Law and Gospel


Law and Gospel

The relationship between God's Law and the Gospel is a major topic in Lutheran and Reformed theology. In these traditions, the distinction between the doctrines of Law, which demands obedience to God's will, and Gospel, which promises the forgiveness of sins in light of the person and work of Jesus Christ, is critical. It is used as a hermeneutical principle of biblical interpretation and a guiding principle in homiletics (sermon composition) and pastoral care.

Other Christian groups have a view on the issue as well, though it has not usually been as hotly debated or rigorously defined as in the Lutheran and Reformed traditions.

Sometimes the issue is discussed under the headings of "Law and Grace," "Sin and Grace," "Spirit and Letter," and "ministry (polytonic|διακονíα) of death/condemnation" and "ministry of the Spirit/righteousness". [http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Bible%2C_King_James%2C_2_Corinthians#Chapter_3 2 Cor. 3:6-9] .] Sometimes it is considered in the contrast between Moses and Jesus Christ. [http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Bible%2C_King_James%2C_John#Chapter_1 John 1:17] .]

Lutheran view

Martin Luther and Lutheran theologians

A specific formulation of the distinction of Law and Gospel was first brought to the attention of the Christian Church by Martin Luther (1483-1546), and laid down as the foundation of evangelical Lutheran biblical exegesis and exposition in Article 4 of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession (1531): "All Scripture ought to be distributed into these two principal topics, the Law and the promises. For in some places it presents the Law, and in others the promise concerning Christ, namely, either when [in the Old Testament] it promises that Christ will come, and offers, for His sake, the remission of sins justification, and life eternal, or when, in the Gospel [in the New Testament] , Christ Himself, since He has appeared, promises the remission of sins, justification, and life eternal." F. Bente and W.H.T. Dau, ed. and trans. Triglot Concordia: The Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921), Apology IV (II).5, p. 135] . The Formula of Concord likewise affirmed this distinction in Article V, where it states: "We believe, teach, and confess that the distinction between the Law and the Gospel is to be maintained in the Church with great diligence. . .""Triglot Concordia", FC Epitome V, (II).1, p. 503ff]

Martin Luther wrote: "Hence, whoever knows well this art of distinguishing between Law and Gospel, him place at the head and call him a doctor of Holy Scripture."Martin Luther, "Dr. Martin Luthers Sämmtliche Schriften", St. Louis ed. (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, N.D.), vol. 9, col. 802.] Throughout the Lutheran Age of Orthodoxy (1580-1713) this hermeneutical discipline was considered foundational and important by Lutheran theologians. Carl Ferdinand Wilhelm Walther (1811-1887), who was the first (and third) president of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, renewed interest in and attention to this theological skill in his evening lectures at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis 1884-85.The Proper Distinction Between LAW AND GOSPEL: 39 Evening Lectures, W.H.T. Dau tr., 1897.]

The Book of Concord

The Formula of Concord distinguished three uses, or purposes, in the Law in Article VI. It states: " [T] he Law was given to men for three reasons. . ."

#That "thereby outward discipline might be maintained against wild, disobedient men [and that wild and intractable men might be restrained, as though by certain bars] "
#That "men thereby may be led to the knowledge of their sins"
#That "after they are regenerate. . .they might. . .have a fixed rule according to which they are to regulate and direct their whole life"Triglot Concordia, Epitome VI (I)]

We may summarize the three uses as follows:

# To restrain external evil (civil use) or (curb).
# To show us our sin (pedagogical, theological, or elenchtical {convicting} use) or (mirror).
# To show us God's character and will as a rule and guide to holy living, empowered by the Gospel alone (didactic use) or (rule).

Reformed view

In his "Institutes of the Christian Religion", the Reformer John Calvin likewise distinguished three uses in the Law. Calvin wrote: "That the whole matter may be made clearer, let us take a succinct view of the office and use of the Moral Law. Now this office and use seems to me to consist of three parts.""Inst." [http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.iv.ii.viii.html#iv.ii.viii-p28 2.7.6] ]

# By "exhibiting the righteousness of God, — in other words, the righteousness which alone is acceptable to God, — it admonishes every one of his own unrighteousness, certiorates, convicts, and finally condemns him.""Inst." [http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.iv.ii.viii.html#iv.ii.viii-p28 2.7.6] ]
# It acts "by means of its fearful denunciations and the consequent dread of punishment, to curb those who, unless forced, have no regard for rectitude and justice.""Inst." [http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.iv.ii.viii.html#iv.ii.viii-p34 2.7.10] ]
# "The third use of the Law. . .has respect to believers in whose hearts the Spirit of God already flourishes and reigns. . . . For it is the best instrument for enabling them daily to learn with greater truth and certainty what that will of the Lord is which they aspire to follow, and to confirm them in this knowledge. . .""Inst." [http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.iv.ii.viii.html#iv.ii.viii-p36 2.7.12] ]

This scheme is the same as the Formula of Concord, with the exception that the first and second uses are transposed.

