The Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments

Are the Ten Commandments for Us?

God’s definition of sin has never changed. 1 John 3:4 says,

“Sin is the transgression of the law.”

When it comes to understanding Christianity and presenting the Gospel, the greatest minds in the history of the church understood the vital relationship between law and grace.

The Apostle Paul: “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin (Rom. 3:20).”

The Apostle Paul: “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet (Rom. 7:7).”

Charles Spurgeon:  “Explain the Ten Commandments and obey the divine injunction: show my people their transgressions, and the house of Jacob their sins. Open up the spirituality of the law as our Lord did, and show how it is broken by evil thoughts, intents, and imaginations. By this means many sinners will be pricked in their hearts”.

John Wesley:  When speaking of those who didn’t use the Law as a school-master, Wesley said, “All this proceeds from the deepest ignorance of the nature of the properties and use of the Law. And, proves that those who act thus either know not Christ, are strangers to living faith, or are at least but babes in Christ, and as such are unskilled in the word of righteousness.”

John Calvin“We are certainly under the same obligation as they were; for there cannot be a doubt that the claim of absolute perfection which God made for His Law is perpetually in force”.

Martin Luther:  “The first duty of the gospel preacher is to declare God’s Law and show the nature of sin. Why? Because it will act as a schoolmaster and bring him to everlasting life which is in Jesus Christ”.

D.L. Moody:  “This is what God gives us the Law for, to show us ourselves and our true colors”.

Matthew Henry:  “There is no way of coming to that knowledge of sin which is necessary to repentance, but by comparing our hearts and lives by the Law”.

John Newton:  “The correct understanding of the harmony between law and grace is to preserve oneself from being entangled by errors on the right hand and on the left”.

John Bunyan:  “The man who does not know the nature of the Law cannot know the nature of sin. And he who does not know the nature of sin cannot know the nature of the Savior”.

Augustine:  “Through the Law, God opens man’s eyes so that he sees his helplessness and by faith takes refuge to His mercy and is healed. The Law was given in order that we might seek grace, grace was given in order that we might fulfill the Law”.

Jonathan Edwards:  “What good is it to have godly principles yet not know them? Why should God reveal His mind to us if we don’t care enough to know what it is? Yet the only way we can know whether we are sinning is by knowing His moral law: By the law is the knowledge of sin (Rom. 3:20)”.

Spurgeon “I do not believe that any man can preach the gospel who does not preach the Law. The Law is the needle, and you cannot draw the silken thread of the gospel through a man’s heart unless you first send the needle of the Law to make way for it. If men do not understand the Law, they will not feel they are sinners. And if they are not consciously sinners, they will never value the sin offering. There is no healing a man till the Law has wounded him, no making him alive till the Law has slain him”.

John Wesley:  “Therefore I cannot spare the Law one moment, no more than I can spare Christ, seeing I now want it as much to keep me to Christ, as I ever wanted it to bring me to Him. Otherwise, this evil heart of unbelief would immediately depart from the living God. Indeed each is continually sending me to the other the Law to Christ, and Christ to the Law”.

Martin Luther:  “The Law and the gospel are given to the end that we may learn to know both how guilty we are, and to what again we should return.”

Matthew Henry: “Only a fool would think any method of conviction better than the one God has chosen and appointed.”

General William Booth:  “The chief danger of the Twentieth Century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God. . . . and heaven without hell”.

J.C. Ryle:  “The plain truth is that a right knowledge of sin lies at the root of all saving Christianity. Without it, such doctrines as justification, conversion, sanctification, are `words and names’ which convey no meaning to the mind. “The first thing, therefore, that God does when He makes anyone a new creature in Christ, is to send light into his heart and show him that he is a guilty sinner. The material creation in Genesis began with `light,’ and so also does the spiritual creation. “God shines into our hearts by the work of the Holy Spirit, and then spiritual life begins . . . . I believe that one of the chief wants of the church . . . has been, and is, clearer, fuller teaching about sin.”

