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Law and Gospel

Having come face to face with my own sinfulness, my own lack of keeping the law of God, I have spent the last several months looking at the law and the gospel.  While this is not new to Christianity, it is fairly new to me.  I grew up in a church environment that was heavy on the law.  You keep the law and God was happy.  Break the law (which was often), God is now angry with you.  The gospel was not the end but only a step to helping me keep myself clean.  It was not Jesus period.  It was Jesus who now enables me to keep the law and when I fail, back to the beginning.

We all sin.  None of us are perfect.  We read passages such as Romans 3:23 and acknowledge the universal sinfulness of mankind.  But we miss the point that we are sinners ourselves.  I am not arguing that we wake up each day thinking “what can I do today to violate the law of God” but we do sin.  Whether we make sins into categories such as “sins of omission” and “sins of commission,” either way we do sin.  Apart from grace, none of us can stand before a holy God.  It is only through Christ that we can stand before a holy and totally pure God.  The reason Christ died for my sins is not simply to enable me to be holy on my own power but He died because I am a sinner in need of forgiveness because I do sin (1 John 2:1-2).

Consider the command of Jesus in Matthew 22:37-40:

37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

38 This is the first and great commandment.

39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Stop and consider how you are doing with that one?  I’m not even good at it.  I would love to say that I love God perfectly as Jesus taught.  I would love to tell you that my love for God flows into loving my neighbor as myself.  But the reality is that I fall way short of these two commands and Jesus said that law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.  Do these and you’ll be perfect!  But I don’t!

And thus the gospel comes into play.  The law condemns me as a sinner (Romans 3:19) and the law teaches me that I need a Savior (Galatians 3:24).  The law condemns me.  The gospel saves me.  The law shows me that I am a sinner (Romans 7:7).  There is nothing wrong with the law of God (Romans 7:12) but the problem is me.  I can’t keep the law.  No matter how hard I try, I fail.

The gospel preaches peace to me.  The law tells me to love God perfectly and my neighbor perfectly (Matthew 5:48).  The gospel tells me Christ died for my sins and the sins of not loving God perfectly nor my neighbor as myself.  The law tells me to love my wife as Christ loves His Church (Ephesians 5:25).  The gospel tells me that Christ died for the sin of not loving my wife as Christ loves His Church (I am far from a perfect husband).  The law tells me to pray, to worship, to evangelize, to give my money to the poor and to helping the kingdom of God, to do good to my neighbor especially of those of the household of faith, etc. but the gospel tells me that Christ died for my sins even the sins of not keeping the law perfectly.

Martin Luther taught two (and I would add a third) uses of the law.  Lutherans debate the third use of the law.  The three uses of the law are:

  • For society, to curb man’s sinfulness.
  • To condemn us a sinners and show us our need for salvation.
  • To help the Christian in sanctification.

These three uses of the law are seen not just in the Bible but in life.  Antinomians accept the first two uses of the law but not the third.  I believe in preaching all three.  Christians need to hear the law so that the Holy Spirit can help us in the process of sanctification.  So for example a believer hears that we should pray (Luke 18:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:17).  Prayer itself doesn’t justify us before God.  We are justified only through Christ Jesus alone by grace alone though faith alone.  Yet none would say that prayer is bad.  Yet prayer can become a law.  It was that way for me.  I once held that a person should pray for 2 hours a day or God was not pleased.  Prayer became a law and gospel for me.  But prayer is not the gospel.  The gospel is the death of Jesus for our sins and His resurrection for our justification (Romans 4:24-25; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  Thus Jesus died for my sin of prayerlessness.  Does this mean that I should not pray since Jesus died for my sin of prayerlessness?  By no means! The key is to see prayer as flowing from my forgiveness and not from the law.  I pray because Christ shed His blood for me (Hebrews 4:14-16).

This holds true of any law.  The law if holy and good (1 Timothy 1:8-11).  The law shows me how far I am far from the perfection of God.  But the gospel shouts to me that I am accepted in the Beloved.  I am holy before God because of Christ (Hebrews 10:10, 14) and not by my works.  The law tells me to pursue holiness (Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 1:15-16) and this is good.  The gospel tells me that I am accepted in Christ Jesus who bled and died for my sins (Romans 5:6).

