"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." - Jerome

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Preaching Christ in Law and Gospel

The component parts of declaring what God has done in Christ are found in two concepts: Law and Gospel. Lutherans are known for this distinction, but is it just Luther that says things like:

"The law must be laid upon those that are to be justified, that they may shut up in the prison thereof until the righteousness of faith come-that, when they are cast down and humbled by the law, they should fly to Christ. The Lord humbles them, not to their destruction, but to their salvation. For God wounds, that he may heal again. He kills, that he may quicken again."
-Martin Luther

Nay, Consider:

"By the trumpet of the law he proclaims war with sinners; by the jubilee-trumpet of the gospel he publishes peace...The law condemns a sinner for his first offence; but the gospel offers him the forgiveness of all his offences...Both combine to 'bring the sinner to Christ, the law indirectly as a schoolmaster, showing his need of him: the Gospel directly, exhibiting him to all points suitable to his need."
- Charles Bridges (Anglican priest)

"By the term Law, Paul frequently understands that rule of holy living in which God exacts what is his due, giving no hope of life unless we obey in every respect; and, on the other hand, denouncing a curse for the slightest failure. This Paul does when showing that we are freely accepted of God, and accounted righteous by being pardoned, because that obedience of the Law to which the reward is promised is nowhere to be found. Hence he appropriately represents the righteousness of the Law and the Gospel as opposed to each other...Consequently, this Gospel does not impose any commands, but rather reveals God's goodness, his mercy and his benefits."
-John Calvin (Genevian Reformer)

"There is no point on which men make greater mistakes than on the relation which exists between the law and the gospel. Some men put the law instead of the gospel; others put gospel instead of the law. A certain class maintains that the law and the gospel are mixed...These men understand not the truth and are false teachers."
-Charles Spurgeon (Particular Baptist)

"We must know that the law is but one part of God’s word, and the gospel another, revealing another part of God’s will, besides that which the law made known; for it adds a qualification to the law, moderating the rigor thereof, after this manner: He is accursed (saith the law) that faileth in any commandment, except (saith the gospel) he be reconciled again in Christ, and in him have the pardon of his transgressions. And yet the law remains forever a rule of obedience to every child of God, though he be not bound to bring the same obedience for his justification before God.”
-William Perkins (English Puritan)

Christ is not preach'd in truth, but in disguise,
If his bright glory half absconded lies.
When gospel-soldiers, that divide the word,
Scarce brandish any but the legal sword.
Shaping the gospel to an easy law,
They build their tott'ring house with hay and straw;
With legal spade the gospel-field he delves,
Who thus drives sinners in unto themselves;
Halving the truth that should be all reveal'd,
The sweetest part of Christ is oft conceal'd

-Ralph Erskine (Scottish Presbyterian theologian)

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