Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Law and Gospel: The Two Words of Scripture

Are the two words of Scripture, that being Law and Gospel, some modern unorthodox teaching that is corrupting Presbyterian and Reformed churches??

William Tyndale (from his prologue to his English translation of the Bible, approx. 1525):
Nevertheless, seeing that it hath pleased God to send unto our Englishmen…the scripture in their mother tongue, considering that there be in every place false teachers and blind leaders; that ye should be deceived of no man, I supposed it very necessary to prepare this Pathway into the scripture for you, that ye might walk surely, and ever know the true from the false: and, above all, to put you in remembrance of certain points, which are, that ye well understand what these words mean; the Old Testament; the New Testament; the law, the gospel; Moses, Christ; nature, grace; working and believing; deeds and faith; lest we ascribe to the one that which belongeth to the other, and make of Christ Moses; of the gospel, the law; despise grace, and rob faith.
Ursinus (from the Introduction to his Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism):
I. What Is The Doctrine Of The Church?
 The doctrine of the church is the entire and uncorrupted doctrine of the law and gospel concerning the true God, together with his will, works, and worship; divinely revealed, and comprehended in the writings of the prophets and apostles, and confirmed by many miracles and divine testimonies; through which the Holy Spirit works effectually in the hearts of the elect, and gathers from the whole human race an everlasting church, in which God is glorified, both in this, and in the life to come… 
What Are the Parts Of The Doctrine Of The Church, And In WHAT DO THEY DIFFER FROM EACH OTHER? 
The doctrine of the church consists of two parts: the Law, and the Gospel; in which we have comprehended the sum and substance of the sacred Scriptures. The law is called the Decalogue, and the gospel is the doctrine concerning Christ the mediator, and the free remission of sins, through faith. This division of the doctrine of the church is established by these plain and forcible arguments. 1. The whole doctrine comprised in the sacred writings, is either concerning the nature of God, his will, his works, or sin, which is the proper work of men and devils. But all these subjects are fully set forth and taught, either in the law, or in the gospel, or in both. Therefore, the law and gospel are the chief and general divisions of the holy scriptures, and comprise the entire doctrine comprehended therein.
Excerpts from  The Law and The Gospel by Michael Horton:
At the heart of the reformation’s hermeneutics was the distinction between “Law” and “Gospel.” For the Reformers, this was not equivalent to “Old Testament” and “New Testament;” rather, it meant, in the words of Theodore Beza, “We divide this Word into two principal parts or kinds: the one is called the ‘Law,’ the other the ‘Gospel.’ For all the rest can be gathered under the one or other of these two headings.” The Law “is written by nature in our hearts,” while “What we call the Gospel (Good News) is a doctrine which is not at all in us by nature, but which is revealed from Heaven (Mt. 16:17; John 1:13).” The Law leads us to Christ in the Gospel by condemning us and causing us to despair of our own “righteousness.” “Ignorance of this distinction between Law and Gospel,” Beza wrote, “is one of the principal sources of the abuses which corrupted and still corrupt Christianity… 
... The Reformers saw Rome as teaching that the Gospel was simply an easier “law” than that of the Old Testament. Instead of following a lot of rules, God expects only love and heartfelt surrender. Calvin replied, “As if we could think of anything more difficult than to love God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength! Compared with this law, everything could be considered easy…[For] the law cannot do anything else than to accuse and blame all to a man, to convict, and, as it were, apprehend them; in fine, to condemn them in God’s judgment: that God alone may justify, that all flesh may keep silence before him… 
... Calvin defended this evangelical distinction between Law and Gospel: 
All this will readily be understood by describing the Law and describing the Gospel and then comparing them. Therefore, the Gospel is the message, the salvation-bringing proclamation concerning Christ that he was sent by God the Father…to procure eternal life. The Law is contained in precepts, it threatens, it burdens, it promises no goodwill. The Gospel acts without threats, it does not drive one on by precepts, but rather teaches us about the supreme goodwill of God towards us. Let whoever therefore is desirous of having a plain and honest understanding of the Gospel, test everything by the above descriptions of the Law and the Gospel. Those who do not follow this method of treatment will never be adequately versed in the Philosophy of Christ.

1 comment:

  1. The law-gospel antithesis is being used by "Radical Lutherans" to deny that Christ's death was a legal satisfaction to God. They are very much like the Socinians at this point. of course their abuse of the law gospel distinction is not a justification of confusing law and gospel. They simply have a false gospel
    Steve Paulson The Father and Son did not conduct a legal transaction
    between themselves in which the Son gained a legal righteousness
    though accepting the results of the Father’s supposed need to pour out
    His wrath. Instead, the Father and Son, in mercy, worked together
    outside the law, stealing sinner’s most precious possessions, their
    sins. The law then reacted and legally condemned Christ for his sin
    .... “Paul’s point is exact: the law is no respecter of persons, it
    does not identify Christ among sinners as an exception to the rule