Bold print below is the original Westminster Larger Catechism 99, plus my additional draft expansions in plain type.
Question 99: What rules are to be observed for the right understanding of the ten commandments?
Answer: For the right understanding of the Ten Commandments, these rules are to be observed:
Theological Perspectives on the Commandments
1) That it is the fountainhead of all righteousness, such that its proper exposition will be able to connect the two great commands and specifics of the moral law with all corollary biblical commands that are relevant to the new covenant believers, such as principles for all practical theology foundations, such as Reformed worship, administration of sacraments, biblical counseling, family ministry, marketplace ministry, leadership, pastoral ministry, Christian education, preaching and church planting. Practically speaking, this exposition should be able to root all the biblical practical theology principles and practices developed in the history of the church and in modern day seminary education. Our Christian goals, vision statements, purposes, church-Christian-school- seminary educational objectives, discipleship agendas, must all be shaped by the goals of the moral law to produce lovers of God and man, and haters of sin and evil. Failure to do so will fragment practical theology from its new covenant knowledge of sin leading us to repentance and faith in Christ’s propitiation for the forgiveness of sins, fragment practical theology from its natural faith foundation in Christ’s credited righteousness and fragment practical theology from the Spirit’s promised work to write the law on believers’ hearts. Because of this failure, practical theology, with its various specialty seminary courses, has become abstracted principles and methods with no organizing or integrating core.
2) That the law is perfect, and binds everyone to full conformity in the whole man unto the righteousness thereof, and unto entire obedience forever; so as to require the utmost perfection of every duty, and to forbid the least degree of every sin. Thus, the moral law is a reflection of the omni-attributes of the Lord (TH perspective on moral law), fulfilled in derivative forms the perfect humanity of Christ, proven by his resurrection from the dead. The moral law is the definition of righteousness, including the righteousness of Christ. That the authority of God controls all human thought: (Sola Scriptura and the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th commandments: TH/APOL presuppositional apologetics perspective on moral law, because the moral law is binding on all humanity and will be used to judge humanity Gal. 5:19-21; Rev. 21:8): Because there is only one true Lord who defines himself as the source and interpreter of all reality, and defines the content, practices and timings of our worship and character of our witness, all our foundational life-orienting thoughts must be analogical to his Word and all other fields of knowledge must be brought into submission to his Word (2 Cor. 10:5). The moral law also critiques all other theories of knowledge (epistemologies), religions and worldviews and knowledge based on conformity to or distortion of the moral law, whether it tends to or can be used in service of true worship of the true God (1st-4th C’s), or tends to or can be used in service of human flourishing (4th-10 C’s).
3) That it is spiritual, and so reaches the understanding, will, affections, and all other powers of the soul; as well as words, works, and gestures. Thus, the moral law defines and gives the knowledge of sin, and leads us to Christ for forgiveness, since he bore the law’s curse of death on himself, on behalf of the elect. The moral law is revealed in the perfect righteousness of Christ, proven by his resurrection from the dead. The Spirit’s primary work in the new covenant, and best and more sure evidence of his saving application of the work of Christ, is to write the moral law on our hearts (Heb 10:16; 1 Cor. 13:1-7; 1 Tim. 1:5). All abiding New Covenant biblical commands or instructions are contained in seed form in the moral law, such that we can start with any new covenant instruction, and trace it back to a corresponding commandment. Example: ‘humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.’ (1 Pet. 5:6) 4th commandment Lords Day rest requires humility to put away our doing and enjoy being in communion with Christ. 1st commandment to have God alone as our God, to submit to all his disciplines, since he is our good and powerful God who orders all things for our good and his glory. No other gods or supposed gods can compare with his mighty hand or exalt the humble in due time.
