What distinction do The 10 Commandment have over other rules in the Bible?

Is breaking any of The 10 Commandments an immortal, unforgivable sin while other sins are not?

I just want to know the difference; why is there in a "top 10" list?


4 Answers 4


From a Baptistic perspective, there is very little difference between the 10 commandments and the other 603 rules and regulations of the Torah. Note: I'm specifically not addressing the extent to which the law of Moses still applies, as it is well covered elsewhere

While the 10 commandments are a succinct guide to right behavior, their popularity really only stems from that point. Taking a step back, most of the other Torahic Law deals with ceremonial functions - and if its choice between remembering "Don't Steal" and whether one needs to present a bull offering or a grain offering, which one would you promote? Likewise, the priest needs to know what's leprosy and what not, but "Don't commit adultery" has a much wider applicability.

A cursory reading of Leviticus will show that the bulk of the Torah concerns not how a person should act, but rather what kinds of offerings and atonements should be made to resolve things. Sure, there's the ScapeGoat, Baldness, rules about what does and does not constitute incest - but there's actually far less about personal behavior even in "the Law" than you might expect.

Indeed, when Jesus was asked, what is the most important, he didn't say "the 10 commandments." Rather,

Matt 22:34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

His answer reflects several established Talmudic traditions:

  1. The Schema (Hear O Israel, the Lord your God is One) is the primary law. Everything else stems from it.

  2. The 10 Commandments themselves divide neatly into two categories:

    • the first 4 (in Protestant numbering) are about how you love God (No other Gods, idols, No Blasphemy, Sabbath)
    • the other 6 are about how you love others (Don't steal, lie, kill, cheat on your spouse, covet)

What Jesus did was to emphasize the fact that love undergirds all of this.

  • Well done, essentially what I would have attempted!
    – Rick
    Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 14:44

The Ten Commandments are the only thing in the Bible that God wrote Himself, with His own finger. He did not trust any man to write it for Him. This shows how important these are.

Sin is breaking the 10 Commandments.

And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.

1 John 3:3-6

Whoever breaks the Ten Commandments deserves death.

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 6:23

But whoever truly repents from their sin and ask Jesus shall be forgiven. This is the reason why Jesus came to die. So that He would take the punishment of our sin so you wouldn't have to.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9

Breaking just 1 of these (the Sabbath) you are guilty of all.

For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.

James 2:10-12

Is keeping the law legalism? No, trying to attain salvation by keeping the law is. The function of the Law is to show you WHAT you are doing wrong, so that you can go to Jesus and be cleansed. Go to Jesus and SIN NO MORE, by not breaking God's Commandments. You keep the law because you do not wish to grieve Jesus anymore

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

Romans 6:1, 2

God the Father and His Son Jesus, who is also God, DO NOT CHANGE.

For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.

Malachi 3:6

The words of Jesus Himself:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

Matthew 5:17, 18

Heaven and earth are still here. God's Law is still binding.

What happens with that which God blesses?

Now therefore let it please Thee to bless the house of Thy servant, that it may be before Thee for ever; for Thou blessest, O Lord, and it shall be blessed for ever.

1 Chronicles 17:27

The Seventh Day, the LORD's day which HE blessed is the 4th Commandment.

And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: BECAUSE that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

Genesis 2:2, 3

In the Old Testament the Sabbath was kept:

If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on MY holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

Isaiah 58:13-14

Jesus kept the Sabbath:

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.

Luke 4:16

But do we have to do what Jesus did?

He that says he abides in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.

1 John 2:6

Did the disciples keep the Sabbath?

Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.

Acts 17:1-3

Were the Gentiles willing to worship on Sabbath?

And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath.

Acts 13:42

What day will be kept in Heaven and in the recreated new heaven and earth?

“For as the new heavens and the new earth Which I will make shall remain before Me,” says the Lord, “So shall your descendants and your name remain. And it shall come to pass That from one New Moon to another, And from one Sabbath to another, All flesh shall come to worship before Me,” says the Lord.

Isaiah 66:22-23

So throughout the Old Testament the Sabbath was kept. Jesus kept the Sabbath. The disciples kept the Sabbath. In the new heaven and earth the Sabbath shall be kept. Why should we not also keep it?

People said that the Law was changed by Jesus, but He Himself said in Matthew 5:17 that He did not come to abolish the LAW! Does the Bible talk about someone who would try to change the Law?

And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.

Daniel 7:25

Antichrist would come and TRY to change times and laws. Interesting how the ONLY part of the LAW that has tried to be changed is the Commandment dealing with TIME.

Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall TEACH men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:19

The Law of God is still binding. Jesus offers forgiveness from your sins, the breaking of His Commandments. But He does not want you to abide in sin, but to abide in Him.

If you love me, keep my commandments.

John 14:15

Who will be the people of God in the last days, who Satan is wroth with and are the remnant of the true church of God?

And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Revelation 12:17

I will leave you with the words of Jesus.

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 7:21


I was putting this as a comment to DJ but I'll put it as part of my answer. In the Bible, Jesus was once asked what was asked here. "Which is the greatest of all the Commandments?" Obviously the Bible is composed of many commandments not just the 10 Commandments. Do they differ from the others or are they just done away with? Let's see what Jesus answers.

Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

This is the first and great commandment.

And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Matthew 22:36-40

Jesus says on these two hang ALL THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS (Old Testament). So everything else goes back to this. Now let's see the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3-17):

1 - “You shall have no other gods before me.

