Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. —1 Corinthians 13:4-8, New International Version
To teach that the law of God recorded in Exodus 20 (the 10 Commandments) reveals God’s love for mankind by providing guidelines for living a life full of blessings and goodness.
Note to parents
We encourage you to read through this material with your children to provide an overview of the 10 Commandments listed in Exodus 20 and how these truths impact and guide our relationship with God and our fellow man. Then work through each commandment in detail, along with additional supplemental pages that you feel would be helpful in teaching and reinforcing the meaning of each commandment.
God is in the process of creating an eternal family, which will be composed of individuals who reflect His character-image of love.
God is love. All that God is and does expresses His pure and perfect love 1 John 4:8-10 . Forming man in His image, this supreme, loving spirit being created mankind for a special and specific purpose—to become like Him Leviticus 19:2 ; 1 Peter 1:16 . God is in the process of creating an eternal family, which will be composed of individuals who reflect His character-image of love.
Since God’s ultimate purpose is to mold and shape mankind into His character-image, He granted man something unique at creation—a mind that is like His. Compared to our perfect Maker, our minds are unquestionably inferior and limited Isaiah 55:8 . Yet He did grant man the ability to think, reason and choose, unlike any other creature within creation Genesis 2:20 . It is with this distinct mind that man has the opportunity to grow and develop the godly character of love Philippians 2:5 .
Out of His perfect love for mankind, God generously set forth laws and principles to reveal His divine nature and holy character. Just as God created physical laws relating to energy and gravity, He has also created spiritual laws relating to man’s mind and heart Romans 7:14 . It is through obedience to these spiritual laws—the righteous standards of God—that man gains the wisdom necessary for living a way of life that produces character reflective of the Almighty God—the character of love 1 John 2:5 ; 2 John 1:6 .
Out of His perfect love for mankind, God generously set forth laws and principles to reveal His divine nature and holy character.
In Exodus 20 we find the very basis of godly character—God’s “Ten Commandments” Exodus 34:28 . These commandments establish the only viable foundation for mortal man to develop and maintain a right relationship with His Creator and fellow man. It is through the keeping and applying of the 10 Commandments that man is able to express genuine love toward God and neighbor 1 John 4:8-21 . Contrary to what most people believe, the law of God shows us how to live a full, abundant life, which leads to eternal life Matthew 19:16-17 .
Although Exodus 20 provides the first complete listing of the 10 Commandments in Scripture, the governing authority and full effect of these spiritual laws existed with the beginning of human life upon this earth Romans 5:12-14 . God plainly instructed Adam that disobedience to His ways would result in death Genesis 2:15-17 . We read in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death.” Scripture is clear: “Sin is the transgression [breaking] of the law” 1 John 3:4 . Finally, Romans 4:15 confirms, “For where there is no law there is no transgression.” If no laws were in effect at creation, then God would not have warned Adam. Since Adam, man has willingly chosen to break God’s central commands and has suffered the consequences for his disobedience Romans 3:23 .
Many have a mistaken understanding that Jesus Christ opposed, modified or even abolished the keeping of the 10 Commandments. This is simply not accurate. Throughout His teachings and His life, Jesus Christ upheld God’s holy law by honoring and magnifying it Isaiah 42:21 . Jesus Christ, the sinless Law Keeper, teaches us that the law governs the external actions and the internal heart (Matthew 5). Going beyond the letter, Christ’s instructions reveal the full, spiritual intent and permanence of God’s absolute truths Matthew 5:17-19 ; see also Hebrews 13:8 .
True and faithful servants of the Father and Son will display the love and character of God because they obey the 10 Commandments.
Reflecting the power and purity of the Father’s love, Jesus Christ’s faithful, spotless example demonstrates that the 10 Commandments provide principles of righteousness, which guide our thoughts, attitudes and actions toward God and our fellow man. Christ commands us to follow His perfect example of love and service John 13:34-35 . Clearly, obedience and love cannot be separated John 14:15, 21 ; 1 John 2:3-6 . True and faithful servants of the Father and Son will display the love and character of God because they obey the 10 Commandments Romans 2:13 ; John 15:10 .
You shall have no other gods before Me (Exodus 20:3).
Since it is impossible for man to serve two masters, God expects man to willingly extend his undivided love toward Him.
Desiring to establish, protect and nurture an exclusive, intimate relationship with man, God commands the complete rejection and removal of all substitute gods from our daily lives. Since it is impossible for man to serve two masters Luke 16:13 , God expects man to willingly extend his undivided love toward Him Exodus 34:14 .