Lutheran and Reformed differences

There has been significant dispute in Lutheran and Reformed camps over the extent to which the first use (or second use in the Reformed scheme) remains valid outside of the original Jewish social context in which the Law was given. In other words, which parts of the Law (which is sometimes divided into moral, civil, ceremonial portions), remain binding on societies today (for the general discussion, see Biblical law in Christianity).

Additionally, some have suggested that the third use of the law is not found at all in Luther but comes from Melanchthon. Although some Lutherans have rejected that view, [http://www.presenttruthmag.com/archive/VII/7-3.htm "The Third Use of Law"] by John Warwick Montgomery in "Present Truth", vol. 7] it has caused others to dispute the validity of the "third use" of the Law. Paul Althaus, for instance, writes in his treaty on Law and Gospel: "This [ethical] guidance by the Holy Spirit implies that God's concrete commanding cannot be read off from a written document, an inherited scheme of law. I must learn afresh every day what God wants of me. For God's commanding has a special character for each individual: it is always contemporary, always new. God commands me (and each person) in a particular way, in a different way than He commands others.... The living and spiritual character of the knowledge of what God requires of men in the present moment must not be destroyed by rules and regulations."Paul Althaus, The Divine Command, pp. 43, 45] Such theologians believe the third use leads to or encourages a form of legalism and is possibly an implicit denial of sola fide.

Conversely, Reformed Christians have sometimes seen this two-use scheme of some modern Lutherans as leading to a form of antinomianism. Historically, Reformed Christianity itself has argued either that the moral law (especially as it is summarized in the Ten Commandments) remains in effect, while the civil and ceremonial laws have been abrogated [See Westminster Confession of Faith, [http://reformed.org/documents/wcf_with_proofs/ch_XIX.html chapter 19] ] or that the entire law is in force, but the way in which we keep it has been modified. [ [http://thirdmill.org/answers/answer.asp/file/99939.qna/category/ot/page/questions/site/iiim "Laws in Effect Today"] by Ra McLaughlin] Other Reformed Christians known as theonomists or Christian Reconstructionists have argued that the civil laws of the Old Testament should also be enforced today. Both parties operate to some extent by modified application of the Law, but the theonomists tend more toward literal application of it. [ [http://thirdmill.org/answers/answer.asp/file/99805.qna/category/th/page/questions/site/iiim "Are All Reformed Christians Theonomists?"] by Ra McLaughlin]

In any case, it is clear that "for Luther the pedagogic use of the Law was primary, while for Calvin this third or didactic use was the principal one; yet [historically] both the Lutheran and the Reformed traditions maintain the threefold conceptualization."

Dispensationalist view

The second of the four basic tenets of Dispensationalism posits "A radical distinction between the Law and Grace; that is, they are mutually exclusive ideas."

Cyrus I. Scofield wrote that: "The most obvious and striking division of the Word of truth is that between law and grace. . . . Scripture never, in any dispensation, mingles these two principles. Law always has a place and work distinct and wholly diverse from that of grace. . . . Everywhere the Scriptures present law and grace in sharply contrasted spheres.""Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth", [http://www.biblebelievers.com/scofield/scofield_rightly06.html ch. 6] , pp. 34, 36.]

The Scofield Reference Bible notes at John 1:17: "Grace is 'the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man. . . not by works of righteousness which we have done' Titus 3:4,5. It is, therefore, constantly set in contrast to law, under which God demands righteousness from man, as, under grace, he gives righteousness to man Romans 3:21,22; 8:4; Philemon 1:3-9. Law is connected with Moses and works; grace with Christ and faith ; John 1:17; Romans 10:4-10. Law blesses the good; grace saves the bad ; Exodus 19:5; Ephesians 2:1-9. Law demands that blessings be earned; grace is a free gift ; Deuteronomy 28:1-6; Ephesians 2:8; Romans 4:4,5." [http://www.studylight.org/com/srn/view.cgi?book=joh&chapter=001#Joh1_17 John 1:17] in "The Scofield Reference Bible" (1917 edition).]

John Nelson Darby wrote: "There is the greatest possible contrast between law and gospel. Paul calls the one the ministration of death and of condemnation, and the other the ministration of the Spirit and of righteousness. [. . .] There is no grace in law (the two are opposed to each other), but God's grace dealt with individuals." [http://www.stempublishing.com/authors/darby/MISCELLA/34031_4E.html "The Law, and the Gospel of the Glory of Christ"] , p. 431, 432.]