A.W. Pink:  “The rest of the scriptures are but a commentary on the Ten Commandments, either exciting us to obedience by arguments, alluring us by promises, or restraining us from transgressions by threatenings. Rightly understood, the precepts of the New Testament are but explications, amplifications and applications of the Ten Commandments”.

H.A. Ironside:  “But that law so terrible to the sinner, is a law of liberty to the regenerated one, because it commands the very behavior in which the one born of God finds his joy and delight”.

Leon Morris:  “The law of Moses is not a religion of salvation, it is the categorical imperative of God by which men are accused and exposed as sinners”.

Walter Kaiser Jr.:  “The classic theme of all truly evangelical theology is the relationship of Law and Gospel. In fact, so critical is a proper statement of this relationship. . . . that it can become one of the best ways to test both the greatness and the effectiveness of a truly biblical or evangelical theology.”

D. James Kennedy:  “You cannot commit a sin outside of the Ten Commandments.”

John MacArthur:  “Evangelism must take the sinner and measure him against the perfect law of God so he can see his deficiency. A gospel that deals only with human need, only with human feelings, only with human problems, lacks the true balance. That is why churches are full of people whose lives are essentially unchanged after their supposed conversion”.

“Most of these people, I am convinced, are unregenerate and grievously misled. . . . We need to adjust our presentation of the gospel. We cannot dismiss the fact that God hates sin and punishes sinners with eternal torment. How can we begin a gospel presentation by telling people on their way to hell that God has a wonderful plan for their lives? Scripture says, “God is angry with the wicked every day” (Ps. 7:11, KJV).

Michael Horton:  “Here indeed is a revelation of man’s final sin, which Luther defined as the unwillingness to admit that he is a sinner”.

Kay Arthur:  “The Old Covenant is the Law which came by Moses, and, believe it or not, it plays a vital role in bringing a man or woman to Christ. If we would use it more, we would probably not have so many false professions of salvation”.

Alexander Maclaren on Romans 3:19-26:  “Every word of God, whether promise, or doctrine, or specific command, has in it some element bearing on conduct. God reveals nothing only in order that we may know, but that, knowing, we may do and be what is pleasing in His sight. All His words are law. But Paul sets forth another view of its purpose here; namely, to drive home to men’s consciences the conviction of sin”.

“That is not the only purpose, for God reveals duty primarily in order that men may do it, and His law is meant to be obeyed. But, failing obedience, this second purpose comes into action, and His law is a swift witness against sin. The more clearly we know our duty, the more poignant will be our consciousness of failure”.

“The light which shines which shows the path of right, shines to show our deviations from it. And that conviction of sin, which it was the very purpose of all the previous revelation to produce, is a merciful gift; for, as the Apostle implies, it is the prerequisite to the faith which saves”.

Donald Grey Barnhouse on Romans 3:20:  “Here we meet by far the most difficult Divine utterance for the human heart to yield to that we have met in the entire epistle. Even those without law Gentiles that have not the law (of Moses Rom. 2:14) we find throughout history so many committed to their ideas of what is right, that they will desperately fight for their convictions”.

“It is much easier to detach a Chinese from the Analects of Confucius and bring him to a knowledge of Christ, than it is to detach some people, born within the sphere of Christendom, from their hope of salvation by the golden rule. They are astonished when you tell them that Christ did not give them the golden rule as a formula for salvation, but as a means of revealing to man that he is fundamentally crooked (sinful, i.e., full of sin) and that therefore he needed a power outside himself. . . . The law was a standard that was given in order to convince men of their own hopeless incapacity, so that they might come to God in grace”.

“The law of God is like a mirror. Now the purpose is to reveal to you that your face is dirty, but the purpose of a mirror is not to wash your face. When you look in a mirror and find that your face is dirty, you do not then reach to take the mirror off the wall and attempt to rub it on your face as a cleansing agent. The purpose of the mirror is to drive you to the water. Any other use of the mirror is plain folly. It is by the straight edge of the law of God, whether expressed by Moses or reaffirmed by our Lord Himself, that man may know how crooked he really is, and may turn from the folly of self-effort to the reality of the life of faith in Christ”.

