Moral law and the Ten Commandments

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Puritan Board Junior
I feel like this is a dumb question but why do we believe that the Ten Commandments are what sums up the moral law? I understand the three fold division of the law but I never knew what the reasoning was for saying the Decalogue was the summary of the moral law. :doh::doh::doh:


Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
At least three times in the law itself the uniqueness of the Ten Commandments is reiterated (the following are the explicit cases):

Ex.34:28 So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights. He neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.

Dt.4:13 And he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments, and he wrote them on two tablets of stone.

Dt.10:4 And he wrote on the tables, according to the first writing, the ten commandments, which Jehovah spake unto you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly: and Jehovah gave them unto me.​

Jesus seems to imply a reference to the "two tables" (as if they were two subsidiary listings) when he speaks of two "summary" commandments as the greatest, Mt.22:40 "On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." We usually recognize in these the principal duty to God, and after that to one's neighbor.

To "love" is a moral and ethical imperative. Paul makes this plain when he makes explicit what Christ so clearly implied, Rom.13:9 "For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet," and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." This is an obvious connection to the "second table," and to Jesus' own reference to the like "second" greatest commandment. Paul continues, v10, "Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law."

In Rom.7, Paul zeroes in on the tenth commandment, v7. He makes it clear that this commandment is presently a tool of conviction. Hence, "So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good." These are moral evaluations, and an affirmation of the law's utility in this matter.

And yet, there are parts of the law that Paul (and the rest of the NT) is only too glad to be relieved from, namely the ceremonial burden, e.g. Gal.5:3. Nor is there any indication that the transnational church has any burden to discharge, to maintain the laws specifically pertaining to the defunct body-politic.

So, the NT maintains interest in the moral law, which in several places is linked directly or indirectly to the Ten Commandments (which were already set apart as distinct even under the OT), e.g. 1Tim.1:8ff.
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