Part 6 of a series discussing C. F. W. Walther’s important treatise Law and Gospel: How to Read and Apply the Bible.
The Law tells us what to do. It doesn’t give us the strength to carry out its demands; instead, it urges us on in an unwillingness to keep the Law. When the Law has forced its way into the heart, the heart rebels against it (against God himself) and becomes furious at the idea that God would demand such impossible things from him/her. This even leads to them cursing God and wishing Him dead. “The effect of preaching the Law, then, is to increase people’s lust for sinning,” says Walther.
Second, the Law offers the person no means to free himself from sin and throws him into despair.
Third, if the only teaching applied to people is the Law, then they despair, die and perish in their sin. More on this in a future post…
Come on, Dave you may say. Where is THIS taught in Scripture?
I’m glad you’ve asked. And so is Walther, because he points to Romans 7:7-9:
7What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.
At this point, Walther makes some very interesting points. I know from personal experience that long quotations are nearly always skimmed over if not skipped entirely. But I include the long quotation from Walther simply because there is far too much here that is pure gold not to share it. Please print this off and read it…or bookmark it and enjoy reading the three or so paragraphs over a cup of tea or coffee on a break at work.
Pagans do not realize that the evils lusts deep down in our heart are actually sin. The greatest moralists have said, “It is not my fault that I sin; I cannot help it; I cannot prevent myself from sinning.” But divine Law shouts: “You shall not covet! You shall not lust!” In fact, we are told that we must get rid of even the lust resulting from original sin!
When a person gives no thought to the Law, sin moves about freely throughout his heart and he does not realize he is sinning. Ask worldly people about this matter, and they will look up in surprise and state: “We have done no evil. We have killed no one. We have not committed adultery. We have not been thieves,” etc. They do not notice at all that sin is a constant visitor. But when the Law strikes them like a bolt of lightning, they recognize what great sinners they are, what horribly ungodly thoughts they are harboring. This is what the apostle meant when he says, “Sin came alive” when the Law arrived.
The Law uncovers sin, but it offers us no comfort…When the Israelites were given the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai, they all trembled. Their behavior revealed the condition of their heart. On that occaision, God intended to point out for all time to come: “Behold, this is the effect of the Law!”