“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” (Exodus 20:2 NIV)
In the New Testament, we find a pattern of grace and salvation. It is a pattern that is represented in two theological terms: justification and sanctification.
Justification means “being put in right relationship with God.” This is the word for being reconciled to God because of God’s forgiveness and mercy. It is a work of the grace of God, as Paul says in Ephesians 2, not something we accomplish by our works. It is only accomplished by Christ, but we receive this gift by putting our faith in Christ’s accomplishment and not in our works. That is justification. Wesleyans/Methodists like to use the phrase “justifying grace” just to make the point chrystal clear that it is God’s work of grace all the way.
Sanctification means “becoming mature in faith and character within our relationship with God.” This is the word for being restored in our life such that we bear the image of God in the way God originally designed us. It is a word for growing in Christlikeness. As such, it is growing in “holy love.” It has been described as growing in “holiness of heart and life” in order to point to both the inward and outward transformation. It is also a work of grace, not something we earn or accomplish. We engage in spiritual habits or disciplines as a way of making our heart, mind, and will available to God’s transforming work in us. But it is God who accomplishes our maturation in faith. Wesleyan/Methodists like to use the phrase “sanctifying grace” to reinforce that this too is a work of God’s grace.
So what does this have to do with the Ten Commandments?
God reminds the Israelites here at the beginning of his core instructions for their character and life together that–essentially–they have been saved by grace: “I… brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” God is their savior and deliverer. This comes prior to the commandments because they need to know that they did nothing to save themselves. God accomplished it all. This means that the Ten Commandments are not about how the people can earn God’s love or get themselves right with God. The Ten Commandments are the summary of what a life–individual and communal–that is, fully dedicated to God (sanctified), looks like. These are their instructions for maturing as God’s people and bearing his image in the way that humanity was supposed to from the very beginning.
From early on, therefore, we see the character of God (holy love), the purposes of God (saving, delivering, transforming), and the pattern of God (rescue/deliver, then grow/mature/sanctify).
This was the pattern for the Israelites. It is ours as well.
Prayer: God, thank you for delivering me from slavery to sin. May I keep in step with your Spirit as you grow and mature my in faith, that my heart and life may fully reflect the love and character of Christ. Amen.