This week we are beginning a new summer series on the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:1-21). It is entitled Riding the Rails. Staying on the tracks is not restrictive for a train. It is the place where a train is at its best. And the same is true with God’s law. God’s law is not restrictive but intended for human flourishing.
The great emphasis in the contemporary church is on grace. And so some are inclined to push back at the very mention of “law”. We have received the righteousness of Christ. Is the righteousness of the law still important? And is law even compatible with grace?
In one sense, we are no longer under the condemnation or oppression of the law (Gal. 3:24-25). We no longer feel its crushing weight. But in another sense we remain under the authority of the law. Paul was very clear that the problem was not with the law. The problem was with us (Rom. 7:12-14). The work of Christ has changed us so that we are able to obey the law (Rom. 8:3-4).
Consider the context of the Ten Commandments. God identifies himself as the one who “brought them out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Ex. 20:2). Clearly the law is given within a framework of grace. God saved them before he gave them the law. His grace preceded his demands. The law was never an attempt to earn God’s grace. It was a proper response to the grace that has already been shown.
God’s holy standard has not changed with the passing of time. We must not confuse legalism (an attempt to earn God’s approval) with a call to holiness (an attempt to please God with your life). We don’t obey God’s law to merit his grace. We obey God’s law in response to his grace.