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The fundamental moral law in the form of 10 sentences (LXX: deka logoi Ex 34:28). When God created man, He wrote the Law into his heart. According to Ro 2:14–15, Gentiles who have not the decalog carry out its precepts by nature and thereby show that the works of the Law are written in their hearts. (Cf. Gn 1:27; Eph 4:24)

In order to lead Israel to worship only Him, God gave His holy will in Ten Commandments from Sinai (Ex 19:1–20:17; Dt 5) and later wrote them on 2 tables (Ex 24:12; 31:18) which were to be placed into the “ark of the testimony” (Ex 25:21–22), also called “ark of the covenant” (Nm 10:33) and “ark of God” (1 Sm 3:3). Moses broke the 1st set of tables when he came down from the mountain (Ex 32:19). New tables were prepared (Ex 34) and put into the ark (Dt 10:1–5; 1 K 8:9; Heb 9:4). The tables may have been lost when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the temple. (2 K 25)

That the 10 Commandments do not concern Gentiles and Christians, but only Jews, as Luther said (WA 16, 424), is true of the form in which they were given (Ex 20:1–17; Dt 5:6–21). Luther, following NT precedent (cf. Mt 19:18–19: Mk 10:19; Eph 6:2–3; Cl 2:16–17), omitted ceremonial elements (the word “Sabbath” and ceremonial commands of the 3d Commandment), the mention of iconolatry (1st Commandment), and the threat attached to the 2d Commandment, and made other changes (e.g., in the 10th Commandment, Ex 20:17; Dt 5:21; and in placing the part that he used as the Close of the Commandments, Ex 20:5b–6; Dt 5:9b–10).

The 10 Commandments tell us what we are to do and not to do and how we are to be and not to be. Man cannot be saved by the Law (Gl 2:16); but the Law serves as a curb, a mirror, and a rule. It serves as a curb “to maintain external discipline against unruly and disobedient men”; (FC Ep VI 1; cf. 1 Ti 1:9–10; Ps 32:9). It serves as a mirror by showing man what he is (Is 64:6; Ro 3:20; 7:7; Gl 3:24). It serves as a rule in showing what God expects of man.

No mere man has perfectly fulfilled the Law as God demands (Gl 3:10; 1 Jn 1:8); all are sinners (Eph 2:3; Ro 3:22–23), subject to temporal and eternal punishment (Lv 26:14–43; Dt 27:14–26; 28:15–68: Ro 6:23). But Christ fulfilled the Jewish ceremonial and pol. laws as well as the moral law (Mt 22:21; Luke 2:22–39; 1 Ptr 2:21–22). He also bore the punishment for our sins (1 Co 15:3; Gl 3:13; 1 Ptr 2:24). The Christian, then, is no longer under the Law. (Ro 6:14; Gl 5:18)

The Bible neither numbers the Commandments nor determines their respective position (cf. Ex 20:17 and Dt 5:21; Mt 19:18–19 and Mk 10:19). The Jews make Ex 20:2 the 1st Commandment, Ex 20:3–6 the 2d, and Ex 20:17 the 10th. The E Orthodox and the Ref. Chs. make Ex 20:2–3 the 1st, Ex 20:4–6 the 2d, and Ex 20:17 the 10th. The Luths. and RCs draw the 2d from Ex 20:7, the 3d from Ex 20:8–11, and make Ex 20:17a the 9th and Ex 20:17b the 10th. Jews divide the 10 Commandments into 2 groups of 5 each. Luths. and RCs assign 3 Commandments to the 1st table and 7 to the 2d. E Orthodox and Ref. Chs. assign 4 to the 1st and 6 to the 2d. RH, LP

R. Herrmann, “The Decalog and the Close of the Commandments,” The Abiding Word, I (St. Louis, 1946), 124–145; F. W. C. Jesse, Catechetical Preparations, Part I: The Decalog (St. Louis, 1919); E. G. W. Keyl, Katechismusauslegung aus Dr. Luthers Schriften und den symbolischen Büchern, I (Nördlingen, 1853); M. Reu, “The Significance of the Law and the Example of Jesus for the Formation of the New Life,” Christian Ethics (Columbus, Ohio, 1935), pp. 114–122.

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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