Any manifestation of God's grace, even His law, is a gift (James 1:17).
A decade ago Michael Horton emphatically stated: 'That is why, throughout this book we will make a conscious effort to see these commandments not merely as stones to throw at secular society, but as a witness to our unfaithful record at the end of the 20th century.' Horton starts out by immediately directing our attention to important distinctions that have now become blurred, e.g. God's revealed will and God's secret will; the sustainability of the moral (God's) law and the passing of the Jewish ceremonial and civil law; the confusion between the gospel and civil 'righteousness', as set forth by J Gresham Machen a century ago; and the false dichotomy created repeatedly between the Spirit and the Word, as if they had competing agendas. 'Only the Spirit can take those dead in trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1) and make them alive. And once one is made alive, he or she is able to respond positively and affectionately to the law of God for the first time.' p 26
Throughout the Bible sin and its consequences are depicted in uncompromising terms. Israel's failure to walk before God alone and forsake her unfaithful ways brought God remorse. 'We cannot be expected to put God at the centre of our existence if He is not at the center of our theological system.' p 76 Yet that is precisely what happened. "There is no hesed (covenant loyalty), no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land." Hosea 4:1 Horton recounts the enormity of the consequences this had on Israel as a nation, as divine judgment followed.
Though they were a people under the law, Israel was still expected to maintain the spiritual relation presupposed by the patriarchs in the covenant of grace. 'The religion of Israel, however, was committed to a mediated relationship with God. Individual Jews had a relationship with God only because they were part of a community of faith. This community was represented by mediators: prophets, priests and kings.' p 79 and so 'Throughout the gospels Jesus announces the dissolution of the Jewish theocracy. The kingdom of God is no longer identified with one single nation. This is the point of the many parables. But when Jesus, the King of kings, arrived, He declared, "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36). In other words, Christ's kingdom is not like David's. It is, for the time being, a kingdom in spiritual conflict rather than physical conflicts.' pp. 160-163 Christ takes the curse of the law in our stead, and so sets us free to love and obey God's law from the heart.
The law is the reflection of the character of God, and therefore we are called to follow it. God's moral laws are precepts which are 'righteous altogether', set in place for eternity and aim toward preserving the attribute of His holiness. 'Our motivation for excellence - in work, in education, in relationships, in the home - must be the sanctity of God's reputation.' p 103 The Ten Commandments were not just God's 'suggestions', and being saved by grace doesn't mean we have contempt for God's law, but are free to keep His law from the heart.
Horton draws on the social ills of our time and excels in bringing the eternal ways of God to bear on our carnal minds when he decries the absolute lack of fear for a God who has so revealed Himself in the New Testament as consistent with the Old Testament. 'It is impossible to know the true God, apart from His self-disclosure.' p 107 In masterful exegetical synopses of the Ten Commandments Horton cleverly avoids the trap of legalism and convincingly shows that God is perfectly free to require perfect righteousness of us. Mercy available today, lest we be found not behaving like Christians at all and that our conduct is a contradiction to our identity and confession as believers.