Rules for Using the Ten Commandments

(This is Part 1 of a series on the Ten Commandments)

The Ten Commandments are perhaps viewed by many as Bible 101, something everybody knows about Judaism and Christianity. Yet, even Christians who have memorized them and would assent to them may feel uncertain about their exact content, scope, or purpose in the Christian life. Though they seem simple at first, the Ten Commandments often produce confusion or frustration in those who attempt to take them seriously. So, over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting pieces of the one of the best expositions of the 10C, the Westminster Larger Catechism, along with some commentary.

The first piece I’m posting gets at the sheer depth and comprehensiveness of the commandments. It shatters a superficial reading of them which would make them refer only to big sins or even external actions.

Question 99: What rules are to be observed for the right understanding of the ten commandments?

Answer: For the right understanding of the ten commandments, these rules are to be observed:

1. That the law is perfect, and bindeth every one to full conformity in the whole man unto the righteousness thereof, and unto entireobedience forever; so as to require the utmost perfection of every duty, and to forbid the least degree of every sin.
2. That it is spiritual, and so reacheth the understanding, will, affections, and all other powers of the soul; as well as words, works, and gestures.
3. That one and the same thing, in divers respects, is required or forbidden in several commandments.
4. That as, where a duty is commanded, the contrary sin is forbidden; and, where a sin is forbidden, the contrary duty is commanded: so, where a promise is annexed, the contrary threatening is included; and, where a threatening is annexed, the contrary promise is included.
5. That what God forbids, is at no time to be done; what he commands, is always our duty; and yet every particular duty is not to be done at all times.
6. That under one sin or duty, all of the same kind are forbidden or commanded; together with all the causes, means, occasions, and appearances thereof, and provocations thereunto.
7. That what is forbidden or commanded to ourselves, we are bound, according to our places, to endeavor that it may be avoided or performed by others, according to the duty of their places.
8. That in what is commanded to others, we are bound, according to our places and callings, to be helpful to them; and to take heed of partaking with others in what is forbidden them.

If the gravity of the commands weighs on you, if they feel almost crushing in the severity of their commands, that’s how it’s supposed to feel! The commandments are designed to show us our inadequacy, our frailty, our moral failing. More on that in the posts to come.

Published in: on September 25, 2010 at 8:50 am  Leave a Comment  
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