We are saved by the grace of God. This can’t be more clear from Scripture (Ephesians 2:8-9). No good works on our part get us into the grace of God. But this does not mean we discount or ignore the commands of God. Far from it. Those commands are as important to us today as they ever were.
God gave the people of Israel his grace and placed them in the Promised Land. “This day you have become the people of the Lord your God.” It wasn’t because they were more noble than other people – or because they were more spiritually minded. We’re not really sure why God chose Abraham and his offspring (Deuteronomy 7:6-8; Ezekiel 36:22).
All we can say is that God chose them, and God knows why he chose Israel. It was an act of grace that he chose them.
But they were to live out the covenant with Him. And that meant keeping the commandments – to live out the character and ways of God. The people of Israel could not escape this demand by the God who gave them such grace. They had to live it out or face the curses.
And so they wrote out the law on the plaster that had been laid over the stones. Everyone could read it – a memorial to their duty to God. “Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.”
God does require we live holy lives as Christians. We are to be people of truth, who care for justice and who love our neighbors as ourselves. Everyone who has been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ must follow the commands of the new covenant. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
Those who don’t keep the commandments of Christ are not part of the new covenant. “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him. … Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:9-10).
The difference between us and the ancient Israelites is the Holy Spirit. Where is the law written today? It is written on the hearts of everyone who puts his or her faith in Christ (Jeremiah 31:31-33). “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).
You can obey the commands of God because God empowers you to obey. We may call this grace upon grace (John 1:16).