Why does the Bible say, if we break one commandment, we are guilty of all?

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Stumble in one commandment

The apostle James writes in his epistle, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). The apostle is referring, in this passage, to the Ten Commandments law and cites two examples (James 2:11). A person who stumbles in one commandment breaks all because the law is not merely a collection of separate principles; it is a perfect harmonious revelation of the divine will.

To select that part of the law that is agreeable to us and to ignore the rest, and stumble even in only one commandment, reveals a wish to do our own will and not God’s. Thus, the unity of love is broken and the sin of selfishness take place in the life. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments (John 14:15 also 1 John 5:3).

All the principles are manifestations of love either to God or to man. ” “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself’ ” (Luke 10:27). And the law is summed up in one Word – love (Galatians 5:14). To break the law at one point is to violate love as such, the whole of it.

Guilty of all

Lawbreaking, whether civil or religious, doesn’t need to be a breaking of all the laws—one offense is enough to convict the offender. No earthly judge will pardon the breaking of one law simply because the offender has kept many other laws. A chain is broken by the rupture of its weakest link. So, to stumble in one commandment causes the breaking of the whole law for the transgressor. Whoever deliberately breaks one commandment rebels against the expressed will of God. “He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4).

Victory through Christ

There is no need for us to be discouraged because by His life and His death, Christ has accomplished victory over sin. As man, He met temptation, and overcame in the power given Him from God. “God with us” (Matthew 1:23) is the guarantee of our freedom from sin, the guarantee of our power to obey the law of heaven. “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

Jesus’ life attests that it is possible for us also to obey the law of God and not stumble. Paul declared, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). When the heavenly commands are truly followed, the Lord makes Himself responsible for our victory. In Christ, there is power to accomplish every duty and power to repel temptation. In Him, there is grace for daily growth, courage for battles, and passion for service (1 John 5:4).

The Lord promised, “Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you” (Luke 10:19). And He promised that we can be “saved to the uttermost” (Hebrews 7:25), be “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37), and “always triumph” (2 Corinthians 2:14).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

This answer is also available in: Español

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