Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Distinction Between Law and Gospel
One of the things I have been blessed by from my Lutheran brothers is the distinction between law and gospel that is made. Law (not just the old testament) comes in the form of command "do this". Precisely because we do not "do this" the law accuses us of sin, thus condemning us. The hard thing is that for much of my Christian walk I had been taught that to have a "good self image" was necessary to be a strong Christian. I distinctly remember one day when I was giving some serious contemplation to my sin and it seemed like it dawned on me for the first time "I am a bad person." and I began to weep over my wretchedness. My fiance at the time (now wife) tried to console me saying "Oh no your not a bad person!" and she began blubbering with me. We both look back and kind of chuckle now over this incident, because no matter how much positive self esteem techniques may be implemented in churches the fact still catches up that we fall miserably short of not only God's standard but even our own.
Upon being faced with my sinfulness I was at a loss as to how to go about this. Addressing one's personal sin wasn't really hit upon at any of the churches I had currently been attending. All that I knew is that I felt extremely unworthy to be called God's child. What was going on was that the law was doing it's job, convicting me of my sin. Martin Luther wrote well on the law saying:
"It is no small matter then to understand rightly what the law is, and what is the true use and office thereof... we reject not the law and works, as our adversaries do falsely accuse us... we say that the law is good and profitable, but in his own proper use: which is first to bridle civil transgressions, and then to reveal and to increase spiritual transgressions. Wherefore the law is also a light, which sheweth and revealeth, not the grace of God, not righteousness and life; but sin,death, the wrath and judgment of God... the law, when it is in his true sense, doth nothing else but reveal sin, engender wrath, accuse and terrify men, so that it bringeth them to the very brink of desperation. This is the proper use of the law, and here it hath an end, and it ought to go no further." (Luther's Commentary on Galatians)
These heavy blows from the law are not without a purpose for they are intended to drive us to Christ, who alone can relieve our guilty conscience. "For the law is a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ." Christ then becomes the fortress of refuge for the believer from guilt, He is the One to whom we flee when our conscience condemns us. In Christ alone does the believer find relief from the condemnation of the law, not some pop therapeutic mantra. I truly daily need to see my sin, this is why much of the word of God is law (not just the OT). One purpose of much of the bible coming in the form of law is so that in the pure reflection of the word we may be convicted of sin cease from self reliance and cling to Christ as our all.