What is the Purpose of the 10 Commandments?

Why did God give us the 10 Commandments? Are the Ten Commandments still relevant for Christians today?

The Ten Commandments appear in Exodus 20:2-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-17 and were given by God to Moses. The first half of these commandments relate to man’s relationship with God. The other half of the 10 Commandments relates to our relationship with one another.

These 10 Commandments are as follows:

  1. You shall have no other gods before Me
  2. You shall not make any graven image or idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.
  3. You shall not misuse or take the name of the Lord your God in vain
  4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy
  5. Honour your father and your mother
  6. You shalt not murder
  7. You shalt not commit adultery
  8. You shalt not steal
  9. You shalt not give false testimony against your neighbour
  10. You shalt not covet


Why are the 10 Commandments still relevant & important today?

1. The Commandments reveal God’s perfect standard for righteous and holy living.
If any person is able to keep all the 10 Commandments without disobeying any law, that person would be regarded as perfect and righteous. Furthermore if everyone kept the Ten Commandments, then we would live in a perfect society and a perfect world in which there’s no crime, no lying, no hatred, no stealing, no killing, no sexual immorality and so forth.
So God gave Moses the 10 Commandments in order to give the world His perfect standard for righteousness and holiness.


2. The Commandments reveal man’s sinfulness and imperfections.
The truth is that everyone has broken either most or all of God’s 10 Commandments. If you have ever told a lie; if you have ever stolen something; if you have ever used God’s name in vain, or if you have ever been sexually immoral – the hard truth is that you are guilty of disobeying God and therefore guilty of breaking God’s commandments.

The Bible declares that we are all sinners before a holy, just and righteous God.
Romans 3:23 says: For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

So we are imperfect people because by our own strength and effort, we cannot keep God’s perfect laws.
Romans 3:10-12 says: …None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.

Therefore the 10 Commandments reveal man’s imperfections and propensity to sin and commit wicked and lawless acts. The Bible further reveals that God’s laws were not made for the righteous, instead God’s laws were written for sinners or the disobedient.

1 Timothy 1:9-10 says:  Understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine,


3. The Commandments must ultimately lead us to the realization that we need a Saviour.
It is clear that nobody can obey all the 10 Commandments faithfully and without error. We are all lawbreakers of God’s commandments.

James 2:10-11 says: For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.”

So if we are to be judged according to our ability to keep God’s laws then every human being rightly deserves to receive God’s eternal wrath and punishment in hell.

We cannot redeem ourselves by our own effort because now-and-again we keep breaking God’s commandments. We cannot save ourselves by our individual attempt to be righteous because we always fall short or miss the mark.
Isaiah 64:6 says the following regarding our feeble attempt to be righteousness through our own effort or strength: “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”

Furthermore the law itself cannot save us and this is why we need a Saviour. So the major purpose of the 10 Commandments is to lead us to Jesus Christ, the Saviour who paid for our sins on the cross.

Galatians 3:24-26 says: So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. 26 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. [Emphasis Added]

The law cannot save us. It is through Jesus Christ that we receive forgiveness of sins. It is through faith in Jesus Christ that we are saved, redeemed and obtain the free gift of eternal life.
Romans 6:23 says: For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The law cannot save us. We are not saved by our own works or effort to be good. It is because of the love, grace and mercy of God that we are privileged to receive the free gift of eternal life through believing in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour.
Titus 3:5-7 says God “saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life”. [Emphasis Added]

The law cannot save us. The law is like a mirror that reflects our sinfulness. However when we realize our sinfulness, we must then humbly turn to Jesus Christ who was crucified on the cross to pay the debt for sin that we cannot pay.
Galatians 2:21 NLT says: I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.

2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT says: For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.


Salvation is by Grace alone, through Faith alone, and in Christ alone.

Ephesians 2:8-9 says: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9  not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

John 3:16 says: For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. [Emphasis Added]

In John 14:6 Jesus says: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

If we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, does this mean that we do not have to do good works? Does it also mean that we should no longer obey God’s word because we are saved by grace?
Certainly not! Grace is not a licence to sin because genuine grace will give us a desire to please God instead of disobeying Him (Romans 6:1-2).

Becoming a Christian means that we become a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). This also means that God puts His own desires inside of us.
Therefore when we value what Jesus did for us on the cross, and when we value the grace and mercy  which God has revealed by giving us the free gift of eternal life – then we become motivated to obey God’s word.

The Bible says that God’s grace trains us to abandon all forms of ungodliness and worldly passions.
Titus 2:11-12 says that “the grace of God which brings salvation for all people will train us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.”

So we are not saved because we do good works. We do good works because we are saved and have fully trusted in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour.



So it’s important to note that we cannot be saved by keeping the 10 Commandments.
Instead the purpose of the 10 Commandments is to reveal God’s standard for holiness; it is to reveal our sinfulness and inability to obey His law; and finally the purpose of the Ten Commandments is to bring us to the foot of the cross where Jesus paid for our sins.

Forgiveness of sins is found in the Person of Jesus Christ who became our Substitute and received our punishment on the cross. Jesus paid the debt that we can never pay with our own effort.

Ephesians 1:7 NLT says: He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins.




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