038 The Purpose of the Ten Commandments

“Therefore, by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight; for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20)

Key Verse:

‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law!’

(Galatians 3:10)

(Exodus 20)

In our last two lessons we saw how God descended on Mount Sinai in fire, thunder and lightning to deliver His ten holy commandments to the tribes of Israel.

The first commandment

You shall have no other gods before me.

The second:

You shall not make for yourself an idol.


You shall not use the name of the LORD your God in vain.


Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.


Honour your father and your mother.


You shall not murder.


You shall not commit adultery.


You shall not steal.


You shall not lie.


You shall not covet the things of your neighbour.

These are the Ten Commandments which God sent down to Moses and to the Israelites. God laid on them a heavy burden, saying to them: Whoever can perfectly keep everything that the Ten Commandments demand, can live with God forever. However, whoever keeps the whole law

but fails in just one point

is guilty of breaking all of it, and will be separated from Me forever!

That was the way of holiness God delivered to the tribes of Israel on Mount Sinai. God commanded that they obey Him in everything! Yes, everything! Are sinners able to keep all of God’s commandments?

No, they are not!

Nevertheless, that is exactly what God, the Holy One, requires! Therefore, the big question before us today is this: Why did God give His Ten Commandments to the children of Israel, when He knew that no one could keep them perfectly? Why did God place such a heavy burden on Adam’s descendants?

We have already seen how the children of Israel said,

“All that the Lord hath spoken we will do.”

However, God knew that they could not do all that He required. The Israelites did not realise that they lacked the strength to fulfil the will of God perfectly. They did not recognize just how far they were from God and His great glory. That is precisely why God gave the Israelites ten perfect commandments, saying to them: Keep them all,

if you can!

But whoever fails in even one point will be separated from Me forever!

God intended, through those burdensome commandments, to reveal to the tribes of Israel

their lack of ability to please Him.

God knew that the children of Israel could not follow all His commandments, but they them-selves had not yet realised this. The Israelites were like religious people of our day, who wrongly think that God simply wants us to try to do good and on Judgement Day, if our “good works” outweigh our “bad works,” then God will say to us, “Come, and dwell in My presence forever!” However, those who think this are mistaken and do not know the Scriptures or the holiness of God.

God is perfect, and cannot overlook even one sin!

By way of illustration, how many sins did our ancestor Adam have to commit before God expelled him from the Garden of Eden? Ten sins? Or one hundred? Perhaps a thousand? No! Just one sin and Adam had to get out!

One sin and Adam was no longer perfect before God and he could no longer approach God!

One sin and he had to die!

One sin and he earned for himself a place in the eternal fire!

God is holy and does not take sin lightly!

That is why He told the children of Israel: “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” (James 2:10)

Therefore, if this is what the holiness of God is like, what we want to know is: Why did God give the Ten Commandments to the Israelites when He knew that no one could keep them perfectly?

Here is God’s answer:

“But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident; for the just shall live by faith”. (Rom. 3:20)

So what is the purpose of the Ten Commandments? To remove sin? “No,” God says,

“the purpose of the commandments is to reveal sin!”

Did you get that? Why did God give His ten holy commandments to Moses and the children of Israel? Did He give them those commands so that by keeping them they could earn the right to enter Paradise? No! That cannot be because God says, “If you fail to keep all, you are condemned!” Can the children of Adam perfectly obey God in all that He has commanded? Can one draw pure, clean water from a dirty, polluted bucket?


What is the purpose of the Ten Commandments? The Scripture says: “The purpose of the commandments is to reveal sin!” God did not give the command-ments to save us from His judge-ment. God gave them to show us that we are condemned sinners and that

we need a Savior!

The Ten Commandments are like an X-ray machine at the hospital. If I am sick and I do not know what is wrong with me, perhaps the doctor will examine me by taking some X-rays. What is the purpose of an X-ray photo? It has just one purpose:

to reveal what is wrong inside my body.

In a similar way, the holy commandments which God entrusted to Moses are like the hospital’s X-ray machine.

Their purpose is to reveal what is wrong—

the sin that is in my heart and soul.

How can the Ten Command-ments reveal the sin that is in me? They reveal my sin in this way: If I compare my conduct with God’s holy law, I will see how far I am from God—in my thoughts, my words and my deeds. When I look at God’s law and then I look at myself, I know that I have sinned against God and sinned against man and that

I cannot be admitted into the pure and uncontaminated presence of a holy God!

Just as the hospital X-ray machine is useful for showing what is not right in a person’s body, so the Ten Commandments are useful for showing what is not right in a person’s heart. However, just as the X-ray cannot cure the one who is sick, the Ten Commandments cannot cure my heart which is full of sin. In order for that to happen, I must go back to the Great Physician, that is, to God.

