant. You would like to lead a life that is full and abundant and interesting — as a matter of fact, a little bit exciting all the way along — wouldn't you? And you want a life where everything is pleasant, where there are no pains or suffering.
You don't want a life of boredom. You don't want a life of sorrow, pain or suffering. You want a happy life, and you would love to feel well, jolly and joyful — happy all the time.
You could have a life like that. Everyone could.
This entire world could be like that — if we only understood the way!
God Almighty in His great love for humanity set a law in motion. That law was designed to produce just that kind of life for you.
The Apostle Paul tells us what sin is in Romans 7:7: "What shall we say then? Is the law sin?" People think that the law is all wrong, that it's sin. Paul continues, "God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law." In other words, by the law is the knowledge of sin, as Paul had said previously in Romans 3:20.
The law gives you the knowledge of what sin is. It directs and guides you as to what you ought to do.
Is God's law bondage? The Apostle John answers: "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments ARE NOT GRIEVOUS" (I John 5:3).
Perhaps the answer appears to be too simple. It doesn't require a conclave of religious leaders, exegesis of Hebrew and Greek scholars, or the opinions of doctors of divinity. The answer has been there all along. Anyone can read the numerous scriptures on this subject in his own Bible.
The Creator of mankind says HE has revealed the way that is GOOD (Micah 6:8). He has not left man without this important revelation. He says: "I am the Lord thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way thou shouldest go." God's ways were given for our profit and benefit. They are the ways that lead to the greatest satisfaction and happiness, the way of life that is best for you. Continuing in the same passage, God says in the first person: "O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! Then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea..." (Isa. 48:17, 18). Man has rejected God's perfect law — and that is why there is so little peace, so little good, in the world today.
But you as an individual can begin experiencing the rewards of obedience. Request our free, fully illustrated booklet The Ten Commandments. It goes into detail, expounding each point of God's living law, showing how it is applicable to your everyday life. Let the truth make you free!