Law and Gospel

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The law is thus directed solely to our behavior and consists in making requirements.

What’s the Relationship Between Law and Gospel?

Just as we and God are separated from one another, so also these two doctrines are widely separated from one another. For the gospel teaches exclusively what has been given us by God, and not—as in the case of the law—what we are to do and give to God. Since the two sermons, the two doctrines, Law and Gospel, do two different, opposite things, being able to tell the difference between Law and Gospel is essential to the theological task.

So how is it done? How are Law and Gospel distinguished? How does one tell the difference between divine gift and divine requirement? Here are some guidelines:. You may think that you are reading the word of God in scripture or hearing the Word of God in a sermon. In reality, as you are reading or hearing, the Word of God is acting upon you, doing a number on you. Understood in terms of Law and Gospel, the Word of God is a putting sinners to death with the unremitting pronouncement of commandments and punishments—including the punishment of death—and b raising up saints with the unrelenting pronouncement of the unmerited grace, forgiveness, and new and eternal life given in Jesus Christ.

Remember that Law and Gospel are necessarily related and therefore cannot be separated. Just as the words of the Bible are bound up into a single authoritative and holy scripture, so, too, are the words of law and gospel bound up into a single divine Word that does what God wants it to do see Isaiah Biblically speaking, faithfully confessing, you can neither have law without gospel, nor gospel without law. If you read and apply the word of God as law only, you get legalism. If you read and apply the word of God as gospel only, you get antinomianism the belief that the law has no use.

Do not confuse Law and Gospel. The previous sentence is intentionally stated as a law rather than a guideline. Perhaps even more dangerous than separating Law from Gospel is confusing the Law with the Gospel, or vice versa. One common way in which law and gospel are confused is when we imagine that we make ourselves eternally right with God by deciding to do what God wants us to do.

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In Protestant Christianity, the relationship between Law and Gospel—God's Law and the Gospel of Jesus Christ—is a major topic in Lutheran and Reformed. There are two main teachings in the Bible: law and gospel. Law shows us our sin, while the gospel tells us about God's love and forgiveness through Jesus.

Look for how Law and Gospel function literally. Law and Gospel can be discerned in the message of the bible or in the message of the preacher or, really, in any kind of message.

Wherever and however you encounter a message, ask: what is the literal sense? Flames of fire shot skyward; dense clouds of smoke began to form. Suddenly a loud trumpet began to blare terribly, hurling its echoes like thunderclaps through the valleys that start from the sides of mountain and causing every one to shake with dread. But the climax of this terrible phenomenon came when the people heard the voice of Jehovah reciting to them the Ten Commandments with their regular refrain of Thou shalt! Thou shalt! Everywhere in the camp of Israel people went to pieces from dread and fright.

Do you think that the coming of this terrible tempest just on that day was an accident? Did not Moses have to set up a barrier around the mountain already on the preceding day lest anybody approach the mountain? Did he not issue a warning to the people telling them that they would drop dead if they crossed the barrier? In the wild tumult of the next day the people understood the truth of the warning; for no one could have come out alive from that fearful commotion.

Only Moses was permitted to approach the mountain, under the protecting hand of God. By this spectacle God has indicated to us how we are to preach the Law. True, we cannot reproduce the thunder and lightning of that day, except in a spiritual way. If we do, it will be a salutary sermon when the people sit in their pews and the preacher begins to preach the Law in its fulness and to expound its spiritual meaning.

The Law must precede the preaching of the Gospel, otherwise the latter will have no effect. At first the people will exclaim, How terrible is all this! But presently the preacher, with shining eyes, passes over to the Gospel, and then the hearts of people are cheered. For your catechizing you must adopt the same method. When explaining the Law, do not mingle Gospel elements with your catechization, except in the conclusion. Even little children have to pass through these experiences of anguish and terror in the presence of the Law. The reason why so many imagine that they can pass for really good Christians is because their parents reared them to be self-righteous Pharisees; they never made them aware of the fact that they are poor, miserable sinners.

