Which denominations would teach, either directly or indirectly, that the ten commandments are a reflection of God's character? And how would such a claim be asserted?

  • this questions seems hugely open ended. directly or indirectly sounds opinion based.
    – depperm
    Jan 4 at 18:26
  • Why wouldn't they be a reflection of God's character?? God doesn't act out of character!
    – curiousdannii
    Jan 4 at 22:52
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    @curiousdannii Are you, thus, suggesting that God, himself, 'acts' according to ten commandments ?
    – Nigel J
    Jan 5 at 4:15
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    When you say 'character' of God do you mean the 'righteousness' of God ? I ask this because Paul makes it clear that only the gospel reveals the righteousness of God, Romans 1:17. Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 5 at 4:19
  • @curiousdannii - "why wouldn't they be a reflection of God's character? God doesn't.." etc. Good point. I mean "are they a perfect reflection of his character?" If we had just the 10 commandments we would have a very good understanding of what God is like. Jan 5 at 9:08

4 Answers 4


I know that Seventh Day Adventists have taught that the Law is a reflection of God's character for over 100 years (I myself have taught it for more than 30 years as an Adventist pastor) and more recently, I believe some groups coming out of the Worldwide Church of God may also teach this.

I just read The Law: A Reflection of God’s Character by Isaac Khalil on his website.

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    – agarza
    Jan 5 at 4:59
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    +1.. thanks. And for the linked article. Jan 5 at 10:19

There are many denominations under the umbrella of Reformed Protestantism, and many of them see the ten commandments as a reflection of the character of God. They are mainly those who espouse "Covenant Theology". I'm not going to try to list them all. This answer is just to give one example of one group, as to how they reason on this matter.

Basically, they quote from the Bible to say that the Law [the Mosaic Law that includes the ten commandments] is perfect. That's because God is perfect, and his Law is perfect. Next, as the Bible says, it is designed to convince sinners that they cannot keep God's perfect Law - only discovered by trying to keep it and inevitably failing. This should drive them to Christ who, alone, perfectly kept the Law on our behalf, they claim, so that repentant sinners might be saved. As Christ is the exact representation of God's very Being, then the character of Christ is the character of God, and shines forth in Christ's perfect Law-keeping.

Here are some quotes from one of their books that show how they assert some of these claims:

"In its broad sense, the Mosaic covenant is an administration of the covenant of grace... The Israelites in no way earned their eternal salvation but received it as a gift through Christ. In its narrow sense, however, the Mosaic covenant is a covenant of law...

Our tendency is to think that we can obey, that we can become holy by our own efforts. We do this in two primary ways. First, we attempt to dilute God's righteousness by lowering his standard of holiness and assuming that God values our works. Or second, we are prone to assume that we are not that sinful, that if we really try and get a little help our obedience will make us holy. The destination, however, is the same for both avenues, the destruction of the biblical doctrine of salvation. Hence, God gave humanity the Mosaic covenant to help with this serious problem...

The Mosaic covenant is God's law covenant with Israel, wherein he graciously leads them to Christ by showing them the perfect righteousness that only Christ could fulfill to redeem sinners." Sacred Bond - Covenant Theology Explored, Michael G. Brown and Zach Keele, pp104-105 & 108, Reformed Fellowship Inc., second edition 2017

It is this idea of perfect obedience that is at the back of the view that the ten commandments so perfectly reflect the character of God, that God in Christ had to perfectly keep the entire Law for the plan of salvation to succeed:

"God's justice requires that heaven be earned by perfect obedience to his law. This is what Christ came to do as our covenantal representative. He obeyed the law in our stead so that by faith we can become the righteousness of God in him (2 Cor. 5:21). Christ earned the glory of heaven for his people, which we receive as a gift through faith. ...[Christ] is the One who fulfilled Sinai's command, 'Do this and live' (Lev. 18:5)." (Ibid. p.118 & 120)

This raises many questions, but none that you ask. Pressing on, here is a quote from Dutch Reformed theologian Herman Witsius, who wrote:

"The scriptures represent the Father, in the economy of our salvation, as demanding the obedience of the Son even unto death; and upon condition of that obedience, promising him in his turn that name which is above every name." (As quoted in Ibid., p.37)

"As Louis Berkhof explains [the covenant of redemption]: ...it was for Christ a covenant of works rather than a covenant of grace. For him the law of the original covenant applied, namely, that eternal life could only be obtained by meeting the demands of the law. As the last Adam, Christ obtains eternal life for sinners in reward for faithful obedience, and not at all as an unmerited gift of grace." (Ibid., p.40)

This shows the assertion that God put Christ under obligation to perfectly keep his perfect Law. If to see Christ is to see the Father (and Jesus said it is), then it can be seen how this Reformed theology teaches that even God has to keep his own Law. It is, in effect, saying that God's character is so bound up with his Law, that the plan of salvation depended on Christ keeping it. As the first quote showed, God's perfect righteousness and holiness is integral to the Law and to the plan of salvation, which also shows his grace to sinners (but not shown to Christ.) Now, this takes us back to Eden and the two trees in the garden - obedience, to what? To Law? Is that how God lives? By keeping his perfect Law? If so, then that makes God subject to Law and, therefore, inferior to it, so that in no way reflects the true character of God!

