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LAW AND GOSPEL: But did you really hear the Gospel?

LAW AND GOSPEL: But did you really hear the Gospel?
Law without Gospel exposes our heart disease without any solution for our malady other than "Just try harder!"

By Chuck Collins
July 17, 2023

Chances are, you heard LAW and not GOSPEL in the sermon yesterday - I am sorry! You probably heard about what you should do (served on the same plate with "God and this preacher are a little disappointed in you"), rather than the announcement of what God in Christ has done for you by his life, death and resurrection.

Failure to distinguish Law and Gospel is the preacher's greatest downfall. Both are God's inspired Word, of course, but they serve different purposes. Law without Gospel is deadly, deadly, deadly. Law without Gospel exposes our heart disease without any solution for our malady other than "Just try harder!"

The Bible is emphatic that THE LAW is holy, righteous and good (Rom 7:12): it's God's will for our lives!

When we fail to fulfill its demands because the bar is way too high for our human striving, we are not told to "do more!" and "try harder!"; but rather we are shown that Jesus came, not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it perfectly for us (Matt 5:17).

The Law diagnoses sinners: condemned and dead in their sin (Gal 3:19). It's purpose is to amplify sin and to silence every self-justifying argument before God.

The Law functions first and foremost to show us our need for grace - like a scale clearly shows that I need to lose 10 pounds, but unfortunately it can't accomplish what it demands (Rom 3:20).

Jesus is the end of the Law for righteousness (Rom 10:3) because only his righteousness imputed to unrighteous sinners satisfies the Law's demands.

The third use of the Law is not a shifty way to put Christians back under the Law; it is simply the Law's primary use upheld for Christians and not-yet-Christians alike (it's God's will that leads us to Christ for redemption and for sanctification!).

When the 3rd use of the Law becomes the first use, it sadly puts Christians back under the Law, and performancism once again becomes the way of life for Christians (displacing grace as the motivation for sanctification).

When the third use becomes more of a prescription for living rather than a description of what our lives will look like when we love God from our hearts, the freedom of the Christian is lost to the bondage of moralism. Justification is conflated with sanctification, and Law and Gospel are confused.

When God's unconditional love is contingent on our obedience or disobedience we fall back into law-based Christianity, either in the original sense as "the way to God," or perhaps in a new sense as "a way to please a faulty picture of God" who is standing over us with a rope in hand to whip us into shape.

What God has demanded in his Law, he has provided in his Son. This is the gospel (Rom 1:1-4).

"The Law commands what faith [only] obtains" (St. Augustine).

"The Law says, 'Do this!" and it is never done. Grace says, 'Believe in this!' and everything is already done" (Luther, Heidelberg Disputation #26).

"Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the Law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" (Gal 3:2,3).

"For freedom Christ has set us free, stand therefore in that truth, do not submit again to the yoke of slavery!!!" (Gal 5:1).


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