The Gospel and The Law

Most likely you’ve heard that song before. It was probably on a playground, probably to make fun of someone (or be made fun of yourself).

But there is quite a bit of truth inherent to the song. There is an order to all things in life, including love and romance and family. “First comes love, THEN comes marriage.” If either of these come out of order, there are challenges, difficulties, stress, and potential brokenness that await the couple. Marrying someone you don’t love is a recipe for disaster.

In the same way, when God gives his law to his people, he doesn’t begin with the law. God wants only good things for his children, and he is sure to communicate his law to them in the proper order. For God’s people, for Christians, we don’t begin with law as if we could work our way to God. No, Christians begin with the gospel. And so does God.

“I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Exodus 20:2).

The Puritan writer, Thomas Watson, explains, “This, though a preface to the law, is pure gospel. The [Hebrew] word Eloeha, ‘thy God’ is so sweet, that we can never suck all the honey out of it.”

The word “gospel” means “good news.” Gospel is something wonderful that is true, an announcement about something real in history that doesn’t change no matter what we do.

Mmm… gospel.

What Watson means here is that God begins by telling Israel something wonderful, by telling them good news, gospel. Before He gives the law, God tells Israel that He belongs to them. God made everything, owns everything, rules everything. Every last good thing in this world that you and I enjoy was his creation. God is  creative, loving, glorious, gracious.

And before telling us what to do, He tells us that He is ours. He belongs to us. He starts the Ten Commandments, not with a threat, but with a promise: “I am YOUR God.”

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