This understanding of the law and the gospel has blessed me.  It has brought some joy to my soul where joy has been lacking.  For so long I have been full of pride, my own self-righteousness.  I thought God was honored by my prayer life, my evangelism, my passion for God.  Like Voddie Bauchman preaches, my works-righteousness muscle likes to flex.  I would have, in the past, gladly acknowledged Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and would have gladly told you that I was saved by His grace alone but in reality I was full of pride, thinking more highly of myself than I ought (Philippians 2:3).  I would have preached Christ but my focus was not on pleasing Christ per se but on men seeing how much I “loved” Jesus.  Oh how much pride was in my heart!  Oh wretched sinner that I was!

But Christ died for me.  Christ bled and suffered for my sins.  Jesus gave His life for my sins and now I am forgiven not because I keep the law but because I can’t keep the law (Galatians 3:10).  Christ suffered in my place, for my sins (Galatians 3:13-14).  I am saved now not because I keep the law but because of faith in Jesus Christ who gave His life for my sins.  What a blessing!  What a Savior!

I have no problem with the law.  The law is good.  The law comes from our holy God.  Yet too many Christians try to live the law.  You will always be falling short.  Always.  You will never obtain holiness by the law.  Even if you think (as I did) that I had obtained a level of holiness by my striving, inside (like me) you’ll know that you stand condemned because you can’t keep the whole law (James 2:10).  I have no problem preaching the law and calling Christians to repent of not keeping the law.  But the balance of this is the gospel.  The answer to not keeping the law is not more law.  The answer is the gospel.  The law condemns us as sinners.  The gospel comforts us by pointing to Christ who died for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).

Perhaps I am wrong on this.  I don’t think so.  I believe it’s biblically based.  I know that this teaching has pushed me closer to Christ and not away.  I still hate sin.  I really do hate sin.  I acknowledge that I do sin but I hate my sins.  I am so grateful to God for giving me His Son for my sins (John 1:29).  I stand condemned but Christ preaches to me no condemnation (Romans 8:1).  Satan accuses me of sin and he is right to do so.  But I trust in Christ alone for my salvation (Hebrews 7:25).  Jesus has promised not only to save me from my sins (Matthew 1:21; Romans 6:1-4) but He has promised to keep me (Jude 24-25).  I trust in Christ alone and not my works-righteousness before a holy God.

Happy Reformation Day!

Happy Reformation Day!  On this day in 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis to the church door in Wittenberg in Germany and launched the Protestant Reformation.  As Arminians, we are children of the Reformation!  Arminius comes from a long line of great Reformers in the Church including Luther, Calvin, Tyndale, Knox, and many others.

I pray to God that He raises up more reformers who call the Church back to the Word of God and to the true doctrine of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/31/2014 at 10:00 AM

Happy Reformation Day!

Today, October 31, is Reformation Day!  On this day in 1517 Martin Luther took his 95 Thesis and posted them on the church door at Wittenberg in Germany.  The hope of Luther that day was to call the Catholic Church to reform and move away from unbiblical traditions and back to the Bible.  Luther later would develop his theology in regard to justification by faith as opposed to good works to obtain righteousness.

We owe must to the bravery of Martin Luther and his willingness to call the Church to reformation.  In many ways, the Church today still needs to be reformed.  Arminius felt the same way in his day as he called the Reformed Church in his day to embrace the Word of God above the creeds of men.  Arminius felt that many theologians in his day were adhering to creeds and were interpreting Scripture based on the creeds and not sound exegesis.  I agree.  All of us, both Arminians and Calvinists and all in-between, need to embrace the Bible as the inerrant and infallible Word of God and abide by its teachings first and foremost.  Granted that all of us are fallen creatures (Romans 3:23) but we should seek to be faithful to the Word of God despite our own failures and lack of knowledge of all things (2 Timothy 2:15).

Praise God for Reformation Day!

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/31/2012 at 12:01 AM

Distinctives of Martin Luther’s Preaching

The following are points made by Dr. Steve Lawson at a recent conference that I attended on preaching and preachers.  These are points that Dr. Lawson said that made Luther a great preacher.  I believe that modern disciples of Jesus could learn from the examples of Luther, Calvin, and Arminius in preaching.  We could also learn from the passionate examples of men who loved souls such as John Wesley or Charles Spurgeon.

