This article is part of the Christ in All of Scripture series.
An Important Role in Jesus's Ministry
Deuteronomy is clearly one of the most important books in the Old Testament. First, Jesus quoted the book of Deuteronomy more than any other book in the Old Testament. Second, Jesus used the book of Deuteronomy in his own life more than any other book in the Old Testament. For example, Jesus answered all three of his temptations in the wilderness with quotations from the book of Deuteronomy (Luke 4:1–13). Since the person of Jesus is at the very heart of the gospel and Deuteronomy was so important in his life, it should therefore not be hard to find the gospel in this last book of Moses’ Pentateuch.
We can see the gospel in the overall structure of the book of Deuteronomy. While it is true that the majority of the book and the center of the book are occupied with laws (Deut. 5–26) and the consequences of keeping or breaking those laws (Deut. 27–30), this “law” section is surrounded by grace. The first four chapters are in effect an account of how gracious God has been to Israel in the past. So, God’s grace in the past serves as the context and motivation for Israel’s keeping the law.
Likewise, the last four chapters are in effect an account of how gracious God will be to Israel in the future. So also, God’s grace in the future serves as the context and motivation for Israel’s keeping the law. Thus, in the book of Deuteronomy, the law is surrounded by grace, and keeping the law is a response to grace received and anticipated.
Obedience as a Response
We can also see the gospel within the central section of the book of Deuteronomy. Keeping the law in the book of Deuteronomy is a response to God’s grace and not a means to earn God’s favor. This truth is articulated nowhere more clearly than in the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5), where all of the commandments are rooted in God’s gracious redemption. The apostle Paul certainly saw the gospel in the book of Deuteronomy.
The law is surrounded by grace, and keeping the law is a response to grace received and anticipated.
In his letter to the Romans, for example, Paul drew on Deuteronomy to teach that the law reveals sin (Rom. 7:7), that righteousness is by faith (Rom. 10:6–8, 19 [Deut. 30:12–14]), that a circumcision of the heart is necessary for true obedience (Rom. 2:29 [Deut. 30:6]), that keeping the law is the way to love one’s neighbor (Rom. 13:9 [Deut. 5:17–19, 21]), that we should not seek personal revenge (Rom. 12:19 [Deut. 32:35]), and that we should expect Gentiles to be added to an originally all-Jewish people of God (Rom. 15:10 [Deut. 32:43]).
The ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible features 375,000+ words of gospel-centered study notes, book introductions, and articles that explain passage-by-passage how God’s redemptive purposes culminate in the gospel and apply to the lives of believers today.
Finally, Jesus saw the gospel in the book of Deuteronomy. This is revealed not only in that he quoted extensively from Deuteronomy and used it in his own life, but also in that he reflected theologically on Deuteronomy. When asked, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” (Mark 12:28), Jesus answered by including a quote from Deuteronomy 6:4–5: “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’” (Mark 12:30). Jesus taught that we love God because of who he is, “the Lord our God.” We love him by keeping his commandments because he is our God; he is not our God because we love him by keeping his commandments. That is grace. It is gospel. And because we have received this grace, we keep the second greatest commandment, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). We love because he loved (1 John 4:19). We extend grace because he extended grace.
This article is adapted from the ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible. Browse other articles in this series via the links below.
Genesis • Exodus • Leviticus • Numbers • Deuteronomy • Joshua • Judges • Ruth • 1–2 Samuel • 1–2 Kings • 1–2 Chronicles • Ezra • Nehemiah • Esther • Job • Psalms • Proverbs • Ecclesiastes • Song of Solomon • Isaiah • Jeremiah • Lamentations • Ezekiel • Daniel • Hosea • Joel • Amos • Obadiah • Jonah • Micah • Nahum • Habbakuk • Zephaniah • Haggai • Zechariah • Malachi
Matthew • Mark • Luke • John • Acts • Romans • 1 Corinthians • 2 Corinthians • Galatians • Ephesians • Philippians • Colossians • 1 Thessalonians • 2 Thessalonians • 1 Timothy • 2 Timothy • Titus • Philemon • Hebrews • James • 1 Peter • 2 Peter • 1–3 John • Jude • Revelation