Only God has a plan to save me

from the death and condemnation that await me due to the sin that is inside me.

Perhaps someone says, “Wait a minute, my friend! I’m a good person! I am not like others who steal, cheat, and commit adultery!” If that is your attitude, clearly you have not yet appreciated God’s holiness! What you need to know is that, on the Day of Judgement, God will not compare you with your sinful neighbourHe will compare you with

His holy and perfect law,

which states: 

“For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (Jam. 2:10)

The God who says: “You shall not commit adultery” also says, “You shall not lie!” Thus, if you have not committed adultery, but have told just one lie, then you have transgressed the whole law (see James 2:11) and cannot enter the presence of God in Paradise, because the Scripture says: “And there shall in no way enter into it anything that defileth,

neither he that worketh abomination,

or maketh a lie, but they who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Rev. 21:27) What is certain is that we can never please God through our own efforts! That is what the Word of God declares when it says: “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses as filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6)

God condemns all as sinners.

“There is none righteous, no, not one … they are all gone out of the way … for there is no difference, for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God!” (Rom. 3:10,12,22,23)

Now then, if that is what we are like before the One who must judge us, how can we escape His punishment?

What must we do to be saved?

Do we not have any hope? Based on our own efforts we have no hope. But thanks be to God, He has designed a plan to rescue the children of Adam from the punishment of sin!

Let us now continue in the book of Exodus, chapter twenty, and see the way God provided for the children of Israel to deliver them from the curse which His holy law brought upon them. After God gave the Ten Commandments to the Israelites, the Scripture says: (Exodus 20:18,21, 22,24) “And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they moved, and stood afar off … and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness

where God was.

And the Lord said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven … an altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen; in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and

I will bless thee”.

Thus, Moses wrote in a book everything that God instructed him. Then early in the morning Moses arose, made an altar at the base of Mount Sinai as God had commanded. When Moses finished making it, he ordered some young men to sacrifice some bulls,

collect the blood in bowls,

and burn the flesh on the altar. Then Moses took the blood of the bulls and sprinkled it on the altar, on the book in which he had written the Ten Commandments, and on all the crowd, and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant which the LORD hath made with you.” (Exod. 24:4-7).

Thus we see Moses, at the commandment of God, making an altar, sacrificing some ani-mals, and sprinkling the blood upon the whole multitude of Israel.

What was the reason for all of this?

God wanted to remind the Israelites of what He had taught their ancestors Adam, Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that without the shedding of blood is no remission.” (Heb. 9:22) Everyone who wished to approach God had to approach Him in the perfection of a spotless sacrifice.

Why did God command those animal sacrifices? God comma-nded them because He is righteous, and His holy law states that the penalty of even the “smallest” of sins is death and eternal condemnation, far from God and His great glory. And since the children of Israel could not keep all His holy command-ments, they had to bring to God a sacrifice without blemish, so that the innocent victim could replace the one who was guilty. How-ever, as we have already learned, animal sacrifices

could not remove sin,

they could only cover man’s sin, until God sent the holy Re-deemer into the world. The Redeemer would willingly offer Himself as the final Sacrifice for sin.

How glad we are today to know that this Savior has come and has paid for our sins once for all. Do you know His name? Yes, it Jesus. The name Jesus means

the LORD saves.

Jesus had no earthly father. He came from heaven. He did not inherit the sin nature found in all of Adam’s descendants. Jesus perfectly obeyed the Ten Commandments and fulfilled all of God’s righteous requirements. Because He was without sin, He was qualified to give His life as a sacrifice which takes away the sin of all who believe in Him. Because of the Redeemer’s per-fect sacrifice, God can declare you and I as righteous, because the One who had no sin, suffered the penalty for your sin and mine.

Dear friends, based on what we have studied today, let us remember two very important thoughts.

1) First, know for sure that

no one can save themselves

by keeping the Ten Commandments! Listen again to what the Scripture says about this: “All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law!’” (Gal. 3:10) “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” (Jam. 2:10) No one will be saved by trying to keep the Ten Commandments! The purpose of the commandments is

to reveal sin.

2) The second thought that we must keep in our minds is that God alone has a plan to save sinners! Listen to what the Scripture says: “For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all!” (1 Tim. 2:5,6) Truly, only God has a plan to save sinners.

And so, dear friends, we leave you with these two thoughts: No one will be saved by trying to keep the Ten Commandments! And: God alone

has a plan to save sinners!

May God bless you and give you insight into what we have studied, for His Word says: 

“Therefore, by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight; for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20)

We would invite you to answer the questions attached and send them together with any questions that you might have

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