The Ten Commandments

Balancing The Law and The Gospel

I hope you now agree that the Moral Law still holds sway over those of the Christian faith by defining sin for us and showing us how to love God and other people.  And, of course, I hope you are teaching the children in your life how to use these commandments correctly.

  • Start with knowing the Ten Commandments. The first step is to recite them in their own words. Then memorize.
  • Talk about what they mean.  A good place do this is when watching TV or a movie.  Or after!  Or at the dinner table.  Or when you are on a family hike.  Or…….
  • Use the Confessions of Faith and catechism questions to reinforce what you are teaching and living before them.  (When I revamped the children’s ministry for our church, I recommended that the “First Catechism” ( of 150 questions be memorized by the end of fifth grade.)
  • All along, they need to learn how to use those commandments to show them their sin and their sinfulness. Do this for them at first.  They will learn this by how you use the Ten Commandments when you are disciplining them.  Tell them which commandment they have broken.  Remind them that this is what sin is;  how it displeases the LORD who created the heavens and the earth– The One who loved them enough to die for their sins.
  • They will soon begin to understand what repentance is even if they do not do it!  But,  in the meantime, they will experience the power of the law to condemn as they feel their guilt. Let the guilt come from the law, not from you!  You would never use guilt as a way to manipulate others, would you?
  •  There will be some reverence for God developing in them as they come to fear the judgment and death promised to those who break God’s law.  This sounds harsh and mean, but if they experience a little guilt and fear, they will see their need of a Savior even if they do not acknowledge it now.
  • Never discipline them with the law without pointing them to how merciful and compassionate Christ Jesus is towards sinners. Encourage them to flee to their Savior and count on His sacrifice on the cross being enough to cover their sin.  Encourage them to think of  the Holy Spirit as a conquering hero to bring them to Christ Jesus.  He defeats every enemy of their soul.
  • Talk to them about your own sins.  Tell them how you came to face yourself as a sinner. Remember to be age appropriate here.  There is no need to tell a seven year old about your sexual impurity!
  • Your goal in all of this is to give them experiences that will confirm for them the truth of the Scriptures.  It is not their experiences that are truth, but their experiences of guilt, violation of the commandments, repentance, joy, renewed love for God, all cause them to agree with biblical principles when applied to their mind and heart by the Holy Spirit.
  • Don’t forget that you cannot bring your children to salvation no matter how much you try.  But, you can pray for them and show compassion on them as they struggle because of their slavery to sin, their blindness to the gospel, and the temptations of Satan.
  • My book, OLD PATHS FOR LITTLE FEET, has several chapters that might help you.  See the link at the top of my home page or go to

Go over and over these verses—and how they relate to the Moral Law and the Gospel:

For the LORD your God is a merciful God.  He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them (Deuteronomy 4: 33).

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night (Psalm 1:1-2).

‘When my life was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple….Salvation belongs to the LORD’

(Jonah 2:7,9b).

Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound.  But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more (Romans 5:20).

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law (Galatians 5:16-18).

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy,…(Titus 3:4-5a)

And, of course, you know now that “you are not under the law” in Galatians refers to Christians not being under its condemnation and its curse.  That is the kind of thing you should teach the children.  Those without Christ are under that curse of death.

Naturally, I am assuming that you sit with your children in Sunday worship.  You are studying the Bible together at home.  You sing hymns and joyful songs with them.  They are studying the Bible during school, when possible, and with other children from church.

Remember, you always want to balance the law and the gospel.  Pretend they are on each end of a seesaw.  Teach one, teach the other.  Never overburden children with only the law without warming their hearts with the gospel and giving them hope and comfort.  And remember that you are not alone in evangelizing your children:

But when the helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me (John 15:26).


“At this point, does it really matter?”

We are talking about the life of Christians.  So at this point,  what does the law matter?  We have Christian liberty.  Haven’t we died to the law, that we might live for Christ Jesus?  Didn’t Paul say: “But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code”  (Romans 7:6).

After this long study of the Ten Commandments, you might be feeling condemned, guilty, dead in your many failures.  If that is the case, you need a reminder of your Christian liberty.  We have been freed from the penalty of breaking the law (death).  We are freed through faith from the curse and condemnation of breaking of the law.  We are no longer under law, but under grace (Romans 3:19).  We no longer have to depend on the shedding of blood of a lamb, goat, or bull to cleanse us from the guilt of our sin.  No more need for priests.  Jesus is our priest; the veil has been ripped apart.  No more ceremonial law for us.

Christian liberty also includes being free from superstitions.  Matter and physical pleasure are not evil for us. No certain food plan for us. We can eat kale, or not!  We can enjoy all of God’s creation as long as our spiritual wellbeing is preserved (and that of others) (I Corinthians 6:12-13). The rules imposed on us by others no longer have any power.  We can home-school, or not.  Oh, it is a blessing to live so freely.

The Moral Law Remains As An Authority

But, we are not free to ignore the Ten Commandments as a guide or standard of how to please God.  We are not free to pursue any sexual orientation we want.  Adultery is still a sin. Telling a lie is still wrong. We are to set aside Sunday for worship.  We are to love God and others.  How can we be sure this is Biblical?  Paul exhorted Christians to love one another on the basis that the moral law was still an authority over them.  Ernie Reisinger points out this reasoning process:

Notice in these three aspects of Christian liberty that Christians have NOT been set free from responsibility to obey the moral law.  Believers are exhorted in the New Testament to love one another on the express ground that it is a requirement of the moral law.  “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; through love serve one another.  For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!” (Gal. 5:13-15).  …To the same purpose, the apostle, writing to the believing Romans, inculcates brotherly love and purity from the authority of the moral law.  “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.  For the commandments, ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ “‘you shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor a’s yourself.’  Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.  (The Law and the Gospel, (P&R Publishing, 1997,) p. 59-60.

There is no need to fulfill something if it has no authority over you any longer.  So Paul is saying that the Christian is not free from the use of the law to determine how to best love his neighbor.  Stealing your neighbor’s car or coveting her husband is not the way to love your neighbor.  The moral law guides the Christian so she know how to love God and other people.  Ernie, my warm-hearted Calvinist friend, concludes, “Our freedom from the penalties of the law is not freedom from its precepts for holy living.  In this way, grace and law are both established while true Christian liberty is affirmed.”

Stand firmly on this orthodox view of the law and Christian liberty. Smile to yourself when others impose their rules on you.  Don’t exclude others just because what works for you doesn’t work for them.  Cringe when another relishes her ” Christian liberty” to practice homosexuality or to live with another rather than marry.  Don’t be close friends with one who claims to be a Christian but habitually lies about others or shop-lifts for the thrill it gives her.  Seek to use Paul’s reasoning to defend this right view of Christian liberty and the law.

Keep teaching children the Ten Commandments.  Use the commandments to show them their sin and lead them to Christ.

Yes, it does matter, even now.  We are under grace; we have Christian liberty.  But, the moral law is still an authority over us–to guide us, to show us what pleases God, and what is sin.