This chapter covers WLC questions 98-102, plus 122.
We begin with the decalogue as the foundation of Christian Ethics...and question 98: Where is the moral law summarily comprehended?
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. The four first commandments containing our duty to God, and the other six our duty to man.
The relation between Law and God:
God himself descended from heaven and by a supernatural voice promulgated to man the Moral Law, the expression of his will, the reflection of his nature, the immutable standard of right, the inflexible rule of action for his accountable creatures, containing every essential principle of duty, and embodying the grounds of all the future rewards and punishments to be enjoyed or suffered throughout the ages of eternity. 2. George Bush, Notes on Exodus (Minneapolis, MN: James Family Christian Publishing Co., 1852), 250. (680)
God gave us His Law, among other reasons, to teach us His will for our lives. (680)
The condemnation of God’s Law on our sin is removed forever from those who are united to Jesus Christ by grace through faith....The Law of God could not save them or forgive them for their transgressions against it, but God saved them and forgave them because of the atoning sacrifice of His incarnate Son, taking their condemnation upon Himself in their place and on their behalf. And, God did all this for us with the goal in view that “the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us,” that is, in our own lives and daily experience, as we depend upon the power of the indwelling Spirit of God, rather than trusting in our own strength. In other words, the goal of God’s regenerative and redemptive work in Christ by His Spirit for us was that we might live righteous lives before Him in obedience to His Law from our loving hearts. (682)
James calls God’s Law “the perfect Law, the law of liberty” (James 1:25, reflecting Ps. 119:44–45)...When Paul declares, “it was for freedom that Christ set us free,” and then exhorts us to “keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1), he is calling upon believers to stand fast in the truth of salvation that we are justified by faith in Christ alone and not by the works of the Law, which faith is a living faith that manifests itself in obedience to God’s Law and which refuses to allow the conscience to be bound by the regulations of man seeking to achieve his own salvation. (683)
It should be noticed what Moses, inspired by the Holy Spirit, received from the Lord and gave to the covenant people: (1) The Ten Commandments; and (2) Statutes and judgments which would teach God’s people how to apply the Ten Commandments in their every day living. These statutes and judgments, commonly called “case-laws,” are inseparable from the Ten Commandments, being practical applications of the Decalogue to the life of the people of God. The Ten Commandments set forth the basic principles; the case-laws, proverbs, exhortations and ethical teachings develop the implications of those principles.
The Ten Commandments are not the extent of God’s demands on His people, they summarily comprehend the moral law of God. They are the broad, sweeping moral principles that are foundational to all of God’s demands, proverbs, exhortations, and ethical teaching found in the Bible. (684-685)
The Catechism says that the first four commandments set forth our duty to God, and the last six our duty to man. This is correct, but can be misleading, for all Ten Commandments set forth our duty to God in all our relationships, and the motive for obeying all Ten Commandments is our love for God and our desire to glorify God. (686)
These two tablets contained the “ten words,” as the essence and summary of the covenant of the LORD with His people....More than likely, the two stones were duplicates of the same information, i.e., the essential ingredients of a covenant—preamble, prologue, commands, blessings and curses, making each stone a complete summary of the covenant in itself....It was common in treaties of that day to make exact duplicates of the covenant-treaty, and then each party received one copy, so as to be a permanent, legal witness to the faithfulness of the other, thus assuring the continuance of the treaty. However, in the O.T., both copies were deposited in the ark of the covenant in the Tabernacle of the Lord (Ex. 25:16, 21; 40:20; Deut. 10:2). This implies that Jehovah alone took upon Himself the work and responsibility of maintaining the covenant relationship between Himself and His people, as well as acting as the witness-rewarder-avenger to the oaths of the
other party. (688)
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 entire obedience 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 endeavour 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.
He then points us to the structure of the Ten Commandments, using question 100 as a guide: What special things are we to consider in the ten commandments?
We are to consider, in the ten commandments, the preface, the substance of the commandments themselves, and several reasons annexed to some of them, the more to enforce them.
