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What Luther Says

What Are The Two Tables of The Law?

One of the things we haven't done in awhile in this space is "get back to basics" when it comes to understanding common theological words and phrases.

So, let's take a moment to do that today. Quite frankly, I had never heard of this before becoming a Confessional Lutheran. Even when I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" for a couple of years, this phrase never crossed the lips of any Pastor I was listening to, and therefore, never entered my heart and mind to prayerfully consider by way of my ears.

What are the "Two Tables of The Law" as derived from the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20)?


First Table -- Commandments #1, #2, #3

Our Relationship To God (Vertical)

Second Table -- Commandments #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10
Our Relationship To Man (Horizontal)

That may be rather simplistic, but I hope it gives you a better idea of what we mean by this common phrase whenever it comes up.

In short, the Lord's Ten Commandments can be divided into "Two Tables." The "First Table" tells us how we should live in relation to God. The "Second Table" tells us how we should live in relation to our fellow human beings.

The First Table contains Commandments 1-3. It can be summed up with the command of Jesus to love your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind. The Second Table, Commandments 4-10, is summed up by Jesus as love your neighbor as yourself. The Scriptures say that all people are accountable to God’s Law (Matthew 5:19; Romans 3:19).

In a Lutheran Layman's terms, the Two Tables of the Law gives us God's standard of perfection when it comes to our relationship to Him and our relationship to man, and they reveal our inability to fulfill the Law perfectly, which is why we need the grace and forgiveness of the Savior, Jesus Christ, or the only Person who ever lived that fulfilled the Law perfectly by living a righteous life on our behalf.

You can listen to the recent edition of Concord Matters if you'd like to learn more about the Two Tables of the Law and how we are to properly (Biblically) understand them.

[NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray. Finally, you might discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog definitely fall into that category since I was a Lutheran-In-Name-Only at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. I decided to leave those published posts up only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time and help. Grace and peace to you and yours!]


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

1 comment

  1. Thanks! I was confirming the division of the two table for some apologetics I am working on and this helped.


Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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