The conversion of Pharisees is a far more difficult task than that of a person who acknowledges his sin. That was the deepest corruption of the Jews in the days of Christ, and it is that of the papists in our time.

In This Article

Joel R Beeke. This is the second article in a part series on key doctrinal emphases that Luther brought back to light through his Reformation. Privacy Policy. By Scripture Old Testament. The Law and the Gospel.

If you do not commit manifest fornication, you are not guilty of adultery. The papists say the same. When forced to admit that in the exposition of the Law by Christ some things are named that cannot be classified with gross acts contrary to the Law, they claim that these things are meant merely as good counsels of Christ, which may be adopted by those who strive for an exceptionally exalted place in heaven.

The good works resulting from following these good counsels of Christ they call supererogatory. VII, f. He shows that the Pharisees and scribes, when teaching the Law, did not push their explanation and inculcation beyond the literal meaning of the commandments and made them applicable only to gross, external acts. For instance, in the Fifth Commandment which He introduces first they considered no more than the word kill , which they interpreted to mean actual slaying; and they allowed the people to stick to the notion that nothing else is forbidden in this commandment.

John 18, 28ff.

The Two Parts of the Heidelberg: Catechism Law and Gospel

Acts 5, They meant to say: Not we, but the heathen, killed Christ. A similar trick is recorded regarding King Saul in 1 Sam. He was nursing a grudge against David and would have liked to kill him. But since he wished to pass for a holy man, he planned to do the killing not with his own hand, but to send him against the Philistines, who, he hoped, would slay him. Thus his hand would be innocent of murder! What the Jews accepted of the Fifth Commandment was the more literal and crass meaning of the terms. Our modern rationalists are doing the same.

Their aim is merely to preserve the reputation of probity in their lives, hence, not to rush into abominable vices of which any decent citizen would have to be ashamed. Upright conduct, too, is the sole object of their preaching. Even so-called Christian preachers are found to do this. The practise of the Pharisees has been taken up by the papists. Papists and Pharisees resemble one another as closely as two eggs.

True, many of our heretical enemies have been slain. However, it was not we who did that, but the magistrates. Thus the papists want to wash their hands of the blood of the martyrs. But they will not succeed; some day they will have to appear before God stained with the damning witness of this blood. The case of the Jews is similar. Of the same stripe is the sanctity of our papists, who have become past masters in these tricks. To guard their sanctity against censure and not to be bound by the Word of Christ, they found a fine subterfuge in the twelve [evangelical] counsels which they extracted from the teaching of Christ.

These counsels were to be adopted by those who wished to achieve some especial merit before others. For the average person these counsels were a superfluous teaching that he could well do without. When you asked them their reason for framing these counsels from the teaching of Christ and how they proved their case, they would say: Well, you see it would be an excessive burdening of the Christian law nimis onerativum legis Christianae ; in other words, it would make Christianity too onerous an affair if all teachings of Christ were to be taken as actual commands.

That is what the theologians of Paris unblushingly published in the treatise they directed against me.

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Forsooth, here we have some smart reasoning: being kind to your neighbor and not forsaking him in distress, as you would wish that people should treat you, that is to be an over-great burden. And inasmuch as they deem it too onerous, they decree that it shall not be regarded as a command, but as a matter left to the option of such as would be glad to do it.

Those, however, who are unwilling to do it are not to be burdened with it. But He will not permit Himself to be cheated thus, nor will He revoke the verdict which He has laid down when He said: Except you have a better kind of godliness to show, heaven will be closed against you, and you will be damned; or as He expresses it in a later statement: If you say to your brother, Thou fool, you shall be in danger of hell-fire. From this we can readily gather whether He offered counsels or issued commands. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. If the question is how to get to heaven, you have to keep the Law.

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But if your object is to climb to a high place in heaven, you must carry out these counsels. In his Chapters in Theology Loci Theol. By the way, the supererogatory works resulting from following these counsels, you know, are the treasure from which the Pope distributes his indulgences.