Monday, March 19, 2012

Gospel and third use of the law...

What about preaching and the 3rd use of the law? Whatever your thoughts, can we not let the final word of the sermon be the comfort of the gospel for the sheep as they head out into their week? Too often the sermon's 3rd-use-of-the-law exhortation given by preachers as the final word, subtly or not, clouds the good news that (hopefully) was just given. I think this is due, in part, to the fact that we sheep most naturally hear with ears of law and merit-works and not faith with gratitude. Also, it's partially due to the preacher's desire to get practical and make application of the sermon through appeals to responsibility and faithfulness. The law is just so practical.   

But the admonition of law, as it's sometimes presented, unfortunately can turn the believer back onto himself as he looks to find the resolve and faithfulness necessary to respond.  What lurks just underneath the earnest desire of that believer to obey is the uncomfortable knowledge that his obedience just doesn't measures up. Simply read of Paul's experience as a Christian in Romans 7.  Yet, isn't the good news that... we no longer need to measure up?  Indeed, our daily falling short, instead of being the mark of our disqualification, is declared to be our continuing qualification for forgiveness and acceptance by God - without any accompanying deserving works.  There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1).

Jesus' shed blood cleanses the failed works of his people - and his perfect life lived, credited to their persons, measures up in every way.  It is that free and unmerited grace of God in Christ that remains - daily, yearly, and eternally - irrevocably effective.  And the means of knowing and re-knowing that amazing grace is found and held, as always, through simple trust in Him.
So, I would propose that the last word from the pulpit, after the final admonition, be that the preacher bathe the saints once again in the free mercy of God found only in the news that Jesus died to save sinners.  That is the sermon application that is always necessary, effectual, and practical for the saints as they go out into the world to live and obey in Christ.


  1. Very good, Mr. Miller, I appreciate your comments on this. I enjoy reading your blog.

  2. Thank you very much, mozart. And I enjoy your music!

  3. I am struggling myself to come to a more clear knowledge of "how" and "when" the 3rd use should be
    "applied." I appreciate your taking a more thoughtful approach in covering the uses of the law, and the order in which they should be considered. In the Westminster Larger Catechism, 99 has been very helpful, in helping me to understand how we much rightly view the Moral Law.

    Calvin has been helpful, to say the least. Institutes Book 2, Chapter 7, all sections, however sections 12-14 specifically address the 3rd Use.

    I appreciate John Calvin's writings, especially the institutes, because he fleshes out the doctrines to their end and takes careful and painstaking care, with an abundance of caution in all his writings.

    I think it is important to note, that John Calvin does not get around the 3rd use of the Law until Book two. And our own Westminster Catechisms (Larger) do not get around to to expounding on the law until the 90's.


  4. Ginger,

    Thanks for your comments!

    I started to respond to you when I switched gears. You sparked a couple additional thoughts which I just posted: