Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:13,
13 But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
He also tells us in Romans 13:10,
10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; love therefore is the fulfillment of the law.
The Ten Commandments should be thought of as ten laws that summarize the mind of this God of Love. The first five tell us briefly how to love God, while the last five tell us briefly how to love our neighbor as ourselves.
The briefest of all law studies, of course, is found Jesus’ statement about the greatest commandment, to which He attaches a second commandment that is similar. Matthew 22:35-40 says,
35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to them, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
The greatest commandment is found in Deut. 6:5, while the second commandment is found in Lev. 19:18. Between the two of these, the Ten Commandments are perfectly summarized. Any questions about how to fulfill those two great commandments are seen first in the five principles ascribed to each in the Ten Commandments.
Our view of the Ten Commandment is also very important. When we view them through the eyes of the Old Covenant, we understand them as commands. “You shall not murder.” “You shall not commit adultery.” “You shall not steal.” These are divine commands which mankind is supposed to obey.
However, when we view the Ten Commandments from a New Covenant perspective, we see them as Ten Promises. “You shall not murder” is God’s promise to us. “You shall not commit adultery” is another promise. “You shall not steal” is still another promise. In other words, the day is coming, God says, when the Holy Spirit has brought Christ in you to full birth, that you will not murder, or even hate your brother. Neither will you commit adultery, not even with a lustful look. Neither will you ever steal again. You will be as perfect as Jesus Christ, who too was without sin (Heb. 9:28).
The Commandments are transformed into promises, because it is the Spirit of God who works within our hearts to bring Christ in you to full maturity so that he may be born and manifested in the world. Under the Old Covenant (agreement, or contract), man was commanded to be obedient; under the New Covenant, God has taken upon Himself the responsibility to change us into His image.
The Old Covenant failed, because it depended upon the obedience of men. The New Covenant cannot fail, because it depends upon God’s action within us. And so, while the Old Covenant said in Exodus 19:5, “If you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant,” the New Covenant says in Jer. 31:33, “I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it.”
The Old Covenant says “if you will,” but the New Covenant promises, “I will.” For this reason, the Ten Commandments of the Old Covenant are also the Ten Promises of the New Covenant.
To gain further understanding of each commandment, one must study the rest of the laws, statutes, and judgments. It is also necessary to be guided by the Holy Spirit, who alone can give the revelation necessary to understand the full mind of God.