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What Luther Says

10th Commandment: The 10 Commandments Show Us Our Sins And Preach Repentance

With all the "Antinomian" (a.k.a. "anti-Law") flavored talk on social media lately that completely boggles the mind when it's coming from Lutheran Pastors who should know better, I thought it might be good for us to get back to basics and revisit the Ten Commandments.

Remember, as Lutherans, we firmly believe that a proper distinction between Law and Gospel is vital and that the Law is good just as the Gospel is good.

So, with that in mind, let's take an in-depth look at one of the 10 Commandments. The following is quoted from "What About...The Ten Commandments" by Dr. A. L. Barry (10th Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod President, 1992-2001)...

Here is the tenfold sure command, God gave to men of every land, through faithful Moses standing high, on holy Mount Sinai. Have mercy, Lord! 
This [article] will help you study the Commandments and use them in your daily life. We recognize sin in our lives as we examine ourselves according to the Ten Commandments. Sin takes a gift God has given and uses it in a way God does not want it used. Each commandment also teaches us how God’s gifts are used to His honor and glory.

10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. 
The portion in your neighbors lot, his goods, home, wife, desire not. Pray God he would your neighbor bless, as you yourself wish success. Have mercy, Lord! 
Being content with the material gifts God has given us is the theme of these last two Commandments. The Lord will provide for all our needs. We are free to help our neighbor and wish him well, rejoicing with him in his good fortune, or helping him in need. As Christ has served us, so we serve others. With these two Commandments, we find ourselves back again at the first, for the heart that fears, loves and trust in God is content with the gifts God gives. (Romans 7:8; 1 Timothy 6:8-10; Philippians 4:11; 1 Timothy 6:6; Hebrews 13:5).

That's a good, succinct summary for us.

However, in an attempt to make it a little more personal (and uncomfortable) for us, let's consider some specific examples of what would classify as "breaking" this Commandment as put forth by Rev. Dr. Ken Korby from a piece titled "The Ten Commandments Preach Repentance; That Is, By Them God Shows Us Our Sin And How Much We Need A Savior" that I found at the Steadfast Lutherans website.

You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his cattle, nor anything that is his. 
What does this mean? 
We should fear and love God that we may not estrange, force, or entice away our neighbor’s wife, servants, or cattle, but urge them to stay and [diligently] do their duty.

-- Have I wanted my neighbor’s spouse, his workers, or his property to be mine? 
-- Have I tried to win the affections and loyalties of my neighbor’s spouse or children or friends away from the neighbor to me? 
-- Have I urged friends and spouses and workers to go back to their calling, holding their marriages, friendships, families, and work together? 
-- Have I fostered discontent with the congregation, its pastor or leaders, and failed to urge members to stay and do their duty in worship, praying, giving and serving?

Surely, each and every single one of us has fallen short of living up to those standards, haven't we? Of course, recognizing how we fall short of God's perfect Law, and then repenting of those sins, so that we can receive His forgiveness and mercy offered to us freely through the death and resurrection of His Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is the whole point!

How does God use the Ten Commandments in our lives then? Here's Dr. A. L. Barry again with the simple answer...

How Does God Use The Ten Commandments In Our Lives? 
You have this law to see therein, that you have not been free from sin, but also that you clearly see, how pure toward God should be. Have mercy, Lord! 
Lord Jesus, help us in our need; Christ, you are our go-between indeed. Our works, how sinful, marred, unjust. Christ, you are our one hope and trust. Have mercy, Lord! The Ten Commandments cause us to ask ourselves the following questions: Do I fear, love and trust in anything or anyone above the Triune God? Have I honored the Lord’s name on my lips and in my life? Have I gladly held His Word sacred, listened attentively to the preaching of that Word, and made use of it in my daily life? Have I honored and obeyed all the authorities placed over me? Have I maintained the purity of my marriage and my sexual life in my thoughts, words and deeds? Have I stolen property or not helped my neighbor protect his? Have I gossiped, either by listening to it, or spreading it myself? Have I been content with all that the Lord has given to me? The Law is a blinding reflection of our sin. The Law of God is what the Holy Spirit uses to make us realize how much we need the forgiveness Christ won for the world and now distributes through His Word and Sacraments. The Holy Spirit calls us by the Gospel, to turn to Christ Jesus, who is our only hope, for He has fulfilled the Law perfectly for us and died so that our sin would be forgiven. Through His resurrection from death, He conquered death. In Christ, we have been adopted as the Lord’s own dear children. Therefore, God uses His Law in three ways: First, like a curb, by which outbursts of sin are controlled. Second, and most importantly, like a mirror, to show us our sin and our need for a Savior. And then, like a guide, to teach us what is pleasing to Him. Living in the forgiveness won by Christ, throughout our lives we pray, "Have mercy, Lord!"

The Law and the Gospel do not stand in opposition to each other as if they are rival systems of salvation (see Galatians 3:15-29).

Scripture, which contains God's Law, incarcerated the whole world with no hope for release. Sin's dreadful power subjugated all of human existence. The Law discloses sin for what it really is -- a violation of God's revealed will.

Therefore, the Law does have a purpose in God's plan, which is to simply show us our need for deliverance from the wages of our sins (Romans 6:23). The Law serves the good purpose of revealing our sin and our need for a Savior.

The good news? Christ redeems us from the Law's curse by becoming a curse for us! One sin, no matter how "trivial" it may seem to us, makes us a transgressor of the whole Law and accountable to God (James 2:10). Christ's death on the cross releases us from the guilt of every sin.

So, the 10 Commandments show us our sins and preach repentance; that is, by them God shows us our sin and how much we need a Savior.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, the Law is good and necessary, but Jesus Christ does for us what the Law cannot do -- He gives us forgiveness of sin and eternal life though we did not deserve it one bit.

NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 3 years ago now. 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 inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse footnotes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.


  1. 1] Since the Law of God is useful, 1. not only to the end that external discipline and decency are maintained by it against wild, disobedient men; 2. likewise, that through it men are brought to a knowledge of their sins; 3. but also that, when they have been born anew by the Spirit of God, converted to the Lord, and thus the veil of Moses has been lifted from them, they live and walk in the law, a dissension has occurred between some few theologians concerning this third and last use of the Law. 2] For the one side taught and maintained that the regenerate do not learn the new obedience, or in what good works they ought to walk, from the Law, and that this teaching [concerning good works] is not to be urged thence [from the law], because they have been made free by the Son of God, have become the temples of His Spirit, and therefore do freely of themselves what God requires of them, by the prompting and impulse of the Holy Ghost, just as the sun of itself, without any [foreign] impulse, completes its ordinary course. 3] Over against this the other side taught: Although the truly believing are verily moved by God's Spirit, and thus, according to the inner man, do God's will from a free spirit, yet it is just the Holy Ghost who uses the written law for instruction with them, by which the truly believing also learn to serve God, not according to their own thoughts, but according to His written Law and Word, which is a sure rule and standard of a godly life and walk, how to order it in accordance with the eternal and immutable will of God.

    4] For the explanation and final settlement of this dissent we unanimously believe, teach, and confess that although the truly believing and truly converted to God and justified Christians are liberated and made free from the curse of the Law, yet they should daily exercise themselves in the Law of the Lord, as it is written, Ps. 1:2;119:1: Blessed is the man whose delight is in the Law of the Lord, and in His Law doth he meditate day and night. For the Law is a mirror in which the will of God, and what pleases Him, are exactly portrayed, and which should [therefore] be constantly held up to the believers and be diligently urged upon them without ceasing. (SD FC VI 1-4)

  2. Thank you for this appropriate reminder, Kay Dee.


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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