What Are The Ten Commandments?

Bible Study Lesson 5.11

What are the Ten Commandments? Bible Verses:
Moses called to all Israel, and said to them, Hear, Israel, the statutes and the ordinances (aka the 10 Commandments) which I speak in your ears this day, that you may learn them, and observe to do them. The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The Lord did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all here alive this day. The Lord spoke with you face to face on the mountain out of the midst of the fire, saying, "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage." Deuteronomy 5:1-6 NHEB.

Previous Bible study lesson: 10th Commandment #5.10.

Preliminary Bible Study Questions:
1) The 10 Commandments were part of what Covenant?
2) Why did God give Moses and the Hebrews the Ten Commandments?
3) What is the Old Covenant?

God's Law is a huge topic with many questions about its current application to the Christian church and to your personal life.

There is little agreement between theologians about the validity and use of the 10 Commandments in Christianity.

This study seeks to reveal the true origin of these commands and what Jesus and his apostles taught about God's Law.

The results may startle you, challenge your theology, and even open up an entire new way of understanding Jesus and the new covenant.

After a tremendous amount of research, biblical study, and prayer, I believe the best way to study the Ten Commandments is in the contexts of the Old Covenant and New Covenant.

Always keep in mind, while working through these critical 10 Commandments' studies, that we're to refrain from, "getting involved in foolish discussions about spiritual pedigrees or in quarrels and fights about obedience to Jewish Laws. These things are useless and a waste of time" (Titus 3:9).

What Are The Ten Commandments? Intro

God approached certain men in the Old Testament times with covenants. A biblical redemptive covenant is an agreement, i.e. contract, between God and another person or nation. God initiates the covenant and the recipients are expected to abide by the terms of the covenant.

Adam received the covenant of works in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15-17); Noah received a covenant (Genesis 9:9,11,13,16); Abraham was offered a covenant (Genesis 12:1-3; 15:8; 17:2); Moses and Israel were also tendered a covenant (Exodus 19:3-25; 20:1-17; 24:1-12); and finally, King David was given a covenant (2 Samuel 7:12; 22:51). We'll discuss God's final covenant with mankind, aka New Covenant, as we progress through the study.

What are the Ten Commandments? They were part of the stipulations by which the Hebrew people were bound to the Mosaic Covenant.

The Old Covenant between God and his chosen nation is summarized here, "Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, 'This is what you shall tell the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: 'You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings, and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice, and keep my covenant, then you shall be my own possession from among all peoples; for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.' These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel." Exodus 19:3-6 NHEB.

The Lord then spoke and later wrote the 10 Commandments, which are also called the Decalogue, or the Ten Words (Exodus 20:1-21).

What Are The Ten Commandments? List

The first four commandments address the way in which the Hebrew people were to relate to the Lord.

God spoke all these words, saying, "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourselves an idol... for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God... You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain... Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy" (Exodus 20:1-8 NHEB).

Much like Noah's rainbow (Genesis 9:12-13) the fourth commandment's, "remember the Sabbath Day," is a sign of the old covenant between God and the Hebrew nation (Exodus 31:13-17); and also a day of remembering God's powerful hand in creation and the exodus from Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:15). 

The final six commandments are the moral laws instructing the Hebrews on their interpersonal relationships.

God spoke all these words, saying, "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor's belongings" (Exodus 20:12-17 NHEB).

Furthermore, detailed instructions on the ten commandments were given in Exodus 20:22-23:33.
The Hebrews were all in agreement that they would accept the covenant which came through Moses, "We will do everything the Lord has commanded" (Exodus 24:3).

Disobedience of the Hebrews

Unfortunately, the ancient Hebrews were a stiff-necked people and before long they were already trespassing God's commands. The 3rd commandment was broken soon after the people received the Ten Commandments:

"When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron, and said to him, "Come, make us gods, which shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him." Aaron said to them, "Take off the golden rings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them to me." All the people took off the golden rings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. He received what they handed him, and fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made it a molten calf; and they said, "These are your gods, Israel, which brought you up out of the land of Egypt" (Exodus 32:1-4 NHEB).

Moses slammed down the stone tablets in rage, destroying the first set. God also spewed forth his anger upon the Hebrews, striking them with a great plague after their sin. Many people perished that day, which shows the extent of God's hatred of idolatry (Exodus 32:35).

The people continued to rebel against the Lord's authority time and time again (ex. Numbers 14:1-4). Finally, the Lord drew the line and disallowed the first generation of Israelites from entering the Promised Land (Numbers 14:30-33). Moses was also forbidden from entering the Promised Land for his own stubborn rebelliousness (Numbers 20:12). More plagues struck as the Hebrews continued to rebel against God (Numbers 16:48-49).

What are the Ten Commandments? In summary, they are a part of God's Law for his Old Testament Covenant with the Hebrew nation. Why were the Ten Commandments given to the Hebrews? Galatians 3:19 tells us, "It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins. But the Law was designed to last only until the coming of the child, or Messiah, who was promised."

The New Covenant

After centuries of an up and down relationship God revealed a new covenant to replace the old. God stated in Jeremiah 31:31-32, "'Behold, the days come, when I will make a new covenant, not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they broke, although I was a husband to them,' says the Lord."

God gave two prophets, i.e. Jeremiah and Ezekiel, an early glimpse of this coming New Covenant: 

"But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days," says the Lord: "I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people: and they shall have no need to teach their neighbor, or their brother, saying, 'Know the Lord'; for they shall all know me, from the least to the greatest," says the Lord: "for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more" (Jeremiah 31:33-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27).

The centuries passed and finally the new covenant came to earth in order to replace the old covenant.

The Book of Hebrews 10:1 states, "The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves."

The people of God had to sacrifice animals to appease God's wrath under the old covenant. The new covenant brought a new sacrifice, that being Jesus Christ, who told God, "Look, I have come to do your will." Hebrews 10:9-10 states, "Christ cancels the first covenant in order to put the second into effect. For God's will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once and for all time."

God's people now have a new law written in their hearts (2 Corinthians 3:3). Listen to Paul explain this new power which helps us obey Jesus' laws, "But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if it is so that the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if any man does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not his. If Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him who raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised up Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you" (Romans 8:9-11).
The Ten Commandments were laid to rest along with the entire Law which was handed to Moses. Some theologians attempt to separate the Ten Commandments from the Ceremonial Laws and Civil Laws which are part of Moses' Law. There is no biblical justification for that practice. Moses' Law contained 613 Commandments, and they are ALL part of the Old Covenant, which did its job but has passed away (Galatians 3:23-25).

Do NOT misinterpret, thinking that God doesn't have "laws," because that's very dangerous. For instance, all nine of the Ten Commandments are restated by Jesus and his apostles in the New Covenant, aka New Testament. Not simply restated, but filled out with many more expectations and instructions.

Jesus' laws now govern the life of those who follow God through the Messiah. The warnings against sinning against God under the New Covenant are shockingly severe (Hebrews 10:26-29).

Jesus' Commandments

Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:17-18, "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For truly, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not even one smallest letter or one tiny pen stroke shall in any way pass away from the Law, until all things are accomplished."

Jesus didn't destroy God's Law in any way. He fulfilled the Law. He fulfilled it in three different ways:

  • Jesus perfectly kept the moral requirements of the Law.
  • He fulfilled the Old Testament messianic types and prophecies during his earthly life.
  • Finally, Jesus on the cross, fulfilled all requirements called for by the Old Covenant sacrifical laws.

Therefore, the entire Old Testament Law has been fulfilled and is no longer of current use to God's plan of redemption (Hebrews 8:13).

Again, don't misinterpret what is said, because God's Law is perfect and eternal; however, for the salvation of humanity, the Old Covenant is complete and retired from service (Romans 3:19-20). Jesus' New Covenant Laws now rule God's people, the true Christians and true spiritual Jews who believe their Messiah has come in the life of Jesus Christ.

To avoid confusion you can say that the 10 Commandments are included within Jesus' Commandments (1 Corinthians 9:21).