God is what is right. Righteousness is what God is. All else must accommodate to the rightness that he is. But to say that God himself must be subject to a Law that tells him what is right, and that he has to know both that, and what is wrong, and to choose to do right (by keeping that Law), denies the character of God, that he is righteous in his Being. He was righteous and holy in his Being before he gave the Law to Israel. He didn't give it for himself as well! The Word of God gave the Law at Sinai, mediated through angels, and so the Word as flesh, (Jesus) was never going to break his own Law!

Back to your question. In summary, Reformed (Covenantal) theology (which claims to be neither legalistic nor antinomian [without law, against law],) would agree with Reformed theologian Michael Eaton's definition of God's glory is, "The radiation of God's character" (Hosea, p145 Christian Focus). That's why he dwells in unapproachable light. But his character is what he IS, not what he is subject to, for God is not subject to anything or anyone. He abides by who he is, being true to his Being, his character. Therefore, whence arises this claim that the ten commandments reflect God's character? It seems to be born out of a desire to keep Christians bound to them, yet if Christ perfectly kept them for us, why do we need to keep them ourselves? Where do we really see God's character? In a legal enactment made for sinners, or having "Christ in us, the hope of glory"? And if we have Christ in us, by faith and grace, then we will see the astounding character of God in this text:

"Now the end of the commandment is charity [love] out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned... We know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man..." (1 Timothy 1:5-9 K.J.)

The Law was not made for Jesus Christ. But antinomianism also means, "The unlawful abuse of law", hence the seriousness of any theology that attempts to lead us back to the Law by saying that our keeping of the ten commandments will somehow show us the character of God; that keeping these laws is so important that even Jesus Christ was obliged to keep them. The character of God shines forth from his very Being, not from tablets of stone.

Edit having just seen the OPs comment, "If we had just the 10 commandments we would have a very good understanding of what God is like". But "what God is like" is not the same as fully grasping his character. We would not know the grace of God only later revealed as to how he would save sinners from his righteous judgment of their sins. The Law only showed how impossible it was for sinners to keep his Law. It is predominantly a list of negatives showing what God judges. It took the coming of Christ to fully show the character of God, as Christ alone reveals the Father to us.

  • Excellent and thorough. Much as I would have expressed myself, had I eventually got round to doing it. Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 11 at 9:49

Of course!

It is easy to demonstrate that God Himself follows His own laws and commandments.

  1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me - God is clearly not conceited; He does not tolerate subversion against heaven and cannot look upon sin with allowance.
  2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image - God is clearly not wrapped up in idolatry or any obsessive pursuit. He doesn't waste time watching football, TV, abusing substances, or any of the numberless other forms of idolatry, whether popular or unpopular among us.
  3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. Obviously He does not take His own name in vain, because He is true to His own perfect integrity and virtue. He cannot lie.
  4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Labor six days. God Himself labors six days and rests every seventh, as proven by the Creation account in Genesis. The Earth itself is about to enter its Sabbath period of rest when the Millennium begins as the seventh of its seven thousand years of temporal existence. This is a law that God continues to abide.
  5. Honor thy father and thy mother - No one can miss the fact that the highest priority of the Son of God is to honor and worship His Father.
  6. Thou shalt not steal. When did God ever steal from, or defraud anyone? Never. Property rights are among His highest eternal priorities.
  7. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Both God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ are the epitome of chastity and fidelity.
  8. Thou shalt not kill. God never murdered anyone. He is the God of life, and He is the originator of life and proliferation of it. He never delights in destruction. Destruction is the way of the adversary. God created and gave us our lives in the first place, and will raise us up at the last day.
  9. Thou shalt not bear false witness - God cannot lie.
  10. Thou shalt not covet - The Son of God refused Satan's temptation when He was offered all things. This was a very real temptation but the Lord never sold us out. He is eternally opposed to covetousness and instead gives all His powers into the work of undying generosity. He went about doing good, and still does.

Read the context. God has just rescued the Israelites from 430 years of captivity in Egypt and now is going to make a people for Himself as he promised Abraham previously. These were not a holy people yet and knew nothing of Godly behavior. The 10 Commandments (Israel listed them differently) were there as a guide for them as well as all the other laws. Yes they are small part of the character of God but that’s not the point. Only God in the person of Jesus could fulfill those laws. He then became the sacrifice for all those that believe(trust) in Him (John 3:16). Israel had to be trained. Our training is Scripture. Following the 10 commandments would make you a better person and certainly improve your character but they cannot save you. Don’t get Israel mixed up with Christianity. We are under Grace now. Trust in Jesus and the Holy Spirit will reside in you. He will give you Godly character as you obey Him.

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    Welcome to the site, Larry, and for your answer. To help it conform better to the requirement of this site, it would be good if you could quote a few external sources that back up what (otherwise) would look like your personal opinion. This is a good start, though!
    – Anne
    Jan 13 at 11:31
  • If the ten commandments is 'part of God's character' then why , O why ? was Adam banished from Eden when he chose to partake of the knowledge of good and evil ?
    – Nigel J
    Jan 16 at 22:12

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