Why did God give us the Ten Commandments, knowing it is impossible to fully obey them?
Charles Spurgeon’s View
Why did God give us the Ten Commandments, knowing it is impossible for us to fully obey them? Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) is one of my favorite preachers of old and he loved preaching about the Ten Commandments, or the “Ten Cannons of the Law.” He really knew how to evangelize. In his lifetime he is known to have preached to over 10 million people but he preached about the Law. He said, “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for.” Charles Spurgeon referred to the Ten Commandments as ten cannons, all pointed toward the unsaved man, and nowhere are we out of range. When he prayed, Charles Spurgeon read through the Ten Commandments and thought back over his sins against each one of them.
The first four of the Ten Commandments are vertical, and these are related to obedience toward God. The last six are related to how mankind should deal with one other. Put together they formed the first cross which pointed to Calvary. The first four have to do with our personal relationship with God and the last six relate to our personal relationships with our fellow man. The Law is not just a good idea or great suggestions, but it is the Law. Charles Spurgeon said, “I do not believe that any man can preach the gospel who does not preach the Law.” He said if you “Lower the Law and you dim the light by which man perceives his guilt; this is a very serious loss to the sinner rather than a gain; for it lessens the likelihood of his conviction and conversion. I say you have deprived the gospel of its ablest auxiliary [its most powerful weapon] when you have set aside the Law. You have taken away from it the schoolmaster that is to bring men to Christ . . . They will never accept grace till they tremble before a just and holy Law.” God’s grace is not amazing until God’s wrath has been revealed.
Impossible to Keep
Just because we’re not capable of fully obeying the Commandments doesn’t mean we don’t strive to keep them. Everyone I’ve ever asked if they’ve even been a tiny bit over the speed limit at sometimes, so we’re all lawbreakers in a sense. Most of us obey human laws, but none can even come close to obeying the Ten Commandments. And that’s the very reason for the grace of God. We must thank God that it’s not works that save us like obeying the Commandments (Eph 2:8-9), because we’d all be in very deep trouble on Judgment Day (Rev 20:12-15), however, a Spirit-filled believer should naturally desire to obey God. If not, something’s very wrong (1 John 3).
God’s Character and the Law
The Ten Commandments are a look at the character of God. They reflect His perfection and His nature, but the Law is there for a very good reason. The Apostle Paul said the Law as not the problem, so “What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet” (Rom 7:7). The Law shows us just how infinitely far we fall short of God’s glory and His standard into entering into the Kingdom, “So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” (Rom 7:12), but it shows us we are not good! Not without the righteousness of Christ (2 Cor 5:21). It is only because of Christ that “we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code” (Rom 7:6). It is any wonder they call it “amazing grace!?”
The Law’s Purpose
Why did God give us the Ten Commandments? They weren’t for His own benefit, but for ours. When a rich man came up to Jesus, He asked Him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother” (Mark 10:17b-19). He was still focused on what he could do to enter the Kingdom, and not what God has done. Sounding self-righteous, he said “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Mark 10:20-22). Jesus didn’t tell him that it’s okay…don’t worry about the Law, because we’re under grace. Instead, He validates the Law. Of course it’s impossible to keep the Ten Commandments, just like it is the speed limit at all times, but that doesn’t mean we have liberty to speed, does it? The rich man didn’t get it, and many still don’t either. The Law and the judgment it incurs upon us, should make us run to the Savior.
If you’ve never trusted in Christ, then you have the wrath of God abiding on you at this very moment and you could die in your sins. You must trust in Christ to receive the righteousness of Christ (2 Cor 5:21). There is no other way to be saved (Acts 4:12). If it was about “doing good deeds” or keeping laws, then Christ died for nothing. It is still true that “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame” (Rom 10:9), meaning, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom 10:13). If you’ve trusted in Christ, let us know by contacting us. If not, I pray you will before you die (Heb 9:27), because today is your day of salvation (2 Cor 6:2). Who knows if we’ll even be here tomorrow?
Here is some related reading for you: Are the Ten Commandments Still Relevant Today? 
Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible: English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.