Fruit of the Spirit Response to the 10 Commandments:

Paul says in Galatians 3:11 NLT, "So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law." Please let that sink into your heart, mind, and soul. Being a "good" person will not earn your way into God's grace or God's heaven.

Listen to the follow-up verse (Galatians 3:12), "For the Scriptures say, 'It is through faith that a righteous person has life.' This way of faith is very different from the way of the law, which says, 'It is through obeying the law that a person has life.'"

Your response to God should be one of gratitude, because Jesus obeyed God's Law in place of you. You could not perfectly obey the Law and were on the road to judgment and destruction (Romans 3:23; 6:23). By you placing your eternal soul in the hands of Christ, you can be forgiven and saved from condemnation. How? Good question.

Jesus says, "Come to Me." So, that is what you need to do - go to him. Bow before the King in prayer, telling him you are unworthy of him, and that you understand yourself to be a sinner. Tell him you're ready to follow him for the rest of eternity, living by his commandments. Jesus said, "If you love me you will obey my commandments" (John 14:15).

What Are the Ten Commandments? Grasp This!

What are the Ten Commandments? They're God's eternal laws, written specifically for his chosen Hebrew nation (Romans 3:19-20). They are external, or physical commands, meant to bring glory to God through the chosen nation of Israel. They were given in order for Jews and Gentiles to realize their sinfulness (Romans 5:20).

Paul refers to the old covenants as the covenants of law, which started with great glory, but brought nothing but death and condemnation to individuals (2 Corinthians 3:7; 3:9). The new covenant, though, is a covenant of promise for God's people, both Gentiles and Jews, who love him through his Son, Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:12).

Luke 22:20 shares, "Likewise, Jesus took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the New Covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you." Jesus Christ took on the sins of us all, dying as a sacrifice in our place. He is our precious Lamb, the Author of the New Covenant.

Jesus' Commandments are the expanded spiritual counterparts of the 10 Commandments, which reflect the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. The 10 Commandments are the foundation of the New Covenant's commands. Jesus' commands exist to guide the disciple of Christ into a holy, blameless life.

We are so fortunate to have the God of the Bible as our Father. He is full of loving mercy and indescribable grace. We continue to rebel against God, but, those who repent and trust in him, through Jesus, are forgiven and welcomed back to an intimate relationship with him.

Do you know that God will send his Spirit directly into your heart? That is the essence of the New Covenant! He can and will do that once you prove to him you're serious about becoming a disciple of Jesus. Join the movement today (2 Corinthians 6:1-2). God's best to you as you search for eternal life.

Next Bible study lesson: Jewish Ten Commandments #5.12.

What Are The Ten Commandments? Bible Study Questions:
1) What is the New Covenant?
2) What was the purpose(s) of the Ten Commandments?
3) Did Jesus Christ or his apostles directly recite the Ten Commandments in full?
4) How do you now answer the question, "What are the Ten Commandments?" Work on a three sentence response.

More Bible Verses for: What are the Ten Commandments?
For before John came, all the prophets and the law of Moses looked forward to this present time. Matthew 11:13.

But when the fullness of the time came, God sent out his Son, born to a woman, born under the law, that he might redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of children. And because you are children, God sent out the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba, Father!" So you are no longer a bondservant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God. Galatians 4:4-7 NHEB.

Inspirational Closing Prayer:
Dear Lord God Almighty, I praise your holy name. My heart exalts You above all else, even the highest heavens. I owe You everything, including my heart, words, and actions. O God, You are my All in All. I repent of all my failures, all my rebellious sins, and all my pride. All those things are wrong and unwanted by You. Please forgive me, Lord. Thank you for the plan You created for us. I praise You for fulfilling the plan. Thank you, Jesus, my Savior, the King of Creation, and Lord of lords. You lived the perfect life, obeying every command of your Father. You perfectly followed his will every moment, and in You God is well-pleased. Hallalujah! I've been set free from the Law, and I now live under God's mercy and grace, by the power of the Spirit. In the name of Jesus Christ, my Lord, Amen.

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