The Ten Commandments or the Law of God Series
CONTEXT: In Matthew Henry Complete Commentary we find the following: Moses, in this chapter, goes on with his charge to Israel, to be sure to keep up their religion in Canaan. It is much the same with ch. 4. I. His preface is a persuasive to obedience (v. 1-3). II. He lays down the great principles of obedience. The first truth to be believed, That God is one (v. 4). The first duty to be done, To love him with all our heart (v. 5). III. He prescribes the means for keeping up religion (v. 6-9). IV. He cautions them against those things which would be the ruin of religion—abuse of plenty (v. 10-12), inclination to idolatry (v. 14, 15), and gives them some general precepts (v. 13, 16-18). V. He directs them what instructions to give their children (v. 20, etc.).
Although this obviously is intended for parents, grandparents, and the like to teach the next generation the Holy Word of God, we would do well to remember its instruction ourselves.
Yesterday we left off looking at different classes of “Laws” from Hodges’ Systematic Theology: Different Kinds of Laws. Today I want to continue in Hodge and look at three areas I feel important to the study of God’s law.
Scriptural Usage of the Word Law.
The Scriptures uniformly understand by law a manifestation of the will of God. All the operations of nature are ordered by-laws of his appointment. And his will is represented as the ultimate foundation of moral obligation. In Hebrew, it is called hr’ew OT, instruction, because it is, as the Apostle says, “the form of knowledge and of the truth.” It is the standard of right and wrong. In Greek, it is called no, moj, custom, and then, as custom or usage regulates the conduct of men, whatever has that authority does in fact control action, is called no, moj. In the New Testament, it is constantly used in this wide sense. It is sometimes applied to a rule of conduct however revealed; sometimes to the Scriptures as the supernaturally revealed will of God, as the rule of faith and practice; sometimes to the Pentateuch or Law of Moses; and sometimes specifically to the moral law. It is here to be taken to mean that revelation of the will of God which is designed to bind the conscience and to regulate the conduct of men.
Perfection of the Law.
The perfection of the moral law as revealed in the Scriptures includes the points already considered, — (1.) That everything that the Bible pronounces to be wrong, is wrong; that everything which it declares to be right is right. (2.) That nothing is sinful which the Bible does not condemn, and nothing is obligatory on the conscience which it does not enjoin. (3.) That the Scriptures are a complete rule of duty, not only in the sense just stated, but also in the sense that there is and can be no higher standard of moral excellence. Romanists, on the contrary, teach that a man can do more than the law requires. There are certain things which are commanded, and therefore absolutely obligatory; and others which are recommended, but not enjoined, such as voluntary poverty, celibacy, and monastic obedience. These are held to be virtues of a higher grade than obedience to explicit commands. This doctrine is founded on the erroneous views of the Church of Rome on the nature of sin, and the grounds of moral obligation. If nothing is sinful but voluntary, i. e., deliberate transgression of known law; and if the law is satisfied by voluntary action in this sense of the terms, then it is conceivable that a man may in this life render perfect obedience to the law, and even go beyond its demands. This is also connected with the distinction which Romanists make between mortal and venial sins. The former are those which forfeit baptismal grace and reduce the soul to its original state of spiritual death and condemnation. The latter are sins that have not this deadly effect but can be fully atoned for by confession and penance. But if the law of God is spiritual, extending to the thoughts and feelings whether impulsive or cherished; and if it demands all kinds and degrees of moral excellence, or complete congeniality with God, and conformity to his image, then there is no room for these distinctions and no higher rule of moral conduct. The law of the Lord, therefore, is perfect in every sense of the word.
Rules of Interpretation.
Theologians are accustomed to laying down numerous rules for the proper interpretation of the divine law, such as that negative precepts are to be understood as including positive, and positive, negative; that, in forbidding an act, everything which naturally leads to it is comprehended; that, in condemning one offense, all others of a like-kind are forbidden, and the like. All such rules resolve themselves into one. The decalogue is not to be interpreted as the laws of men, which take cognizance only of external acts, but as the law of God, which extends to the thoughts and intents of the heart. In all cases, it will be found that the several commandments contain some comprehensive principle of duty, under which a multitude of subordinate specific duties is included.
Keach’s Baptist Catechism of 1677 – Modern
Thomas Watson’s classic The Ten Commandments
Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Chapter XIX, The Law
The Ten Commandments, by A. W. Pink
Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 5, The Ten Commandments