It’s been a while since I’ve written a post (You can read Thesis 1, 2, and 3), but I would like to pick up on my series going through Law & Gospel that I started over a year ago. Let’s pick up with Thesis IV
Understanding how to distinguish Law and Gospel provides wonderful insight for understanding all of Holy Scripture correctly. In fact, without this knowledge Scripture is and remains a sealed book.
Walther takes up one of frequent criticisms of Scripture, that it appears to contradict itself at times. Now, to be certain these contradictions are quite often perceived contradictions, and do require some amount of resolution. One of the great keys to navigating God’s “Yes” and God’s “No” is to rightly distinguish Law and Gospel.
The distinction of Law and Gospel provides a sort of filter in which we can see in Scripture. In fact it is an “interpretive paradigm” which Scripture itself gives to us. Walther cites Romans 10:2-4 as the principle passage that establishes this thesis:
2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
One of the greatest causes of confusion and abuse in the Church arises out of not recognizing this distinction. When certain “contradictions” arise – such as that the whole world stands under God’s wrath (Romans 1:18, Psalm 5:4, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11) and yet, we also read that God loved the world in this way: he gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16) – here the distinction of Law and Gospel brings clarity to both. Walther writes:
We see that the Law was not revealed to us to put a notion into our heads that we could become righteous by it, but to teach us that we are completely unable to fulfill the Law. Then we will know what a sweet message – what a glorious doctrine – the Gospel is and will receive it with exuberant joy.
When we understand that God speaks to us in two distinct ways and for two distinct reasons, we find ourselves saying “Amen” [this I believe] all the more to His Word. When we think ourselves “pretty good” or “righteous” of our own accord, the Law hits us like a hammer and crushes us, it shows us to be the sinners we are. But then along comes the Gospel which proclaims that Christ has done it all for us, He has fulfilled the Law, He has taken our own sin to the Cross, He has borne our punishment, He has conquered death by His resurrection. The Gospel proclaims to us that we sinners are saints in Christ.
Following this very brief excurses, Walther takes up in the following Theses how the Law and Gospel are mingled. We’ll take a look at these in future posts.
How has the distinction of Law and Gospel helped you to read God’s Word with more clarity? How has it helped as you bring that Word of God to your neighbor?