Think about this for a second. How do the Ten Commandments begin?
Maybe you read them in the Bible, or heard them once in a church. Or then there was that movie with Charlton Heston. Think. Do not kill. No, that comes later. Don’t steal. Nope, later still. Honor your parents. Good try.
You shall have no other gods before me. That’s the first commandment. But that’s not how the Ten Commandments begin.
If you go back and read them, here’s how it begins.
And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me…” (Exodus 20:1-3)
Grace (the undeserved favor and acceptance of God) precedes law. That goes completely counter to what most of us believe. Most of us believe that if we are good, if we obey, then we will be loved and accepted by God. Now, of course we arbitrarily decide for ourselves what “being good” means. But generally, we obey. He loves us. We keep the rules. He accepts us.
So if we were writing the Exodus story (the story of the people of Israel being set free from Egypt), here’s how we would write it. Chapter 1: They’re slaves. Chapter 2: Ten Commandments. If you keep these rules and obey them, I’ll love you. I’ll bless you and set you free. Chapter 3-19: The people work real hard to keep the commandments. Chapter 20: You kept them? Great, I’ll rescue you! (Or, you didn’t. I’ll punish you!)
Yet, here’s the real Exodus story. Chapter 1: They’re slaves. Chapter 2-19: I love you. I’m going to bless you and set you free. You don’t have to work for this; I will work for you. You certainly won’t be able to earn it. But I am gracious and merciful. Chapter 20: Since I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery…here are my commands.
Christians obey not to get God to love them, but because He loves them. Christians obey not to earn His grace but because they have already received it through faith in Christ. The gospel motivates and empowers obedience. Grace precedes law. That is good news.
(And by the way if you keep reading…)
Chapter 21 – Malachi 4 (the last chapter of the Old Testament): You didn’t keep my commands. No one has. You deserve to be punished. But I’m gracious and merciful. I love you and I’m going to rescue you. Here’s how…
Matthew 1-Revelation 22: Jesus
[To listen to teaching on this, click here]