Later in our service we’ll recite together the first table of the Ten Commandments. This is an opportune time to clear up a common misunderstanding in evangelical circles. Many read Scripture with a Law/Grace paradigm. This way of reading & interpreting the Bible, however, turns us into editors of God’s Word, scratching our chin and trying to discern which parts are Law parts and which parts are Grace parts.
Some even go so far as to say that Paul’s writings are too laden with Law, and that we should really only concern ourselves with the parts that talk about God’s forgiveness, grace, and love. This approach turns the Law into oozing pond to be avoided, and reduces grace into a smothering, maternal hug.
But this approach will stump us when we get to texts like this:
“Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them (Ps. 119:165).”
“Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, which ye shall command your children to observe to do, all the words of this law. For it is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life: and through this thing ye shall prolong your days in the land, whither ye go over Jordan to possess it (Deu. 32:46-47).”
Taking all this together, it is the Word which sorts mankind, not mankind which sorts the Word. To the regenerate heart, all the Words of God are precious, they are Grace. To the unbelieving, all of Scripture is a millstone of Law. As we corporately recite the Ten Commandments, notice the prologue: the Lord delivered us from Egypt. It’s this deliverance which forms the basis for our obedience. It isn’t our obedience that procures our deliverance. Grace, in other words, makes law-keeping a possibility.
God’s Law is holy, just, and good. It restrains wicked men, it reveals our sin as well as the perfect righteousness of Christ; but it also restores us, by our union with the Son, to righteousness. The Father has clothed us in Him, and reckoned us righteous in Him. Furthermore, the Law is not grievous, as John tells us; for the Law commands us to love God, and so bask in the glory which He made us for. Yet, we have transgressed the law in its finer points and in its major ones. We have been legalistic about other’s transgressions, and profoundly permissive of our own. This compels us to go to God for forgiveness for such unjust weights and measures. Our prayer should be that by God’s Holy Law He would reveal Christ to us, reveal our sin to us, and spur us to righteousness in Christ.
Being righteous isn’t a matter of trying harder, but of resting entirely in the righteousness of Christ. This is the only way to have the guilt of your sin cleansed, and the only way to obtain strength for the good works God has called you to.