The Commandments: The Basics

Welcome! I must say, I am tickled pink you’ve chosen to join me as we dig into The Commandments. Before we can jump right into the Commandments, we need to cover a few basics, lay some ground work so that we can build on a solid foundation.

I invite you to print out the following and complete it at your leisure; I have left room for you to write. You can also copy these into a spiral if you prefer.

This week is packed and will take some time to unpack. Be sure you have your Bible and a spiral available. BibleGateway is a wonderful resource if you would like to compare translations of the verses provided.

In addition, I invite you to join me in memorizing a key Scripture each week. Our first verse is from Romans 13:10.

VOW Wk 1

If you would like to go deeper with the verse, Verse Mapping may be right up your alley. Learn more here: Verse Mapping

Ready? Set? Go!

Where did the Law come from?

Short answer. We find The Commandments in Chapter twenty of Exodus and Deuteronomy Chapter five. God gave the Commandments to Moses after God had rescued the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt and had already been providing for their needs in the wilderness.

Long answer. We refer to the Ten Commandments as the written Law because God Himself wrote them on stone tablets for the people. However, the Ten Commandments were not the first law given by God, nor were the Commandments numbered by God.

1.  Read Genesis 2:15-17. What is the first command God gave Adam and Eve?







Once this command was broken, sin entered the world. yuck. Sometime after Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden, their two sons, Cain and Abel, had a little spat.

2.  Read Genesis 4:1-13. Can you list Cain’s five sins? {yep five} Wait a second. How did Cain sin if there was no written law at that time? What standard was used to judge his actions? We need the law in order to know when we have done something wrong.






3.  Jeremiah 31:33-34 and Ezekiel 11:18-21 help us understand how the people of God received this Law. Write them below.






I want to be careful not to cherry pick verses because they fit, so let’s explore a wee bit more. Jeremiah and Ezekiel refer to the return of the Israelites from exile to the Promised Land and establishing a new covenant with them. To understand this idea fully and how it refers to the Law, we have to go back to Exodus and the base of Mount Sinai.

4. Read Exodus 24. How was the covenant sealed between God and the people of Israel? {hint vs 6-8}






5. Fast forward to Jesus, Luke 22:14-20. He’s sitting with His Disciples, sharing His Last Supper with them. How does Christ describe His sacrifice of blood? Still with me? If not, it’s ok. One more verse before we tie all of this together.






6. We looked at how God’s people received God’s Law, but what about unbelievers? How do so many around the world have a similar moral compass? Read Romans 2:12-16.






Now that we understand a little more about the Law, let’s tie all these verses together with the clear understanding that God’s Word is eternal. Meaning, His Word transcends the timeline of human history; the last word applies the same as the first {Hebrews 13:8, Numbers 23:19, Isaiah 40:8}.

God’s Law has been written on the heart of every person since the beginning of time, even before the written Law we now call the Ten Commandments. Though this is true, our ability to follow the Law to God’s standard remains incomplete until our hearts are made new through Jesus Christ.

Example, taking someone’s life is universally accepted as bad and usually breaks the law of man.

However, there are many areas of the world where taking the life of another is acceptable as a sacrifice to the gods. It’s still happening TODAY. Heartbreaking, but true.

We have no excuse for not choosing to follow His Law based on our knowledge of the Law. It has been written not only in Scripture, but also inscribed on our hearts.

What is the purpose of the Law?

The Law has three main purposes in our lives. For my Lutheran sisters out there, this should give you some awesome PTCD flashbacks {Post Traumatic Confirmation Syndrome}.

Firstly, the Law condemns. This is the stinky part, but this is what leads a convicted heart to repentance. As we explored in the previous section, without the Law, we would not be conscious of our sin.

1.  How do the following verses attest to this?

  • Romans 3:19-20,
  • Romans 4:15, and
  • Acts 13:38-39






2.  Though we read the word condemn, for those in Christ, the Law has a higher purpose. Read Romans 8:1-4, what assurance do we as followers receive?






In Luther’s Small Catechism, this role of condemnation is described like a mirror. As a mirror shows us the imperfections on our face, the Law shows us the imperfections of our heart. The purpose here is to help us repent and return to the Lord.

Secondly, the Law serves to instruct. Very simply, the Law gives us God’s standards for living as His people. This will become crystal clear once we dig into the commandments themselves.

