God's Word For You is a free Bible Study site committed to bringing you studies firmly grounded in the Bible – the Word of God. Holding a reformed, conservative, evangelical perspective this site affirms that God has provided in Jesus Christ his eternal Son, a way of salvation in which we can live in his presence guilt free, acquitted and at peace.



© Rosemary Bardsley 2023

Generally when we think of ‘law’ our thoughts tend to be negative. We feel hemmed in by law; we resist this supposed incursion into our freedom. We try to think of ways to get around the law. For some, it is not breaking the law that is wrong, but getting caught breaking the law that is wrong. We do not see the law as being on our side, as being for us. As being good.

But law is here only because of God’s goodness:

Law is here because God in his goodness allowed us to continue to live despite our sin.
Law is here because of the high value God places on human life.
Law is here to define and outlaw evil.
Law is here because of God’s eternal plan to save us through Jesus Christ.



Before Genesis 3 there was no need for law. There was no need for ‘thou shalt not murder’ or ‘thou shalt not commit adultery’. Murder and adultery, and all other sins, simply did not exist. Adam and Eve knew only good. All of the things now prohibited by law, whether God’s law or civil laws, simply did not exist. They were not even thought about. And this is something that we, post Genesis 3, cannot even imagine – a world totally without evil. We know what evil is, not only because it surrounds us, but also because it is within us. And we know the pain that it causes.

After Genesis 3, evil needed to be identified and prohibited by law, with penalties in place; otherwise we would not have survived as a human race. We would not have been around for Christ to come and save.

Note: this is far different from the logical conclusions of evolutionary theories: that ‘evil’ (suffering and death) has always been present, and humans evolved as the result of the struggle of the fittest to survive over long eons of time plus chance.

The Bible teaches the goodness of the earth and of humans as God created them, and that only with the severance from God and the acceptance of the devil’s lies about God, did evil begin. Only then, with the presence and knowledge of evil, did law become necessary.

Bible study: Read Genesis 4:1 – 16. Answer these questions:
After Genesis 3, now that evil is present, what is the first reported expression of evil?

How does this display Cain’s lack of respect for his fellow-human?

What did Cain fear (verse 13, 14)?

What ‘law’ did God decree to protect Cain?

How does this ‘law’ display the goodness of God?


Read Genesis 9:6. What is the basis of God’s law requiring respect for human life?


Note: This necessity of Law in a fallen world still applies today. If we understand this we will view government laws as expressions of God’s goodness – God keeping humans alive. Hence the New Testament commands about obedience to governments: Romans 13:1 – 7; Titus 3:1; 1Peter 2:13 – 17.



Before looking at the Ten Commandments we need to note that these were part of the covenant that God made with the people of Israel at Mount Sinai, shortly after their redemption from slavery in Egypt. These commandments were not given to or imposed on any other people, even though God’s standards apply to the whole world. God had chosen these descendents of Abraham to be his special people, through whom he would accomplish his purpose. [We will look at this in a later study.]

B.1 Commandments necessary for our spiritual life and well-being
The first four commandments are necessary for spiritual life. They define the right connection with God, without which spiritual life is impossible.

Bible study: Read Exodus 20:2 – 11. Answer these questions:
Who does Exodus 20:2 &3 identify and what does it forbid?

What does Exodus 20:4 – 6 forbid?

What does Exodus 20:7 forbid?

What does Exodus 20:8 – 11 require and describe?

In the first two commands God defines who he is and outlaws the making and worship of any other gods. As we have seen in the study Created for Glory, our optimum human identity is possible only when we are in a positive, unimpeded relationship with God. These laws of God identifying himself and forbidding other gods are laws aimed at our human well-being. When God says ‘I ...am a jealous God’, his concern is not only that we give him the worship that is his due (Isaiah 42:8), but also that he is jealous on our behalf – that he knows, as no one else knows, that what he created us for can be accomplished only when we honour him. He did not create us to be diminished and bound by the gods we create for ourselves. He created us for glory and honour that reflect his glory and honour.

The third command is usually misrepresented and reduced to the use of God’s name as a swear word. But its heart and its scope is a far bigger thing than that: it forbids identifying oneself by God’s name in an empty and meaningless way. For example, if we use the name ‘Christ’ to identify ourselves as ‘Christian’, but don’t really follow him, then we have taken his name ‘in vain’ – in a meaningless way. By calling ourselves by his name, we dishonour his name by our Christ-less lives. We have misused his name in a far worse way than using ‘Christ’ as a swear word. To identify self by the name of God, and then to live in a way totally regardless of God, or on the basis of ritual without heart/mind involvement, is to misuse his name. It is also to give oneself a false security, a superficial veneer of religion that masks an unbelieving heart. And all the time, underneath, but seen by God, is the guilt and sin of unbelief.

