gospel grace, gospel law

I haven’t read a Phil Ryken commentary that I didn’t love*, and the Exodus one (1,164 pages without endnotes / indices!) in the Preaching the Word series is no exception.

Here he is commenting on the Ten Commandments (which, by the way, he devotes 13 out of 102 chapters to):

‘When your son asks you in time to come, “What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the Lord our God has commanded you?” then you shall say to your son, “We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. And the Lord showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. And he brought us out from there, that he must bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers. And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day.’ (Deut 6:20-24)

When the children of Israel asked why they had to keep God’s law, their parents were supposed to tell them a story. The only way they could understand the meaning of the law was by knowing its context, which was the experience of the exodus — the story of their salvation. First the gospel, then the law.


Martin Luther once explained this principle to one of his students. He had been talking about God’s free grace for sinners, how our salvation does not rest upon our good works but upon the saving work of Jesus Christ. “If what you’re saying is true,” the student objected, “then we may live as we want!” Luther replied, “Yes. Now what do you want?”

Their parents were supposed to tell them a story. I can’t imagine how that would play out in reality — “I don’t want to!” “Let me tell you a story…” — but I just love that.

* Okay, I’ve honestly only read 3 of his commentaries (not in full) and 2 of his books.

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