What are the Ten Commandments?

This is a magnificent law that the God of this universe wrote in stone with His own finger, and personally spoke with power and majesty as the sound of His voice thundering from the mountain top caused all the people below to stand afar off and tremble in fear. (Exodus 20:18-21) Never before has such an event been recorded in Scripture or history.

Ark of the Covenant with the Ten CommandmentsGod's law was stored on the inside of what the Bible calls the Ark of the Covenant. (Deuteronomy 10:5) On the top of this spectacular golden ark are two cherubim angels with one placed on each side of what was called the mercy seat. Between these two angels and just above the mercy seat is what was known as the Shekinah glory and represented the very presence of God Himself. It is not hard to see how incredibly important this law is to God. For every positive attribute found in scripture that speaks of God's character, you can also find an equivalent verse that applies the same attribute to these ten magnificent laws that define love for God and our love for our neighbour.

As we draw nearer to the closing history of this planet, we find more and more teaching that we do not have to obey the Ten Commandments. The reasons are many and some even contradictory that would alert the wise to the fact that something is amiss. It is very sad that not many today stop to consider that Satan would in fact attack the law of God, since we are told that those who willfully (Hebrews 10:26-29) break God's law without coming to true repentance have any inheritance in the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21, Ephesians 5:3, 5) And the book of James also informs us that we are going to be judged by this magnificent law of love that James calls the perfect law of liberty. Imagine a world without law. Hence the law of God brings freedom. (James 1:25, 2:10-12)

The Ten Commandments as written and spoken by God can be found in Exodus 20:2-17, while a second reading of the law can be found in Deuteronomy 5:6-21. The first reading from the book of Exodus should always be referenced for accuracy as to what God actually wrote and spoke rather than the second reading, as that was written and spoken by Moses, and thus has some minor differences. Deuteronomy literally means the second reading of the law.

The Decalogue to the Jews was a very special spiritual law that their Lord wrote on two tables of stone (luchot) and were handed to Moses by God (Exodus 31:18) upon Mount Sinai who brought them down and eventually placed them on the inside of the Ark of the Covenant. In the original Hebrew text, these laws are called “aseret hadevarim,” which means the “ten utterances” or “ten words.” They are usually referred to in rabbinical writings as “Aseret haDiberot,” while in Christian writings they are also called the Decalogue which comes from the Greek name “dekalogos,” which means the “ten statements.” This is the Greek translation of the Hebrew name in the Septuagint.

Note that there were a lot more than just the Decalogue to the Jews however. There were actually a total of 613 laws that also includes the ten. These 603 laws included the law of sacrifices found in what is known as the Mosaic Law that was so named as it was written by Moses. This included Passover sabbath and the Day of Atonement sabbath and five others. It is these seven sacrificial sabbaths that were written in the Mosaic Law that some confuse with the fourth Commandment that is a special sign that it is God we love and worship, and that it is God that sanctifies us when we keep His Seventh day Holy. One cannot compare the Decalogue in importance with the other 603 laws as most of them are no longer required and had nothing directly to do with love for God or our fellow man. Most were instituted because the law God wrote in stone was transgressed.

The New Testament informs us that the Mosaic Law was nailed to the cross as Jesus replaced this law by becoming the Lamb of God and our one and final perfect sacrifice, and hence why most of those 603 laws have ended. But there is no valid scripture that states that the Ten Commandments have ended and there is no reason why there should be. Paul informs us that the law is Just, Holy and Good (Romans 7:12) and is there to point out to us what sin is. (Romans 7:7)

Here are some other significant differences between these laws. The Mosaic Law was written on perishable paper (parchment) by Moses in a book (Deuteronomy 31:24) and stored in a pocket on the outside of the Ark (Deuteronomy 31:26) to be a witness against the people, while the Decalogue was written by the finger of God (Exodus 31:18) on two tables of unchangeable and everlasting stone (Deuteronomy 4:12-13), which were stored on the inside (Deuteronomy 10:5) of the Ark.

So these are two entirely separate laws that had different purposes, were written by different entities, stored in different locations and were written on different media, despite some who would try and tell you that they are the same law just to avoid one or more Commandments of God.

What God wrote in stone is a reflection of His very own character and is sin to break, while what Moses wrote in a book had the requirements of what was to be carried out when God's law was broken before the cross. It typically involved taking an unblemished animal to the temple priest where it was slain. It was the sacrifice of this animal that pointed forward to the sacrifice of Christ that redeemed them from the consequences of sin (Romans 6:23), which is death. 1 John 3:4 informs us that sin is the transgression of God's law and so if there is no law then there can also be no sin. Romans 4:15 also confirms stating where there is no law, there is no transgression (sin). If we still have sin in the world then we also have to a law that shows us what sin is. (Romans 7:7)

Besides the confusion between laws, another common misunderstanding is that being saved by grace means one does not have to obey the law. However, the grace of God is His unmerited and undeserved favour that we receive after coming to true repentance for sinning, which as seen earlier is breaking His law. Hence if there was no law, then we would not need God's grace. So what did Paul mean in Romans 6:14? Was Paul saying that being under grace means one can continue in sin by breaking God's law? Paul's response in Romans 6:15 answers the question well that should require no further clarification. His response to continuing in sin because we are under grace is, “God forbid!” And in Romans 6:16, which is the next verse, Paul reveals that we have two choices. One is to continue breaking the law which he says is to “sin unto death,” and the second is to obey the law of God which is “obedience unto righteousness.” An easy choice I believe.

If you were pulled over by a policeman for speeding because you were in a hurry due to an emergency. And after giving your explanation to the officer he tears up the ticket and says, “Today you are going to receive my grace and I am going to pardon your offence.” Does his grace mean you can break the law again by continuing on your way speeding again? To the contrary, you would continue your journey being extremely cautious not to speed and break the law again. Christians need to learn how to give the same respect to God and His grace.

Another common misunderstanding is Romans 3:28 where Paul says we are justified by faith without the works of the law. We need only read through to the conclusion of this passage to find out if that means that the law is made void. Paul asks, “Is the law made void through faith?" His answer once again is, “God forbid! We establish (uphold) the law.” (Romans 3:31) What Paul was trying to say is that we would be lost if we were relying on keeping the law to be saved as we would have to keep it perfectly to do so, which only Christ could do. So instead we are saved by faith in the redeeming sacrifice of Christ. When we inadvertently sin, we repent and confess our sin and believe by faithThe Ten Commandments of Jesus that we are forgiven, and then we receive God's grace being His unmerited and undeserved mercy.

1 John 3:4 says, “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

This verse defines that sin as the "breaking of God's law". So if the law is abolished, then so is sin and if sin is abolished, then we have no need for a Saviour. So we know Christ died on the cross to save us from our sins, which is transgression of God's law. Thus if it was possible to do away with the Ten Commandments, then Christ need not have died.

We find in John 14:15, Jesus quotes from the second of the Ten Commandments and pleads with us saying, “If you love Me, keep My Commandments.

And in John 15:10 He says, “If you keep my Commandments, you shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's Commandments, and abide in his love.

Our love for God and others is worthless in salvation and practice if it is not from our heart. The reason we keep the law is because we do genuinely love God and others. If it grieves you keep the law, it would be works and that will never get you into the kingdom. 1 John 5:3 “For this is the love of God, that we keep his Commandments: and his Commandments are not grievous.

Do you know our Lord and Saviour? 1 John 2:4, “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his Commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

There are many misunderstandings our adversary has perpetuated to deceive us so please read what are the Ten Commandments for very detailed information on this topic.

List of the Ten Commandments - Page 2