“This new life furnishes us with power which we can never have of ourselves, and which will act within us. May God slay us with the law, in order that we might be raised from the dead by His gospel. For this is the true relationship between the two. Before God can ever give us the gospel, He must slay us with the law. The gospel is the power of resurrection; the law is the power of condemnation; and when the two are put together, they then serve their proper purpose”.

Jamieson, Fausset, Brown on Romans 3:20:  “How broad and how deep does the Apostle in this section lay the foundations of his great doctrine of justification by free grace in the disorder of man’s whole nature, the consequent universality of human guilt, the condemnation, by reason of the breach of divine law, of the whole world, and the impossibility of justification before God by obedience to that divine law!”

“Only when these humiliating conclusions are accepted and felt, are we in a condition to appreciate and embrace the grace, next to be opened up. It is that which ascertains what sin is, shows how men have deviated from its righteous demands, and sentences them to death because they have broken it”.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones:  “So that, finally, we can put it like this. The law was never given to save man, but it was given as a schoolmaster to bring him to the Savior. The whole object and purpose of the law is to show that man can never save himself. Once he has understood the law and its spiritual meaning and content he knows that he cannot keep it. He is undone. . . . It shows us our utter helplessness and hopelessness, and thereby it becomes our schoolmaster to lead us to Christ, the only one who by the grace of God can save us, and deliver us, and reconcile us to God, and make us safe for all eternity.”

Alexander Mclaren:  “The voice that spoke from Sinai reverberates in all lands. . . . This voice like a trumpet on that day, waxes louder and louder as the years roll. Whose voice was it? The only answer explaining the supreme purity of the commandments, and their immortal freshness, is found in the first sentence of this paragraph, God spake all these words.”

Gleason Archer:  “It was only the misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the law as a system of merit-earning and self-justification which is rejected in Romans 3 and Galatians 3 (and related passages). As for the Decalogue (Ex. 20:1-17), the whole basis of its sanctions is stated to be God’s act of redemption by grace (I am the Lord thy God, who wrought thee out of. . . . bondage)”.

Warren Wiersbe: “The Rich Young Ruler is a good example of the use of the law to reveal sin and show a man his need of a Savior.”

R.C. Sproul:  “He (Chemnintz) insists that the Christian church make a clear distinction between Law and gospel, but not a separation! If we see the Law of God as separated from the gospel of God, we would see these two ideas as being intrinsically and fundamentally opposed one to another”.

“Now, if you confuse the two ideas: Law and gospel, then what happens is you either eliminate the Law by reducing it to a simple expression of the gospel, or you eliminate the gospel by making it a new law. So, you have to distinguish between them”.

“And what Cheminitz understood as the two great distortions of understanding Christian truth that have plagued the church not just from the first century, but from the garden of Eden, have been the distortions of legalism and antinominism. Legalism, in its simplest definition, is that error, indeed not just an error, but rank and deadly heresy that teaches that people can be saved through their own acts of righteousness, that people may be saved legally through performing the works of the Law”.

“Antinomianism is the heresy that says, because we are not saved by the Law, but by the gospel, not by merit, but by grace, not by works, but by faith, that therefore the Christian life has nothing to do with law, nothing to do with obedience. That’s antinomianism”.

“And so, what Cheminitz and Luther were concerned about was this, that if you try to have the gospel in isolation from the Law, you are going to end somehow in antinomianism. If you try to have the Law without the gospel, you are going to end in legalism. Cheminitz makes the startling observation that the whole struggle of Israel in history, was the struggle over an understanding of the relationship between these two things, and he starts with Cain and Abel as exhibit A; trying to answer the question, Why was it that Abel’s sacrifice was accepted by God, and Cain’s wasn’t?”

“The answer that Cheminitz gives to that question is, because Abel made his offering by faith, which meant, even in the making of the offering of worship and of praise before God, he came in a spirit of humility; understanding that the only way even this offering would be acceptable to God would be on the basis of divine grace and mercy”.

