Ursinus On The Abiding Validity Of The Ten Commandments

151 Q: Since Christ has abolished the law, why are we bound to the ten commandments?
A: Christ has done away with the civil and ceremonial laws of Moses in such a way that no one is obligated to keep them anymore; moreover, it is not at all proper to reintroduce in the church the ceremonies which pointed to the future revelation of the Christ. And, for those who believe in him, Christ has also done away with the ten commandments in such a way that they no longer condemn them. But now that the grace of God in Christ is so much clearer, we owe all the more obedience to him.

152 Q: How many parts are there in the decalogue?
A: There are two tables. The first consists of four, and the second of six commandments.

153 Q: What does the first table teach?
A: How we ought to be and act in relation to God.

154 Q: What does the second table teach?
A: How we ought to be and act in relation to others.

Zacharias Ursinus Large Catechism in Introduction to the Heidelberg Catechism, ed. Lyle Bierma et al.


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  1. Dr Clark, I turn myself in as being agnostic/teachable/perhaps confused but hopefully not gullible regarding the place of the ten summation and the ultimate utility of the 3 uses, but thanks to the Holy Spirit still concerned to observe the moral elements. But is there anything to the Ancient Near East covenants form being said to be all sanctions and stipulations written in entirety and drawn complete on two tablets each of which were given for archive to each of the parties involved? We could still speak of tables regarding man and regarding God even if “two tablets” in the physical sense is not probable. 2: the question of Calvin’s statements on the Sabbath is correctly perceived as an interpretive challenge of the already and not yet of the (future) revelation of Christ (per Ursinus above)? 3: I read something lately about the relatively late appearance of the Commandments in catechesis and in general teaching importance except for, notably, Augustine’s sermon series which was said to be “carefully qualified” – could you comment on that? Hopefully I’m not denying the gospel or advancing a position….etc. Be easy on me, I’m not one of the pro’s. Respectfully yours.

  2. “Ten commandments done away with”? Jesus came to fulfil, not abolish the law. Each of the Ten Commandments appear in the New Testament , how can you say “they’re done away with”, if they are done away with then we’re in trouble.

  3. When Ursinus says “table” is he speaking of categories or speculating on what was written on each of the stone tablets?

  4. Hi mikelmann,

    It would seem the brief answer to your question can be summed in the answer to question 93 of the Heidelberg Catechism (so it’s categories)

    93. How are these Commandments divided?

    Into two tables: the first of which teaches, in four commandments, what duties we owe to God; the second, in six, what duties we owe to our neighbor.

    In his Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, he speaks of the categories of first (relating to God) and second table (relating to neighbor). He writes, “This is the first and greatest commandment. The love of God is called the first commandment, because all the others proceed from this, as their source. It is the impelling, the efficient, and final cause of obedience to all the other commandments of God. For we love our neighbor because we love God, and that we may manifest our love to God in the love which we cherish towards our neighbor.” And states regarding the “second commandment” that “Because it embodies the substance of the second table, or those duties which are performed directly towards our neighbor. If thou love thy neighbor as thyself, thou wilt neither murder, nor injure him.”

    In his exposition of Q93, he writes, “This question concerning the division of the Decalogue is necessary ant profitable; 1. Because God himself expressed a certain number of tables and commandments in the Decalogue. 2. Because Christ divided the sum of the whole law into two commandments, or into two kinds of commandments. 3. Because a correct division of the Decalogue contributes much to a proper understanding of the commandments. It teaches and admonishes us in reference to the degrees of obedience required by each table, and shows that the worship of the first table is the most important.”

    When beginning his exposition of the 5th commandment he writes, “The Laws of the second table of the Decalogue now follow, the obedience of which has respect to; God as well as the commandments of the first table. The works, however, which are here enjoined are performed immediately towards men. The immediate object of the second table is our neighbor, whilst God is the mediate object.”

  5. Thanks, Brad. So the answer is “both”?

    I know Kline thinks both tablets had all 10 commandments. IMO such as not been clearly revealed either way.

  6. Sergio,

    In Ursinus’s answer, LC 151, “Christ has done away with the civil and ceremonial laws of Moses” but not the moral law.

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