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?
Another instrumental lecture I’ve encountered (albeit more academic in nature) was given by Dr. Rod Rosenbladt and was aired on Chris Rosebrough‘s program, Fighting for the Faith. If you wish to listen to this important lecture, you may do so by clicking here…but you may need to give it your undivided attention as he gets fairly technical at times.
One of the instrumental programs which has helped me to understand the distinction of Law & Gospel is The White Horse Inn, hosted by Reformed theologian Michael Horton. This episode is a live panel discussion, recorded in Los Angeles. I hope you enjoy it.
Podcast Description: What does it mean to “rightly divide the word of truth”? (2 Timothy 2:15) On this program, the White Horse Inn hosts will be taking a look a one of the most crucial and fundamental distinctions in all of Scripture, namely the contrast between justice and mercy, precept and promise; law and gospel. (Originally broadcast on May 22nd, 2005)
Part 5 of a series discussing C. F. W. Walther’s important treatise Law and Gospel: How to Read and Apply the Bible.
There is a marked difference between the Law and the Gospel in the aspect of threats: namely, that the Law is nothing but threats and that the Gospel contains no threats of any kind. The Gospel contains only words of consolation: “Your sins are forgiven,” “Christ came to save sinners of whom I am the foremost,” and so on. Should you come across a passage with a threat in Scripture, you can be sure it’s Law. Continue reading
In order to preach the saving Word in its truth and purity a careful and thorough distinction between Law and Gospel is indispensably necessary. The distinction between these two doctrines is the key to the Bible. Any man who does not know that the Bible contains these two distinct doctrines will not and cannot understand its teachings; the Bible will appear to him a book full of contradictions. When the Lord says, “Do this — love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and your neighbor as yourself, — and you will live,” Luke 10:27-28, and the apostle writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works” Eph. 2:8-9, these two words cannot but seem contradictory to him who does not know that they belong to two distinct systems of teaching. It is not possible that a preacher who has himself not learned to distinguish doctrines could present the plan of salvation in its proper order. A sharp distinction between Law and Gospel alone will teach the pastor where each doctrine belongs and in what connection it must be preached.
To continue to read, click Safe Harbor Dispatch for October 23, 2009.
Part 4 of a series discussing C. F. W. Walther’s important treatise Law and Gospel: How to Read and Apply the Bible.
If you’re anything like me, you have (or have had) people in your life who will make promises contingent on something you do. “If you do this, then I’ll do that.” This is precisely what the Law does to us. Both the Law and the Gospel promise eternal life and salvation, but the Law gives conditions which must be satisfied prior to those items being obtained: namely, perfect obedience to its demands. Says Walther,
…the greater the promises of the Law, the more disheartening they are. The Law offers us that food, but not close enough for us to reach it. The Law offers us salvation in about the same manner as refreshments were offered to Tantalus in the hell of the pagan Greeks. …[The Law] always adds: “All this you will have, but only if you do what I command.”
Part 3 of a series discussing C. F. W. Walther’s important treatise Law and Gospel: How to Read and Apply the Bible.
So what’s the difference? Law or Gospel, it’s all God’s word, right? Isn’t it hard enough to find pastors who will just preach the WORD?
Yes, it certainly is all God’s Word. And it is tough to find pastors who will open a text and preach it instead of their own opinions. It’s even tougher to find pastors who can tell the difference between the text and their opinions to start with! Law and Gospel are, however, fundamentally different in terms of their content. Says Walther:
The Law tells us what to do. No such instruction is contained in the Gospel. Rather, the Gospel reveals to us only what God is doing. The Law speaks about our works, whereas the Gospel speaks about the great works of God. In the Law we hear the ten-fold summons [that is, the Ten Commandments]: “You shall.” Beyond that, the Law has nothing to say to us. The Gospel, on the other hand, makes no demands whatsoever. (pg. 14)