Bible study: what do these verses say about misuse of his name?
Ezekiel 36:20 – 23

Amos 2:7

Matthew 24:5; Luke 21:8

1Timothy 6:1

The fourth commandment, on the surface, seems ‘good’ only in that it provides for our physical rest. And it is good of God to factor rest into our lives. But both the Old and New Testaments speak of a deeper meaning symbolised by the physical rest of the Sabbath, pointing us to the deep goodness of God. This day of physical rest was, for Israel, a weekly reminder that it was entirely God’s work, not theirs, that made them his people; and, for us, a powerful prophetic picture of the spiritual rest we enjoy on the basis of the complete and finished work of God in Christ.

Bible study: what meaning is given to the Sabbath in these verses?
Exodus 31:13

Ezekiel 20:12

Colossians 2:16, 17

Hebrews 4:1 – 3, 9 – 11


The Sabbath rest was always meant to be a reminder our identity as God’s people has always depended on God and his completed work of salvation, and not at all on our own human works. This was true for the geo-political people of Israel; and, importantly, it is true of Christian believers: that we are saved by God’s grace alone on the basis of the finished and completed work of Jesus Christ. That he, Jesus Christ, is our Sabbath rest: that in him we find rest for our souls, never again deceived by the delusion that we can and must merit/earn/work for our acceptance with God.

When we realise this, it is very easy to understand the Sabbath law as a gift, a blessing, issuing out of the sheer goodness of God. See this study on Hebrews 3 & 4.


B.2 Commandments necessary for our physical survival as individuals and as a society or community
The other six commands focus on our physical and relational well-being and survival. All of them demand respect for our fellow human beings. Most of them are broken up into more detailed case laws in Exodus 21:1 to 23:9.

Discussion question: How do God’s commands, and their associated case laws, show us that God’s concern in these commands is the well-being of human beings ... that he requires us at all times to respect each other?
Honour father and mother: Exodus 20:12; Exodus 21:15, 17:


Do not kill: Exodus 20:13; Exodus 21:12 – 32:


Do not commit adultery: Exodus 20:14; Exodus 22:16, 17; Leviticus 18:1 – 30:


Do not steal: Exodus 20:15; Exodus 22:1 – 15) :


Do not give false testimony: Exodus 20:16; Exodus 23:1 – 9:


Do not covet: Exodus 20:17:


The history of Israel, from the time these commandments were given, until the time of the Babylonian exile, is a long saga of disobedience – of blatant, widespread, on-going disobedience of the first set of commandments that define the right relationship with God, and then the flow-on effects of disobedience of the second set, resulting in on-going social sins and social injustice. Both the spiritual alienation from God, and the inhumanity that accompanied this rejection of God, were forbidden by God, who in his goodness, gave Israel the Ten Commandments.



We move now to two important truths about God’s Law that lead us even deeper into God’s goodness.

C.1 The Law makes us aware of our sin and so drives us to the Saviour
The Law was never meant to be used as a check-list to identify our goodness; rather, the Law identifies and exposes our sin. We would not even recognize our sin, if the Law did not tell us what sin is.

Bible study: what do these verses say about this role of the Law?
Romans 3:19, 20

Romans 7:7 – 12

Galatians 3:21 – 24


How does this help you to understand God’s goodness in giving us the Law?


C.2 Jesus Christ fully met all the requirements of the Law on our behalf
This truth has two equally important aspects:

[1] Jesus Christ lived a real human life, fully obedient to God’s Law; because he was perfect, righteous, without sin, sin’s guilt, condemnation and punishment did not apply to him. In strict justice did not need to die.

What do these verses teach about the perfect moral and legal sinlessness of Christ?

John 8:46

2Corinthians 5:21

Hebrews 4:15


[2] Jesus Christ, as our substitute under the judgement of God, took upon himself the full legal guilt, condemnation and penalty that the Law required be applied to us sinners. He met the requirements of the Law for us.

What do these verses say about Christ putting himself in our place under the condemnation of the Law?
Romans 3:21 – 26

Romans 8:1 – 4

1Peter 2:24

1Peter 3:18


Law, both biblical and civil, is evidence of the goodness of God, preserving human life on earth (see Deuteronomy 6:24), and showing us our need of Christ and the salvation he gives.

Review question:
How has this concept of law as an expression of God’s goodness challenged your attitude to law?



Note: a later study will look at God’s justice as an expression of his goodness.