There are three elements to them:
The Ten Commandments are comprised of three elements: the preamble (Ex. 20:1–2), in which is given the revelation of God as the motive for obedience to these commands; the substance of the commands themselves, i.e., our duties implied in them and the sins forbidden by them; and the reasons, along with promises and curses, that are given in some of them, which are graciously given the more to enforce them. (696)
In the Ten Commandments, the address is made in the SINGULAR, not the PLURAL number. ....
The nineteenth century Bible commentator, George Bush, gives one possible answer: “The design of this is, undoubtedly, to render the language in the highest degree emphatic. Every individual to whom this law comes is to consider himself as being as directly and personally addressed as though it had been spoken to him alone.” 18. Bush, Notes on Exodus, 259. (696)
Why are the commandments stated mostly as prohibitions: “Thou shalt not?” Answer: to be a sharp reminder to believers of the antithesis that must always be maintained between our way of life as the people of God and the way of life of the fallen race in rebellion against God. (697)
The preface to the ten commandments is contained in these words, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Wherein God manifesteth his sovereignty, as being JEHOVAH, the eternal, immutable, and almighty God; having his being in and of himself, and giving being to all his words and works: and that he is a God in covenant, as with Israel of old, so with all his people; who, as he brought them out of their bondage in Egypt, so he delivereth us from our
spiritual thraldom; and that therefore we are bound to take him for our God alone, and to keep all his commandments.
The preamble of the Ten Commandments contains the motives for obedience: (1) The Lawgiver is our Creator; (2) The Lawgiver is Jehovah; (3) The Lawgiver is our covenant Friend; (4) The Lawgiver is our Redeemer. (698)
The sum of the four commandments containing our duty to God, is, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our strength, and with all our mind.
Q. 122: What is the sum of the six commandments which contain our duty to man?
The sum of the six commandments which contain our duty to man, is, to love our neighbour as ourselves, and to do to others what we would have them to do to us.
Jesus Himself summaried the Ten Commandments in like fashion--quoting indeed OT passages:
According to Mark 12:29–30, Jesus began His answer with these words: “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord.’” ....
"Jesus demands a decision and readiness for God, and for God alone, in an unconditional manner.… The love which determines the whole disposition of one’s life and places one’s whole personality in the service of God reflects a commitment to God which springs from divine sonship. This commitment finds expression in a similar commitment to men.… A whole-hearted love for God necessarily finds its expression in a selfless concern for another man which decides and acts in a manner
consistent with itself." 25
Jesus concludes His answer by emphasizing that, “on these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
25. Lane, The Gospel According to Mark, 432–33. (704-705)
Henry Krabbendam, (in classnotes from Covenant College), has
concisely described how love fulfills each of the Ten Commandments:
1. The first commandment requires us to love God alone as He
has revealed Himself in the Bible.
2. The second commandment requires us to love God in all that
He has revealed concerning Himself.
3. The third commandment requires us to love God in all that He
does, by reverencing everything connected with His Name.
4. The fourth commandment requires us to love God on the day
He has set apart for rest and holy convocation.
5. The fifth commandment requires us to love our neighbor by
honoring the authority God has given him.
6. The sixth commandment requires us to love our neighbor by
honoring the life God has given him.
7. The seventh commandment requires us to love our neighbor
by honoring the marriage and home God has given him.
8. The eighth commandment requires us to love our neighbor by
honoring the property God has given him.
9. The ninth commandment requires us to love our neighbor
by honoring the reputation God has given him, and by honoring
the truth in all our relationships with our neighbor
and with God.
10. The tenth commandment requires us to love God and our
neighbor from the heart.
In Jesus’ statement on the greatest of the commandments, reaffirmed by Paul that love is the fulfillment of the law, we have
"one of the strongest affirmations of the abiding relevance and validity of God’s Law. It is summarized in love, and love is the Christian’s perpetual duty. Certainly a summary does not nullify the contents of that which it summarizes! The law of God is the standard of Christian love, so that one who does not follow the Law can never be said to love.… As explained by Jesus, love entails a totalitarian and all-embracing surrender to God;… as such it corresponds to the demand of radical obedience and service to God contained in the statutes of the Law of God." 29. Bahnsen, Theonomy in Christian Ethics, 243. (707-708)