Notes

ee also

*Law in Christianity
*Doctrine of the two kingdoms
*Lutheran
*Reformed
*Theonomy
*Legalism
*Antinomianism
*Biblical Evangelism
*Expounding of the Law
*Great Commission
*Noahide Laws
*Proselyte
*Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification

Books

Lutheran
*F. Bente and W.H.T. Dau, ed. and trans. Triglot Concordia: The Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921. [http://www.BookofConcord.org]
*Paul Althaus, The Divine Command: a New Perspective on Law and Gospel. Trans. Franklin Sherman. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966.

Reformed
*Stanley N. Gundry, ed. Five Views on Law and Gospel. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996.
*John Murray. Principles of Conduct: Aspects of Biblical Ethics. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1957.
*Greg L. Bahnsen. Theonomy in Christian Ethics. S.L.: Covenant Media Press, 2002.

External links

* [http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?item_no=21271&netp_id=132362&event=AFF&item_code=WW Five Views on Law and Gospel] , ed. by Stanley N. Gundrey
* [http://theologytoday.ptsem.edu/jul1984/v43-4-article1.htm Law in Luther And Calvin] , by Edward A. Dowey
* [http://www.inchristalone.org/BalanceLaw&Grace.htm The Struggle to Balance Law & Grace] , by Bernie L. Gillespie
* [http://www.the-highway.com/c_praxis.html The Christian and the Moral Law - Link list at the-highway.com]

Lutheran

* Hummel, Horace D. "Are Law and Gospel a Valid Hermeneutical Principle?" [online] Concordia Theological Quarterly 46 (1982) no. 2-3:181-207. Available from [http://www.ctsfw.edu/library/files/pb/1571]
* Klug, Eugene F. "Confessional Emphasis on Law and Gospel for Our Day" [online] Concordia Theological Quarterly 42 (1978) no. 3:241-257. Available from [http://www.ctsfw.edu/library/files/pb/1704]
* Lueker, Erwin L. [http://www.lcms.org/ca/www/cyclopedia/02/display.asp?t1=l&word=LAWANDGOSPEL "Law and Gospel"] from the Christian Cyclopedia. Concordia Publishing House, 2000.
*Rosenthal, Shane [http://homepage.mac.com/shanerosenthal/reformationink/srlawgospel.htm Law & Gospel] .
* [http://users.aol.com/SemperRef/thirduse.html Using the Third Use: Formula of Concord VI and the Preacher's Task]
*Walther, C.F.W. [http://www.issuesetc.org/resource/archives/cfwwalther.htm Law and Gospel] , (excerpts).
*Walther, C.F.W. [http://www.lutherantheology.com/walther/LG The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel] , (complete work).
*Bucholtz, Jon D. [http://www.wels.net/cgi-bin/site.pl?1712&cxDatabase_databaseID=1&id=8929&magazine=Forward%20in%20Christ|'"Justification: Handling the Word of Truth, part 3 of 5."] "Forward in Christ," April 2006. WELS publication, Accessed April 17, 2006.
* [http://www.wlsessays.net/subjects/L/lsubind.htm#Law&Gospel Scholarly articles on Law and Gospel from the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Library]

Reformed

* [http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0037.htm "Law and Grace"] , sermon by C. H. Spurgeon
* [http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/2506.htm "God's Law in Man's Heart"] , sermon by C. H. Spurgeon
* [http://www.the-highway.com/lawgrace.html "Law and Grace"] by John Murray
* [http://www.frame-poythress.org/frame_articles/2002Law.htm "Law and Gospel"] , by John Frame
* [http://chaemoksa.com.ne.kr/writings/Calvin_Law.htm "Calvin & The Law-Gospel Hermeneutic"] by Michael Horton
* [http://spindleworks.com/library/CR/horton.htm "What's Really at Stake?"] , by Michael Horton
* [http://faculty.samford.edu/~whbunch/Chapter9.pdf "Calvin’s Third Use of the Law: An Assessment of Reformed Explications of the Ten Commandments"] by John Burgess in PDF
* [http://www.hornes.org/theologia/content/bill_dejong/michael_horton_john_calvin_and_law_gospel.htm "Michael Horton, John Calvin, and 'Law & Gospel'"] , by Bill DeJong
* [http://www.hornes.org/theologia/content/mark_horne/mixing_law_and_gospel_in_the_abrahamic_promise.htm "Mixing 'Law' and Gospel in the Abrahamic Promise"] , by Mark Horne
* [http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/topic/lawliberty.html Law and Liberty, Law and Gospel] extensive link list at monergism.com


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