3.  Psalm 139:9, 65, & 169 illuminates God’s Law as our standard.






Here’s a bit of Hebrew and Greek to brighten your day…plus a wee bit of algebra.

The Hebrew word dabar used for…word in Psalm 119:9, 65, & 169 is the noun version of the SAME word as used when referring to the word words in Exodus 20:1 and commandments in Deuteronomy 5:22. Dabar, depending on context and placement, is interchangeable with our English words for speak, command, and even for the word promise.

Now for the Greek. John 1:1 refers to the word, or logos, being with God and being God. To be clear here, the Hebrew word dabar is interchangeable with the use of logos as found in this particular verse.

Here comes the algebra…

Hebrew word dabar = speak, commands, promise = Greek word logos

Finally, we’ll bring it all together…

We are commanded to follow the Word of God which is the Law fulfilled in Christ. Therefore, Christ becomes our ultimate guide or standard for living.

Not apart from, but rather in conjunction with the Law.

4.  How does Matthew 5:17 reinforce this Truth?






Luther describes this role of instruct like a guide. A guide gives very clear instructions to create a desired result.

The desire for all humans, apart from those who have no beliefs concerning the afterlife, is to reach heaven. The Law gives us the instructions for living a holy life, so that we can attain heaven.

Of course, if we believe for one moment we can achieve heaven by enslaving ourselves to the Law, we need to check our mirror again.

5.  Read 1 John 1:8-10, Proverbs 20:9, and James 3:2a, what do they remind us about our sin? If you would like to go a little deeper, read Romans 3:9-19






Finally, the Law serves to protect. Yep. Protect. Not exactly the first attribute to come to mind when we think law, but once again, the Law comes from our God of love. Having the Law written on the hearts of mankind, helps to ease the chaos which would otherwise swallow the world.

Imagine for a moment a world where God did not inscribe His Law onto the hearts of man. ::scary thought::

6.  Instead what does Romans 2:12-16 say about God’s Law? {hint, we read these verses earlier} 






As I mentioned above, we have received the Law from a God of love {I John 4:16} who desires not only that we receive the gift of eternal life {John 3:15-17}, but also once we become His children, we live a full and abundant life {John 10:10}.

7.  Take a few moments to read through the Commandments in either Exodus 20:1-17 or Deuteronomy 5:1-22. Now write down the benefits, if any, you gain by breaking these commandments. On the other hand, how would your life benefit from someone breaking these commandments against you?






I would imagine even if you were able to drum up a few “benefits,” for the first question, they would only be temporary. And I can only hope the second list you wrote was completely blank.

Luther links the Law’s role of protecting with a curb. A street curb not only intends to keep vehicles on the road, but also keep them on the correct side of the road.

God’s Law helps us stay on track, on the path of righteousness.

Picture yourself standing on a sidewalk on a busy street. You are a chicken and your goal is to get to the other side {it doesn’t matter why}. As the cars zip by, you look for an opportunity to cross. To your left, there is a streetlight, but it seems pretty far away, and your destination is across the street to the right.

You are faced with a choice. Wait until you feel confident to cross from where you are, or take the long way and cross at the intersection where there is sure to be a crosswalk.

The choice may seem simple enough, but let’s say you’re hot, tired, hungry, and in a rush. Perhaps now, the choice doesn’t seem so clear.

The crosswalk isn’t a punishment, but rather an opportunity for safe crossing. This is the same opportunity God’s Law provides. God sent His Law so that we may live a full, safe, and righteous life.

I love how Wendy Blight phrased this in her book Living So That:

God didn’t give us the law to set us up for failure; rather, He gave us the law to protect us from failure. Pg 11

Unfortunately, we still live in a sin-filled world and even if we always make our way through the crosswalk, there will always be those who run the red light.

What are the two Tables of the Law?

Simply, the Law is divided into two primary sections based on Jesus’ words in Mark 12:30-31 which is a reiteration of Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.

1.  Based on the above verses, how are the Commandments divided? What are the two sections?






Regardless of how we number the Commandments, the two sections remain the same. The first set focuses on our relationship with God. While the second, cultivates our relationship with each other.

2. According to the following verses, what is central to the Law as a whole?

  • John 13:34-35,
  • Romans 13:8-10, and
  • Colossians 3:12-14






When drawn together, the Table of the Law paints a beautiful picture of the purpose of God’s Law. On your paper, draw a vertical line representing our relationship with God. Toward the top, draw another line, this time horizontally, reminding us of our relationship with one another. You should have a cross on your paper.

