Sunday, August 8, 2010

Living Out the Law and Gospel Distinction

"Therefore, feeling thy terrors and threatenings, O law! I dip my conscience over head and ears, into the wounds, blood, death, resurrection, and victory of Christ; besides him I will see and hear nothing at all. This faith is our victory, whereby we overcome the terrors of the law, sin, death, and all evils, but not without a great conflict" (Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians 4:5, 597, cited in E. Fisher's The Marrow of Modern Divinity (Scotland, UK: Christian Focus, 2009), 128).

"It is easy to speak of these things, but happy he that could know them aright in the conflict of conscience" (idem., Commentary on Galatians 2:19, 259, cited in E. Fisher's The Marrow of Modern Divinity (Scotland, UK: Christian Focus, 2009), 128).

The preceding quotations from the great Reformer, Martin Luther, shed light on the fact that if those who have biblical knowledge of the Law and the Gospel and their distinction go through upheavals of conscience in the application and living out of these truths, how much more pitiful are those who, bereft of the knowledge of these truths, strain and struggle to live out a vital Christian life!

How alarming and heart-breaking it is to see pastors and teachers devote significant amounts of time to instructing their flock in "chaff" when the "wheat" of the Law and the Gospel is neglected in favor of schemes that are, ironically, designed to enable them to become "disciples" of Christ.

Get the Law and the Gospel right and you will have MEN in your church.


  1. Absolutely right. Ursinus addresses this issue well in his commentary on the Heidelberg catechism. He approaches it slightly different in that he speaks about grace being preached at the expense of the rest of the bible. Thus the people are dead and pastors are in effect causing pearls to be cast before the swine.

  2. Makes me scratch my head upon encountering Rick Warren's sanctification-comparison challenge:

    The guy doesn't have a clue.

  3. Good post, brother. We need Law and Gospel, and especially Gospel! More and more Gospel every day.


  4. Humility is a fruit of true sanctification. Arrogance is a sure sign of head knowledge that did not reach down to the heart. I do not subscribe to Rick Warren's purpose-driven paradigm but to say "the guy doesn't have a clue" about sanctification is unchristian as it is arrogant. No one has the monopoly of truth. Please read "Five Views on Law and Gospel" edited by Stanley N. Gundry where the non-theonomic and the theonomic Reformed views on the Law and Gospel are compared with the modified Lutheran view which is much clearer.

  5. The context of my comment on Rick Warren was when he tweeted out a challenge to all the pastors in America to compare the level of sanctification between their members and any 500 of his members.

    If that doesn't indicate a misguided notion of sanctification, I don't know what does. And quite humble, too, eh?

    When you say no one has the monopoly on truth, are you being inclusivistic? John 14:6 disagrees.

    Thanks for the tip, by the way. I'm currently going through "The Marrow of Modern Divinity" by Ed Fisher, with Thomas Boston's notes. Great reading on the Law and Gospel distinction as well.

  6. Thanks for clarifying your comment on Rick Warren. But Romans 12:21 still applies.

    John 14:6 is precisely the reason why there is no one among men, individual or corporate, who has the monopoly on truth. But even our apprehension of Christ remains imperfect this side of eternity. One has said that when we get to heaven we will realize how much queer ideas we have entertained about Him on earth. I'm prone to believe he might be right.

    Thanks for the tip as well. The book "Jesus and the Law and Gospel Debate" will be out soon.

  7. It is one thing to claim knowledge of God's knowledge, i.e. archetypal knowledge, and another to be consistent with the theology, piety, and practice of the apostles, handed down to the early Church and reclaimed by the Reformation.

    This is not to say that salvation can only be found in the Reformed church, but that it is the most consistent expression of the biblical, apostolic religion.

  8. The claim to be "the most consistent expression of the biblical, apostolic religion" is a subjective one. There is no unanimity among Reformed theologians on the issue of Law and Gospel. I have yet to find a church or a denomination that implements the first Jerusalem Council decision of Acts 15 on the Mosaic Law.


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