Friday, May 6, 2016

The Difference Between the Law and Gospel

"The difference between the law and gospel does not at all consist in this, that the one requires perfect doing; the other, only sincere doing; but in this, that the one requires doing; the other, not doing, but believing for life and salvation. Their terms are different, not only in degree, but in their whole nature. The apostle Paul opposes the believing required in the gospel to all doing for life, as the condition proper to the law (Gal. 3:12). The law is not of faith, but the man that does them shall live in them (Rom. 10:5). To him that does not work, but believes on Him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness (Rom. 4:5). If we seek salvation by ever so easy and mild a condition of works [i.e. sincere though imperfect works], we do in this way bring ourselves under the terms of the law, and become debtors to fulfill the whole law in perfection, though we intended to engage ourselves only to fulfill it in part (Gal. 5:3), for the law is a complete declaration of the only terms by which God will judge all that are not brought to despair of procuring salvation by any of their own works, and to receive it as a gift freely given to them by the grace of God in Christ. So that all that seek salvation, right or wrong, knowingly or ignorantly, by any works, less or more, whether invented by their own superstition, or commanded by God in the Old or New Testament, shall at last stand or fall according to these terms."
Walter Marshall, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification


  1. Baxter’s neonomianism makes it worse for the sinner, not better. Baxter claims to offer a “new plan of salvation”, an easier way. Baxter says that God no longer commands to “do and live”. Baxter says that God has transferred His right to punish over to Christ, who has new terms of mercy, not the old law which condemns “in rigor of justice” Universal Redemption, 1694, p 26

    But in reality Baxter has not relaxed the terms but wants more. The satisfaction of the old law by Christ’s death is NOT ENOUGH FOR BAXTER. Baxter also has a new law (which he calls a gospel plan, and this plan will accept no obedience by a “substitute”, but will only take obedience from the sinner himself who needs to be saved. What Baxter calls the “obedience of faith” is more about obedience than faith. No salvation for the ungodly. No salvation for the disobedient.

    Baxter warns that Christ did not and cannot deliver us from the punishment of the new law for disbelief. “Christ died not for any Man’s non-performance of the conditions of the law of grace.” (p 33) Arguing from Hebrews 10, Baxter concludes that “Christ by His law has made a far sorer punishment than before belonged to them, to be due to all those that believe not on Him. Only for refusing their Redeemer shall they be condemned” (p 44)

  2. Jack, I am so glad that you don't agree with Kevin and other puritans about the gospel becoming law and the law becoming gospel!

    Kevan, Grace of Law ---Paul's reference to the covenants in Galatians 4 creates a problem at first sight, for he seems to suggest that Sinai was merely a covenant of works, but Henry Burton offers the solution that Paul is speaking of the law only in the killing sense given to it by carnal Jews, for Sinai and Zion are opposite only as the unbelieving makes them opposite.

    These puritans have no antithesis between law and gospel, because they think that it's only misunderstanding and unbelieving which turn grace into law? If you believe, the covenant becomes grace, but if you don't believe, the covenant becomes the sanction that condemns you?

  3. “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight” (Rom. 3:20).

    We cannot divorce 2:13b from 2:13a: “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.”

    David Gordon— Paul’s reasoning here is “not A but B.” Such reasoning only makes sense if the two sides of the contrast are logically similar. Here are two examples:

    I am not ordering a turkey sandwich, but I (am ordering) a ham sandwich.

    I am not flying to Denver, but I (am flying) to Dallas.

    What would not make sense is this: “I am not ordering a turkey sandwich, but am flying to Dallas.”

    Either both 2:13a and 2:13b are referring to actual reality, the actual reality that will occur at the judgment; or, alternatively, both 2:13a and 2:13b are referring to hypothetical reality, the hypothetical question of the condition on which the Law justifies (if any).

    Paul simply reminds here that the judgment of God, about which he has been speaking, will come upon the Jews no less than the Gentiles (“For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law,” 2:12), because, after all, the Law requires doing-not-merely-hearing. The Jews at Sinai were different from the Gentiles only by hearing the Law; not by doing, and are therefore no more immune from God’s judgment than Gentiles, even by the Law’s own standard.

    But the alternative view would be catastrophic: “The hearers of Law (the Jews) are not justified.” If this were a statement about reality, we would surely shut down all synagogues and require Christian churches to remove Torah from their Bible. If “those who hear the law are not justified,” then the last thing anyone would want to do is hear the Law.

    David Gordon, Pros and Cons of the Federal Vision