No, we don’t know that we are cursed when we keep the Ten Commandments, including the Sabbath. But we do know that humans are cursed if they don’t keep them (compare Matthew 25:41, 46).
To fully understand this serious question, which might very well determine one’s eternal life or death (compare Revelation 21:8; 22:15), we must fully realize what the Bible means with the “law of Moses”; what the apostle Paul taught; and what the Church decided in Acts 15.
We have thoroughly discussed and answered these and many other related questions in our free booklet, “And Lawlessness Will Abound….”
We want to quote, to begin with, from pages pages 15-16 of our booklet, to explain what Paul meant with his statement in Galatians 3:10-13. Did Paul say that we are cursed when we keep the Ten Commandments? In addition, did the Church decide in Acts 15 that Christians don’t have to keep the Ten Commandments and can still be saved?
“With that background, we should be able to better understand what Paul is telling us in Galatians 3:10-13, where he speaks about the ‘works of the law.’ In reading this passage, remember to consider the context to see what specific law this passage has reference to. Beginning in verse 10, ‘For as many as are of the works of the law [including the sacrificial and ritual works that had to be performed] are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them [i.e., the rituals and sacrifices] shall live by them [that is, God did not kill them as long as they lived within the sacrificial system.].” Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”).’
“Anyone who did not continue in everything, which was written in the Book of the Law, including the regulations pertaining to washings, rituals and sacrifices, was cursed. Although the Book of the Law included, of course, the Ten Commandments and its spiritual statutes and judgments, it also included the physical works of the law, that is, the sacrificial system, as well as the death penalties for the violations of God’s law.
“Paul’s statement, then, that the law was added because of transgression (Galatians 3:19), refers to that part of the law or laws in the Book of the Law which have to do with sacrifices and other rituals, as well as the curses or penalties for violating God’s spiritual law.”
We might want to explain here (as is being done in our booklet at another place) that the “law,” mentioned in Galatians 3:19, was ADDED “four hundred and thirty years” after God’s covenant with Abraham (compare verse 17). It was added because of transgression (verse 19). The Bible teaches that SIN is the transgression of the LAW (1 John 3:4, Authorized Version). Because the people had sinned by transgressing the LAW of the Ten Commandments, as well as those statutes and judgments which embellish those righteous commandments, ANOTHER “law” was ADDED — the temporary law dealing with sacrifices and other rituals.
To continue with our quote from page 16 of our booklet:
“We need to keep firmly in mind that ‘the Book of the Law of Moses,’ sometimes referred to as ‘the law of Moses,’ included all kinds of laws. We must therefore be careful not to draw hasty conclusions when we read about the Book of the Law in the New Testament. Again, we always need to analyze in context, which particular and specific laws the author is talking about.
“For instance, we read in Acts 15:5, ‘But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them [Gentiles who became Christians], and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”‘
“The context of the discussion shows us that they were not arguing about the Ten Commandments — including the Sabbath — but whether circumcision and other rituals contained in the Law of Moses were mandatory for Gentile Christians. Now, notice, how this question was decided in the first ministerial conference in Jerusalem. Notice that it is James who is saying these words — the same apostle who later talked about the Ten Commandments as a package [compare James 2:8-13], saying that we are guilty of violating them all if we break even one of the Ten: ‘”Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood”‘ (Acts 15:19-20; compare also Acts 15:28-29).
“James was not talking about the Ten Commandments. But, why does James specifically mention that the Gentiles must abstain from idols, sexual immorality, strangled meat and blood? These four aspects in the Law of Moses were mentioned here in connection with rituals and sacrifices (Leviticus 17:7, 10). Gentiles would often times drink blood with their sacrifices, or they would eat their sacrifices with the blood still in the meat (as happens when animals are strangled), or they would commit fornication with temple prostitutes. So that there would be no misunderstanding, the apostles and elders clarified to the Gentiles that those laws, although mentioned in the context of the sacrificial system, were still valid and binding on them.”
Some claim that God abolished the entire “law of Moses” with all of its commandments, statutes, judgments and regulations. They fail to realize that the “law of Moses” or the “Book of the Law” included both temporary ritualistic statutes and timeless spiritual commandments. They are ignorant of the fact that not the ENTIRE “Law of Moses” was abolished. They don’t understand what the Bible means when it talks about “law.” Neither do they grasp the difference between law and covenant, falsely teaching that they are identical, and that the Ten Commandments were abolished when the “Old Covenant” was revoked. (For a thorough discussion regarding that false teaching, read page 21 and the following pages of our free booklet, “And Lawlessness Will Abound….”) This Biblical ignorance has created a lot of harm, and those false teachers have deceived many who have followed their destructive heresies. However, God makes it clear that they will have to give account for their wrong example, as they live in sin and have induced others to sin likewise.
Let us briefly review the question whether the apostle Paul taught that we don’t have to keep the Ten Commandments any longer. A careful study shows that this was not the case, and that Paul was not even ACCUSED by his enemies of teaching this.
We are quoting from our free booklet, “And Lawlessness Will Abound…,” pages 12-13:
“We read in Acts 21:18-24, ‘On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. When he had greeted them, he told in detail those things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law; but they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs. What then? The assembly must certainly meet, for they will hear that you have come. Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow. Take them and be purified with them, pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads, and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the law.'”
“What ‘law’ is this passage talking about? The law of the Ten Commandments? Note that the specific context is circumcision, purification, and other rituals in connection with the making of a vow. Consider also what Paul actually did do when following the ‘customs’ of the Jews: ‘Then Paul took the men, and the next day, having been purified with them, entered the temple to announce the expiration of the days of purification, at which time an offering should be made for each one of them’ (verse 26).
“The reference to the ‘law’ or the ‘customs’ is solely in regard to that portion in the writings of Moses that dealt with sacrifices, washings and rituals — in other words, the ‘law that was added,’ and not the Ten Commandments at all [nor does it refer to the statutes and judgments which embellish the Ten Commandments].
“We might add here that it was of course not sinful for Paul to participate in these customs, although they were no longer required. Paul said that he became a Jew to the Jews in order to win some (1 Corinthians 9:20). And, although he had made it clear that circumcision was no longer required [see the detailed discussion later in this booklet], he still circumcised Timothy, for the Jews’ sake, in order not to place a stumbling block before them (Acts 16:1-3).”
When we refuse to keep the Ten Commandments, we sin. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) — eternal death — and we WILL suffer eternal death, unless we REPENT of our sins and begin to WALK in the way of righteousness (compare Psalm 119:172).
Christ warns and rebukes all of those who teach that the Ten Commandments are done away with. This is not a light matter in the eyes of God. He says in Matthew 5:19: “‘Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and TEACHES men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and TEACHES them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.'”
We should be able to see the tremendous responsibility of the “teachers of the Law” to teach man the ongoing validity of God’s Ten Commandments — including the Sabbath commandment. If they fail to do so, they will not be held guiltless by God. On the other hand, if we want to be a part of the “people of God,” we WILL keep the Sabbath, because we read in Hebrews 4:9: “It is therefore the duty of the people of God to keep the sabbath” (Lamsa translation). God, knowing that some would attempt to change this command, wrote the commandment in a unique way: “REMEMBER the Sabbath day, to KEEP it holy” (Exodus 20:8).