books, C. F. W. Walther, Law, Lutheranism, preaching, theology
Part 8 of a series discussing C. F. W. Walther’s important treatise Law and Gospel: How to Read and Apply the Bible.
So far, we’ve enumerated five differences between law and gospel. They are,
- Law and Gospel differ as to how they were revealed to us. The Law was written on our hearts and can indeed be found in other religions, but Christianity is the sole steward of the Gospel.
- The contents of the Law and Gospel are different. The Law demands…the Gospel takes nothing but only gives.
- The Law and Gospel give us different promises. The Law offers us salvation, but doesn’t give us any means to lay hold of it. The Gospel tells us that Someone has laid hold of that salvation in our place.
- The Gospel does not threaten us; indeed it removes the believer’s desire to sin. The Law, on the other hand, is nothing but threats.
- The effects of the Law are threefold.
- The Law tells us what to do, but gives us no way to carry that out, instead prompting us in an unwillingness to keep the Law.
- The Law uncovers a person’s sins, but offers the sinner no help to free himself from sin and hurls him into despair.
- The Law creates feelings of contrition by showing terrors of hell, death and the wrath of God, but it never offers one drop of comfort to that sinner. If the Law is the only teaching applied to people, then they must all despair, die and perish in their sins.
- The effects of the Gospel are threefold.
- What the Gospel demands (namely, faith), it provides.
- The Gospel does not rebuke sinners. Instead, it takes all terror away from them, filling them with peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
- “The Gospel,” as Walther says, “does not require people to furnish anything good–neither a good heart nor a good disposition nor an improvement of their condition, neither piousness nor love–whether toward God of men. The Gospel issues no orders. Rather, it changes people. It demands nothing, but gives all.”
The sixth and final difference between Law and Gospel relates to the persons to whom each must be preached. The Law must be preached to secure sinners and the Gospel to those who are alarmed in their sin.
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