So what distinctions can we learn from Luther?

1.  He was a biblical preacher (sola Scriptura).  Luther was first and foremost a Bible preacher.  He always used the Bible and preached directly from the Bible.  He allowed the Bible to dominate his preaching.

2.  He was a well-studied preacher.  He would devote hours to studying the Word of God.  He would meditate on the Scriptures to grasp their central truths (Psalm 1:1-3).

3.  He was a veracious student and reader of God’s Word.  Luther studied the Bible in the original languages including both Hebrew and Greek.  He also could read Latin.  Luther held to a literal interpretation of Scripture as far as the text would allow.  He strongly believed in divine illumination (John 6:45).

4.  He was an expository preacher.  Luther would preach books of the Bible.  His famous commentaries on Romans or Galatians come to mind.  These came out of his preaching.  He would preach verse by verse through the Word of God because he preached sola Scriptura.

5.  He was a Christ-centered preacher.  Christ was his passion and his delight.  He wanted to exalt Christ.  He believed that Christ was to be found all through the Scriptures and was the central theme of the Bible.  Therefore the preacher should exalt Christ above all else.

6.  He was a plain-spoken preacher.  He would take the deep truths of the Word of God and make them clear to his hearers.  Luther believed the Word of God could be clearly understood by the people of God through preaching and reading.

7.  He was tireless preacher.  He would preach nearly everyday.  He would teach theology classes, teach the catechisms, lecture on books of the Bible. and still pray for hours.  He once commented that he had so much to do that he must rise early in the morning before the sun rises to pray for up to two hours a day.

8.  He was a passionate preacher.  The reason the Reformation spread like fire was because Luther was on fire for God.  He loved Jesus and His Word and wanted all to hear the gospel of God’s grace given to us in His Son (Romans 1:16-17).

9.  He was a fearless preacher.  He didn’t fear the Pope.  He didn’t fear the Catholic cardinals or bishops or priests.  He only feared God (Luke 12:4-5).  The Spirit of God gave him boldness in the face of fierce opposition (Acts 4:29-31).

10.  He was a polemic preacher.  He didn’t mind preaching on controversial issues.  He would not avoid, as in our day, issues such as homosexuality or other sins.  He would preach with passion against heresy and against the popular Roman Catholic Church.  Luther would preach against the pope or against good works as leading to salvation.  He would preach against any and everything that came before him as he studied the Word of God.  So should we.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

05/07/2012 at 1:39 PM

Martin Luther’s Outline for his Christmas Sermon

OF THE BIRTH OF JESUS, AND OF THE ANGEL SONG OF PRAISE AT HIS BIRTH.

I. THE BIRTH OF JESUS.

I. The Birth of Jesus is Treated According To History.

1. How what Haggai the Prophet wrote was fulfilled in his birth.

2. The most important circumstances of this birth. a. The time when this birth took place. 2-4.

* In what way the Gospel of Christ’s birth brings forth the right fruit. b. His mother as a poor despised and miserable person. 6-8. c. The place where this birth took place. 8-10.

3. The birth itself. a. As a pitiful birth. 11-12. b. Whether this birth took place in prayer and with great joy. c. Whether this birth took place like other births. 13-15. d. How this birth was holy, chaste, and full of wonders. 16-17. e. How high and honored this birth was in heaven. 18-20.

4. The history of the birth of Jesus is full of spirit and life. 21-23.

II. The Birth of Jesus Treated According to its Spiritual Meaning; and A. As To Faith.

1. The things whose spiritual interpretation is set forth. 24-25.

2. The spiritual interpretation itself. 26-27f.

** Concerning good works. 28-32. Two things in which a Christian should exercise himself. 33.

B. As To The Gospel.

1. The nature of the fact whose spiritual meaning is set forth. 34-35.

2. The spiritual meaning in itself, which consists in the following: a. That angels made known Christ’s birth. b. That Christ’s birth took place at midnight. c. That the light shined around the shepherds. d. That Jesus was born in Judea and in Jerusalem. 39-41. e. That the angel said, “I bring you good tidings of great joy,” “evangelizo.” 42-44.

C. As To The Signs.

1. The spiritual meaning of the swaddling clothes. 45.49.

2. The spiritual meaning of the manger.

* Christ wrapped in swaddling clothes signify faith in the Old Testament. 51-52.

