Are People Able to Keep the Ten Commandments?

This entry is part 15 of 44 in the series What are Catechisms?

Can we now frame a short compendium of the whole law?1

Very easily, since we can reduce it to two heads. The former is to love God with all our heart, and soul, and strength — the latter, to love our neighbours as ourselves. (Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27)

What is comprehended under the love of God?2

To love him as God should be loved — that is, recognizing him as at once our Lord, and Father, and Preserver. Accordingly, to the love of God is joined reverence for him, a willingness to obey him, trust to be placed in him.

Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?3

No mere man, since the fall, is able in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God, but daily breaks them in thought, word, and deed. (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Genesis 6:5; Genesis 8:21; 1 John 1:8; James 3:8; James 3:2; Romans 3:23)

If in this life no one can keep the ten commandments perfectly, why does God have them preached so strictly?4

First, so that throughout our life we may more and more become aware of our sinful nature, and therefore seek more eagerly the forgiveness of sins and righteousness in Christ. (Psalm 32:5; Romans 3:19-26; 7:7, 24-25; 1 John 1:9) Second, so that, while praying to God for the grace of the Holy Spirit, we may never stop striving to be renewed more and more after God’s image, until after this life we reach. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Philippians 3:12-14; 1 John 3:1-3)

Do you speak of all men in general, or of believers only?5

He who is not yet regenerated by the Spirit of God, is not fit to begin the least iota of the law. Besides, even were we to grant that any one is found to obey the law in any respect, we do not think: that he has performed his part before God. For the law pronounces all cursed who have not fulfilled all the things contained in it. (Deuteronomy 27:26; Galatians 3:10.)

But can those converted to God keep these commandments perfectly?6

No. In this life even the holiest have only a small beginning of this obedience. (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 7:14, 15; 1 Corinthians 13:9; 1 John 1:8) Nevertheless, with earnest purpose they do begin to live not only according to some but to all the commandments of God. (Psalm 1:1, 2; Romans 7:22-25; Philippians 3:12-16)

What prevents us from keeping God’s commandments perfectly?7

Our sinful nature makes it impossible. (Psalm 14:3; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Isaiah 64:6; 1 John 1:8)

Bible narrative: The apostle Paul grieved over his failure to keep the Law. (Romans 7:15-20)

Since we do not fully obey them, are they useful at all?8

Since we do not fully obey them, we see more clearly our sin and our need for redemption.

What then is the purpose of the law since the fall?9

The purpose of the law, since the fall, is to reveal the perfect righteousness of God, that His people may know his will for their lives and the ungodly, being convicted of their sin, may be restrained therein and brought to Christ for salvation. (Psalm 19:7-11; Romans 3:20, 31; 7:7; 12:2; Titus 2:12-14; Galatians 3:22, 24; 1 Timothy 1:8)

Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous?10

Some sins in themselves and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others. (Ezekiel 8:13; John 19:11; 1 John 5:16)

What does every sin deserve?11

Every sin deserves God’s wrath and curse, both in this life, and in that which is to come. (Ephesians 5:6; Galatians 3:10; Proverbs 3:33; Psalm 11:6; Revelation 21:8)

What does God require of us, that we may escape His wrath and curse, due to us for sin?12

To escape the wrath and curse of God due to us for sin, God requires of us faith in Jesus Christ, repentance unto life, with the diligent use of all the outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption. (Acts 20:21; Acts 16:30-31; 17:30)


Series Navigation<< What is the Tenth Commandment?How are Catechisms Organized? >>

What are Catechisms? (44 articles)


  1. Geneva Catachism (1545), Question 217.
  2. Geneva Catachism (1545), Question 218.
  3. Baptist Catechism (1677), Question 88.
  4. Heidelberg Catechism (1563), Question 115.
  5. Geneva Catachism (1545), Question 226.
  6. Heidelberg Catechism (1563), Question 114.
  7. Luther’s Small Catechism (1529), Question 75.
  8. Episcopal Catechism (1789), Question 22.
  9. Baptist Catechism (1677), Question 89.
  10. Baptist Catechism (1677), Question 90.
  11. Baptist Catechism (1677), Question 91.
  12. Baptist Catechism (1677), Question 92.

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