Exodus 19 & 20
After two months of travelling, the Israelites finally reach their primary destination: Mount Sinai. They have come far to the south of the Promised Land, but this is no detour. Their salvation is complete and unconditional; but in order to enjoy their new relationship with God, they have to make a response – a commitment to obedience. “Now if you obey Me fully and keep My covenant, then out of all nations you will be My treasured possession.” (Exodus 19:6)
And so God gives them the Law – not ‘in a vacuum’, but in the context of a once-for-all experience of unearned and undeserved salvation. It is because of what God has done for Israel that He has the right to command their allegiance – and they have the obligation to give it. And His laws are not a list of arbitrary rules; they lay out a lifestyle that will reflect His righteousness. If the Israelites obey them, they will become a distinctive people displaying God’s glory to the nations around them.
“Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” (I Peter 3:18) He has redeemed us – not so that we can carry on living like unbelievers, but so that we can live in a way that brings glory to God. “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves of righteousness.” (Romans 6:18) When we become Christians, we cross over from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of God – and we must thereafter obey the laws and commands of our new King. This is why, though we are “not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:15), the New Testament is full of ethical instruction…
If we understand correctly the purpose of the law, there should be no conflict between law and grace; we obey our Lord not in order to make ourselves His people but because He has made us His people.