Ten Commandments and God's Grace

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Question
In what ways do the Ten Commandments reveal the grace of God?
Answer
The Ten Commandments are a powerful witness to God's grace. A lot of times when we think about the Old Testament and the laws, we think about them just being about obedience, about earning God's favor, but when we look carefully at the Ten Commandments, we can actually see that, in a sense, they're showing us God's grace by God graciously showing us how to respond to his grace. And that's really the key piece. The Ten Commandments start with this statement by God … that before God gives any laws to his people, God reminds them of his grace: "I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery." And what that does is sets up the rest of the Ten Commandments, not as laws to become God's people, but gives God's people an ethos, or a way of life, that allows them to respond to God's grace. In fact, in the synagogue, Jewish persons actually take that statement as the first commandment — "I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt" — as a way of reminding themselves about grace. But then, as you move through the rest of the Ten Commandments, how do we respond to God's grace? How do we live as people that have been delivered? Well, the Ten Commandments basically have two sections that are connected by the Sabbath commandment. In the first commands we have essentially, how do you love God? And you love God by having no other gods before the Lord, by not making graven images or images of God, and by not taking the Lord's name in vain. So, we love God by … not practicing idolatry, essentially. So, that's the one piece. We have this vertical relationship with God, and we see God wants us to respond to his grace by being fully in allegiance to him. Then the second half of the Ten Commandments, starting with "Honor your father and mother," is we have a series of laws that give us standards for interacting with other people, because with the God of the Scriptures, it's not just a personal spirituality; there's a communal piece to this. It's not enough to simply love God. That's the critical piece, but then that has to then be expressed in the way that we live and love other people, and that's the second part of the Ten Commandments. Then right in the middle, we see this other piece of God's grace. It reminds us to keep the Sabbath: "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy," or "by keeping it holy." And right there we see in a microcosm the ethic that God wants. God has created us, ultimately, not for work but for rest, to abide in God's presence, and on Sabbath God combines, really, that vertical relationship of loving him with how we treat other people by carving into the fabric of creation this one day in which we do nothing; we remember God's grace… Everything closes down that day as we remember and practice the love for God and the love for our neighbors. And so, we see God's grace in action throughout those commands.