“On the other hand, Cain was trusting in his performance. (The offering Cain brought represented the work of his own hands.) It’s not by accident that the two greatest leaders of the sixteenth century reformation, both Luther and Calvin, were both deeply trained students in secular law before they embarked on a career in theology. They were students of jurisprudence, and they had a keen eye for the Old Testament Law, and they saw what the Law was trying to show them, their own inadequacy.”

D. A. Carson:  “If you begin (presenting the gospel) with a massive view of God; of His holiness, of the sheer ugliness and odiousness of sin, and of the terrors of judgment, then preaching justification brings immense relief! And with the relief, a sense of gratitude from which a great deal of Christian ethics springs.”

“There is a tremendous amount of Christian ethic that springs from the sheer gratitude to the grace of God. If on the other hand you barely mention Law, or God, or judgment, or terror, or hell, and then you preach justification, justification is very easily confused with a cheap grace decisionism. Then afterwards, you feel you have to whip people into shape with lots of talk about commitment.

“The fact that God spends two thousand years from Abraham to the cross, almost a millennium and a half from Sinai to the cross, to teach the function of Law, to bring about a sense corporeally in the people of God of the nature of transgression, and of the futility of human effort, and the critical importance of recognizing how lost we are. So, if then we now start evangelizing without presupposing any of that, or without people knowing any of that, we just dive right into a Jesus who meets your needs, however you define your needs, then it’s not too surprising we start having distorted views on justification, and a lot of other things as well.”

“If all we learn from chapter three of Galatians is the vastness of the fact that the Law prepares the way for the gospel, but do not grasp how and why it prepares the way, we will not apply it to people’s lives appropriately. And, then we will end up with a cheap gospel, and then we will end up with such a diluted justification that there will be tremendous pressures to redefine justification, which is precisely what is going on now.”

Erwin W. Lutzer:  “Christ’s answer to legalism is that external obedience to the moral law must be coupled with a corresponding inner attitude of love and honesty. Christ’s teaching was not intended to abrogate obedience to the moral law, but to add to its intended spirit.”

Erwin W. Lutzer:  “I always start at Sinai before I take them to the cross”.

Noah Webster:  Moral 1. Relating to the practice, manners or conduct of men as social beings in relation to each other, and with reference to right and wrong. The word moral is applicable to actions that are good or evil, virtuous or vicious, and has reference to the law of God as the standard by which their character is to be determined.

Ravi Zacharias:  “Without God, there is no moral law.”

Ray Comfort:  “To tell a man he is a sinner without telling him what sin is, is like telling him he is under arrest without telling him what he’s charged with.”

Philip DelRe:  “The fact is, you cannot understand any of the theological terms related to the doctrine of salvation in the New Testament apart from the doctrine of sin. See for yourself…

Redemption:  A term meaning “to release on payment of ransom.” The idea is illustrated in buying a slave and setting him free. The question is, free from what? Eph. 1:7:  “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”

 Salvation:  A term meaning “to be saved, or to be delivered.” The question then is, saved or delivered from what? Matt. 1:21:  “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins.”

 Justification:  A legal term meaning “to be declared righteous.” How and why do we need to be declared righteous? Rom. 5:8–9:  “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath {of God} through Him.”

 Righteousness: An attribute of God Himself, consistent with the nature of God. “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21).

 Sanctification:  A term meaning “to be set apart.” Set apart from what?  Acts 26:18:  “To open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”

 Gospel:  Means “Good News.” Mark 1:15:  “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent (from sin) and believe in the Gospel.

 The Cross:  Was this not where the body of Christ was broken and His blood shed to satisfy the righteous demand of God’s holy law against sin? “When Jesus therefore had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ (John 19:30). The word “finished,” literally means: “Paid in full.”

There is a direct correlation between God’s love and the cross (see Jn. 3:16; Rom. 5:5, 6, 8; Gal. 2:20, Eph. 2:4-5; 5:2, 25; 1 Jn. 3:16; 4:10 and Rev. 1:5).

