I just picked up C. F. W. Walther’s Law and Gospel: How to Read and Apply the Bible in the new Reader’s Edition. It’s a great read and extremely friendly to the modern reader. I’d like to pass along a couple of things I’ve been pondering…in no particular order.
First, Walther asserts that the pastor can
easily…inflict damage on [their congregation] when [they] mingle Law and Gospel… The difference between Law and Gospel is not that the Gospel is a divine doctrine, resting on the reason of man.
…The purpose of both is the salvation of humankind–except that ever since the fall, the Law has not been capable of leading us to salvation. It can only prepare us for the Gospel. Furthermore, it is only through the Gospel that we are able to fulfill the Law to a certain extent. (excerpts from pp 11-12)
Now, what Walther is talking about here is not a dispensational view of the world…the Law being one dispensation, Grace being another. No, he’s talking about two doctrines put forth in the Scriptures which are both to be proclaimed in full terror (the Law) and sweetness (the Gospel).
Now, I didn’t grow up with these categories at all. The Word was…well, the Word. And the important thing was that the pastor would preach THE WORD.
But what we often got was a mish-mesh of confusion, often pointing me to what I need to be doing to better live the Christian life. “God saved you, now get to work,” essentially.
That, however, is not how Scripture is supposed to work. So I hope to explore some of Walther’s points and hold them up to the light of Scripture.
The Word is Christ Himself (prologue of St John’s Gospel). All Scripture should be opened in a way that reflects Christ, independent of where in the canon the text appears. The Old Testament speaks of Christ, the New Testament speaks of Christ, and in particular the writings of the 4 Evangelists contained in the Gospel reveal Christ. Too many people “graduate” from the Gospels, often seemingly to substitute “historical critical scholarly” understanding of the words on the pages of Scripture. It is difficult to approach Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and ask that Christ would be revealed to us, acknowledging in true humility that we often fail to know Him.
We need Christ Himself to infuse us with His life, that we may be grafted into the vine as a new branch, nourished and enriched by the life-giving roots. By His grace, we will live a transfigured life, marked by the fruits of the Spirit. But we need people pointing the way to Christ, even as they recognize that they themselves lack full knowledge of Him. May the Holy Spirit empower us to see the Scriptures, particularly the writings of the Evangelists, as our teacher seeking to reveal Christ to us.