You know them. But do you understand them?
The Ten Commandments have become so familiar to us that we don’t think about what they actually mean. They’ve been used by Christians throughout history as the basis for worship, confessions, prayer, even civil law.
Are these ancient words still relevant for us today? Their outward simplicity hides their inward complexity. Jesus himself sums up the entire law in a pair of commandments: Love God with all your heart, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.
Peter Leithart re-introduces the Ten Commandments. He shows us how they address every arena of human life, giving us a portrait of life under the lordship of Jesus, who is the heart and soul of the commandments.
This little gem of a book is the best introduction to the Ten Commandments I have yet come across. I learned something new on almost every page.
—Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, author of Biblical Authority after Babel
Peter Leithart mines the riches of the biblical tradition to show us the way to true freedom.
–R. R. Reno, editor of First Things
Here is a treatment that looks to Jesus as the heart and soul of the Ten Words.
–Hans Boersma, Nashotah House Theological Seminary, author of Scripture as Real Presence
This meditation on the Ten Words will richly reward every Christian reader's attention.
–Alan Jacobs, Baylor University, author of How to Think
The Ten Commandments seem like an ancient relic, but Leithart shows their modern relevance.
–Patrick Schreiner, Western Seminary, author of The Kingdom of God and the Glory of the Cross
“According to Scripture, Torah is the ‘perfect law of liberty’ (Jas 1:25; 2:12). A community dominated by disrespect for parents, workaholism, violence, envy, theft, and lies isn’t free. Besides, absolute freedom is impossible. In the world God made, the world that actually exists, things aren’t free to do or be anything they please. They’re free when they become what they are. An acorn is free to become an oak, not an elephant. The Ten Words guide Israel to grow up to be what he is, the son who rules in his Father’s house (see Gal 4:1–7).” (Page 5)
“He’s spoken ten words before. Ten times Genesis 1 repeats, ‘And God spoke.’ At Sinai, God again speaks ten words that, if guarded and obeyed, will form Israel into a new creation. These ten new-creative words present the form of new creation.” (Page 2)
“The promise of the new covenant is not that we’re liberated from God’s word, but that we’re liberated to keep it.” (Page 28)
“Sabbath serves as a weekly recognition of human limitations and God’s generosity. Sabbath is our fundamental stance as creatures, one of receptivity.” (Page 57)
“God binds his Name and reputation to us. Whether his name is praised or blasphemed depends on whether we bear his name with the weight it deserves. It is a weighty responsibility to bear the weighty Name of the living God before the world.” (Page 50)
The Christian Essentials series passes down tradition that matters. The ancient church was founded on basic biblical teachings and practices like the Ten Commandments, baptism, the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Supper, the Lord’s Prayer, and corporate worship. These basics of the Christian life have sustained and nurtured every generation of the faithful—from the apostles to today. The books in the Christian Essentials series open up the meaning of the foundations of our faith.
Learn more about the other titles in this series.
Peter Leithart is President of Theopolis Institute and serves as Teacher at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Birmingham. He is the author of many books, including a two-volume commentary on Revelation (T&T Clark, 2018), God of Hope (Athanasius, 2022), On Earth As In Heaven (Lexham, 2022), and a forthcoming book on God the Creator (IVP). He writes a fortnightly column at FirstThings.com, and has published articles in many periodicals, both popular and academic.
Leithart has served in two pastorates: He was pastor of Reformed Heritage Presbyterian Church (now Trinity Presbyterian Church), Birmingham, Alabama from 1989 to 1995, and was pastor of Trinity Reformed Church, Moscow, Idaho, from 2003-2013. From 1998 and 2013 he taught theology and literature fulltime at New St. Andrews College, Moscow, Idaho. He received an A.B. in English and History from Hillsdale College in 1981, and a Master of Arts in Religion and a Master of Theology from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia in 1986 and 1987. In 1998 he received his Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge in England.
He and his wife, Noel, have ten children and fifteen grandchildren.