What are the Ten Commandments?

This entry is part 3 of 44 in the series What are Catechisms?

How did God give His Law?1

When God created people, He wrote the Law on their hearts. Later he arranged the Law in Ten Commandments, wrote it on two tables of stone, and made it known through Moses. (Romans 2:14-15)

Bible narrative: God wrote His commandments directly for the Israelites (Exodus 19-20; 31:18). There are three kinds of laws in the Old Testament: the moral law, which tells all people their duty toward God and other people; the ceremonial law, which regulated the religious practices in the Old Testament; and the political law, which was the state law of the Israelites. Only the moral law was written into the human heart.

Where is the moral law summarily comprehended?2

The moral law is summarily comprehended in the ten commandments, which were delivered by the voice of God upon Mount Sinai, and written by him in two tables of stone; and are recorded in the twentieth chapter of Exodus (Exodus 20:1-17). The four first commandments containing our duty to God, and the other six our duty to man.

What is the sum of the ten commandments?3

The sum of the ten commandments is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind; and our neighbor as ourselves. (Matthew 22:37-40)

Why do these two Commandments of the love of God and of our neighbor contain the whole law of God?4

These two Commandments of the love of God and of our neighbor contain the whole law of God because all the other Commandments are given either to help us to keep these two, or to direct us how to shun what is opposed to them.

What rules are to be observed for the right understanding of the ten commandments?5

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

  • That the law is perfect, and binds everyone to full conformity in the whole man unto the righteousness thereof, and unto entire obedience forever; so as to require the utmost perfection of every duty, and to forbid the least degree of every sin. That it is spiritual, and so reaches the understanding, will, affections, and all other powers of the soul; as well as words, works, and gestures. That one and the same thing, in divers respects, is required or forbidden in several commandments. 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.
  • 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. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

What is the preface to the Ten Commandments?6

The preface to the Ten Commandments is, “I am the [BQI_Lord] thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” (Exodus 20:2)

What does the preface to the Ten Commandments teach us?7

The preface to the Ten Commandments teaches us, that because God is the Lord, and our God and Redeemer, therefore we are bound to keep all His commandments. (Deuteronomy 11:1)

Whom does God mean when in the Ten Commandments He says, “You shall”?8

He means me and all other human beings. (Matthew 5:19; Romans 3:19)

Bible narrative: Jesus explained the meaning of these commandments for all people (Matthew 5).


Series Navigation<< What do Catechisms Teach?Why Are The Ten Commandments Numbered Differently? >>

What are Catechisms? (44 articles)


  1. Luther’s Small Catechism (1529), Question 14.
  2. Westminster Larger Catechism (1647), Question 98.
  3. A Puritan Catechism (1855), Question 41.
  4. Baltimore Larger Catechism (1885), Question 312.
  5. Westminster Larger Catechism (1647), Question 99.
  6. Baptist Catechism (1677), Question 49.
  7. Baptist Catechism (1677), Question 50.
  8. Luther’s Small Catechism (1529), Question 18.

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