There are two primary words used in the Bible to communicate the essence of sin. The first is hamartia (ham-ar-tee’-ah), translated in English as “sin.” It literally means to “miss the mark and so not share in the prize.”

This word is well illustrated by a marksman shooting an arrow and missing the bull’s eye. Romans 3:23 assures us that we have all “missed the mark.”

The second word is anomia (an-om-ee’-ah), translated “transgression,” which unlike “missing the mark” (because we were all born imperfect), refers to an act of willful disobedience. That is to willfully, knowingly violate God’s law.

So, from these two words, we learn that we are all sinners by nature, and we are all sinners by choice.

Keith Green:  “Unless people are truly convicted of sin, if they don’t fully see that they are totally condemned by the requirement of God’s law, then it is virtually impossible to show them the need of a Savior. Why, what would they need to be saved from? fun? That is why our modern Gospel must dwell on “all the good things God’ll do for you if you’d just accept Him!

“We can’t convince a sinner that he needs a savior by just getting him to admit that, “Well, generally, yes, I am a sinner.” He must see how the law of God totally condemns him as a sinner, and then the beauty of the Gospel, the glory of the cross, the marvelous power of Christ’s blood will be able to penetrate his anxious, waiting mind and heart.

“But because there is so little real conviction of sin brought about by the preaching of our modern gospel, we cannot truly require repentance anymore. If we did, no one would “come forward” at all.

“For repentance is easy to him who sees how ugly and horrible sin is, but repentance is impossible where the law does not convince the sinner of his wicked heart, compelling him to turn from his sin into the arms of a waiting, compassionate God.

“The natural tendency of the flesh is to avoid unpleasantness or discomfort, so we offer people a less confrontational, more indirect approach—something Jesus never did.”

Is using the Ten Commandments in evangelism really New Testament theology?  



 Opening statement for the Defense:  Your Honor, ladies, and gentlemen of the jury, I will now present my case by examining eyewitnesses from the New Testament.

These witnesses will provide irrefutable proof that Jesus used a method of evangelism that has been, for all practical purposes, entirely forsaken by modern evangelical methods.

In addition, we will provide you (the jury)  with expert testimonies from a number of the world’s foremost leading authorities in the art and science of Biblical interpretation. This will substantiate our claim, that there is one method of presenting the Gospel that is ordained by God, and as such, cannot be improved upon by man.

My final witness will be none other than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself!


Defense: Will you please tell the court your full name and the story of your encounter with Jesus?

Rich Ruler:  My name is Richard Young.  When I saw Jesus, I ran up to Him and fell on my knees before Him. I said, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“Why do you call Me good? Jesus answered, “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: `Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’“

“Teacher,” I declared, “all these I have kept since I was a youth.”

Jesus looked at me and loved me. “One thing you lack,” He said, “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.”

At this my face fell. I went away sad, because I had great wealth (Mark 10:17–22).

Defense:  Your honor, ladies, and gentleman of the jury, this was written for our instruction. A man comes to Jesus Christ and asks, “What must I do to be saved?”

The first thing Jesus did was to list 5 of the Ten Commandments. Obviously, the moral law must have something to do with evangelism! Take another look. The man asks, “What must I do to be saved?”

Jesus replied, “You know the law. Thou shalt not murder, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not lie, honor your father and your mother.”

Jesus purposely omitted the tenth commandment which is, “Thou shalt not covet.” The rich young ruler then says, “All these things I have done since I was a youth, what am I still lacking?”

Now comes the final blow. Jesus said, “Go sell everything you have and give it to the poor.”

Rather than quoting the tenth commandment (which is “thou shalt not covet”), Jesus applied the text directly to his heart by asking a covetous person to do something a covetous person would not do! In order to reveal the true condition of his heart, Jesus Christ used the Ten Commandments as His standard!