You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments (Exodus 20:4-6, NIV).
Through this commandment, God reveals the necessity of not misrepresenting His glory through improper and unacceptable worship Hebrews 12:28-29 . We are to worship God in spirit and truth John 4:23-24 . When we fashion the invisible God into a physical or mental image of our imagination, we reduce Him to human terms—limiting His majesty and His power Isaiah 40:18, 22, 25 .
You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name (Exodus 20:7, NIV).
Throughout Scripture, God's name declares His righteous attributes—His goodness, His mercy, His holiness and His steadfast love.
Revealing Himself through His name, God commands man to honor and hallow His holy name. We are warned against speaking God’s name as if it were nothingness. Throughout Scripture, God’s name declares His righteous attributes—His goodness, His mercy, His holiness and His steadfast love. By careful and thoughtful use of our Sustainer’s name, we honor and acknowledge who and what He is Psalm 96:8 .
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy (Exodus 20:8-11, NIV).
Blessing mankind with rest from his labors, God commands the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday as a memorial of His creation. Mark 2:27 ; Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31 ; 2:2-3 . During this holy time, man is reminded of his dependency upon his Creator while he is refreshed in His goodness Exodus 31:14-15 . This gift from our Redeemer remains a perpetual sign of obedience for His faithful people verse 17 .
Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you (Exodus 20:12, NIV).
Since family relationships are first and foundational in shaping all human relationships, God commands the giving of honor to parents. Respecting and obeying one’s parents lead to respecting all authority—especially that of one’s Creator. Through a close, enriching parent-child relationship, God’s truths are securely passed forward to the next generation Psalm 71:18 ; 145:4 .
You shall not murder (Exodus 20:13).
As the sovereign author of life, God commands man to protect and value human life. Made in the very likeness and image of his Creator, man’s life is God-given and sacred Genesis 1:26-27 . In guarding the sanctity of human life, we must also remove all attitudes and actions of malice, envy and anger from our hearts Matthew 5:21-22 ; James 3:9 .
You shall not commit adultery (Exodus 20:14).
Preserving the sanctity of marriage and the security of family, God commands man to maintain sexual purity 1 Corinthians 6:18 ; Hebrews 13:4 . Since the marriage relationship is a symbol of Christ and the Church, God regards it as precious, righteous and holy in His sight Ephesians 5:22-31 . This commandment confronts all sexual immorality within our lives—even within our innermost thoughts Matthew 5:27-32 .
You shall not steal (Exodus 20:15).
This commandment requires man to depart from greedy selfishness and move to diligent generosity—from taking to giving Ephesians 4:28 ; Philippians 2:4 . In all of its various forms, stealing confesses a lack of trust in God’s provision. We must respect and safeguard others’ possessions as though they were our own Exodus 23:4-5 ; Deuteronomy 22:1-4 .
You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor (Exodus 20:16, NIV).
As the giver of absolute truth, God commands that every aspect of man’s life represent unconditional honesty Zechariah 8:16-17 . When we consistently live and speak truthfully, we demonstrate our desire to follow the God of truth and to reject the father of lies Isaiah 65:16 ; John 14:6 ; John 8:44 . Our daily words and actions should characterize integrity, trustworthiness and uprightness—stabilizing relationships and protecting reputations (Pslam 51); Proverbs 10:20-21 .
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor (Exodus 20:17, NIV).
Exposing the wretchedness of our deepest, inward desires, this commandment requires the cleansing and guarding of our hearts and minds from earthly lusts Mark 7:21-23 ; Colossians 3:5 . Humble obedience, coupled with an earnest desire to seek God’s way of righteousness, leads to the purifying of our hearts and minds from the unlawful desires of greed and lust (Psalm 51); 73:25 ; 1 John 2:15-17 .
Man's duty is to fear God and keep His commandments.
Without knowledge and understanding of God’s spiritual laws, mankind does not have the capability to discern right from wrong Romans 7:7 . Therefore, man’s duty is to fear God and keep His commandments Ecclesiastes 12:13 . We must place our complete confidence in the Supreme Lawgiver’s wisdom and rely upon His commandments to guide our lives James 4:12 . It is a choice that God set before not only Adam and ancient Israel, but each and every individual today Deuteronomy 30:19 . Established for our benefit, these laws of life provide the loving boundaries necessary for mankind to live a holy, just and righteous life Romans 7:12 .
Further Your Study
The 10 Commandments are a key to loving God and loving our neighbors. They’re also essential to living good, happy lives. Our "Commandments" series gives an overview of what the 10 Commandments are and why they are important. Read More >