For the final portion, draw a heart in the center of your cross. Love is the fulfillment of the Law and unites both together.

What a simple, yet powerful picture of God’s motivation for giving us His Commands!

What is the Spirit and Letter of the Law?

This is the final piece of groundwork we need to lay down so that we can dig in with a more complete understanding of His Commands.

Short Answer:

  • Letter of the Law = obeying the literal guidelines set by the law.
  • Spirit of the Law = following the law’s purpose or overall intent and meaning.

Long Answer:

1. Read Romans 2:28-29 (NLT). What is the difference between the Letter and Spirit of the Law in a person’s life?






Paul refers to the common belief among Jews at the time that if they were from the line of Abraham or were circumcised, they were automatically accepted by God. However, Paul reminds us that our hearts are what must go through a transformation by the power of the Holy Spirit.

It is by following the Spirit’s guidance rather than the written Law which makes brings us praise from God. You can go deeper with this by reading Romans 8:1-16.

Christ provides a clear example of the difference between the two with the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

2.  Read the Parable as recorded in Luke 10:25-37.






The Parable itself takes place on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho. Based on the order of the cities listed, we can assume the travelers were leaving Jerusalem and returning to Jericho.

When the priest and Levite passed by the injured, possibly dead fellow Jew, they were attempting to keep the Letter of the Law. It is safe to infer the two men had visited the Temple in Jerusalem. Having cleansed themselves spiritually, they had no desire to become unclean and be forced to return to the Temple for atonement {see why in Leviticus 5:2-5}.

{By the way, if you’re wondering how they knew the man was a Jew, verse 30 tells us he was robbed of his clothing. Circumcision would have been a clear sign of his Jewish heritage.}


Despite their desire to follow God’s Law, they are not the heroes of Jesus’ parable, and Jesus brings in an unlikely hero.

A Samaritan.

Jews and Samaritans did not get along; which is phrasing things rather lightly. This family feud reaches back for centuries.

Samaritans were once a part of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and when they were taken into exile by the Assyrians, they began to intermarry. This was a big no-no for the Israelites.

Adding to the bad blood between the Jews and their cousins, in the Book of Ezra, when the Jews were attempting to rebuild the temple, the Jews refused to allow the Samaritans to help. In response, the Samaritans kept them from working and built their own temple for worship.

Like I said, big family feud. I bet holidays were in-tents.

Needless to say, when Jesus brought a Samaritan into His parable, none of the Jews were expecting him to become the hero.

This parable is not the only opportunity Jesus takes to distinguish between the Letter and Spirit of the Law.

3.  How does Jesus use the Letter and Spirit of the Law in Matthew 12:1-14?






Here again, Christ turns their world on its ear. The Pharisees held the Talmud in high regard. The Talmud is a collection of writings from the elders and previous high priests. They firmly believed if they followed the laws and traditions found in the Talmud, they would not be in danger of breaking the Law of God.

An honorable desire; however, over time, this desire to follow God’s Law to the “T” kept them from allowing His Spirit to work so that Romans 2:29 could be fulfilled in their hearts.

My prayer for us, is that as we progress these next few weeks, we will discover a new depth to His Law we may not have considered before. In doing so, our own hearts will be fully open to the work of His Spirit.

Stop by and leave a comment or any questions you may have as you go along this week. I look forward to hearing how God is speaking to you through His Word and Commandments!


  1. Concordia Self-Study Bible for at least a million cross-references.
  2. Blue Letter Bible for the Greek and Hebrew.
  3. Luther’s Small Catechism.
  4. Quick Verse software for more Greek and Hebrew and some Commentaries.
  5. Living So That by Wendy Blight

5 thoughts on “The Commandments: The Basics

  1. I love how you’ve laid out this study. I’m going to enjoy digging into it this week. I’m having trouble coming up with Cain’s 5 sins. I came up with 4 but the 5th is eluding me.


  2. Loved this week’s study. You really did a wonderful job putting this all together; it’s scholarly, yet understandable at the same time. Really looking forward to getting into the commandments themselves.


    1. Thank you! This has been an answer to my prayer for this study. I have been earnestly praying it would be on a scholarly level, yet still understandable. It’s not easy finding that balance without sacrificing one or the other.


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