2 - “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

3 - “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

4 - “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

5 - “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

6 - “You shall not murder.

7 - “You shall not commit adultery.

8 - “You shall not steal.

9 - “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

10 - “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

If you look closely, Commandments 1 - 4 ARE The First Great Commandment because they show HOW you love your God.

Likewise, Commandments 5 - 10 ARE The Second Great Commandment because they show HOW you love your neighbor as yourself.

How are the 10 Commandments and the other commandments different? Here are a few differences between the Law of God (10 Commandments), and the Law of Moses (other Commandments) in question answer form.

What is it called?

Law of Moses - Called "Law contained in ordinances"

EPH. 2:15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace.

Law of God - Called "the Royal law"

JAMES 2:8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:

Where was it written and by whom?

Law of Moses - Written by Moses in a book

2 CHRON. 35:12 And they removed the burnt offerings, that they might give according to the divisions of the families of the people, to offer unto the LORD, as it is written in the book of Moses. And so did they with the oxen.

Law of God - Written by God on stone

EXO. 31:18 And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God. EXO. 32:16 And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables.

Where was in Placed?

Law of Moses - Placed in the side of the ark

DEUT. 31:26 Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee.

Law of God - Placed inside the ark(Which represents the very throne of God)

EXO. 40:20 And he took and put the testimony into the ark, and set the staves on the ark, and put the mercy seat above upon the ark:

When did it end?

Law of Moses - Ended at the cross

EPH. 2:15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace.

Law of God - Will stand forever

LUKE 16:17 And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.

What was its purpose?

Law of Moses - Added because of sin

GAL. 3:19 Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.

Law of God - Points out sin

ROM. 7:7 What shall we say then? is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. ROM. 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

Is it grievous to us?

Law of Moses - Contrary to us, against us

COL. 2:14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.

Law of God - Not grievous

1 JOHN 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.


Law of Moses - Judges no man

COL. 2:14-16 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: (Please notice the 's' this is not talking about THE Seventh Day, but about the sabbath days as in the feasts, yearly sabbaths, etc... which were ORDINANCES)

Law of God - Judges all men

JAM. 2:10-12 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.

Spiritual or carnal?

Law of Moses - Carnal

HEB. 7:16 Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life.

Law of God - Spiritual

ROM. 7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. Made nothing perfect

HEB. 7:19 For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God. Perfect

PSALMS 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.

The Bible most assuredly shows that there is a BIG difference between the Law of God (10 Commandments) and the Law of Moses (ordinances). If there was no difference the Bible would be contradicting itself speaking about the Law in one way in one place, and in another way somewhere else. However, the Bible IS the Word of God, and it does NOT contradict itself, therefore there IS a difference between the 10 Commandments and the ordinances given to Moses (the law of Moses).

  • 2
    Most Christians would disagree that sin is simply and only breaking the 10 Commandments. More importantly none of the passages you quote indicate that they are only talking about the 10 Commandments, rather than the law as a whole. Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 13:53
  • @DJClayworth Really? What about James 2:10-12? That's not talking about the 10 Commandments? It even gives examples... Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 14:10
  • 2
    The thing you haven't shown (from scripture) is that when the rest of scripture talks about "the law" it is ONLY talking about the Ten Commandments. The James passage talks about 'royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself"'. I don't see that in the ten. Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 14:22
  • @DJClayworth I thorougly disagree James 2:10-12: For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. Which law says Don't Kill, Don't commit adultery? It's clearly the law of God - the 10 commandments
    – One Face
    Commented Aug 23, 2015 at 15:06

The 10 commandments were written by the hand of God personally.

Those Laws are just as cogent today as they were when God gave them to Moses on the mount.

Jesus did not do away with any Old Testament Law instead he fulfilled them, that is why he is the Lord of the Sabbath.

To try to say that any Law is more important than another is not possible since the penalty for disobedience is the same no matter what law you break, and that penalty is death.

That is the reason we need a Savior and the reason Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross.

Disobedience of God is not like disobeying your parents when you were young. Telling a white lie is in God's eyes no lesser a crime than murder.

  • 1
    You mean that for example: A group of gangster is trying to kill a relatively good person. You saw person hide the bushes. Then the gangsters asked you if you saw where the person hid, and you said no to save the person then he is no less than those gangsters because of the white lie, and you are suggesting that he would be doing a better thing if he just told the truth?
    – FFCoder
    Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 9:28
  • @ FFCoder I cannot understand why the need to ask if any Law is more important than another when the both carry the same punishment. that to me is like asking if murder during a robbery is more heinous than shooting and killing someone because they are of a different race.
    – BYE
    Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 9:37
  • your example shows my point in that we all are sometimes given to tell a white lie for various reasons some may even be necessary in our point of view, but that does not change the fact that it is still a lie.
    – BYE
    Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 9:44
  • "...and that penalty is death" Was death the punishment for breaking any of the law in Old Testament? The punishment for stealing was also death?
    – Mawia
    Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 9:49
  • @CecilBeckum if they are equal then why do we have 10 commandments? why not just bible commandments. What is the relavance of making a top 10 list or whatever you want to call it?
    – FFCoder
    Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 10:14

The Ten Commandments are the stipulations of the Covenant between God and Israel and not just laws. See Deuteronomy 4: 13. It is the only words that all Israel heard God speak and therefore incontestable. See Deuteronomy 5: 22.

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