Mr. Wiersbe, you are recognized the world over as an expert Bible commentator. How do you interpret this story?                                                                                                 

Warren Wiersbe:  “The rich ruler is a good example of the use of the law to reveal sin and show a man his need of a Savior . . . . 1Why did Jesus bring up the commandments? Jesus did not introduce the law to show the young man how to be saved, but to show him that he needed to be saved. . . . 2

When Jesus quoted from the second table of the law, He did not quote the last commandment, ‘Thou shalt not covet’ (Ex. 20:17). Jesus knew the young man’s heart . . .

This young man was possessed by the love of money and he would not let go . . . . He wanted salvation on his terms, not God’s, so he turned and went away in great sorrow.”3

Defense:  No further questions.

Judge:  Would the State like to cross-examine?

State:  Ah, not at this time, your Honor.

Judge:  You may step down. Next witness.

Defense: Your Honor, in 1910, A.C. Gaebelein produced a commentary that is still considered one of the most authoritative works ever produced on the book of Matthew. Mr. Gaebelein, do you have anything to add to what Mr. Wiersbe has testified to?

A.C. Gaebelein:  I certainly do. Thank you. Your Honor, ladies, and gentlemen of the jury . . . “The Lord . . . meets him on his own ground. The ground upon which he stands is the law, and with the law the Lord answers his question. How else could He treat him? The first need for him was to know himself a lost and helpless sinner. If the Lord had spoken of His grace, of eternal life as a free gift, he would not have understood Him at all. The law was needed to make known to him his desperate condition and to lay bare his heart.”4

Defense:  Thank you, Mr. Gaebelein. Your Honor, Jesus said to the rich young ruler, “Go, sell everything you have and give it to the poor.” How would that have helped him?

Would he have been saved if he had gone out and given everything he had to the poor? Never! In spirit and in truth, this “command” to go and sell all he had and give it to the poor was given to reveal to him (and to us) the fact that his goods were his gods!

The Rich Young Ruler was in clear violation of the first (no other gods), the second (no idols), and the tenth (not to covet) commandments.

The very law he thought he kept only revealed the true condition of his heart. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt.6:21).

State: I object, on the grounds of hyperdispensationalism. Nothing in the Bible is relevant to the Christian today prior to the Book of Acts!

Defense:  Ah, your Honor, Paul said in Galatians 3:24 that, “The law is our schoolmaster to lead us to Christ that we might be justified (saved) by faith” (KJV). That was after the Book of Acts! This hyper dispensationalist doctrine is heresy!

Judge:  Overruled!!! Proceed.

Defense:  For my next witness, I call the woman at the well.

Madam, would you please tell the court your experience with Jesus on that fateful day?

Samaritan Woman:  Well, as you know, I’m a Samaritan and a woman. I came to draw water from the well one day, and Jesus said to me, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) I said to Him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can You ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

He replied: “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Me and I would have given you living water (John 4:10).

“Sir,” I  said, “You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds” (vss. 11,12)?

Jesus answered: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life (vss. 13,14).

At this point, I got excited. I said to Him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water” (vs. 15).

Jesus said to me, “Go, call your husband and come back” (vs. 16).

“I have no husband,” I replied.

He then said, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband (vss. 17,18).

“What you have just said is quite true, Sir,” I replied. “I can see that You are a prophet . . . “ (vs. 19). Then, leaving my water jar, I went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ” (vss. 28,29)?

Defense:  Your Honor, this woman asked Jesus for the living water, so she would never have to thirst again. The problem here is that she was talking about H2O, and He was talking about the Holy Spirit. Please note, the woman asked Jesus for a drink, and He did not give it to her!

The lesson is clear. The average “would-be” soul winner, upon hearing her request for a drink (completely oblivious to the fact that they were talking about two different things), would have immediately pulled out a tract and started offering her all the benefits of the Gospel before she understood why she needed it!

Jesus did not give her the “water,” because she did not understand that ultimately her real need was not water, but the “washing with the water through the word” (Eph. 5:26). Specifically, her real need was the conviction, confession, repentance, and forgiveness of sin!

