Guilty Once; Guilty Ten Times Over

“He who willfully breaks one commandment, does not, in spirit and truth, keep any of them. ‘Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all’ (James 2:10).” Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, 51

The law of God can be summed up in one word—love. That word is a principle, not an emotion or a feeling. It is the basis for the government of God and of His law, which is the foundation of His government.

Through a study of Adam and Eve and how in one sin they broke every commandment, it is the purpose and goal of this article 1) to illustrate the truth that the ten commandments are in reality one connected whole; and 2) to show the breadth and depth of the commandments when we study them as they should be studied, from a spiritual standpoint.

I think many people read the surface of the commandments and think, “I am pretty good; I have never killed anyone.” Or, “I am OK; I have never committed adultery.” This kind of reasoning could go on indefinitely. Another way we read and understand the Ten Commandments is “the letter of the law”—I don’t swear, I don’t tell blatant lies. But this is not how God sees His law. There is a depth and a connectedness, broad principles connected with the commandments, this holy law of God, that I fear we may have never fully recognized.

So, let’s begin at the very beginning and study through each one of the commandments to see how in that one act of eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve broke the whole law, all Ten Commandments. We cannot cover these things in depth here, but will examine brief illustrations of these two points that the Ten Commandments are one harmonious whole, and the depth of the principles that they express. It is for you to study more deeply into these truths.

Exodus 20:3: “You shall have no other gods before Me.” What does it mean to have a “god” before the God of heaven? “Whatever we cherish that tends to lessen our love for God or to interfere with the service due Him, of that do we make a god.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 305. In that choice, that decision to eat of the forbidden fruit or not to eat, was the choice, the decision of allegiance—worship—of God, or of Lucifer. They chose Lucifer. They broke the first commandment by placing their love, their service, their allegiance elsewhere than with God.

Exodus 20:4–6: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”

Just what does it mean to “make for yourself an idol”? Does that mean worshiping something tangible, such as the heathen nations have done with idols of wood and stone? By all means. But it goes deeper than that. “Are we worshipers of Jehovah, or of Baal? of the living God, or of idols? No outward shrines may be visible, there may be no image for the eye to rest upon; yet we may be practicing idolatry. It is as easy to make an idol of cherished ideas or objects as to fashion gods of wood or stone. Thousands have a false conception of God and His attributes. They are as verily serving a false god as were the servants of Baal. God is a God of truth. Justice and mercy are the attributes of His throne.” The Review and Herald, December 3, 1908.

Eve cherished the idea of entering a higher sphere than was assigned her. Adam made the creature, Eve, an idol, above God, his Creator. One of the dictionary definitions of idol is “somebody or something greatly admired or loved, often to excess.” Did Adam admire and love Eve to excess? Absolutely. Where should his greatest love and loyalty have been? With God.

Exodus 20:7: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” This goes far deeper than swearing or using God’s name in a light or trifling manner. Do you claim the name of Christian? What does it mean to be a Christian? “When you took the name of Christian you promised in this life to prepare for the higher life in the kingdom of God. To be a Christian means to be Christlike.” In Heavenly Places, 286. The Psalmist says, “Holy and reverend is His name.” Psalm 111:9 KJV. Were they taking the name of God in vain? By all means. When we take the name Christian it means that we are Christlike.

Exodus 20:8–11: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”

“Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” What must we be in order to keep the Sabbath day holy? “In order to keep the Sabbath holy, men must themselves be holy.” The Desire of Ages, 283. When Adam and Eve sinned, were they any longer holy? No. Therefore, could they obey the fourth commandment? No, they could not. Therefore, they broke the fourth commandment when they ate the forbidden fruit.

Exodus 20:12: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.”

Now we have moved from those laws which outline our duty to God to those which express our duty to one another. Do you think they broke these as well? Understand that each law is not just for the physical world, but even more has a spiritual application. The Psalmist said, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul” (Psalm 19:7). Conversion of the soul is a spiritual situation, and the law of the Lord is the basis for conversion.

Adam and Eve, as we stated earlier, were children of God. If that is true then their father was God Himself. In distrusting Him, in disobeying Him, they dishonored Him. It is interesting in Patriarchs and Prophets, 308, what Inspiration declares this commandment enjoins: “The fifth commandment requires children not only to yield respect, submission, and obedience to their parents, but also to … guard their reputation.” In their act of disobedience, Adam and Eve disregarded the reputation of God and upheld the claims of the great rebel, that God’s law needed improvement and that it could not be obeyed. In this one act, they supported and upheld Satan’s accusations against God!

Exodus 20:13: “You shall not murder.” In eating of the fruit Adam and Eve brought death on themselves. The sentence of death, physical, mental, spiritual; eternal death. Patriarchs and Prophets, 308, sheds this light on the sixth commandment: “All acts of injustice that tend to shorten life … are violations of the sixth commandment.” Though they lived to be over nine hundred years old, they shortened their lives in eating of the tree.

Another consideration with this commandment is the reality of the foundation of life. From where do we get life? We receive life, every breath, every moment of every day, from God. Sin cannot exist in His presence; so every time we sin, we are choosing to separate ourselves from the Life-giver; we are choosing … murder. Inspiration also tells us that when we sin, always, without qualification, always someone else suffers. Remember what we read earlier? “All acts of injustice that tend to shorten life … are violations of the sixth commandment.” And above all, when we sin, we are responsible, in a very concrete way, for the death of Jesus. We lift the knife against Him as surely as did Adam when offering the first sacrifice of a lamb. These are very sobering thoughts.

