The Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments are the laws in the Old Testament that God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai, shortly after the Exodus from Egypt, for the nation of Israel to follow.

The Ten Commandments are a summary of the 613 commandments contained in the Old Testament Law.

The first three commandments pertain to our relationship with God. The last seven commandments pertain to our relationships with one another.

You can read them in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21.

In the early days of the church, John’s gospel tells us that people were trying to change the meaning of Christ’s teaching, saying that the ten commandments and other Old Testament laws no longer applied.

But Jesus said himself in the Sermon on the Mount;

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and, earth pass away, not one letter,[a] not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.

Matthew 5:17-18

Jesus made it clear that the Law and the Prophets and God’s instructions and judgments regarding right and wrong, good and evil would remain in place.

In his great sermon, he made it clear that the Law and the Prophets were even more important than ever—that they were filled with more depth and meaning than even the Pharisees understood.

Today, many people look at the Ten Commandments as a set of rules that, if followed, will guarantee acceptance into heaven after death.


However, the purpose of the Ten Commandments is to push people into realising that it is impossible for mere mortals to obey the Law absolutely and completely and are therefore in need of God’s mercy and grace. King Solomon in Ecclesiastes acknowledged this saying; Surely there is no one on earth so righteous as to do good without ever sinning. Eccles 7:20 

The Ten Commandments allow us to see where we are now or have sinned in the past. St Paul wrote to the Romans that all have fallen short of the Law, but because of Jesus, we can be forgiven by God’s grace, Rom 3:23.

This does not mean that we do not need to endeavour to do our best regarding the commandments. Rather, if we try our best and fail, God’s mercy will wipe the slate clean.

Would you like to wipe your slate clean? We can all do this today (and every day) by confessing our sins to God and starting a new way of life in the way that Jesus taught, and by turning away from what we know is un-Christlike behaviour.

It is a gradual process that starts with the first step and lasts a lifetime; I have found it to be a journey well worth starting.

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