Because the sin problem had not been dealt with yet, Jesus went right to the heart of the problem. When she said, “Give me a drink,” He said, “Go call your husband!”  On the surface, His answer seems irrelevant. What did calling her husband have to do with getting a drink? Everything! Look again . . .

Jesus said, “Go call your husband.”

She said, “I have no husband.”

Jesus replied, “You are correct, Madam. You have had five husbands, and the man you are living with now is not your husband!”

She brilliantly responded with, “Sir, I perceive that Thou art a prophet!” What was Jesus doing? Make no mistake about it. Just like the rich young ruler, Jesus was asking this woman to do something a fornicator and an adulterer could not do.

The Lord was referring her (and us) to the seventh commandment, which is “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Why? Because from Genesis to Revelation, God’s Word assures us that those who do not repent from the practice of sexual immorality will not enter the kingdom of heaven!

Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor {the} covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6: 9–10).

Judge:  Would the State like to cross-examine?

State:  Ah, no, your Honor. This doesn’t exactly fit my theology, but I don’t know how to refute it.

Judge:  Very well. Call your next witness, Counselor.

Defense:  I call Nicodemus to the stand.

            Nic, you were there. Tell us your story.

Nicodemus:  Well, I’m a Pharisee and my full name is Nicodemus. I’m a member of the Jewish ruling council. I came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” In reply, Jesus declared,

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God (vs. 3).

Then I asked Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?”

Jesus said:  I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit (John 3:1–6).

Defense:  Thank you, Nicodemus. You may step down. I would now like to call one of the greatest Bible commentators of the 20th century to the stand. I call Arthur W. Pink. Arthur, what can you tell us about this most curious exchange between Jesus and Nicodemus?

A.W. Pink:  Well, here is what I wrote in my commentary on John, word for word:

“What the sinner needs is to be ‘born again,’ and in order to do this, he must have a Savior. And it is of these very things our Lord speaks to Nicodemus. Of what value is teaching to one who is `dead in trespasses and sins,’ and who is even now, under the condemnation of a holy God!

“A saved person is a fit subject for teaching, but what the unsaved need is preaching, preaching which will expose their depravity, exhibit their deep need of a Savior, and then and only then reveal the one who is mighty to save.”5

Defense:  Thank you, Mr. Pink. Judge, here again, we see the same pattern. Jesus asked Nicodemus to do something he could not do.

So, where do we see the law in this instance? The key word here is the word Pharisee. The typical Pharisee thought his salvation was based on the fact that he was a  descendant of Abraham. He believed he was on a one-way trip to heaven, based solely on his national and religious heritage (by keeping the law of Moses). His theology was totally backward.

Nicodemus thought he was an in-law, when in fact he was an outlaw. The Bible assures us that God does not have any grandchildren. According to Romans 3:20, the law that this Pharisee thought would save him was the very law that would condemn him!

With that one statement, “You must be born again,” Jesus was referring Nicodemus to his misunderstanding of the law. No one was ever saved by keeping it because the perfect law demanded perfect obedience. “The law,” as Leon Morris has pointed out,

“…is the categorical imperative of God, by which men are accused and exposed as sinners.”6

Human nature has not changed since the beginning of time and will remain the same until the end. The people to whom Jesus witnessed were caught up in the same self-righteousness, self-justification, and love of the world as we are today. The names have changed, but the sin nature has not.

So, what do we learn from these examples?


1. Nicodemus believed his salvation was in religion.

2. The woman at the well was blinded by her sin, and unaware of her true spiritual condition.

3. The rich young ruler thought he was a good person.

Jesus referred each of them directly or indirectly to the Ten Commandments!


If you meet a person under condemnation, who really believes his past is so bad that God Himself cannot or will not forgive him, this person does not need the law. There is only one thing standing between this person and everlasting life, a crystal-clear understanding of grace!

Remember the woman caught in the very act of adultery in Jn. 8:4? Jesus asked her, “Where are those who condemn you?” She said,

“There are none Lord”

Jesus replied,

“Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

Bengel:  Those who are broken and contrite Jesus consoles with the Gospel, but to the proud and self-righteous He gave the law.

 Your Honor, before offering my closing arguments, I would like to ask Jesus to reveal the truth one more time. Lord?

Jesus:  “Now there was a certain rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, gaily living in splendor every day. And a certain poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the {crumbs} which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores.

Now it came about that the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom, and the rich man also died and was buried. And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, `Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue; for I am in agony in this flame.’

But Abraham said, `Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.’ And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, in order that those who wish to come over from here to you may not be able, and {that} none may cross over from there to us.’

And he said,  `Then I beg you, Father, that you send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’

But Abraham said, `They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But he said, `No, Father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him,

`If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead’“ (Luke 16:19–31).

At this point, pandemonium broke out! Reporters ran to the phones to get the story out as quickly as possible.

Jesus Himself had just said that using the law of Moses in the evangelistic encounter was a more compelling argument for Christianity than someone rising from the dead!

The lawyer for the A.C.L.U. just hung his head and the judge was banging his gavel, calling for order in the court! When order was finally restored, the judge asked me to proceed, and I closed with this . . . .

Defense:  Your Honor, ladies, and gentleman of the jury, Luke 16 is crystal-clear. Jesus, in relating this story, is saying in no uncertain terms that you have a better chance of leading people to Christ by introducing them first to Moses than if their own grandmother came back from the dead to warn them of the judgment to come!

By God’s grace, Matthew Henry, one of the most respected commentators of all time, understood this last verse perfectly. He said, “Foolish men are apt to think any method of conviction better than that which God has chosen and appointed.”7

The inevitable result of the knowledge of sin is an overwhelming sense of gratitude for God’s past, present, and future grace. This, in turn, produces a passion for loving obedience and a hatred for sin.

At this point, we want to obey God not to get saved, but because salvation has already been provided; not in a law, but in a Person, and that Person is Jesus Christ!


You can be certain that the Ten Commandments were written by God and not by man, because if man wrote them, there would be ten commandments and a thousand amendments.

You can be sure they are divine, because every man from the beginning of time until the end of the world, whether or not he has ever read a Bible or ever heard of Jesus Christ, knows in his heart it’s wrong to murder, it’s wrong to steal, it’s wrong to lie, and it’s wrong to have another man’s wife!

How else can you explain the fact that this moral standard is universally accepted as true and right? Only a fool would not agree. You can believe that the Ten Commandments are divinely inspired because between them and every other religion, philosophy, or system of thought, there is no possible term of comparison.

Think about it. Galatians 5:14 (which is a distillation of the Ten Commandments), says:  “For all the Law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: `You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’“ If we all cared about each other as much as we cared about ourselves, we would live in a perfect world!  I rest my case.

Judge:  Does the State have anything at all?

State:  Yes, I want to get saved!

Judge: This court is forced to the inescapable conclusion, based on Scripture and reason, that the New Testament is crystal clear on the place of the Ten Commandments in evangelism.

Beginning with Moses and explaining the New Testament application of each one of the Ten Commandments in the evangelistic encounter, is the most compelling and convicting method of preparing the heart for the message of God’s love and mercy. Furthermore, since this is the method that Christ Himself used, and since nobody knows more about evangelism than Jesus, I hereby declare, by the authority of the Word of God, that, in the words of one evangelist,

Evermore, the law must prepare the way for the Gospel. To overlook this in instructing souls is almost certain to result in false hope, the introduction of a false standard of Christian experience and to fill the church with false converts.

 In closing, it is clear that God did not leave us to fend for ourselves in presenting His most precious truth. But rather, over the course of some 1,500 years, from Sinai to the cross, gave us a perfect picture of His own systematic theology of evangelism. As such, it cannot be improved upon by any man or man-made institution, no matter who they may be. “Thanks be to God, for His indescribable gift” (2 Cor. 9:15).

My judgment is for the defense. Next case!

Adolph Hitler:   “The curse of Mt. Sinai must be gotten out of our blood. It is a poison which has spoiled the free instincts of man.”