Exodus 20:14: “You shall not commit adultery.” This may be a little more difficult to understand. In the second commandment we read: “for, I the Lord your God, am a jealous God.” Why is God pictured as a jealous God? Note these words from Patriarchs and Prophets, 306: “The close and sacred relation of God to His people is represented under the figure of marriage. Idolatry being spiritual adultery, the displeasure of God against it is fitly called jealousy.” If our relationship to God is symbolized through the figure of marriage, whenever we depart from that relationship we are committing adultery. Any time we reject confession, repentance, turning from sin, living a victorious Christian life; in short, any time we live outside the provisions of the new covenant we are committing spiritual adultery. The only way we can overcome is through the plan of redemption. Then any time we are outside of that, we are playing the harlot. We are choosing another husband than Christ.

Exodus 20:15: “You shall not steal.” To whom did that tree belong, and the fruit of that tree? It belonged to God, and God had given very explicit direction not to eat of that tree. But even deeper than that, and this principle is applicable to every single one of us, to whom do we belong? Are we our own? “Humans are His property, and they are God’s by creation and by redemption.” Christ Triumphant, 15. We are not our own. We belong to God. When Adam and Eve sinned, they took what was God’s by right—their hearts, their souls, their very bodies—and gave them to the devil. Every time we sin, we are making the same choice. Listen to the words of John the Beloved: “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning.” I John 3:8.

“We cannot be Christians while we live to please ourselves. We must enter in through the strait gate of self-denial, if we follow the Master. This strait, self-denying path is too narrow for many to walk in who profess godliness. They want an easier path and are climbing up some other way. They refuse to follow in the footsteps of our Redeemer. Christ calls all such thieves and robbers (John 10:8). They take the name of Christian, which does not belong to them, because they do not represent in their life the life of Christ. They claim the privileges which belong to the sons of God while they are none of His. They live selfish lives upon the earth and have done nothing for the truth and the salvation of souls as they ought to have done. Sad indeed for these self-deceived ones. They will never see heaven, because they are not willing to share the shame, the reproach, that Jesus suffered for them.” This Day With God, 155.

Exodus 20:16: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” This commandment correlates a little bit with what we studied about the third commandment. In fact, are you seeing the truth of our opening statement, “He who willfully breaks one commandment, does not, in spirit and truth, keep any of them”? When we take the name “Christian” we are claiming to honor this name, to be living in obedience to His law. We are to be witness to God. “Let not those who take the name of Christian forget that they are to honor this name.” A Place Called Oakwood, 104. “Those who take the name of Christian pledge themselves to be true to God. They are bound up with Him and the heavenly angels in family relation. … Their actions in every respect are to be such as become saints. All that is unbecoming is to be discarded. They are to live a new and holy life.” In Heavenly Places, 286. In bearing the relationship of “child of God,” when they ate of the forbidden fruit, were they bearing witness to the holy name of their Father? When they sinned, were they exonerating God, or were they bearing false witness against Him? You see, God said His law could be obeyed. His law is fair and just and reasonable. Satan accused God before the universe, stating that His law could not be obeyed; that it was unfair, unreasonable, unjust. For whom were Adam and Eve bearing witness when they partook of the forbidden fruit?

Exodus 20:17: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.” We easily see that Eve wanted that which was not hers, and that led to her partaking of the fruit. But there is much more behind what she did than merely coveting the fruit. “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.” Genesis 3:6. Eve made the same mistake that Lucifer made in the courts of heaven. She wanted a position which was not hers. She “saw that the tree was … desirable to make one wise.” And she reaped the same consequences as those Lucifer reaped. “In attempting to rise above her original position, she fell far below it.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 59. This was the result for Lucifer. This was the result for Eve, and it is the result for all who aspire for that which does not belong to them.

The purpose of this study is not to be theoretical, or simply an interesting series of events or teachings. The purpose of this study is to connect, from the depths of our souls, the fact that God’s law reaches to every fiber of our lives, every moment of every day. What are the driving principles behind our decisions, our choices? You see, in every choice of life, from the smallest, whether to take another bite of food, to those we consider important, every one of these choices needs to be made in light of the broad and deep principles of God’s law.

The bottom line is this: Is God first, or is He not? It seems that it is no accident that the first commandment, at its root, deals with what we worship. What has priority in our lives? Is it God, or is it something, anything, else? If God is truly our first love, our first priority, the object of our loyalty, then we will keep all the other commandments.

God’s law is truly a law of principle, the principle of love. When God proclaimed His law to Israel, it was done in an awesome manner. Inspiration tells it like this: “Such were the sacred precepts of the Decalogue, spoken amid thunder and flame, and with a wonderful display of the power and majesty of the great Lawgiver. God accompanied the proclamation of His law with exhibitions of His power and glory, that His people might never forget the scene, and that they might be impressed with profound veneration for the Author of the law, the Creator of heaven and earth. He would also show to all men the sacredness, the importance, and the permanence of His law.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 309.

“He who willfully breaks one commandment, does not, in spirit and truth, keep any of them. ‘Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all’ (James 2:10).” Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, 51.

Just as the keeping of God’s law would have been the greatest blessing and good to Adam and Eve, so it will be for us. Just as breaking one of the commandments, thereby breaking all, was a tremendous curse to them, so it will be for us. It is my prayer that we learn the lesson God has so mercifully preserved for us that we may avoid the terrible consequences of sin. Let us heed the words of the Psalmist, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.” Psalm 1:1, 2.

All Bible quotes NKJV unless otherwise noted.

Brenda Douay is a staff member at Steps to Life. She may be contacted by email at: