The faith vs works debate polarize things in two distinct extremes:
strict-Law-keeping or no-strings-attached-grace?
Which one is the right path?
If we start reading the 10 commandments at Exo 20:3-17, we only will get the WHAT of the commandments. What to do, what not to do. All that’s required to stay out of trouble. This is all that the “WHAT” part of the commandments give us. That create the faith vs. works dichotomy: Old Testament law-keeping or New Testament no-strings-attached-grace.
If we focus only on the WHAT of the 10 commandments, we are left with these two unhealthy extremes. Now, if we add Exo 20:2 into the 10 commandments, we expand the commands beyond the “WHAT to do”. When God says “I’m the one who brought you out of Egypt” that means Israel was “under new management”. They were supposed to follow the new Rules because a “New Lord” other than Phraho now was in command. That’s the WHO; instead of Pharaoh, who exploited and abused the Israelites as commodities, Yahweh was a loving and caring “commander in chief”. That’s the WHO. But it doesn’t stop there.
If we read the entire verse Exo 20:2, we’ll understand the most important part. We already know the WHAT and the WHO of the 10 commandments. Now it’s time to understand the WHY. The last part of verse 2 goes like this:
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt,
out of the house of slavery; (NRSV)
Only when the Israelites realized the house of slavery they were under that they could appreciate being “under new management”. That’s the WHY. why did they need a new Lord to liberate them? Because they were slaves to Pharao. Sadly though a lot of times the Israelites didn’t appreciated the new Lordship of God (Exo 16:2-3, Num 11:4-6)
At Jesus time the same happened. The Jews couldn’t understand how they could also be slaves to sin (John 8:31-37). They just assumed they were Abraham’s descendants and that was enough to get into the kingdom.
Could we fall into the same trap today?
The idea that we are just fine and do not need to be “under new management”. The idea that we are self-suficient in our afluence, not needing any ancient laws as moral compass for our lives. Very easy to arrive at this position in wealthy countries. That’s dangerous territory. As the apostle Paul warns in Rom 8:13 if we live by the sinful nature we will die.
It is only when we truly recognize that we are all slaves to sin that we’ll truly appreciate God’s freedom in Christ Jesus.
Only when we continue in God’s word that we are true disciples.
Only then we’ll be truly disciples of Jesus…. and then, like the Israelites, we’ll be set free from sin to live with God in the spiritual Canaan (Rev 21:1-4)