Handling the Word of Truth: Law and Gospel in the Church Today

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I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices an teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew He makes it even harder! But you see, they had made a terrible mistake. They thought they could be good enough for God. The Pharisees were pretending they could be perfect, and Jesus knew better.

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All through the Old Testament, God makes it clear that nobody has measured up. The Pharisees thought they were going to keep the law well enough without the gospel, and Jesus needed to wake them up to the reality of their own sins, just as Isaiah and the prophets had been trying to do for centuries.

Cranach, Law and Gospel (Law and Grace)

Raise your voice like a trumpet! No wonder the prophets kept getting stoned and run out of town…. When I look around me at our culture today, I see the same thing.


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Nobody wants to talk about sin, or guilt, or shame. He is good and perfect, and to be with Him in heaven, you have to be good and perfect too. So how does that fit with the gospel? Yes, even in the Old Testament. The gospel is what God does, not what we do. The gospel is where God comes in and saves the day. Saves us. Isaiah , You need saving! Pull over and ask for directions! Thank God! Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Jesus preached both the law and the gospel, according to what His hearers needed.

The Pharisees and those who thought they were good enough needed law to wake them up to reality. Those who realized they were lost needed the gospel to take the heavy burden of the law off their guilty consciences. When we start to read the Bible with an eye for law and gospel, much that seems contradictory at first makes sense. The harshness of the law and the sweetness of the gospel work together for our salvation. As Dr. What do you think? If you read the story of Jesus and the rich young man below looking for law and gospel, what do you find? If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.

Then come, follow me. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. I find that the distinction between law and gospel shines a glorious light on this difficult passage. Let us, then, take up our task with firm confidence that God will bless both our own souls and the souls of those whom we are to rescue. In Jesus precious name, Amen. First Lutheran will have a special program in the Adult Sunday School at a.

Sunday on September Lutheran Essentials meets in the undercroft of the church on Wednesday evenings at 7pm.


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Since the two sermons, the two doctrines, Law and Gospel, do two different, opposite things, being able to tell the difference between Law and Gospel is essential to the theological task. So how is it done? How are Law and Gospel distinguished? How does one tell the difference between divine gift and divine requirement?

Does the Old Testament Law Still Apply? - Olive Tree Blog

Here are some guidelines:. You may think that you are reading the word of God in scripture or hearing the Word of God in a sermon. In reality, as you are reading or hearing, the Word of God is acting upon you, doing a number on you. Understood in terms of Law and Gospel, the Word of God is a putting sinners to death with the unremitting pronouncement of commandments and punishments—including the punishment of death—and b raising up saints with the unrelenting pronouncement of the unmerited grace, forgiveness, and new and eternal life given in Jesus Christ.

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Remember that Law and Gospel are necessarily related and therefore cannot be separated. Just as the words of the Bible are bound up into a single authoritative and holy scripture, so, too, are the words of law and gospel bound up into a single divine Word that does what God wants it to do see Isaiah Biblically speaking, faithfully confessing, you can neither have law without gospel, nor gospel without law. If you read and apply the word of God as law only, you get legalism.

If you read and apply the word of God as gospel only, you get antinomianism the belief that the law has no use. Do not confuse Law and Gospel. The previous sentence is intentionally stated as a law rather than a guideline. Perhaps even more dangerous than separating Law from Gospel is confusing the Law with the Gospel, or vice versa. One common way in which law and gospel are confused is when we imagine that we make ourselves eternally right with God by deciding to do what God wants us to do.

Look for how Law and Gospel function literally. Law and Gospel can be discerned in the message of the bible or in the message of the preacher or, really, in any kind of message. Wherever and however you encounter a message, ask: what is the literal sense? Is that message worded as a command? Is it telling me to do something? Is there an implied consequence for not heeding the message?

The Law

If so, you are likely dealing with the law. On the other hand, if the message declares that something good is going to happen, something to your benefit, and that the promised blessing does not depend on your attitude or activity, then you are almost certainly dealing with a word of grace, that is, unearned favor, that is, Gospel. Look for how Law and Gospel function functionally. Beyond the literal or literary meaning of a message lies a functional meaning.

The ways in which words function often depend upon context. Tell the difference between Law and Gospel. Usually, when you are asked if you can tell the difference between two things you are really just being asked whether you know or understand the difference between two things.

But when you are being asked to tell the difference between Law and Gospel, you are being asked to do more than merely know or understand the difference. In addition, you are being asked literally to tell it—to speak it, talk about it, declare it, proclaim it! For Lutheran Christians, telling the difference between Law and Gospel especially means preaching the difference between Law and Gospel. For when you preach it, faith will come Romans