4) That one and the same thing, in divers respects, is required or forbidden in several commandments. Thus, while the Two Great Commandments enjoin us to love God and our neighbors and seek their shalom, the commandments also enjoin hatred of all that God hates and hatred of all that destructs and destroys the shalom of our neighbors and the human community (by self-discipline and repentance, church discipline, and where possible, social-legal-citizen engagement). That various genres of Scripture give support to the moral law’s duties and prohibitions (Biblical Theology perspective on moral law): narrative that approves obedience to it, and condemns and shows consequences for disobedience to it; poetry and songs that praise the law and its faithful followers and heap just condemnations and judgments on the wicked; prophecy that enjoins moral obedience and shows condemnation, captivity and rejection/divorce of the Lord’s people for their perpetual disobedience; Gospels that show Jesus’ reinforcement of the spiritual dimensions of the moral law; apocalyptic that shows eternal rewards and eternal judgment in relation to the moral law and that the moral law is eschatologically fulfilled in the new heaven’s and new earth.
5) That as, where a duty is commanded, the contrary sin is forbidden; and, where a sin is forbidden, the contrary duty is commanded: so, where a promise is annexed, the contrary threatening is included; and, where a threatening is annexed, the contrary promise is included. That where ever a command or a corresponding prohibition is given (and its implied opposite), we can discern principles and connections for all practical theology foundations, such as Reformed worship, administration of sacraments, biblical counseling, family ministry, marketplace ministry, leadership, pastoral ministry, Christian education, preaching and church planting.
6) That: What God forbids, is at no time to be done: What he commands, is always our duty; and yet every particular duty is not to be done at all times.
7) That under one sin or duty, all of the same kind are forbidden or commanded; together with all the causes, means, occasions, and appearances thereof, and provocations thereunto. Practically speaking, this means that all the trajectories of new covenant obedience and all New Testament commands directing believers to any sort of obedience or any sort of prohibition are founded in the moral law. Thus, all biblical practical theology principles and practices developed in the history of the church and in modern day seminary education can be derived from the moral law.
Each Command can serve as an interpreting perspective on all the others:
8) That: What is forbidden or commanded to ourselves, we are bound, according to our places, to endeavor that it may be avoided or performed by others, according to the duty of their places. (5th command as a perspective on all the others, inferiors, equals and superiors all supporting obedience, derived from omni-harmonious reflections,
9) That in: What is commanded to others, we are bound, according to our places and callings, to be helpful to them; and to take heed of partaking with others in: What is forbidden them. (5th command as a perspective on all the others: omni-harmonious reflections, in the fear of God, not the fear of men, thus boldly witnessing to the truth)
10) That, What is forbidden or commanded to ourselves, we are bound according to our integrity to use the Lord’s name properly to witness for the Lord’s Word and works (3rd C), to do so in the fear of God, not the fear of men, thus boldly witnessing to the truth (Matt. 13:21; Rev. 21:8 contra cowardly in face of persecution, as seed on rocky soil)
11) 10th command as perspective on all others, omni-sufficient, omni-holy reflections: sinful desire or coveting is the root of all evil (1 Tim 6:9), and every prohibition in each command begins with controlling the desires of the heart (Prov 4:23; Matt. 15:19-21). Holy desire for the glory of God and the flourishing of man is the root of all righteousness.
12) That the 2nd C is a perspective on all the other C’s: all visible creation is a reflection of the eternal power and divine nature of God, and God-reflective creation must never be turned into objects for worship, nor commanded to worship itself as his/her idol. (so uttering blasphemies 3rd C. as though it were representing a god, submitting to human philosophies and traditions as idols above the Word of God or a cult leader commanding submission to himself or his principles, 1st -5th- 6th C’s using for selfish advantage, slavery, unjust government, anger and oppression to command others to do our absolute bidding as their god, 4th C: corrupting their God-given orders of time; 7th C: corrupting their conjugal faithfulness) 8th C: prohibiting or removing their right to private property 8th , 9th C: abusing and slandering their good name for our own advancements, 10th C: inciting them to economic slavery by offering them trinkets of the world for their allegiance. Plurality of mature elders as prevention of human idolatry, the little emperor-pastor or ministry leader who gathers worshippers of himself, and punishes all who disagree.
13) 7th command as perspective on all others: omni-faithful reflections or unfaithfulness to promises and covenants.