Thursday, October 14, 2010

Law and Gospel: A Short Catechism

Q: What is the proper distinction between Law and Gospel?


...the law is properly a divine doctrine in which God's righteous,
unchangeable will is revealed. It shows what the quality of a person
should be in his nature, thoughts, words, and works, in order
that he may be pleasing and acceptable to God. It also threatens
its transgressors with God's wrath and temporal and eternal
punishments. For as Luther writes against the Antinomians:

Everything that reproves sin is and belongs to the Law. Its
peculiar office is to rebuke sin and to lead to the knowledge
of sins (Romans 3: 20, 7:7).

Everything that comforts, that offers God's favour and grace
to transgressors of the Law, is, and is properly called, the Gospel.
It is a good and joyful message that God will not punish sins,
but will forgive them for Christ's sake.

Q: What are the purposes of the Law?


God's law is useful because:

[1] external discipline and decency are maintained by it
against wild, disobedient people
[2] through the law people are brought to a knowledge
of their sins
[3] when people have born anew by God's Spirit,
converted to the Lord, and Moses's veil has been lifted
from them, they live and walk in the Law.

Q: What are the purposes of the Gospel?


It [the gospel] teaches that God's Son, our Lord Christ,
has taken upon Himself and borne the Law's curse
and has atoned and paid for all our sins. Through Him
alone we again enter into favour with God, receive
forgiveness of sins through faith and are delivered from
death and all the punishments of sins, and are
eternally saved.

Q: How should we teach and preach the Law and the Gospel?


They must be taught with the proper distinction of which
we have heard: (a) through the preaching of the Law
and its threats in the ministry of the New Testament the
hearts of impenitent people may be terrified, and (b)
they may be brought to a knowledge of their sins and to
repentance. This must not be done in such a way that they
lose heart and despair in this process. "So then, the law
was our guardian until Christ came,in order that we might
be justified by faith" (Galatians 3:24); so that the Law
points and leads us not from Christ, but to Christ, who
"is the end of the law" (Romans 10:4).

People must be comforted and strengthened again by the
preaching of the Holy Gospel about Christ, our Lord.
In other words, to those who believe the Gospel, God
forgives all their sins through Christ, adopts them as
children for His sake, and out of pure grace - without
any merit on their part - justifies and saves them. However,
He does not do this in such a way that they may abuse God's
grace and may sin hoping for grace (Romans 6:1).

We must guard this distinction [between Law and Gospel]
with special care, so that these two doctrines may not be
mixed with each other, or a law be made out of the Gospel.
When that happens, Christ's merit is hidden and troubled
consciences are robbed of comfort, which they otherwise
have in the Holy Gospel when it is preached genuinely
and purely. For by the Gospel they can support themselves
in their most difficult trials against the Law's terrors.

(Taken from The Book of Concord, "The Formula
of Concord", Article V)

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