D. As To The Messengers that Proclaimed Jesus’ Birth. 54-55.

E. As To The Shepherds, To Whom The Birth Of Jesus Was Proclaimed. 56-57.

* Admonition to love your neighbor. 58-60.

II. THE ANGEL’ S SONG AND PRAISE.

I. How these things are set forth in this song of praise.

A. These three things in general. 61.

B. These three things in detail.

1. God’s glory. a. This glory belongs to no one but God. b. How God is robbed of this glory in Adam. c. Christ restored this glory.

2. Peace. a. The connection of peace with the glory of God. b. This peace is a mark of true Christians. c. The foundation of this peace.

3. Good Will. a. Why the angels added this. 68-69. b. What is to be understood by this good will. 68-70. c. The need of this good will.

* He who will be agreeable to every one, must let every one be agreeable to himself. 71.

II. How we may learn from this song of praise, what kind of creatures the angels are; namely:

1. They are full of light and fire for the glory of God.

2. They are full of love to man.

* Of the birth of Christ a. Where it is described in the clearest manner. b. How it was proclaimed by patriarch and prophet. c. How it is pictured forth in many figures of the Old Testament. d. How and why we should hold firmly to it.

* The conclusion of the exposition of this Gospel. 78.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

12/23/2011 at 9:54 PM

Martin Luther’s Prayer Before Facing the Diet of Worms

While listening to a lecture given by Dr. R.C. Sproul Sr. on Martin Luther, he read the prayer that Luther wrote down the night before facing the Diet of Worms in 1521.  Luther was being asked to recant and renounce his views regarding his writings and his attacks on the Roman Catholic Church’s doctrines particularly the doctrine of salvation.  The Diet wanted Luther to affirm the Catholic teaching regarding indulgences and righteousness through merits.  When you read Luther’s prayer in light of what he faced (death), you see his boldness in praying.  His prayer reminds me of many of the Psalms.  Below is the prayer of Luther.

O God, Almighty God everlasting! how dreadful is the world! behold how its mouth opens to swallow me up, and how small is my faith in Thee! . . . Oh! the weakness of the flesh, and the power of Satan! If I am to depend upon any strength of this world – all is over . . . The knell is struck . . . Sentence is gone forth . . . O God! O God! O thou, my God! help me against the wisdom of this world. Do this, I beseech thee; thou shouldst do this . . . by thy own mighty power . . . The work is not mine, but Thine. I have no business here . . . I have nothing to contend for with these great men of the world! I would gladly pass my days in happiness and peace. But the cause is Thine . . . And it is righteous and everlasting! O Lord! help me! O faithful and unchangeable God! I lean not upon man. It were vain! Whatever is of man is tottering, whatever proceeds from him must fail. My God! my God! dost thou not hear? My God! art thou no longer living? Nay, thou canst not die. Thou dost but hide Thyself. Thou hast chosen me for this work. I know it! . . . Therefore, O God, accomplish thine own will! Forsake me not, for the sake of thy well-beloved Son, Jesus Christ, my defence, my buckler, and my stronghold.

Lord – where art thou? . . . My God, where art thou? . . . Come! I pray thee, I am ready . . . Behold me prepared to lay down my life for thy truth . . . suffering like a lamb. For the cause is holy. It is thine own! . . . I will not let thee go! no, nor yet for all eternity! And though the world should be thronged with devils – and this body, which is the work of thine hands, should be cast forth, trodden under foot, cut in pieces, . . . consumed to ashes, my soul is thine. Yes, I have thine own word to assure me of it. My soul belongs to thee, and will abide with thee forever! Amen! O God send help! . . . Amen!

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/31/2011 at 4:37 PM

Martin Luther Biography

I want to commend Dr. R.C. Sproul for his series on Martin Luther.  I have learned much from my Calvinist brother about Luther.  The issue of the Reformation is what allows us Arminians and Calvinists to debate as we are debating our theological positions from inside the safety of the Protestant Reformation.  We Arminians stand with our Calvinist brethren and support the cry of the Reformation and Martin Luther for justification by faith (Romans 5:1-11).

You can find out more about Dr. Sproul’s series here.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/31/2011 at 12:36 PM

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